Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Book of Scottish Story
Duncan Campbell

by James Hogg, the "Ettrick Shepherd."

Duncan Campbell came from the Highlands, when six years of age, to live with an old maiden aunt in Edinburgh, and attend the school. His mother was dead; but his father had supplied her place by marrying his housekeeper. Duncan did not trouble himself about these matters, nor, indeed, about any other matters, save a black foal of his father's and a large sagacious collie, named Oscar, which belonged to one of the shepherds. There being no other boy save Duncan about the house, Oscar and he were constant companions; with his garter tied round Oscar's neck, and a piece of deal tied to his big bushy tail, Duncan would often lead him about the green, pleased with the idea that he was conducting a horse and cart. Oscar submitted to all this with great cheerfulness, but whenever Duncan mounted to ride on him, he found means instantly to unhorse him, either by galloping, or rolling himself on the green. When Duncan threatened him, he looked submissive and licked his face and hands; when he corrected him with the whip, he cowered at his feet. Matters were soon made up. Oscar would lodge nowhere during the night but at the door of the room where his young friend slept, and woe be to the man or woman who ventured to enter it at untimely hours.

When Duncan left his native home he thought not of his father, nor any of the servants. He was fond of the ride, and some supposed that he scarcely even thought of the black foal; but when he saw Oscar standing looking him ruefully in the face, the tears immediately blinded both his eyes. He caught him round the neck, hugged and kissed him—"Good-bye, Oscar," said he, blubbering; "good-bye. God bless you, my dear Oscar," Duncan mounted before a servant, and rode away—Oscar still followed at a distance, until he reached the top of the hill— he then sat down and howled; Duncan cried till his little heart was like to burst.

"What ails you?" said the servant.

"I will never see my poor honest Oscar again," said Duncan, "an' my heart canna bide it."

Duncan stayed a year in Edinburgh, but he did not make great progress in learning. He did not approve highly of attending the school, and his aunt was too indulgent to compel his attendance. She grew extremely ill one day —the maids kept constantly by her, and never regarded Duncan. He was an additional charge to them, and they never loved him, but used him harshly. It was now with great difficulty that he could obtain either meat or drink. In a few days after his aunt was taken ill she died. All was in confusion, and poor Duncan was like to perish with hunger. He could find no person in the house; but hearing a noise in his aunt's chamber, he went in, and beheld them dressing the corpse of his kind relation. It was enough. Duncan was horrified beyond what mortal breast was able to endure; he hasted down the stair, and ran along the High Street and South Bridge, as fast as his feet could carry him, crying incessantly all the way. He would not have entered that house again if the world had been offered to him as a reward. Some people stopped him, in order to ask what was the matter; but he could only answer them by exclaiming, "O! dear! O! dear!" and struggling till he got free, held on his course, careless whither he went, provided he got far enough from the horrid scene he had so lately witnessed. Some have supposed, and I believe Duncan has been heard to confess, that he then imagined he was running for the Highlands, but mistook the direction. However that was, he continued his course until he came to a place where two ways met, a little south of Grange Toll. Here he sat down, and his frenzied passion subsided into a soft melancholy; he cried no more, but sobbed excessively, fixed his eyes on the ground, and made some strokes in the dust with his finger.

A sight just then appeared which somewhat cheered, or at least interested his heavy and forlorn heart—it was a large drove of Highland cattle. They were the only creatures like acquaintances that Duncan had seen for a twelvemonth, and a tender feeling of joy, mixed with regret, thrilled his heart at the sight of their white horns and broad dew-laps. As the van passed him, he thought their looks were particularly gruff and sullen; he soon perceived the cause, they were all in the hands of Englishmen;—poor exiles like himself—going far away to be killed and eaten, and would never see the Highland hills again! When they were all gone by, Duncan looked after them and wept anew; but his attention was suddenly called away to something that softly touched his feet; he looked hastily about—it was a poor, hungry, lame dog, squatted on the ground, licking his feet, and manifesting the most extravagant joy. Gracious heaven!  it was his own beloved and faithful Oscar! starved, emaciated, and so crippled that he was scarcely able to walk. He was now doomed to be the slave of a Yorkshire peasant (who, it seems, had either bought or stolen him at Falkirk), the generosity and benevolence of whose feelings were as inferior to those of Oscar, as Oscar was inferior to him in strength and power. It is impossible to conceive a more tender meeting than this was; but Duncan soon observed that hunger and misery were painted in his friend's looks, which again pierced his heart with feelings unfelt before. "I have not a crumb to give you, my poor Oscar!" said he—"I have not a crumb to eat myself, but I am not so ill as you are." The peasant whistled aloud. Oscar well knew the sound, and, clinging to the boy's bosom, leaned his head upon his thigh, and looked in his face, as if saying, "O Duncan, protect me from yon ruffian." The whistle was repeated, accompanied by a loud and surly call. Oscar trembled, but, fearing to disobey, he limped away reluctantly after his unfeeling master, who, observing him to linger and look back, imagined he wanted to effect his escape, and came running back to meet him. Oscar cowered to the earth in the most submissive and imploring manner, but the peasant laid hold of him by the ear, and, uttering many imprecations, struck him with a thick staff till he lay senseless at his feet.

Every possible circumstance seemed combined to wound the feelings of poor Duncan, but this unmerited barbarity shocked him most of all. He hasted to the scene of action, weeping bitterly, and telling the man that he was a cruel brute, and that if ever he himself grew a big man he would certainly kill him. He held up his favourite's head that he might recover his breath, and the man, knowing that he could do little without his dog, waited patiently to see what would be the issue. The animal recovered, and staggered away at the heels of his tyrant without daring to look behind. Duncan stood still, but kept his eyes eagerly fixed upon Oscar; and the farther he went from him, the more strong his desire grew to follow him. He looked the other way, but all there was to him a blank,—he had no desire to stand where he was, so he followed Oscar and the drove of cattle. The cattle were weary and went slowly, and Duncan, getting a little goad in his hand, assisted the men greatly in driving them. One of the drivers gave him a penny, and another gave him twopence; and the lad who had charge of the drove, observing how active and pliable he was, and how far he had accompanied him on the way, gave him sixpence. This was a treasure to Duncan, who, being extremely hungry, bought three penny rolls as he passed through a town; one of these he ate himself, another he gave to Oscar; and the third he carried below his arm in case of further necessity. He drove on all the day, and at night the cattle rested upon a height, which, by his description, seems to have been that between Gala Water and Middleton. Duncan went off at a side, in company with Oscar, to eat his roll, and, taking shelter behind an old earthen wall, they shared their dry meal most lovingly between them. Ere it was quite finished, Duncan, being fatigued, dropped into a profound slumber, out of which he did not awake until the next morning was far advanced. Englishmen, cattle, and Oscar, all were gone. Duncan found himself alone on a wild height, in what country or kingdom he knew not. He sat for some time in a callous stupor, rubbing his eyes and scratching his head, but quite irresolute what was farther necessary for him to do, until he was agreeably surprised by the arrival of Oscar, who (although he had gone at his master's call in the morning) had found means to escape and seek the retreat of his young friend and benefactor. Duncan, without reflecting on the consequences, rejoiced in the event, and thought of nothing else but furthering his escape from the ruthless tyrant who now claimed him. For this purpose he thought it would be best to leave the road, and accordingly he crossed it, in order to go over a waste moor to the westward. He had not got forty paces from the road, until he beheld the enraged Englishman running towards him without his coat, and having his staff heaved over his shoulder. Duncan's heart fainted within him, knowing it was all over with Oscar, and most likely with himself. The peasant seemed not to have observed them, as he was running and rather looking the other way; and as Duncan quickly lost sight of him in a hollow place that lay between them, he crept into a bush of heath, and took Oscar in his bosom. The heath was so long that it almost closed above them. The man had observed from whence the dog started in the morning, and hasted to the place, expecting to find him sleeping beyond the old earthen dyke; he found the nest, but the birds were flown;— he called aloud; Oscar trembled and clung to Duncan's breast; Duncan peeped from his purple covert, like a heath-cock on his native waste, and again beheld the ruffian coming straight towards them, with his staff still heaved, and fury in his looks. When he came within a few yards he stood still, and bellowed out: "Oscar, yho, yho!" Oscar quaked, and kept still closer to Duncan's breast; Duncan almost sank in the earth. "D-------n him," said the Englishman, "if I had hold of him I should make both him and the little thievish rascal dear at a small price; they cannot be far gone,—I think I hear them." He then stood listening, but at that instant a farmer came up on horseback, and having heard him call, asked him if he had lost his dog? The peasant answered in the affirmative, and added, that a blackguard boy had stolen him. The farmer said that he met a boy with a dog about a mile forward. During this dialogue, the fanner's dog came up to Duncan's den,—smelled upon him, and then upon Oscar,— cocked his tail, walked round them growling, and then behaved in a very improper and uncivil manner to Duncan, who took all patiently, uncertain whether he was yet discovered. But so intent was the fellow upon the farmer's intelligence, that he took no notice of the discovery made by the dog, but ran off without looking over his shoulder.

Duncan felt this a deliverance so great that all his other distresses vanished; and as soon as the man was out of his sight, he arose from his covert, and ran over the moor, and ere long, came to a shepherd's house, where he got some whey and bread for his breakfast, which he thought the best meat he had ever tasted, yet shared it with Oscar.

Though I had his history from his own mouth, yet there is a space here which it is impossible to relate with any degree of distinctness or interest. He was a vagabond boy, without any fixed habitation, and wandered about Heriot Moor, from one farmhouse to another, for the space of a year, staying from one to twenty nights in each house, according as he found the people kind to him. He seldom resented any indignity offered to himself; but whoever insulted Oscar, or offered any observations on the impropriety of their friendship, lost Duncan's company the next morning.

He stayed several months at a place called Dewar, which he said was haunted by the ghost of a piper; that piper had been murdered there many years before, in a manner somewhat mysterious, or at least unaccountable; and there was scarcely a night on which he was not supposed either to be seen or heard about the house. Duncan slept in the cow-house, and was terribly harassed by the piper; he often heard him scratching about the rafters, and sometimes he would groan like a man dying, or a cow that was choked in the band; but at length he saw him at his side one night, which so discomposed him, that he was obliged to leave the place, after being ill for many days. I shall give this story in Duncan's own words, which I have often heard him repeat without any variation.

"I had been driving some young cattle to the heights of Willenslee—it grew late before I got home—I was thinking, and thinking, how cruel it was to kill the poor piper! to cut out his tongue, and stab him in the back. I thought it was no wonder that his ghost took it extremely ill; when, all on a sudden, I perceived a light before me;—I thought the wand in my hand was all on fire, and threw it away, but I perceived the light glide slowly by my right foot, and burn behind me;—I was nothing afraid, and turned about to look at the light, and there I saw the piper, who was standing hard at my back, and when I turned round, he looked me in the face."

"What was he like, Duncan?" "He was like a dead body! but I got a short view of him; for that moment all around me grew dark as a pit!—I tried to run, but sank powerless to the earth, and lay in a kind of dream, I do not know how long. When I came to myself, I got up, and endeavoured to run, but fell to the ground every two steps. I was not a hundred yards from the house, and I am sure I fell upwards of a hundred times. Next day I was in a high fever; the servants made me a little bed in the kitchen, to which I was confined by illness many days, during which time I suffered the most dreadful agonies by night, always imagining the piper to be standing over me on the one side or the other. As soon as I was able to walk, I left Dewar, and for a long time durst neither sleep alone during the night, nor stay by myself in the daytime."

The superstitious ideas impressed upon Duncan's mind by this unfortunate encounter with the ghost of the piper, seem never to have been eradicated—a strong instance of the power of early impressions, and a warning how much caution is necessary in modelling the conceptions of the young and tender mind, for, of all men I ever knew, he is the most afraid of meeting with apparitions. So deeply is his imagination tainted with this startling illusion, that even the calm disquisitions of reason have proved quite inadequate to the task of dispelling it Whenever it wears late, he is always on the look-out for these ideal beings, keeping a jealous eye upon every bush and brake, in case they should be lurking behind them, ready to fly out and surprise him every moment; and the approach of a person in the dark, or any sudden noise, always deprives him of the power of speech for some time.

After leaving Dewar he again wandered about for a few weeks; and it appears that his youth, beauty, and peculiarly destitute situation, together with his friendship for his faithful Oscar, had interested the most part of the country people in his behalf; for he was generally treated with kindness. He knew his father's name, and the name of his house; but as none of the people he visited had ever before heard of either the one or the other, they gave themselves no trouble about the matter.

He stayed nearly two years in a place called Cowhaur, until a wretch, with whom he slept, struck and abused him one day. Duncan, in a rage, flew to the loft and cut all his Sunday hat, shoes, and coat in pieces; and, not daring to abide the consequences, decamped that night He wandered about for some time longer among the farmers of Tweed and Yarrow; but this life was now become exceedingly disagreeable to him. He durst not sleep by himself, and the servants did not always choose to allow a vagrant boy and his great dog to sleep with them.

It was on a rainy night, at the close of harvest, that Duncan came to my father's house. I remember all the circumstances as well as the transactions of yesterday. The whole of his clothing consisted only of a black coat, which, having been made for a full-grown man, hung fairly to his heels; the hair of his head was rough, curly, and weather-beaten; but his face was ruddy and beautiful, bespeaking a healthy body and a sensible, feeling heart Oscar was still nearly as large as himself, and the colour of a fox, having a white stripe down his face, with a ring of the same colour round his neck, and was the most beautiful collie I have ever seen. My heart was knit to Duncan at the first sight, and I wept for joy when I saw my parents so kind to him. My mother, in particular, could scarcely do anything else than converse with Duncan for several days. I was always of the party, and listened with wonder and admiration; but often have these adventures been repeated to me. My parents, who soon seemed to feel the same concern for him as if he had been their own son, clothed him in blue drugget, and bought him a smart little Highland bonnet, in which dress he looked so charming that I would not let them have peace until I got one of the same. Indeed, all that Duncan said or did was to me a pattern; for I loved him as my own life. At my own request, which he persuaded me to urge, I was permitted to be his bedfellow, and many a happy night and day did I spend with Duncan and Oscar.

As far as I remember, we felt no privation of any kind, and would have been completely happy if it had not been for the fear of spirits. When the conversation chanced to turn upon the Piper of Dewar, the Maid of Plora, or the Pedlar of Thirlestane Mill, often have we lain with the bed-ctothes drawn over our heads till nearly suffocated. We loved the fairies and the brownies, and even felt a little partiality for the mermaids, on account of their beauty and charming songs ; but we were a little jealous of the water-kelpies, and always kept aloof from the frightsome pools. We hated the devil most heartily, although we were not much afraid of him; but a ghost! oh, dreadful! the names, ghost, spirit, or apparition, sounded in our ears like the knell of destruction, and our hearts sank within us, as if pierced by the cold icy shaft of death. Duncan herded my father's cows all the summer—so did I: we could not live asunder. We grew such expert fishers, that the speckled trout, with all his art, could not elude our machinations; we forced him from his watery cove, admired the beautiful shades and purple drops that were painted on his sleek sides, and forthwith added him to our number without reluctance. We assailed (he habitation of the wild bee, and rifled her of all her accumulated sweets, though not without encountering the most determined resistance. My father's meadows abounded with hives; they were almost in every swath—in every hillock. When the swarm was large, they would beat us off, day after day. In all these desperate engagements Oscar came to our assistance, and, provided that none of the enemy made a lodgment in his lower defiles, he was always the last combatant of our party on the field. I do not remember of ever being so much diverted by any scene I ever witnessed, or laughing as immoderately as I have done at seeing Oscar involved in a moving cloud of wild bees, wheeling. snapping on all sides, and shaking his ears incessantly.

The sagacity which this animal possessed is almost incredible, while his undaunted spirit and generosity would do honour to every servant of our own species to copy. Twice did he save his master's life; at one time when attacked by a furious bull, and at another time when he fell from behind my father, off a horse in a flooded river. Oscar had just swimmed across, but instantly plunged in a second time to his master's rescue. He first got hold of his bonnet, but that coming off, he quitted it, and again catching him by the coat, brought him to the side, where my father reached him. He waked Duncan at a certain hour every morning, and would frequently turn the cows of his own will, when he observed them wrong. If Duncan dropped his knife, or any other small article, he would fetch it along in his mouth ; and if sent back for a lost thing, would infallibly find it. When sixteen years of age, after being unwell for several days, he died one night below his master's bed. On the evening before, when Duncan came in from the plough, he came from his hiding-place, wagged his tail, licked Duncan's hand, and returned to his deathbed. Duncan and I lamented him with unfeigned sorrow, buried him below the old rowan tree at the back of my father's garden, placing a square stone at his head, which was still standing the last time I was there. With great labour, we composed an epitaph between us, which was once carved on that stone; the metre was good, but the stone was so hard, and the engraving so faint, that the characters, like those of our early joys, are long ago defaced and extinct.

Often have I heard my mother relate with enthusiasm the manner in which she and my father first discovered the dawnings of goodness and facility of conception in Duncan's mind, though, I confess, dearly as I loved him, these circumstances escaped my observation. It was my father's invariable custom to pray with the family every night before they retired to rest, to thank the Almighty for his kindness to them during the bygone day, and to beg His protection through the dark and silent watches of the night. I need not inform any of my readers that that amiable (and now too much neglected and despised) duty consisted in singing a few stanzas of a psalm, in which all the family joined their voices with my father's, so that the double octaves of the various ages and sexes swelled the simple concert. He then read a chapter from the Bible, going straight on from beginning to end of the Scriptures. The prayer concluded the devotions of each evening, in which the downfall of antichrist was always strenuously urged, the ministers of the gospel remembered, nor was any friend or neighbour in distress forgot.

The servants of a family have, in general, liberty either to wait the evening prayers, or retire to bed as they incline, but no consideration whatever could induce Duncan to go one night to rest without the prayers, even though both wet and weary, and entreated by my parents to retire, for fear of catching cold. It seems that I had been of a more complaisant disposition; for I was never very hard to prevail with in this respect; nay, my mother used to say, that I was extremely apt to take a pain about my heart at that time of the night, and was, of course, frequently obliged to betake me to bed before the worship commenced.

It might be owing to this that Duncan's emotions on these occasions escaped my notice. He sung a treble to the old church tunes most sweetly, for he had a melodious voice; and when my father read the chapter, if it was in any of the historical parts of Scripture, he would lean upon the table, and look him in the face, swallowing every sentence with the utmost avidity. At one time, as my father read the 45th chapter of Genesis, he wept so bitterly, that at the end my father paused, and asked what ailed him ? Duncan told him that he did not know. At another time, the year following, my father, in the course of his evening devotions, had reached the 19th chapter of the book of Judges; when he began reading it, Duncan was seated on the other side of the house, but ere it was half done, he had stolen up close to my father's elbow. "Consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds," said my father, and closed the book. "Go on, go on, if you please, Sir," said Duncan —"go on, and let's hear what they said about it." My father looked sternly in Duncan's face, but seeing him abashed on account of his hasty breach of decency, without uttering a word, he again opened the Bible, and read the 20th chapter throughout, notwithstanding of its great length. Next day Duncan was walking about with the Bible below his arm, begging of every one to read it to him again and again. This incident produced a conversation between my parents, on the expenses and utility of education; the consequence of which was, that the week allowing, Duncan and I were sent to the parish school, and began at the same instant to the study of that most important and fundamental branch of literature, the A, B, C; but my sister Mary, who was older than I, was already an accurate and elegant reader.

This reminds me of another anecdote of Duncan, with regard to family worship, which I have often heard related, and which 1 myself may well remember. My father happening to be absent over night at a fair, when the usual time of worship arrived, my mother desired a lad, one of the servants, to act as chaplain for that night; the lad declined it, and slunk away to his bed. My mother testified her regret that we should all be obliged to go prayerless to our beds for that night, observing, that she did no* remember the time when it had so happened before. Duncan said he thought we might contrive to manage it amongst us, and instantly proposed to sing the psalm and pray, if Mary would read the chapter. To this my mother, with some hesitation, agreed, remarking, that if he prayed as he could, with a pure heart, his prayer had as good a chance of being accepted as some others that were "better worded." Duncan could not then read, but having learned several psalms from Mary by rote, he caused her to seek out the place, and sung the 23d Psalm from end to end with great sweetness and decency. Mary read a chapter in the New Testament, and then (my mother having a child on her knee) we three kneeled in a row, while Duncan prayed thus:—"O Lord, be Thou our God, our guide, and our guard unto death, and through death,"—that was a sentence my father often used in prayer; Duncan had laid hold of it, and my mother began to think that he had often prayed previous to that time. "O Lord, Thou"—continued Duncan; but his matter was exhausted; a long pause ensued, which I at length broke by bursting into a loud fit of laughter. Duncan rose hastily, and without once lifting up his head, went crying to his bed; and as I continued to indulge in laughter, my mother, for my irreverent behaviour, struck me across the shoulders with the longs. Our evening devotions terminated exceedingly ill; I went crying to my bed after Duncan, even louder than he, and abusing him for his "useless prayer," for which I had been nearly felled.

By the time that we were recalled from school to herd the cows, next summer, we could both read the Bible with considerable facility, but Duncan far excelled me in perspicacity; and so fond was he of reading Bible history that the reading of it was now our constant amusement. Often have Mary and he and I lain under the same plaid by the side of the corn or meadow, and read chapter about in the Bible for hours together, weeping over the failings and fall of good men, and wondering at the inconceivable might of the heroes of antiquity. Never was man so delighted as Duncan was when he came to the history of Samson, and afterwards of David and Goliath; he could not be satisfied until he had read it to every individual with whom he was acquainted, judging it to be as new and as interesting to every one as it was to himself. I have seen him standing by the girls as they were milking the cows, reading to them the feats of Samson; and, in short, harassing every man and woman about the hamlet for audience. On Sundays, my parents accompanied us to the fields, and joined in our delightful exercise.

Time passed away, and so also did our youthful delights; but other cares and other pleasures awaited us. As we advanced in years and strength, we quitted the herding, and bore a hand in the labours of the farm. Mary, too, was often our assistant. She and Duncan were nearly of an age; he was tall, comely, and affable; and if Mary was not the prettiest girl in the parish, at least Duncan and I believed her to be so, which, with us, amounted to the same thing. We often compared the other girls in the parish with one another, as to their beauty and accomplishments, but to think of comparing any of them with Mary was entirely out of the question. She was, indeed, the emblem of truth, simplicity, and innocence, and if there were few more beautiful, there were still fewer so good and amiable; but still, as she advanced in years, she grew fonder and fonder of being near Duncan; and by the time she was nineteen, was so deeply in love that it affected her manner, her spirits, and her health. At one time she was gay and frisky as a kitten; she would dance, sing, and laugh violently at the most trivial incidents. At other times she was silent and sad, while a languishing softness overspread her features, and added greatly to her charms. The passion was undoubtedly mutual between them; but Duncan, either from a sense of honour, or some other cause, never declared himself farther on the subject than by the most respectful attention and tender assiduities. Hope and fear thus alternately swayed the heart of poor Maty, and produced in her deportment that variety of affections which could not fail of rendering the sentiments of her artless bosom legible to the eye of experience.

In this state matters stood, when an incident occurred which deranged our happiness at once, and the time arrived when the kindest and most affectionate little social band of friends that ever panted to meet the wishes of each other were obliged to part.

About forty years ago, the flocks of southern sheep, which have since that period inundated the Highlands, had not found their way over the Grampian Mountains; and the native flocks of that sequestered country were so scanty that it was found necessary to transport small quantities of wool annually to the north, to furnish materials for clothing the inhabitants. During two months of each summer, the hill countries of the Lowlands were inundated by hundreds of women from the Highlands, who bartered small articles of dress, and of domestic import, for wool; these were known by the appellation of "norlan' netties;" and few nights passed, during the wool season, that some of them were not lodged at my father's house. It was from two of these that Duncan learned one day who and what he was; that he was the Laird of Glenellich's only son and heir, and that a large sum had been offered to any person that could discover him. My parents certainly rejoiced in Duncan's good fortune, yet they were disconsolate at parting with him ; for he had long ago become as a son of their own; and I seriously believe, that from the day they first met, to that on which the two "norlan" net-ties came to our house, they never once entertained the idea of parting. For my part, I wished that the "netties" had never been born, or that they had stayed at their own home; for the thought of being separated from my dear friend made me sick at heart. All our feelings were, however, nothing when compared with those of my sister Mary. From the day that the two women left our house, she was no more seen to smile; she had never yet divulged the sentiments of her heart to any one, and imagined her love for Duncan a profound secret,—no,

She never told her love;
But let concealment, like a worm i' the bud,
Feed on her damask check;—she pined in thought;
And, with a green and yellow melancholy.
She sat like patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief.

Our social glee and cheerfulness were now completely clouded ; we sat down to our meals, and rose from ihem in silence. Of the few observations that passed, every one seemed the progeny of embarrassment and discontent, and our general remarks were strained and cold. One day at dinner-time, after a long and sullen pause, my father said, "I hope you do not intend to leave us very soon, Duncan?" "I am thinking of going away to-morrow, sir," said Duncan. The knife fell from my mother's hand; she looked him steadily in the face for the space of a minute. "Duncan," said she, her voice faltering, and the tears dropping from her eyes,— "Duncan, I never durst ask you before, but I hope you will not leave us altogether?" Duncan thrust the plate from before him into the middle of the tables—took up a book that lay on the window, and looked over the pages. Mary left the room. No answer was returned, nor any further inquiry made ; and our little party broke up in silence.

When we met again in the evening, we were still all sullen. My mother tried to speak of indifferent things, but it was apparent that her thoughts had no share in the words that dropped from her tongue. My father at last said, "You will soon forget us, Duncan; but there are some among us who will not soon forget you." Mary again left the room, and silence ensued, until the family were called together for evening worship. There was one sentence in my father's prayer that night which I think I yet remember, word for word. It may appear of little importance to those who are nowise interested, but it affected us deeply, and left not a dry cheek in the family. It runs thus—"We are an unworthy little flock Thou seest here kneeling before Thee, our God ; but, few as we are, it is probable we shall never all kneel again together before Thee in this world. We have long lived together in peace and happiness, and hoped to have lived so much longer; but since it is Thy will that we part, enable us to submit to that will with firmness; and though Thou scatter us to the four winds of heaven, may Thy almighty arm still be about us for good, and grant that we may all meet hereafter in another and a better world."

The next morning, after a restless night, Duncan rose early, put on his best suit, and packed up some little articles to carry with him. I lay panting and trembling, but pretended to be fast asleep. When he was ready to depart, he took his bundle below his arm, came up to the side of the bed, and listened if I was sleeping. He then stood long hesitating, looking wistfully to the door, and then to me, alternately ; and I saw him three or four times wipe his eyes. At length he shook me gently by the shoulder, and asked if I was awake. I feigned to start, and answered as if half asleep.

"I must bid you farewell," said he, groping to get hold of my hand.

"Will you not breakfast with us, Duncan? said I.

"No," said he, "I am thinking that it is best to steal away, for it would break my heart to take leave of your parents, and—"

"Who, Duncan?" said I.

"And you," said he.

"Indeed, but it is not best, Duncan," said I; "we will all breakfast together for the last time, and then take a formal and kind leave of each other."

We did breakfast together, and as the conversation turned on former days, it became highly interesting to us all. When my father had returned thanks to Heaven for our meal, we knew what was coming, and began to look at each other. Duncan rose, and after we had all loaded him with our blessings and warmest wishes, he embraced my parents and me. He turned about. His eyes said plainly, "There is somebody still wanting," but his heart was so full, he could not speak.

"What is become of Mary?" said my father. Mary was gone. We searched the house, the garden, and the houses of all the cottagers, but she was nowhere to be found. Poor lovelorn, forsaken Mary! She had hid herself in the ancient yew that grows in front of the old ruin, that she might see her lover depart, without herself being seen, and might indulge in all the luxury of woe. Poor Mary! how often have I heard her sigh, and seen her eyes red with weeping, while the smile that played on her languid features, when aught was mentioned in Duncan's commendation, would have melted a heart of adamant.

I must pass over Duncan's journey to the north Highlands; but on the evening of the sixth day after leaving my father's house, he reached the mansion-house of Glenellich, which stands in a little beautiful woody strath, commanding a view of part of the Hebrides; every avenue, tree, and rock was yet familiar to Duncan's recollection; and the feelings of his sensible heart, on approaching the abode of his father, whom he had long scarcely thought of, can only be conceived by a heart like his own. He had, without discovering himself, learned from a peasant that his father was still alive, but that he had never overcome the loss of his son, for whom he lamented every day ; that his wife and daughter lorded it over him, holding his pleasure at naught, and rendered his age extremely unhappy ; that they had expelled all his old farmers and vassals, and introduced the lady's vulgar, presumptuous relations, who neither paid him rents, honour, nor obedience.

Old Glenellich was taking his evening walk on the road by which Duncan descended the strath to his dwelling. He was pondering on his own misfortunes, and did not even deign to lift his eyes as the young stranger approached, but seemed counting the number of marks which the horses' hoofs had made on the way.

"Good e'en to you, sir," said Duncan. The old man started and stared him in the face, but with a look so unsteady and harassed, that he seemed incapable of distinguishing any lineament or feature of it.

"Good e'en, good e'en," said he, wiping his brow with his arm, and passing by.

What there was in the voice that struck him so forcibly it is hard to say. Nature is powerful. Duncan could not think of aught to detain him; and being desirous of seeing how matters went on about the house, thought it best to remain some days incog. He went into the fore-kitchen, conversed freely with the servants, and soon saw his step-mother and sister appear. The former had all the insolence and ignorant pride of vulgarity raised to wealth and eminence; the other seemed naturally of an amiable disposition, but was entirely ruled by her mother, who taught her to disdain her father, all his relations, and whomsoever he loved. On that same evening he came into the kitchen, where she then was chatting with Duncan, to whom she seemed attached at first sight.

"Lexy, my dear," said he, "did you see my spectacles?"

"Yes," said she; "I think I saw them on your nose to-day at breakfast."

"Well, but I have lost them since," said he.

"You may take up the next you find then, sir," said she.

The servants laughed.

"I might well have known what information I would get of you," said he, regretfully.

"How can you speak in such a style to your father, my dear lady?" said Duncan. "If I were he I would place you where you should learn better manners. It ill becomes so pretty a young lady to address an old father thus."

"He!" said she, "who minds him? He's a dotard, an old whining, complaining, superannuated being, worse than a child."

"But consider his years," said Duncan; "and, besides, he may have met with crosses and losses sufficient to sour the temper of a younger man. You should at all events pity and reverence, but never despise, your father."

The old lady now joined them.

"You have yet heard nothing, young man," said the old laird; "if you saw how my heart is sometimes wrung. Yes, I have had losses indeed."

"You losses!" said his spouse; "no; you have never had any losses that did not in the end turn out a vast profit."

"Do you then account the loss of a loving wife and a son nothing?" said he.

"But have you not got a loving wife and a daughter in their room?" returned she. "The one will not waste your fortune as a prodigal son would have done, and the other will take care of both you and that, when you can no longer do either. The loss of your son, indeed! It was the greatest blessing you could have received!"

"Unfeeling woman," said he; "but Heaven may yet restore that son to protect the grey hairs of his old father, and lay his head in an honoured grave."

The old man's spirits were quite gone; he cried like a child; his lady mimicked him, and at this his daughter and servants raised a laugh.

"Inhuman wretches!" said Duncan, starting up and pushing them aside, "thus to mock the feelings of an old man, even although he were not the lord and master of you all. But, take notice, the individual among you all that dares to offer such another insult to him, I'll roast on that fire."

The old man clung to Duncan, and looked him ruefully in the face.

"You impudent, beggarly vagabond!" said the lady, "do you know to whom you speak? Servants, turn that wretch out of the house, and hunt him with all the dogs in the kennel."

"Softly, softly, good lady," said Duncan, "take care that I do not turn you out of the house."

"Alas, good youth!" said the old laird; "you little know what you are about; for mercy's sake, forbear. You are brewing vengeance both for yourself and me."

"Fear not," said Duncan, "I will protect you with my life."

"Pray, may I ask you what is your name ?" said the old man, still looking earnestly at him.

"That you may," replied Duncan; "no man has so good a right to ask anything of me as you have—I am Duncan Campbell, your own son."

"M-m-m-my son!" exclaimed the old man, and sunk back on a seat with a convulsive moan.

Duncan held him in his arms; he soon recovered, and asked many incoherent questions; looked at the two moles on his right leg, kissed him, and then wept on his bosom for joy.

"O God of heaven!" said he, "it is long since I could thank Thee heartily for anything; now, I do thank Thee, indeed, for I have found my son! my dear and only son!"

Contrary to what might have been expected, Duncan's pretty, only sister, Alexia, rejoiced most of all in his discovery. She was almost wild with joy at finding such a brother. The old lady, her mother, was said to have wept bitterly in private, but knowing that Duncan would be her master, she behaved to him with civility and respect. Everything was committed to his management, and he soon discovered that, besides a good clear estate, his father had personal funds to a great amount. The halls and cottages of Glenellich were filled with feasting, joy, and gladness.

It was not so at my father's house. Misfortunes seldom come singly. Scarcely had our feelings overcome the shock which they received by the loss of our beloved Duncan, when a more terrible misfortune overtook us. My father, by the monstrous ingratitude of a friend whom he trusted, lost at once the greater part of his hard-earned fortune. The blow came unexpectedly, and distracted his personal affairs to such a degree that an arrangement seemed almost totally impracticable. He struggled on with securities for several months; but perceiving that he was drawing his real friends into danger by their signing of bonds which he might never be able to redeem, he lost heart entirely, and yielded to the torrent. Mary's mind seemed to gain fresh energy every day. The activity and diligence which she evinced in managing the affairs of the farm, and even in giving advice with regard to other matters, is quite incredible. Often have I thought what a treasure that inestimable girl would have been to an industrious man whom she loved. All our efforts availed nothing; my father received letters of horning on bills to a large amount, and we expected every day that he would be taken from us and dragged to a prison.

We were all sitting in our little room one day, consulting what was best to be done. We could decide upon nothing, for our case was desperate; we were fallen into a kind of stupor, but the window being up, a sight appeared that quickly thrilled every heart with the keenest sensations of anguish. Two men came riding sharply up by the back of the old school-house.

"Yonder are the officers of justice now," said my mother; "what shall we do?"

We hurried to the window, and all of us soon discerned that they were no other than some attorney, accompanied by a sheriff's officer. My mother entreated of my father to escape and hide himself until this first storm was overblown, but he would in no wise consent, assuring us that he had done nothing of which he was ashamed, and that he was determined to meet every one face to face, and let them do their worst; so, finding all our entreaties vain, we could do nothing but sit down and weep. At length we heard the noise of their horses at the door.

"You had better take the men's horses, James," said my father, "as there is no other man at hand."

"We will stay till they rap, if you please," said I.

The cautious officer did not, however, rap, but, afraid lest his debtor should make his escape, he jumped lightly from his horse, and hasted into the house. When we heard him open the outer door, and his footsteps approaching along the entry, our hearts fainted within us. He opened the door and stepped into the room—it was Duncan! our own dearly beloved Duncan. The women uttered an involuntary scream of surprise, but my father ran and got hold of one hand, and I of the other; my mother, too, soon had him in her arms; but our embrace was short, for his eyes fixed on Mary, who stood trembling with joy and wonder in a corner of the room, changing her colour every moment. He snatched her up in his arms and kissed her lips, and ere ever she was aware, her arms had encircled his neck.

"O my dear Mary," said he, "my heart has been ill at ease since I left you, but I durst not then tell you a word of my mind, for I little knew how I was to find affairs in the place where I was going; but ah! you little illusive rogue, you owe me another for the one you cheated me out of then;" so saying, he pressed his lips again to her cheek, and then led her to a seat.

Duncan then recounted all his adventures to us, with every circumstance of his good fortune. Our hearts were uplifted almost past bearing; all our cares and sorrows were now forgotten, and we were once more the happiest little group that ever perhaps sat together. Before the cloth was laid for dinner, Mary ran out to put on her white gown, and comb her yellow hair, but was surprised at meeting with a smart young gentleman in the kitchen with a scarlet neck on his coat and a gold-laced hat. Mary, having never seen so fine a gentleman, made him a low courtesy, and offered to conduct him to the room; but he smiled, and told her he was the squire's servant. We had all of us forgot to ask for the gentleman that came with Duncan.

Duncan and Mary walked for two hours in the garden that evening. We did not know what passed between them, but the next day he asked her in marriage of my parents, and never shall I forget the supreme happiness and gratitude that beamed in every face on that happy occasion. I need not tell my readers that my father's affairs were soon retrieved, or that I accompanied my dear Mary a bride to the Highlands, and had the satisfaction of saluting her as Mrs Campbell and Lady of Glenellich.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus