Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

player on the violin, but after this, his first and greatest disappointment in life, he hung his harp upon the willows, where it ever afterwards remained uncared for and unstrung. He also sung well, but now his musical powers were concentrated on one solitary song. Not that he ever audibly sung this song, but mentally brooded over it through life. Not only did its melody come spontaneously and unbidden when he feverishly awoke at early morn, and when he gently fell asleep at eventide, but without interfering with his ordinary avocations, it constantly occupied 'his thoughts, whether in the workshop, at market, or in the field, in the solitary lane, or in the crowded city. Time, instead of blunting the fine edge of this pristine feeling, only deepened and intensified its pleasing sadness; and, like the wounded dove which instinctively covers with its fluttering wings the poisoned arrow which is slowly doing its deadly work, so the poor deserted lover hugged the more tenderly and to the last, the fatal shaft which surely, though unseen, was gradually draining to the last dregs the ebbing stream of life :

EARLY LOVE.
Dear early love ! these beauteous scenes

No charms have now for me,
How cruel thus to break the tie

That bound my soul to thee.
O how I loved with thee to roam

By woodland, stream, and bower,
And whisper all my inmost thoughts

With hope's electric power !
How soft on golden wings was borne

The wild-flower's rich perfume,
As glad we roamed o'er hazel braes,

Fringed bright with yellow broom !
How sweetly blushed the dewy rose,

How glad the linnets sang,
When with thy thrilling, silvery strains,

The greenwood echoes rang !
And when at evening's twilight hour,

Thee to my heart I prest,
We wept, we vowed, O! surely then,

Were we supremely blest !

And now, when all is over, love,

And I'm no longer thine,
Not heaven itself will disapprove

A love so pure as mine.
0! bid me not then e'er forget

Those hours of rapturous joy,
When free from care I roamed with thee,

The blithsome artless boy.
For, Oh ! this heart can never cease

To beat, first love, for thee,
My love can never die though thou

Hast torn thyself from me.

Love, deep, eternal, changeless love,

Will not thus cast away,
When firm implanted in the breast,

It never knows decay ! Another incident in connection with St Orland's Stone, occurred a short time afterwards.

Helen Lindsay, the younger daughter of a well-to-do crofter in the immediate neighbourhood of Cossins, was as pretty a brunette, as Mary Armstrong had been a beautiful and fascinating blonde. There was this difference in their character and feelings, however, that, whereas the latter was volatile and changeable, the former was unswerving and constant in her love. Yet with all this fixity and steadiness of purpose, strange to say in one remarkable instance she proved herself at fault.

Amongst her numerous admirers in the Strath, the most prominent by common consent were the young carpenter of the village, and the elder son of the aged farmer of Drumgley. Either, irrespective of their excellent character, and good looks, would in point of social position have been a most suitable and eligible match for the rich crofter's daughter. It so happened, however, that the young maiden's, heart was equally divided between the two lovers. This untoward state of her feelings she frankly and unequivocally confided to both, affirming at the same time that she would be quite happy and contented with either of them.

What was to be done? A busy cleansing out of old horsepistols, and an anxious furbishing up of rusty claymores of course. Nothing of the kind. The mill-wright and the farmer were men of common sense, with cool heads, and unexciteable feelings withal. At a mutual and amicable conference it was solemnly agreed that the choice of the maiden should be referred simpliciter to the Oracle of St Orland's Stone. A certain night was accordingly fixed when Helen and her two lovers were to appear in company at the shrine of the Oracle, whose decision was to be received as final. The only other condition attached to the compact was, as it turned out to be, a very necessary and important one. The proviso was this :- In the event of either of the lovers not putting in appearance at the time appointed, the compact to be held as irrevocably dissolved, and the one who fulfilled his promise, to be declared the accepted suitor of Mary Armstrong

It so happened that the honest millwright received intelligence on the following day of the sudden death of an old friend, and an invitation to attend his funeral. The day of the interment was the same as that on the evening of which it had been agreed to meet at St Orland's Stone. Not in the least doubting but that he would be quite able to keep both appointments, especially as the interment was to take place at Glamis, and anxiously desirous to pay his last respects to the remains of his friend, he started early for the Murroes, where his friend had died, to attend his funeral.

It was the universal custom then, as I know from experience it still is, that the friends and acquaintances of the deceased who attended these country funerals came from great distances, and necessarily required, as they liberally received, a bountiful supply of all kinds of substantial viands and native liquors. It is just possible that sometimes there may have been an excess of the latter over the former. Be that as it may, the funeral procession started at last on its road to Glamis. There being no hearse in the parish, the remains of the deceased were put into a cart, and the coffin carefully covered over with the ancient and well-worn mortcloth. Amidst the sobs and tears of sorrowing women, and heart-felt sighs of aged, grey-haired men, the lowly, unpretending funeral car proceeded slowly on its rugged and circuitous route.

As the irregular and highly characteristic procession moved on by the dark woods of Ballumbie, the attendants gradually dropped off until at Powrie Brae, where the road joins the Forfar highway, the number had been gradually reduced to about a dozen of the stronger and younger menincluding, of course, our good friend the millwright. On and on, amidst the sweltering heat, they slowly toiled, until they had reached the well-known divergence of the road at Tealing—that to the left leading to Glamis by Lumleyden, and that to the right to Forfar by Fotheringhame. The weather being excessively warm, and feeling fatigued by their long journey, they unanimously agreed to adjourn to the then way-side inn for refreshment, leaving the cart with the corpse in a recess a little way off from the junction of the three roads.

Bicker followed bicker, and stoup followed stoup, until the extent of their potations began gradually, yet visibly, to tell both upon their physical and mental condition. One thing was quite certain—it was now far on in the afternoon, and that they took no note of time, whatever reckoning they kept of their cups. All at once, like a flash of lightning, the startling remembrance of the important meeting that evening at St Orland's Stone, which was to decide irrevocably his future destiny, penetrated the half-muddled, alarmed brain of the conscience-stricken millwright, who, rising in a moment from his seat, declared he would drink no more, and firmly insisted that they should immediately proceed to the place of interment.

From the authoritative and determined manner of the speaker, his companions saw at once the futility of resistance ;

66

so, submitting with the best grace they could, they, in a somewhat unbecomingly irregular manner, proceeded to the spot where they had left the cart with the corpse.

What was their unutterable surprise and amazement when neither cart, nor horse, nor corpse was to be seen! In vain they eagerly searched every cranny, shed, and outhouse—the cart, with its precious contents, was nowhere to be found !

In their present plight of dreamy half-unconsciousness, it would have been certainly unexpectedly remarkable if they had satisfactorily solved the mysterious enigma. So, without attempting any rational or logical solution-feeling, doubtless, their utter incapacity for so doing—they jumped at once to the conclusion, that as their dead friend was no very canny while he lived, the Devil had taken the body to himself when he died.

“But the De'il, if he had wished to tak’ him to himsel,” said one of the most thoughtful of the group, “ could hae dune that without plaguing us takin' him a' this length.”

“Besides," said another," he needna ta'en the cart and the horse, although he micht hae ta’en the corp. He's nae use for the cart, and as for the bit beastie, it never did him ony harm, I'm sure.”

These acute and sensible remarks might, if followed up, have led to some feasible, if not satisfactory solution of the circumstance; but the general opinion decidedly being that no explanation could by any possibility prevail other than that already given, and not being otherwise in the mood for weighing seeming probabilities and drawing logical deductions, they turned their faces homewards.

What was the poor millwright to do? To go on to Glamis and meet the company invited there, without the body of the deceased, would, he reasoned, be simply a mockery. His safest course, he concluded, would be to follow the multitude, whether to good or evil. Accordingly he joined issue with his fellow mourners, and moodily proceeded with them on the road he had come, not knowing what might betide them

« ElőzőTovább »