« ElőzőTovább »
So sure as God doth reign on high,
THE farm and mill of Airniefoul, the birthplace of the writer, is pleasantly situated in the extreme east corner of the Glen of Ogilvy. Surrounded on all sides by a mountainous belt of hills, the lonely glen is, apparently, completely isolated from the outer world. Yet, it is not so. The county town is within a few miles distance, and populous hamlets and villages encompass it on all sides; while the Howe, or Valley of Strathmore, stretches away in its sylvan beauty beyond; the long rugged range of the Sidlaw Hills grim towering dark between.
It was now autumn; the fields in their golden yellow were ripening luxuriantly for the sickle; and all was bustle and preparation at Airniefoul for the approaching harvest. A re-union of two loving and trusting hearts had just taken place within its precincts. Kate, the only daughter of the worthy farmer, and Jeanie Morison, a former school companion in a neighbouring city, had met the evening before after a separation of many years, the latter the invited guest
to Airniefoul, to partake for a time of its simple hospitalities and rural pleasures.
Kate, it may be observed, was some years the elder of Jeanie. She was of a warm and genial temperament, yet apparently saddened in heart by some early disappointment, which, however, infused a pensive sweetness to her voice, and a solemn melody to her words, very attractive and winning especially in one who combined the inward qualities of a cultivated mind, with all the external graces of comeliness and beauty.
The landscape around her mountain home was not only beautiful in picturesque and attractive scenery, but from its close connection with, and immediate proximity to, Glamis, was also rich in classic associations and legendary lore. Her great delight, therefore, had latterly been to muse over the wizard and fairy tales of by-gone times, and to treasure up in her heart whatever was romantic or interesting in the more unheeded, yet not less momentous scenes of every day life. And this, not from the mere love of the marvellous, but with an anxious, fixed desire to extract some moral or useful lesson from all that was happening around her.
On the morning after Jeanie Morison's arrival at Airniefoul, the two friends were walking arm in arm by the banks of the little streamlet that murmurs round the homestead, when Kate, ever anxious to communicate whatever had profitably impressed herself, thus addressed her companion :
“ This balmy morning so bright and beautiful seems to invite us to wander over the glen. But whither shall we bend our footsteps? You see that lonely cottage on the brow of the hill, the sun shining bright on its white-washed walls, and partly overshadowed with a clump of stately elms? There is a sad story of domestic misery connected with that cot; a blight has come over its once joyous and happy hearth. Let us seat ourselves on this mossy bank and I will tell it thee:
"Adam Johnstone, the late occupant of the cottage, was,
for many years Grieve or Overseer of the neighbouring farm of Hayston, to whom the proprietor, who did not reside on the estate, entrusted the full management of its affairs. A most diligent and faithful servant, ever alive to the interests of his employer, was honest Adam Johnstone. He superintended the farm, bought and sold, engaged and discharged servants, as if the whole were his own property, every transaction, however small, being negotiated with the most scrupulous fidelity. Honesty had its reward in the unswerving confidence of his employer, and the good wishes and respect of all who knew him. The minister and session of the parish, with the unanimous concurrence and approval of the congregation, elected him cordially to the eldership, an office which he faithfully though unostentatiously filled for a longer term of years than had ever fallen to the lot of any of his compeers. Yet all this prosperous and happy time, he sought not the applause of men, but the possession of a good conscience, and a single eye to rectitude and truth.
“Janet, his sonsie helpmate, was in every respect a suitable wife to Adam Johnstone. Active, industrious, frugal, inventive, making auld claes look maist as weel as new,' she
· kept a warm and cosy hearth, the envy of many a gudewife in the glen with double the means without being able to bring about the same result. Her kitchen or but end was kept as scrupulously clean as a Dutch cottage; she was always scouring away at chairs, tables, luggies,' and all the
, ‘ et-ceteras of her sanctum ; and then her capacious hearthstone and large roomy ingle, how white and beautiful! The roof was hung round with dainty sized hams and rolls of bacon all her own curing, while her clean-kept dairy was full of large earthen dishes brimful of nice rich milk for the making of butter and cheese, at which she was quite an adept, and which, on market days, she disposed of herself in the neighbouring town. The parlour or ben house was a mirror of neatness and comfort. The floor scoured clean and white, and covered over with a slight sprinkling of glistering sand
from the bonnie burn; the chairs, table, and cupboard of bright varnished oak, with the mahogany eight day clock ticking cheerily behind the door, gave the whole quite an air of rural independence. On the white-washed walls hung several gaudily coloured prints without frames, descriptive of Wallace and his exploits ; or the re-union of loves long estranged, with the village church in the distance ; the cupboard filled with the glowing china tea set, used only now on rare and high occasions; and the sunny recess of the little diamond-paned window adorned with the gaudily painted parrot in its stucco cage.
On the mantelpiece were placed several nondescript figures of porcelain bedecked with peacock's feathers, and long strings of birds' eggs fantastically hung round the whole, while on the mahogany chest of drawers lay the big Ha' bible with the shorter and larger Catechism, the Confession of Faith, Hervey's Meditations, Pilgrim's Progress, and Guthrie's Christian's Great Interest.
“ But Adam and Janet were now surrounded by much more interesting objects than these. Sweet, healthy, olive plants grew around their table, destined in time to be either a blessing or a crown of thorns to their aged heads. Four beautiful children, three boys and one girl, made their lonely cot a little paradise ; and it was Adam's delight when the labours of the day were over, to work in his little garden with all his laughing children around him ; or to train the honeysuckle and jessamine on the porch and walls of his cottage, while they bedecked themselves with the pretty blossoms which he threw down amongst them ostensibly as useless for his purpose, but in reality that he might see their sunny ringlets clustered with their bloom, and listen to their ringing merry laughter ever so sweetly dear to a father's heart. In the long winter evenings he would tell them the story of Joseph and his brethren, till their little cheeks were wet with tears; or romp with them at “hide-and-seek,” or “blind man's buff,” till warned by Janet it was time to "gie ower their daffin," when they would all gather round him to
say their evening prayers ; and in a few minutes the house would be still and silent, the lovely sleepers each on his little pillow, a perfect picture of innocence and beauty.
“The Saturday holiday has an irresistible, inexpressible charm for every schoolboy, but to those at a remote country school, it possesses a double charm. There are so many little excursions to make, sights to see, friends to visit, that it is always looked forward to with delight, and enjoyed with the rarest pleasure. The youngsters at Woodbine Cottage were now attending school, and as they were our nearest neighbours they and the young people belonging to Airniefoul were in the constant habit of going to, and returning from Kinnettles' school together. On these occasions many were the excursions we planned, and the exploits we projected. None, however, afforded me greater pleasure than to spend the afternoon at Adam's cottage, and to take a “dish o' tea” in his cozy kitchen. Then Janet was in all her glory, her grey wincey gown tucked neatly up behind, her massive broad-winged cap as white as driven snow, and her blooming sonsie face all radiant with sunny smiles; the hearthstone and “jams" newly “calmed," a large log fire blazing in the ingle, and the burnished tea kettle singing on the “sway."
Then the table was duly placed in the middle of the nicely sanded floor, on which were laid the “tea dishes,” with pyramids of oaten cakes and flour “scones," nice fresh butter and “groser jam.” Some of the urchins who had been watching without would now enter in breathless haste with the joyful announcement that “Father was coming." We would then all hasten out to welcome him home, and Adam would then enter the cottage with a little elf on each arm, and the rest somewhat jealous, all clinging round him, but it took some little time to satisfy by many marks of affection, that they all equally shared his love.
“ There was one, however, in this little group always more conspicuous than the rest in her eager and childlike attention to her father, who in his turn caressed and fondled her with