Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Northwestern
University

Library
Novels of the Month.

99 : Not only did she manifest her industry in this way, but in the dairy, too, her abilities proved themselves in the most striking manner. From the milking-pail to the cheese-press, she attended to every thing; buckled up her sleeves, and helped to separate the whey from the curds; tried the butter in the churn with her own finger; and judged the cleanness of the tubs by smelling at them with her own nose. This did all very well for a time, when the thing was new, and when the old woman treated her indulgently, rather as a lady amateur than a pupil. But, when she began to be entrusted with the actual cares and responsibilities of the farm, and had, as was said, spoiled some charnings of milk, and caused the failure of several makings of butter; and, when the old woman began to speak cross to her, and things to go wrong, she took the pet at the others, and at those low-lifed plagues, and, retiring into her own chamber, began to think that farming was a very nasty employment for a lady.

The influence of this feeling was increased by the annoyances she otherwise met with, and, ultimately an open breach between Lady Barbara and her mother-in-law, rendered a separation absolutely necessary. The young couple were under the necessity of taking up another residence, where Lady Barbara began to feel some compunction for the splendour and convenience which she had lost. Here a baby was born to her, and a deep and bitter sensation was felt by her, when she considered that there she lay, a poor man's wife, without even a poor woman's consolation,- for, no mother came to see her with a mother's affection, and no helping sister sat by hier bedside to give her a drink when her mouth was parched, or to do a kind turn for her or her baby,--the weakness of nature sank her proud spirit, and the regrets of repentance melted her heart, until solitary tears, bitter and hope. less, gave a temporary relief to her inward despondency.

In a short time after Lady Barbara and Johnston came to live in their own house, one of Barbara's sisters, Lady Mary, of Carloghie, was married at the castle, and many noblemen and gentlemen abroad attended at the ceremony. Amidst the festivities, there crept a report of the extraordinary tale that the youngest and handsomest daughter of the earl of Carloghie, disowned by her family for an unequal match, was living within a few miles of her father's castle, the laborious wife of a common farmer. This intelligence was associated with too romantic a feeling not to excite in the fashionable party a longing desire to see so uncommon a spectacle. They went in considerable quantities, and, for some time, Barbara never went outside her door, without encountering some lounger, who remained waiting for a glimpse. Time passed on, but not with statisfaction to the family of the Jolinston's, and some strange reports were rife in the country, that they were in some unknown trouble. Some of the neighbours began to recount at last, that loud and reproachful words were heard passing

between Johnston and his lady. In fact, there was a Colone! Delap, of the Netherbaugh, who managed to get acquainted with Lady Barbara, though she first barred him from the door. The fates would so have it, that one evening, as James Johnston was away at the neighbouring town, and Lady Barbara was sitting crying at home, the wicked colonel tapped at the door, and, after getting into the presence of the lady, by his eloquence and fascinating address, he contrived to wheedle her into compliance with a scheme of elopement, which he had provided for. Next day, in the words of the narrator, a distracted man, namely, James Johnston, was seen hastening, like one beside himself, between his deserted house at Green Braes and the Fairly Holm; for, now the hue and cry had got up in the neighbourhood, that Lady Barbara of Carloghie had stolen from her house, in the dead of the night, and run off to London with the gay and blackguard Colonel Delap.

Some time subsequent to this, on a cold wintry night, Lady Barbara suddenly was seen approaching the house of her husband, where he then was hanging distractedly over his dying child. The scene which follows must be given in the words of the skilful narrator:

• “Oh! if your misguided mother but saw you now, Mary Johnston," said he, “ this sight might perhaps melt her cruel heart. But she is far away, with them that never loved her as I have done; and now thou art her last, saddest remembrancer, and cold death's creeping up to thy young heart—and I am a bereft and broken hearted man."

• He stopped suddenly, choked by his sorrow, and thought he heard a noise without. It was Barbara groping agitatedly for the latch of the door. The sounds were low, but became sharp and abrupt, and the door moved as if the walking spirit of death sought hasty admission. In another instant the figure of a female wanderer stood before him, and the pale and haggard countenance of his own Barbara appeared, by the dim light of the small lamp, more like a deadly ghost than a living being.

• "It is indeed Barbara herself,” she said, after gazing long and sadly in his altered countenance, come to lay her head beneath your feet, James Johnston, if ye'll only let me acknowledge I've been your ruin, and kiss my bonnie bairn before she dies.”

$ " The Lord prepare me for this trial,” he said, staggering back to a seat: “ Babby, is it you come to me at this dread hour, when I called upon your spirit. Ye've wronged me sair, Lady Barbara ; but I can refuse you nothing. There, in that bed, is your dying bairn.'

•“ It would have melted a heart of the rock adamant to hear the sobbing screams of bitter grief with which the broken-hearted mother and unfortunate lady bent over the face of her expiring child. * James Johnston,' she said, turning to her groaning husband, 'ye'll no put me out at this door, till my puir bairn wins to her last rest.'

"“Till the breath's out of Mary's body,' said James, ‘ye may sit there and greet by her side; but ye’ve done us bitter wrong, Lady Babby, as ye truly say; and another night ye shall never bide under

my

roof.'

* * The two parents sat and watched the dying child, and, at times, between their sobs' of sorrow, stole a nameless look at each other's face. At length, in the darkest hour that comes before the break of the morning, the pretty bairn gasped its last, and was relieved from the troubles of an uncertain world,

Nothing was said—nothing could be spoken, as the women that waited without came in to compose the limbs of the child. It 's over now, and my deed's done,' said Lady Barbara, rising. “It is not fit that I should sit longer in an honest man's house.'

“With a steady step she walked towards the door; and, ere the light of morning had opened out fairly upon the breaking sky, her figure had vanished beyond the fields of the farm, and no one inquired whither she went.—Vol.i, pp. 260, 263.

The story has a melancholy catastrophe. Johnston's father died of grief, and he himself and Lady Barbara were deprived of their senses, and presented a dreadful example of the folly of an unequal match.

The next story is called “ The Three Maids of Loudon, or the Kennedies of Marslie and the Norman Cousins.” It is a tradition of Ayrshire, but presents matter of less comparative interest than some others to which we are induced to direct our attention.

“ The Priors of Lawford” is another of the stories of the Dominie, and its chief interest turns upon a point of a very rare occurrence, but which still abounds with strange and highly curiouscircumstances. At the time that the narrator made his appearance at the scene of this drama, Mr. Bannatyne, a young clergyman, was initiated into the office which was about to be abandoned by the Rev. Mr. Kinloch, who had been minister of the parish nearly forty years. At this very time there were some surmises of an attachment existing between this young clergyman and a lady of the name of Prior, who, with her uncle, lived in great privacy in the stately old mansion of Lawford Holme. Mr. Bannatyne was himself extremely interested about the lady, but was surprised to find that, on his visits to the house, she sometimes tried to avoid him. Yet, at other times, afterwards, when she did enter into some conversation with him, her observations were so judicious and so tasteful—her very language indicated so much mental accomplishment, such unassuming refinement; and he thought her words were at times so penetrating in their meaning-even her voice seemed so musical that he became interested concerning her to absolute absorption, and was momentarily flattered into an idea that she almost took a pleasure in his society.

Mr. Prior, the uncle of the lady, seemed very partial to Mr. Bannatyne, but the latter was quite perplexed to find out the cause of Miss Prior's very strange conduct. Expressions occasionally dropped from the old gentleman also, and looks were exchanged between him and Rebecca which filled the minister with a feeling so painful that it was almost terrifying to himself; and yet he knew not what was its exact meaning, or to what it tend

ed. Sometimes now, as he sat and looked at them both, a sort of vague dread would come gradually over him, which he could not define, and which was associated with some notion or suspicion for which there seemed to be no expression. The perplexity of Mr. Bannatyne only increased at every

in. terview, and he resolved, come what might, to prevail on the maiden to draw aside the dark curtain that covered this terrific object. Upon due examination of his own mind, he found that happiness for him and Rebecca Prior were inseparable, and at once came to the determination of avowing his passion and deciding his fate. But, strange to say, he found that Rebecca most perversely avoided giving him the least opportunity to speak to her alone. Upon one evening, when the minister had gone to Mr. Prior’s with a strong resolution to speak openly to Rebecca, a conversation took place, in which Mr. Prior made some exceedingly mysterious observations. The subject was the diversity of the human character; and, after the debate had proceeded some length, the old gentleman astonished Mr. Bannatyne by the following strange expressions:-" It is of the last importance, my dear sir," said Mr. Prior, emphatically, " for those who wish to form connexions in life, to know those with whom they unite, both with reference to their own after-happiness, and that of the posterity that may be the result. And, if you wish to know me, or any man or woman, in a deeper sense than can be obtained through the conventional mockeries of social intercourse, inquire the history of the family from which I have sprung; ascertain the peculiarities of the nest to which the bird may belong with which you would offer to mate for life. Trust me, the qualities of the heart, the peculiarities of the blood, and the great considerations of the disposition and bias, are with much certainty transmitted through families, and are matter of inheritance from the male or female branches of a house."

The effect of this speech was still operating on the young minister's mind, when Mr. Prior left the room; the former seized the opportunity of imploring Rebecca to unfold to him the terrible mystery which seemed to hang over the family. Rebecca, with much reluctance, expressed her determination to give him an explanation.-" I have resolved," said she to him, " in spite of the painful delicacy of a subject which is bitter to my thoughts, and in spite of all a maiden's pride, to give you, out of my own mouth, a most sad explanation. It is no romantic fancy that has caused this reluctance to meet you on a seeming mystery; but there are reasons for all this, which you will understand when you come to hear them. In one word, I will meet you this night, even before you sleep, in the little conservatory at the east angle of the mansion.”

Rebecca was true to her appointment in the conservatory, where a deeply interesting conversation took place. The young lady was proceeding in some general observations, which induced the minister to misinterpret her meaning, and he interrupted her with the following reproach:

** Then you are bethrothed to another-I must not speak to you of the sentiment that absorbs my heart that heart that I ought to devote to the service of the sanctuary, but which irresistible passion has made to swerve in favour of one who is icy cold, and cruel as cold, or you could not tanta. lise me thus."

"“Oh! not cold, Lewis--not cruel; you wrong me sadly when you say so!” she exclaimed, clasping her hands together, while her voice quivered with rising emotion. "What would you have me to say? would you have me to speak as it becomes not a maiden to speak, to him whom she would love, does love, but dares not! Oh, Lewis, pity me! I am a wretched doomed girl. The hand of Heaven is upon me. The joys of a wife, the tenderness of a mother, I must never know: I must wear out my life in maiden seclusion, and go down to the grave, the last and saddest of my race, without a relative to weep over me when I am gone. Ah! Lewis, it is you that have made me feel my weakness”-and a burst of tears stopped her utterance.

""What can be the meaning of this dreadful distress!” he said, as he watched her while she sobbed beside him: "I will not again open my lips until

you disclose to me the mystery, or whatever it is, that places you in this unhappy situation, and causes you this grief. Rebecca, have pity on me, and tell me in two words the cause of all

this." 6" 1 will, I will, when I am a little composed. Heaven will give me strength to speak of the sad misfortune of my family, even to you. But can you not save my feelings, by surmising what I mean? never learned any thing remarkable about my ancestors? Have you never, Lewis,"--and she fixed her large eloquent eyes on him as she spoke,-"observed any thing peculiar about my uncle or me?"

* No, Rebecca; I have heard nothing; I have observed nothing." "" Alas! that I should have to undergo this additional trial,” she added, mournfully: “then, know, Lewis, that-bring your ear to my lips, while I speak the dreadful words--there is madness in my family!".

"Yes, now you must hear all! I am doomed by the blood that runs in my veins to be yet a raving maniac!-nay, start not, for it has been the fate of of almost all those, my ancestors, whose pale faces now look sadly upon us by the dim light of this single taper, and several of whom passed years in that state, the most humbling that Heaven permits to afflict poor humanity, in that very closet within the recess, where also my poor father died in the melancholy insensibility of total derangement! Now, Lewis,” she added, standing up, and looking down upon him with despairing energy, “ what do you think of your poor Rebecca now? If ever, then, or whenever that heavy hour arrives, surely you will come and try to soothe me in my sorrow, without despising me; but yours I can never be in this world. Now, farewell! the bitter words are spoken, and I am relieved.”

*For a few moments, the minister sat and gazed upon her, unable to speak. ""This is a sad tale, Rebecca,” he at length said; but

in some degree be deceiving yourself. No, it cannot be ! your sensibility

yet you may

Have you

« AnteriorContinuar »