« AnteriorContinuar »
little village maid loitering along it, leaning on his arm, and listening to him with eyes beaming with unconscious affection.
The shock which the poor girl had received, in the destruction of all her ideal world, had indeed been cruel. Faintings and hysterics had at first shaken her tender frame, and were succeeded by a settled and pining melancholy. She had beheld from her window the march of the departing troops. She had seen her faithless lover borne off, as if in triumph, amidst the sound of drum and trumpet, and the pomp of arms. She strained a last aching gaze after him, as the morning sun glittered about his figure, and his plume waved in the breeze; he passed away like a bright vision from her sight, and left her all in darkness.
CHAPTER III. It would be trite to dwell on the particulars of her after-story. It was, like other tales of love, melancholy. She avoided society, and wandered out alone in the walks she had most frequented with her lover. She sought, like the stricken deer, to weep in silence and loneliness, and brood over the barbed sorrow that rankled in her soul. Sometimes she would be seen, late of an evening, sitting in the porch of the village church; and the milkmaids, returning from the fields, would now and then overhear her, singing some plaintive ditty, in the hawthorn walk. She became fervent in her devotions at church; and as the old people saw her approach, so wasted away, yet with a hectic bloom, and that hallowed air which melancholy diffuses round the form, they would make way for her, as for something spiritual, and looking after her, would shake their heads in gloomy foreboding. She felt a conviction that she was hastening to the tomb, but looked forward to it as a place of rest. The silver cord that had bound her to existence was loosed, and there seemed to be no more pleasure under the sun. If ever her gentle bosom had entertained resentment against her lover, it was extinguished. She was incapable of angry passions; and in a moment of saddened tenderness, she penned him a farewell letter. It was couched in the simplest language ; but touching, from its very simplicity. She told him she was dying, and did not conceal from him that his conduct was the cause. She even depicted the sufferings which she had experienced; but concluded with saying, that she could not die in peace, until she had sent him her forgiveness and her blessing.
By degrees her strength declined, that she could no longer leave the cottage. She could only totter to the window, where, propped up in her chair, it was her enjoyment to sit all day and look out upon the landscape. Still she uttered no complaint, nor imparted to any one the malady that was preying on her heart. She never even mentioned her lover's name; but would lay her head on her mother's bosom and weep in silence. Her poor parents hung, in mute anxiety, over this fading blossom of their hopes, still flattering themselves that it might again revive to freshness, and that the bright, unearthly bloom which sometimes flushed her cheek might be the promise of returning health.
In this way she was seated between them one Sunday afternoon; her hands were clasped in theirs, the lattice was thrown open, and the soft air that stole in, brought with it the fragrance of the clustering honey-suckle which her own hands had trained round the window. Her father had just been reading a chapter in the Bible; it spoke of the vanity of worldly things, and of the joys of heaven; it seemed to have diffused comfort and serenity through her bosom. Her eye was fixed on the distant village church; the bell had tolled for the evening service; the last villager was lagging into the porch ; and everything had sunk into that hallowed stillness peculiar to the day of rest. Her parents were gazing
on her with yearning hearts. Sickness and sorrow, which pass so roughly over some faces, had given to
hers the expression of a seraph's. A tear had trembled . in her soft blue eye. Was she thinking of her faithless
lover?-or were her thoughts wandering to that distant church-yard, into whose bosom she might soon be gathered ?
Suddenly the clang of hoofs was heard—a horseman galloped to the cottage- he dismounted before the window-the poor girl gave a faint acclamation, and sunk back in her chair ;-it was her repentant lover! He rushed into the house, and flew to clasp her to his bosom; but her wasted form — her death-like countenance-so wan, yet so lovely in its desolation,-smote him to the soul, and he threw himself in an agony at her feet. She was too faint to rise-she attempted to extend her trembling hand-her lips moved as if she spoke, but no word was articulated-she looked down upon him with a smile of unutterable tenderness—and closed her eyes for ever!
Such are the particulars which I gathered of this village story. They are but scanty, and I am conscious have little novelty to recommend them. In the present rage, also, for strange incident and high-seasoned narrative they may appear trite and insignificant, but they interested me strongly at the time; and, taken in connexion with the affecting ceremony which I had just witnessed, left a deeper impression on my mind than many circumstances of a more striking nature. I have passed through the place since, and visited the church again, from a better motive than mere curiosity. It was a wintry evening; the trees were stripped of their foliage; the church-yard looked naked and mournful, and the wind rustled coldly through the dry grass. Evergreens, however, had been planted about the grave of the village favourite, and osiers were bent over it to keep the turf uninjured.
The church-door was open, and I stepped in. There hung the chaplet of flowers and gloves, as on the day of the funeral ; the flowers were withered it is true, but care seemed to have been taken that no dust should soil their whiteness. I have seen many monuments, where art has exhausted its powers to awaken the sympathy of the spectator; but I have met with none that spoke more touchingly to my heart, than this simple, but delicate memento of departed innocence.- Washington Irving.
(FROM "THE HEART OF MID LOTHIAN.”)
The Duke of Argyle made a signal for Jeanie to advance from the spot where she had hitherto remained, watching countenances which were too long accustomed to suppress all apparent signs of emotion, to convey to her any interesting intelligence. Her majesty could not help smiling at the awe-struck manner in which the quiet demure figure of the little Scotchwoman advanced towards her; and yet more at the first sound of her broad northern accent. But Jeanie, had a voice low and sweetly toned, an admirable thing in woman, and she besought “ her leddyship to have pity on a poor misguided young creature,” in tones so affecting, that like the notes of some of her native songs, provincial vulgarity was lost in pathos."
Stand up, young woman,” said the queen, but in a kind tone, “and tell me what sort of a barbarous people your country folks are, where child murder is become so common as to require the restraint of laws like yours?”
“If your leddyship pleases,” answered Jeanie," there are mony places besides Scotland where mothers are unkind to their ain flesh and blood.” It must be observed, that the disputes between George the Second, and Frederick, Prince of Wales, were then at the highest; and that the good-natured part of the public laid the blame on the queen. She coloured highly ; and darted a glance of a most penetrating character, first at Jeanie, then at the duke. Both sustained it unmoved ; Jeanie, from total unconsciousness of the offence she had given, and the duke, from his habitual composure; but in his heart he thought, “my unlucky protégée has, with this luckless answer, shot dead, by a kind of chance medley, her only hope of success.”
Lady Suffolk good humouredly and skilfully interposed in an awkward crisis. “You should tell this lady,” she said to Jeanie, the particular causes which render this crime common in your country.”
“Some think it's the Kirk Session—that is—it's the cutty-stool, if your leddyship pleases,” said Jeanie, looking down, and curtseying.
“ The what?" said Lady Suffolk, to whom the phrase was new, and who beside was rather deaf.
“ That's the stool of repentance, madam, if it please your leddyship,"answered Jeanie, for light life and conversation, and for breaking the seventh command.” Here she raised her eyes to the duke; saw his hand at his chin; and, totally unconscious of what she had said so out of joint, gave double effect to the inuendo, by stopping short and looking embarrassed.
As for Lady Suffolk, she retired like a covering party, which, having interposed betwixt their retreating friends and the enemy, have suddenly drawn on themselves a fire unexpectedly severe.
“The deuce take the lass,” thought the Duke of Argyle to himself; “ there goes another shotand she has killed with both barrels right and left.”
Indeed the duke had himself his share of the confusion; for, having acted as master of ceremonies to this innocent offender, he felt much in the circumstances of a country squire, who, having introduced his spaniel into a well-appointed drawing-room, is doomed to wit