Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

one of the stooks on the head-rig. When she went to give him suck she found him gone, and a pale, pining, fleshless thing put in his place. Never again did she see her own little Sandy; and so she was fain to suckle the substituted Sandy, though she and all her neighbours looked upon him as a Fairy. The boy grew up, the only child of his now widowed mother; and whether it was that the mysterious awe with which he was generally regarded repressed the genial confidence of social nature within him, or whether it was his peculiar temperament, he was shy and taciturn, and never played with other boys. When he reached man's estate, his dispositions seemed in no wise altered. But though silent and strange, he was quite harmless, living quietly with his mother, whom he supported by his steady labour in a whin-stone quarry about a couple of miles from the Village: There he worked all alone, furnishing metal for the roads of the district. He was away by the earliest dawn, and did not return till the twilight. It was remarked that he was almost never seen in daylight, as he never went to kirk or market, or any place of public amusement. Only in the grey of the morning or the evening was the tall thin man, with his long elf-locks and rapid strides, going to his daily work, or returning from it, espied even by his fellow-villagers. Sandy had been kind to an orphan cousin, the only relative he had on earth besides his mother. This cousin went to America and prospered. He was grateful; and having it in his power to offer a piece of land to Sandy, he pressed him with urgent kindness to emigrate. This was a thing altogether to our forlorn hero's mind; but his mother was now so frail that he could not attempt transplanting her, and so he resisted the offer. He made it a point of duty to keep the matter hid from the old woman ; but she learned it from having accidentally got hold of the letters that passed to and from her son on the subject, and thus came farther to know that it was Sandy's determination to make for that better situation in America so soon as she was dead. Naturally querulous, the poor old body was instantly seized with a new complaint of age. .

She saw

that her son's filial piety would not allow him to root her up from her native hearth at her time of life, but that he would wait till she was gathered to her fathers before he himself went abroad. All this she saw, and was unhappy. The more her son gave her proofs of his love, the more did she give vent to her regret at being an obstacle in the way of his better fortune. She was loath to die and leave him yet (for she had long ago ceased to think of him as a Changeling); and yet she wished to be away, lest he should grow weary of her. The more he walked softly and spoke gently, the more did she peevishly think he was doing so, not from the heart, but from a decent sense of outward duty. Not joint-racking rhumatism, nor white-bloated dropsy, nor bloody issue, nor torpid palsy, halving the body between life and death, could have been a malady like this malady of the heart to that poor old mother. One night her moaning querulousness on the subject rose to an unusual pitch. “I will end the matter, then,” said her son, and starting up he took down from its place the big Ha’-Bible of his fathers. He opened it at the giving of the Law from Mount Sinai, and laying his hand on the Fifth Commandment, swore hy Almighty God, that neither while his mother lived, nor after her death, would he ever go to America. Now, let us have peace on that subject!” he added. The poor old creature was overawed by this solemnity of self-denial. She never again alluded to the subject, but she groaned inwardly only the more deeply because she had thus tempted her son to forswear and miss a good lot after her death. These preying thoughts soon brought her to her grave. Often did the wish to be in America now cross the poor Changeling's heart; but he dismissed the feeling, and only made for his quarry in the morning with more vehement strides than before. From the baulked wish of years, however, and the now utter desolation of his life, his heart and health sunk, and he was laid upon his death-bed. As I had been a physician in the course of my life, and had sometimes to see my fellow-villagers in their extremities of distress, when there was no other medical man at hand, I witnessed

66

Sandy's close. It was rather a peculiar one. The minister had said a prayer over the dying man.

He looked us, one after the other, steadfastly in the face, till a tear expressive of his gratitude gathered in his eye. “I was going to say that the world had not used me very kindly ; but, my good friends, you half make me think I must be wrong," said the poor fellow with touching pathos, and turned his face to the wall, as if to die. At this moment, a sweet voice behind me asked how he was. Not having heard the entrance of any one, I was startled, and on looking round there was a beautiful young lady with us. The cause of her visit, I learned afterwards, was this :She was the only child of Sir Thomas Ruthven, one of our county gentlemen, who lived about two miles from our Village. When a girl, she was crossing a river in a boat, near her father's house. It was considerably swollen, and the frail old ferryman had warned her against the attempt. She was a high-mettled lass, however, and insisted on being taken across. The strength of the current was too much for the feeble rower, and swept the party down, till the boat was upset in the rocky gullet of a narrow stream. The boatman clung to his vessel, and being fortunately drifted into smooth shallow water, managed to get out. As for Miss Ruthven, she was whirled down the rapids into a deep pool, where she would inevitably have perished, had not Sandy Brunton seen her from his quarry on the bank of the river. Swift of foot as a reddeer, he

sprang with terrific leaps to the rescue, and being a swimmer lean and strong, he was in the very heart of the raging river in a few minutes, and succeeded in saving Miss Ruthven. Boundless was the gratitude of her family ; but Sandy would accept of no guerdon, and kept quite shy and aloof from their attempts to do him good. Only he was communicative and pleased when the grateful young lady herself called to see his mother and him, which she often did ; and he was always observed to take a sly peep at her from his quarry when she passed that way :

His yearned after the beautiful child he had saved. This was now the day of his death. To-morrow Miss Ruthven

heart

[ocr errors]

Let me

was to be married to a young knight of the district; but hearing of Sandy's extreme illness, she came to see her deliverer for the last time. She was now at his bedside. At the sound of her sweet voice he sat up in his bed.

kiss
your

hand !” he said. Her hand was given him, and he kissed it with the profoundest emotion. My child ! my good child ! may the blessing of the Heaven of Heavens be on your beautiful head !” he exclaimed; and resigning Miss Ruthven's hand, he laid himself gently back upon the pillow, and breathed his last. The virgin closed

66

his eyes.

[blocks in formation]

ONE midnight, about the end of January, I was alarmed by the violent ringing of the Kirk bell. Hearing at the same time voices without, I started up, drew on my clothes, and went out. The villagers were forth in all directions, running with lanterns in their hands, many of them being also armed with sticks, flails, pitchforks, and guns. “Come awa, Jock, man!" cried the mason to his sturdy neighbour, the ditcher. “Stop till I grind my sword,” was Jock's reply, as he held his rusty relic of Killiecrankie vigorously to the smithy grind-stone. “ To the kirk-yard, lads !" was now the word, and thither the people ran.

I followed. The cause and the result of this unusual disturbance may be stated thus : I begin at the beginning :

One of the patriarchs of our Village was a blue-bonneted, rig-and-fur-hosed, stern old Feuar, Andrew Sword by name. Somewhat late in life he had married a woman a good deal younger than himself, and had an only son by her. Betwixt the natural harshness of the father and the indiscriminate fondness of the mother, the boy was sadly spoilt. As he grew up he followed wild courses, till at length, having wasted not a little of his father's substance, he went off to America. Poverty and distress overtook him there, and subdued his spirit; and bethinking him of his father's house, he made his way back to this country, and reached

mourner.

his native Village, penniless, faint of heart, and feeble of body—for he had been ill of jaundice for several weeks. Passing by the church-yard, he observed, as he looked over the wall, a number of people round a grave; and uncovered at the head of it stood his own father as chief

“ Woe's me, then !” murmured the youth, as he staggered forward and leant looking over the wall, “it must be my mother's burial !" The grave was now covered, and the mourners retired into the church, his father with them—for it was the Monday after the Sacrament in the parish. The bell was tolled, and public worship began. When all the people were in, young Sword hastened to the new-made

grave, and flinging himself down upon it, he kissed the wet sod at the head of it again and again, in a passion of repentance and sorrow, groaning out “My mother! Oh! my mother!” He arose at length, and, touched with a new sense of his need of the Word of God, he made his way by a back door through the aisle of the chief heritor of the parish up to the family gallery, and nobody being in it, he sat down unobserved in a back seat. In spite of his sorrow of heart, and his desire to listen to the man of God, the excessive fatigue which he had undergone for a series of weeks overcame him, and he fell fast asleep. When he awoke, all was silent in the church ; and it was beginning to grow dark, the days being still short. Trying the back door by which he had entered, he found it locked, and as it was well studded with big nails, and altogether a very strong one, he knew he could never burst it open ; so here he was a prisoner, and might perhaps have to remain so till next Sabbath should come round, the church and church-yard being in a very retired place. Meantime, however, he took a peep through a small grated window of the aisle, and saw an old woman, with a bundle of sticks on her back, drawing towards the church-yard. She came very near him, and leant her back against the low wall of enclosure, letting her sticks rest on the top of it. Young Sword cried to her with all his might. She must have heard him, for she turned round instantly and looked over the wall. Again he cried

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »