« PreviousContinue »
the opinions of her future protégée ; but she could only say,-"We shall know each other better.” The old man again blessed the child ; she pressed her cherub lip to his check and he retired, recommended earnestly to the care of the late Mr. Montague’s confidential servant, whom Monimia retained in her family.
It was well he retired; for Montague, who had just come home, bustled into the room, expressing his astonishment at her admitting a blind wandering beggar, not only to her house, but her parlour, and that beggar an avowed Irishman.
“You must forgive me, if I cannot participate in your terrors, as I am unfortunately an Irishwoman myself.'
“Ay, true, but not a Papist,” replied Montague, somewhat disconcerted; and he withdrew,—"dare-saying he only, feigned blindness,” and “dare-saying he would try to rob the castle in the night.”
Mary, all in tears, bitterly exclaimed against “the black-hearted Protestant;" and Monimia, shocked at her language, demanded who had taught her such phrases,—“Why black-hearted, my dear?”
Oh, just because they have all black hearts.”
Oh, no; but Connor in the cabin, and Connor's wife, and all the children;" and a little history of the cabin followed, by which Monimia learned that many kindly virtues dwelt there, and not a few "manly vices.”
“ Ah wretched, wretched country!" sighed Monimia; but she soothed the grief of Mary, and tried to eradicate the unamiable opinions imbibed in the cabin. Kindness has already made the child familiar; a little bed was made up for her in Monimia's own chamber; and, in a few minutes, she sunk into the repose of innocence.
At an early hour Monimia was awakened by the repeated embraces of her little friend, who clung around her neck with the playful fondness of endearing childhood.
Lady, I must go to my grandfather.” “ 'Tis too early.”—“Oh, no: I must say my prayers, tie his shoes, and lead him out to a green bank; he sits down, and I tell him where the sun shines. He stretches out his arms, and says,– • There is my country: Father of Mercy, bless it !'”
Monimia was caressing the child when the old man's dog burst into the chamber, howling piteously. He leaped on Mary, and dragged her forward by the clothes,
ran away, and again returned, as if he invited her to follow. Mary bounded after him, and when Monimia had dressed herself, she also followed to the chamber door. She heard the child weeping and addressing her grandfather; she softly opened the door, and saw the old stranger stiff and ghastly, and the little girl trying to fold his stiffened arms round her. He had been dead some hours. The loud shriek of Monimia summoned the servants. She was soon restored to composure; but the aged. man was for ever removed from the joys and pains of mortality. In vain did Mary call on her beloved grandfather to awaken; in vain the dog whined round the bed. Fitzconnal was deaf to the entreaties of affection and to the voice of friendship.
Mary threw herself on the floor in an agony of sorrow, while the dog licked off the tears that streamed down her innocent face, and alternately turned to the bed and burst into a dolorous howl. Mary was soon consoled, but the dog still watched by the corpse of his master.
On the third day, Monimia and all her family attended the funeral of the aged man to Eleenalin. The procession was joined by some kind strangers, and by the islanders. Hugh played the coronach, Moome wept, as was her custom at all funerals, for Moome was a fountain of tears; and Fitzconnal was committed to earth, unhallowed, save by his misfortunes and his noble, though ill-directed yirtues.
When the ceremony was ended Hugh set up a rude stone, to tell future generations where a man was laid. “I also will lay a stone to the cairn of the stranger,
,"* said Moome, solemnly placing her stone. Every one followed her example, and Fitzconnal's heap was gathered.
If there be a funeral custom more affecting than all others, it is this-simple, solemn, and impressive—of adding a stone to a mountain cairn. Where shall I die, and where shall I be buried?" said Norman, while busy fancy reverted to the fate of her who slept here with the stranger. The Piper drew the sleeve of his cassock across his moist eyes, and the females moved away. “Dust was returned to its dust; and the living withdrew, laying it to heart.”+
* The Lowland peasant, to express good-will, says,—“I will dance at your wedding.” The Highlander says,—“ Curidh mi clach ar do chairn."
“And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave; that is the pillar of Rachel's graye unto this day.” It is well known how desirous all Highlanders are to “possess their souls in patience" during trouble, to depart with “decency," and to be remembered with reverential love, not mourned with impious sorrow. This is, indeed, the familiar care of their whole lives. The bridal linen, when such luxury is known, is generally folded up to shroud the corpse of the bride. I have known solitary women, so miserably poor that English imagination would be puzzled to find out how they contrived to exist, hoard up a pound or two in the hands of neighbouring gentlemen, for “the decent funeral.” The ambition of posthumous fame has gone a good way towards dilapidating Iona. The pious Highlander feels no scruples in lifting the grave-stone of some reputed king or insular prince, to ornament the remains of his own grandmother. A considerable number of these stolen stones may now be seen very far from the sacred island in which they were originally placed.
† Few years have elapsed since solitary Irish harpers wandered over the isles and west coast. Hence the seeming identity of many Highland and Irish airs. This romantic practice is now for ever abandoned. Dogherty's was the “Lay of the last minstrel.” Of late years, unfortunate persons of another description have wandered over the same bleak but kindly tract bleeding limbs cast from a mangled country. Among these unhappy indivi. duals was one of that distinguished appearance which, once beheld, can never be forgotten. He was remembered by gentlemen of the country as holding high rank, where rank was the badge of disgrace and rebellion. Yet, though disloyal to Britain, it is probable that he thought himself but the more true to Ireland. But he was now a wandering maniac. He said the sufferings of his country had made him mad; and the Highlanders forgot his crimes, and thought only of his misery.
Fair to no purpose, artful to no end.-POPE.
MONIMIA kept her promise to the unfortunate old man. She took the child to her bosom with maternal fondness. Montague was at first sullen; but, as he was not ill-natured, the gay temper, affectionate manners, and beautiful form of the little exile won even his good-will. The little Irish girl became, indeed, a general favourite; and with the Piper she threatened to supplant all the children in the district.
The shooting season now brought many idle strangers to the Highlands; the time of Montague was occupied by what he called his quality friends, and the peaceful domestic hours of Monimia were continually invaded by an influx of female visitors, who, compelled to live for some months in the country, without talents either to improve or embellish retirement, were glad to transfer to another the burden of their own inanity.
The Highland moors were become so very fashionable that many gentlemen annually travelled north; and immediately the ladies were smitten with a taste for the picturesque, the sublime, and the dreary. But it was impossible to gaze for ever on huge rocks, dark lakes, foaming torrents, and rugged mountains in endless expansion. “A Northern Meeting," was now the word ; and the good motherly ladies of the country, who had never been able to travel south, were delighted with a cheap opportunity of showing their grown-up girls a little of life, and teaching them something of
The plan had grown in general estimation ; for the idle and the young found amusement, the vain a field for display, and the designing a theatre of action. Two rustic coquettes, by the aid of fine complexions, high spirits, novelty, and the Highland fling, had already obtained what were called “most advantageous establishments; and all the clever, sensible mammas declared the countries "infinitely indebted to the public spirit of her Grace of G- These rural meetings were no doubt inferior, both in substantial luxury and elegant taste, to the brighter assemblies of London or Bath; but they had their own charms—the same vanity, dress, gaiety, scandal, envy, and delight. The higher class, for one week, were unrivalled-supreme over fashion and manners, and the inferior orders busy in acquiring anecdotes, airs, and graces, at second-hand, to excite the astonishment of remote country neighbours, and amuse their winter solitude.
Neither Norman nor Flora visited much at Dunalbyn for some weeks; but a series of rainy weather relieved Monimia from her troublesome friends, and the little circle had again resumed the their former life.
One morning they were seated at their usual studies, when a party of ladies on horseback were descried sweeping through the defile which separated Strath- from Glenalbyn.
There they come,” said Monimia, somewhat peevishly; “I know nothing so teasing as the affected regard of troublesome
believe they will soon make me loathe myself.
fond of me that Norman and Flora rose to go home. 'Nay, I insist that for one day you share my penance : surely you are too gallant to fly the ladies ; and for your encouragement, my dear Flora, let me assure you that this fair covey indicates a flight of gentlemen as certainly as the screaming of the gull does bad weather.". The young friends smiled, and walked to the window to view the fair and still distant riders.
“These are the Gordons and Miss Sinclair, the relation and humble companion of their aunt. Of course you know how highblooded and high-bred they both are. Yet they are essentially different. Miss Gordon is stately, proud, perpendicular, insolent; using the privileges of her birth to excuse her breeding. You, Norman, must adore her, but at an humble distance; she will no more pardon your indifference than your presumption. Flora must not dare to look at her.” “Then for Heaven's sake let me go home.”
Oh, no; her sister will atone for that. She will crave your friendship in half an hour, and vow you her own on five minutes' acquaintance-if it strikes her. Maria is little, pretty, goodhumoured, vain, capricious; and the animal at least is lively. You, Norman, must flirt, and, if you please, you may romp with her. Should Flora snatch out a pearl comb, or pull off a glove opportunely, and so display the most beautiful flaxen tresses, and the fairest arm in the world; even she may hope for pardon. How I loathe affectation ! 'Tis woman's easily besetting sin; I am sure, if ever it .do break out in me, it must be the affectation of being natural.”
Flora smiled, but shook her head. “But is not this rather, rather
Severe?"-replied Monimia, returning her smile“ perhaps so. But really it strikes me as both silly and idle to weep, and wail, and gnash my teeth at the follies of half the world. I do not wish my acquaintances to have faults and follies; but since they are there, if they do not make one laugh, I am sure they are good for nothing else. However, my dear Flora, be not afraid ; morality is a grave word-we wont use that; but good taste will keep me from troubling you very often with the amiable qualities of my friends."
* But, pray let us have our cues,” said Norman; "you have forgot Miss Sinclair.”
• That is odd enough, for I am sure no lady has a more lively recollection of herself. I cannot give you a cue to Miss Sinclair. She is a chameleon, and somewhat more; for she takes not only colour, but form, from the circumambient air. Au reste, she is a maiden lady, well born, and of very elegant sentiments; whom my brother, though not remarkable either for one or tother, could perhaps persuade-But hush, they approach; she is dependent on Lady Gordon.”
The door was thrown open, and Miss Gord slightly hep towering neck to Mrs. Montague, overlooked Flora, but saw
Norman young and handsome; and, complaining of fatigue, threw herself on a sofa as elegantly as possible. Maria ran with open arms to embrace her “dearest Mrs. Montague,” and only gave way to the inquiries and caresses of Miss Sinclair.
My dearest creature, how have you contrived to exist for the last week?" cried Maria. Positively, we embraced the first glimpse of sunshine, to see that you had not hanged or drowned yourself; did we not, Sinclair Miss Sinclair confirmed this statement, probably forgetting that Miss Gordon's industrious maid had heard Sir Archibald tell his friend and visitor, Mr. Mansel, that as their sport lay towards Glenalbyn, they would spunge on the Pin-man and his elegant sister.
Monimia was as grateful for all this kindness as politeness required. Miss Gordon examined Norman with haughty, yet earnest attention, and stared at Flora with well-bred rudeness. Maria ran across the room, admired the plants, the birds, and the prospect; worked for a minute at Flora's frame, and snatched up Norman's book. It was a volume of Gaelic poetry, which Monimia had been reading.
“Good Lard! Mrs. Montague,” cried she; ". let me hope that you don't convulse your organs of speech with this savage dialect ?”
Monimia made a gay reply. She was as unfond of trying to reform the world, as of weeping and wailing over its follies.
But what,” said Maria, in an affected whisper; "if I should tell Sir Archibald of your elegant language-master?”
The heart of Norman throbbed violently-his breath came quick; but Monimia did not deign to reply. She looked haughtily displeased, and Miss Sinclair chid Maria for a giddy-brain; while she expatiated on the amazing fondness Sir Archibald had conceived for the country, the love his tenants felt for him, and the various good qualities with which she was pleased to endow him.
Montague at length entered, to pay his respects to the ladies. Maria flew forward, and seized him by both hands; while he stood like a dancing bear with a pole.-"My dear good man, you must, positively, give me a morsel of dinner; I am not able to ride other ten miles,” cried she.
Indeed, ladies, I was just come to press you to pot-luck," said Montague, half terrified by the impetuous spirits of the young lady. “ Sir Archibald and Mansel have sent Monimia a present of game, and invited themselves to a late dinner. They are now on Machrymoor.”
*Lard! then we wont stay,” said Miss Gordon, her eyes brightening. But Miss Sinclair was peremptory; and Miss Gordon "knew there was no peace with Sinclair unless she had her own way, so it was useless to contend."
Again Monimia was “obliged and honoured :" and she turned her dark eye, full of arch meaning, on the face of Norman.“Odious customs of the world,” thought he.
Till the hour of dinner Maria rattled, sung, laughed, and caressed her dear Mrs. Montague. Miss Gordon languished; and Miss Sinclair, who seemed a very managing person, attended Mr. Montague to view his pigs, poultry, dairy, and wool-loft.