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Book of Scottish Story
The Penny Wedding

By Alex. Campbell

Part 4

On leaving the house, the disguised baronet walked at a rapid pace for an hour or so, till he came to a turn in the road, at the distance of about four miles from Todshaws, where his gig and man-servant, with a change of clothes, were waiting him by appointment. Having hastily divested himself of his disguise, and resumed his own dress, he stepped into the vehicle, and about midnight arrived at Castle Gowan.

In this romantic attachment of Sir John Gowan’s, or rather in the romantic project which it suggested to him of offering his heart and hand to the daughter of a humble farmer, there was but one doubtful point on his side of the question, at any rate. This was, whether he could obtain the consent of his mother to such a proceeding. She loved him with the utmost tenderness; and, naturally of a mild, gentle, and affectionate disposition, her sole delight lay in promoting the happiness of her beloved son, To secure this great object of her life, there was scarcely any sacrifice which she would not make, nor any proposal with which she would not willingly comply. This Sir John well knew, and fully appreciated; but he felt that the call which he was now about to make on her maternal love was more than he ought to expect she would answer. He, in short, felt that she might, with good. reason, and without the slightest infringement of her regard for him, object to his marrying so far beneath his station. It was not, therefore, without some misgivings that he entered his mother’s private apartment on the day following his adventure at Todshaws, for the purpose of divulging the secret of his attachment, and hinting at the resolution he had formed regarding it.

"Mother," he said, after a pause which had been preceded by the usual affectionate inquiries of the morning, "you have often expressed a wish that I would marry.”

"I have, John," replied the good old lady. "Nothing in this world would afford me greater gratification than to see you united to a woman who should be every way deserving of you—one with whom you could live happily."

"Ay, that last is the great, the important consideration, at least with me. But where, mother, am I to find that woman? I have mingled a good deal with the higher ranks of society, and there, certainly, I have not been able to find her. I am not so uncharitable as to say—nay, God forbid I should—that there are not as good, as virtuous, as amiable women, in the upper classes of society as in the lower. I have no doubt there are. All that I mean to say is, that I have not been fortunate enough to find one in that sphere to suit my fancy, and have no hopes of ever doing so. Besides, the feelings, sentiments, and dispositions of these persons, both male and female, are so completely disguised by a factitious manner, and by conventional rules, that you never can discover what is their real nature and character. They are still strangers to you, however long you may be acquainted with them. You cannot tell who or what they are. The roller of fashion reduces them all to one level; and, being all clapped into the same mould, they become mere repetitions of each other, as like as peas, without exhibiting the slightest point of variety. Now, mother,” continued Sir John, "the wife I should like is one whose heart, whose inmost nature, should be at once open to my view, unwarped and undisguised by the customs and fashions of the world.”

"Upon my word, John, you are more than usually eloquent this morning," said Lady Gowan, laughing. “ But pray now, do tell me, John, shortly and unequivocally, what is the drift of this long, flowery, and very sensible speech of yours ? for that there is a drift in it I can clearly perceive. You are aiming at something which you do not like to plump upon me at once.”

Sir John looked a good deal confused on finding that his mother’s shrewdness had detected a latent purpose in his remarks, and endeavoured to evade the acknowledgment of that purpose, until he should have her opinion of the observations he had made; and in this he succeeded. Having pressed her on this point—

"Well, my son," replied Lady Gowan, " if you think that you cannot find a woman in a station of life corresponding to your own that will suit your taste, look for her in any other you please; and, when found, take her. Consult your own happiness, John, and in doing so you will consult mine. I will not object to your marrying whomsoever you please. All that I bargain for is, that she be a perfectly virtuous woman, and of irreproachable character ; and I don’t think this is being unreasonable. But do now, John, tell me at once," she added, in a graver tone, and taking her son solemnly by the hand, "have you fixed your affections on a woman of humble birth and station ? I rather suspect this is the case."

"I have then, rnother," replied Sir John, returning his mother’s expressive and affectionate pressure of the hand; "the daughter of a humble yeoman, a woman who——" But we will spare the reader the infliction of the high-flown encomiums of all sorts which Sir John lavished on the object of his affections. Suffice it to say, that they included every quality of both mind and person which go to the adornment of the female sex.

When he had concluded, Lady Gowan, who made the necessary abatements from the panegyric her son had passed on the lady of his choice, said that, with regard to his attachment, she could indeed have wished it had fallen on one somewhat nearer his own station in life, but that, nevertheless, she had no objection whatever to accept of Miss Harrison as a daughter-in-law, since she was his choice. "Nay," she added, smiling, "if she only possesses one tenth—ay, one tenth, John—of the good qualities with which you have endowed her, I must say you are a singularly fortunate man to have fallen in with such a treasure. But, John, allow me to say that, old woman as I am, I think that I could very easily show you that your prejudices, vulgar prejudices I must call them, against the higher classes of society, are unreasonable, unjust, and, I would add, illiberal, and therefore wholly unworthy of you. Does the elegance, the refinement, the accomplishments, the propriety of manner and delicacy of sentiment, to be met with in these circles, go for nothing with you? Does——•”

"My dear mother,” here burst in Sir John, "if you please, we will not argue the point; for, in truth, I do not feel disposed just now to argue about anything. I presume I am to understand, my ever kind and indulgent parent, that I have your full consent to marry Miss Harrison—that is, of course, if Miss Harrison will marry me ? "

"Fully and freely, my child,” said the old lady, now flinging her arms around her son’s neck, while a tear glistened in her eye; "and may God bless your union, and make it happy ! "

Sir John with no less emotion returned the embrace of his affectionate parent, and, in the most grateful language he could command, thanked her for her ready compliance with his wishes.

On the day following that on which the preceding conversation between Sir John Gowan and his mother took place, the inmates of Todshaws were surprised at the appearance of a splendid equipage driving up towards the house.

"Wha in a’ the world’s this?” said Jeanie to her father, as they both stood at the door, looking at the glittering vehicle, as it flashed in the sun and rolled on towards them. " Some travellers that hae mistaen their road.”

"Very likely,” replied her father; " yet I canna understand what kind o’ a mistake it could be that should bring them to such an out-o’-the-way place as this. It’s no a regular carriage road that they micht hae seen; an’ if they hae gane wrng, they’ll find some difficulty in getting richt again. But here they are, sae we’ll sune ken a’ about it."

As Mr Harrison said this, the carriage, now at the distance of only some twenty or thirty yards from the house, stopped ; a gentleman stepped out, and advanced smiling towards Mr Harrison and his daughter. They looked surprised, nay confounded; for they could not at all comprehend who their visitor was.

"How do you do, Mr Harrison?" exclaimed the latter, stretching out his hand to the person he addressed ;"and how do you do, Miss Harrison?" he said, taking Jeanie next by the hand.

In the stranger’s tones and manner the acute perceptions of Miss Harrison recognised something she had heard and seen before, and the recognition greatly perplexed her ; nor was this perplexity lessened by the discovery which she also made, that the countenance of the stranger recalled one which she had seen on some former occasion. In short, the person now before her she thought presented a most extraordinary likeness to the fiddler—only that he had no fiddle, that he was infinitely better dressed, and that his pockets were not sticking out with lumps of cheese and cold beef. That they were the same person, however, she never dreamed for a moment.

In his daughter’s perplexity on account of the resemblances alluded to, Mr Harrison did not participate, as, having paid little or no attention to the personal appearance of the fiddler, he detected none of them ; and it was thus that he replied to the stranger’s courtesies with a gravity and coolness which contrasted strangely with the evident embarrassment and confusion of his daughter, although she herself did not well know how this accidental resemblance, as she deemed it, should have had such an effect upon her.

Immediately after the interchange of the commonplace civilities above mentioned had passed between the stranger and Mr Harrison and his daughter—"Mr Harrison,” he said, "may I have a private word with you ? ”

"Certainly, sir,” replied the former. And he led the way into a little back parlour.

"Excuse us for a few minutes, Miss Harrison," said the stranger, with a smile, ere he followed, and bowing gallantly to her as he spoke.

On entering the parlour, Mr Harrison requested the stranger to take a seat, and placing himself in another, he awaited the communication of his visitor.

"Mr Harrison," now began the latter, " in the first place, it may be proper to inform you that I am Sir John
Gowan of Castle Gowan."

“Ohl” said Mr Harrison, rising from his seat, approaching Sir John, and extending his hand towards him; "I am very happy indeed to see Sir John Gowan. I never had the pleasure of seeing you before, sir ; but I have heard much of you, and not to your discredit, I assure you, Sir John.”

"Well, that is some satisfaction, at any rate, Mr Harrison," replied the baronet, laughing. "I am glad that my character, since it happens to be a good one, has been before me. It may be of service to me. But to proceed to business. You will hardly recognise in me, my friend, I daresay," continued Sir John, "a certain fiddler who played to you at a certain wedding lately, and to whose music you and your family danced on the green in front of your own house the other night. ”

Mr Harrison’s first reply to this extraordinary observation was a broad stare of amazement and utter non-comprehension. But after a few minutes’ pause thus employed, " No, certainly not, sir," he said, still greatly perplexed and amazed. "But I do not understand you. What is it you mean, Sir John?"

“ Why,” replied the latter, laughing, " I mean very distinctly that I was the musician on both of the occasions alluded to. The personification of such a character has been one of my favourite frolics ; and however foolish it may be considered, I trust it will at least be allowed to have been a harmless one."

"Well, this is most extraordinary,” replied Mr Harrison, in great astonishment. "Can it he possible? Is it
really true, Sir ]ohn, or are ye jesting?"

"Not a bit of that, I assure you, sir. I am in sober earnest. But all this," continued Sir John, "is but a prelude to the business I came upon. To be short, then, Mr Harrison: I saw and particularly marked your daughter on the two occasions alluded to, and the result, in few words, is, that I have conceived a very strong attachment to her. Her beauty, her cheerfulness, her good temper, and simplicity, have won my heart, and I have now come to offer her my hand. ”

"Why, Sir John, this—this,” stammered out the astonished farmer, "is more extraordinary still. You do my daughter and myself great honour, Sir John—great honour, indeed. ”

"Not a word of that,” replied the knight, " not a word of that, Mr Harrison. My motives are selfish. I am studying my own happiness, and therefore am not entitled to any acknowledgements of that kind. You, I hope, sir, have no objection to accept of me as a son-in-law; and I trust your daughter will have no very serious ones either. Her affections, I hope, are not pre-engaged? "

"Not that I know of, Sir John," replied Mr Harrison; "indeed, I may venture to say positively that they are not. The girl has never yet, that I am aware of, thought of a husband—at least, not more than young women usually do; and as to my having any objections, Sir John, so far from that, I feel, I assure you, extremely grateful for such a singular mark of your favour and condescension as that you have just mentioned. ”

"And you anticipate no very formidable ones on the part of your daughter? ”

"Certainly not, Sir John; it is impossible there should.”

"Will you, then, my dear sir," added Sir John, "be kind enough to go to Miss Harrison and break this matter to her, and I will wait your return? ”

With this request the farmer instantly complied; and having found his daughter, opened to her at once the extraordinary commission with which he was charged. We would fain describe, but find ourselves wholly incompetent to the task, the effect which Mr Harrison’s communication had upon his daughter, and on the other female members of the family, to all of whom it was also soon known. There was screaming, shouting, laughing, crying, fear, joy, terror, and amazement, all blended together in one tremendous medley, and so loud that it reached the ears of Sir John himself, who, guessing the cause of it, laughed very heartily at the strange uproar.

"But, oh! the cauld beef an’ the cheese that I crammed into his pockets, father,” exclaimed Jeanie, running about the room in great agitation. "He’ll never forgie me that—never, never,” she said, in great distress of mind. "To fill a knigh’s pockets wi’ dauds o’ beef and cheese! Oh! goodness, goodness! I canna marry him. I canna see him after that. It’s impossible, father—impossible, impossible—!"

"If that be a’ your objections, Jeanie,” replied her father, smiling, "we’ll soon get the better o’t. I’ll undertake to procure ye Sir John’s forgiveness for the cauld beef and cheese—that’s if ye think it necessary to ask a man’s pardon for filling his pockets wi’ most unexceptionable provender. I wish every honest man’s pouches war as weel lined, lassie, as Sir John’s was that nicht.” Saying this, Mr Harrison returned to Sir John, and informed him of the result of his mission, which was—but this he had rather made out than been told, for Jeanie could not be brought to give any rational answer at all—that his addresses would not, he believed, be disagreeable to his daughter, "which,” he added, "is, I suppose, all that you desire in the meantime, Sir John.”

"Nothing more, nothing more, Mr Harrison ; she that’s not worth wooing’s not worth winning. I only desired your consent to my addresses, and a regular and honourable introduction to your daughter. The rest belongs to me. I will now fight my own battle, since you have cleared the way, and only desire that you may wish me success.”

"That I do with all my heart," replied the farmer; "and, if I can lend you a hand, I will do it with right good will.”

"Thank you, Mr Harrison, thank you," replied Sir John ; " and now, my dear sir, ” he continued, " since you have so kindly assisted me thus far, will you be good enough to help me just one step farther? Will you now introduce me in my new character to your daughter? Hitherto she has known me only,” he said, smiling as he spoke, "as an itinerant fiddler, and I long to meet her on a more serious footing--and on one,” he added, again laughing, "I hope, a trifle more respectable."

"That I’ll very willingly do, Sir John,” replied Mr Harrison, smiling in his turn; " but I must tell you plainly, that I have some doubts of being able to prevail on Jane to meet you at this particular moment. She has one most serious objection to seeing you."

"Indeed!" replied Sir John, with an earnestness that betokened some alarm. "Pray, what is that objection?”

“Why, sir," rejoined the latter, "allow me to reply to that question by asking you another. Have you any recollection of carrying away out of my house, on the last night you were here, a pocketful of cheese and cold beef ?"

"Oh! perfectly, perfectly,” said Sir John, laughing, yet somewhat perplexed. "Miss Harrison was kind enough to furnish me with the very liberal supply of the articles you allude to ; cramming them into my pocket with her own fair hands.”

"Just so," replied Mr Harrison, now laughing in his turn. "Well, then, to tell you a truth, Sir John, Jane is so dreadfully ashamed of that circumstance, that she positively will not face you."

"Oh ho! is that the affair?" exclaimed the delighted baronet. " Why, then, if she won’t come to us, we’ll go to her; so lead the way, Mr Harrison, if you please." Mr Harrison did lead the way, and Jane was caught.

Beyond this point our story need not be prolonged, as here all its interest ceases. We have only now to add, then, that the winning manners, gentle dispositions, and very elegant person of Sir John Gowan, very soon completed the conquest he aimed at; and Jeanie Harrison, in due time, became LADY GOWAN.

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