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Wilson's Border Tales
The Minister's Daughter

Chapter 2

The morning stars were twinkling still,
The cock but thrice did craw,
When our guid laird rode owre the hill,
In wedding suit sae braw.

And aye he clapped his ain brown mare,
That she her feet micht ply;
And aye he crooned a canty air:
"A happy man am I."

"Oh! a happy man am I," quo’ he,
"As e’er was blest or born!"
And owre the hill he rode in glee,
Upon his weddin morn.

Now ane by ane the stars gaed out,
And birds began to sing;
And a’ the air became a shout
Of music on the wing.

His cheek was flushed, but it grew pale
Before the stars returned,
And music was a maniac’s wail
Where desolation mourned.

For vainly whimpered he a catch,
And vainly did he ride:
‘Twas but to see another snatch
Away his bonny bride!

It had been long understood that the lovely Mary Robertson was to become the wife of a rich bachelor, of ripe middle age, named Mr. Cuthbertson. Their wedding-day, indeed, had been long fixed by her father and wooer, and its eve had arrived. But, on that day, she secretly gave her hand to Henry Walton.

On the evening preceding the day appointed for his marriage, Mr Cuthbertson came smiling through Burnpath, patting the shaggy neck of his companion. He appeared to sit lighter on his saddle than usual; and the glad creature, either participating in his joy, or grateful for the termination of its journey, ambled and affected all the importance of a

"Courser of the Ukraine breed."

The rider had laid aside his fashionable blacks. Stopping in the passage, and casting off what was rather a warm than a fashionable roquelaire, he displayed a coat of superfine Saxony blue; which, upon a body of better proportions, would, in those days, have purchased immortality for the most fashionable tailor in Bond Street. Beneath appeared a waistcoat white as the driven snow, adorned with ornamental mother-of-pearls, and unbuttoning his overalls, a pair of

"Lean and slippered pantaloons"

were discovered, of the same consistency and hue as his coat. Thus prepared, after smoothing back his hair from his forehead, and adjusting his cravat, the joyous bridegroom made one stride to the parlour-door.

We know not how our unfortunate progenitor looked in Paradise, when questioned—"Adam what hast thou done?" but, certainly, not less horror-stricken was our well dressed lover, when his next step brought him in front of his lovely bride; with her arms thrown around the neck, and her face, bathed in tears, buried in the bosom of Henry Walton. His mouth opened to its utmost width. His large eyes became still larger; they strained forward from their sockets, ready to leap on the devoted pair. His clenched hands were raised, and in contact with the roof. The shaking began in his heart, and his knees caught the contagion. Every joint appeared under the power of electricity, and communicated its influence to the furniture in the room. The quivering vibrations of his whole person resembled a wire suspended from the ceiling, and struck by an instrument, which gave forth one sepulchral sound; and, with a loud, deep groan, his tall figure fell insensible on the floor.

Mary groaned also, and endeavoured to raise him, but could not. Henry sprang to his assistance, and lifting him from the ground, placed him upon the sofa. For a time his bones seemed melted, and his joints out of their place. At length his eyes began to roll—his teeth grated together—he threw out his two clenched hands furiously—tore open his spotless vest, and rending it in frenzy, the unfortunate mother-of-pearls followed the fragment, and were driven across the room. The destruction of his costly Marseilles recalled a portion of his scattered senses: he gave a piteous glance at his breast, to see the rend "his envious fingers made;" then turning his eyes upon Henry, who still bent over him, he uttered a loud yell; thrust his fingers in the throat of his rival, as a tiger springs upon its prey; and, in a moment, darted to his feet. Cuthbertson was, at no time, deficient in physical strength; and now, aided by frenzy, his grasp was the dying gripe of a giant, Henry, who was unprepared for the attack, became black in the strangling hold of his antagonist. Mary, recalled to a consciousness of her situation by the conflict, screamed for assistance, supplicated and threatened, but in vain. At that moment, her father returned from Edinburgh. As soon as his astonishment admitted of words, he mingled his inquiries, entreaties, and threats, with his daughter’s. Cuthbertson’s eyes gloated with indignation; his teeth gnashed, he uttered short, thick screams, and his fingers yet clung to the throat of his opponent. Henry, however, who though less in stature, inherited the gigantic strength of his father, and the skill of a wrestler, threw his arms around his man, fixed his knuckles into the most susceptible part of his back, and raising his foot to his knee, hurled him to the earth, with a violence that seemed to shake the very walls of the Manse.

In a moment, Cuthbertson was again upon his feet, "weeping, wailing, and gnashing his teeth." Henry stood by Mary’s side.

"Mary," said her father, "tell me the cause of this unseemly scene—that, on my return, instead of the sounds of joy and rejoicing, I hear wrath and profane language, and, behold, my best friends tear each other as wild beasts!"

Mary was silent; she glanced at Henry, and clung to his side for protection.

"O sir! sir!" exclaimed Mr. Cuthbertson—"we are ruined—lost——undone! The villain!—the monster!—the seducer!—has torn from me the pride o’ my heart, and the delight o’ my een! He has turned the house o’ joy into shame, and the bridal sang to lamentation! O Mr Robertson, what’s to be dune noo? Mary, Mary, woman! wha wad hae thocht this o’ you?"

Mr. Robertson’s blood chilled in his veins; his flesh grew cold upon his bones; an icy sweat burst from his forehead; anger and sorrow kindled in his face. He looked upon his daughter with a blighting frown. It was the first she had ever seen upon his mild features. His tongue faltered; he said, "Mary!" as if an accusing spirit from the grave had spoken it; and the frown blackened on his countenance. She heard her name as she had never before heard it from a parent’s lips. She beheld his look of anguish and of scorn—the tear and the curse meeting in a father’s heart for his own child! She uttered a self-accusing groan, and fell lifeless at his feet.

Janet Gray, the aged houskeeper, and who had been Mary’s nurse, entered with the maid-servant, and carried her to her room. Her father turned with an upbraiding look toward Henry, and said—

"Mr. Walton, as an injured man and a mourning parent, I demand from you the explanation of circumstances which, I fear, have brought dishonour upon my house and shame upon my grey hairs! Tell me—tell an agonized father— was your heart so void of mercy and of gratitude, as to ruin the bosom that saved you from destruction? Answer me, Henry Walton!—I conjure you as in the presence of your Maker—remove my fears, or seal my misery."

"It is your own deed!" exclaimed Henry bitterly, "I loved your daughter. I would have fled from your house for ever. You--you withheld me! and my soul grew mad with love. I would still have fled, have buried me in the deep from which she snatched me; but I could not rule destiny. She loved me—only me. She is mine! Your daughter cannot wed that man."

Mr. Robertson seemed smitten by a voice from heaven; he wrung his hands—threw himself back in despair, and wept.

"Canna marry me!" cried Mr. Cuthbertson—"she shall marry me! And on you, ye sacrilegious dyvour, I’ll have satisfaction, if satisfaction can be had in the three kingdoms, for baith heaven and earth will rise up and battle upon my side!"

"Sir," said Henry, "in sympathy for your feelings, I forgive those epithets. If I have robbed you of her hand, I have not of her affections—they were never yours. But I will not withhold from you the satisfaction you demand; and, to-morrow, or this hour, I shall be ready to offer you such reparation as a gentleman may."

"Then," cried Mr. Cuthberson, who understood him literally, "renounce my bride for ever; and restore her to my heart—if a gentleman can do that—restore her spotless as a lily opening to the spring."

"Henry Walton," said Mr. Robertson, rising with apparent composure, "you have rendered this a house of shame, but it shall not be a house of blood. Such language may be fitting for the world, but not for the presence of a minister of peace. This moment leave my roof; and may Heaven change your heart, and forgive your ingratitude!"

Thus saying, he took his hand, and led him to the door. Henry offered not to resist or expostulate, and bending a proud farewell, the doors of Burnpath Manse closed on him for ever.

Mr. Cuthbertson now relieved of his rival’s presence, took out his tobacco box, pulled a chair to the fire, ordered a pipe threw his legs across each other, and commenced smoking with the utmost satisfaction and indifference; save that he occasionally bent an anxious gaze on the torn vest; and, looking carefully round the room for the unlucky fragment, and its mother-of-pearl buttons, his eyes fell upon it, and lifting it from the floor, he commenced fitting it to the parent cloth, and, with perfect complacency, said—"Hoot it will mend again. The seam, when the coat is buttoned, will never be noticed. Here, lassie," he cried to the servant who entered the room, "was ye ever at the sewing school?"

"Yes, sir," replied the girl.

"Weel, do ye think, ye could mak a job o’ my waistcoat?" returned he. "If ye do it neatly, ye shall have half-a-crown, to yersel, besides the ribbons the morn. But hand awa and see hoo your mistress is in the first place, and I come and tell me."

On Henry’s departure, Mr. Robertson entered his daughter’s room. She was lying delirious, calling for "her Henry, her husband, to save her" Janet Gray sat by her side.

"Can it be thus, Janet?" said he. "Does she call him husband?"

Janet pointed to the ring upon Mary’s finger, and was silent. Mr. Robertson reeled back, and leaned his head against the window. The wind howled without, and the rain dashed upon the casements. He hastened down stairs and entered the parlour as Mr. Cuthbertson gave his last injunction to the maid.

"My friend," said he, "I have acted rashly in turning this young man from the house. I fear my daughter is, indeed—his—his wife!"

"His wife!" ejaculated Mr. Cuthbertson—"his wife!"— The pipe fell from his mouth—the fragment of the waistcoat was cast in the fire. "His wife!" he exclaimed a third time, and stamped his foot upon the floor.

"Go," said Mr. Robertson to the girl, "see if Mr. Walton be yet in the village; and tell him that I beg he will instantly return. "It is a dreadful night," continued he, addressing his forlorn friend, "and in putting him from my house, I have neither acted as a father, a man, nor a Christian."

"Oh! may darkness gather round his soul, and despair be the light of his heart!" cried Cuthbertson; "for he has made me miserable."

The maid returned, and stated that Mr. Walton had not been seen.

"He will have taken to the moors," said Mr. Robertson, "and, ignorant of the dangerous way, in the darkness of the night, his blood may be upon my head."

"Are ye mad? are ye daft?" said Mr. Cuthbertson wildly, "Mr. Robertson! would you insult me in the midst of my bereavement? Would ye leave me—me that ye’ve kenned for thirty years—to sorrow as one that has no hope?"

"Have not I also my sorrows?" replied Mr. Robertson— "the sorrows of a father whose last spring of comfort is dried up? But let me not add sin to sorrow." And he hurried from the house.

"His wife! his wife!" muttered Mr. Cuthbertson to himself. "Am I in my right senses? Am I mysel?—or is this a dream? Me that was to be married the morn? His wife!—Oh, mercy! mercy!—hoo lang am I to be the warld’s laugh, and the warld’s jeer?’ And he crushed the broken pipe beneath his heel. "His wife!" he exclaimed, and rushing across the room, adding--

"Frailty, thy name is woman!"

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