'Alice! my own fair Alice!
my hard destiny ordains that I must leave you,' was the sorrowful
exclamation of Ronald one evening, as he joined Alice at their usual place
of meeting, a solitary spot on the banks of the Isla, where the willow and
alder-bush, overhanging the steep rocks, swept the dark surface of the
'Leave me! Oh, Ronald, what
can you mean?' was the trembling reply of the fair girl, as she put her
arm through his, and gazed anxiously on the troubled countenance of her
'That I must go — far from
you and the bonnie banks of the Isla. Yes, Alice; but it is only for a
short time, I trust. Of the embarrassed state of my father's affairs, by
his long lawsuits and other matters, I have acquainted you already, and it
has now become necessary for me to choose some profession. My choice has
been the army: what other could one, possessing the true spirit of a
Highland gentleman, follow?"
'Oh, Ronald! I ever feared
our happiness was too great to last long. Ah ! you must not leave me.'
'Alice,' replied the young
Highlander, his cheek flushing while he spoke, 'our best and bravest men
are going forth in thousands to meet the enemies of our country, drenching
in their blood the fatal peninsula; and can I remain behind, when so many
of my name and kindred have fallen in the service of the king? Never has
the honour of Scotland been tarnished by the few who have returned, nor
lost by those who have fallen, in every clime where the British standard
has been unfurled against an enemy. An ensigncy has been promised me; and
in a Highland regiment, wearing the garb, inheriting the spirit of the
Gael, and commanded by a grandson of the great Lochiel; and I cannot
shrink when my father bids me go, although my heart should almost burst at
leaving you behind, my own — own Alice!' and he pressed to his bosom the
agitated girl, who seemed startled at the vehemence with which he had
'But hold, Alice,' he
added, on perceiving tears trembling on her dark eyelashes; 'you must not
give way thus. I will return, and all will yet be well. Only imagine what
happiness will then be ours, should the families be on good terms, and I,
perhaps, Sir Ronald Stuart, and knight of I know not how many orders!'
'Ah, Ronald ! but think of
how many have left their happy homes with hearts beating high with hope
and pride, and left them never to return. Did not the three sons of your
cousin of Strathonan leave their bones on the red sands of Egypt ? and
many more can I name. Ah ! how I tremble to think of the scenes that poor
soldiers must behold — scenes of which I cannot form even the slightest
'These are sad
forebodings,' replied the young man, smiling tenderly, 'and from the lips
of one less young and less beautiful than yourself, might have been
considered as omens of mischance. I trust, however, that I, who have so
often shot the swiftest red roes in Strathisla, slept whole nights on the
frozen heather, and know so well the use of the target and claymore
(thanks to old Iverach), shall make no bad soldier or campaigner, and
endure the hardships incident to a military life infinitely better than
the fine gentleman of the Lowland cities. The proud Cameron who is to
command me will, I am sure, be my friend; he will not forget that his
grandsire's life was saved by mine at Culloden, and he will regard me with
the love of the olden time, for the sake of those that are dead and gone.
Oh, Alice! I could view the bright prospect which is before me with
tumultuous joy, but for the sorrow of leaving you, my white-haired father,
and the bonnie braes and deep corries of Isla. But if with Heaven's aid I
escape, promise, Alice, that when I return you will be mine, — mine by a
dearer title than ever I could call you heretofore.'
'Ronald — dearest Ronald! I
will love you as I have ever done,' she said in a soft yet energetic tone;
'and I feel a secret voice within me which tells that the happy
anticipations of the past will — will yet be accomplished.' The girl laid
her blushing cheek on the shoulder of the young man, and her dark thick
curls, becoming free from the little cap or bonnet which had confined
them, fell over his breast in disorder.
At that exciting moment of
passion and mental tumult, Ronald's eye met a human countenance observing
them sternly from among the leaves of the trees that flourished near them.
The foliage was suddenly pushed aside, and Sir Allan Lisle appeared,
scanning the young offenders with a stern glance of displeasure and
surprise. He was a tall thin man, in the prime of life, with a fine
countenance expressive of mildness and benevolence. He wore his hair
thickly powdered, and tied in a queue behind. He carried a heavy
hunting-whip in his hand, which he grasped ominously as he turned his keen
eye alternately from the young man to his trembling daughter, who, leaning
against a tree, covered her face with her handkerchief and sobbed
hysterically. Ronald Stuart stood erect, and returned Sir Allan's glance
as firmly and as proudly as he could, but he felt some trouble in
maintaining his self-possession. His smart blue bonnet had fallen off,
fully revealing his strongly-marked and handsome features, where Sir Allan
read at once that he was a bold youth, with whom proud looks and hard
words would little avail.
'How now, sir!' said he at
length. 'What am I to understand by all this? Speak, young gentleman,' he
added, perceiving that Ronald was puzzled; 'answer me truly. As the father
of this imprudent girl, I am entitled to a reply.'
Ronald was about to stammer
'You are, I believe, the
son of Stuart of Lochisla? interrupted Sir Allan sternly, 'who is far from
being a friend to me or mine. How long is it since you have known my
daughter? and what am I to understand from the scene you have acted here?
'That I love Miss Lisle
with the utmost tenderness that one being is capable of entertaining for
another,' replied Ronald, his face suffusing with a crimson glow at the
earnest confession. ' Sir Allan, if you have seen what passed just now,
you will perceive that I treat her with that respect and delicacy which
the beauties of her mind and person deserve.'
'This is indeed all very
fine, sir ! and very romantic too; but rather unexpected, — upon my honour,
rather so,' replied the baronet sarcastically, as he drew the arm of the
weeping Alice through his. 'But pray, Master Stuart, how long has this
clandestine matter been carried on? how long have you been acquainted?
'From our earliest
childhood, sir — indeed I tell you truly — from the days in which we used
to gather wild flowers and berries together as little children. We have
been ever together; a day has scarcely elapsed without our seeing each
other ; and there is not a dingle of the woods, a dark corrie of the Isla,
or a spot on the braes of Strathonan, where we have not wandered hand in
hand, since the days when Alice was a laughing little girl with flaxen
curls until now, when she is become tall, beautiful, and almost a woman,
with ringlets as black as the wing of the muircock. But your son Lewis
will tell all these things better than I can, as I am rather confused just
now, Sir Allan.'
''Tis very odd this matter
has been concealed from me so long,' said the other, softened by the
earnest tone of the young man, who felt how much depended upon the issue
of the present unlooked-for interview; 'and if my ears have not deceived
me, I think I heard you offer marriage to my foolish daughter on your
return from somewhere?'
' It is very true, sir,'
replied the young man modestly.
'And pray, young sir, what
are your pretensions to the hand of Miss Lisle?'
' Sir!' ejaculated Ronald,
his cheek flushing and his eye sparkling at the angry inquiry of the
'I ask you, Mr. Stuart,
what are they? Your father I know to be an almost ruined man, whose
estates are deeply dipped and overwhelmed by bonds, mortgages, and what
not. He has, moreover, been a deadly enemy to me, and has most
'Oh, pray, papa! dear
papa!' urged the young lady imploringly.
'Sir Allan Lisle,' cried
Ronald with a stern tone, while his heart beat tumultuously, 'Lowland
lawyers and unlooked-for misfortunes are, I know, completing our ruin, and
the pen and parchment have made more inroads upon us than ever your
ancestors could have done with all Perthshire at their back; but, truly,
it ill becomes a gentleman of birth and breeding to speak thus slightingly
of an old and honourable Highland family. If my father, inheriting as he
does ancient prejudices, has been hostile to your interests, I, Sir Allan,
never have been so ; and the time was once, when a Lisle dared not have
spoken thus tauntingly to a Stuart of the house of Lochisla.'
Sir Allan admired the proud
and indignant air with which the youth spoke ; but he wished to humble him
if possible, and deemed that irony was a better weapon than anger to meet
the fiery young Highlander with. He gave a sort of tragi-comic start, and
was about to make some sarcastic reply, when his foot caught the root of a
tree ; he reeled backward, and fell over the rocky bank into the Isla,
which formed a deep, dark, and noiseless pool below.
A loud and startling cry
burst from Alice as her father suddenly disappeared from her side.
'Save him, save him,
Ronald! Oh, Ronald ! if you love me, save my father!' she cried in accents
at once soul-stirring and imploring, while she threw herself upon her
knees, and, not daring to look upon the stream, covered her eyes with her
hands, calling alternately upon Heaven and her lover, in tones which defy
the power of language to describe, to save her father.
'Dearest Alice, calm
yourself; be pacified — he shall not perish,' cried Ronald, whose presence
of mind had never once forsaken him, as he cast aside his bonnet and short
sporting-coat, and gazed over the bank upon the rapid river running
between two abrupt walls of rock, against the dark sides of which the
spray and foam raised by Sir Allan's struggles were dashed. The latter was
beating the water fruitlessly in the centre of the pool, where it was deep
and the current strong; yet he made no outcry, as if unwilling to add to
the distress which he knew his daughter already experienced.
He bestowed one look of
terror and agony on Ronald, who instantly sprang off the precipitous rock,
and swimming round him, strongly and vigorously in wide circles, caught
him warily by the hair, and holding his head above the surface of the
stream, swam down the current to a spot where the bank was less steep, and
with some exertion landed him safely on the green turf, where he lay long
speechless; while Alice wrung her hands, and wept in an ecstasy of terror,
embracing her father and his preserver by turns. The latter, who was
nothing the worse for his ducking, put on his bonnet and upper garment
with perfect sang froid; but it was some time before Sir Allan recovered
himself so far as to be able to thank his preserver, who poured down his
throat as he lay prostrate the contents of a metal hunting-flask, which he
generally carried about with him filled with the best brandy, procured, by
means unknown, duty free at Lochisla.
Shortly and emphatically
did Sir Allan thank Ronald for the aid he had rendered, as he must
inevitably have perished, being unable to swim, and having to contend with
a strong current, which would soon have carried him over the high cascade
of Corrie-avon. Ronald inwardly blessed the accident which had rendered
Sir Allan so much his debtor, and wrought such a happy change of sentiment
in his favour. He accompanied Alice and her father to one of the
gate-lodges of Inchavon, and there resisting an earnest invitation to the
house, he returned with all speed home, not ill-pleased with the issue of
the day's adventures.