James Cargill Guthrie.

The vale of Strathmore; its scenes and legends online

. (page 31 of 42)
Online LibraryJames Cargill GuthrieThe vale of Strathmore; its scenes and legends → online text (page 31 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

at least who of all others, I am most anxious to please and to
gratify would skim over so quickly and impatiently that, for
any interest they take in the matter, I might as well not have
troubled either myself or them with the egotistic and tedious

It is said, and said truly, " Faint heart never gained fair
lady ; " for this, the simplest and best of all reasons, that
the dear creatures hate, above all things, puling sentiment-
alism and child-like trifling, almost invariably preferring the
man who boldly and firmly goes at once to the point.


Keeping still, therefore, the good opinion, as well as the good
wishes of my fair readers distinctly in view, I shall at once
proceed to the culminating parts of my philosophical narrative,
by the announcement of my safe arrival from India, coupled
with an invitation (to a limited number of course) to take
tea at my snug, semi-detached villa at Chelsea, that justly
celebrated paradise of old Indians, although if I had got my
own way in the matter, I would vastly have preferred a quiet
rural snuggery in my own native Howe of Strathmore.
Before making your appearance, however, I may as well warn
you that I am still in my prime, with neither a roasted liver
nor a jaundiced cheek ; that I am married yes, married to
one of the best and loveliest of women in all no matter
where and that the olive plants around my table are so
numerous, that I am sometimes at a loss to reckon them up
exactly, especially when the question is put in an abrupt,
thrown-off-your -guard sort of a manner.

Now, I am quite sure, after you have enjoyed our hospital-
ity, and whilst sitting in little whispering groups in the ante-
drawing-room, you will be exultingly saying to one another,
" What a charming, kind, loving, and intelligent wife his own
still loved Lucy makes to him, and how doatingly fond they
seem of each other ! and, oh ! what ducks of children to be
sure ! "Well, there's nothing like ' First Love ' after all !' "

And is not that the blooming idolised blonde, Lucy Bertram 1
Not a bit of it. Don't faint for a few minutes yet, till I have
endeavoured at least to exonerate myself; but we need not
speak so hysterically loud, lest my wife, even while playing a
rattling Indian march on the piano, may catch some distant
sound of our private council. That lovely woman, my law-
fully wedded wife and happy mother of my children, is not
Lucy Bertram, my first love, but one whom I wooed and won
in the sunny East, and don't faint just yet I declare, on my
honour as a lover, a gentleman, a soldier, and an old Indian,
that I never knew or felt what real love, in its most compre-
hensive sense, was, until I met the woman who is now my wife.


There, now, I knew how it would be a rustling of dresses
for salts, a nervous application of bottles to the nose, a choking
sensation in the throat, as if the room had suddenly become
too hot, and then a bustling and hurrying for bonnets and
shawls, a calling for cabs, and hastily uttered, abrupt, and
querulous good nights, until the last fair creature evanishes
myth-like at last from my wondering sight.

Now, this is not giving me what vulgarly, yet emphatically,
I may be permitted to call fair play, and I must trust to the
sequel for my explanation and exoneration.

My wife and I were seated in our cozy drawing-room on
the evening immediately succeeding the above "untoward"
event, when the servant entered with a gilt-edged, nicely-
sealed note, opening which without noticing to whom it was
addressed, I read as follows :

" Wedded Love Cottage,
Brompton, 20th December, 18 .

"Mrs Augustus Lovelace presents compliments to Mrs
Brigadier Constance. Mrs Lovelace would be glad if Mr and
Mrs Constance would join her Christmas party on Wednesday
evening next, the 25th inst., at seven o'clock."

" Mrs Augustus Lovelace ! " I exclaimed, handing the note
to my wife, who had managed previously, however, to read
every word of it over my shoulder.

"Yes," coolly replied my wife ; "Mrs Augustus Lovelace
some old acquaintance or friend of yours, my love, for to me
the name is quite unknown. But you are pale, my dear ;
don't go to your Club to-night if you feel unwell. "

I forget what reasons I gave, or what excuses I made, for
my apparently sudden indisposition, or whether I proffered or
received the customary salute previous to my shutting the
front door behind me. I only remember of coming somewhat
to my senses when about half-way to the United Service
Club, whither I, for the first time, supposed I was bound.

Who does my fair reader imagine this Mrs Augustus
Lovelace to be ? Why, none other than my first love. Lucy


Bertram; and living with her husband and family, too, in
the immediate neighbourhood of my own cherished snuggery !
What was to be done ? Commit suicide in the Green Park,
of course ! That, I admit, was my first magnanimous resolve ;
but then I recollected I had neither rifle, pistol, or stiletto,
with me, and I scorned to think of cowardly dying by
laudanum, strychnine, or prussic acid, even although the wary
chemist would sell me any where- with to " poison rats, " or
such small deer. The thoughts of my unsuspecting spouse
and little Brigadiers at home transplanted these war-like
aspirations on my part, especially as I had now reached Con-
stitution Hill, and was within a furlong of the veritable Green
Park itself. The gates were fortunately shut for the night
a very wise precaution, I now felt. I had no alternative but
to fight my way through Piccadily, the never-ceasing throng
on the pave, and the rolling carriages on the roadway
rather pleasing to me than otherwise assisting, as they
unconsciously did, to minister to a mind diseased, and drive
away that melancholy sadness which seemed now settling on
my stricken, self-condemned soul. Long before I had reached
St James Street to me the finest and most interesting street
in London my mind had undergone all the agonising
tortures of self-reproach and stinging remorse, musing, as I
did, on my dastardly and unfeeling conduct in betraying such
an innocent, confiding, and truthful creature as my own dear
Lucy she whom I had sworn to make my own, the chaste
moon my priestess, and all the stars of the firmament my
witnesses ! How changed I must have become even in a few
years after my arrival in India, for every day and month and
year were slowly, gradually, yet, alas ! soo surely, obliterating
every remnant and particle of love in my heart, so that, after
the lapse of some years, when I read in the Times the glowing
account of her marriage, so cool and indifferent was I that, in-
stead of a tear of grief filling my eyelids, a low chuckling
laugh actually profaned my lips, as I inwardly congratulated
myself on my escape for she having married first, all my


vows and engagements went, of course, to the winds. On
passing the Clubs in St James Street, I had worked myself
up to a pretty pitch of excitement, and nothing would satisfy
my tortured and awakened conscience but a long, solemn
declaration, sworn before one of Her Majesty's Justices of the
Peace, of my unpalliated and enormous crime, and a meek
submission to undergo any punishment, short of death or
penal servitude, which my dignified inamorata might be pleased
to inflict ! Slowly pacing over the now silent and dreary
Mall, my thoughts now taking another dismal turn, I pictured
to myself the many weary days and sleepless nights she had
patiently and martyr-like endured on account of the treachery
of her false lover, until, after though willing she could weep
no more, she had, either out of spite, or in dutiful obedience
to parental authority, given her hand, but not her heart, to
some shrivelled shrunken old Indian major, quite unworthy of
such a treasure. Then, with tears in my eyes, as I crossed over
Waterloo Place, I thought of her present misery, and wedded
unhappiness, still thinking of her false lover, and of all that
lovingly passed at our last interview, and ever wondering
whether I had preserved that precious locket that often-
kissed and fondled ringlet but I had now fairly reached my
Club, and so, with a "Beast that I am," I disappeared under
its portico !

The fatal twenty-fifth came duly round, and, having finished
my toilet, I was in the act of unfolding a little packet which
I had just taken from a private drawer in my own escritoire,
when the voice of my beloved, behind me, rather pettishly
said My dearest Edmund, we shall be too late if you don't
make haste well, a charming little locket, I declare- -just
let me see what it is like O ! what a love of a jewel, to be
sure and a ringlet of such beautiful hair inside, too, wreathed
tastefully in the form of forget-me-not why, this must have
been a precious keepsake from some of your old sweethearts,
Edmund ? "

While my wife was thus speaking, partly to herself, and


partly to me, I had been attentively watching the expression
of her features ; but, not detecting the most remote shadow
of jealousy or chagrin, I thought I would be quite safe in at
least cautiously replying in the monosyllable " Yes ! " This,
seeming to have no deadly effect, at least for the moment, I,
after some excusable hesitation, added

"And what would you think, or do, my dear, if this old
sweetheart was none other than this veritable Mrs Augustus
Lovelace, to whose Christmas party we are this evening
invited 1 " Although well aware of the strength of nerve
and mind with which my wife had happily been endowed, I
did, however, in very truth, expect a "scene," but I was
quickly undeceived by her half-laughing, half-earnest reply

" Why, I should think the more of her, certainly, seeing
you had once been one of her admirers, and do her all the
kind offices I possibly could as a neighbour and a friend
come, I am all anxiety and impatience to make her acquaint-

Arrived at our destination, my nervousness and remorse of
conscience again returned with redoubled vigour, so that
while my wife was being shown up stairs, I tottered after
the servant to the drawing-room door, more like a criminal
on whom the extreme penalty of the law was just about to be
inflicted, than an invited guest to a happy Christmas dinner

" Mr Constance ! " said the servant, duly ushering me into
the splendid drawing-room.

" Ah ! Mr Constance, how are you 1 " said a fine, comely-
looking matron, advancing to greet me with one of the most
bewitching and insinuating smiles which ever lighted up the
angel face of woman.

" Mrs Lovelace, I presume 1 "

" ! I see you have quite forgotten me ! "

This, however, was said with such an abandon of manner,
and amidst such hearty laughter, that I refrained from mak-
ing my confession just yet, especially as the last sentence was


quickly followed by another from her rich full lips, still more
damning to my accusing conscience

" My husband will be with us presently. He will be so
glad to make your acquaintance."

As we were still in the room alone, I was just about
beginning a nice little previously-concocted speech, having
special bearing and reference to our early years, when she
provokingly asked me, in the most winning and tender terms,
after the welfare of my wife and children, and, without giving
me time to reply, she added :

11 You would like to see my children, I'm sure. I used to
be very fond, you know, of keep-sake ornaments in my youth,
but now, I am like the famous Cornelia, daughter of the great
Scipio, who when importuned by a lady of her acquaintance
to shew her toilet, she deferred satisfying her curiosity till
her children, who were the famous Gracchi, came from school,
and then said. 'En! haec ornamenta mea sunt,' "These are
my ornaments." Oh, here they come ! Mr Constance, my

This was nearly too much for me ; but I managed to get
over the ceremony of embracing and fondling some half-dozen
second editions of their mother pretty well, and was at last
beginning to feel the full force of the conviction that things
were not so bad after all, when my equilibrium of mind was
doomed once more to be disturbed by the half-whispered
remark of Lucy the younger to her mother, that she thought
" Mr Constance was crying ! "

Just at this moment, however, a hale, hearty aldermanic-
like personage, having all the air of a "City" man, smilingly
entered the room.

" My husband. Mr Constance."

Mr Lovelace shook me most heartily by the hand, express-
ing the very great pleasure he felt in making my acquaintance,
congratulating me on my safe arrival in my native land after
so long absence, reiterating the pleasure and delight he felt
that I had taken up my residence in his own immediate


neighbourhood, and at the pleasing prospect of the friendly
interchange of courtesies between the two families.

The company now began to arrive, and in the general con-
versation which ensued, I felt my spirits rising again to their
usual height, and Lucy I mean Mrs Lovelace and I
chatted away about anything and everything, except our early
loves, or broken vows, or present unhappiness.

Dinner announced, Mr Lovelace asked me in the blandest
manner possible to lead to the dining-room the mistress of
the house, which I most gallantly did, sat at her right hand
during dinner, did the amiable in the most approved style of
the West End, and again led her up to the drawing-room,
where the young people had already assembled, to conclude
with the merry dance the festivities of the evening.

To make the narrative complete, I may as well add that I
was actually Mrs Lovelace's partner in the first quadrille, her
dutiful husband and Mrs Constance being the opposite couple,
and that what took place beneath the mistletoe was just that
which usually occurs either when old or young pass under the
enchanted bough.

Many years have passed away since then, and my wife and
Mrs Lovelace have been bosom friends ever since, while Mr
Lovelace and I have had many a quiet rubber together in each
other's houses, always winding up with a modicum of warm
cognac, drinking each other's good health, as well as that of
our wives (when present) with all the gusto and warmth of
old, attached friends.

I stated at the outset how much I disliked long introduc-
tions, and now add in conclusion, that I have an equal aver-
sion to what is popularly called " pointing " the moral of a
tale. My opinion has always been that if a tale be worth the
paper on which it is written it ought to carry its moral along
with it, not requiring any formal or studied " application " of
the subject.

I should now, therefore, finally conclude with the simple
yet comprehensive words, " Second thoughts are best," were


it not I overhear some of my fair readers doubtingly whisper,
" Depend upon it, these old lovers especially the lady were
simply playing a part, affecting indifference to, and non-remem-
brance of, former days, while their real feelings had actually
undergone no change, being in point of fact, as strong and
sensitive as ever."

Now, I frankly admit this is not only the poetic view of
the subject, but that true, pure, and first heart-love knows no
decay ; and had I been writing a novel, most certainly there
would have been a suicide, or a murder, or some other dread
catastrophe amongst my characters long before this time.
But as I am not writing a romance, but a story of real life, I
must not colour my narrative at the expense of truth, nor
sacrifice domestic felicity at the shrine of wedded love.
Rather allow me to refer to the only witness, besides myself,
who can by any possibility unravel the mystery. Mrs Love-
lace still lives, a happy wife and mother, in her semi-detached
villa at Brompton ; and sure I am, when she reads these lines,
her evidence will coincide in every important particular with
my own the gist of the whole simply amounting to this, that
in spite of ourselves, the feelings of love we once entertained
for each other gradually and imperceptibly, without reasons
asked, given, or assigned, died completely and for ever away,
giving place to a deeper, higher, and holier affection, which
neither time nor death can ever destroy, exemplifying the
grand difference between love as a passion and love as a deep-
seated feeling of the heart.

2 B


" Calm on the bosom of thy God,

Fair spirit ! rest thee now !
E'er while with ours thy footsteps trod,
His seal was on thy brow.

" Dust to its narrow house beneath !

Soul to its place on high !
They that have seen thy look in death,
No more may fear to die."

Mrs Hevians.

I ALWAYS wished I had had a sister ; the very name " sister "
has such a charm about it of sweetness, and purity, and
beauty, and love ! How, I thought from boyhood, I should
have tended, adored, and loved an only sister ! I used to
think, to muse, to dream of, yea, petition, beseech, and pray
for a little sister, not only to share in my youthful pleasures
and amusements, but to partake of my ardent affection, my
deep-seated, yearning, devoted love. The wish became in
time a passion, so that everything in nature, every event of
providence, was hallowed by the precious, mysterious unction
of a sister's love, which imagination governed, subdued, and
sweetened every emotion of the soul, every affection of the
heart, until I lived a new existence of elevated, inspired

Pretty little sister,

Art thou far away,
That thou dost not hear mo

Calling thee all day ?


Art thou in the sunshine,

Glancing on the streams,
Crystalline bright sunbeam,

Lighting all my dreams ?

Art thou in the rosebud,

Gemmed with morning dew,
Peeping out so slyly,

While I wait for you ?

Art thou with the skylark,

Chanting in the sky,
While on earth I listen

Thy sweet minstrelsy ?

Art thou in the welkin,

Glist'ning like a star,
While all night I'm weeping,

Wond'ring where you are ?

Art thou like an angel,

Bright with sunny wings,
Crowns and sceptres golden,

Harps of sweetest strings ?

Pretty little sister,

I can weep no more ;
Shall we meet in heaven,

If not on earth before ?

Come, sweet little sister,

Nestle in my breast,
Songs of welcome greeting

Softly be at rest.

My strange yet ardent wish was at length realised. I was
just turned twelve when another member was added to our
already numerous family. No one was more really interested
in all the preliminary stages of preparation for the long-
looked-for event, and no one more assiduously watched the
mysterious movements and whispered instructions of "Nursy "
than myself. And when at last the announcement was made
that it was " a girl," my heart leapt within me for very joy,
and I experienced all the joyous feeling and hallowed delight
which those only can feel and experience who have courag-


eously and confidingly hoped against hope, and luxuriated at
last in the full fruition of realised felicity.

I had seen some of my younger brothers brought into the
parlour by the obsequious, pawky nurse, and heard all the
smiling remarks which usually accompany such a gift ; but I
was more than enraptured now when the pretty sleeping babe
was softly put into my arms, and the kind, sweet voice of
my father bade me kiss my little sister !

During the hapless years of infancy, little Marguerette was
pretty much like other babies fretting, and fuming, and
crying, teething and sickening, and getting better again ; but
when at length able to run about, and notice, and talk, it
was evident that a superior intelligence had been implanted
in the child, and that a marked and peculiar spiritualism
characterised all her actions. As for myself, I seemed but to
live for her, attentively watching every movement of the
body, and hailing with delight every intelligent manifestation
of the mind. I was more concerned for her comfort and
happiness, than for my own, frequently, nay often, sacrificing
personal ease and convenience of every kind, to minister to
the wants, real and otherwise, of her I valued more than life
itself. These feelings seemed returned on her part by a
thousand little attentions, trivial in themselves, and unob-
servable by others, yet precious and sweet to me, as the early
germs of a sister's holy love.

By the time she was able to go to school, I wished I had
been even older and stronger than I was, that I might have
been the more able to protect and defend her from all danger,
imaginary and otherwise. As it was, |my martial prowess
was not long in being called into requisition, and the only
fight in which I was ever engaged was in her defence. It
turned out on investigation that no offence had been com-
mitted ; but I ever afterwards admired the manly bravery
and independent spirit displayed by the noble boy who, when
charged by me with the imaginary insult, indignantly denied
the impeachment, yet boldly added


" You have insulted me by making such a charge. I
challenge you to make reparation."

Nothing loth, we did fight, and that bravely, too, and
although I was, after a most determined contest, declared the
victor, I felt truly ashamed of myself, and refused to wear
the proffered laurel. The consequence was, that, so long as I
remained at, and afterl had left, the parochial school of Glamis,
and, indeed, until my sister's removal to Edinburgh some
years afterwards, Marguerette had no braver defender, or
more ardent admirer, than young Richard Gordon.

What sweet walks were those along the byepath, through
fragrant fields and by the pine-wooded Hunter Hill skirting
the little mountain streamlet which sung its low quiet song in
peaceful harmony with the wild- wood minstrelsy of the happy
birds / and how pure and holy our thoughts and imaginings
as we seated ourselves on the sunny bank, just midway be-
tween our father's farm and the parish school. Poets may
sing of the thrilling ecstacies and luxurious emotions of first
love as they may, but the holy sweetness and heavenly joy of
a sister's love is something very different, and more akin to
the love of angels in Paradise, than any sentiment or feeling
of which the human mind is susceptible.

Marguerette was now thirteen years of age, and as we took
our last walk together on the evening preceding my departure
for college, a sympathetic sadness settled heavily on our spirits,
and we talked but little by the way until arriving at our usual
resting-place to and from school, when I suddenly thus ad-
dressed my sister :

"Do you think you will ever die, Marguerette?" My
question, although strangely abrupt, did not seem to disconcert
her, but calmly asking me to gather some of the few remain-
ing anemones, the last remnants of autumnal wildflowers, she
seated herself on a little verdant knoll, while I gathered and
broughtiA her the now leaf-closed flowers.

" Brother," she began softly, " I am not startled by your
question. I know it proceeds from a vain, yet natural wish*


that I might be always with you just your little sister
Marguerette as I am now. But this cannot be, my brother.
You see these sweet anemones, their white star-like leaves
closed for the night. How beautiful they were in the morn-
ing ; and yet no sooner does the sun withdraw his light than
they close their leaves in darkness. I feel my course on this
earth, brother, will be equally short, with this difference, that
though I shut my eyes in death, I shall open them in a happy
eternity, for " Though after my skin worms destroy this body,
yet in my flesh shall T see God."

I looked at the beautiful creature before me, all radiant with
healthful bloom, her chestnut ringlets flowing luxuriantly down
her silvery neck, and her eyes, of sweet celestial blue, beam-
ing with an intense angelic intelligence ; and then, musing on
the deeply-touching and solemn tones in which she had just
spoken, I wondered whether death would be so cruel as change
that lovely countenance, and silence that silvery voice, send-
ing her away to the dark and silent land from whence she
would not return.

" You leave to-morrow, my brother, " she resumed, " but I
feel we shall meet again ere I depart hence and be no more
as to this world. But look not sad ; I am just going home a
very short time before, to welcome you the more gladly when

Online LibraryJames Cargill GuthrieThe vale of Strathmore; its scenes and legends → online text (page 31 of 42)