« PreviousContinue »
1723, the anniversary of her husband's birthday, which she had long kept sacred. She was interred by Lord Russell's side, at Chenies, in Buckinghamshire.
THE LOST FLOWERS:
A SCOTTISH STORY,
It was a beautiful morning in May, when Jeanie Gray, with a small bundle in her hand, took her leave of the farmhouse of Drylaw, on the expiration of her half-year's term of service. She had but a short distance to walk, the village of Elsington, about three miles off, being her destination. As she passed down the little lane leading from the farm to the main road, two or three fair-haired children came bounding over a stile to her side, and clung affectionately around their late attendant.
Oh, Jeanie, what for maun ye gang away! Mamma wadna let us see you out on the road a bit, but we wan away to you by rinnin' round the stack-yard.'
Jeanie stood still as the eldest of her late charges spoke thus, and said: Marian, you should have had mair sense than to come when your mother forbad you. Rin away back, like guid bairns, continued she, caressing them kindly; ‘rin away hame. I'll maybe come and see you again. Oh, be sure and do that then, Jeanie,' said the eldest.
Come back again, Jeanie, cried the younger ones, as they turned sorrowfully away.
From such marks of affection, displayed by those who had been under her care, our readers may conceive that Jeanie Gray was possessed of engaging and amiable qualities. This was indeed the case; a more modest and kind-hearted creature perhaps never drew the breath of life. Separated at an early age from her parents, like so many of her class——that class so perfectly represented in the character of Jenny, in the “Cottar's Saturday Night' - she had conducted herself, in the several families which she had entered, in such a way as to acquire uniformly their love and esteem. Some mistresses, it is true, are scarcely able to appreciate a good and dutiful servant; and of this class was Mrs Smith of Drylaw, a cold, haughty, inistrustful woman, who, having suffered by bad servants, had come to look upon the best of them as but sordid workers for the penny-fee. To such a person, the timidity and reserve which distinguished Jeanie Gray's character to a fault, seemed only a screen, cunningly and deliberately assumed ; and the proud distance which Mrs Smith preserved, prevented her from ever discovering her error. Excepting for the sake of the children, therefore, it is not to be wondered at that Jeanie felt no regret at leaving Drylaw.
Her destination on departing from her late abode was, as we have already mentioned, the village of Elsington; and it is now necessary that we should divulge a more important matter-she was going there to be married. Jeanie Gray could not be called a beautiful girl, yet her cheerful though pale countenance, her soft dark eye and glossy hair, and her somewhat handsome form, had attracted not a few admirers. Her matrimonial fate, however, had been early decided ; and the circumstances under which it was about to be brought to a happy issue, were most honourable to both parties interested. At the age of eighteen, Jeanie's heart had been sought and won by William Ainslie, a young tradesman in the neighbouring town. Deep was the affection that sprang up between the pair, but they combined prudence with love, and resolved, after binding themselves by the simple lovevows of their class, to defer their union until they should have earned enough to insure them a happy and comfortable home. For six long years had they been true to each other, though they had met only at rare intervals during the whole of that period. By industry and good conduct, William had managed to lay by the sum of forty
pounds, a great deal for one in his station ; and this, joined with Jeanie's lesser earnings, had encouraged them to give way to the long-cherished wishes of their hearts. A but-and-a-ben, or a cottage with two apartments, had been taken and furnished by William, and the wedding was to take place on the day following the May-term, in the house of the bride's sister-in-law.
We left Jeanie Gray on her way from the farmhouse of Drylaw. After her momentary regret at parting with the children, whom the affectionate creature dearly loved, as she was disposed to do every living thing around her, her inind reverted naturally to the object that lay nearest her heart. The bright sun above sent his cheering radiance through the light fleecy clouds of the young summer, the revivified trees cast their shades over her path, the merry lark rose leapingly from the fields, and the sparrow chirped from the hedge at her side-everything around her breathed of happiness and joy, and her mind soon brightened into unison with the pleasing influences. Yet ever and anon a flutter of indescribable emotion thrilled through the maiden's heart, and made her cheeks, though unseen, vary in hue. At an angle of the road, while she was moving along, absorbed in her own thoughts, a manly voice exclaimed: Jeanie!' and a well-known form started up from a seat on the way-side. It was William Ainslie. The converse which followed, as the betrothed pair pursued their way, and laid open their hearts to each other, we cannot, and shall not attempt to describe.
After Jeanie had parted for a time with William, and was seated quietly in her sister-in-law's house, a parcel was handed in to her from a lady in whose service she had formerly been. On being opened, it was found to contain some beautiful artificial flowers, which the lady destined as a present to adorn the wedding-cap; an ornament regarding which, brides among the Scottish peasantry are rather particular. The kindness displayed in the gift, more than its value, affected Jeanie's heart, and brought tears to her eyes. She fitted the flowers to her
сар, and was pleased to hear her sister-in-law's praises
of their beautiful effect. Fatal present!-but let us not anticipate.
The wedding came and passed, not accompanied with boisterous mirth and uproar, but in quiet cheerfulness, for William, like his bride, was peaceful in his tastes and habits. Let the reader, then, suppose the festive occasion over in decent order, and the newly-married pair seated in their new house their own house--at dinner, on the following day. William had been at his work that morning as he was wont, and his young wife had prepared their humble and neat dinner. Oh! how delicious was that food to both! Their happiness was almost too deep for language. Looks of intense affection and tenderness were its only expression.
"I maun be a truant, Jeanie, to-night,' said the husband. My comrades in the shop maun hae a foy frae me, since we couldna ask them a' to the wedding, ye ken.'
Surely,' said his wife, raising her timid confiding eyes to his face,' whatever you think right, William ; I ken you are nae waster, and they wad hae shewn the same kindness to you.'
I hope you'll find me nae waster,' returned her husband smiling ; 'nor am I fear'd for you turning out ane either, Jeanie, lass, though ye was sae very braw about the head last night.' By the direction of his eyes to the artificial flowers which had adorned her wedding-cap, and which were lying on the top of her new stand of drawers at the moment, Jeanie saw to what her husband alluded.
• Oh, the flowers !' said she, blushing; "they didna cost me muckle, William.'
The conversation of the pair was at this moment interrupted by the entrance of Mrs Smith of Drylaw, who mentioned, with an appearance of kindness, that, having been accidentally in Elsington that day, she had thought it her duty to pay a friendly visit to Jeanie and her good
Whether curiosity had fully as much share in bringing about the visit as friendly feeling, it matters not. Jeanie and William received her as became lier rank, and the relation in which the former had lately stood
regarding her. Bread and cheese were brought out, and she was pressed to taste a drop of the best liquor they possessed.
Alas! how sudden are the revolutions in human affairs. The party were in the midst of an amicable conversation when Mrs Smith's eye happened to be caught by the bouquet on the top of the drawers, and a remarkable change was at once observable in her manner.
Jeanie,' said she, with deep emphasis and rising anger, 'I did not expect to find my flowers lying there. Say not a word—I see it all-I see it all-you have been a thiefthere is the evidence of it-I shall not stay another instant in your house!'
So saying, the infuriated and reckless woman rushed from the dwelling of the wonder-stricken pair. Jeanie, as already mentioned, was timid and modest to a fault. When her late mistress thus addressed her, she motioned to speak, but could not, though the blood rushed to her face, and her bosom heaved convulsively. When left alone with her husband, she turned her eyes wildly towards him, and a flood of tears gushed over her cheeks. What thought William of all this? His emotion was scarcely less on hearing the accusation than his wife's ; and recollecting her saying that the flowers cost her nothing, alas ! he feared that the charge was but too true. The more than feminine delicacy and timidity of his wife's nature was not fully known to him, and her voiceless agitation appeared too like an inability to confute the imputation. He rose, and while Jeanie, still incapable of utterance, could only hold up her hands deprecatingly, lio cast on her a glance of mingled sorrow and rebuke, and
His wife--his bride-stricken in the first flush of her matronly joy and pride, sunk from her chair on his departure-insensible !
It was rather late, from a cause that has been alluded to, before William Ainslie returned to his home that night. His wife had retired to rest, but her sister-in-law, who had been sent for by Jeanie, was in waiting for him, and revealed the utter falsehood of Mrs Smith's accusation,
left the room.