Page images
[ocr errors]

she having been an eye-witness of the receipt of the flowers, as a present from another lady.

• Take care o' Jeanie, William,' said the sister-in-law; she is ill—a charge o' that kind is enough to kill her. This prediction unhappily had truth in it. On the ensuing morning, the young wife was raving incoherently, in a state between slumber and waking. A deep flush l'emained permanently upon her countenance, most unlike the usual fairness of her complexion. Her muttered exclamations shocked her husband to the soul.

Oh, William, you believed it! But it's no true—it's no true—it is false!' was the language she continually murmured forth.

Medical skill was speedily seen to be necessary, and the surgeon who was called in informed William, that, in consequence of strong excitement, incipient symptoms of brain-fever had made their appearance. The utmost quiet was prescribed, and blood withdrawn from the temples in considerable quantity. For a time, these and other remedies seemed to give relief, and the poor husband never left the side of the sufferer. Indeed, it seemed as if she could not bear him to be absent ; her mind always reverting, when he was out of her sight, to the idea that he believed the charge which had been made against her, and had left her for ever. The oft-repeated assurances to the contrary, from his own lips, seemed at length to produce conviction, for she at last was silent on the subject. But the charge--the blow--had struck too deep. Jeanie Ainslie--if we may call her by a name she was destined so short a time to bear-fell after two or three days’ illness into a state of stupor, which continued with short and rare intervals, and on the eighth day after her nuptials, her pure spirit departed.

William Ainslie had shewn on many occasions in life great firmness and self-command; and now, though deep suffering was written on his brow, he made, with at least external composure, the requisite preparations for laying in the grave the remains of her whom he had loved so long and so truly. As to retribution upon the head of the

person who had been instrumental, through inconsiderate hastiness only, it is to be hoped, in producing his misery, the bereaved husband thought not of calling for it. Yet it did come, to a certain extent; for our errors seldom pass, even in this life, without a pang of punishment and remorse. Several days after charging the innocent Jeanie with the abduction of her flowers, Mrs Smith of Drylaw found, by a discovery of her new servant, that one of her younger children, impatient for the flowering of a rose-bush in the little garden nigh the farmhouse, had lighted upon the artificial bouquet in her mother's dressing-room, and had carried it out and stuck it upon the bush. There the flowers were accordingly found; and Mrs Smith, who was far from being an evil-intentioned woman, did feel regret at having charged the loss upon the guiltless. Ignorant of all that had passed at Elsington in the interval, she determined to call at William Ainslie's on her first visit to the village, and explain her mistake.

That call was made two days after Jeanie’s death; and on Mrs Smith entering the room, she found William sitting by his bereaved hearth, with his sister-in-law and another kind neighbour, bearing him company.

Oh-by the by—those flowers !' said the unwelcome visitor in a tone and in a manner which she meant to be condescending and insinuating, ' how sorry I am for what happened about those flowers! Where do you think I found them after all ?—in a rose-bush in the garden, where Jemima had put them. And now I am come to say I am sorry for it, and hope that it will be all over.?

William Ainslie had risen slowly during this extraordinary speech; and now, raising his finger towards his lips, he approached and took Mrs Smith by the hand, beckoning at the same time to the two women who were seated with him. They seemed intuitively to comprehend his wishes, and rising, moved towards the bed, around which the curtains were closely drawn, William leading forward also the unresisting and bewildered visitor. The women drew the curtains aside, and William, fixing his


eyes on Mrs Smith, pointed silently to the body of his wife, shrouded in the cerements of death, and lying with the pale uncovered face upturned to that heaven for which her pure life had been a fitting preparation. The wretched and false accuser gazed with changing colour on the corpse of the dead innocent, and, turning her looks for a moment on the silent faces around, that regarded her more in sorrow than in anger, she uttered a groan of anguish as the truth broke on her; then, bursting from the hand which held her, she hastily departed from the house.

There is little now to add to this melancholy story, which, unhappily, is but too true. The little we have to add, is but in accordance with the tenor of what has been told. After the burial of his Jeanie, William Ainslie departed from Elsington ; and what were his future fortunes no one can tell, for he never was seen or heard of again in his native place. As for the unhappy woman who was the occasion of the lamentable catastrophe which we have related, she lived to deplore the rashness of which she was guilty. Let us hope that the circumstance had an influence on her future conduct, and will not be without its moral efficacy in the minds of our readers.


The Earl of Moray, whose personal qualifications acquired for him the appellation of the · Bonnie Earl,' was a son of Lord Doune, but succeeded to the title of Moray by marrying Elizabeth, eldest daughter of the celebrated regent, illegitimate brother to Queen Mary. As son-inlaw to a person so distinguished, and inheritor of his estates, the young Earl of Moray naturally possessed a high degree of consideration in the state, and particularly with the Presbyterian party, of which the regent had

[ocr errors]

been so long the leader. The earl's character, indeed, was such as to win him universal esteem : to the attractive beauty of his countenance and form, he added a most amiable disposition, and perfect skill in all the chivalric accomplishments of the age. It is scarcely to be wondered at, therefore, that he should have been one of the most popular noblemen of the day, especially as the nation in general had by that time irrevocably attached itself to the religious party of which he was a leading member. To the Presbyterian party, the king, James VI., also belonged, though he was under the necessity, from the number and power of the nobles who still remained Catholics, of holding the balance of his favour evenly between the professors of the old and the new persuasions. Of these Catholic peers, the Earl of Huntly was the chief, a man who bore rather a good character, but was at heart ambitious and vindictive. It was owing to a feud between Huntly and Moray, that the circumstances which we are about to relate occurred, and which ended in the tragic and untimely death of the 'Bonnie Earl of Moray.'

The real grounds of this feud consisted in the claims of the Gordon family to the possession of the earldom of Moray, of which they had been deprived when it was bestowed by Queen Mary upon the regent.

This deepscated cause of dissension had been long gathering strength from the minor animosities which arose out of it, and in particular, was aggravated by an act of Lord Moray, which it is impossible to justify. In his capacity as sheriff, the Earl of Huntly endeavoured to bring to justice a person accused of violating the laws of the land. This felon was taken into protection by Moray, for some reason which is not recorded. Huntly, it may well be supposed, was highly displeased at this, and with a party of men proceeded to Moray's castle of Darnaway, for the purpose of getting possession of the felon's person. This expedition, unfortunately, terminated in widening the breach between the noblemen. John Gordon, a brother of Gordon of Cluny, and then in attendance on Huntly, was killed by a shot from the Earl of Moray's castlo.


Whether Moray was personally blamed for this act, does not appear:

Certain it is, however, that the hostility between the two families assumed from that hour a more decided character than it had ever worn before.

This event took place a short time previous to the year 1591, and was not immediately followed by any further exhibition of animosity. In the meantime, Campbell of Calder, a friend of Moray, became an object of hostility to certain of the principal men of the Campbell family, on account of his being preferred as tutor of the young Earl of Argyle. Uniting in purpose with these men, Huntly formed a concerted scheme, in which, strange to say, the chancellor of the kingdom, Lord Thirlstain, concurred, for taking off Moray and Campbell of Calder by one sweep of vengeance. The late Mr Donald Gregory, in his work on the Highlands, for the first time exposed the particulars of this double plot, than which nothing could be more strikingly illustrative of the character of a time when the highest men in the kingdom, so far from setting an example for the observance of the laws which they made, thought themselves at liberty on all occasions to violate them at their pleasure. By persuading the king that Moray had been concerned in the conspiracy of the turbulent Earl of Bothwell, Huntly obtained a commission to apprehend Moray, and bring him to Edinburgh for trial.

On the afternoon of the 8th of February 1591-2, Huntly, attended by a strong body of horse, set out from the house of the provost of Edinburgh, where the king then lodged for security. The object of the journey, Huntly gave out, was to attend upon a horse-race at Leith; instead of which, he turned to the westward, and directed his course across the Queensferry to Dunnibrissle House, where he understood the Earl of Moray to have taken up his residence for a time with his mother. About midnight, Huntly reached his destination. He surrounded the house with his men, and summoned Moray to surrender. Even had this been complied with immediately, the same consequences, it is clear, would have ensued, Huntly's determination being fixed. The enemy of

« PreviousContinue »