Recreations for Solitary Hours
The Hapless Lover. — A Tale
The Hapless Lover.
It was a cold winter night when John Thomson, the singing master, went into Mrs. Stobo's, where he often spent the time after the labours of the day, as he was very familiar with the family, and always made welcome when he paid his visits. No sooner had he entered the door, than a chair was handed in by one of the young ladies, while the rest of the company, consisting of various young ladies and gentlemen, sat round, and made room for the newly entered and welcomed guest. The more his presence was hailed among them, on account of being their former much-respected singing master, and having contributed largely toward a handsome present lately given him.
A gas pipe blazing above the mantel-piece, shed a cheerful light throughout the apartment, so that, instead of being seated round a table lighted by a comparatively glimmering taper, they formed a large semi-circle before a bright blazing fire, which not only added greatly to the light of the room, but made every page 118one for the present forget the least idea of cold. Everyone bore the look of gaiety; even Mrs. Stobo herself, although she lately had put on the weeds of widowhood, showed that she felt happy in the company and conversation of her guests. Mr. Thomson himself looked a little more cheerful than usual, owing, as he said when he came in, that he was happy to see so many of his old friends together, and the more so on account of having, before he entered, been treated to a dram by a friend, which no doubt had loosened his tongue a little, so as to speak more freely than ever he did.
The most of those present being acquainted with a very interesting part of his life, and taking advantage of his little unusual loquacity, began to solicit his favour to entertain them with the recital of so interesting an affair. He heard the request in silence—his spirits fell—and his cheerfulness quickly changed to thought- fulness. Seeing this, the young gentlemen, not altogether too gentle, began to urge him the more; and some of the young ladies, full of impatience, while smiling their approbation to the urgency of their partners, sometimes ejaculated,—O do! Mr. Thomson, if you please, let us hear it;—though Mrs. Stobo slightly opposed their teasing him so much; yet she too, although she knew all before, seemed somewhat desirous of being again treated, along with the rest of her company, with the recital of his never-tiring and interesting story. The slight oppositions of Mrs. Stobo having no effect page 119in the behalf of Mr. Thomson, their solicitations he could not altogether withstand, so granting their requests, he begged a few moments before he began, to take a smoke of his tobacco pipe, and bethink himself a little.
As Mr. Thomson was taking his smoke, the young ladies began a hemming and hawing, as if they were to be the reciters of the forthcoming tale,—not, I believe, that they intended to be so, but that they, being anxious to hear the whole from beginning to end, judged it best to have their coughing past, lest unluckily any of them, by beginning to cough, should by that means lose something that was entertaining. The young gentlemen, in their turn, began to blow their noses, in high expectation of what was to follow; and though they had, at least some of them, heard all before, yet they could not but make due preparation beforehand to hear all again, and so prevent any kind of noise that might take place on their account, to the annoyance of the company.
That the reader may have some little idea of Mr. Thomson, I shall give two or three of his particular marks. He is a man about five feet eight, to all appearance—straight, shapely, and well-built; his face is a little marked with the small pox, but so slight that the marks could not be seen without narrowly looking into his face; his brow is high, and his hair is of a dark brown colour; his eyes are dark, his nose a page 120little aqueline; his cheeks, being somewhat high, are in full proportion with the rest of his face, and his lips are thin, and his mouth of a medium size; his chin is somewhat round, and gracefully marked with a dimple Such was his appearance when about the age of fifty, which spoke of itself that he bore a somewhat handsome and genteel appearance in his younger years, at the time of the following story; and in his manners he was always kind and condescending.
During the preparations of the young ladies and gentlemen to hear the tale, Mr. Thomson leaned back on his chair, with his arms folded across his breast, and the one leg Over the other, looking up in thoughtful silence at the flame of the gas-pipe, and now and then puffing up wards a cloud of tobacco smoke. Every eye was fixed upon him in silent expectation. A tear was seen to glisten in his eye, which spoke in plain enough terms the anguish he felt in recollecting former times, and very much heightened the interest they felt in what he was about to relate.
Having finished his smoke, Mr. Thomson, rising, laid his pipe on the mantel-piece, and with a deep sigh, drew his hand across his forehead, and resumed his seat without speaking a word. Gentlemen—said he, after a moment's pause—it pains me much to call up the recollections of the past, nevertheless, according to your particular requests, I shall endeavour to relate the circumstances as they were, trusting you will kindly page 121sympathize with whatever weakness I may manifest from the wounded state of my feelings. Youth, I know well, are very apt to make a jest of the trials and distresses of others, just because they have no idea of the pains and sorrows which those who are tried must inwardly endure, when perhaps without a faithful friend to whom one can at times disburden the mind of its griefs. However, I never had to complain of this among my sorrows, for I, indeed, found an excellent friend in the late Mr. Stobo, who indeed proved more faithful to me in the time of need, than even did my brother. Besides, when one gives an account of his experiences and so on, many of the incidents are often looked upon as fabulous, and which only took place in a diseased imagination, and are believed by the self-deluded narrator to be true, however much they may partake of the nature of improbability, and which are easily detected in themselves by those who hear. But, gentlemen, you know quite well what I am, and what I have been among you, and to Mrs. Stobo, who, I doubt not, knows all the particulars of my history, as I am sure she has already repeatedly heard all from her husband, I can with safety appeal for the truth of the narrative you request me to give.
Oh! yes, by all means, Mr. Thomson, Mrs. Stobo replied, bowing forward a little in her seat, and stretching forth her right haud as she spoke—and I am sure there is none of us can in the least misdoubt any thing you page 122have to tell us.—By no means, Mr. Thomson, there is none of us here, I know, can misdoubt any thing you can say, in the least, cried one of the young gentlemen, when Mrs. Stobo ceased. I have heard Mrs. Stobo speak of the circumstance before, which only increased my desire, being acquainted with you as my former teacher, of having the pleasure of hearing it again from your own lips, if you would be so kind as favour us with it.
Well then—said Mr. Thomson—since it is on that account that you wish to hear it, I shall do what I can to oblige you, however much I may be overcome at times with excited feelings, yet with me in that, I trust you will kindly sympathize. Oh yes, they all at once responded; and seating themselves aright in their seats, in the attitude of attention, awaited the promised tale. —Well then, said he, heaving a deep sigh, and drawing his hand across his brow, When I was about eighteen years of age, and living with my parents, who resided not far from the Molindinar Burn, opposite the Fir Park, I little knew of this world's cares, nor of the sorrows that then awaited me in my progress through life. I was then just like any of you here blythe and cheery, with nothing to vex me. I wrought at the weaving trade along with my father, which was then in great prosperity, at which we were able to make good wages, so that I had plenty to do with. Although I say it myself, I wrought hard and took good care page 123not to spend my money foolishly; but having a taste for learning, at night I spent my time at evening classes, so that I soon became something of a scholar. Being fond of music, I applied myself to it for sometime, under the care of Mr. Thornton, then a first-rate teacher of that science, and became, under his care, as he said himself, one of his own rivals; but he then was becoming an old man, and beginning to fail in his musical powers. He was a precentor in St.—church, and as I was something of a favourite with him, I was allowed at times to take his place on Sabbath. Considering the novelty of being allowed to precent, I took it as a favour, and, no doubt, he was as often glad of my assistance; so ye see, in this we both felt obliged to each other. However, the time came round when Mr. Thornton died, and I, as a matter of course, was duly elected in his stead. I, indeed, felt somewhat uplifted at such a preferment, and accepted the offer with the greatest joy. For a considerable time in going to and from church, nothing attracted my attention farther, than the decency and decorum which I always loved to see in the passing and repassing throng. As I had always a taste for being neatly dressed, I sometimes could not but admire the colour and cut of a gentleman's coat, and wish myself one of the same fashion, as I then thought that it would make me look somewhat handsome when standing up at my desk. However, in a short time my attention was attracted to something else which interested me more than ever.page 124
In going to church, I began to observe that I always met with a young lady at nearly the same place, coming in a contrary direction, apparently going to church, and on coming home, I again, at the same place where we passed before, met her in the teeth, as she too seemed to be proceeding homewards. For some time I paid no notice to this incident, farther than I thought it strange that we should always, both on going to and coming from church, meet at the same place. One day I took the opposite side of the street, and, strange to say, I also met her there. At another time, I went a little earlier to church than usual, with the hopes of being past that magical spot where we always met, before she would come up, but at that very place I met her again, attended by an old woman, whom I took to be her mother, who not being able to go so quickly as her lovely daughter, had started, it appeared from her manner, a little earlier, to be forward in time.
From their appearance, I judged they were a little above the common rank, but what or who they were I could not tell. Before thus meeting with her and her mother, my mind had become somewhat possessed of her image, and the more I thought of the circumstance of always meeting at nearly the same place, a deeper impression of her was made upon my memory. Her rosy dimpled cheeks, her dark brown hair, falling down in spiral ringlets from her temples, and the pure whiteness of her skin, her dark sparkling eyes, and her page 125thin cherry lips, with the handsome appearance of her person, her modest airs, and graceful manner of walking, all combined to kindle and keep alive the flame of love in my breast. Often I fain would have spoken to her as I passed, but I could not for want of confidence, being conscious that she, however well I might be, was in better circumstances than myself, and who knows, I would often mutter to myself, but that she perhaps would call it impertinence in me to make any confession of my affections, or even to speak to her, seeing we are quite unacquainted. I thus became unhappy in my own mind, without the hopes of ever becoming better acquainted with her, and on that account I even tried to forget her, but that I never could do, as night and day she was ever uppermost in my mind.
People began to observe a great alteration in my appearance. Instead of being lively and cheerful, I was thoughtful and sad; and instead of having pleasure in the company of my acquaintances, I became somewhat retired, and even shunned their meetings, and passed them on the street without speaking, just because I did not observe them, being so much absorbed in my own thoughts, and all this they attributed to pride, as they would often tauntingly say among themselves,—O yes! he's a precentor now, and he has got acquainted with the minister, and ither big folk, so ye see we're no worth a speakin' to now—but there he passes by as if he never saw us,—he'll be gaun to drink tea with the page 126minister, I'se war'nt; wha wadna be proud at that, &c. I felt much, but still I could not help it.—Preserve us a' the day, John, ye're won'erfu' altered noo, can there be anything wrang wi' ye, that ye leuk sae ill; I hope the singin's no hurtin' ye, John, for ye're just as if ye had fa'en into a wastin'.—Thus the old folks would sometimes salute me, nor would they believe me when I endeavoured to assure them that I felt nothing wrong. And one day, as some of the neighbours came into my mother's on a Monday morning, I happened just to be sitting by the fire, taking a little tea, as I then complained a little of headache, to which I seldom or never before was subject, but which I believe was occasioned by my own restlessness, and want of sleep during the night.—I think, Johnny, said she, looking on my thoughtful countenance for a moment, ye leuk as if ye were in love with somebody, and had gotten the begunk.'—The first part of her observation I felt to be true, which went to my heart like a dagger. My face instantly reddened; I endeavoured to smile and hide my inward emotions, but the tears started to my eyes, as I then thought it was perhaps a hopeless love never to be returned.
Deeply agitated, indeed, was my mind, and painful was my breast with the inward agonies of love, as I never could banish her from my mind, and ever thought it improbable that I could be a match for such a lovely queen, seeing that she too might think herself better page 127than me, as well as I thought her worthy of a better lover. However, this could make my love nothing the less, but rather stronger, as still I felt I could not live without her. The old saying, that a faint heart never gained a fair lady, sometimes during my solitary reveries, suggested itself to my mind. This I felt was too true, for how could I expect that she would speak to me, if I would not take courage and speak with her. This, at all events, I at last resolved to do, whatever might be the consequence; so, next Sabbath I put on a new coat, and although the day, I remember, was not altogether very promising, I was in such haste to fulfil my resolution, that I went off without an umbrella, but before I reached the place where we often met, a shower of rain began to fall, so that I got myself somewhat drenched. Every one had an umbrella but me, and all seemed to be in a greater hurry than another to escape from the rain, and even some of my former companions, who passed me at the time, I heard say, that I was now well paid for my pride, while they laughed at the idea of me having my new coat spoiled. Thinking the shower would soon blow past, I stepped into a door for a little to shun it, and wipe off the rain with my handkerchief. While I was thus employed, who passes but the one with whom I wished to speak. I instantly stepped out to speak to her, but she had gone by, and the wind, blowing in the same direction her stretched umbrella served as a sail, and hurried page 128her on. To cry after her, or even to run after her, would have exposed me too much to public gaze, while I for such impertinence would be treated by her with contempt. I stood, as rooted to the spot, with my eyes fixed upon her, heedless of the rain which battered on my back, till once she turned a corner and disappeared. I then involuntarily smote my hands together, pressing them to my breast, and deeply sighed,—Oh! Heavens, am I thus to be tormented. I cared not for the spoiling of my coat and hat, for sore sore I was at heart, at thus being disappointed in my present hopes.
As soon as I recovered from the shock I received, I turned round, and made haste for the church, conscious that I was rather behind the time, but I arrived just soon enough to go to my place. When I entered the session-house, the minister was tying on his bands, and, turning round with his usual smile, he came and shook hands with me, saying he hoped there was nothing wrong which kept me longer than usual, as I seemed to be somewhat sad. I replied that I felt nothing wrong with me, but was sorry that I was behind my time. Although, indeed, I felt this, still there was something more that troubled my mind When I entered my place in church, I felt as I had done something wrong, and that every eye was fixed on me. As if ashamed of myself, I could not lift my head. And when the psalm was given out, my mind was so confused that I knew not what tune to begin; page 129and when I rose to sing, I stood still without opening my mouth for a few moments. At last I made an effort, started a tune, but what it was I could not tell. However, the people seemed to have known it, as they carried it on, while I stood as a stock, without being able further to open my mouth. I wished I had been a hundred miles away, or that I had been below the ground, rather than standing as a gazing stock, where I then stood. Happy you may be assured I felt, when I saw, or rather heard, the people rising to prayer. I closed my book—laid it down—and bent over my desk, ashamed of myself, grieving at the situation in which I was placed. When prayer was ended, I thought I felt myself somewhat more composed, although my mind was still harbouring on the one which gave me such uneasiness.
When the service of the day was past, and having performed my own part with all the ease I could muster, although it was not great, I returned slowly homewards, as the day had become fair—although home was not in all my thoughts. As I walked slowly, as if waiting on some one coming up behind, all passed by, as it were driven with the wind, which still blew a brisk gale, except a few stragglers, which were more inclined to take their time than to pass along with the multitude. At last, the one I wished to meet, I saw at a short distance approaching. You well may perceive how I felt—my heart palpitated—my knees page 130shook—nay, I may say, I trembled all over, without knowing what I could say. Yet I felt myself constrained to speak, let the consequence be what it may; but courage I knew I must have, or else it never would do. Considering this, I went forward, and stepped in her way. Well, said I, taking her hand in mine as she came up, and giving it a gentle press, I hope you are quite well.
Quite well, she replied, as a soft blush stole over her countenance, when she looked me in the face; but, said she, I am not aware with whom I speak, if you please.
No, I replied, perhaps not; but I hope we will yet become better acquainted; but the reason why I hope so, I cannot explain just now; but may I have the pleasure of seeing you at your mother's house at any time you think convenient for me to call.
Oh, yes, she replied, at any time you please, we shall be happy to see you; but will you be so kind as give me your name that I might know when you call.
My name, I replied, is John Thomson. I shall take the liberty, if you please, of calling on Tuesday—I think about four o'clock in the afternoon, if it is convenient for you then; and that I may know where to call, may I have your address.
After giving me her address, and assuring me that the time appointed would be quite convenient, we shook hands and parted.page 131
Was there ever a happier man on earth than myself, thought I; indeed, although I had possessed the power and wealth of every nation in the world, I do not think I could have felt half the happiness in my own mind; and when we parted, so delighted was I at such an interview, I could not but turn round and look after her for a little, and I blessed her in my heart. I went home quite another man; and had it not been the Sabbath night, I actually would have danced with joy. My mother observed my altered appearance, and asked me if I was well enough.—Well enough! I exclaimed, I never was better in my life—I am this night the happiest man in the world.—I wish, Johnny, my man, ye ha'e nae gane by yoursel', for I never saw sic a change on ane in a' my life. This morning ye gaed aff tae the kirk without yer umberella, and ye was that dull ye could hardly speak; and when ye were in the kirk ye leucked like some ill-doer, and couldna haud up yer head the hale day—forbye, some o' yer tunes ye didna sing as ye should ha'e din. Johnny, my man, I wish ye may be richt eneugh in yer min'—gae ben the room, my man, an' compose yersel', like a man, for waes my heart, Johnny, if ye've really gaen wil'.
Thus, my mother, poor woman, grieved, when she beheld my manner and altered appearance, lest I had gone wrong in my mind, as she thought, while I could not but in truth rejoice at the disburdened state of my mind. However, to please her, and show that I was page 132right enough, and understood all she said, I went into the room there to enjoy my happiness alone, I took up a book to read, but I could not, as my mind now anticipated the pleasures of the appointed meeting. I need scarcely tell how I passed the tardy hours till the time appointed came. To me every hour was like a day; nor could I rest a moment in one place. At night I tossed about in my bed, without closing my eyes in sleep, except for a little, I believe, on Tuesday morning, through mere fatigue, I fell into a kind of dreaming drowsiness. Well, I thought that day would never go past. However, time slowly whiled away, and the hour arrived when I should prepare for the appointed meeting. On my way to her house, I thought I could not go quick enough, and I even sometimes ran, lest I should make myself behind the time; yet I arrived at the place nearly half an hour too soon. Shall I make my presence known yet, said I to myself, looking my watch, while my heart palpitated very much as I mused on the impropriety of calling too soon. To pass the time, I walked a little further, lounging about, and pulling out my watch, I may say almost every minute, sometimes putting it to my ear to hear if it was really going. The proper time at last arrived, though not so soon as I would have wished; and with a beating heart I went and pulled the bell. Who do you think answered the call but the very one I wished to see.page 133
Come in, said she, smiling, and with a gentle courtsey offered me a welcoming shake of the hand, which I could not but accept; when she shut the door, and led me to the room where her mother was sitting.
It is needless to say how well I was received, for their, kindnesses exceeded my utmost expectations. To vary the conversation of the evening, Miss Jeanie opened up the piano, and played over two or three tunes with the greatest ease and gracefulness, during which time the servant brought in tea. When this matter was over, the mother collected the tea articles herself into the tray, and carried them off, shutting the door behind her, left us alone. I was indeed pleased with the way in which I was received and kindly treated, but doubly more so at being left alone with her I dearly loved. Could heaven be more propitious in earthly blessings to mortals, thought I, when I saw myself so peculiarly favoured. My heart bounded with joy; nor could I contain myself longer, when I saw myself so happily placed, then I explained to her the reasons I stopped her on the Sabbath-day. She smiled sweetly, yet blushed, as I told her all, and hoped she took it in no offence. I think I see her just now in the same manner in which she was then, when she replied that she could not but thank me for my kindness.—Were ever words so gracious! In the way she replied, I could not but interpret them thus,—That she felt the same affection for me.—Then I could not page 134but clasp her to my bosom, and repay her with a kiss. Such was the nature of our first interview; and when we parted for the time, I was kindly invited by the mother, who then came to see me out, to be sure and not be a stranger, but come back again when I found it convenient. In regard to this, however, I did not altogether need her invitation, as I now had been introduced and made welcome by the daughter. Well, as I had been invited, so I performed; and never did I call again but I found myself always more welcome than before.
Thus all went on smoothly for some time, and I may say a happier man could not be found on the face of the earth. Every time we met, we felt each other to predominate over self, at least for my part I loved her the more; and I believe we both felt ripe enough for marriage, and were thinking when it would be most expedient. I looked forward with the highest anticipations of delight to that most happy time when I would be able to fold her in my arms and call her my own, and look round on the world, and say, Where is there one more happy than I.
As Mr. Thomson pronounced these words, he tossed his right arm upwards with an air of triumph, while the fire of his eye bespoke the ardent feelings of his soul. His hearers, smit with the sympathy of his tale, had every eye and all attention fixed upon him, while scarce a breath was heard to be drawn. But, alas! page 135said he, after a short pause, and smiting his hands together, how vain are all our highest hopes—how little confidence need we place in our surest anticipations— for little did I then think that I was to be so sadly disappointed in my near prospect of happiness.—But she was not to blame, and I will tell you how.
You will understand she had two brothers, tobacconists, in the Trongate, who were doing well in their business, and were themselves very fond of being rich, and having rich connections. They were acquainted with an old man, of the name of Thomas Robson, who was an old bachelor, yet a very respectable old man, grown white-headed, who had plenty to do with, and stood in need of a wife to keep him comfortable in his old age. As he, through course of conversation, hinted as much to them one day as he was in their shop getting snuff, they took the opportunity of kindly proposing their sister as a suitable match. The old man no sooner heard of the proposal than he thought her the best one he could fix upon, with whom he could spend the remainder of his days. Accordingly he was shortly afterwards introduced, when she, through force and persuasion, urged by her brothers, and counselled by her mother, yielded consent to his proposals. However, I knew not of all this till afterwards.
Well, I called one night in the beginning of the week, as usual, in the full hopes of being again that night happy with my Jeanie. When the door was page 136opened I felt somewhat strange, when I saw it was not her that opened it as usual. I wonder if I am at the right door, thought I to myself, when I asked if Miss Jeanie was within. Oh! yes, sir, come in, was the reply, when I entered, and was led to an empty room. When passing up the lobby, I observed in a room off at the right hand, as the door was a little piece open, an old white-headed man, as one of a company, and heard them loud in conversation. I thought at the moment I saw him that this was an uncle, with some other friends, paying a visit, and surely she could not be wanted from the company. I went into the room with that thought, wishing in my own mind that I had not called, and while waiting her appearance I formed an excuse to get away, not to detain her from her friends. When she entered the room, I saw she looked somewhat sad. We shook hands, and enquired for each other's welfare, when I hastily told her that I merely called to let her know that I could not find it convenient to stay that night, and begged she would excuse my absence till Friday night. She merely assented, yet looked grave, and said she hoped I would not disappoint her then, when we again shook hands and parted. This was on Tuesday evening, but I had no reason whatever of my own to be absent then, nor on any other night after, had I known at that time that I was to have a rival.
I accordingly called again on Friday, as I promised, page 137but I did not see her—and sadly disappointed you may be assured I felt, when the servant told me at the door that she was sorry to say that Miss Jeanie, owing to some indisposition, could not be seen that night. I heard some noise within, which I thought did not correspond altogether with the conversation of friends. The door was shut before I turned myself to depart, when I went home heavy at heart. I blamed myself for the hurried visit, and groundless excuse, of Tuesday evening, at being so disappointed; and at times I condoled myself with the consideration that it was not fit that she should expose herself to cold by my company, if she really felt unwell; and again I thought that the noise I heard did not, nor could very well suit the indispositions of any; so what could be the matter was beyond me to divine. When I compared one thing with another, and recalled to mind all our correspondence, and having, I may say, that night the door shut in my face, this completely overwhelmed my mind with mystery, and my countenance with thoughtful glooms. My outward appearance was soon observed by my mother, for which she expressed some concern, and the more so, when she saw I took no supper, but sat and looked wistfully into the fire. Sometimes, when she spoke to me, I did not hear—I was so much engrossed in my own thoughts, so much so, that I felt my head get sore. I knew not what to think, nor could I tell my thoughts to any; and when page 138my mother asked the matter, all I could say was, that I could not tell. According to her advice, I went to bed, there to seek some repose, with the hopes that yet all would be well. I did every thing in my power to compose my mind, but that I could not, for my pillow seemed to be full of thorns and thistles, as restlessly in my bed I tossed about like a wave of the sea.
Shortly after I went to bed, some neighbour girls came into the kitchen, and began to tell my mother a long story of some ghosts that old Peter Rodger's wife said she saw in the grave-yard, as she looked out at the back window, before she went to bed late oh the preceding night. This led to a number of other stories about fairies in the fir-park, and witches dancing about the burn, on moonlight nights. However, the ghost story I knew was nothing less than only two new white head-stones, which the old wife took to be the ghosts she believed she saw by the light of the full moon. Restless though I was before the gossiping girls came into the house, I felt the more so while their senseless chat grated harshly in my ears, and glad you may be assured I was, when I heard them bid good night and go away.
When all was quiet I thought I felt myself more at rest, though in my mind I still grieved over that night's disappointment, till, at length, I think about midnight, I fell asleep. But such a night of dreaming I never had the like. I thought I was into some old page 139house, like some haunted ruin, and was taken down into some dark cellar, and looking round I thought I saw the moon shining clearly through an old shattered window, and seeing a door I opened it, and went into a splendid hall, richly furnished, and lighted by four large chrystal chandeliers, with wax tapers, which burned night and day, as the hall had no window to admit daylight. I thought I went to a place where I saw some white curtains, fringed with silver, drawn closely together; and, being prompted by curiosity, I began to draw them aside, to see what was behind; there I thought I saw something like a person lying stretched at full lengthy and covered over with a, large white sheet, and beside it, on the other side, lay a black coffin, mounted with gold; and as I looked I saw upon the lid, in letters of gold, the words—"Poor Jeanie died with a broken heart." I thought I wept when I read the sentence, and clasping my hands, I sighed deeply. Can this be her lying here, said I to myself; so to be sure, I began to remove the covering from the head of the person that lay stretched before me; but, in doing so, I thought I heard some one breathing hard behind. Before I could observe who was below the sheet, I looked round, and there I with joy beheld my Jeanie. We shook hands, but I thought she looked sad; her dress I observed was a black deep mourning gown, and on her head I saw a beautiful white turban, richly mounted with newly blown page 140roses, which I thought ill contrasted with the other parts of her dress. I thought I felt quite happy in her company, so much so, that I knew not what to say. We sat down as it were on a sofa; but, on looking round, I saw the scene was changed, and myself, with my Jeanie, in the midst of a lonely grave-yard, sitting on the top of a newly-made grave. I thought I gave her a kiss, when she laid her head upon my breast; but her lips were cold. And, looking up, I saw a crowd coming in by the gate-way, which appeared to be some funeral, for which the bell began to toll, and quickly awoke me from my sleep, as day began to break, when I found myself only in my bed, and all pouring of sweat. After which I could not sleep again, for thinking on my wonderful dream, and wishing I was still in her company.
During the day I still continued thoughtful and sad, thinking myself the most unfortunate wretch in the world. I went to take a walk, and instinctively bent my steps to where my Jeanie lived. I, of course, called up to see how she was, and was answered at the door by the servant, when I asked if she was within, with the simple negative, No! then the door was shut before I had time to say another word. This, I thought, was dreadful, and I went home almost distracted, not knowing what to do with myself; and when I thought of my former happiness in her company, and her former seeming faithfulness to me, con-page 141trasted with the present change, it was more than my feelings could well endure. I then shut myself in my room, and threw myself on my bed, and cried even out with perfect pain of heart. Indeed, what I felt I will leave it to yourselves to judge, as I am sure from what you have heard, you will be more able to conceive my state than I am to describe it; for then I even prayed that death would come and relieve me from this world. This was, indeed, a sore trial, but sorer trials yet awaited me.
Next day was the Sabbath, and I hoped I would have then my mind more at ease, not knowing what was to befal me. As soon as I was a little composed, I went out and took a walk in the grave-yard—the only place that agreed with the sadness of my mind—there to endeavour to forget my sorrows. I thought the dead were happy, who were at rest from the pains and troubles of a weary world. I sat down on one of the slabbs, leaning my head on my hands, sighing, as if I mourned for the dead, when a fleeting thought passed through my mind, as if some one had whispered in mine ear, that it was not by brooding over my sorrows that I could bring peace to my mind.
I took the hint and returned homewards, where I sometimes amused myself on the fiddle, by playing a few plaintive airs agreeable to the state of my mind, such as the "Maid of Islay," and the "Flowers of the Forest," and, at other times, by looking over some page 142tunes to prepare myself a little for the duties of next day, hoping to find no more cause of vexation on her account, as I intended on Monday to send her an expostulating card. But sadly was I mistaken in my hopes.
Next day I went to church with about as much composure as if nothing had ailed me, and, as formerly, went up to my desk, thinking on nothing but my duty, and shut the door behind me. Seeing a "proclamation of marriage" laid on the book-board, as usual, in order to be proclaimed, I took it in my hand and glanced it over. Good Heavens! is it possible, I cried, bursting open the door and running down into the vestry with the paper in my hand,—Look, Sir, O look at this, I cried,—was ever mortal man tried like me. The minister took the paper in his hand and read it over. I knew no more—I fell senseless at his feet.
I trust, said Mr. Thompson, after a short pause, giving a deep sigh as he drew his hand across his brow, and the tear glistened in his eye—I trust you will understand whose marriage banns they were that I was to proclaim, which affected me so much. A sympathizing sigh from his audience answered in the affirmative.
Well, he resumed, when I recovered from my absent state, I think about four o'clock in the afternoon, I found myself in my own bed, with my mother and an attending surgeon, along with a few friends, weep-page 143ing over me, for all except the surgeon had given me up for dead. In a short time after, the minister, with two elders, came in; and, after a short conversation, counselling me to keep my mind easy, he offered up a fervent prayer to the throne of grace for consolation in the hour of trial, and a balm for a wounded spirit. I could not but say Amen to all his supplications, and I thought when he ended, I felt myself much at ease. However, I was upwards of three weeks confined to bed, as I had been threatened with a fever, during which time several presents of wine and other cordials were sent me as from an unknown hand. By the blessing of heaven attending the skill of the physician, I got by degrees above my trouble, so as to take some exercise in open air to complete my recovery. When I again resumed my office at church, in order to divert my mind from brooding over former grievances, I was advised to commence the study of the Latin. I accordingly began to it, and by close application for some time, became sufficient to attend the classes on the first ensuing season after my illness, which was, I think, in the beginning of spring.
This, I felt, was much to my benefit, and I pursued my studies farther till I entered the mathematical class, when I became acquainted with my late worthy friend Mr. Stobo. About this time I lost my poor mother, who much sympathized with me in all my troubles, and rejoiced to see me prospering in what I was fol-page 144lowing after; for I had some time before this opened a school, and was succeeding well, and so was enabled to repay her indulgent kindness with comfort, in her downward journey of life.
Having now more to do with since I began to be a teacher, I could not but show it in my dress, as I always had a taste for a decent appearance. Sometimes when I happened to be out, and walking along the streets, I would pass her with her old husband tottering by her side, leaning much on his stick; and out of a kind of spite for what was past, to show her the difference betwixt a young match and an old one, I would go smartly past, stretched at my full length, and holding up my head as full of independence, though, indeed, I as often felt sore at heart. Many a time I did this, and as often have I wondered how she thought, if ever she compared the smart appearance of her former lover with the frailty and slippery step of her old husband—at least I thought that twenty-four could but very ill agree with sixty-eight.
Three years passed over the heads of the ill, or rather unevenly matched pair; and I believe, from all appearances, and from what I often heard, that she faithfully performed her duties toward him, and did every thing to make him comfortable in his old age; but before the fourth year of their nuptials closed—I say it with reverence—old Thomas Robson lay low in the dust, and she was left a widow with a handsome dowry as long as she lived.page 145
Some time passed on, and she remained in her widowhood, even though she was often presented with other respectable offers from suitors, which more agreed to her age than her former husband. But all she declined, without assigning any reasons whatever farther than by saying that she had now no desire of being otherwise than she at present was.
However, in about a year and a half after Mr. Robson's death, I was called upon by several friends to open a class for music, to which I accordingly complied, and had a goodly number of scholars. At the end of two months, with my class, I proposed giving a concert. A day or two before it took place, when I was sitting in my room looking over some musical pieces intended to be sung on the forthcoming occasion, a small card was handed me to be presently answered. This was, to my astonishment, from Mrs. Robson, politely ordering a pair of tickets, and that I was to call up after the occasion at any time I found it convenient for the money. In what manner to answer, I felt myself somewhat at a loss, whether to write her only a note, or send her the tickets alone. I lifted my pen, but I felt my mind too confused to write, so I thought it best just to hand her the tickets by the hand of her servant, who waited my reply. My heart palpitated, and I felt a blush glowing on my face When I gave her the tickets, wrapped in a piece of paper, saying—Give this along with my kind compliments to Mrs. Robson, and say I thank her for her kindness.page 146
On the second day after the concert, as I was calling on several to receive payment for tickets they ordered, I likewise went and called on her, as she wished me to do. I rung the bell. The door was opened by a servant. I asked her if Mrs. Robson was within.—She is, Sir, was the reply, come in if you please; when she put me into a large and richly-furnished room. Take a seat, Sir, if you please, said the girl, as she went away and shut the door.—I sat down on the corner of a sofa, admiring two small gold fishes sporting about in a large chrystal vase, standing before me on a large dining table, covered with a richly embroidered table cloth, while my heart in high pulsation beated. The door opened, and she entered with a courtsey which reminded me of my former days; but I was determined to keep myself as distant as I could. I rose and coolly gave a bow, and we shook hands, when I told her—Meming her politely as I spoke— that I merely called as she wished me, to receive payment for the tickets she sent for. She stood and stared at me with her hands clasped on her breast; at length, heaving a deep sigh, the tears rolled down her cheeks, and raising her hands, she cried—Johnny, Oh! Johnny, do ye no ken me? and falling upon my neck she wept aloud, crying—Oh! Johnny, my dear Johnny! do ye no ken me?—This melted every feeling outright, my hat fell from my hand when I threw my arms round her waist. Oh! Jeanie, said I, I once knew you, but you know page 147you first forgot me.—Oh! Johnny, she cried, sobbing aloud—Oh! Johnny, dinna break my heart—I never did forget you—Oh! no—if I seemed so, it was not my fault, Johnnny—no, no, Johnny!—but, Oh, forgive Jour broken-hearted Jeanie.—Oh! my Jeanie—my dear Jeanie! with all my heart I do,—said I, pressing, her to my beating breast; nor could I keep from mingling my tears with her's, when I remembered the former joys I felt, as I so pressed her to my bosom. Thus we stood locked in each other's arms for a little, till the excited emotions of our hearts had become somewhat pacified. We then sat down on the sofa; still she kept her arms round my neck, and hid her face on my bosom.—Oh! Jeanie, my love, be composed, said I, kissing her cheek, as still she deeply sighed.—Oh, Johnny, she replied, could you but see my heart, you would know better than I could tell you, that I never did forget you. Oh, no! for had I seen you on that day I was married, I would have leaped the window and gone off with you. Oh! yes, I would, for before the minister came, I went to the window that looked into— street, and prayed to heaven, in my heart, that I might see you there; but, alas! you were not, and I was forced to take Mr. Robson by the hand; but my heart was yours, for I knew you dearly loved me. Oh! Johnny, could you love me yet?—Oh! Jeanie, I replied, I never could do otherwise—I loved you from the first, and I cannot but love you still—lift page 148your head, my dear, and be comforted, and be assured that I love you.—Oh! Johnny, that is more than world's to me—and sighing again, she said—but can you really love me, after you have suffered so much by me.—Oh! Jeanie, said I, what is past is nothing compared to the joys I now feel again with thee. My life has been spared thus to press thee again to my breast—that pays for all I have endured—so now what else can I do but still love thee with all my heart, and that sincerely. With that I kissed her again, and gently raised her head, saying, dry your tears, my dear Jeanie, and be comfortably assured that I really love you.—Oh! Johnny, my heart is overjoyed. It is more than I deserve—but can you really love me?she cried, and again buried her face on my breast, and wet my bosom with tears. I knew not what to say—my heart grew big, and I again bursted into tears, which rolled down my cheeks, and dropped upon her neck, as her head lay upon my bosom. At length, said I, sighing deeply, what more can I say to assure you, my dear Jeanie, that I do dearly love you; and I kissed her neck, whereon my tears were falling, and again raised her head, which she rested, sighing, upon my shoulder, when I took my handkerchief and wiped her lovely face, and kissed her rubby lips, and then she sat up and loosed her arms from about my neck, after repaying me with a kiss, in the joy and fulness of her heart.
After sitting a few minutes, pacifying the emotions page 149of our hearts, and wiping our faces, she still sobbing and sighing, asked me what had become of me that Friday evening, on which I promised to call.—When I told her how I called, and the answer I got from the servant, both on that night and the day following.—Good Heavens! is it possible, she cried, clasping her hands together—Oh! the wretches—how dared they tell you such falsehoods. On that Friday there was nothing wrong with me, farther than I was terribly roasted by my mother and brother James, and Mr. Robson, urging me strongly to give my consent; till, at length, for my own personal safety, I had to yield, while my conscience upbraided me for what I had done. All that night I slept none, and I determined to write you a card, to inform you what had taken place, and forming a scheme of elopement. So, as soon as daylight would afford me, I rose, and without putting on my clothes, I sat down, only in my bed-gown, with a mat round my shoulders, and wrote accordingly, and had it finished by the time the rest got up. I tried to get out, but I could not; for, had I got out, I would have come straight to you myself. I then bribed the servant, when she was going out a message, to put my card in the post-office, which she assured me she would do.—Well, said I, interrupting her, no letter came to me; but I intended to have wrote to you on the following Monday, had circumstances not prevented me.— Sad circumstances, indeed, she sighed. What circum-page 150stances now, if you please, shall prevent our union. For these five long years now past, though my hand was claimed by another, my heart was undivided thine, and thine it shall be, my dear John, till death.— So saying, she flung her arms round my neck, and hid her face on my bosom. I kissed her, and pressed her to my breast, and declared myself her's.
Thus, in mutual joy, in all the height of rapture, we held each other as if afraid to part. As soon as we felt ourselves composed, she asked when I thought would be the most convenient time for the marriage to take place.—Well, said I, this is Thursday, we cannot get married before next week.—Well, say Monday first, in the morning, she eagerly replied. Thus our marriage day was fixed, in the full hopes of being joined in one. And happier mortals than we, in the enjoyment of each other, were not upon the face of the earth. After tea, which we partook with each other, she took me through the house, and showed me all— all are yours, she cried, in me.—But what is all this grandeur, said I, but nothing, when compared with you. Again in each other's arms we fell, and to my breast I pressed her fondly; nor could we express our happiness in a better manner. As soon as this expression of our happiness, in the near prospect of our union, was past, she went and brought a bottle of wine, when we drank a cup to our future happiness; and when we parted, I promised to call again next evening by six o'clock.page 151
I went home the happiest man in the world, and when going up stairs I met Mr. Stobo coming down, as he had been up at my lodging calling upon me. We shook hands, when I invited him up, and told him of the happy meeting I had with the jewel of my heart. He knew of all my former history, and he could not but congratulate me on my happy prospect—nay, he seemed as happy at my joyful state as if my happiness was his, I presented him with the honour of being bridesman, as he was the only one with whom I was acquainted, I thought worthy of the honour. This he accepted with the greatest pleasure, adding much to my joy. I need not tell you how I passed the time, for you can well conceive what state of mind I was in, when I tell you that my joy was so great, that it nearly bordered on distraction. So when we parted, I wished him to accompany me on my visit, which he kindly promised to do. Every hour till the appointed time, by night and by day, seemed to me a lengthened week, till, at length, it did arrive. Mr. Stobo and I went off, almost running, for, in my joy and haste, I thought an ordinary quick pace of walking too slow a motion to bring me to the arms of my Jeanie. When we came to the place, I rung the bell with a light and beating heart. The door was opened by the servant; but her look was sad. I asked if Mrs. Robson was within. Yes, Sir, she replied; but she died about an hour ago.
Good gracious! I cried, and fell senseless with a page 152groan—I knew no more. Next morning when I came to myself, I found I was lying on the sofa on which I sat formerly with her I dearly loved. The surgeon in attendance had been drawing blood from me.—Thank heaven, he cried, when I opened mine eyes—praise God for such a miracle, I heard Mr. Stobo cry, clapping his hands together in ecstacy, and running up to me he knelt down, and giving me a kiss, he welcomed me to life.—Where is my dear Jeanie, were the first words I spoke.—But no answer was given me, farther than they hoped I would keep myself composed in mind for my own good, seeing what had taken place could not now be helped. I may say everything was done that could be devised for my comfort and recovery; but still I felt sorely pained at heart, and as if I had been sadly beaten all over with a stick. After getting a glass of wine, and having slept a short time, I became somewhat more composed, so that I was the better able to hear the cause of my Jeanie's departure, which was told me, after many solicitations, by the servant.
Yesterday morning, said she, Mrs. Robson rose sooner than usual, as she said she had slept none all night for thinking on the happy meeting she had with yon on the night before. During the day she was so restless that she could not sit five minutes composed, as she said she was so completely overjoyed. Often she looked out at the window, saying, I wonder if my page 153Johnny is coming yet, and then would run to see what o'clock it was, and giving a laugh, cry, Oh, nonsense! it is not the time—I need not expect him yet. Thus she continued for nearly the whole day, and would taste no meat, as she said she could not, as her heart was so full in the expectations that you would quickly come. About an hour before you called, I heard her give a great cry. I then ran to see what was the matter, and I found her lying half upon the sofa, with her hand upon her heart, crying—Oh! my heart—my heart is broken!—I ran to fetch her a glass of wine, but before I could return, she was gone. Seeing this, I gave a great cry, but none were in the house to help; and, in despair, I ran across to Dr. Nimmo, and all I could say, was—Come, Oh, come, Doctor! when I ran off again to my mistress, speedily followed by him, who, when he examined her, said that nothing could be done, as she had died with an overjoyed heart. Such was the servant's account—I heard all, and wept bitterly. She was interred in the High Churchyard on the following Monday. I was, indeed, very weak, from the shock I received, yet managed to attend the funeral; and when I saw her lowered into the tomb, I could not contain my sorrows, and I felt I could have lain by her side.