And now the folk began to gather for Maggie's weddin'. First came Gowanbraes—a fine, weel-kept specimen o' the auld Scottish gentleman, wi' silver-white hair an' heard, maist patriarchal in appearance. Wi' him came Robin an' twa of his sisters—very gude, weel-mannered lassies without ony special attractions o' face or figure. Robin himsel' was a weel-faur'd laddie eneuch, wha promised to be a sma' prent edition o' his faither. He was no over-brisk at the wooin', an' I thocht he an' Maggie wad make a pair o' decent quiet folk, weel-suited to walk through life soberly an' doucely thegither. There was sma' chance o' her playin' ony pliskmahoys when she was the Leddy o' the Braes, as the place was maistly spoken o'. I confessed to mysel' that puir Colin seemed a bit rough in compare wi' Robin. But ane maun aye tak the ill wi the gude, as weans tak' physic in jam. An' for my ain pairt I like to see a bit spunk in a wooer. But ilka ane till his ain likin'; an' Meg was aye for quiet page 54 folk, only at orra times when the de'il brak' loose in her; an' then she wad play high jinks.
Then came Madam Cranston, just as I hae deseribed her, wi' sharp een, an' shrill voice, an' domineerin’ manner, aye denounein' the bad roads. “Will ye never mend thae roads?” she skirled out afore she was well in at the door. “There's no a sound bane in a' my body, wi' the touslin' they hae gien me; ye're muckle to blame for't—muckle to blame, Craigielinn, (an’ she shook her gowd-headed cane in my faither's face), that ye hae no pit them in order. On sicean an occasion too!—Weel, and noo which is't that's gaun to be bound owre to lee-lang slavery? Stand up, lassies, till I pit on my glasses and hae a look at ye.”
When she had finished her examination, which she illustrated wi' many uncomplimentary remarks, she took a parcel frae her pock, and displayed to our dazzled een a grand gowden chain an' a necklace (a “carat” she ca'd it) made o' Scotch pearls.
“The chain's for ye, Maggie Cranston,” said she; “an’ its the maist fittin' thing for ye to wear in your future position. Dinna glower at me, mon,” she cried, suddenly turnin' on Robin, who was standin' by, lookin', for a' the world, like a cat caught lappin' milk in a dairy. “Ye'll be the reiver that's to carry aff the ewe-lammie? I hope ye'll no repent o't. Young folk will aye be fules, an' ye're no that ill to look at. The carat's for ye, Janet. Min' an’ aye wear't when ye gae wooin', an' maybe vanity will gar ye keep the laddies' airms aff your neek.”
We made a laigh curtsey till her as she had taught us lang syne; an'—“Thank ye, Meddam,” quo Maggie; page 55 an'—“Thank ye, Meddam,” quo I. “An’ noo, lassies, shaw me till a chaum'er, and lat me rest my auld banes, a' bruised an' brak’ wi' thae fearsome roads.”
The next mornin' we were fair dazed wi' the sicht o' a close carriage, wi' twa horses comin' pranein’ up the strath. Wha could this be? The laird seemed to be expeetin' somebody mair than ordinar,’ for he had gotten himsel intil his Sunday claes, an' went doun to the yett to meet the visitors. First there steppit out a young fellow prinkit up in grand style. Sic a dandy I hadna seen in a' my life afore. He was a sma' shilpit body, wi' watery licht blue een, and straight sandit-sugar hair on his heid. There was a bit tluff o' the same sort aneath his erookit neb, for which he had seemed to entertain great affection, judgin' frae the way he was aye strokin' it. Syne there came down out o' the coach an old man. He was a “fine fat fodgel wight” as Burns says in ane o' his poems; mair like a tub on twa legs than onything. His neek was sae short that his heid seemed to grow out o' his breast; an' his face was just like a fu' moon, an' as red as a bubbly-jock's crap. An' he had such a wee snippit nose that ye could only ken it by the extraordinar' fiery tap o't. This apparition came pufliin' an’ waddlin' up till the house, wi' the young man minein' by his side in maist laughable contrast; an my faither presented them to the company as Bailie Macbuist an' his son frae Glasco. The laird had become acquent wi' the Bailie, who was a far-awa’ cousin on the mither's side, in one o' his business journeys to Glasco', and he was very proud o' the connection. “The Bailie,” he said, “had done him page 56 the honour to pay his respects to the family on the occasion o' Maggie's weddin'.”
Madam sniffed at the word “honour.“—“James Cranston,” she cried at the tapmaist pitch o' her voice—“Ye're takin' a maist unpardonable licence wi' oor name, an' it disna become ye as the laird o' the house to dae sae. The Cranstons tak' nae honour frae ony. They gie't when they admit ithers to their acquaintance.”
I think Madam didna tak' kindly to the Bailie frae that out, an' as for the young fallow, she fended him aff in sharp words and dour looks whenever he ventured near her. I mind one time he offered to assist the auld lady wi' her cloak.—“Will I take the liberty—” he began in his mealy-mou'd way. She turned on him wi' wrath—thun'ner settin' on her brow, an' lightnin’ flashing frae her een—“Nae, sir, ye will na. How daur ye presume to tak' liberties wi' a leddy?”
But I maunna omit to mention Mr. McGelpen, who was a very important part o' the play, as ye may suppose. The minister rode up on his powney the nicht afore the weddin' His pleasant kindly auld face, an' his simple manners an' pawky humour made an excellent impression on Madam Cranston, who fairly took possession o' the house, orderin' folk aboot frae the laird doun, an' flourishing her cane like a drum-major's staff'. The Minister, an' Madam, an' Gowanbraes just consorted thegither for the maist part an' the twa Glasco' bodies were left for my faither's special entertainment.page 57
The grandest guest of a' was yet to come. Early on the weddin' mornin’ I was wakened by the skirl o' the pipes, an' keekin’ out o' the chamber window I saw a full-dressed Highland piper—wha but he—wi’ kilt, an sporran, an dirk, an a', come marchin' up the strath, at the head o' a lang procession o' folk, a' hastin’ till the house. The laird was as muckle surprised as ony, wi' this demonstration, but the explanation was no far to seek. It seems that Bailie Maebuist had sent for Hector McDougall, the prize piper o' Ayr—“out o' compliment till his gude fren' Craigielinn, and to do honour to the family,” he said, wi' a vicious glance at Madam Cranston. But it was no possible to pit the grand auld lady aboot, She just took a pinch o' snuff, wi' calm deliberation, an' syne she said—“Weel done, Bailie. I'm glad to find ye hae the gumption to ken where honour's owin'. Tak' a sneeshin man.“—An’ she held out the mull till him. “The pouther o' armed neutrality,” Mr. McGelpin ca'd it.
There were many weel-kent faces amang the thrang o' folk that came to Craigielinn that day; but the one face that I maist longed to see was no there. Maggie an' mysel’ had wrastled hard an ‘laug wi' the laird to let Colin come wi' the ithers. It seemed mair than ordinar' cruel that he alane should be forbade when the house was open to a the warld beside. But my faither was deaf to our entreaties. He was a gude man an' a gude faither, but far owre hard at times The weans as aften spoilt by heavy layin' on o' the rod as by the sparing o't.page 58
An’ now I maun tell ye o' something that happened at the weddin'. When Minister McGelpin had done his bucklin', an made a' fast sae that nane could unbind, we came forrit wi' our congratulations. The McDougall body played up “Galla Water,” and the folk gie'd a cheer that was answered by the glens. Just then Mr. Renwick, whom we thocht far awa, came up, and kissing the bride on her forehead, presented her wi' a real braw cairngorm brooch set in solid gowd, an' bracelets o' the same to match. “May your days be lang in the land,” quo he, “and ilka ane happier than the day afore.”
“Wha's this?” ca'd out Madam Cranston. “Wha's this? I wad ken that voice frae a thousan'. Stan' aside, a' o’ ye, and let me see his face.”
We all made way, and she and Mr. Renwick stood for a moment silently facing each other. “I kent it,” she cried. “It's my dainty Davie–my ain bonnie bairn that I hae mourned sae mony weary years.”
She cast awa her cane intil the air, and I was no sorry to see it fa' on the bald shinin' head o' the Bailie wi' a crack that, as Jock Howieson said, “gart him claw whaur it was no yuckie.“* Then she threw hersel' into Mr. Renwick's arms. “Welcome hame, my bonnie wean,” quo she—an’ she kissed him with the warmth o' a mither's affection.
The heart whiles takes no account o' time. The auld leddy's heart just began wi' him again where it left aff lang syne. To her he wasna the muckle man in his prime that he was to our een. As a laddie he had left a void in her breast, and though sae mony page 59 years had gane by, it was just the same laddie that was ta'en back again to fill his auld place.
My faither took her by the hand to lead her away, for he didna wish onything said afore folk; and Mr. Renwick, in a voice wi' a break in't said—“Not now—not here, dear madam.” ANd sae the three went awa thegither and took counsel in private.
* Made him scratch where it was not itching.