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a large linen sheet, seating himself, when he had draped it in white, on the side of the pillar opposite to that by which the maiden would approach the Stone.
It was a gusty, moonlight night, at the witching hour when spirits haunt the air, and demons roam abroad on the earth. The Queen of Night rode ominously on her silver chariot in a troubled and changing sky, and the fitful winds chimed sad and mournfully among the leafless trees. Mary had almost approached the stone unobserved by the watchers, when the moon, suddenly bursting through a black, driving cloud, disclosed her beautiful form in the suppliant attitude of a devout worshipper, solemnly invoking the assistance and presence of the Oracle of St Orland. Awaiting the expected response, she wistfully raised her eyes, when, instead of the well-known sculptured pillar, she wildly shrieked on beholding what to her excited imagination, appeared to be a denizen in reality of the other world. Her fears of the future augmented, as a hoarse, unearthly voice prophetically exclaimed-" Beware! Beware! Beware!"
This warning of the Oracle might doubtless be interpreted in many ways, according to the phase of thought indulged in, or the complexion of retrospective feeling passing through the mind at the time. Though equally superstitious as her compeers, Mary Armstrong, with all her thoughtless frivolity, being of a practical turn of mind, applied, after due reflection, the prophetic warning, not only personally to herself, but to that particular besetting sin which she now remorsefully felt had hitherto characterised her restless and unsettled life.
As Alfred had anticipated, the happy result was that the butler's daughter became a staid and reflective maiden, and in a short time was comfortably married to the douce, swarthy smith of the village, to whom she proved a contented, faithful, and affectionate wife.
Jamie, although he never forgot his first love, in course of time became the industrious and cheerful tenant of the "auld meal mill," and Alfred gradually attained by his learning and
genius to the very highest place among the celebrated preachers of the day. To their sound judgment and delicacy of feeling be it further recorded to their credit that not until after the death of Mary, did they disclose the story of the white sheet on St Orland's Stone, or reveal the author of that terrible yet well-meant warning which changed in a moment her whole character, and turned into another channel the wayward current of her existence.
Although the miller apparently seemed resigned to his fate, and went about his ordinary business so diligently that everything went well and prosperously with him, still there was an under-current of unrest beneath the calm unruffled surface above, a deep-seated, corroding grief, which, unknown to the world, exercised over his mind a painful, yet pleasing influence, solemnising, if not saddening, every action of his otherwise uneventful life. This was his never-changing, undying affection for his first love. So true is it in real life, in every rank and station, whatever cold, unfeeling men of the world may assert to the contrary, that true heart love never knows decay. Circumstances may intervene to prevent the visible union of two loving, devoted hearts, but they will ever remain united in reality all the same. Other family ties may be formed, and the duties of husband and wife, father and mother, religiously, nay, affectionately discharged, but the old old feeling is still there, not, I verily believe, for the purpose of disquieting and making unhappy -God never intended that-but rather to hallow and temper the bursting exuberance of domestic joys.
There is this difference, however, between love as a passion, and love as a deep-rooted feeling of the heart, that whereas the former may change to hatred, the latter-never! Every good and loving wish surrounds the object of a first affection, these wishes culminating in the fervent hope that wedded love may be ever happy, the children rising up to call their parents blessed.
The miller had a fine ear for music, and was an excellent
player on the violin, but after this, his first and greatest disappointment in life, he hung his harp upon the willows, where it ever afterwards remained uncared for and unstrung. He also sung well, but now his musical powers were concentrated on one solitary song. Not that he ever audibly sung this song, but mentally brooded over it through life. Not only did its melody come spontaneously and unbidden when he feverishly awoke at early morn, and when he gently fell asleep at eventide, but without interfering with his ordinary avocations, it constantly occupied 'his thoughts, whether in the workshop, at market, or in the field, in the solitary lane, or in the crowded city. Time, instead of blunting the fine edge of this pristine feeling, only deepened and intensified its pleasing sadness; and, like the wounded dove which instinctively covers with its fluttering wings the poisoned arrow which is slowly doing its deadly work, so the poor deserted lover hugged the more tenderly and to the last, the fatal shaft which surely, though unseen, was gradually draining to the last dregs the ebbing stream of life :
Dear early love! these beauteous scenes
No charms have now for me,
How cruel thus to break the tie
O how I loved with thee to roam
By woodland, stream, and bower,
How soft on golden wings was borne
How sweetly blushed the dewy rose,
And when at evening's twilight hour,
Thee to my heart I prest,
We wept, we vowed, O! surely then,
Were we supremely blest!
Another incident in connection with St Orland's Stone, occurred a short time afterwards.
Helen Lindsay, the younger daughter of a well-to-do crofter in the immediate neighbourhood of Cossins, was as pretty a brunette, as Mary Armstrong had been a beautiful and fascinating blonde. There was this difference in their character and feelings, however, that, whereas the latter was volatile and changeable, the former was unswerving and constant in her love. Yet with all this fixity and steadiness of purpose, strange to say in one remarkable instance she proved herself at fault.
Amongst her numerous admirers in the Strath, the most prominent by common consent were the young carpenter of the village, and the elder son of the aged farmer of Drumgley. Either, irrespective of their excellent character, and good looks, would in point of social position have been a most suitable and eligible match for the rich crofter's daughter. It so happened, however, that the young maiden's heart was equally divided between the two lovers. This uroward state of her feelings she frankly and unequivocally parended to both, affirming at the same time that she would The te happy and contented with either of them.
What was to be done? A busy cleansing out of old horsepistols, and an anxious furbishing up of rusty claymores of course. Nothing of the kind. The mill-wright and the farmer were men of common sense, with cool heads, and unexciteable feelings withal. At a mutual and amicable conference it was solemnly agreed that the choice of the maiden should be referred simpliciter to the Oracle of St Orland's Stone. A certain night was accordingly fixed when Helen and her two lovers were to appear in company at the shrine of the Oracle, whose decision was to be received as final. The only other condition attached to the compact was, as it turned out to be, a very necessary and important one. The proviso was this:-In the event of either of the lovers not putting in appearance at the time appointed, the compact to be held as irrevocably dissolved, and the one who fulfilled his promise, to be declared the accepted suitor of Mary Armstrong.
It so happened that the honest millwright received intelligence on the following day of the sudden death of an old friend, and an invitation to attend his funeral. The day of the interment was the same as that on the evening of which it had been agreed to meet at St Orland's Stone. Not in the least doubting but that he would be quite able to keep both appointments, especially as the interment was to take place at Glamis, and anxiously desirous to pay his last. respects to the remains of his friend, he started early for the Murroes, where his friend had died, to attend his funeral.
It was the universal custom then, as I know from experience it still is, that the friends and acquaintances of the deceased who attended these country funerals came from great distances, and necessarily required, as they liberally received, a bountiful supply of all kinds of substantial viands and native liquors. It is just possible that sometimes there may have been an excess of the latter over the former. that as it may, the funeral procession started at last on its road to Glamis. There being no hearse in the parish, the