Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

a

pected of him as the partner of one of the most intelligent and richest merchants of the City.

Alderman Pirie had an only child—the sunshine of his luxurious and happy home. His heart was centred in his amiable and beautiful daughter Evangeline, who had lost her mother several years before, to the great regret and grief of all who had known her. From the first, a deep-rooted affection had sprung up, unknown to each other, in the breasts of Evangeline and young Wightman ; but the feeling never found expression until the latter had established himself in a position worthy of the daughter of such a father, and of her own superior excellences as a lovely and accomplished woman. It was the prospect, indeed, of her becoming at some distant day his own that had upheld his heart and cheered his spirit amidst the dangers and difficulties through which he had passed, and which had nerved and encouraged his unceasing efforts and unwearying labours to make his mark in the world, and to raise himself to the high and enviable position to which he had now most gratefully attained.

His highest hopes, his dearest wishes, were at last realised. Evangeline became the happy wife of Mr Joseph Wightman -the happy pair receiving on their wedding day the joyful congratulations and good wishes of all who had the honour and pleasure of their acquaintance. The fruition of the first and only love of each, and a union of the purest and sweetest affection, no wonder that, under God, their after-life became progressively prosperous and supremely happy. Alas ! alas ! if it had been fated to have been united in the bonds of first affection, how different, in its aims and results, might many a life have been !

Still true to his early ambition, Joe forgot not the goal to which all his restless hopes tended, and lost no opportunity to advance his personal interests in that direction. Keeping this object steadily in view, he became a Liveryman, by joining the Merchant Tailors' Company, one of the most ancient and richest Guilds of the City. He was

soon afterwards

elected a Common Councilman —the next step to an Alderman's gown—and assiduously devoted himself to the acquirement of the requisite knowledge of Corporation affairs to enable him satisfactorily to perform his varied duties.

At this time, “like a shock of corn fully ripe," the good old Alderman Pirie was gathered to his fathers, leaving behind him an untarnished reputation as a man and a Christian, and bequeathing to those who were to follow him in the race of life the example of his good deeds, as an incentive to imitate those virtues and perform those duties which alone can enable them effectually to reach the goal.

By the unanimous voice of the Ward, Councillor Wightman was elected Alderman of Bishopgate-Without, as successor to his father-in-law, Alderman Pirie. Assuming his official robes, the young aspirant, at the next Court of Aldermen in Guild Hall, was duly sworn into office, and took his place amongst the City magnates amidst the warmest congratulations of his brother magistrates.

The Aldermen of London are elected to the office for life, and, as Magistrates and Justices of the Peace, enjoy a source of professional training befitting their high office, and effectually preparing them for their higher duties when they in due rotation become Lord Mayor. There being seven Aldermen who had not passed the chair when Mr Wightman was elected to the office, it followed that seven years must elapse ere he could wield the sceptre of the City.

Another honour, however, awaited him before the final consummation of his hopes. In two years after assuming the aldermanic gown he was elected by the Livery to fill the honourable office of one of the Sheriffs of London, the onerous duties of which high position he performed with great zeal and becoming dignity.

At the termination of other five years he rode forth, on the morning of the 9th November, from Guild Hall to Westminster in his chariot of state, in all the pomp and circumstance of Lord Mayor of London, and Chief Magistrate of the greatest City of the world. In the evening were gathered round him in the banquet hall several members of the Royal Family, the great Officers and Ministers of State, the Foreign Ambassadors, many Members of the two Houses of Parliament ; men of science, art, and literature; the first merchants in the city, and the greatest men in the country. And so it came to pass that the once poor and friendless boy from the Howe of Strathmore not only sat as an equal with the princes, and nobles, and great ones of the earth, but entertained them as guests at his own table.

When the great civic feast was ended, and the numerous guests were slowly departing, the Right Honourable Joseph Wightman, Lord Mayor of London, turned aside to speak with a friend from Scotland, whom he had especially invited to be present.

“ I have carefully preserved,” said his Lordship, “the spotted handkerchief in which my mother wrapped my scanty wardrobe on the morning of my departure from home, and also the sapling ash stick I carried in my hand on my journey to Dundee when I embarked for London, and these I value more than my official robes, this brightly begemmed massy circlet of gold, or the silver-gilt mace, and sword of state. I have now only one wish left ungratified—the longing, yearning wish to see my mother and St Fergus Well.

Mr Wightman's father had died many years before, and his aged mother was now on her death-bed. When informed of her son's elevation, and the great splendour with which the event had been celebrated, instead of indulging in expressions of grateful joy, her thoughts reverted to the days of his youth, and to her sad parting with her darling boy on the morning he let his native vale; and turning her face to the wall, she quieuy passed away, repeating in mournful accents the refrain she ha

so often and grievingly sung since his departure“My by does not return !”

e, sad now leaves his native village, Vis bundle o'er his arm ;

He's ta'en the last look of the cottage,

The last look of the farm.
His mother clasps him to her bosom,

Beside the bonnie burn-" Dear Joe ; "_" Farewell, weep not, my mother,

Your boy will soon return,

Your boy will soon return."
The summer time oft glad revolving,

Brought sunshine, fruit, and flowers ;
And winter's blasts oft wildly roaring,

Howld through the leafless bowers. The young grew old, the aged passing,

Each to his silent urn;
The widowed mother lone repining-
“My boy does not return,

My boy does not return !”
To that bright vale swift flew an angel,

With trumpet blast of fame,
Proclaiming to the dying mother

Her son's now honoured name.
But of his youth e'er fondly dreaming,

For him she still doth yearn ;
Her last words faintly low and broken-

My boy does not return,
My boy does not return!”

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER XVI.

THE WARNING.

“ The night has been unruly ; where we lay,

Our chimneys were blown down; and as they say,
Lamentings heard i' the air ; strange screams of death,
And prophesying with accents terrible,
Of dire combustion and confused events,
New hatch'd to the woeful time."

MACBETH. The dwellers in the Howe, like the generality of their countrymen, were, at the time of which I write, not only firm believers in the existence of brownies, fairies, spunkies, and waterkelpies, but also in the prophetic surroundings of dreams, mysterious noises, death-lights, warnings, &c., which exercised no inconsiderable influence on their lives and destinies. I shall confine myself in the present chapter, however, to the influence mysterious sounds, heard in certain circumstances, had upon the minds, generally, of those who heard them,

I have in “Village Scenes” attempted to draw the portraiture, and record the many virtues of a revered and beloved parent, whose name is still honoured and venerated in the district of the Howe where he lived. With a wellcultured mind, he was of a courteous and benevolent disposition, although prudent and cautious withal. Though strictly formal, in every way, so that each thing about the farm and mill stood in its proper place, and each performed his or her allotted duty within the specified time, his sway, from his God-fearing nature, was felt to be neither irksome nor severe. Everything did he so nicely and strictly poise, that no rude bustle or unseemly noise was ever seen or heard

« PoprzedniaDalej »