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CHAPTER XLV.

THE VILLAGE CLUB,-1870.

"A change we have found there and many a change,
Faces and footsteps and all things strange !"

Mrs Hemans.

ON the morning of Auld Yule, 1870, one, who had been long absent from these parts, might have been seen emerging from the Lowlands at the Sidlaw Hills, and taking his solitary way to the Glen of Ogilvy in the direction of Glamis. Although past the meridian of life, scarcely a grey hair yet silvered his forehead; the bloom of health was on his cheek, the light of intelligence beamed in his eye, and his step was as firm and elastic as in the days of his sunny youth.

As the well-remembered scene burst suddenly upon his view he paused on the verge of the Sidlaws overlooking the wild yet peaceful glen, with the feelings of one who had just left the outer world behind and entered a sequestered Elysium of quiet rest and peace. Was it so Alas! no resting-place for the foot of the weary wanderer but that of the ancient churchyard of his fathers, to which he was now instinctively approaching. With tearful eye he looked round on the once familiar scene. Here was Dryburns at his feet; there was the Milton in the centre of the glen, and Middleton and Woodend to the north; with little and muckle Kilmundie in the far east, and reposing, as of old, under the shadow of the Hunter Hill, the mill and farm of Airniefoul, with the mountain rivulet still meandering through the glen with its unforgotten silver sound, just as it leaped and babbled in the days of yore. But where were the dwellers of the glen in his early youth? where the loved friends, the dear companions of

his boyhood? where the sweet merry voices that once stirred to its deepest core the golden harp-strings of his young and innocent heart? All, all were gone-" the once familiar faces." Hushed for ever on this earth the dearly cherished voices he once loved, and still, in his memory, loves so well.

He had now reached the very spot where his venerated parent had bade him farewell on his leaving the home of his fathers to fight the battle of life in the great restless world beyond. Had the visions of fame which then flitted across his youthful vision like the golden dreams of a blissful Elysium been in part, or in full realized? Realized or not, the healthy pulsations of his heart beat true, as they ever had done, to the dearly cherished scenes of his early youth; and the words he had uttered a decade of life before, he could, with as much truth and warmth of feeling, utter now :

Dear spot! though changed to me thou be,

My wandering thoughts still turn to thee,
Glad picturing bright the happy scene
Of children's gambols on the green;
When all was beautiful around,
That e'er to me loved, sacred ground.

Oh! when amidst the city's throng,
I ne'er forgot my boyhood song;
When dulcet music strove to please,
It brought to mind the swelling breeze,
Which, rusbing, swept my native glen,
And tuned my mimic harp again.
When vacant laughter, shouts of joy,
Bewildered wild the rustic boy,
I timid thought of foaming floods,
Of maiden's songs, and summer woods.

My native glen! my heart's been thine,
Through all this chequered life of mine;
When fortune swelled the prosperous gale,
Or fate low howled her shuddering wail;
When friendship burned without alloy,
Or did its devotees destroy;

When first love thrilled its magic tone,

Or charmed the cold false-hearted one;
When children's blest sweet voices rung,
Or sad, bereaved, the bosom wrung;

Throughout each scene of grief or joy,
In manhood's prime as when a boy,
I loved with thee in thought to be,

My wearied heart e'er turned to thee!

Village Scenes.

He now in sadness mused by the old homestead and "Ancient Mill:

There stood the house, the old apple tree,
In age with grey branches adorning ;
And there in the gable his own little window,
Where the sun peep'd through in the morning.

And there was the steading, the stack'd farm-yard,
The haughs for bleaching the claes;

The mill and the burn, and the dark Hunter Hill,
The uplands, and broom-covered braes.

It is said the dread, unbroken silence which ever pervades the vast forests of the American continent are more eloquently impressive than their vastness of extent, or their unrivalled prodigality of luxuriant beauty. And so, with the keenest edge of that saddening and painfully oppressive feeling, did the hushed silence which now reigned around his birth-place pierce the innermost recesses of the traveller's soul, until a welcome flood of tears obscured from his vision the landmarks of his fathers, as he, with overpowering emotion, exclaimed: “Oh ! for the wings of a dove, that I might flee away and be at rest!"

Having crossed the burn, our traveller now took his way by the well-known by-path through the Hunter Hill :—

And onwards, how sadly! through copeswood he wander'd,

Yet feeling a deep solemn joy,

For these were the pathways, zigzag in the woodland,

Where rambled he free when a boy.

He entered at last the village of Glamis; and, standing on

the bridge over the burn, he could recognise little, if any change in the salient points of the landscape. There flowed, in low breathed music as of old, the little mountain rivulet, and on its rugged banks the leafless brushwood, and iciclebespangled trees, studded like a woodland terrace, the romantic base of the well-known Hunter Hill. Beneath, stretched out the fondly cherished village green, alive at the moment, with the rural urchins' happy merriment on being let loose from the galling restraints of Compound Division, and the Rule of Three. The millwright's shop, and the blacksmith's shed, still stood in their wonted place on the right bank of the stream; while further to the south, the ruins of the old spinning mill seemed the only object in view on which the iron pencil of time had inscribed the dreaded word-"Change."

Turning to the north, the old romantic meal mill, with all its tender associations, met at once his loving gaze; and the churchyard, church and manse, reposing among the leafless woods, filled up sympathetically, the receding background of the picture. Then his mind instinctively again reverted to the unforgotten past. Fixing his weary eyes on the manse, his thoughts lovingly wandered back to the many happy hours he had spent in that sainted dwelling, when the lovely and accomplished family of the venerable Dr Lyon shed a radiant sunshine over their peaceful village home; until one after another had taken their solitary way to the dark and silent land of the dead! He then thought of the learned Dr. Crawford, and the accomplished Dr. Tannoch, the first regrettingly removed from this peaceful scene, to high office in the Metropolitan University; and the last, dying the death of the Christian in that sequestered manse, and followed to the grave by the lamentations of all who had known him as their pastor and friend.

His mind full of warm and loving remembrances, and as if his eye had forgotten to search for something that was lost, he once more turned round in the direction of the

Hunter Hill, and gazed long and fondly on some deeply cherished object that then met his view. Ah! he had not forgotten to look for what now so intensely interests him; but aware of the effect the sight of it would have upon his sensitive feelings, he had refrained to the last from subjecting them to the severe and painful ordeal of recognition. With a heart too big for words, with eyes too full for tears, he felt that some loved Presence was, unseen, encompassing him as with a halo of celestial brightness. The object, dear reader, on which he so agonizingly, yet lovingly gazed, was an isolated, lonely dwelling on the left bank of the stream, and that silent cottage was once the home of "The Forester's Daughter!" No wonder, poor soul! that he felt the extreme bitterness of hopeless grief, for there was the well-known garden in which Eliza had tended her favourite flowers; yonder the little window where she had sat reading or at work; and, fronting the west, the honeysuckle porch from whence her pure and gentle spirit had passed silently away to her home in the sky. Had she lived, how different, he thought, might his life have been!

COULD HE EVER FORGET HER?

Forget her? mock me not; behold
The everlasting hills,

Adown whose rugged fissures dash
A thousand flashing rills.

E'en they, inheriting decay,

Slow moulder though unseen,

But love, celestial sacred flower,

Is ever fresh and green.

Forget her? gaze on that bright stream,
E'er deep'ning, as it runs,

Its rocky channel, leaping free

In storms and summer suns.

So in my heart of hearts do years,
As onward swift they roll,
The deeper grave in diamond lines,
Her name upon my soul.

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