Obrazy na stronie

question to the grave-digger of a totally different import, viz :

"Is your trade in these parts in a healthy state at present?"

"Gie middlin, sir," was the rather doleful reply-"Ye see, sir, sin' the mosses an' marshes i' the parish hae been a' drained, an' brocht under cultivation an' a' the spunkies an' waterkelpies hae disappeared, foulks are livin' langer than they used to do, and if this be so, it stands to reason, that there canna be sae mony buirrils."

"But the spunkies and waterkelpies," said the stranger, "could not have been the cause surely of the previous greater mortality!"

"No juist directly," somewhat hesitatingly replied the sexton, "but," he continued, "the fac' is as I hae stated, for sin' thae uncannie cre'tures hae taen their departure, there has na been sae mony deeing within a given time as afore, although my opinion is that it's a tempting o' Providence aifter a'. There was, for instance, an auld residentor i' the parish deed lately at the advanced age o' ninety-twa, and if it hadna been for some illness they ca' the elic passion, he micht hae made out the hunder an' been livin yet!"

"Is there any vacant ground that could be acquired by myself, as my own burial place?" asked the stranger with some emotion.

"But you're no deed yet, sir," sarcastically replied the sexton, "time eneuch to bury you surely when you're deed?" "But we're enjoined to prepare for death," solemnly said. the stranger," and this implies preparation for the grave."

"Did you want the bit grund for yoursel'?" reflectingly said the sexton; adding after a short pause—“there's a bonnie spot aboon St. Fergus' Well wud suit you to a tee, for in summer-time the burnie below and the birdies above wud sing to you frae mornin' tae nicht, and you wud sleep there juist as cozily as in your ain bed, sir."

"But in winter?" enquiringly asked the stranger.

"Ou aye-in-winter"-somewhat perplexed, answered

the sexton-"ye see, when you're lyin' there, sir, you'll no need to care whether it be winter or no; an' at ony rate, the robin redbreast will be happin' aboot amang the leafless bushes, an' singin' his fareweel sang to the expirin' year, an' may-be he'll gather some o' the withered leaves that will be rustlin' i' the furrows, an' gently cover your grave as was dune to the 'Babes in the Wood' in the days o' auld:-but I maun get on wi' my wark though, for you see the sun is juist aboot settin' ahint the Grampians, and the day-licht will sune gie place to the darkness o' a cauld wintry nicht."

The old man again began shovelling the earth out of the little grave, when all at once, and as if something had suddenly come to his remembrance, he ceased work in an instant, and leaning reflectively on his spade, thus interrogatively addressed the stranger, who still lingered in silence by the little grave:—

"Ye kent the Forester's daughter in your youth?"

"You know me then?" quickly said the startled traveller. "Ou aye," replied the sexton, "I kent you by-in-” "Intuition," interrupted the stranger.

"That's it-thank you, sir," replied the sexton, "it's a word gie aften used by thae harum-scarum cre'tures they ca' poets, an' I'm no juist vera sure what they mean by it, but I ken my ain meanin' o't, which is,-when people ken things without bein' tell'd by ony body. Ken you? Man, I kent wha you wis whenever my een lichtet on your face, an' what's mair I kent a' your forbears afore your day tae."

"That could scarcely be," quietly retorted the stranger, "for my ancestors have been connected with the parish of Glamis and that of Kinnettles for many centuries."

"I kent a guide wheen o' them, though," impatiently answered the sexton, "an' as for the rest o' them,-I hae heard o' them at ony rate, an' that comes pretty much to the same thing I dar' say

"Did you know Mr Wood, the Forester?" interposed the stranger.

"Kent Maister Wud, the forester?" exclaimed the sexton, "Man I kent him as weel as I ken mysel'; an' a dainty, weel-faured, weel-edicate gentleman he was, an' a great favourite wi' everybody on the estate. An' as for Mrs Wud she was a stately, weel-bred, comely woman, an' fit to be the companion o' ony countess i' the land. She was a born leddie, sir, an' I could tell you something o' her history that ye maybe dinna ken onything aboot."


"What is that?" hastily interrupted the stranger.

"That she was a gentlewoman by birth, sir," replied the sexton. "Maister Wud, in his early youth," he continued, was overseer an' forester to a heeland laird i' the wast countrie, an' while there ane o' the dochters o' the laird fell in luve wi' him, or may be it wid be nearer the truth to say, that they baith fell in luve wi' ane anither. Fa' in luve was ae thing, but hoo to get buckled as man an' wife was quite anither thing. Ae thing was quite clear, an' that was, that the heeland pride o' the laird wid never submit to such a degradation. So, the short an the 'lang o' it is, that they made a rin-awa match o't, an' cam' doon to the low countrie to push their fortunes, an after a while settled at Glamis. That raither astonishes you, freend, does it not?"

"It does indeed," said the stranger, in a musing mood.

"But I'm no dune yet, sir," quickly continued the gravedigger; "fouks that didna ken ony better, objecit to the grand ideas an' fine words you put into the lassie's heed, in her last illness, because, said they, forsooth, it was na natʼral to think that ane in her station, could think sic grand thochts an' say sic fine things, forgettin' that she was the dochter o' a born leddie, an' the very image o' her mother. Eliza was weel edicate, an' alang wi' her ain accomplishments, had inherited the graces, intelligence, an' beauty o' her mother; for puir folk may say what they like, but there's a certain air an' manner connecit wi' gentle blude, that is very winnin' an' which inspires respect, an' is as different fae the airs an'

manners o' your upstart, imitation gentry, as buckram is fae camric, or pinckbeck fae fine gold."

"You seem to be well acquainted with the history of the Forester and his family," quietly said the stranger.

"Yes," rejoined the sexton, still leaning on his spade, and fixing his eyes still more intently on those of the stranger, "an' the story o' the "Forester's Daughter," revived a' the memories o' the past sae clearly, yet sae sadly, that I couldna read o' her deeing at the cottage door, without sheddin' mony a bitter tear o' sorrow, an' even yet, I canna read it without greetin' like a bairn ;-very affectin' though,"-continued the old man, as, after a pause, he turned round, and again gently dug his spade into the ground, while the bursting tears standing for a moment in his trembling eyelids, at last ran down his furrowed cheeks in a copious stream.

"Nae winder"-the stranger heard him saying, as if speaking to himself, as he quietly retired from the scene"Nae winder than he was half broken-hearted at the loss o' his early love, for mine wid hae broken a' thaegither, if it had haen the chance. She was as bonnie an' sweet a lassie as ever trod God's earth-but she was owre gude for this warld, and so her Heavenly Father took her to himsel'. We'll soon, however, meet her up yonder, where there is no sighin', or sorrow, an' where the tears will be wiped away from every weeping eye

"A few short years of evil past,

We reach the happy shore,

Where death-divided friends at last,

Shall meet, to part no more."

Darkness now set in and the beautiful stars were shining brightly in the welkin above, betokening a clear and frosty night, the weather being in agreeable contrast to the dark murky sky and blinding snow-storm of that well-remembered yule evening when last we met the jocund members of the Village Club, in all the plenitude of their glory and happi


The stranger now slowly retired from the churchyard, and having reached the village Inn, he requested to be shown upstairs to the dining-room. The well-known resort seemed pretty much the same as it appeared to him on his last visit. The table and chairs stood in the same position as of old, and, with the exception of the adornment of the walls, and the introduction of gas, no change was apparent in the cherished sanctum of other years.

Summoning the landlady he politely asked her on her appearance, if the members of the Village Club still held their periodical meetings in that room, and assembled at Yule to make merry over their cups as in the days of yore!

The landlady as courteously replied, that these meetings were principally held there during the occupancy of her predecessor, Mrs Hendry, but that she knew the several members very well.

"How many do you expect to-night?" enquired the stranger.

"None," was the hostess' solemn reply.

"None!" repeated the stranger,-" Are they all gone?" "All gone, sir," said the hostess.

"Do I understand you to mean, my good lady, that they are all dead?" further enquired the stranger.

"Four of them, I know, are dead and buried," replied the good-natured landlady-" and as for the fifth, he has been so long absent from the Howe, that we may safely put him, I think, in the same black list too."

"Who died first?" hurriedly asked the stranger-" and what were the circumstances attending his death ?"

"The Laird was the first to dee," said the landlady, "because I suppose he was the oldest. He deed as he had lived, farming his ain land, in the auld style, and drivin' hard bargains to the last. He retained his quiet pawky humour in his auld age, and even in his last illness, he enjoyed a sly joke immensely, firing off his retorts wi' a' the vigour o' his youth."

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