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the hills with incredible rapidity, and flying rather than running down their declivities. Thus she proceeded till nearly three of the miles were passed; but the snow, which had ceased falling for some time, now began again to descend thickly, and was accompanied by sudden gusts of wind, which drove it full in her face, and prevented her from seeing the different objects by which she marked her way. She wandered on in this manner, endeavouring to avoid the deeper parts of the snow, which the wind was beginning to drift into hillocks on all sides of her; while she was almost driven frantic by the fear of losing her way, and by the cries of her infant. In vain did she endeavour to warm him, by pressing his little limbs close to her bosom, and by doubling and redoubling the cloak over him, regardless of her own exposure to the biting blast. He at length ceased crying, and fearful that the torpor of death had seized him, and feeling her own strength beginning to fail, despair seemed to take possession of her, when the snow ceased for a short time, and she found that she had wandered far away from the road to the onstead which she so eagerly sought to reach. But thoughts of her husband again strung
her nerves, and she once more regained the right direction. This happened several times; and had she alone been concerned, she must have perished; for nothing but the energy inspired by the faint hope of saving her husband and child prevented her from lying down to die. But what a gleam of joy shot through her overspent frame when, on looking up just as a fierce blast had swept by, she beheld the farm-house at a short distance! New strength seemed to be again imparted to her stiffening limbs; and at length she reached the door, told her tale, and almost immediately four men, belonging to the farm, were ready to start, with all necessary implements for extricating William from his singular and perilous situation. Helen's infant, who had been benumbed for many hours, showed little signs of recovery: she, however, delivered it, though with an aching heart, to the farmer's wife (a benevolent woman, who was herself a mother), and determined, contrary to all advice and opposition, to return to her husband. Nor, had she remained, could she have served the poor infant, who died shortly after she left the house.
“The poor distracted wife, mounted on horseback behind a man, now proceeded on her way with all the speed the animal could exert in its toilsome journey, while her whole soul was absorbed in the one desire of finding her husband alive; of which no hope could have been entertained but for the depth of the valley, which, from the way that the wind set, might in a great measure have occasioned it to escape the drift that was fast blocking up the roads, and transforming plains into hills. But who shall calculate the years of misery which Helen seemed to endure while this suspense hung over her? She was, as I have said, possessed of deep and ardent feelings, and they were now strained to their utmost tension. After much difficulty in avoiding the
deeper wreaths of snow, and in floundering through the less dangerous, the party at length reached the entrance of the valley. All here seemed propitious to their hopes, for the snow was but little drifted. The men who were on foot had, however, by a nearer way, which the horse could not travel, first reached the spot, where, sad to tell, though poor William still retained his suspended posture, the snow was drifted over him, and he no longer breathed. They had succeeded, however, in extricating the body, which they bore to the cot, and laid upon the bed before the arrival of Helen, who, with a frantic hope still clinging to her heart, repeated, unweariedly and often, every means to bring him back to life, though foiled in all. Alas, poor girl! her young and ardent heart had loved her husband almost to idolatry, and with him the charm of life was fled. The spring of hope and existence was dried up at the fountain head. The stroke was too heavy for her to bear, and a brain fever was the immediate consequence of her great bodily exertion and mental suffering. For a considerable time her life was despaired of; yet youth, and the natural strength of her constitution, gained a transitory triumph, and some degree of bodily health returned; but the mind had become an utter ruin. She was removed, as soon as it could be safely accomplished, back to our village, and became again an inmate of her father's house, where I have often sat for hours listening to the suggestions of her wayward fancy, where William still reigned paramount. Fortunately, all that had passed since the intensity of her suffering began, seemed quite annihilated in her recollection; for she talked of her husband as being still absent at the fair, and still sung to her infant that hymn with which she soothed it to sleep on the first night of her misfortunes, and which has often forced the tears from my eyes and the sobs from my breast. No tongue can describe the touching melody of her soft and melancholy voice, or the sweet subdued expression of her beautiful countenance, which became daily more wan and delicate ; till, at the end of two years, her weakness was so great that she was unable to rise from her chair, and I was one evening sent for in haste to see her. When I entered her father's house I was met by the old man, who imparted to me the surprising intelligence that Helen had recovered her senses. I immediately anticipated that a change was about to take place; and had no sooner looked upon her, than I was confirmed in my opinion. Sorrow had completed its work, and she was about to pass from our sight for ever. The recollection of her husband's sad fate had returned with her reason. But neither the remembrance of it, of her own sufferings, nor the knowledge of her child's death, which she now knew for the first time, seemed to trouble her; for her thoughts were fixed on that better country where she rejoiced that they were already waiting her arrival, and spoke of the conversation which passed between William and her on the last Sabbath they were together, as an earnest which it had pleased God to vouchsafe of their happy meeting. I am an elder of the church, and it was in that capacity that Helen sent for me to pray with her, which I did with a fervour I have seldom felt. But never has it been my lot to witness an appearance so heavenly as she exhibited when I rose from my knees. She sat in her chair supported by pillows, with her hands clasped, and her dark soft eyes beaming with an expression so holy, that she seemed like some disembodied spirit, which, having been perfected by suffering, had returned to encourage and comfort those who were still in the vale of tears. When I bade her farewell, and promised to see her next day, it was with a presentiment that I looked upon her for the last time. And so it proved; for I was next morning informed that her spirit had taken its flight about twelve o'clock the night before."
The old man thus concluded his melancholy tale; and after sitting for some time in silent reflection, my guide again spoke, and, pointing to a deep pool at some distance down the stream, informed me that large trout were sometimes caught there; and having adjusted our fishing-tackle, we proceeded to it. But though our sport was unusually good, it did not banish from my mind during that day for a single instant the affecting story of the ill-fated Helen Symington.
The little lonely inn of Crook, near the source of the Tweed, is a spot well known to travellers and tourists, and withal one much admired by them, being, as it were, an oasis in the desert, a place of rest and refreshment in a cold and mountainous wilderness. This place, or rather its neighbourhood, was the scene of a strange adventure nearly a century ago, which we propose to narrate to the reader in a more complete form than it has hitherto appeared.
One misty morning in the autumn of 1746, George Black, the landlord of the Crook Inn, stood at the door of his isolated dwelling, eyeing attentively the heavens above him and the mountains around him, for want, it may be, of anything better to do. “Confoun’ these mists !” muttered he; “ they'll no clear up the hail day, I doot. Gin this weather gang on muckle langer, we may, shut our doors when we like. No ae leevin' thing," continued he, stepping out to the middle of the road that passed his house, and looking first up and then down the narrow vale—“no ae leevin' thing to be seen either to the right or to the left. But there's aye ae comfort in this rouky weather at ony rate; for if it be the same in the Highlands as it is here, the puir bits o' bodies that's skulkin' aboot the hill-taps winna be sae easily taen by the sodgers.” The landlord's observations were suddenly cut short. His eye caught sight of a party of soldiers, the very
persons he had been speaking of; and he hurried in to prepare for their anticipated visit.
Meanwhile the little military party whom he had espied marched slowly up the vale, along the soft and plashy road that ran nearly parallel with the Tweed. Such detachments were no uncommon visitors of the Crook; for this little hostel lay on the direct road from the Highlands towards Carlisle, whither the porthern rebels were at this time regularly sent, as taken, in order that they might be tried at a cool distance from all partial infuences, and where, at this particular time, scarcely a week passed without seeing numbers of them executed according to the approved style dictated by the English law of high-treason. The well-armed party now advancing to the Crook were bound on such an errand. They were six or seven in number, with a lieutenant at their head, and in the midst of them walked a tall and finely-formed young Highlander, with his right arm pinned, for security, to his side. Though on his way to certain death, and though his soiled tartans and thin cheek spoke of suffering and privation, the prisoner moved with as firm a tread as his captors, and, but for his bonds, might have been taken for their chiet. Of very different opinion, however, was Lieutenant Howison, the actual leader of the band, a pontpous middle-aged man, of low stature, and thick-set, rolling figure, which was rendered somewhat ludicrous to look at, by its possessor having bent it into a crescent—the convex side foremost-through long-continued attempts to acquire a dignified military attitude. Everything which this personage did or said was in the king's name. This was indeed Lieutenant Howison's tower of strength. It was even alleged, that when he ran away from the battle of Prestonpans, he did it “in the king's name.
Such was the person who halted, on the morning alluded to, to refresh himself and men at the inn of Crook, having marched some five or six miles since daybreak. After commanding his soldiers to go with the prisoner into one room, and take some bread and cheese, the lieutenant himself retired to angther apartment, there to refresh himself with something of a more savoury nature, if it was to be had. Geordie in person waited on the officer, and supplied him with the best the house contained. When this duty had been performed, the landlord then turned his attention to the soldiers, being, in fact, anxious to get a glimpse of the "puir chield” who had fallen into their hands. In this object he was at first disappointed, the Highlander's face being averted from the rest of the party, and steadily directed towards the window. At last one of the soldiers, with more kindness than any of the others seemed disposed to show, exclaimed, “ Come, my lad, here's a share of my bit and sup. I shan't see a poor fellow starved neither, rebel though he has been.” The prisoner seemingly was touched by the man's good-nature, and turned partly round to benefit by the offer. Geordie Black,
the moment that he got a glimpse of the Highlander's face, was overwhelmed with alarm and vexation. His heart failed him, and it was with a feeling of faintness that he shrunk from the apartment.
It was not until the soldiers were fairly out of sight that the heart-stricken landlord dared to give vent to his feelings. “Oh, Peggy, Peggy, woman,” said he when alone with his wife; “ whae do ye think has faun into their murdering clutches but Neil Maclaren! What will become o' Ailie noo, wandering, maybe, by this time frae door to door, without a house to put her head in, or a bit to put in her mouth; or as likely to be dead and gane, since we haena heard from her about this unlucky business. Oh, what could tempt him to gang out, and him a married man wi' a family!" To Geordie's tirade his wife could only reply by sorrowful exclamations of,“ My puir dochter—my puir Ailie!" The forenoon, it may well be conceived, was spent by the honest couple in the most unpleasant state of mind; for Maclaren, as the reader will have surmised, was their son-in-law. One thing surprised the landlord much ; which was, that he should have remained so long ignorant of Maclaren's joining Prince Charles. But the truth was, that Neil had only joined him a short time before the battle of Culloden, being drawn at last from his home by the spectacle of an invading enemy in his native country.
Let us now leave for a while the landlord of the Crook, to whom this was destined to be an eventful day, and follow the party of soldiers in their šlow march up the vale of Tweed. As Geordie Black had predicted, the mists did not clear up as the day grew older. Other parts of the country, indeed, might have been free of fog, but at every step the soldiers were moving higher and higher, and the white drizzling fleeces on the hill-sides became thicker and thicker. It is to be questioned if there is in all the Lowlands of Scotland a more elevated piece of table-land than that lying some ten miles above Crook, from which spring the fountains of the three great rivers—the Clyde, the Annan, and the Tweed. The road traversed by Maclaren and his captors crosses this obtusely-pyramidal height (for so it is shown to be, on a great scale, by the descent of these rivers) at a spot called Errick-Stane-Brae.
After the height of the country has been passed, it proceeds for some way along the brink of a profound green hollow, in which the Annan takes its rise, and which is usually termed the Devil's, but sometimes also the Marquis of Annandale's, Beef-Tub, from some resemblance it bears to that domestic utensil, and because the reivers of the great Border house of Johnstone used of old to conceal their stolen cattle in it. As implied by the appellation, the sides of this hollow are nearly perpendicular all round, the bottom being so deep, that, in clear weather, a traveller looking down into it from the road sees bullocks diminished to the size