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قراءة كتاب Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 704 June 23, 1877

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‏اللغة: English
Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 704
June 23, 1877

Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 704 June 23, 1877

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 1



The last representatives of our grandfather's generation having passed away, there is no reason why the following true stories of an old Scotch house should not be made public, for the entertainment of others besides those members of the family to whom only they have hitherto been known. I have slightly changed the names of persons and places, but not a detail of the stories has otherwise been altered from the first-hand accounts given us by those who were themselves their heroes and heroines.

On a winter's afternoon in the year 1816 three young officers were riding 'within a mile of Edinboro' toun;' they were pushing on in advance of their regiment, which was that day marching into new quarters, hoping to reach the city in time to choose lodgings for themselves, to whom rooms in barracks had not been allotted. Suddenly a gaunt gipsy woman of the Meg Merrilies type darted out upon them, and laid her detaining hand upon the bridle of Lieutenant T—— (my grandfather). He tried to shake his rein free, but without effect, and the little cavalcade was brought to a halt by her persistence; then addressing the gentlemen collectively, but keeping her eyes upon my grandfather, she offered to tell their fortunes. The young men laughed at the suggestion, and the gipsy wife waxed angry. 'Ye'll do little good in Edinboro' or elsewhere,' she retorted roughly to the two captains who had declined her services. 'But for ye' (speaking only to Lieutenant T——), 'there's a bonnie bride waiting in the first house ye enter!'

My grandfather threw her a shilling and galloped on with his companions, enduring for some time their good-natured raillery about the spae-wife's prediction; but when they reached the city they were too much engaged in observing the outsides of the houses which might afford them the desired lodgings, to think further of the prophecy. In the dim light, one large house with closed shutters looked as if it were untenanted and likely to suit their requirements; while a light from a lower kitchen window shewed that some one was left in charge who could attend to Lieutenant T——'s loud summons at the knocker. But the young man, accounted a gallant soldier enough, who had seen some service in the late wars, was entirely routed and discomfited by the furious reception his modest inquiry after lodgings met with from the stalwart maid-servant who answered the door. 'Lodgings! What was the world coming to when a daft young fool asked if her mistress let lodgings? The family was away in the north, and this would be a pretty tale to tell them on their return,' stormed the cross maid; and my grandfather, leaving a torrent of rough language behind him, made his escape down the steps of the house over whose threshold he had so mistakenly intruded. He remounted his horse amid the jeers of his two friends, who reminded him of his fate predicted by the gipsy, and begged him, if this were a sample of the 'bonnie bride's' usual temper, to exchange into another regiment as soon as he married. Eventually the young men found rooms to suit them, and in a few days became quite at home in the pleasant capital of the north, which was just beginning its gay winter season.

About a week after their arrival the officers were present at an Assembly ball, and Lieutenant T—— lost his heart at first sight to a lovely young débutante of fifteen, with whom he danced the whole evening. At the close of the ball he was introduced to a grand turbaned lady, his partner's mother; and on seeing the ladies to their carriage he asked leave to do himself the honour of calling for them next day. This permission and their address were given him, and the latter noted in his pocket-book. The next morning he eagerly sought out their house, which he did not recognise as the scene of his first adventure till Ailie, the same stalwart maid, opened the door, and this time admitted him graciously.

This visit was followed by many others; and before a year had passed my grandfather won the 'bonnie bride' of the spae-wife's prediction from the very house across whose threshold he had first set foot on entering Edinburgh. They were a very young pair; he only twenty-one and my grandmother just sixteen at their marriage; and how their housekeeping might have prospered or the reverse I do not know, had not Ailie decided to take service with the young couple, and maintained their interests during the wanderings of the next thirty years as faithfully as she had previously guarded the honour of her mistress's house. She was one of the now extinct race of family servants, a sort of factotum in the house, where she did her own work and a good part of every one else's in a wonderfully indefatigable fashion, only reserving to herself the privilege of keeping every one in order, from the master and mistress down to the kitchen wench.

To three out of the four generations of our family whom she served, she was 'old Ailie;' and her flowered chintz bedgown and mob-cap survived unaltered far into the era of crinoline and chignon. What stories she had to tell of Madam our great-grandmother, a very grand dame indeed, and well-known card-player; and of a certain Mistress Jean, her favourite heroine, whom some of us recollect as Aunt Moir, a little soft-faced, pink-and-white lady, not so imposing to look upon as the miniature of her powdered mamma, but a beauty nevertheless in her day. She lived at a time when it was