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Enter Time, as Chorus.
Our narration is now about to make a large stride, and omit a space of nearly seventeen years; during which nothing occurred of any particular consequence with respect to the story we have undertaken to tell. The gap is a wide one; yet if the reader's experience in life enables him to look back on so many years, the space will scarce appear longer in his recollection, than the time consumed in turning these pages.
It was, then, in the month of November, about seventeen years after the catas
trophe related in the last chapter, that, during a cold and stormy night, a social group had closed around the kitchen fire of the Gordons' Arms at Kippletringan, a small but comfortable inn, kept by Mrs Mac-Candlish in that village. The conversation which passed among them will save me the trouble of telling the few events occurring during this chasm in our history, with which it is necessary that the reader should be acquainted.
Mrs Mac-Candlish, throned in a comfortable easy chair lined with black leather, was regaling herself, and a neighbouring gossip or two, with a cup of comfortable tea, and at the same time keeping a sharp eye upon her domestics, as they went and came in prosecution of their various duties and commissions. The clerk and precentor of the parish enjoyed at a little distance his Saturday night's pipe, and aided its bland fumigation by an occasional sip of brandy and water. Deacon BearclifF, a man of great importance in the village, combined the indulgence of both 'parties—he had his pipe and his tea-cup, the latter being laced with a little brandy. One or two clowns sat at some distance, drinking their two-penny ale.
"Are ye sure the parlour's ready for them, and the fire burning clear, and the chimney no smoking?" said the hostess to a chambermaid.
She was answered in the affirmative.— "Ane wadna be uncivil to them, especially in their distress," said she, turning to the Deacon.
"Assuredly not, Mrs Mac-Candlish; assuredly not. I am sure ony small thing they might want frae my shop, under seven, or eight, or ten pounds, I would book them as readily for it as the first in the country.—Do they come in the auld chaise?"
"I dare say no," said the precentor; "for Miss Bertram comes on the white poney ilka day to the kirk—and a constant kirk-keeper she is—and it's a pleasure to hear her singing the psalms, winsome young thing."
"Aye, and the young Laird of Hazlewood rides hame half the road wi' her after sermon," said one of the gossips in company; "I wonder how auld Hazlewood likes that."
"I kenna how he may like it now," answered another of the tea-drinkers; "but the day has been when Ellangowan wad hae liked as little to see his daughter taking up with their son."
"Aye, has been" answered the first with emphasis.—" I am sure, neighbour Ovens," said the hostess, " the Hazlewoods of Hazlewood, though they're a very gude auld family in the county, never thought, till within these twa score o' years, of evening themselves till the Ellangowans—Wow, woman, the Bertrams of Ellangowan are the auld Dingawaies lang syne—there is a sang about ane o' them marrying a daughter of the King of Man; it begins,
Blithe Bertram's ta'en him ower the faera,
I dare say Mr Skriegh can sing us the ballant."
"Good-wife," said Skriegh, gatheringup his mouth, and sipping his tiff of brandy punch with great solemnity, u our talents were given us to other use than to sing daft auld sangs sae near the Sabbath-day."
"Hout fie, Mr Skriegh, I'se warrant I hae heard ye sing a blythe sang on Saturday at e'en—But as for the family carriage, Deacon, it has nae been out o' the coachhouse since Mrs Bertram died, that's sixteen or seventeen years sin syne—Jock Jabos is away wi' a chaise of mine for them ;—T wonder he's no come back. It's pit mirk—but there's no an ill turn on the road but twa, and the brigg ower Warroch burn is safe eneugh, if he haud to the right side. But then there's Heavieside-brae, that's just a murder for postcattle—but Jock kens the road brawly."—
A loud rapping was heard at the door.
"That's no them. J dinaa hear the