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THE HIGHLANDER'S DAUGHTER.
( Founded on Fact.) INSCRUTABLE as are the ordinations of the Author of our being, and perfect as must be their end and effect, it does sometimes
appear to the sense of man, that those things which constitute happiness or misery on earth are distributed very unequally; but it is not we who are to call into question the expediency of afflicting visitations; and, while the child of misery is chastened by temporary privation, greater happiness may be in reserve hereafter. The impressive scriptural history of Lazarus and Dives may often repeated in our day; and I cannot think it an unjustifiable or profane belief, that the poor broken spirit, when released from mortal suffering, may, like the humble suppliant of sacred story, be received into Abraham's bosom. To believe this, surely, cannot be offensive to the Almighty; and there is a consolatory feeling derived from such a reAlection, a comfortableness of hope, springing into life and strengthening into firm faith,—and he who cannot feel it, is truly to be pitied. How hard must that man's heart be, who, if he could not soften pain, would not pray for its mitigation; how black must that mind be, and how devoid of all true religion, which is unmoved at beholding misfortune. The miser has his gold to love and to hoard, the murderer his crimes and his infamy to hide, but the universal loather of his species (if there can exist such a being,) appears more lost than either one or the other, for he seems to hate and contemn every work of God.
I knew a family of six persons, who, scarce as many years ago, were in possession of every comfort which a competence of worldly means could procure, and the reasonable desires of well-regulated minds could enjoy; and now they are all swept off, after it had pleased their Maker to fill their cup of affliction even to bitterness; but, while I am writing their “humble annals,” I repeat the question, may they not now be received into that perfection of felicity “which man knoweth not?”
In the year 1811, an industrious Highlander, who I shall call Dun Lonan,* in consequence of a succession of severe
For a weighty reason, I do not record the name of this poor man, and that of Dun Lonan is merely given to fill the narrative.
losses, left his native home, in the county of Ross, and came to London, in order to earn a comfortable subsistence for his young wife and only child. This appeared the more practicable to Dun Lonan, in consequence of the superior wages paid in the metropolis, compared to the scanty and uncertain produce of labour in the north of Scotland. It required considerable resolution to tear himself from home and friends, for he was much respected, nay, beloved of his clan; and it is literally true that Dun Lonan had some of the best blood of his own and surrounding clans flowing in his veins. They who comprehend the nature of that pride which quickens in a Highlander's bosom, who feels all the recollections and honorable deeds of his ancestry as part and parcel of himself, alone can judge how distressing it was to the strong sensible mind of this man, to exchange his own beautiful land, in which he left behind every thing (excepting his wife and child,) he cherished in the world, for the dull smoky, and to him unnatural, purlieus of the London docks.
On his disembarkation from the sailing smack, having secured a small lodging, he sallied forth, with a letter of introduction to a gentleman of some commercial importance, and, through his influence Dun Lonan in a very short time obtained employment as an out-door servant in the house of a general dealer; and his good plain education, remarkable assiduity and sobriety, very soon enabled the discriminating master to discover that Dun Lonan possessed those good qualities which might be turned to excellent account for the house, as well as for the trustworthy Highlander himself. Before proceeding further with the story, I may observe, that the first specimen of English civility was an unfavorable one to Dun Lonan. On his inquiring of several individuals the way to the residence of the gentleman before mentioned, he was repulsed by insult and unfeeling ridicule, on account of his northern dialect and rustic contour. If there be one species of vulgarity more offensive than another, it is certainly the depraved menace, or coarse grimace of the London canaille. Dun Lonan was confounded, though he made no reply; and, when he thought of the home he had left, and his wife and infant, as he walked silently on, his hand unconsciously pressed his forehead, and the big tear rolled over his weather-bronzed cheek. It has been said that Scotsmen are parsimonious; that they are provident I admit, but the general characteristic of the Caledonian is frugality, not avarice; and there are two causes which, I conceive, chiefly tend to the rule of his
proceedings; the first is, that the life of hardship which the Highlander leads, and the absence of every superfluity in his own country, enable him to secure enjoyment with a much smaller pittance than would satisfy the substantial wants of an Englishman; and the second reason is, education. No part of the British empire has latterly been more benefited by education than the Highlands, and no country has produced better results; the respectable conduct of the Highlander is proverbial; not perhaps amidst the maze and whirl of our great metropolis, where national characteristics are almost lost in one great maelstrom of commercial bustle. But, let the attentive observer go to any quarter of the globe, and he will find that, while the Highland regiments have obtained a high share of honour on the field, in all places and on all occasions, the clansmen have been greatly superior to the rest of the British army in moral discipline. I do not mention this invidiously, but the fact is indisputable. Agriculture and science are making a progress in the Highlands that is perfectly astonishing, and these, too, are the result of education. I may here add, that a very few years will disclose a most important fact, in opposition to all the arguments of the well-meaning cosmopolite, the experiments of the politechnic, and the absurdities and villanies of the revolutionist,—no more devisable means, for benefiting the condition of “the greater number of men,” has yet been discovered, or I think ever will, than the admirable state of society aided by education, and they are quite compatible with each other,) found in the simple institutions of the Celtic family in Britain. For morality and substantial happiness, look to the clans of Scotland and to the Welsh peasantry; look to them with their Bibles and their native melody, and then let us see what innovation has done. Some good, assuredly, but evil has also had her full share in the balance.*_But I am wandering from the story. A few year's residence in London rewarded Dun Lonan to the utmost extent of his wishes: he had been blessed with three more children; he had secured the esteem of his employer, and of every person who knew him, and he had saved more than 2001. with which he intended to return to his native country, and to settle himself in a small farm, in a part of
And ill-fated Ireland too; but when justice is rendered to her, when her institutions, her natural protectors, her chieftains, and her lords have returned to the soil, I am confident that she will yet rise with a revival of her ancient greatness, and the loveliness and happiness of her green land must and will return.
that district where his ancestors had once possessed an extensive tract of land, both the rich soil of the valley and the heath-capped mountain. With the fervent ardour of a Highlander his heart yearned towards his native land; be perpetually thought of his Highland home; in imagination he was there already: but his hopes were destined to be utterly blasted.
The devastation caused by epidemic disease in some of the thickly populated parts of London, are often dreadful, and no doubt their virulence is increased by the confined atmosphere of the town. At the period of which I am speaking the small-pox raged extensively in the Minories, where Dun Lonan lived, and three of his children caught the disease; each attack ended fatally: whether it was that the anxiety and attention of the watchful mother debilitated her frame, I do not know, but on the evening of the day on which two of the children were carried to the grave-yard, the beloved wife of the afflicted Dun Lonan was seized with internal inflammation, and, after a few hours of excruciating torture, she also was numbered with the dead. Of the once cheerful family there now remained but the widower and his daughter Ellen; she was too young to feel the extent of their loss, but her disconsolate father sat day after day, scarcely uttering a word, or even moving; but, when the child cried for her mother to kiss her, and her little brother and sisters to come and play, Dun Lonan would start and stare around the empty apartment with the glare of a madman. Had some charitable friend at this period roused the sufferer from his lethargy, and prevented the prattling Ellen from continually striking the chord of misery, perhaps the mind of the parent might have been soothed into tranquillity and reason; but he appeared to gloat upon the memory of the past, and the innocent importunities of the child seemed to furnish him with a gloomy banquet whereon to feed his disordered brain. Alas! his was not a temporary grief. Dun Lonan became frightfully insane; his disorder was pronounced to be of the most ungovernable kind, and he was consigned to Bedlam and the mad doctors. But a few weeks elapsed ere Dun Lonan, from being a muscular firmly-knit, clean-limbed man, the once happy Highlander, presented the attenuated form of old age. Yet there must be a limit to human suffering; the strongest frame must yield; Dun Lonan sunk under his complaint, and death, his last friend, closed the dreadful scene.
We may now turn to the orphan Ellen. What became of
the proceeds of Dun Lonan's industry I could not ascertain; but I know, that when a little time had elapsed after his death, Ellen was placed in the parish workhouse; nor can I relate if any thing occurred for some years beyond the unobtrusive tenor of a poor orphan's life: but I may add, that in person she grew exceedingly interesting. At thirteen, her figure was beginning to form into a perfect mould of female beauty; her clear complexion, mild blue eye, and flowing light-brown hair, stamped her at first view as one of the many beautiful daughters of the old Gaulish blood. When between thirteen and fourteen years of age, she was placed out apprentice to a laundress, on the Surrey side of London; and in this situation I am enabled to say that her conduct was irreproachable: the woman, her mistress, unfortunately possessed a morose disposition; and although Ellen exerted herself to please, yet it was impossible, on every occasion, to give entire satisfaction. Among the many persons employed in the same establishment was one of elderly age, who, with an excellent disposition, had unfortunately imbibed a habit of dramdrinking, and with it, of course, followed the inevitable consequences of poverty and distraction; but this unfortunate woman had been extremely kind to Ellen, who, friendless as she was, could not help forming an attachment: in short, Ellen regarded this female as her only friend. The inveterate habit of indulging in liquor increased so much, that repeated brawls arose between the laundress and this woman; different parcels of linen were from time to time missing, but their loss was always attributed to intoxication, and not dishonesty. At length, drunkenness so entirely incapacitated the enervated creature from attending to the ordinary duties of life, that it became impossible to employ her longer, and she was sent away; luckily, she had not initiated the young Ellen in the debasing habit to which she herself fell a sacrifice. Ellen was now as it were left alone in the world, but she continued for several months to devote herself unceasingly to her employment, until an event occurred which virtually blotted out her existence from society. Although her employer was unkind and un feeling to each of her dependants, yet she could not fail discovering the many excellent qualities Ellen possessed, and therefore self-interest prompted her in confiding to the young girl many little offices of trust. One evening, in the early part of last spring, Ellen was despatched to the house of a family in the city, with a bill due for six months'