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Monthly Journal of Fashion,
EMBELLISHED WITH SIX HUNDRED BEAUTIFUL DESIGNS
PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY I. PAYNE, 11, DENMARK STREET, SOHO.
Monthly Journal of Fashion.
LONDON, JANUARY 1, 1842.
THE WIDOW AND HER SON.
There is not on this round green earth, a lovelier lake than Achray, about a mile above Loch Vennachar, and as we approach the brigg of Turk, we arrive at the summit of an eminence, whence we descry the sudden and wide prospect of the windings of the river that issues from Loch Achray, and the loch itself reposing, sleeping, dreaming on its pastoral-its sylvan bed.
But let us rise from the green sward, and before we pace along the sweet shores of Loch Achray, for its nearest murmur is yet more than a mile off, turn away up from the brigg of Turk into Glenfinglas, a strong mountain torrent, in which a painter, even with the soul of Salvator Rosa, might find studies, inexhaustible for years, tumbles on the left of a ravine, in which a small band of warriors might stop the march of a numerous host.
With what a loud voice it brawls through the silence, freshening the hazels, the birches, and the oaks, that care not even for the dews in that perpetual spray; but the savage scene softens as you advance, and you come out of the sylvan prison into a plain of meadows and corn-fields, alive with the peaceful dwellings of industrious men.
Here the bases of the mountains, and even their sides high up, are without heather, a rich sward, with here and there a deep bed of brackens, and a little sheep-sheltering grove. Skeletons of old trees, of prodigious size, lie covered with mosses and wild flowers, or stand with their barkless trunks and white limbs unmoved when the tempest blows; for Glenfinglas was anciently a deer forest of the kings of Scotland, and the echoes of Benledi answered to the hunter's horn.
It is the property of the Earl of Moray, and from time immemorial it has been possessed by tenants of his own clan, the Stewarts, who, living in this sequestered situation, in a sort of rural village, are connected with one another by inter-marriages and passing their days in ease and comfort, furnish one of the finest examples of patriarchal felicity that occur in these modern times.
Not a more beautiful vale ever inspired pastoral poet in Arcadia, nor did Sicilian shepherds of old ever pipe to each other for prize of oaten reed, in a lovelier nook, than where yonder cottage stands, shaded, but scarcely sheltered, by a few birch trees.
It is in truth not a cottage--but a shieling of turf, part of the knoll adhering to the side of the mountain. Not another dwelling-even as small as itself-within a mile in any direction. Those goats, that seem to walk where there is no footing, along the side of the cliff, go of themselves to be milked at evening, to a house beyond the hill, without any barking dog to set them home. There are many foot paths, but all of sheep, except one leading through the coppice-wood to the distant kirk. The angler seldom disturbs those shallows, and the heron has them to himself, watching often with motionless neck all day long.
human being-the utter loss of reason. For some years after the death of her husband and all her other children, this son was her support; and there was no occasion to pity them in their poverty where all were poor.
Her natural cheerfulness never forsook her; and although fallen back in the world, and obliged in her age to live without many comforts she once had known, yet all the past gradually was softened into peace, and the widow and her son were in that' shieling as happy as any family in the parish. He worked at all kinds of work without, and she sat spinning from morning to night within-a constant occupation, soothing to one before whose mind past times might have otherwise come too often, and that creates contentment by its undisturbed sameness and visible progression.
If not always at meals, the widow saw her son for an hour or two every night, and throughout the whole Sabbath-day. They slept too under one roof; and she liked the stormy weather when the rains were on-for then he found some ingenious employment within the shieling, or cheered her with some book lent by a friend, or with the lively or plaintive music of his native hills. Sometimes, in her gratitude, she said that she was happier now than when she had so many other causes to be so: and when occasionally an acquaintance dropt in upon her solitude, her face welcomed every one with a smile, that spoke of more than resignation; nor was she averse to partake the sociality of the other huts, and sat sedate among youthful merriment, when summer or winter festival came round, and poverty rejoiced in the riches of content and innocence. But her trials, great as they had been, were not yet over; for this her only son was laid prostrate by fever; and when it left his body, he survived hopelessly stricken in mind. His eyes, so clear and intelligent, were now fixed in idiocy, or rolled about unobservant of all objects living or dead. To him all weather seemed the same-and if suffered, he would have lain down like a creature void of understanding, in rain or in snow, nor been able to find his way back for many paces from the hut. As all thought and feeling had left him-s0 had speech-all but a moaning as a pain of woe, which none but a mother could bear to hear without shuddering-but she heard it during night as well as day, and only sometimes lifted up her eyes as in prayer to God.
An offer was made to send him to a place where the afflicted were taken care of; but she besought charity for the first time -such alms as would enable her, along with the earnings of her wheel, to keep her son in the shieling: and the means were given her from many quarters to do so decently, and with all the comfort that other eyes observed, but of which the poor object himself was insensible and unconscious. Thenceforth, it may almost be said she never more saw the sun, nor heard the torrents roar. She went not to the kirk, but kept her sabbath where the paralytic lay and there she sung the lonely psalm, and said the
lonely prayer, unheard in Heaven, as many despairing spirits would have thought-but it was not so-for in two years there came a meaning to his eyes, and he found a few words of imperfect speech, among which was that of "Mother!" Oh! how her heart burned within her, to know that her face was at last recognized! To feel that her kiss was returned, and to see the first tear that trickled from eyes that so long had ceased to weep!
Day after day, the darkness that covered his brain grew less and less deep--to her, that bewilderment gave the blessedness of hope; for her son now knew that he had an immortal soul and one evening joined faintly and feebly, and erringly in prayer.