There was sorrow in the house. The dog lay on the hearth aweary, and the cat in the corner of the old farmhouse seemed lost in thought. The mother had just come in from milking in the barn with a cloud on her face, and the dear old dad was foddering the cattle with a solemn mien, which betokened a funeral at no distant date. Ah, what was all this trouble at the lovely cottage on the hillside, with its little garden full of wild flowers, situated near the wood, around which the road twined to the house? At this time (June), when the hedges were in full bloom, the Maythorn clad in white, the wild rose just raising its sweet head, and the woodbine opening its charming petals to the lads and lasses, who on these summer days spend their spare time in taking their walks, keeping company, and forming those happy associations in life which mean either their future happiness or life-long misery.
Mary, the only daughter of the above couple, was a pretty girl, ringlets of golden hair streamed down her fair shoulders, which seemed to gladden the beautiful blue eyes of the fair owner. With a mouth as sweet as strawberries all smothered with cream; straight as a statue and as lithe as a willow, a fairy form with a nature as sweet as herself. No wonder she had been won by a neighbouring lad, as full of life as a sapling tree, ready for a romp with any or all, and beloved by those who knew him. It was a happy time these two young folks had, and the elder ones looked on with satisfaction. But the Sunday before entering on this chapter Mary and her parents had been to chapel, to which they were fondly attached, but there was no William there. Alas! he had suddenly departed, and brought a dark cloud to a home which had been one of undisturbed joy and sweetness.
On this particular Sunday night, when they got home the husband questioned his wife anent the gloom which had suddenly fallen on his dear child. The wife answered gravely that she feared that their Mary had trusted too implicitly, for a neighbour friend who was in the confidence of their girl had secretly confided the information that the lover had been false; in fact, he had run away, and left behind a thorn that would darken the remainder of their natural lives. The father was a Christian man, bound to keep calm; but if the stealer of his daughter’s honour had come across him just then there would have been death in the pot. Instead of this, it settled to a darkness which never departed, but not a word did he say to the victim. Says he to the wife, “Don’t upbraid the lass, but comfort her all you can, and when the worst comes to the worst she shall share with us to the last penny.” The mother felt this keenly, but was glad to think there would be no adding to a sorrow of which their innocent daughter was the helpless victim.
Their solemn and sacred resignation after finding out the betrayal of their only daughter was a touching sight to behold; locked in that tender embrace as of old, when Mary first kindled that sacred love to be found only in the deep, deep bosom of a sainted mother.
Eliza Cook says in one of her beautiful poems, when writing in a similar strain:—
Can it be wondered at then that, like the dove when wounded, the young bird made for the parent nest, helpless and hopeless, and cried out in the bitterness of her soul, “All is lost; nothing left but heaven and you.” Nor did she go in vain; their joys had been too great to be parted in their sorrow; and when the girl, broken-hearted, cruelly blighted, basely deceived, and disgrace looming in the near future, sought that consolation which only a mother can give, the reader need not be told that this great comfort was most willingly bestowed, with a fond prayer to their Maker that better things would come soon, if not on earth, at least in heaven above.
Alone and alone Mary wandered and was disconsolate, but a time came when the suffering was ended by the joy which a dear young life brought to the home. The solace of an injured life which was always true to the first love, that nothing in after life could ever induce her to change her name, while to the old parents their only delight was in the second nursing of a dear young thing, of which they became more fond every day, until as a man he grew to honour and help them in their old age.
But what of the villain of the piece? Alas!! he went the way of evil-doers. He nearly broke a fond mother’s heart by departing in disgrace from the land of his birth, to find oblivion in one of the far-up stations of one of the young countries over the sea.
Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) by John Sugden