« AnkstesnisTęsti »
persistently. Its clangs winged off in brazen waves, struck, and rebounded, to mingle with new clangs till my brain pained.
I rose at length to its continued attack, and, groping through the velvet darkness, reached one of the windows. I parted the ponderous curtains, looked, and saw nothing. I was looking into the night, and saw only night. Little by little, though, to the fixity of my stare the blackness seemed to recede, and at last I saw in a brown obscurity. I saw a yard and a school-house. It was a small school-house, of wood. The roof was peaked. Vines veined one wall. Stairs along another wall slanted upward to a gallery beneath the eaves.
Below me, the indistinct floor of the yard was dimly striated with lines. These were animated with a fluid pulsation. After a time I understood them. Children were lined there, grave little children, many of them, with books under their arms or swinging at the end of straps.
I tried to count the children, but they were too many. I tried to count the lines, but they fluctuated like tide-water. There were many. They ran east and west from the little school-house to the fence at the back, then turned flexibly and streamed off to the south, where in my youth the land lay open. I could not see them end over there. My eyes followed them till they merged in the darkness; but even there, and beyond, the void held an undulation of fluid multitudes. Multitudes of children waited in line over there in the vague region beyond the reading of my sight.
The bell came to a stop with a last wicked rattle, and a drum began to beat. A shiver passed along the lines like a breeze; all the small forms bent slightly forward; the lines began to flow; and the night became filled with a measured, soft, and tender tramping sound which was as the muffled heart-beat of the night. The lines passed by; they came glidingly from the void in the south, swung into the yard with a lithe torsion of a fish that turns, crushed across the gravel, stamped up the planking of the stairs, flowed into the yawn of the doors. They passed, the children, by hundreds, by thousands. The stairs shook, the frail building trembled, the night was rhythmic with the soft beat of their feet. The drum beat, they passed,
and still the vastness to the south palpitated obscurely with unnumbered reserves. Above the basic rumor the cries of the women were sharp.
"It is our class coming now-our own class," said a voice within the room.
I turned toward it. Dorman was at the window next to mine. Seated in his rich, red arm-chair, he was looking as I looked, his brow against the pane.
"How our class? How our class?" I said peevishly.
"It is our class; you see if it is not our class."
And then it was truly our class that passed, the little companions of our childhood. They came in line from the dim reservoir to the south, turned into the yard, crunched upon its gravel, and rose along the stairway to the small room beneath the eaves. Their familiar little feet hissed gently against the wooden steps, and we stood there, the two old men, each at his window, watching with cold brows upon the panes.
Dorman, as they passed, told them off to me one by one, their names and their fate. I saw Jack Bennett, the butcher's son, and I remembered that I still owed him a marble; I saw red-headed Jack Stearns, with his pale, up-tilted nose, and the glass eye which had been our marvel and our pride; and Roscoe Miller, who had become a banker; and Starr, who had ended in the gutter; and Perry, who had wrecked himself against the things that will not move. Up the other stairs, which we could not see, I guessed that the girls were passing, and I knew that among them was a frail, blue-eyed girl-ah, how well I remembered her!
"But," I said, “all those you tell me of have died."
From his window Dorman said:
my life I had missed him-him and the frail, blue-eyed girl. I knew now what had been ailing my life.
"Here is Keating," said Dorman. "Watch him; he is always funny."
To the stairs came a hunchback boy. He toiled up with much labor, but did not know that he toiled, for his eyes were ahead, far, amid vapory visions; beneath his cap his hair was like a wreath of gold.
"He wrote verse, and he starved," said Dorman. "I have his book in the library; it is funny."
The poet boy toiled up uncertainly. He zigzagged a bit from side to side; the cries of the women teachers eddied over him; he slowed up the line and disordered the march; his eyes were far.
The boy behind him mischievously wiped his feet upon his stockings, but he was unaware of it. The same boy reached within his pocket and took his pencil and his knife, but still he did not notice. He let a book slip from beneath his elbow, and the boy behind trampled upon it. Finally the boy behind gave him a push. The poet boy fell; his cap jerked off his head, his books scattered down the steps. woman teacher picked him up and shook him ragefully, while the boy behind looked grave and reproachful.
"If I were there, I would protect him," I thought. "If I were there, I would understand him."
"Who is the boy behind?" I asked of Dorman.
"It is 'Spike' Martin," he answered. "He has been the most successful of us all. His sons are multimillionaires."
I noticed now that this was the end of all the marching. This was the last line. A length of it was still on the stairs, but the yard behind was already empty.
"It is the end," I said.
"Yes," he answered. "They have all passed now; our class is always the last." "But wait," I said, "here comes another boy, I think."
"Are you sure?" said Dorman. have not missed any one."
The drum stopped beating; there was a silence. I left my window and, going up to Dorman, placed a friendly hand upon his shoulder. And he was dead-dead there in his rich, red arm-chair, his brow still upon the cold pane.
I think I shall stay here always, and "I stand at the window at night, till out of the vague region to the south I see a boy come running-a last late boy come run
"Yes, yes, I am sure."
From the vague somberness to the south ning to join his dear comrades.
"BONNIE ANNIE LAURIE"
WITH NEW RESEARCHES CONCERNING THE SUBJECT AND THE AUTHOR OF THE FAMOUS SONG
BY J. CUTHBERT HADDEN
HERE were many merry episodes in the life of Robert Burns, but two of the merriest were surely those that produced "Willie brewed a peck o' maut" and "The Whistle." In introducing the latter to his friends, Burns relates the following tradition:
In the train of Anne of Denmark, when she came to Scotland with our James VI, there came over also a Danish gentleman of gigantic stature and great prowess, and a matchless champion of Bacchus. He had a curious ebony ca'r Whistle, which, at the commencement of the orgies, he laid on the table; and whoever was last able to blow it, everybody else being disabled by the potency of the bottle, was to carry off the Whistle as a trophy of victory. The Dane produced credentials of his victories, without a single defeat, at the courts of Copenhagen, Stockholm, Moscow, Warsaw, and several of the petty courts in Germany; and challenged the Scots Bacchanalians to the alternative of trying his prowess, or else acknowledging their inferiority. After many overthrows on the part of the Scots, the Dane was encountered by Sir Robert Laurie of Maxwelton . . . who, after three days and nights' hard contest, left the Scandinavian under the table, and "blew on the Whistle his Requiem shrill." Sir Walter, son to Sir Robert, before-mentioned, afterwards lost the Whistle to Walter Riddel of Glenriddel.
and two other descendants of the man who had so literally floored the Dane, namely, Alexander Fergusson of Craigdarroch, and Sir Robert Laurie of Maxwelton, then, in 1789, member of Parliament for Dumfries. The three are celebrated by Burns in as many lines:
Craigdarroch, so famous for wit, worth, and law;
This is a long quotation to open with, but its point will be seen presently. The whistle being now at Friars Carse, in possession of a neighbor of Burns at Ellisland, it was resolved that Riddel should submit it to competition between himself
And trusty Glenriddel, so skill'd in old coins;
And gallant Sir Robert [Laurie], deep-read in old wines.
The poet had already spent many a jolly night at Friars Carse, and an invitation was sent to him to join in the "jovial contest" for the whistle. He immediately replied in characteristic fashion, and on a leaf torn from his excise-book:
The King's poor blackguard slave am I,
And scarce dare spare a minute; But I'll be with you by and bye, Or else the devil's in it.
It is not certain whether Burns was actually present at the grand symposium, but the point does not concern us here. The essential thing to note is that the whistle fell to Fergusson of Craigdarroch, who, as the referee of the occasion laconically records, "drank upwards of five bottles of claret." The visitor to Craigdarroch may still see the identical whistle, reposing on velvet under glass, set in a silver cup with a silver chain attached to it, and an engraved legend which rather erroneously describes it as "Burns' whistle."
I have cited this episode by way of in
troducing "bonnie Annie Laurie" of the famous song; for the heroine was descended from that same Laurie who first contested with the Dane for the whistle, and it was her son, that Fergusson of Craigdarroch, who bore away the trophy that historic night in October, 1789, after tucking five bottles of claret under his belt. There is a prevailing notion that popular songs have all been made about imaginary people; but that is very far from being the case. "My pretty Jane" was a consumptive beauty whom Edward Fitzhall used to meet in the country lanes near Cambridge. "The Lass o' Richmond Hill" was the daughter of a king's bench solicitor, and married the young Irish barrister who immortalized her in the song. "Auld Robin Gray" was a shepherd in Lady Lindsay's family. Haynes Bayly wrote "Oh, no! we never mention her" on a Bath lady whose brother he had nursed through a long illness. "Robin Adair" was an Irish medical student who married Lady Caroline Keppel, the author of the song. The heroine of Henry Carey's "Sally in our Alley" was a typical London 'Arriet. And "Annie Laurie" was the daughter of a Dumfries laird. Why not? Mr. Andrew Carnegie, in his "Four-in-Hand in Britain," expresses much surprise at having discovered a descendant of "bonnie Annie" in Dumfries. While we were at the mansion of Friars Carse," the scene of the last whistle contest, he says, "a great-great-granddaughter of Annie Laurie actually came in. We were all startled to be brought so near the Annie Laurie of our dreams." Mr. Carnegie, like many more, had obviously never thought of Annie Laurie as having a real flesh-and-blood existence.
Burns is not strictly correct in his pedigree of the Lauries, but, like Stevenson, when convicted of having made one of his characters thrust a sword up to the hilt into the frozen ground, he "had other things to think about." It was the tradition of the whistle that chiefly interested Burns. As a matter of fact, there was no Sir Robert Laurie of Maxwelton prior to or during the reign of James VI. Stephen, the third son of John Laurie, the first of the family on record (they are credited with Italian blood), bought the lands of Maxwelton, near Dumfries, from the Earl of Glencairn in 1614. He was suc
ceeded by his son John, who died in 1649. John, again, was followed by his son and heir Robert, created a baronet, "for his merits," in 1685. It was this Sir Robert who was the father of the song heroine, and there is some ground for believing him to be the subject of the tradition recorded by Burns.
He was an active supporter of the king and Claverhouse, and a bitter enemy of the Covenanters, as many of the old weather-worn gravestones in his district still testify. It was only eight days after he had been made a baronet that he caused one William Smith to be shot near Maxwelton, as the stone record in Tynron reads:
I William Smith, now here do lye, Once martyred for Christ's verity, Douglas of Stenhouse, Laurie of
Caus'd Cornet Bailie give me martyrdom, What cruelty they to my corps then us'd Living may judge, me burial they refused.
Local, but lying, legend avers that "bonnie Annie Laurie" was appealed to for the life of this youth, and all the pity her cherry lips could utter was, "Let the dog die!" The myth is only an attempt at rural vengeance, for the pretty babe was less than two and a half years old at the time of the tragedy. And, after all, as regards Laurie himself, being a justice, he had, willy-nilly, to execute the law of the land at a regular assize.
He was twice married, this Laurie, his second wife being Jean Riddel, a daughter of the laird of Minto, by whom he had three sons and four daughters. Here is what the family register tells regarding the advent of the only daughter who was ever heard of in the great world:
At the pleasure of the Almighty God, my daughter, Anna Laurie, was borne upon the 16th day of December, 1682 years, about 6 o'clock in the morning, & was baptized by Mr. George [Hunter], minister of Glencairn.
This was the "little stranger" who grew up to be the most beautiful Dumfriesian lady of her day, the "bonnie Annie Laurie" of lines which have long since gone round the English-speaking world.
We hear nothing further of her until
an ardent lover lays at her feet the poetical tribute which forms the basis of the modern song. He was a William Douglas of Fingland, in Kirkcudbrightshire, said, doubtfully, to have been the hero of Hamilton of Gilbert Field's song "Willie was a wanton wag." Douglas was a cadet of the Queensberry family, and one of the "bonniest fechters" of his time; a war-worn Othello whose wild temper and skill with the steel made him a terror to duelists. At the instigation of the Duke of Douglas, he tackled a professional swordsman and wounded and disarmed him, less, as the other maintained, by skill in fence than by his "fierce and squinting eyes." There is a family tradition that when the said duke had, in a quarrel, stabbed his cousin Captain Kerr, and was obliged to fly to the Continent, Fingland conveyed him away under the guise of a
Unfortunately, Douglas was unsuccessful in his wooing of Annie Laurie. He had first met her at a ball in Edinburgh, when he was greatly struck by her beauty. A mutual affection was the immediate result; but Sir Robert Laurie disapproved of the match, and carried his daughter back to the seclusion of Nithsdale. Thither Douglas followed, and for months the pair met clandestinely in the woods and about the "braes" around Maxwelton. Finally the rumor of an impending Stuart invasion lured Douglas back to Edinburgh. The tradition is that he wrote the song the night before he left. However that may be, the trip to Edinburgh proved fatal to the love-affair. Douglas's Jacobite intrigues were suspected, and he was forced to flee to the Continent. Whether he corresponded with Annie Laurie from there, or left her without news of his whereabouts, cannot be said. He ultimately obtained pardon from King George and returned to Scotland, but there is no tradition of a subsequent meeting with his old love. In all her extant correspondence there is only one reference to him. A cousin had mentioned seeing Douglas in Edinburgh, and Annie replies, "I trust that he has forsaken his treasonable opinions, and that he is content." Thus does she dismiss the man who made her name famous.
It seems like a poetic injustice that he did not have the heroine, especially if she
really gave him "the promise true." But perhaps, as a living descendant of the Lauries puts it, the engagement "went off in the settlements." Perhaps also the fact that Douglas was much older than his Annie and a pronounced Jacobite may have had something to do with his rejection. At any rate, he did not "lay him down and die." He did not even pine away in the sorrows of celibacy. Instead, he made a runaway marriage with one Betty Clerk of Glenboig, in Galloway, who bore him four sons and two daughters. His poetic fire must have cooled down, for we have no lyric descriptive of the swan-like neck and other features of Betty Clerk. Possibly Betty could not compete in beauty with her rival; possibly the braes of Glenboig were not so "bonnie" as the braes of Maxwelton.
The fact remains that Annie Laurie married another. She amused herself with several love-affairs, for she was something of a flirt, and finally gave her hand to Alexander Fergusson of Craigdarroch, who was three years her junior. The date of the marriage was 1710, when Annie was twenty-eight. Craigdarroch is only five miles from Maxwelton, and the two households had always been intimate. The Fergussons had been in Craigdarroch from time immemorial. They were a very old family, their ancestors having been attached to the courts of William the Lion and Alexander II (1214-1249). Alexander Fergusson, Annie Laurie's husband, was one of the county gentlemen who showed devoted allegiance to King William against the Stuarts, and he represented the Dumfries burghs in Parliament from 1715 to 1722. He was only four years old when his gallant father, John, fell at the head of Venmure's regiment at Killiecrankie in 1689, dropping dead from the saddle, which may be seen at Craigdarroch to-day.
Fergusson was no poet, like Douglas, but he was a much more likely match for Annie Laurie, who lived happily with him for many years. The pair had two daughters and two sons; one of the latter, as already indicated, being the James Fergusson who won the whistle in 1789. He was master of the Edinburgh Masonic Lodge of which Burns was made poet-laureate in March, 1787, and it was he who officially conferred the title on the poet. His