Penelope's Progress/Chapter 23



"'Love, I maun gang to Edinbrugh,
Love, I maun gang an' leave thee!'
She sighed right sair, an' said nae mair
But 'O gin I were wi' ye!'"

Andrew Lammie.

Jean Dalziel came to visit us a week ago, and has put new life into our little circle. I suppose it was playing "Sir Patrick Spens" that set us thinking about it, for one warm, idle day when we were all in the Glen we began a series of ballad-revels, in which each of us assumed a favorite character. The choice induced so much argument and disagreement that Mr. Beresford was at last appointed head of the clan; and having announced himself formally as the Mackintosh, he was placed on the summit of a hastily arranged pyramidal cairn. He was given an ash wand and a rowan-tree sword; and then, according to ancient custom, his pedigree and the exploits of his ancestors were recounted, and he was exhorted to emulate their example. Now it seems that a Highland chief of the olden time, being as absolute in his patriarchal authority as any prince, had a corresponding number of officers attached to his person. He had a bodyguard, who fought around him in battle, and independent of this he had a staff of officers who accompanied him wherever he went. These our chief proceeded to appoint as follows:—

Henchman, Ronald Macdonald; bard, Penelope Hamilton; spokesman or fool, Robin Anstruther; sword-bearer, Francesca Monroe; piper, Salemina; piper's attendant, Elizabeth Ardmore; baggage gillie, Jean Dalziel; running footman, Ralph; bridle gillie, Jamie; ford gillie, Miss Grieve. The ford gillie carries the chief across fords only, and there are no fords in the vicinity; so Mr. Beresford, not liking to leave a member of our household out of office, thought this the best post for Calamity Jane.

With the Mackintosh on his pyramidal cairn matters went very much better, and at Jamie's instigation we began to hold rehearsals for certain festivities at Rowardennan; for as Jamie's birthday fell on the eve of the Queen's Jubilee, there was to be a gay party at the castle.

All this occurred days ago, and yesterday evening the ballad-revels came off, and Rowardennan was a scene of great pageant and splendor. Lady Ardmore, dressed as the Lady of Inverleith, received the guests, and there were all manner of tableaux, and ballads in costume, and pantomimes, and a grand march by the clan, in which we appeared in our chosen rôles.

Salemina was Lady Maisry,—she whom all the lords of the north countrie came wooing.

"But a' that they could say to her,
Her answer still was 'Na.'"

And again:—

"'O haud your tongues, young men,' she said,
'And think nae mair on me!'"

Mr. Beresford was Lord Beichan, and I was Shusy Pye.

"Lord Beichan was a Christian born,
And such resolved to live and dee,
So he was ta'en by a savage Moor,
Who treated him right cruellie,
"The Moor he had an only daughter.
The damsel's name was Shusy Pye;
And ilka day as she took the air
Lord Beichan's prison she pass'd by."

Elizabeth Ardmore was Leezie Lindsay, who kilted her coats o' green satin to the knee and was aff to the Hielands so expeditiously when her lover declared himself to be "Lord Ronald Macdonald, a chieftain of high degree."

Francesca was Mary Ambree.

"When captaines couragious, whom death cold not daunte,
Did march to the siege of the citty of Gaunt,
They mustred their souldiers by two and by three,
And the foremost in battle was Mary Ambree.

"When the brave sergeant-major was slaine in her sight
Who was her true lover, her joy and delight,
Because he was slaine most treacherouslie,
Then vow'd to avenge him Mary Ambree."

Brenda Macrae from Pettybaw House was Fairly Fair; Jamie, Sir Patrick Spens; Ralph, King Alexander of Dunfermline; Mr. Anstruther, Bonnie Glenlogie, "the flower of them a';" Mr. Macdonald and Miss Dalziel, Young Hynde Horn and the king's daughter Jean respectively.

"'Oh, it's Hynde Horn fair, and it's Hynde Horn free;
Oh, where were you born, and in what countrie?'
'In a far distant countrie I was born;
But of home and friends I am quite forlorn.'

"Oh, it's seven long years he served the king,
But wages from him he ne'er got a thing;
Oh, it's seven long years he served, I ween,
And all for love of the king's daughter Jean."

It is not to be supposed that all this went off without any of the difficulties and heart-burnings that are incident to things dramatic. When Elizabeth Ardmore chose to be Leezie Lindsay, she asked me to sing the ballad behind the scenes. Mr. Beresford naturally thought that Mr. Macdonald would take the opposite part in the tableau, inasmuch as the hero bears his name; but he positively declined to play Lord Ronald Macdonald, and said it was altogether too personal.

Mr. Anstruther was rather disagreeable at the beginning, and upbraided Miss Dalziel for offering to be the king's daughter Jean to Mr. Macdonald's Hynde Horn, when she knew very well he wanted her for Ladye Jeanie in Glenlogie. (She had meantime confided to me that nothing could induce her to appear in Glenlogie; it was far too personal.)

Mr. Macdonald offended Francesca by sending her his cast-off gown and begging her to be Sir Patrick Spens; and she was still more gloomy (so I imagined) because he had not proffered his six feet of manly beauty for the part of the captain in Mary Ambree, when the only other person to take it was Jamie's tutor. He is an Oxford man and a delightful person, but very bow-legged; added to that, by the time the rehearsals had ended she had been obliged to beg him to love some one more worthy than herself, and did not wish to appear in the same tableau with him, feeling that it was much too personal.

When the eventful hour came, yesterday, Willie and I were the only actors really willing to take lovers' parts, save Jamie and Ralph, who were but too anxious to play all the characters, whatever their age, sex, color, or relations. But the guests knew nothing of these trivial disagreements, and at ten o'clock last night it would have been difficult to match Rowardennan Castle for a scene of beauty and revelry. Everything went merrily till we came to Hynde Horn, the concluding tableau, and the most effective and elaborate one on the programme. At the very last moment, when the opening scene was nearly ready, Jean Dalziel fell down a secret staircase that led from the tapestry chamber into Lady Ardmore's boudoir, where the rest of us were dressing. It was a short flight of steps, but, as she held a candle and was carrying her costume, she fell awkwardly, spraining her wrist and ankle. Finding that she was not maimed for life, Lady Ardmore turned with comical and unsympathetic haste to Francesca, so completely do amateur theatricals dry the milk of kindness in the human breast.

"Put on these clothes at once," she said imperiously, knowing nothing of the volcanoes beneath the surface. "Hynde Horn is already on the stage, and somebody must be Jean. Take care of Miss Dalziel, girls, and ring for more maids. Hélène, help me dress Miss Monroe: put on her slippers while I lace her gown; run and fetch more jewels,—more still,—she can carry off any number; not any rouge, Hélène,—she has too much color now; pull the frock more off the shoulders,—it 's a pity to cover an inch of them; pile her hair higher,—here, take my diamond tiara, child; hurry, Hélène, fetch the silver cup and the cake—no, they are on the stage; take her train, Hélène. Miss Hamilton, run and open the doors ahead of them, please. I won't go down for this tableau. I'll put Miss Dalziel right, and then I'll slip into the drawing-room, to be ready for the guests when they come in."

We hurried breathlessly through an interminable series of rooms and corridors. I gave the signal to Mr. Beresford, who was nervously waiting for it in the wings, and the curtain went up on Hynde Horn disguised as the auld beggar man at the king's gate. Mr. Beresford was reading the ballad, and we took up the tableaux at the point where Hynde Horn has come from a far countrie to see why the diamonds in the ring given him by his own true love have grown pale and wan. He hears that the king's daughter Jean has been married to a knight these nine days past.

"But unto him a wife the bride winna be,
For love of Hynde Horn, far over the sea."

He therefore borrows the old beggar's garments and hobbles to the king's palace, where he petitions the porter for a cup of wine and a bit of cake to be handed him by the fair bride herself.

"'Good porter, I pray, for Saints Peter and Paul,
And for sake of the Saviour who died for us all,
For one cup of wine, and one bit of bread,
To an auld man with travel and hunger bestead.

"'And ask the fair bride, for the sake of Hynde Horn,
To hand them to me so sadly forlorn.'
Then the porter for pity the message convey'd,
And told the fair bride all the beggar man said."

The curtain went up again. The porter, moved to pity, has gone to give the message to his lady. Hynde Horn is watching the staircase at the rear of the stage, his heart in his eyes. The tapestries that hide it are drawn, and there stands the king's daughter, who tripped down the stair,

"And in her fair hands did lovingly bear
A cup of red wine, and a farle of cake,
To give the old man for loved Hynde Horn's sake."

The hero of the ballad, who had not seen his true love for seven long years, could not have been more amazed at the change in her than was Ronald Macdonald at the sight of the flushed, excited, almost tearful king's daughter on the staircase; Lady Ardmore's diamonds flashing from her crimson satin gown. Lady Ardmore's rubies glowing on her white arms and throat; not Miss Dalziel, as had been arranged, but Francesca, rebellious, reluctant, embarrassed, angrily beautiful and beautifully angry!

In the next scene Hynde Horn has drained the cup and dropped the ring into it.

"'Oh, found you that ring by sea or on land,
Or got you that ring off a dead man's hand?'
'Oh, I found not that ring by sea or on land.
But I got that ring from a fair lady's hand.

"'As a pledge of true love she gave it to me.
Full seven years ago as I sail'd o'er the sea;
But now that the diamonds are chang'd in their hue,
I know that my love has to me proved untrue.'"

I never saw a prettier picture of sweet, tremulous womanhood, a more enchanting breathing image of fidelity, than Francesca looked as Mr. Beresford read:—

"'Oh, I will cast off my gay costly gown,
And follow thee on from town unto town.
And I will take the gold kaims from my hair
And follow my true love for ever mair.'"

Whereupon Hynde Horn lets his beggar weeds fall, and shines there the foremost and noblest of all the king's companie as he says:—

"'You need not cast off your gay costly gown,
To follow me on from town unto town;
You need not take the gold kaims from your hair,
For Hynde Horn has gold enough and to spare.'
"Then the bridegrooms were chang'd, and the lady re-wed
To Hynde Horn thus come back, like one from the dead."

There is no doubt that this tableau gained the success of the evening, and the participants in it should have modestly and gratefully received the choruses of congratulation that were ready to be offered during the supper and dance that followed. Instead of that, what happened? Francesca drove home with Miss Dalziel before the quadrille d'honneur, and when Willie bade me good-night at the gate in the loaning he said, "I shall not be early to-morrow, dear. I am going to see Macdonald off."

"Off!" I exclaimed. "Where is he going?"

"Only to Edinburgh and London, to stay till the last of next week."

"But we may have left Pettybaw by that time."

"Of course; that is probably what he has in mind. But let me tell you this, Penelope: Macdonald is fathoms deep in love with Francesca, and if she trifles with him she shall know what I think of her!"

"And let me tell you this, sir: Francesca is fathoms deep in love with Ronald Macdonald, little as you suspect it, and if he trifles with her he shall know what I think of him!"