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Spirit of Chambers's Journal: Original Tales, Essays, and Sketches, Selected from that Work

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
The Earl of Wigton, whose name figures in Scottish annals of the reign of Charles the Second, had three daughters, named Lady Frances, Lady Grizel, and Lady Jean—the last being by several years the youngest, and by many degrees the most beautiful. All the three usually resided with their mother at the chief seat of the family, Cumbernauld House, in Stirlingshire; but the two eldest were occasionally permitted to attend their father at Edinburgh, in order that they might have some chance of obtaining lovers at the court held there by the Duke of Lauderdale, while Lady Jean was kept constantly at home, and debarred from the society of the capital, lest her superior beauty might interfere with, and foil, the attractions of her sisters, who, according to the notion of that age, had a sort of right of primogeniture in matrimony, as well as in what was calledheirship. It may be easily imagined that while the two marriageable ladies were enjoying all the delights of a third flat in one of the closes of the Canongate, spending their days in seeing beaux, and their nights in dreaming of them, Lady Jean led no pleasant life amidst the remote and solitary splendours of Cumbernauld, where her chief employment was the disagreeable one of attending her mother, a very infirm and querulous old dame, much given (it was said) to strong waters. At the period when our tale opens, Lady Jean’s charms, though never seen in the capital, had begun to make some noise there; and the curiosity excited respecting them amongst the juvenile party of the vice-regal court, had induced Lord Wigton to confine her ladyship even more strictly than heretofore, lest, perchance, some gallant might make a pilgrimage to his country-seat in order to behold her, and, from less to more, induce her to quit her retirement, in such a way as would effectually discomfit his schemes for the pre-advancement of his elder daughters. He had been at pains to send an express to Cumbernauld, ordering Lady Jean to be confined to the precincts of the house and theterrace-garden, and to be closely attended in all her movements by a trusty domestic. The consequence was, that the young lady complained most piteously to her deaf old lady-mother of the tedium and listlessness of her life, and wished with all her heart that she were as ugly, old, and happy as her sisters. Lord Wigton was not insensible to the cruelty of his policy, however well he might be convinced of its advantage and necessity; he loved his youngest daughter more than the rest; and it was only in obedience to what he conceived to be the commands of duty, that he subjected her to this restraint. His lordship, therefore, felt anxious to alleviate in some measure the desagremens of her solitary confinement; and knowing her to be fond of music, he had sent to her by the last messenger a theorbo lute, with which he thought she would be able to amuse herself in a way very much to her mind—not considering that, as she could not play upon the instrument, it would be little better to her than an unmeaning toy. By the return of his messenger, he received a letter from Lady Jean, thanking him for the theorbo, but making him aware of his oversight, and begging him to send some person who could teach her to play.