The Lad with the Curly Black Hair

LITTLE MARY OF LOCHOW.

It is a tale of true love that I am going to tell this time. You know what that means. A man and a maid, with trystings in the gloaming, and a breaking heart at every good-bye. If that was the whole of it, the tale would have an easy telling. But in this adventure of hearts there were three and not two who tried to strike the holy bargain—and when a third creeps in there is sure to be hatred and curses and a clenching of fists, with weeping for the maid before the end. It is hard for the Highland heart to love lightly, and when the other fellow comes between, the fire of hate leaps up in a moment, and the blows are struck before ever the one knows what he is doing or the other knows what he has done. Which shows, I am thinking, that a comely maid is held in great esteem among the hills and by the side of the sea lochs. For the measure of our love for a lass is the selfsame as our hate for the man who tries to steal her love from us.

It was in the Campbell country that it all happened, a good handful of days before the red-haired Lord of Argyle with his jury of Campbells sent James of the Glen to the hanging for the murder of Glenure. That would be a diverting theme to argue over, and it will come to the tip of my pen before long to tell you who killed the Red Fox—but not now. Oh no! this is a love tale. Like all our love tiles, it may be splashed here and there with blood and dool; for though Argyle had by this time taken philabeg and dirk from us, it will not be a thing to wonder at, I am sure, when I tell you that in Argyle’s own countryside there never was any scarcity of steel or tartan all through the time of proscribing. What was sin in Appin and Lochiel was aye God’s own truth in Inneraora. But to my tale.

The three of them were Campbells, which made the matter woree and worse. Little Mary Campbell of Lochow, Nial Campbell of Barbreck, and Colin Campbell of Innismore each of whom was own cousin by, I cannot mind how many removes, to Argyle himself. That is small matter of import, however, for when it comes to cousinship among the clans you may marry us and move us and mix us as you please, yet are we cousins still with no confusion of sentiment or forgetting of our proper lineage.

Little Mary was the sweetest of all the gentlewomen who were staying at the castle of Argyle. She had a head of hair that made envy loup in the heart of all the women—so thick and glossy and long was it, that the waitingmaids used to say it swept the floor of her retiring room like a shower of russet leaves in Autumn when she let it down. It was the real red hair of the Campbells—and when it was coiled on the top of her head it made an aureole of golden glory round the winsomest face that at that time was to be seen at the Court of Inneraora. Her cheeks minded one of a blush rose. Her neck was as white as the swan’s. Her eyes had in them the depths of the blue sea with its lights and shadows and all its mystery. And when she smiled, a pretty pair of dimples appeared from Heaven only knows where, and gave the bonny blushing face that witching power which made men quarrel to the death for very passion in their love of her. She was little and quick witted and mischievous. When she took the floor to tread a minuet she danced with the nimbleness and grace of a fairy queen. And when she laughed—it minded one most irresistibly of the ripple of waves along the sand on a fair sunlit day of Spring. This was Little Mary of Lochow.

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