He is said to have been an eager sportsman, with much wild-oats in his composition, who cared for little else but his hunter and hounds, except a young lady, a poor relation, dependent on his family, with whom she lived much like a fish out of water, being regarded as too low for the parlour on grand occasions; and at all times as too high for the kitchen, where she was treated as an intruder by the housekeeper and her creatures.
This unfortunate damsel passed much of her time in the pleasant upper room of the summer house with elderly maiden ladies of the family, who here wrought everlasting tapestry, fine lace or embroidery. Here too the ancient dames sipped choice cordials of their own distilling, enjoyed their tea and gossip, and from a balcony watched the gentlemen's sports on the bowling green.
When the poor gentlewoman was in her bloom, Wild Harris's father was a widower, in his dotage, and too much influenced by his housekeeper, who had been during his wife's lifetime, and was still, a special favourite of his. She ever disliked her young master, and detested the poor orphan lady, of whom she was jealous, fearing lest she might supplant her one day in governing the household. The dame was a malicious spy on the lovers, who frequently met in the summer house and for retired walks down the vale. The interviews were all the sweeter for being stolen; yet soon, alas, they resulted in sorrow to the young lady.
The old gentleman was much prejudiced against his poor cousin by being persuaded that, but for this unfortunate attachment, his son would have wedded a rich heiress whose lands lay near the Harrises' 'up-country' property. He declared that the day his son married his cousin, he would wed his housekeeper, so that she should still rule the roost. In spite of all opposition, the young man would have 'made an honest woman' of his betrothed, but was hindered by the malice of the old dame and his father until too late; for the poor damsel, distracted with grief, wandered away one night, she knew not whither, and next morning was found drowned in a mill-pond.
Shortly after this tragic event the old Squire died, and Wild Harris found himself master of Kenegie, but disinherited of much other property, bequeathed to his brothers in the army or navy. He had some satisfaction, however, in turning to doors the old mischief-making minion, but not much; she soon fretted herself to death, and was hardly laid in her grave ere she was back again, making such a din, out of mere spite, as hindered the inmates from getting a wink of sleep during the dead hours of the night. The master of Kenegie became more restless than ever; his days were spent in hunting or holding games on the bowling green, and his nights were spent in revelry.
He kept open house, for rich or poor, who chose to partake of his hospitality. One and all were cordially welcomed. With all his faults, he had an open heart and hand; but in a few years he came to an untimely end, whilst still in his prime, by a fall from his horse when hunting on the Castle Downs. It is said that his horse was startled by a white hare that often followed him, and was said to be the poor lady's spirit.
He was borne to Gulval Church and laid in the vault at night, as was the fashion then with some of our old families. His burial was attended by many friends; and when some of them, who remained late at the funeral supper, came down the avenue to return home, they beheld him, as natural seemingly as life, standing by the summer house steps, arrayed in his hunting dress, and by his side a favourite old dog that had died when his master breathed his last. Driffield, Yorkshire | Aberdeen, Scotland | Arbroath, Scotland | Basildon, Essex | Blairgowrie | Cerro del vale | Edinburgh | Fife, Scotland | Ghost in Dumfries | Ghost in Perhshire | Hereford, England | Hertfordshire, England | Killiecrankie, Scotland | Littlecote, Wiltshire | London, England | South Lanarkshire | York |
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