ePub 版

I exchanged the dark, smoky, smothering atmosphere of the Highland hut, in which we had passed the night so uncomfortably, for the refreshing frāgrance of the morning air, and the glorious beams of the rising sun, which, from a tabernacle of purple and golden clouds, were darted full on such a scene of natural romance and beauty as had never before greeted my eyes. To the left lay the valley, down which the Forth wandered on its easterly course, surrounding the beautiful detached hill, with all its garland of woods. On the right, amid a profusion of thickets, knolls, and crags, lay the bed of a broad mountain lake, lightly curled into tiny waves by the breath of the morning breeze, each glittering in its course under the influence of the sunbeams. High hills, rocks, and banks, waving with natural forests of birch and oak, formed the borders of this enchanting sheet of water; and, as their leaves rustled to the wind and twinkled in the sun, gave to the depth of solitude a sort of life and vivacity. Man alone seemed to be placed in a state of inferiority, in a scene where all the ordinary features of nature were raised and exalted. * * *

* It was under the burning influence of revenge that the wife of MacGregor commanded that the hostage, exchanged for her husband's safety, should be brought into her presence. I believe her sons had kept this unfortunate wretch out of her sight, for fear of the consequences; but if it was so, their humane precaution only postponed his fate. They dragged forward, at her summons, a wretch, already half dead with terror, in whose agonized features, I rec'ognised, to my horror and astonishment, my old acquaintance Morris.

He fell prostrate before the female chief with an effort to clasp her knees, from which she drew back, as if his touch had been pollution, so that all he could do in token of the extremity of his humiliation, was to kiss the hem of her plaid. I never heard entreaties for life poured forth with such agony of spirit. The ecstasy of fear was such, that, instead of paralyzing his tongue, as on ordinary occasions, it even rendered him eloquent, and, with cheeks as pale as ashes, hands compressed in agony, eyes that seemed to be taking their last look of all mortal objects, he protested, with the deepest oaths, his total ignorance of any design on the life of Rob Roy, whom he swore he loved and honored as his own soul.-In the inconsistency of his terror, he said, he was but the agent of others, and he muttered the name of Rashleigh.-He prayed but for life -for life he would give all he had in the world ;-it was but life he asked-life, if it were to be prolonged under tortures and privations ;-he asked only breath, though it should be drawn in the damps of the lowest caverns of their hills.

It is impossible to describe the scorn, the loathing, and contempt, with which the wife of MacGregor regarded this wretched petitioner for the poor boon of existence.

“I could have bid you live,” she said, “had life been to you the same weary and wasting burden that it is to methat it is to every noble and generous


youwretch! you could creep through the world unaffected by its various disgraces, its ineffable miseries, its constantly accumulating masses of crime and sorrow,—you could live and enjoy yourself, while the noble-minded are betrayed,while nameless and birthless villains tread on the neck of the brave and long-decended,—you could enjoy yourself, like a butcher's dog in the shambles, battening on garbage, while the slaughter of the brave went on around you ! This enjoyment you shall not live to partake of ; you shall die, base dog, and that before yon cloud has passed over the sun.'

She gave a brief command, in Gaelic, to her attendants, two of whom seized upon the prostrate suppliant, and hurried him to the brink of a cliff which overhung the flood. He set up the most piercing and dreadful cries that fear ever uttered—I may well term them dreadful, for they haunted my sleep for years afterwards. As the murderers, or executioners, call them as you will, dragged him along, he rěcognised me even in that moment of horror, and exclaimed, in the last articulate words I ever heard him 'utter, “O, Mr. Osbaldistone, save me !-save me !"

I was so much moved by this horrid spectacle, that although in momentary expectation of sharing his fate, I did attempt to speak in his behalf, but, as might have been expected, my interference was sternly disregarded. The victim was held fast by some, while others, binding a large heavy stone in a plaid, tied it round his neck, and others again eagerly stripped him of some part of his dress. Half naked, and thus manacled, they hurried him into the lake, there about twelve feet deep, drowning his last death-shriek with a loud halloo of vindictive triumph, over which, however, the yell of mortal agony was distinctly heard. The

heavy burden splashed in the dark-blue waters of the lake, and the Highlanders, with their pole-axes and swords, watched an instant, to guard, lest, extricating himself from the load to which he was attached, he might have struggled to regain the shore. But the knot had been securely bound; the victim sunk without effort; the waters, which his fall had disturbed, settled calmly over him, and the unit of that life for which he had pleaded so strongly, was for ever withdrawn from the sum of human existence.


April Day.


All day the low-hung clouds have dropt

Their garnered fulness down ;
All day that soft, gray mist hath wrapt

Hill, valley, grove, and town.
There has not been a sound to-day

To break the calm of nature ;
Nor motion, I might almost say,

Of life, or living creature ;-
Of waving bough, or warbling bird,

Or cattle faintly lowing: -
I could have half believed I heard

The leaves and blossoms growing.
I stood to hear—I love it well-

The rain's continuous sound;
Small drops, but thick and fast they fell,

Down straight into the ground.
For leafy thickness is not yet

Earth's naked breast to screen,
Though every dripping branch is set

With shoots of tender green.
Sure, since I looked at early morn,

Those honey-suckle buds
Have swelled to double growth ; that thorn

Hath put forth larger studs.

* Extracted from the Review of 'The Widow's Tale, and other poems, by the author of Ellen Fitzarthur,” in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, 1822.

That lilach's cleaving cones have burst,

The milk-white flowers revealing ; Even now, upon my senses first

Methinks their sweets are stealing. The very earth, the steamy air,

Is all with frāgrance rife! And

grace and beauty every where Are flushing into life. Down, down they come-those fruitful stores !

Those earth-rejoicing drops ! A momentary deluge pours,

Then thins, decreases, stops.
And ere the dimples on the stream

Have circled out of sight,
Lo! from the west, a parting gleam

Breaks forth of amber light.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

The shepherd saunters last but why
Comes with him, pace


pace, That ewe? and why, so piteously, Looks


the creature's face ? Swung in his careless hand, she sees

(Poor ewe !) a dead, cold weight, The little one her soft, warm fleece

So fondly cherished late.
But yesterday, no happier dam

Ranged o'er those pastures wide
Than she, fond creature ! when the lamb

Was sporting by her side.
It was a new-born thing :—the rain

Poured down all night—its bed
Was drenched and cold. Morn came again,

But the young lamb was dead.
Yet the poor mother's fond distress

art had tried,

* Author of “ The Widow's Tale and other poems."

[ocr errors]

To shield, with sleepless tenderness,
The weak one at her side.

Round it, all night, she gathered warm

Her woolly limbs—her head
Close curved across its feeble form;

Day dawned, and it was dead.
She saw it dead :-she felt, she knew

It had no strength, no breath-
Yet, how could she conceive, poor ewe

The mystery of death?
It lay before her stiff and cold-

Yet fondly she essayed
To cherish it in love's warm fold;

Then restless trial made,
Moving, with still reverted face,

And low, complaining bleat,
To entice from their damp resting place

Those little stiffening feet.
All would not do, when all was tried :

Love's last fond lure was vain :
So, quietly by its dead side,

She laid her down again.


The White Bear.–PERCIVAL.

The white bear of Greenland and Spitzbergen is considerably larger than the brown bear of Europe, or the black bear of North America. This animal lives upon fish and seals, and is seen not only upon land in the countries bordering on the North Pole, but often upon floats of ice several leagues at sea. The following relation is extracted from the “ Journal of a Voyage for making discoveries towards the North Pole."

Early in the morning, the man at the mast-head gave notice that three bears were making their way very fast over the ice, and that they were directing their course towards the ship. They had, without question, been invited by the scent of the blubber of a sea-horse, killed a few days before, which the men had set on fire, and which was burning on the ice at the time of their approach.

« 上一頁繼續 »