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“I heard ye were here, frae the bit callant ye sent to meet your carriage,” said the beggar, as he trudged stoutly on a step or two behind Miss Wardour, “and I couldna bide to think o' the dainty young leddy's peril, that has aye been kind to ilka forlorn heart that cam' near her. Sae I lookit at the lift and the rin o' the tide, till I settled it that if I could get down time enough to gie you warning, we wad do weel yet. But I doubt, I doubt, I have been beguiled, for what mortal ee ever saw sic a race as the tide is rinning e'en now? See, yonder 's the Ratton's Skeary–he aye held his neb abune the water in my day—but he's aneath it now.”
Sir Arthur cast a look in the direction in which the old man pointed. A huge rock, which in general, even in spring-tides, displayed a hulk like the keel of a large vessel, was now quite under water, and its place only indicated by the boiling and breaking of the eddying waves which encountered its submarine resistance.
( Mak’ haste, mak' haste, my bonny leddy,” continued the old man, mak' haste, and we may do yet! Take haud o' my arm,--an old and frail arm it's now, but it's been in as sair stress as this is yet. Take haud o’ my arm, my winsome leddy! D’ye see yon wee black speck ainang the wallowing waves yonder? This morning it was as high as the mast o'a brig—it's sma’eneugh now-but, while I see as muckle black about it as the crown o' my hat, I winna believe but we'll get round the Bally-burgh Ness, for a' that's come and gane yet.”
Isabella, in silence, accepted from the old man the assistance which Sir Arthur was less able to afford her. The waves had now encroached so much upon the beach, that the firm and smooth footing which they had hitherto had on the sand must be exchanged for a rougher path close to the foot of the precipice, and in some places even raised upon its lower ledges. It would have been utterly impossible for Sir Arthur Wardour and his daughter to have found their way along these shelves without the guidance and encouragement of the beggar, who had been there before in high tides, though never, he acknowledged, “in sae awsome a night as this."
It was indeed a dreadful evening. The howling of the storm mingled with the shrieks of the sea-fowl, and sounded like the dirge of the three devoted beings who, pent between two of the most magnificent, yet most dreadful objects of nature—a raging tide and an unsurmountable precipice—toiled along their painful and dangerous path, often lashed by the spray of some giant billow, which threw itself higher on the beach than those that had preceded it. Each minute did their enemy gain ground perceptibly upon them! Still, however, loath to relinquish the last hopes of life, they bent their eyes on the black rock pointed out by Ochiltree. It was yet distinctly visible among the breakers, and continued to be so, until they came to a turn in their precarious path, where an intervening projection of rock hid it from their sight.
Deprived of the view of the beacon on which they had relied, they now experienced the double agony of terror and suspense. They struggled forward, however; but when they arrived at the point from which they ought to have seen the crag, it was no longer visible. The signal of safety was lost among a thousand white breakers, which, dashing upon the point of the promontory, rose in prodigious sheets of snowy foam, as high as the mast of a first-rate man-of-war, against the dark brow of the precipice.
The countenance of the old man fell. Isabella gave a faint shriek, and “ God have mercy upon us !
» which her guide solemnly uttered, was piteously echoed by Sir Arthur—“My child ! my child !—to die such a death!”
“My father! my dear father!” his daughter exclaimed, clinging to him ; "and you too, who have lost your own life in endeavouring to save ours !”
“That's not worth the counting," said the old man. “I hae lived to be weary of life ; and here or yonder —at the back o' a dyke, in a wreath o'snaw, or in the wame oʻ a wave, what signifies how the auld gaberlunzie dies?" “Good man,” said Sir Arthur,
can you think of nothing of no help? I'll make you rich—I'll give
? you a farm—I'll
“Our riches will be soon equal,” said the beggar, looking out upon the strife of the water; “they are sae already, for I hae nae land, and you would give your fair bounds and barony for a square yard of rock that would be dry for twal hours.”
While they exchanged these words, they paused upon the highest ledge of rock to which they could attain; for it seemed that any further attempt to move forward could only serve to anticipate their fate. Here, then, they were to await the sure though slow progress of the raging element, something in the situation of the martyrs of the early church, who, exposed by heathen tyrants to be slain by wild beasts, were compelled for a time to witness the impatience and rage by which the animals were agitated, while awaiting the signal for undoing their grates, and letting them loose upon the victims.
Yet even this fearful pause gave Isabella time to collect the powers of a mind naturally strong and courageous, and which rallied itself at this terrible juncture. “Must we yield life,” she said, “without a struggle? Is there no path, however dreadful, by which we could climb the cray, or at least attain some height above the tide, where we could remain till morning, or till help comes? They must be aware of our situation, and will raise the country to relieve us.
Sir Arthur, who heard, but scarcely comprehended, his daughter's question, turned, nevertheless, instinctively and eagerly to the old man, as if their lives were in his gift. Ochiltree paused. “I was a bauld craigs
man," he said, “ance in my life, but it's lang lang syne, and nae mortal could speel them without a rope-and if I had ane, my ee-sight, and my footstep, and my hand-grip, hae a' failed mony a day sin syne-and then how could I save you ? But there was a path here ance, though maybe, if we could see it, ye would rather bide where we are. His name be praised !” he ejaculated suddenly, “there's ane coming down the crags e'en now !” Then, exalting his voice, he hilloa’d out to the daring adventurer such instructions as his former practice, and the remembrance of local circumstances suddenly forced upon
his mind. The adventurer following the directions of old Edie, flung him down the end of the rope, which he secured around Miss Wardour, wrapping her previously in his own blue gown, to preserve her as much as possible from injury. Then, availing himself of the rope, which ,
, was made fast at the other end, he began to ascend the face of the crag—a most precarious and dizzy undertaking, which, however, after one or two perilous escapes, placed him safe on the broad flat stone beside our friend Lovel. Their joint strength was able to raise Isabella to the place of safety which they had attained. Lovel then descended in order to assist Sir Arthur, around whom he adjusted the rope; and again mounting to their place of refuge, with the assistance of old Ochiltree, and such aid as Sir Arthur himself could afford, he raised himself beyond the reach of the billows.
The sense of reprieve from approaching and apparently inevitable death had its usual effect. The father and daughter threw themselves into each other's arms, kissed and wept for joy, although their escape was connected with the prospect of passing a tempestuous night upon a precipitous ledge of rock, which scarce afforded footing for the four shivering beings who now, like the sea-fowl around them, clung there in hopes of some shelter from the devouring element
which raged beneath. The spray of the billows, which attained in fearful succession the foot of the precipice, overflowing the beach on which they so lately stood, flew as high as their place of temporary refuge; and the stunning sound with which they dashed against the rocks beneath seemed as if they still demanded the fugitives, in accents of thunder, as their destined prey.
It was a summer night doubtless; yet the probability was slender that a frame so delicate as Miss Wardour should survive till morning the drenching of the spray,
, and the dashing of the rain, which now burst in full violence, accompanied with deep and heavy gusts of wind, added to the constrained and perilous circumstances of their situation.
“The lassie—the puir, sweet lassie,” said the old man; mony such a night have I weathered at hame and abroad, but how can she ever win through it !”
His apprehension was communicated in smothered accents to Lovel; for, with the sort of freemasonry by which bold and ready spirits correspond in moments of danger, and become almost instinctively known to each other, they had established a mutual confidence. “I'll climb up the cliff again,” said Lovel, “ there's day-light enough left to see my footing; I'll climb up and call for more assistance."
“Do so, do, for Heaven's sake!” said Sir Arthur eagerly.
“ Are ye mad?” said the mendicant; “Francie o' Fowlsheugh, and he was the best craigsinan that ever speeld heugh (mair by token he brake his neck upon the Dunbuy of Slaines), wadna hae ventured upon the Halket-head craigs after sundown. It's God's grace, and a great wonder besides, that ye are not in the middle o' that roaring sea wi' what ye hae done already. I didna think there was the man left alive would hae come down the craigs as ye did. I question an' I could hae done it mysel, at this hour and in this