« ПредишнаНапред »
turn of the blast; and as it came bellowing on, she appeared to shrink, and huddled closer into the chimney-corner, into which she had crept for protection.
Such nights are not often known in these regions ?' said I, taking advantage as I spoke of a slight abatement in the din without.
The old woman made no answer; but the daughter bending forwards as she spoke, replied slowly, and with great solemnity, Mother has seen the death-lights dancing upon the black scud-Some that ha' seen the sun gang down upon the waters, winna see him rise fro' the hill-top i' the ruddy mornin!' 'Is your' mother a seer, then, my pretty maiden ?' • Ye're but a stranger, I guess, 'at does'nt ken Bridget o' the Sandyholm. Save us, she's hearkening again for the'
• There-over'--the old woman raised her hands whilst she spoke, and bent her head in the attitude of attention and eager expectation. I listened too, but could discover no other sound that the heavy swing of the blast and its receding growl.
• Again !'-as she said this, Bridget rose from the low stool she had occupied, and hobbled towards the window. I fancied I then heard a signal given, as from some vessel in distress; but ere I could communicate this to my companions, another, and a nearer roll from the fatal gun, silenced all conjecture. It was indeed but too evident that a vessel was in the offing, and rapidly driving on the shore, from the increasing distinctness of the signals. Old Bridget stood by the window, her dim and anxious eyes peering through the casement, as if she could discern the fearful and appalling spectacle upon the dark billows.
You're lost-you're lost-poor wretehes,' she cried, as a heavy roll of the wind brought another report with amazing distinctness to the ear. And now the death-shriek,-another, another !-Ye drop into the deep waters, and the gulf is not yet gorged with its prey. Bridget Robson, girl and woman, has never seen the blue dancers, but she has heard the sea-gun follow, and the red sand covered with the spoil! "Wench,' she cried, raising her voice almost to a scream, 'wench, take not of the prey; 'tis accursed-what the wave spews, they that lick may be like to vomit.' The beldame drew back after uttering this coarse anathema, and again resumed her station by the hearth.
The storm now seemed to have spent its fury; and as if satisfied with the catastrophe just now consummating, it grew comparatively calm. The gusts came on fitfully, like the closing sobs of some fretful and peevish babe, not altogether ceasing with the indulgence of its wishes. As I stood ruminating on the probable havock this terrible night had witnessed, the maiden touched my arm. 'Sir, will ye gang down to the shore ? Ise warrant the neighbours are helping, an' we may save a life though we canna gie't. She had wrapped herself in a thick cloak, the hood thrown forward, and the lanthorn again put into requisition, and fitted up for immediate service. Thus accoutred, we opened the door with considerable difficulty, and waded slowly through the heavy sand-drifts towards the beach; clouds, huge, and mountain-piled were rolling across the sky; a dark scud sweeping over their huge tops here and there, faintly illuminated by the moon. She was yet obscured, but a wild and partial light, usually seen after the breaking up of a storm, just served to shew the outline of objects not too remote from the sphere of vision. My companion undertook the office of guide, and soon brought me to an opening in the
low hills that led directly down to the beach. Immediately I saw lights before us moving to and fro, the busy hum of voices came upon the wind, and forms were indistinctly seen hurrrying backwards and forwards upon
the very verge of the white foam, boiling from the huge billows. Hastening to the spot, we found a number of fishermen, their wives assisting in the scrutiny, carefully examining the fragments of some vessel which the waves were from time to time casting up, and throwing with heavy lunges upon the shore. Either for purposes of plunder, or ostensibly for some more honest motive, several packages were conveyed away, after the parties had prudently examined their contents. My companion ran into the thickest of the group, anxiously inquiring the fate of the crew, and if any lives had been preserved. I guess,' cried an old hard-featured sinner, 'they be where they'll need no looking to. Last blast o'wind, six weeks agone come St. Barnaby, I gied my cabin to the lady and her babies, an' the pains I waur like to ha' got for my labour. I didn't touch a groat till the parson gied me a note out o' the 'scription.
But I may gang home gaily to-night, there's no live lumber here to stow into my loft; the fishes ha' had the pick o' the whole company this bout.'
• Canna we get the boats ? I can pull an oar, Darby, thee knows, wi' the best on 'em.' * Boats !' exclaimed Darby, 'ne'er a boat could live, but wi' the keel upmost. I’se not the chap neither to go to old Davy pickled i' brine broth, my bonny Kate.'
There's a greedy glid; l'se go ask Simon Stockfish, but I warrant thou'll be hankering after the reward, an' the biggest share to thy own clutches.' She turned away from the incensed fisherman, and on proceeding to a little distance, we found a knot of persons gathered round a halfdrowned wretch, who owed his arrival upon terra firma to having been lashed to a beam which the sea had just thrown ashore. Almost fainting from cold and fatigue, he was nevertheless undergoing a severe cross-questioning from the bye-standers, each anxious to know the name of the ship, whither bound, and the particulars of the disaster.' He replied to their interrogations with considerable difficulty, and entreated they would convey him to some place of rest and refreshment. I begged of them to restrain their impertinent curiosity, and assist in removing him to the hut I had just left. The call was obeyed with considerable alacrity, and I soon had the satisfaction of finding the poor fellow before a comfortable fire, his clothes drying, and his benumbed limbs chafed until the circulation was again restored. A tumbler of grog was now despatched, and he appeared rapidly recovering from his fatigues. I now found that he was the captain of the vessel just wrecked on the coast, and he shook his head when I inquired after the fate of her crew.
• A score of as good hands are gone to the bottom as ever unreefed a clean topsail, or hung out a ship's canvass to the wind. I saw them all go down before I lashed myself to the jib-boom.'
He groaned deeply, but speedily assuming a gayer tone, requested a quid and a quiet hammock. “My lights are near stove in, my head hangs as loose as a skipper shrouds; but a night's sleep will make all taught again.' Old Bridget was gone to
and unless the sailor chose to occupy the straw pallet at present in the possession of a guest, whose mysterious arrival seemed to be the harbinger of confusion and disaster, there did not seem to be any chance of his obtaining a birth, save in his present uncomfortable settlement. I told him of the dilemma we were in from
having a corpse in the house, and the only spare bed engaged in the last services to the departed.
• We can move the body fro’ the bed,' said Kate ; . it winna take harm upo' the hard chest i’ the far nook there, beside the ladder; he'll may be not sleep waur for quiet company.'
The sailor did not seem to relish the idea even of so tempting a companion, and it was eventually agreed that we should pilot him through the outhouse into the loft, where the dead body lay, and help the miserable pallet to a change of occupants. The corpse was to be stowed below upon some clean litter, the depot of bedding left for the cattle.
We set off without loss of time to conduct the stranger to his dormitory. It was an outhouse used as a temporary shelter for the cows, and the room above was formerly a portion of the hay-loft, until converted into an occasional sleeping-room for the humble applicants who sometimes solicited a night's lodging at the Sandy-holm. The ascent was by a crazy ladder, and so steep, that I was afraid we should find some difficulty in helping our enfeebled guest into his lodging.
It was my intention to have prevented him from getting a sight of the ghastly object that occupied his couch, but, pressing foremost, he ran up the ladder with surprising agility, gaining the top almost ere I had commenced my preparations for the ascent. I cautiously mounted, and giving him the light whilst I made good my landing, he went directly, though unconsciously, towards the bed. I had set my foot on the floor, and was offering assistance to Kate, who had to contend with the difficulties without the aid of her favourite lanthorn, when I heard a dismal and heart-sickening shriek. Starting round, I beheld the stranger gazing on the couch, his eye-balls almost bursting from their sockets, and the most intense expression of horror and amazement visible in his countenance. I ran to him--the light dropped from his grasp. Recovering it ere it fell, I saw his eyes fixed upon the corpse, as if they were rivetted on its livid and terrific features, My limbs stiffened as I gazed, --Imaginings of strange import were crowding on my mind, but I knew not how to shape the ideas into form, as I stood trembling and appalled, before the dark chaos from whence they sprang. Though scarce knowing what I said, I well remember the inquiry that burst from my lips, •Know'st thou that murdered wretch ?' The words were scarcely uttered, when the conscience-stricken criminal exclaimed--Know him !-- Yesterday he sat at my helm--I had long owed him a grudge, and I vowed revenge--the devil prompted it-- he stood at my elbow--it was dark--the fiend's eye flashed as I raised my arm for the blow --the weapon descended with a heavy crash, and the body rolled overboard! He never spoke again, save once, it was when his mangled carcase rose to the surface of the waters, that I heard a faint moan. It rang on my my brain like the knell of death--the voice rushed past--a low sepulchral shout--in my very ear it echoed the cry of Murder!
Little now remains to be told-he persisted to the last in this confession --he had no wish to live--and the avenging arm of retributive justice closed the world and its interests for ever on a wretch who had forfeited its protection, been cast out, and judged unworthy of a name and place amongst his fellow men.
THE TRANSPORT. Having received the • Janus, or Edinburgh Literary Almanack,' too late in the month to be enabled to include any extracts from it in our last number, we are induced to supply the deficiency in our present publication. The following article may, be regarded as a very favourable sample of the work:
The great eye of day was wide open, and a joyful light filled air, heaven, and ocean. The marbled clouds lay motionless far and wide over the deep-blue sky, and all memory of storm and hurricane had vanished from the magnificence of that immense calm. There was but a gentle fluctuation on the bosom of the deep, and the sea-birds floated steadily there, or dipped their wings for a moment in the wreathed foam, and again wheeled sportively away into the sunshine. One Shiponly one single Ship was within the encircling horizon, and she had lain there as if at anchor since the morning light; for, although all her sails were set, scarcely a wandering breeze touched her canvas, and her flags hung dead on staff and at peak, or lifted themselves uncertainly up at intervals, and then sunk again into motionless repose. The crew paced not her deck, for they knew that no' breeze would come till after meridian, -and it was the Sabbath-day.
A small congregation were singing praises to God in that chapel, which rested almost as quietly on the sea as the house of worship in which they had been used to pray then rested far off, on a foundation of rock, in a green valley of their forsaken Scotland. They were Emigrants_nor hoped ever again to see the mists of their native mountains. But as they heard the voice of their psalm, each singer half forgot that it blended with the sound of the sea, and almost believed himself sitting in the kirk of his own beloved parish. But hundreds of billowy leagues intervened between them and the little tinkling bell that was now tolling their happier friends to the quiet house of God.
And now an old grey-headed man rose to pray, and held up his withered hands in fervent supplication for all around, whom, in good truth, he called his children—for three generations were with the patriarch in that tabernacle. There, in one group, were husbands and wives standing together, in awe of Him who held the deep in the hollow of his hand, there, youths and maidens, linked together by the feeling of the same destiny, some of them perhaps hoping, when they reached the shore, to lay their heads on one pillow,—there, children hand in hand, happy in the wonders of the ocean,--and there, mere infants smiling on the sunny deck, and unconscious of the meaning of hymn or prayer.
A low, confined, growling noise was heard struggling beneath the deck, and a sailor called with a loud voice, Fire--fire,—the Ship’s on fire !” Holy words died on the prayer's tongue—the congregation fell asunder and pale faces, wild eyes, groans, shrieks, and outcries, rent the silence of the lonesome sea. No one for a while knew the other, as all were hurried as in a whirlwind up and down the Ship. A dismal heat, all unlike the warmth of that beautiful sun, came stillingly on every breath.—Mothers, who in their first terror had shuddered but for themselves, now clasped their infants to their breasts, and lifted up their eyes to heaven. Bold brave men grew white as ashes, and hands, strengthened by toil and storm, trembled like the aspen-leaf. “Gone-gone,-we are all gone!” was now the cry ; yet no one knew whence that cry came ; and men glared reproachfully on each other's countenances, and strove to keep down the audible beating of their own hearts. The desperate love of life drove them instinctively to their stations, and the water was poured, as by the strength of giants, down among the smouldering flames. But the devouring element roared up into the air ; and deck, masts, sails, and shrouds, were one crackling and hissing sheet of fire.
“Let down the boat !” was now the yell of hoarse voices ; and in an instant she was filled with life. Then there was frantic leaping into the sea ; and all who were fast drowning, moved convulsively towards that little ark. Some sank down at once into oblivion—some grasped at nothing with their disappearing hands—some seized in vain unguencheď pieces of the fiery wreck-some would fain have saved a friend almost in the last agonies ; and some, strong in a savage despair, tore from them the clenched fingers that would have dragged them down, and forgot in fear both love and pity.
Enveloped in flames and smoke, yet insensible as a corpse to the burning, a frantic mother flung down her baby among the crew ; and as it fell among the upward oars unharmed, sko shrieked out a prayer of thanksgiving. “Go, husband, go; for I am content to die.--Oh! live-live-my husband, for our darling Willy's sake.” But in the prime of life, and with his manly bosom full of health and hope, the husband looked but for a moment till he saw his child was safe ; and then taking his young wife in his arms, sat down beneath the burning fragments of the sail, with the rest that were resigned, never more to rise up till the sound of the last trumpet, when the faithful and the afflicted shall be raised to breathe for ever empyrean air.
ADDRESS TO THE INFANT ROSCIUS.
O World! there was a time in thy past life,
When all thy wonders were comprised in seven!
Please or confound all nations under heaven.
But now, so many marvels dost thou own,
Musical, literary, learned, religious ;
When first the learned pig did learn his letters ;-
Words, not then always known unto his betters.
Those days are gone! Now bird and beast in vain
Crave public favour for their deeds precocious ;
(For truth's sake advertise as I have written)
A lion's movements mimicked by a kitten.'
Go to, thou tiny elf,—or rather back,
Back to thy nursery and bread-and-butter ;
And let our full grown actors mouth and mutter.