Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

anxious thoughts then possessed the minds of the fugitives, as they turned their backs on that hospitable home where they had so often indulged in the joys of social existence! Yet, amidst the mental and bodily anguish of that hour, there were moments, to two individuals at least, fraught with delicious transport. As Allan walked beside Barbara, he had innumerable opportunities of assisting her over the rocks and mossy water-courses; whilst she, in all the innocence of a pure and ingenuous attachment, rejoiced in the thought she was pacing by his side from whom her heart had no disguise.

After an undisturbed walk of several miles, the travellers emerged from a narrow and precipitous defile upon tableland of wild and savage character, to which the sombre coldness of the morning air lent additional horror. They knew, by the echoing roar of a mountain torrent forcing its boiling foam over high rocks, which terminated on their left, that they were now approaching the margin of the great lake over which they proposed to sail. To prevent surprise, it was agreed that Coirshugle should descend to the point where the waters of the stream united with the loch, whilst the rest awaited his return in a deep fissure of the bank on which they stood. The tangled covert and impervious wood which fringed the margin of the river, enabled him to grope his way along the hazardous descent, without risk of being seen, even if scouts were abroad; and he passed in front of the greensward, which, gently swelling upwards from the rippling waves, receded into a flat background, closed in by mountains of surprising beauty and grandeur. A stone house of two stories, then somewhat rare even among the better ranks, embosomed amid trees, graced the centre of the landscape; but Coirshugle was especially careful to avoid it, although its owner held the same political sentiments with Græme and Vich Neil. In a little bay, formed by the junction of the river and the lake, he happily found, as he had hoped for, the pleasure-skiff of the proprietor of the domain, and hastened without delay to guide his comrades to the spot. They listened for his return with feverish anxiety, and lost no time in following his track; though all the care of Vich Neil could not prevent Barbara's tender form from suffering by the heather roots beneath, and the spreading branches above her path. Anxious as he was to save her from this distress, intenser still was his agony on her firmness giving way, as Coirshugle

advancing to unmoor the boat, suddenly exclaimed, it was gone! The consequences of discovery, the sense of fatigue, were forgotten : her father, lover, and Coirshugle, alternately exerted their almost maddened endeavours to restore her, which a copious sprinkling of the cold water of the lake at last effected Dugal Cassindonich meanwhile had not been inactive; for, rightly judging from his own experience, that the tackling would be no better than an indifferent rope, and a round stone attached to it by way of anchor, he conjectured that the vessel had only drifted a little lower down the strand; and such proved the case. Wading therefore into the water, he triumphantly brought back his capture to the cove, where Barbara, now reanimated to exertion, stood with her friends. Not a moment was lost in putting off from land; and, scarcely had they done so, than some one, roused by the splash of the oars, challenged in the king's name. “Lay down, for heaven's sake!” said Vichneil to Barbara, as he almost dragged her to the bottom of the boat; "and do you, my brave companions, pull strongly, and united, into the bosom of the loch.” The deep lunge of the propelling prow showed how well he had been obeyed, for the words were but barely uttered, when a ball cut the water at the keel. “Again, again, and the obscureness of the dawn places us beyond sight,” spoke the same voice. Further and further each stroke took them from the receding coast; but the musket-shots still told along the surface, though happily, harmlessly. Barbara thought she could have braved the terrors of a campaign with her father and her lover; but she owned the weakness of woman, as, pale, trembling, and crouching on the rough boards, she listened, in agony, to the drooping fire. She was destined to further trials. The sullen growl of distant thunder, and the big drops of rain which followed from a dark canopy of cloud, that, in an instant as it were, enveloped them in total darkness, indicated the approach of one of those sudden storms so common in the mountains. With a gust, which had wellnigh capsized the little bark, a fearful tornado swept from the gullies along the lake, and a torrent, of irresistible power, fell from the heavens. Another blast, and the elemental war was terminated! The air became as calm as it had been disturbed; but Barbara shivered in every pore. Her father hastened to reassure her: “Cheer up, my dearest child; lo! the gorgeous blaze of fire which lights up Glenmoriston's needled pile!” and he pointed to the saffron tinge of light wantoning along those heather

crested hills. “Once more we'll hail the sight of freemen, and laugh to scorn the base-born slaves who think to trample on Scotland's rights. But what is this ? the pibroch's strains! Ah, how they glad my ear, as they come mellowed in their wild luxuriance of sound down yonder fairy strath.”

As they reached the shore, our party found that the music had proceeded from a numerous band of peasants, of both sexes, about to celebrate that most stirring ceremony of good old daysma Highland country wedding. They were marshalling around the bridegroom, a bandsome young mountaineer, the son of a respectable tacksman, whose clean turned limbs well became the

gay
kilt he wore. A

sporran of badger-skin surmounted it, and he carried his belted plaid in the peaceful attitude, which distinguished it from the war form. A dirk, with a handle of yew curiously carved, and terminating in three points at the top, was his only weapon. A number of knots of blue ribbon, the true lover's colour, graced his breast and the shoulder of the plaid. “True son of Slioch-nan-Mac-Lea,” (race of Maclea,) exclaimed the Highlanders, so soon as they had scanned the visages of the wanderers; “Allan Vich Neil, protector of the feeble, welcome from the land of the stranger; failteh gui:"* and they rent the air with their shouts, and threw their bonnets up on high. “And give your welcome too, my friends, to this my honoured guest, the brave Balinbrek, and his gem of Craggynaan; to my worthy laird of Coirshugle.” The delighted mountaineers showed no delay in proving to their young chief how much he was beloved.

Cassindonich had already mixed with old comrades and adopted clansmen. “A bridal, I perceive,” said Balinbrek; “ but where is the bride ?” “At Castle-na-mannoch, where serves our honored head," replied an aged peasant.

“A word with you Balinbrek, and you Coirshugle,” said Vich Neil, as he beckoned them aside; " for pity's sake, repress all tidings of Drummossie Moor; these poor people are as yet ignorant of that bloody day which saw good eight score of their line bite the dust. Let them enjoy this brief respite from woe.”

“But Dugal, he may have whispered tales already ?

• Failte dhuibh; plural, “ Hail to you reverentially,” according to Gælic idiom, there being none of the usual English titles of honour known in that language.-EDRS.

was the mutual response. “Not he, by my word : here, meetal (an expression of endearment) Dugal," and he held up his finger, to command attention. The boy bowed. “He comprehends me; no fear of glib tongue from him. To amuse my father, it must be understood, I am here on leave of absence from the army; you will carry me through, if difficulties arise. And now, my friends to the infer* of the new bride,” said he, as he turned to the rustic revellers. The procession was instantly formed; the newly-arrived Duinné-uassels, and their fair companion, marshalled in front; the bridegroom occupied a centre position, guarded on either side by his best man; whilst a group of all sizes and ages brought up the rear, singing, laughing, and every now and then discharging pistols and muskets.

Although it was only two miles distance to Castle-namannoch, the sun was somewhat high in the heavens before they reached it; an appearance of haste being accounted indecorous. The mansion was very different indeed from what its sounding title seemed to promise. It was a long, straggling, stone building, flanked at one end by a round peel or tower, and rising in the centre into a huge angular pile of masonry, resembling somewhat distantly, but by no means in breadth, a modern chimney. This cumbersome pile abutted somewhat from the roof; and was, as well as it, covered with a grey-coloured stone, mouldy in many places from age. The principal entrance was by the tower. On either side of this more dignified habitation, extended a single storied thatched edifice, no inapt representative of a good barn; and the court in the centre, from which no rude hand had lifted the native turf, was patrolled by two or three snarling curs, and some domestic fowls. A few turf bothies were scattered up and down the glen; one of pastoral sweetness, tinged with the brightest green. From a corner of the principal house, ran a wall of loose stones, enclosing an area of perhaps half an acre; which received the imposing name of a garden, though nothing but a few gooseberry bushes could warrant its claim to that title, whilst the walks and beds were overrun with thistles and other weeds; out of which a cabbage stalk here and there reared its head. A belt of fir plantation wound round a small hill, in rear of the premises. One very large and venerable ash waved over the door; from which depended a massy iron chain collar, used like the juggs and pillory, as a punishment for

The ceremonial of betrothment.

3

refractory spirits, or those accounted such, when the laird's temper was pleased to vent itself on his vassals. To complete the picture, it will only be necessary to make mention of the stripes of arable land lying at the end of the glen, where a peasant might be seen (in the proper season) following a simple wooden plough, slowly dragged by a diminutive garron, or native horse; and the singularly diversified position of the crops of grain, lying in every possible contrast to each other, like men on a draft-board and totally unprotected by any hedge, or line of demarcation whatever.

A discharge of musketry, and hearty cheers from a group of Highlanders in front of the castle, welcomed the bridegroom and train. From the body thus drawn up, a hale old gentleman stepped forth, struck with the superior mien of the persons in advance; being lame, from a hurt received in early youth, he leaned on a little boy or page, for support. As he recognised his son and his guests, he warmly greeted each in succession.

“Sweet maid, we are indeed indebted for this unexpected pleasure,” said Neil Mac Lea, as he took the hand of Barbara Græme. “I see how Allan plays truant from his military duties. Well, my friends, you will not refuse your countenance to the nuptials of an adopted daughter, the faithful handmaid, during her life, of my beloved Florence. Her father Ivanhre's luckless fate you doubtless know? Lads, to the other side of the house, if you would steal the bride."

As he said this, a party of young clansmen ran off to put in execution a playful frolic, then everywhere permitted, of making away with the bride, when insecurely guarded by her female attendants, into whose custody she could only, in such an event, be restored, by paying the penalty of a kiss to her captors. But, upon the present occasion, the lynx eyes of the good dame of Castle-na-mannoch kept the young helpmates of the bride in full activity. The feet washing, the scramble for the ring dropped into the simmering water at the same moment, and the innocent mirth which these gave rise to, were past, and the invaders found everything in due order, and the happy fair one only thinking of the signal to proceed to the hall, where the clergyman waited her arrival. As she rose for this purpose, the youthful cortege burst forth into a wild song of congratulation.

« ПредишнаНапред »