Графични страници
PDF файл

"Mr. Balfour," answered Morton, " I neither undertake to subscribe or to refute your complaints against the government. I have endeavoured to repay a debt due to the comrade of my father, by giving you shelter in your distress, but you will excuse me from engaging myself either in your cause, or in controversy. I will leave you to repose, and heartily wish it were in my power to render your condition more comfortable."

"But I shall see you, I trust, in the morning, ere I depart %—I am not a man whose bowels yearn after kindred and friends of this world. When I put my hand to the plough, I entered into a covenant with my worldly affections that I should not look back on the things 1 left behind me. Yet the son of mine ancient comrade is to me as mine own, and I cannot behold him without the deep and firm belief, that I shall one day see him gird on his sword in the dear and precious cause for which his father fought and bled."

With a promise on Morton's part that he would call the refugee when it was time for him to pursue his journey, they parted for the night.

Morton retired to a few hours rest ; but his imagination, disturbed by the events of the day, did not permit him to enjoy sound repose. There was a blended vision of horror before him in which his new friend seemed to be a principal actor. The fair form of Edith Bellenden also mingled in his dream, weeping, and with dishevelled hair, and appearing to call on him for comfort and assistance which he had not in his power to render. He awoke from these unrefreshing slumbers with a feverish impulse, and a heart which foreboded disaster. There was already a tinge of dazzling lustre on the verge of the distant hills, and the dawn was abroad in all the freshness of a summer morning.

"I have slept too long," he exclaimed to himself, " and must now hasten to forward the journey of this unfortunate fugitive."

He dressed himself as fast as possible, opened the door of lite house with as little noise as he could, and hastened to the place of refuge occupied by the Covenanter. Morton entered on tiptoe, for the determined tone and manner, as well as the unusual language and sentiments of this singular individual, had struck him with a sensation approaching to awe. Balfour was still asleep. A ray of light streamed on his uncurtained couch, and showed to Morton the working of his harsh features, which seemed agitated by some strong internal cause of disturbance. He had not undressed. Both his arms were above the bed-cover, the right hand strongly clenched, and occasionally making that abortive attempt to strike, which usually attends dreams of violence ; the left was extended, and agitated, from time to time, by a movement as if repulsing some one. The perspiration stood on his brow, " like bubbles in a late disturbed stream," and these marks of emotion were accompanied with broken words which escaped from him at intervals—," Thou art taken, Judas—thou art taken—Cling not to my knees —cling not to my knees—hew him down !—A priest 1 Ay, a priest of Baal to be bound and slain, even at the brook Kishon.—Fire-arms will not prevail against him— Strike—thrust with the cold iron—put him out of pain— put him out of pain, were it but for the sake of his grey hairs."

Much alarmed at the import of these expressions, which seemed to burst from him even in sleep with the stern energy accompanying the perpetration of some act of violence, Morton shook his guest by the shoulder in order to awake him. The first words he uttered were, " Bear me where ye will, I will avouch the deed!"

His glance around having then fully awakened him, he at once assumed all the stern and gloomy composure of his ordinary manner, and throwing himself on his knees before speaking to Morton, poured forth an ejaculatory prayer for the suffering Church of Scotland, entreating that the blood of her murdered saints and martyrs might be precious in the sight of Heaven, and that the shield of the Almighty might be spread over the scattered remnant, who, for His name's sake, were abiders in the wilderness

Vengeance—speedy and ample vengeance on the oppressors, was the concluding petition of his devotions, which he expressed aloud in strong and emphatic language, rendered more impressive by the orientalism of Scripture.

When he had finished his prayer he arose, and taking Morton by the arm, they descended together to the stable, where the Wanderer, (to give Burley a title which was often conferred on his sect,) began to make his horse ready to pursue his journey. When the animal was saddled and bridled, Burley requested Morton to walk with him a gun-shot into the wood, and direct him to the right road for gaining the moors. Morton readily complied, and they walked for some time in silence under the shade of some fine old trees, pursuing a sort of natural path, which, after passing through woodland for about half a mile, led into the bare and wild country which extends to the foot of the hills.

There was little conversation between them, until at length Burley suddenly asked Morton, "Whether the words he had spoken over-night had borne fruit in his mind?"

Morton answered, "That he remained of the same opinion which he had formerly held, and was determined, at least as far and as long as possible, to unite the duties of a good Christian with those of a peaceful subject."

"In other words,'' replied Burley, " you are desirous to serve both God and Mammon—to be one day professing the truth with your lips, and the next day in arms, at the command of carnal and tyrannic authority, to shed the blood of those who for the truth have forsaken all things 9 Think ye," he continued, "to touch pitch and remain undenled 1 to mix in the ranks of malignants, papists, papa-prelatists, latitudinarians, and scoffers ; to partake of their sports, which are like the meat offered unto idols ; to hold intercourse, perchance, with their daughters, as the sons of God with the daughters of men in the world before the flood—think you, I say, to do all these things, and yet remain free from pollution? I say unto you, that all communication with the enemies of the Church is the accursed thing which God hateth! Touch not taste not handle not! And grieve not, young man, as if you alone were called upon to subdue your carnal affections, and renounce the pleasures which are a snare to your feet—I say to you that the son of David hath denounced no better lot on the whole generation of mankind."

He then mounted his horse, and, turning to Morton, repeated the text of Scripture, " An heavy yoke was ordained for the sons of Adam from the day they go out of their mother's womb till the day they return to the mother of all things ; from him who is clothed in blue silk and weareth a crown, even to him who weareth simple linen, —wrath, envy, trouble, and unquietness, rigour, strife, and fear of death in the time of rest."

Having uttered these words he set his horse in motion, and soon disappeared among the boughs of the forest.

"Farewell, stern enthusiast," said Morton, looking after him; "in some moods of my mind, how dangerous would be the society of such a companion ! If I am unmoved by his zeal for abstract doctrines of faith, or rather for a peculiar mode of worship, (such was the purport of his reflections,) can I be a man, and a Scotchman, and look with indifference on that persecution which has made wise men mad 9 Was not the cause of freedom, civil and religious, that for which my father fought; and shall I do well to remain inactive, or to take the part of an oppressive government, if there should appear any rational prospect of redressing the insufferable wrongs to which my miserable countrymen are subjected 1—And yet, who shall warrant me that these people, rendered wild by persecution, would not in the hour of victory, be as cruel and as intolerant as those by whom they are now hunted down 1 What degree of moderation, or of mercy, can be expected from this Burley, so distinguished as one of their principal champions, and who seems even now to be reeking from some recent deed of violence, and to feel stings of remorse, which even his enthusiasm cannot altogether stifle? I am weary of seeing nothing but violence and furyaround'me—now assuming the mask of lawful au19* vOL. I.

thority, now taking that of religious zeal. I am sick of my country—of myself—of my dependent situation—of my repressed feelings—of these woods—of that river— of that house—of all but—Edith, and she can never be mine! Why should 1 haunt her walks 9—Why encourage my own delusion and perhaps hers 1—She can never be mine. Her grandmother's pride—the opposite principles of our families—my wretched state of dependence—a Door miserable slave, for I have not even the wages of a jervant—all circumstances give the lie to the vain hope .hat we can ever be united. Why then protract a delusion so painful 1

"But I am no slave," he said aloud, and drawing himself up to his full stature—" no slave, in one respect, surely. I can change my abode—my father's sword is mine, and Europe lies open before me, as before him and hundreds besides of my countrymen who have filled it with the fame of their exploits. Perhaps some lucky chance may raise me to a rank with our Ruthvens, our Lesleys, our Munroes, the chosen leaders of the famous Protestant champion, Gustavus Adolphus, or, if not, a soldier's life or a soldier's grave."

When he had formed this determination, he found himself near the door of his uncle's house, and resolved to lose no time in making him acquainted with it.

"Another glance of Edith's eye, another walk by Edith's side, and my resolution would melt away. I will take an irrevocable step, therefore, and then see her for the last time.'

In this mood he entered the wainscotted parlour in which his uncle was already placed at his morning's refreshment, a huge plate of oatmeal porridge, with a corresponding allowance of butter-milk. The favourite housekeeper was in attendance, half standing, half resting on the back of a chair, in a posture betwixt freedom and respect. The old gentleman had been remarkably tall in his earlier days, an advantage which he now lost by stooping to such a degree, that at a meeting, where there was some dispute concerning the sort of arch which should be thrown over a considerable brook, a facetious neigh

« ПредишнаНапред »