« ПредишнаНапред »
family parlour, or rather ball ; for the place having been a house of defence in former times, the sitting apartment was a vaulted and paved room, damp and dismal enough compared with the lodgings of the yeomanry of our days, but which, when well lighted up with a large sparkling fire of turf and bog-wood, seemed to Earnscliff a most comfortable exchange for the darkness and bleak blast of the hill. Kindly and repeatedly was he welcomed by the venerable old dame, the mistress of the family, who, dressed in her coif and pinners, her close and decent gown of home-spun wool, but with a large gold necklace and ear-rings, looked, what she really was, the lady as well as the farmer's wife, while seated in her chair of wicker, by the corner of the great chimney, she directed the evening occupations of the young women, and of two or three stout serving wenches, who sat plying their distaffs behind the backs of their young mistresses.
As soon as Earnscliff had been duly welcomed, and hasty orders issued for some addition to the evening meal, his grand-dame and sisters opened their battery upon Hobbie Elliot for his lack of success against the deer.
"Jenny needna have kept up her kitchen-fire for a' that Hobbie has brought hame," said one sister.
"Troth no, lass," said another; "the gathering peat,'' if it was weel blawn, wad dress a' our Hobbie's venison."
"Ay, or the low of the candle if the wind wad let it bide steady," said a third; "if I were him, I would bring hame a black craw, rather than come back three times without a buck's horn to blaw on."
Hobbie turned from the one to the other, regarding them alternately with a frown on his brow, the augury 01 which was confuted by the good-humoured laugh on the lower part of his countenance. He then strove to propitiate them, by mentioning the intended present of his companion.
"Tn my young days," said the old lady, "a man wad hae been ashamed to come back frae the hill without a buck hanging on each side o' his horse, like a cadger carrying calves."
"1 wish they had left some for us then, grannie," retorted Hobbie; "they've cleared the country o' them, thae auld friends o' yours, I'm thinking."
"Ye see other folk can find game, though you cannot, Hobbie," said the eldest sister, glancing a look at young Earnscliff.
"Weel, weel, woman, hasna every dog his day, begging Earnscliff's pardon for the auld saying—Mayna I hae his luck, and he mine, another time 9—It's a braw thing for a man to be out a' day, and frighted—na, I winna say that neither—but mistrysted wi' bogles in the hame-coming, and then to hae to fiyte wi' a wheen women that hae been doing naething a' the live-lang day but whirling a bit stick, wi' a thread trailing at it, or boring at a clout."
"Frighted wi' bogles!" exclaimed the females, one and all,—for great was the regard then paid, and perhaps still paid, in these glens to all such fantasies.
"I did not say frighted, now—I only said mis-set wi' the thing—And there was but ae bogle, neither—Eamscliff, ye saw it as weel as I did V
And he proceeded, without very much exaggeration, to detail, in his own way, the meeting they had with the mysterious being at Mucklestane-Moor, concluding, he could not conjecture what on earth it could be, unless it was either the Enemy himsell,orsome of the auld Peghts that held the country lang syne.
"Auld Peght !" exclaimed the grand-dame; "na, na —bless thee frae scathe, my bairn, it's been nae Peght that—it's been the Brown Man of the Moors ! O weary fa' thae evil days !—7what can evil beings be coming for to distract a poor country, now it's peacefully settled, and living in love and law 1—O weary on him ! he ne'er brought gude to these lands or the indwellers. My father aften tauld me he was seen in the year o' the bloody fight at Marston-Moor, and then again in Montrose's troubles, and again before the rout o' Dunbar, and, in my ain time, he was seen about the time o' Bothwell-Brigg, and they said the second-sighted Laird o' Benarbuck had a communing wi' him some time afore Argyle's landing, but that I cannot speak to sae preceesely—it was far in the west.—O, bairns, he's never permitted but in an ill time, sae mind ilka ane o' ye to draw to Him that can help in the day of trouble."
Earnscliff now interposed, and expressed his firm conviction that the person they had seen was some poor maniac, and had no commission from the invisible world to announce either war or evil. But his opinion found a very cold audience, and all joined to deprecate his purpose of returning to the spot the next day.
"O, my bonnie bairn," said the old dame, (for, in the kindness of her heart, she extended her parental style to all in whom she was interested)—" You should beware mair than other folk—there's been a heavy breach made in your house wi' your father's bloodshed, and wi' lawpleas, and losses sin-syne ;—and you are the flower of the flock, and the lad that will build up the auld bigging again (if it be His will) to be an honour to the country, and a safeguard to those that dwell in it—you, before others, are called upon to put yoursell in no rash adventures—for your's was aye ower venturesome a race, and muckle harm they have got by it."
"But I am sure, my good friend, you would not have me be afraid of going to an open moor in broad daylight V
"1 dinna ken," said the good old dame; "I wad never bid son or friend o' mine hand their hand back in a gude cause, whether it were a friend's or their ain—that should be by nae bidding of mine, or of onybody that's come of a gentle kindred—But it winna gang out of a grey head like mine, that to gang to seek for evil that's no fashing wi' you, is clean against law and Scripture."
Earnscliff resigned an argument which he saw no prospect of maintaining with good effect, and the entrance of supper broke off the conversation. Miss Grace had by this time made her appearance, and Hobbie, not without a conscious glance at Earnscliff, placed himself by her side. Miith and lively conversation, in which the old lady of the house took the good-humoured share which so well becomes old age, restored to the cheeks of the damsels the roses which their brother's tale of the apparition had chased away, and they danced and sung for an hour after supper, as if there were no such things as goblins in the world.
I am Misanthropos, and hate mankind;
Time* of Athens.
On the following morning, after breakfast, Earnscliff look leave of his hospitable friends, promising to return in time to partake of the venison, which had arrived from his house. Hobbie, who apparently took leave of him at the door of his habitation, slunk out, however, and joined him at the top of the hill.
"Ye'll be gaun yonder, Mr. Patrick; feind o' me will mistryst you for a' my mother says. I thought it best to 'slip out quietly though, in case she should mislippen something of what we're gaun to do;—we maunna vex her at nae rate—it was amaist the last word my father said to me on his death-bed."
"By no means, Hobbie," said Earnscliff; " she well merits all your attention."
"Troth, for that matter, she would be as sair vexed amaist for you as for me. But d'ye really think there's nae presumption in venturing back yonder 1—We hae nae special commission, ye ken."
"If 1 thought as you do, Hobbie," said the young gentleman, "1 would not perhaps inquire farther into this business; but as I am of opinion that preternatural visitations are either ceased altogether, or become very rare in our days, I am unwilling to leave a matter uninvestigated which may concern the life of a poor distracted being."
"Aweel, aweel, if ye really think that," answered Hobbie doubtfully—" And it's for certain the very fairies —I mean the very good neighbours themsells(for they say folk suldna ca' them fairies) that used to be seen on every green knowe at e'en, are no half sae often visible in our days. I canna depone to having ever seen ane mysell, but I ance heard ane whistle ahint me in the moss, as like a whaup4 as ae thing could be like anither. ' And mony ane my father saw when he used to come hame frae the fairs at e'en, wi' a drap drink in his head, honest man."
Earnscliff was somewhat entertained with the gradual declension of superstition from one generation to another, which was inferred in this last observation; and they continued to reason on such subjects, until they came in sight of the upright stone which gave name to the moor.
"As I shall answer," says Hobbie, "yonder's the creature creeping about yet!—But it's daylight, and you have your gun, and I brought out my bit whinger—I think we may venture on him."
"By all manner of means," said Earnscliff; " but, in the name of wonder, what can he be doing there V
"Biggin a dry-stane dyke, I think, wi' the grey geese, as they ca' thae great loose stanes—Odd, that passes a' thing I e'er heard tell of!"
As they approached nearer, Earnscliff could not help agreeing with his companion. The figure they had seen the night before seemed slowly and toilsomely labouring to pile the large stones one upon another, as if to "form a small inclosure. Materials lay round him in great plenty, but the labour of carrying on the work was immense, from the size of most of the stones; and it seemed astonishing that he should have succeeded in moving several which he had already arranged for the foundation of his edifice. He was struggling to move a fragment of great size, when the two young men came up, and was so intent upon executing his purpose, that he did not perceive them