Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

- And you like me the better for it, Father Elshie, eh?” said Westburnflat; “ you always said you did.”

“ I have cause to like all," answered the Solitary, “ that are scourges to their fellow-creatures, and thou art a bloody one."

" No-I say not guilty to that-never bluidy unless there's resistance, and that sets a man's bristles up, ye ken. And this is nae great matter, after a'; just to cut the comb of a young cock that has been crawing a little ower crousely.”

“ Not young Earnscliff ?" said the Solitary, with some emotion.

66 No; not young Earnscliff-not young Earnscliff yet ; but his time may come, if he will not take warning, and get him back to the burrow-town that he's fit for, and no keep skelping about here, destroying the few deer that are left in the country, and pretending to act as a magistrate, and writing letters to the great folk at Auld Reekie about the disturbed state of the land. Let him take care o' himsell.”

“ Then it must be Hobbie of the Heugh-foot,” said Elshie. " What harm has the lad done you ?”

6 Harm ! nae great harm; but I hear he says I staid away from the Ba’spiel on Fastern's E’en, for fear of him ; and it was only for fear of the Country Keeper, for there was a warrant against me. I'll stand Hobbie's feud, and a' his clans. But it's not so much for that, as to gie him a lesson not to let his tongue gallop ower freely about his betters. I trow he will hae lost the best penfeather o' his wing before to-morrow morning. Farewell, Elshie; there's some canny boys waiting for me down amang the shaws, owerby ; I will see you as I come back, and bring ye a blithe tale in return for your leech craft.”

Ere the Dwarf could collect himself to reply, the Reiver of Westburnflat set spurs to his horse. The animal, starting at one of the stones which lay scattered about, Alew from the path. The rider exercised his spurs without moderation or mercy The horse became furi

ous, reared, kicked, plunged and bolted like a deer, with all his four feet off the ground at once. It was in vain ; the unrelenting rider sat as if he had been a part of the horse which he bestrode; and, after a short but furious contest, compelled the subdued animal to proceed upon the path at a rate which soon carried him out of sight of the Solitary,

“ That villain,” exclaimed the Dwarfs that coolblooded, hardened, unrelenting ruffian,--that wretch, whose every thought is infected with crimes,-has thewes and sinews, limbs, strength, and activity enough to compel a nobler animal than himself to carry him to the place where he is to perpetrate his wickedness ; while I, had I the weakness to wish to put his wretched victim on his guard, and to save the helpless family, would see my good intentions frustrated by the decrepitude which chains me to the spot, Why should I wish it were otherwise What have my screech-owl voice, my hideous form, and my misshapen features, to do with the fairer workmanship of nature ? Do not men receive even my benefits with shrinking horror and ill-suppressed disgust? And why should I interest myself in a race which accounts me a prodigy and an outcast, and which has treated me as such ? No; by all the ingratitude which I have reaped-by all the wrongs which I have sustained-by my imprisonment, my stripes, my chains, I will wrestle down my feelings of rebellious humanity! I will not be the fool I have been, to swerve from my principles whenever there was an appeal, forsooth, to my feelings; as if I, towards whom none show sympathy, ought to have sympathy with any one. Let Destiny drive forth her scythed car through the overwhelmed and trembling mass of humanity! Shall I be the idiot to throw this decrepit form, this misshapen lump of mortality, under her wheels, that the Dwarf, the Wizard, the Hunch-back, may save from destruction some fair form or some active frame, and all the world clap their hands at the exchange ? No, never !

-Aad yet this Elliot—this Hobbie, so young and gallant, so frank, so— I will think of it no longer. I cannot

aid him if I would, and I am resolved-firmly resolved, that I would not aid him, if a wish were the pledge of his safety !"

Having thus ended his soliloquy, he retreated into his hut for shelter from the storm which was fast approaching, and now began to burst in large and heavy drops of rain. The last rays of the sun now disappeared entirely, and two or three claps of distant thunder followed each other at brief intervals, echoing and re-echoing among the range of heathy fells like the sound of a distant engagement.

CHAPTER VII.

Proud bird of the mountain, thy plume shall be torn!

Return to thy dwelling ; all lonely, return;
For the blackness of ashes shall mark where it stood,
And a wild mother scream o'er her famishing brood.

Campbell.

The night continued sullen and stormy ; but morning rose as if refreshed by the rains. Even the Mucklestane-Moor, with its broad bleak swells of barren grounds, interspersed with marshy pools of water, seemed to smile under the serene influence of the sky, just as good-humour can spread a certain inexpressible charm over the plainest human countenance. The heath was in its thickest and deepest bloom. The bees, which the Solitary had added to his rural establishment, were abroad and on the wing, and filled the air with the murmurs of their industry. As the old man crept out of his little hat, his two she-goats came to meet him, and licked his hands in gratitude for the vegetables with which he supplied them from his garden. “ You, at least,” he said, “ you, at least, see no differences in forrn which can alter your feelings to a benefactor-to you, the finest shape

that ever statuary moulded would be an object of indifference or of alarm, should it present itself instead of the misshapen trunk to whose services you are accustomed. While I was in the world, did I ever meet with such a return of gratitude ? No; the domestic whom I had bred from infancy, made mouths at me as he stood behind my chair ; the friend whom I had supported with my fortune, and for whose sake I had even stained—(he stopped with a strong convulsive shudder,) even he thought me more fit for the society of lunatics—for their disgraceful restraints—for their cruel privations, than for communication with the rest of humanity. Hubert alone —and Hubert too will one day abandon me. All are of a piece, one mass of wickedness, selfishness, and ingratitude-wretches, who sin even in their devotions; and of such hardness of heart, that they do not, without hypocrisy, even thank the Deity himself for his warm sun and pure air.”

As he was plunged in these gloomy soliloquies, he heard the tramp of a horse on the other side of his inclosure, and a strong clear bass voice, singing with the liveliness inspired by a light heart,

Canny Hobbie Elliot, Canny Hobbie now,

Canny Hobbie Elliot, l’se gang alang wi' you. At the same moment, a large deer greyhound sprung over the hermit's fence. It is well known to the sportsmen in these wilds, that the appearance and scent of the goat so much resernble those of their usual objects of chase, that the best-broke greyhounds will sometimes fly upon them. The dog in question instantly pulled down and throttled one of the hermit's she-goats, while Hobbie Elliot, who came up and jumped from his horse for the purpose, was unable to extricate the harmless animal from the fangs of his attendant, until it was expiring. The Dwarf eyed, for a few moments, the convulsive starts of his dying favourite, until the poor goat stretchea out her limbs with the twitches and shivering fit of the last agony. He then started into an excess of frenzy

nobbie reund disdapparent for streng, which

and, unsheathing a long sharp knife, or dagger, which he wore under his coat, he was about to launch it at the dog, when Hobbie, perceiving his purpose, interposed, and caught hold of his hand, exclaiming, “ Let a be the hound, man- let a be the hound -na, na, Killbuck maunna be guided that gate, neither.”

The Dwarf turned his rage on the young farmer; and, by a sudden effort, far more powerful than Hobbie expected from such a person, freed his wrist from his grasp, and offered the dagger at his heart. All this was done in the twinkling of an eye, and the incensed Recluse might have completed his vengeance by plunging the weapon in Elliot's bosom, had he not been checked by an internal impulse which made him hurl the knife to a distance.

“ No," he exclaimed, as he thus voluntarily deprived himsel of the means of gratifying his rage ; “not again -not again !”

Hobbie retreated a step or two in great surprise, discomposure, and disdain, at having been placed in such danger by an object apparently so contemptible.

« The deil's in the body for strength and bitterness !" were the first words that escaped him, which he followed up with an apology for the accident that had given rise to their disagreement. “I am no justifying Killbuck a'thegither neither, and I am sure it is as vexing to me as to you, Elshie, that the mischance should hae happened ; but I'll send you twa goats and twa fat gimmers, man, to make a' straight again. A wise man like you, shouldna bear malice against a poor dumb thing ; ye see that a goat's like first-cousin to a deer, sae he acted but according to his nature after a'. Had it been a pet-lamb there wad hae been mair to be said. Ye suld keep sheep, Elshie, and no goats, where there's sae mony deer-hounds about—but I'll send ye baith.”

“ Wretch !” said the Hermit, “ your cruelty has destroyed one of the only creatures in existence that would look on me with kindness !"

but Ly Elshire ther, ani, "Lac

« ПредишнаНапред »