Page images
PDF
EPUB

“Do you mean Lady Redbraes, who bad this , hour ago in the little tapestried room, which house before grandpapa bought it, and who died always makes me think of Hamlet's mother's so suddenly at her mirror, in the act of combing boudoir, where Polonius was mistaken for a rat ; her beautiful long hair, of which she had been and I don't know which are worst, rats or so vain?"

eaves-droppers. She's a treasure, that Janet ; " Her very ladyship! and do you know she has such a fund of old musty stories, and Jeanie's version of the story? The said lady believes them all devoutly, which has a marwas enamoured of a beautiful young lord, much vellous effect in the narration. I am so glad younger than herself, and she saw that her your mother has taken her, Ella, for she was chief charm, her luxuriant tresses, were feeling miserable in that ruinous old place in the hightime's hand, and growing grey and lustreless. lands ; she never names it without groaning, So one day, as she stood cumbing them out at Ichabod! the glory's departed ;' and truly, if her mirror, and thinking how she might witch Captain Charles Macdonald is to represent the away the heart of the young lord of Randals- glory of his family, it must have been snuffed wood, her eyes fell suddenly on her decaying out altogether when it reached him." beauty, and she wished for a magic spell to “ How you run on, Hannah! I sometimes restore the loveliness of her girlhood. And think, from your frequent ridicule of Charles quoth Jeanie, 'The deil pit her head to mak' Macdonald, that you have a maidenly whim of a pomatum for her hair, to gie it an uncanny hiding a deep attachment." light; and what think ye did she tak’ for the Oh! for the love of my good taste," cried grease to mak’ the pomatum?' Here the old Hannah," banish such a wild fancy, dear Ella; lady screwed her features into the most awful if I had cared for him, do not you own that I expression of horror, and spoke so low I could would naturally have gone to the ball to-night scarcely follow her meaning – Naething less to laugh with him, instead of staying at home devilish than the fat of a wee round-limbed bairn to laugh at him? But I do wish I had put on o'a year auld, a bonny wee bairn that she wiled your respirator, and a green shade over my hame till her from its mither. And she took eyes, and cheated Harry Vane into the idea Í yerbs gathered at midnight, and said fearfu' was my sweet cousin. Suppose he had prowords over them, and minched them down, and posed to the respirator! Would it have been a boiled them wi’ the fat, and made a pomatum, legal contract?--could I have sued for breach of and covered her hair wi' it on a Friday night, promise ? At any rate I should have learned a saying her prayers back a' the time; and the secret, fair coz.!" next day she looked lovelier nor the sun on a Ella smiled languidly-hers was not a buoyant July mornin'. And the young lord cam' a spirit; she had for weeks looked forward to this wooiu', and the weddin' was settled, and the ball

, not for the sake of dancing--she was too bride at her glass, keeming out the gowden delicate for that fatigue-but for the hope of locks just like the lace on Captain Charlie's renesving an intimacy, which in the dreamy reshouthers, they shone so bricht; and all of a cesses of her invalid life had influenced her suddent the bridemaids heard a wee bairne's mind in a very extraordinary degree. Her voice, saying

sisters, robust and rosy, each with a train of ad« Witch wife! Witch wife!

mirers, how happy they were ! and how she had Through whom I have lint my life,

envied them in their white robes and ivy wreaths, Come away at my call

as they bounded in before their departure, to From your bridegroom and all ;

kiss the pale dark-eyed girl, wrapped in shawls, Nor the kirk nor the friend

on a sofa; and over Ella hung to-night more Your ill bap now can mend;

than usual the presentiment of early death. She And the grave shanna be

had long known herself to be consumptive; for Ony resting for thee!'

years she had lived by rule, watched unceasingly And,' continued Jeanie, ' when the voice by her affectionate relatives; but the summer ended, the leddy lay dead wi' the kame in her before, she had gained so much strength, that hand, and the lang hair hinging down o'er the the rigid precautions were in a great measure chair-back to the ground, was a' grey and dry, relaxed, and Ella joined her sisters in the amuseand fusionless. And she's aye walking, walk- ments of her age. Alas for her new-born hopes ing in amang the rooms where she used to live, of health! a sudden thunder-storm towards the steppin' sae stately o'er the flures, and kaming end of autumn had drenched her delicate frame, the lang locks in her fingers, and bearin' hersel and again began the cough, the hectic colour, as proud as a queen ; but the eyes of her are the too bright eye-beams; and Ella was once like the eyes of a deevil in hell, burning wi' rage more intrenched in the atmosphere of a thermoand agony. And oh! Miss Hannie, ye're fond meter-tested room. Her sisters were very sorry, fond o' yer glass, and ye'll stand there by the but they were too young to be really depressed ; half-hour, sticking in bits o' evergreens and and her mother was taken up with the usual maarbutus berries, frae the snawy shrubbery; tak'trimonial machinations which perplex the brains tent, my bonny May, ye dinna luve your beauty of all mammas with marriageable daughters, ower well, or it slay your saul like the laddy o' Ella was left much alone, and she read and Redbraes.'

reflected, and mused, till her imagination, fed “And now, Ella, you have the whole tale in by solitude, increased into morbid activity and Jeanie's own words, delivered to me half-an- / strength.

1

3

How They spent the Night who did not go to the Ball.

3 " Tell me," said her cousin, “ do you really , warm negus-and now for my tale, or rather believe in ghosts?”

Charles Macdonald's : “I should be bold to confess a belief in the In the days of chivalry and romance, when nineteenth century, even did I feel it,” answered ladies were deities, and gentlemen couldn't read Ella; “ but I do not--it is a thing on which we and write, when it was a grand thing to be a cannot reason; but to me such a thing seems

chieftain ainong the mountains, and a great bore unlike the love or the justice of our great Ruler: to be a cateran convicted by a Sassenach sheriff; yet I cannot deny its possibility; for if the angels when ladies talked scandal over their distaffs, are sent to minister to us, why not redeemed and instead of, as now, over their cards; when lords glorified spirits? but, if you remark, most stories grew their own gibbets, and maidens spun their of apparitions are of guilty spirits denied the rest own bridal gearof death. However, it is not of what I may see

'In these halcyon days there lived in Sutherin darkness that I stand in fear-it is of what I land the Lady of Tongue, rich, young, beautiful, may imagine so vividly as to affect me with all and marriageable; a prize for Irish fortunethe terrors of an actual vision. Most legends hunters, who have infested Scotland since the of apparitions are to be traced to people of a Hibernian Scots came over in the days of the highly excitable imagination; and we know how Picts, looking for girls and gear. easily in twilight our fears give form to the most • The Lady of Tongue would have been the indistinct masses. I confess a strong dislike to most wonderful heiress ever heard of, had she darkness -I never can sleep without a light not been pestered with “ eligible matches.” She The removal of light seems like the breaking had two guardians, worthy respectable men of down of a barrier, and crowds of horribly fan- the world, who stood well in the eyes of their tastic images rush upon me. Light is as the neighbours, and had not more than an average visible presence of a friend-I never feel

number of creaghs and murders laid to their

perfectly alone in a lighted room.”

account; men who reverenced the noble family "Well,” said Hannah, “ I never think about of which the Lady of Tongue was the head, such things at night; I summon up some plea

and they insignificant members; and they were sant memories to go off upon, in a ' dream,' as

very desirous that their lovely ward should Jeanie would say. I think it ensures pleasant

form a suitable alliance. Ian Mohr, the senior dreams, to strew the threshold of the poppy god guardian, was for seeking the hand of Lord with bright thoughts.”

Reay himself, the head of a powerful sept; but

Alister Roy, a little cunning carrotty-haired “ Then pray do you go to sleep thinking of wight, made a plot in favour of his own son, Charles Macdonald?” asked Ella, a little archly. Alister Mac Alister, a youth as cunning, and “ Somnus forbid! I would as soon take

carrotty-haired as himself. But the Lady of band of Thugs for my dream key-note. Why I Tongue heeded neither of her guardians. She never can see the man without picturing all the had no girlish love of gaiety and admiration; terrible stories fame tells about his ancestors. her eyes were full of a dreamy, light, and her They must have been a rare set. I wonder if mien was pensive and abstracted. She shunned they condescend to pay any visits to the good the society of persons of her own age; she was Cockney merchant who bought their old castle, prone to lonely rambles, and would sit for hours or if they prefer the graves on the loch side to musing by the side of the salt loch which flowed their desecrated halls. I must tell you one story below her castle. Her foster-sister was the only of a spirit-not a human spirit, Ella, but a being one ever admitted to her company; and the two of unearthly mould; I could not make out whe- young damsels, being hardy and light-footed, ther fairy or devil, or angel, or kelpie or mer- had soon examined every hill and glen for miles man that part of the legend is imperfect, around. Charles says."

• One day Marcelly was waiting for her mis"Oh, then, this is not one of Jeanie's stories, tress in a lower room of the castle, which looked good Hannah; I thought you would hardly out on the lake, when she saw that the boat treasure up her words so minutely."

which lay usually moored on the beach for the Ella,” said Hannah, with a reddened cheek, use of her lady, had been removed. She went "pray leave the satirical to me-the sentimental out hurriedly, and ran down to the shore. There is more becoming to your face. I did hear this she stood, rapidly scanning with her eyes the from Captain Macdonald, the only time I ever whole surface of the loch. Now about a mile heard him talk rationally, if you can call any from the mainland there lay a small rocky islet, man rational whose wisest talk is of ghosts, and a dreary place, with a few stunted trees on it. spectres, and hobgoblins !

On its banks Marcelly perceived the missing “ But to give a specimen of his rationality, boat; and gazing fixedly, she thought she I'll relate a tale of his maternal great grand saw the flutter of her lady's dress behind the mother's great aunt. But first let me shut out brushwood, There was nothing strange in that impertinent moonbeam, that makes your this, as Marcelly had before this visited the face as blue as a drowned sailor's; and pray islet with her mistress ; so she sat down, with poke up the fire, and here's a big log for the patient expectation of the lady's return. At top of it; and look, people who sit up for ball-length the faithful watcher descried the beloved dancers need a supper as well as the gayest who form of the beautiful Helen emerging from among ' foot it featly;' so pray have some jelly and the shrubs; but to the handmaid's astonish

arm.

seen?"

you—”

ment, another form moved beside the lady's. have been a good sort of body on the whole; not The distance was too great to distinguish, though unlike the generality of good servants, who, if Marcelly was as keen-sighted as any deer-hunter you attempt to keep them in ignorance, make in the clan; but she was now obliged to sit every sense a separate spy upon you; but who, still and marvel. The two figures approached on the contrary, if trusted, will keep your secret the boat; one entered, and it was pushed off fast as the gates of death. So this went on for into the little curling waves, and ere very long some days, the lady paddling over to the island Lady Helen stood beside her foster-sister. She every night, and paddling back every morning ; was strangely agitated ; her large eyes dilated and the foster-sister wearing herself to a skewith a passionate brightness, which Marcelly leton, in her anxiety to penetrate the mystery. had never seen there before, and her frame Many days passed, 'I said, and others in the trembled with emotion. At the first sight of castle began to suspect, like Marcelly; and Marcelly sitting there in grave and anxious won- Lady Helen saw strange meaning in the eyes of derment, the lady turned pale, then blushed her dependants. Suddenly she broke off her crimson, and then spoke with a faltering tongue, usual habits of isolation and solitude, and sendlaying her hand earnestly on her attendant's ing for Marcelly, asked simply what her people

thought of her nightly visits to the island. "“ Tell me, sister of my heart, what hast thou Marcelly was frightened, and ashamed of her

own share in the gossip; but she loved her ““I saw two figures on the island," answered lady, and answered trulyMarcelly; “ but I could not discern the like- They say you have been discerned on the ness of thy companion; but oh! Lady, I pray island talking with a shining stranger, who is

like no man ever seen among us; and they fear Pray nothing !” interrupted the chief that you are bewitched by some spirit of evil, tainess, reassuming her usual calmness and who has disguised himself in this shape of gentle but authoritative manner; " be silent, light.” Marcelly, as you love me-keep thy tongue The lady sat silent for some moments, and carefully, good girl."

then spake abruptly~ Marcelly bent her head in acquiescence; Marcelly, it is true I have talked with this but you may be sure, Cousin Ella, she was stranger of the island, and he is glorious beyond dying of curiosity to hear all about the stranger. words to express. He is not like men-is the However, she had more self-control than I eagle like the sparrow?" think I should have had in her place; so she * “ But the eagle is a fierce bird of prey," refollowed her lady home with all proper meek- monstrated Marcelly; "and he loves to rend the ness.

innocent lamb with his talons.” • The next evening, Marcelly's ears being • “ Tush !” said the Lady ; " you are one of sharpened probably by an itching for the grand the kerne, good Marcelly; you cannot judge for secret, she was certain she heard the little me in this. I am the Lady of Tongue, and my postern gate at the back of the castle swinging love shall light where it listeth.” So saying, on its rusty hinges; and so she leaped from her she dismissed the damsel. bed (I give that dignified appellation to the * Left to her own thoughts, the romantic heap of heather-tops on which she lay), and ran heiress paced restlessly through the chamber, to look out upon the loch. You may suppose and, like a true heroine, plunged into an audible her astonishment, Ella, when she discovered the soliloquy —"Oh, Child of Light!” said the little row-boat gliding away on the moon-lit | Lady of Tongue, using a Gaelic expression waters, like a beetle crawling over a looking- which I can neither pretend to translate nor to glass—and the boat rowed direct to the little pronounce, though Charles rattles it off; a most island. Of course Marcelly never thought of musical term of endearment it is, like a pig's the stranger, and of course she never connected satisfaction over a full trough-" Oh, Child of that shining form she had seen in the sunset, Light! is it thus they have belied thee? Thou, with this midnight escapade of her lady's; for pure and glittering as the dew, and, like it, on going stealthily into the bedroom of the dropping gently from heaven into the path of an young heiress-(she really had a bed, a regular unworthy mortal! because in thy port shows four-poster)-Marcelly found it unoccupied. more than human majesty, because thine eyes The faithful foster-sister could not sleep all that emit unearthly lustre, do they brand thee as an night for sheer curiosity; she stood uneasily evil thing? But so it is ever in this world, so it staring at the island from her little window; and ever shall be. The common crowd will vilify before the dawn was grey, just as the stars were the soul that is too high for them to understand. dying, back flitted the boat, and out stepped Whatever rises above the low level of human the lady, wrapped from head to foot in her plaid, degradation, that do they attribute to the promptand through the back postern passed noiselessly ings of infernal powers. To be better than man, to her chamber.

is to expose oneself to be called a devil !” And * Only fancy, Ella dear, how uncomfortable she laughed scornfully, yet sadly. that prying Marcelly must have felt all the next Now, Ella, I don't ask you to believe that day, so very sleepy and stupid, and not daring the Lady of Tongue said all this, for I more than to show her fatigue, for fear of being suspected suspect Captain Charles of concocting this sen. by the Lady Helen. However, she seeins to timental soliloquy; but the love-sick damsel did

[ocr errors]

How They spent the Night who did not go to the Ball.

5 talk to herself aloud, for she was overheard by rock. But all her exertions could not do more one of her vassals, who listened at the open than finish about half before the dreaded time window, and sped swiftly to her guardian, Ian appointed for her marriage. There was no Mohr, with the news that the Lady of Tongue escape for the poor Lady of Tongue. The talked with a ghost, and was surely going mad. young chief was ruddier, and stronger, and

* lan Mohr was greatly alarmed, for the next heartier than ever. To be sure he had got a heir was a rapacious and needy adventurer, who broad scar on his cheek, in the interval of their had spent his youth in the Lowlands, and lat- engagement, but his health was not one whit terly returned, poorer and more discontented impaired; such warriors in those good old times than ever. Ian called a convocation of his col- never felt any of the thousand ailments which league, and the hopeful Alister Mac Alister; and haunt the silken heroes of civilized life; nor was after a long debate, they all proceeded to the he to be put off from his promised bride, and Castle, and demanded an audience of the lady. still more from his bride's rich dowry. The

• Marcelly was sent in with their peremptory Lady of Tongue had carried him over to the but respectful message. She found the lady island, and shown him her castle there, and gazing yearningly over to the island. Perhaps prayed to him on her knees, though what she she had seen her guardian's approach from her asked of him none had heard; but all heard his window, for she exhibited no surprise at their merry laughter, and his reply—“Angel or devil, request; but her cheeks were white as eider my pretty bride, I will win you from them all! down, when she desired that they should be Though the boldest should claim you from the ushered to her presence.

priest, you shall be mine.” So the Lady of * They went up, and the door was closed be- Tongue, shamed and heart-stricken, rose from hind them. All the vassals had gathered toge- her knees, and went home in her boat. The ther to know the result of the interview ; and next day was the day of the wedding. you may be sure they enjoyed their scandal quite I suppose you know, Ella, that the Highas keenly as your sisters will enjoy cutting up anders used to have magnificent feasts at wedthe company at to-night's ball. The voices in dings and burials, looking on both of course as the closed chamber were very loud and angry; equally pleasant varieties of life's monotony; then were heard the lady's pleading tones, then The Lady of Tongue was in duty bound to spend fierce retorts, then weeping and sobs, and finally half her patrimony in the grandeur of her nupa dead silence. After a few minutes the listen- tial festivities, to support the honour of her ers distinguished voices low and decided in the name. And so the old Castle of Tongue was intonation, but nothing of meaning could be filled with guests on this occasion. It was clear caught. Presently the door opened, and the summer weather, fresh and bright and exhilavisitors walked out, and called on the vassals rating. The broad level green before the prinfor their applause. The Lady of Tongue had cipal" entrance was crowded with vassals in accepted a husband—not Alister Mac Alister, holiday garb; old men sat chatting on the knolls not the Lord of Reay, but the young chief of a of heather and crowsfoot, and old women counted small neighbouring tribe, Mac something which the wool they had spun during the year. Young I forget; a stalwart warrior, a “pretty man," men plied all sorts of athletic games upon the as the Gael has it, and a good-looking gentle- grass; and merry-mooded lasses stood and man besides, that is to say, flesh and blood smiled upon their achievements. Alister Mac beauty, for which perhaps Helen of Tongue had Alister was there in rather a cross mood; and lost her taste. At any rate, Helen of Tongue his father, and Ian Mohr, both glad to get their was in no hurry to be married, any more than eccentric ward off their hands. And the brideyou or me, Ella, who have no great temptations groom, full of pride and joy, stood by the lovely at present. She had fixed her nuptial day at Lady of Tongue, and eyed his new home with the distance of six months, hoping, I dare say, undisguised delight. But the poor bride stood that in some of his numerous feuds, the young among the revellers with abstracted and sad bridegroom might receive his quietus; or she mien; her large eyes ever and anon lighting might have looked for assistance from her suddenly, and rolling round upon the crowd, as spirit-friend, for tradition does not appear to if seeking some wished-for object; then sinking have been in her confidence.

disappointed on the ground, they left her face • In the meanwhile, she ordered a quarry of in cloudy gloom once more. Marcelly, in great pure fine stone to be opened, which she had dis- distress, watched this mood of her dear fostercovered on the mainland, at a little distance sister. Gay and splendid as was the festival, from her castle. And with this stone she set her heart foreboded a fatal ending. about a great work-to build a castle on the While all this was going on at the Castle, island, sacred to her spirit-lover. The tenantry which lay low in the valley near the loch side, objected strongly to this undertaking, having an old man herded his goats on the mountain. superstitious fears of approaching the haunted Far up in the thin light air he sat on a rock islet; but the lady went the right way about it- alone, and looked downwards to the busy scene. lowering the rents of all who assisted in the Sounds of mirtb and music rose from time to erection of the building, and raising to an time, and floate on the breeze to his ears, and exorbitant height the rents of all who refused. he smiled at the joy-inspiring strains. The In this manner, despite the unwillingness of the clear loch spread like sheeted silver far below people, the c i rose slowly on the barren him, winding among the valleys to its parent

“ He's no

ocean; and the little islet, with its half-finished the rock which the old man had just quitted, towers, on which men even on that day were and which, as I told you, overhung the Castle. busily engaged, rose distinct and dark' from • Down hobbled the ancient Mercury to the among the waters. While the old man thus sat, festive green, and piercing the crowd, soon thinking and wishing he could distinguish his espied his daughter, not far from the Lady of daughter Marcelly among the dancers, a rush Tongue, whom she was watching with melanof the piper's strains swept suddenly past him, choly interest. and as it died away, he saw he was no longer ““ What brings you here, father?" she asked alone. A man of commanding appearance stood anxiously, as she burried to his side. beside him on the heather, tall and beautiful, ““ A token for the Lady of Tongue.” and wearing a garb very different from the Oh, do not give it now, look how pale and clansmen of the country.

sad she is! If you had seen her weeping this ““ Goatherd,” he said, in low, sad musical morning, when we took in her bridal robes-do tones; “ hearken to me--you must do my bid- not agitate her again. Go back now, dear ding to the Lady of Tongue.'

father," urged Marcelly, trembling with fear "" Heaven forbid !” cried the peasant in and grief, aları - for looking earnestly at the stranger, he

« «dawna go back," said the goatherd, perceived, that tall and nobly-formed as he was,

“ he's waiting for me up yonder.the pressure of his feet did not weigh down the

• “ He! who is he?" cried Marcelly. heather-tops on which he stood, and also the

<“ I dinna ken," was the sulky response, as atmosphere around him was more luminous the goatherd moved forward among the crowd than even the sunny summer air.

to the lady's side. While the bridegroom went canny,” thought Donald, and reiterated his apart to give some instructions regarding the refusal.

games and dancing, the old man seized the opThe unknown was not to be repulsed. “I portunity to put the ring into the hands of the

fair melancholy bride. Helen of Tongue started tell you, old man, you cannot help yourself; I have an errand to the Lady of Tongue-you her face and neck, and she threw a glance of

as she looked at it; the colour fled swiftly from inust bear it."

anguish up to heaven; the goatherd also looked “ “ Take it yourself, man!” growled Donald. up to the mountain peak, and there, on the rock

""I!" said the stranger; and a smile of where he had been sitting, he saw, glimmering scorn mingled with the mournful beauty of his like a distant star, the shining form of the myse features. “ I enter that giddy crowd! Here is terious stranger. gold for you, old man; you are poor, this will The Lady made a brief excuse to the guests make your old age luxurious."

who stood around her, and retired to her cham• “ I canna leave my goats,” faltered Donald, ber before her affianced husband had ceased shutting his eyes from the glittering temptation, speaking to the attendants. and crossing himself devoutly.

• The sports went on, and the mirth waxed "I will tend them in your absence.” merrier for a few hours; but the banquet was

Aye, I dare say, likely enough; ye'll wile soon ready, and there was a call for the hostessthem all awa', and to-morrow your fairy gold bride. Marcelly, who had been listening in will be birch leaves or slate stones. Ha, ha !” great terror at the chamber-door, now came and he crossed his arms in a dogged way on his forward and whispered into the chieftain's ear: knees.

he started, and bid her lead the way, calling on "" Well,” replied the stranger, " I must find the other bridemaids to follow. Marcelly hur: your daughter, the foster-sister of the Lady; ried again to the lady's bedroom. The door she will do my will, I know, for she loves dearly was closed, and all within was quiet. “ Dash yon pale sad bride.”

it open !" cried the betrothed, with an impatient * * Hoots !” cried Donald in alarm. “I gesture ; and ere he had spoken, he himself canna let that be. Would ye ruin my bairn Aung back with violence the wide and heavy with your soul-destroying temptations; and as door. Still not a sound-Marcelly, faint and ye seem willing to gie the price, and somebody horror-stricken, ran forward to the bed, and maun gang, I'll just c'en gae mysel.”

with a loud shriek dropped senseless on the ““ Give this ring to the Lady of Tongue, body of her foster-sister. Dead and cold, and without word of speech."

white as her rich bridal robes, the unhappy Lady * It was a sparkling diamond.

of Tongue lay extended on her couch; one hand * The bonny die !” ejaculated Donald, rising fell listlessly over the side, and on its third slowly for his departure, and staring at the finger, like a threatening comet, blazed the bright jewel in his hand, as he descended the mysterious ring.' steep and rocky braes. The stranger, mean- '" Oh, Ella!" continued the narrator, breakwhile, with a whistle to the goats which they ling off with a laugh, “ you look as pale yourself seemed perfectly to understand--for you must as the Lady of Tongue. I hope my tale of horrors know, Ella, that goats were always looked on by has not frightened you from all slumber; for see, the mountaineers as endowed with supernatural it has just chimed two o'clock on that dear little knowledge, and in league with fairies, spirits, French time-piece, that has a voice as clear and &c.--the stranger, after this mysterious whistle, liquid as a young child's.” ike a freemason's sign, sat down composedly on ** You need not go now, for the party will be

6

« PreviousContinue »