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Charles turned from me, as he muttered," It cannot be."
"If it cannot," I replied, "I will not again ask it. I deserve no consideration; and I am too guilty to dare to press for it.”
I was about to withdraw, when he called me back. His eyes were full of tears.
"I do believe your words," he said; "all of them, save those which would excite in me a hope that you can save me. Take the portrait. I am bound by my promise to our father to bestow it on you. I am more bound by the softening of my heart, which tells me that you have been the most unhappy victim of Lockwood's arts. He was wily enough to betray our father; how could your young untutored mind escape him! Brother, God bless you! If we should not meet again, remain in the assurance that that same God bless you,' shall be the last words these lips will utter."
How I dragged myself away from him, I know not, but, under the turnkey's guidance, I soon found myself on the outside of the prison walls. Thus set free, I went forth into the open country, where none might spy my actions, and gave myself up to the recall of the scene I had just shared with Charles. A melancholy gladness crept into my soul at the recollection of his farewell words, and at the bold resolve with which I determined to effect his escape. I pressed my mother's portrait against my bosom, as I swore to save him, and it almost seemed to my disturb ed fancy, as if the picture whispered to my heart, "Save him!"
The rest of the day was spent in maturing my plans for the next coming morning, when I was again to figure on the public scaffold as an executioner. But I had thoughts, and hopes, and expectations, to cheer me onwards, and I felt as if I could submit to a thousand disgraces for the sake of adding one iota to the chance of my being able to preserve my brother's life.
Yes, even in spite of the action of each minute reminding me of the part that I had there performed, my thoughts refused to be checked in their ebullition. I stood within the dreary outer cell, awaiting the appearance of my brother-but the gloom of the dungeon had not power to overcast my soul. I heard the solemn tolling of the sullen bellbut to my ear it was hopeful music that spoke of Charles's freedom. I looked around, and the eyes of all men glouted on me; yet, ere their gaze could reach me, it fell stillborn and impotent in the remembrance of the one cheering glance I was expecting from him for whom alone I lived. At length he approached from the inner prison: I heard the clanking of his chains, and the sound was welcomed by me with a smile; for I had strung my whole energies to the feat, and I was panting to be doing. But the look and the shudder of Charles, when he first beheld me with my hangman hands outstretched to knock away his fetters, nearly threw me from my balance; and I felt for a moment as if the better part of my strength had been suddenly plucked from me.
"What is this?" he murmured, as I leaned over him for the purpose of supplying the place of his irons with a cord-" What is this?-Have you spoiled my last moments and my last hope with a falsehood ?— Speak, are you my brother, or are you my executioner ?"
"Hush," whispered I, while my whole frame shook with emotion"I am true, as I hope for pardon.— Keep your energies bent to their highest pitch; the rest is for me to accomplish."
He gazed on me as though he could hardly bring himself to the belief of my words; but I looked up from my odious task with such holy earnestness in his face, and his moistened eye so happily perceived that mine was ready to let fall a tear of reciprocity, that conviction in good time arrived, and I felt his tremulous fingers gently press my hand in token of his credence in my honesty.
All was arranged below; and under pretext of my office I mounted the scaffold that I might see that every
thing accorded with the scheme I had previously formed in my own mind. The ascending of a score of steps placed me about ten or twelve feet above the level of the marketplace, of which the jail formed one side; a narrow space of scarcely more than a yard in width, was railed off round the spot occupied by the platform for the reception of the posse comitatus, and the barriers of that division were of sufficient strength to prevent the pressure of the crowd breaking in upon the constabulary arrangement. The moment that I reached the scaffold, I cast an anxious look around to see if every thing wore the aspect that I had prefigured to myself, and on which my plans were built. Every thing was as I could wish: the constables, by means of the barrier, were prevented from suddenly mingling with the mob, and could only reach the open space by coming quite back to the wall of the jail, and so passing through a wicket that formed the termination of the railing; and even the very execrations with which my presence was hailed, were pleasant to me, for I interpreted the public hatred towards me into sympathy towards Charles; and on the sudden evolving of that sympathy much of my success depended.
Thus reassured of the favourable appearance of the market-place, I descended again to the jail for the purpose of summoning the prisoner. Together we mounted the scaffold; and the execrations with which I had previously been greeted, were changed to sounds of pity and commiseration for my brother. They vibrated like heavenly music in my earsthey made my whole blood throb with the fever of excitement. I looked back to see how far distant we were from those who had to follow us to the platform. Fortune smiled upon me. The clergyman, who should have ascended next, was elderly and decrepit, and as he placed his foot on the first step he slipped, and seemed as if he had sprained some limb; at all events he paused, while those immediately behind gathered round him as if to afford assistance.
One glance told me all this. "Now, Charles," I whispered, "this is the moment, Life or death, dear bro
ther! Turn more towards the prison while I cut the cords that bind your hands-spring forward with a bold leap into the middle of the crowd, where you see the man with a red cap; he is placed there to make an opening for you—the multitude will be with you—they will favour your flight.-Rush through the opposite street which takes to the river, where awaits a boat-that once secured, there is none other to pursue you, and your escape to the opposite bank is certain.”
My brother listened attentively, and shewed by his eye that he comprehended all. Never, never was there such a moment in the life of man as that in mine when the last coil of the rope was cut, and my brother darted forward to the leap. As I had foretold to him, the man with the cap suddenly backed, and left an open space for him on which to alight, in addition to which he extended his arms round him so as to steady his descent. That was the great moment of my agitation, for had Charles come to the ground with a shock, his flight would have been hopeless. But it was but a moment, for in another he bounded forward through the crowd, which, with exhilarating cheers, opened on every side, and pursued his way with the speed of a greyhound towards the river. Meanwhile, my own blood refused obedience to my reason, and without plan or project, I too sprang from the scaffold, unable to resist the temptation of watching him to the consummation of his escape. But, as might well be expected, my motive was utterly misunderstood, and ten thousand groans saluted me as I darted through the passage made for Charles, and which by the suddenness of my pursuit had not yet had time to close; to groans succeeded blows-to blows missiles-but still I persevered, and exerting, as it were, a more than mortal speed, I was within a yard or two of Charles by the time he reached the river. When I perceived him thus far on the sure road to liberty, I could no longer restrain myself: I absolutely screamed with ecstasy; and what with my unintelligible shouts of delight, what with the streams of mud with which I had been assailed, and which ran down me on every side, what with
my bleeding lacerated face, covered with wounds from the blows that I had received, I must have looked more like a mishapen lump of chaos than aught in human shape or bearing.
But all was not yet accomplished. Charles had reached the bank, which was some two or three yards above the level of the stream, and was turning to run down the hard way that led to the boat that lay ready for him, when a man suddenly made his appearance from behind a shed that stood in the angle formed by the bank and the jetty, and shewed by his actions that he was prepared to dispute my brother's passage.
Powers of hell! it was Lockwood!
Another moment, and he would have clutched Charles in his brawny arms, towards which my brother had unconsciously been running, not having perceived him till the very last moment. At the sight, my note of joy was changed to the yell of despair. It can hardly be said that I thought! No! It was as a mere act of desperation, that, still at the height of my speed, I rushed upon the villain, who had been too intent in his observations of Charles to notice me, or to prepare himself for the tremendous shock with which I assaulted him. I was in time-yes, even to a little instant, I was in time! Full with the rage of energy and speed, I drove against him, and together we toppled over the bank into the soft and oozy mud that the low-tided river had left behind. For myself I had no care; and even while in the act of falling, I shouted to my brother, "Dear, dear Charles, to the boat-to the boat! Row with the strength of a thousand! Your demon foe is destroyed!"
Charles returned my shout with a heart-spoken blessing; and as I lay over Lockwood, who each moment, by his effort to disentangle himself from me, sank deeper and deeper into the suffocating mire, I could hear my brother ply the oars with desperate speed and vigour, while ever and anon his thanksgiving to the wicked Ambrose came on the wings of the wind, till struggling, exhaustion, and anxiety deprived me of all consciousness of existence, and left me lying senseless on the corpse of my arch-deceiver.
My story is told! My confessions are numbered! Why, I know notbut so it is; even as surely as I am now the inmate of a melancholy cell, and am counted by my fellow-men among the maniacs of the earth.Mad! Oh no, I am not mad! Do I not remember too well the frightful scenes of Okeham-the dreadful cajolery of Lockwood, by which he has made my own thoughts my own hell?-Mad! Would I were mad; for then might these things be hidden in oblivion; and yet I would not forget all! It was I that saved the gentle Charles from execution; it was I that earned his blessings by deliverance; and though I weep when I put my hand into my bosom, and vainly seek my mother's portrait, the tears change into joyful drops when dear memory reminds me that it was to purchase his escape I sold the precious relic. No, no! I cannot be utterly mad, till I shall hear, which Heaven of mercy avert, that my brother is again within the peril of the law, as though the ghost of Lockwood, yet unsatiated, was still employed in hunting him into its toils.
THE SNOWING-UP OF STRATH LUGAS.
JOLLY old Simon Kirkton! thou art the very high priest of Hymen. There is something softly persuasive to matrimony in thy contented, comfortable appearance; and thy house, -why, though it is situated in the farthest part of Inverness-shire, it is as fertile in connubial joys as if it were placed upon Gretna Green. Single blessedness is a term unknown in thy vocabulary; heaven itself would be a miserable place for thee, for there there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage.
Half the county was invited to a grand dinner and ball at Simon's house in January, 1812. All the young ladies had looked forward to it in joyous anticipation and hope, and all the young gentlemen with considerable expectation-and fear. Every thing was to be on the grandest scale; the dinner in the ancient hall, with the two family pipers discoursing sweet music between the courses, and the ball in the splendid new drawing-room, with a capital band from the county town. The Duke was to be there, with all the nobility, rank, and fashion of the district;and, in short, such a splendid entertainment had never been given at Strath Lugas in the memory of man. The editor of the county paper had a description of it in types a month before, and the milliners far and near never said their prayers without a devout supplication for the health of Mr Kirkton. All this time that worthy gentleman was by no means idle. The drawing-room was dismantled of its furniture, and the floors industriously chalked over with innumerable groups of flowers. The larder was stocked as if for a siege; the domestics drilled into a knowledge of their respective duties; and every preparation completed in the most irreproachable style. I question whether Gunter ever dreamt of such a supper as was laid out in the dining-room.-Venison in all its forms, and fish of every kind. It would have victualled a seventy-four to China.
The day came at last, a fine sharp clear day, as ever gave a bluish tinge to the countenance, or brought tears "to beauty's eye." There had been
a great fall of snow a few days before, but the weather seemed now settled into a firm enduring frost. The Laird had not received a single apology, and waited in the hall along with his Lady to receive his guests as they arrived. "My dear, is na that a carriage coming up the Brosefit-knowe? Auld Leddy Clavers, I declare. She'll be going to dress here, and the three girls.-Anne's turned religious; so I'm thinking she's owre auld to be married.-It's a pity the minister's no coming; his wife's just dead-but Jeanie 'll be looking out for somebody-We maun put her next to young Gerfluin. Elizabeth's a thocht owre young; she can stay at the side-table with Tammy Maxwell-he's just a hobbletehoy-it wad be a very good match in time." In this way, as each party made its appearance, the Laird arranged in a moment the order in which every individual was to be placed at table; and even before dinner he had the satisfaction of seeing his guests breaking off into the quiet tête-à-têtes, which the noise and occupation of a general company render sweet and secluded as a meeting "by moonlight alone." While his eye wandered round, the various parties thus pleasantly engaged, it rested on the figure of a very beautiful girl whom he had not previously remarked. She sat apart from all the rest, and was amusing herself with looking at the pictures suspended round the room-apparently unconscious of the presence of so many strangers. She seemed in deep thought; but as she gazed on the representation of a battle-piece, her face changed its expression from the calmness of apathy to the most vivid enthusiasm.
"Mercy on us a'!" whispered the Laird to his wife, "wha's she that? that beautiful young lassie in the white goon? an' no a young bachelor within a mile o' her-Deil ane o' them deserves such an angel."
"It's a Miss Mowbray,' reply; "she came with Mrs Carmichael-a great heiress, they sayit's the first time she was ever in Scotland."
"Aha! say ye sae?-Then we'll see if we canna keep her amang us
"I came the day before yester
"Rather a savage sort of country I'm afraid you find this, after the polished scenes of your own land."
noo that she is come. Angus M'Leod "How long have you been with ―na, he'll no do—he's a gude enough Mrs Carmichael ?" lad, but he's no bonny. Chairlie Fletcher-he wad do well enough; but I'm thinking he'll do better for Bell Johnson. Od, donner'd auld man, no to think o' him before! Chairlie Melville's the very manthe handsomest, brawest, cleverest chield she could hae; and if she's gotten the siller, so much the better for Chairlie-they'll be a bonny couple."
And in an instant the Laird laid his hand on the shoulder of a young man, who was engaged with a knot of gentlemen, discussing some recent news from the Peninsula, and dragging him away, said, “ For shame, Chairlie, for shame! Do you no see that sweet, modest lassie a' by hersell? Gang up till her this minute-bide by her as lang as ye can—she's weel worth a' the attention ye can pay her.-Miss Mowbray," he continued, "I'm sorry my friend Mrs Carmichael has left ye sae much to yoursellbut here's Chairlie, or, rather I should say, Mr Charles, or rather I should say, Lieutenant Charles Melville, that will be happy to supply her place. He'll tak' ye into ye'r dinner, and dance wi' ye at the ball."
"All in place of Mrs Carmichael, sir ?" replied the young lady, with an arch look.
"Do you mean the country," replied the lady, or the inhabitants? They are not nearly such savages as I expected; some of them seem half-civilized."
"It is only your good-nature that makes you think us so. When you know us better, you will alter your opinion."
Nay, now don't be angry, or talk, as all other Scotch people do, about your national virtues. I know you are a very wonderful peopleyour men all heroes, your peasants philosophers, and your women angels; but seriously, I was very much disappointed to find you so like other people.".
Why, what did you expect?-— Did you think we were men whose heads did grow beneath our shoulders ?"
"No-I did not expect that; but I expected to find every thing different from what I had been accustomed to. Now, the company here are dressed just like a party in England, and behave in the same manner. Even the language is intelligible at times; though the Laird, I must say, would require an interpreter.'
"Ah! the jolly old Laird-his face is a sort of polyglot dictionary-it is the expression for good humour, kindness, and hospitality, in all languages."
"And who is that at his right hand?”
"What? the henchman ?-That's Rory McTaggart-he was piper for twenty years in the 73d, and killed three men with his own hand at Vimeira."
"And is that the reason he is called the henchman ?"
"Yes, henchman means, • The piper with the bloody hand, the slaughterer of three.'"
"What a comprehensive word !— It is almost equal to the Laird's face."
But here the Laird broke in upon their conversation. "Miss Mowbray,