« ElőzőTovább »
scenes of soft and sylvan beauty with those of any country in Europe.
From the gates of the Castle pathways the most beautiful and attractive stretch away every direction, overshadowed with the umbrageous branches of the beech and oak, and vocal with the thrilling music of the gay and happy birds. Now passing through a sheltered and bosky dell, with the slow rolling Dean flowing musically through its midst; anon pursuing our devious way over an open, flower-gemmed, breezy common, gazing in rapture at the lofty battlements and towers of the Castle, as an occasional opening in the distant wood reveals them suddenly to our view; we find ourselves among shady, dreamy groves of overhanging trees, their green, interlacing leaves intermingled with the golden blossoms of the beautiful laburnum, hanging in rich luxuriance from the pendant boughs; and still proceeding westward, we reach with delightful joy the much-loved, solemn forest paths, as lovely and beautiful as any of the justly celebrated “green lanes” of England, and while roaming among the waving woodlands, may muse and dream away a long, long summer's day in all the mental luxuriance of aspiring thought and spiritual repose.
But our present destination being the Hunter Hill, our route must be in another direction. We shall, therefore, proceed through the village, turning to the right at the bridge ; and, passing on our way the village green, we cross the rustic bridge, and bend our course up the wooded ravine, which now silently invites us to view its wild and sylvan beauty.
After crossing the bridge at the reservoir, we can either proceed to the summit of the hill by the direct road to which this leads, or we may have a delightful zig-zag ramble in the waving and beautiful woodland, until we come within sight of the village ; and then, turning eastward, pass through bosky dells, and over gently sloping hillocks, covered with the green and beautiful bushes of the blaeberry, purpled richly in summer with prolific clusters of mellow fruit, the coveted
prize of the village urchins, who resort in eager and happy groups from far and near to fill their burnished and capacious flagons with the coveted berries. The star-like and beautiful anemone flourishes in great abundance all around; and the varied display of ferns which everywhere meets the eye forms of itself a most interesting and instructive study to the botanist.
The grove alluded to in the following legend is about midway up the hill, proceeding eastward. It presents this remarkable appearance, that it is composed entirely of beech, while all around grow the birch and the mountain pine.
Edmund Græme, the only son of a neighbouring proprietor on the other side of the hill, was as fair and handsome a youth as could be seen or admired in the whole Howe of Strathmore. His form well-knit and manly, complexion clear and ruddy, dreamy eyes of cerulean blue, and luxuriant tresses of wavy gold, he presented and became the very beau ideal, to the maidens of his native strath, of all that constitutes the externals of the real cavalier, gently and finely blended with the true and loving tenderness of a genuine human heart. Of a happy and enthusiastic temperament, his ringing voice and winning smile might have beguiled the heart of any damsel, whether of low or high degree. Yet, although many a longing eye would gaze on him with the deepest, fondest love, these glances of affectionate feeling failed to reach his inner heart; and at the banquet hall, or beneath the greenwood tree, his smile continued as fascinating and sweet, and his song as captivating and joyous as ever.
At length his countenance grew shrunk and pale—the bloom of youth had faded from his cheek, and the lustre of gladsome joy had departed from his eye.
No melting strains of impassioned song were wafted on the passing gale from his now trembling, ashy lips, but a weird and ominous silence rested in the chamber of death, where, on his couch of darkness, they had laid him down to die !
Some stood in grief around his lowly bed, while others
affectionately held his hot and aching head; all silently wondering what dark and poisonous sorrow it could be that in so brief a space had mysteriously wrought a change so heart-rending and unaccountable. As they gazed, still sharper and sharper grew his shrunken, death-like features ; his bosom heaved like the swelling billows of a dark and troubled sea ; and his lips gave forth tortured and fitful expression to stifled groans of deep, unutterable agony! All wishing he would speak and solve the dreadful mystery, he wildly yet coherently uttered, in shrill affecting tones that pierced every heart, the well known name of one he had loved.
Scarcely were the words uttered, when a rustling noise was suddenly heard in the now dimly-lighted chamber of the dying youth. The attendants in amazement looked around whence the sound proceeded. Before them stood, in robes of flowing white, and with a sad, dejected air, a form of queenly and majestic beauty. Waving her jewelled hand on high, she, like a restless spirit from the other world, quickly passed them by, and stood for a moment in silence beside the dying bed of Edmund Græme. Then weeping like a sobbing child, she gently raised his drooping head, and gazed on his dim, glazed eyes with agonising and hopeless sadness, for the vital spark had fled for ever, and the dead body of her lover lay cold and helpless in her arms! Embracing the cold, cold clay, she wildly implored Almighty God to bereave her at once of life, and lay her in silence beside the slumbering dead.
Then in the hushed and awful stillness that once more prevailed, she shriekingly thus gave full vent to her torturing agony
“Oh, Edmund ! Edmund! My own—my well-beloved ! I wish I had died for thee! Pure as an angel's, changeless and unstained, the love you bore to me."
Then with a wild, unearthly, high authoritative air, her hand uplifted, and her bright, keen eyes piercing the innermost recesses of the soul, she conjured the watchers with witching power to meet her on the Hunter Hill that evening as the knell of the midnight hour was solemnly sounded from the convent bell of St Fergus, that she might give them instructions as to the burial of the dead !
The muffled chime of St Fergus' bell now struck the witching hour of twelve, and the attendants of Edmund Græme, in obedience to the strange summons of the apparition, now slowly wended their moon-lit way up the rugged, heath-clad Hunter Hill, to receive instructions as to the mysterious burial. The night oppressively calm and still, they had reached in silence a lonely hollow of the hill, when suddenly the same weirdlike rustling noise they had previously heard in the chamber of death struck upon their listening ears with a harsh and ominous sound. Begemmed with the silvery radiance of the moon, before them trembling stood the strange, unearthly being they had seen in the early part of the evening at the bedside of their young master, Edmund Græme.
With the same majestic wave of her jewelled hand, she beckoned them to approach, and thus, in the sad and thrilling accents of grief, solemnly and measuredly addressed
“ In all the spring flush of life's young bloom and radiant beauty, we here for the first time met; and here now must be our lonely, isolated tomb. 'Twas here I broke his trusting, loving heart, and here beside my own must that heart rest, till disinterred to life at the Great Assize on the Resurrection
A hell I feel without- -a hell within-Great God ! my treachery and sin forgive-oh! cast me not away from thy sight and presence for evermore—from hope that comes to all, debar not utterly my guilty, yet repentant soul.--List ! Make thou the coffin fit for two, and lay us gently and tenderly beneath this bleak and heathy turf, planting afterwards around a shady beechen grove, dark yet fitting emblem of our ill-fated love, and of the DOUBLE BIER !"
Watching again beside the dead, the attendants, in alarm, see noiselessly approach the expected spiritual visitor. Her countenance is pale yet comely, and her eye brightly intellect
ual and clear; but she comes not in flowing robes of glistening sheen, but clothed in a ghastly linen shroud! Noiselessly she steps to where the double coffin lies, rapt gazing lovingly and long on the dead youth sleeping silently his last sleep. Unveiling, then, her snowy bosom, she brings forth flowers of the richest perfume and jewels of the costliest workmanship. These she solemnly lays on his cold, cold breast, with many a fervent prayer for the repose of his departed soul. Taking a last fond look of the dead, she gathers round her in flowing folds her long white shroud, and lays herself gently down beside her unconscious victim ; to both a dark and unexpected doom-to her a martyr's crown!
Awed by the dread, terrific scene, and when all again was calm and still, the attendants furtively and quickly shut the coffin-lid, and solemnly bent their solitary way to bury its occupants in the Hunter Hill, ere the morning broke in streaks of grey, cold light o'er the desolate and mysterious scene.
Many long years have passed away since then, and the young saplings of beech have grown into high, umbrageous trees, grimly guarding those who sleep below, for whom yet blooming maidens weep, and pitying tears are shed, when in the long winter evenings their sad and sorrowful tale is tremblingly told by the blazing hearths of the happy cottagers of Strathmore.
'Tis said, when all is calm and still in the moon-lit winter eves, the spirit of the departed hovers mysteriously over the enchanted
grove ; and when a maiden passes underneath its bare and weird-like boughs she utters an entreating cry, kind beckoning her to visit the living tomb, and conjuring her never to deceive a faithful, trusting heart, nor grieve by coquetry or crime him whose affections she has unalterably and affectionately won; and when beside the lonely mountain grave, she, shrieking, wildly cries :
“Young maiden, oh, beware!
And ne'er by love's deceitful smile
Confiding, truthful hearts beguile-