« AnteriorContinuar »
That by the passion of its deep distress,
And by the o'erflowing of its mighty prayer, And by the yearning of its tenderness,
Too full for words upon their stream to bear, I have been drawn still closer to thy shrine, Well-spring of love, the unfathom'd, the divine: I bless Thee, O my God!
That hope hath ne'er my heart or song forsaken,
Whereby its torchlight for the race was fed;
Now art Thou calling me in every gale,
But, hour by hour, my soul's dissolving shroud
I bless Thee, O my God!
And if this earth, with all its choral streams,
And that the tender shadowing I behold,
I bless Thee, O my God!
Yes! the young vernal voices in the skies
Woo me not back, but, wandering past mine ear,
The spirit-music, unperturb'd and clear;
Now aid, sustain me still!—to Thee I come,
And for thy Son, the bright and morning star,
The second morning of my stay, I had fished a considerable distance up the river; but having broken my top in an unlucky leap, was sitting in impatient bustle, lapping the frac ture, and lamenting my ill fortune, as ever and anon I would raise my eyes and see the fresh curl running past my feet; when I perceived by the sudden blackening of the water, and by an ominous but indescribable sensation of the air, that something unusual was brewing overhead. I looked up there it was, a cloud, low-hung and lurid, and stretching across the whole northern side of the horizon. I had scarce time to gather my clews and bobbins into a hurried wisp, and take shelter under an overhanging bank hard by, when down it came, heavy, hissing, and pelting the whole surface of the river into spray. I drew myself close to the back of the hollow, where I lay in a congratulatory sort of reverie, watching the veins of muddy red, as they slowly at first, and then impetuously flowed through, and finally displaced the dark spring water-the efforts of the beaten rushes and waterflags, as they quivered and flapped about under the shower's battery-the gradual increase of swell and turbulence in the river opposite; and lower down, the war which was already tossing and raging at the conflux, where
that scene to memory, prepare myself, by the renewed vision of its dreariness and desolation, for the more grateful reception of an image than which earth contains none lovelier-it was a lovely girl. She fled thither for shelter: I did not see her until she was close by me; but never surely did man's eyes rest on a fairer apparition. I have, at this instant, every lineament of the startled beauty, as, drawing back with a suppressed cry and gesture of alarm, she shrank from the unexpected companion who stood by her side; for I had started from my reverie, and now presented myself, baring my head in the rain with involuntary respectfulness of gallantry, and half unconsciously leading her by the hand into my retreat. She yielded, blushing and confused, while I, apologizing, imploring, and gazing with new admiration at every look, unstrapped my basket, placed it in the least exposed corner, spread over it my outside coat, and having thus arranged a seat, (which, however, she did not yet accept,) retired to the opposite side, and reluctantly ceasing to gaze, gave up my whole faculties to wonder-who could she be? Her rich dress,-velvet habit, hat and feathers, her patrician elegance of beauty and manner, at once proclaimed her rank; but who could there be in Glen- above the homely class to which my host belonged? And his daughter, Miss Janet, was certainly a brilliant of a very different water. But, heavens! how the water is running down from my companion's rich hair, and glistening upon her neck with what a breathing lustre !-"Oh, madam, let me entreat you, as you value your safety, use my handkerchief (and I pulled a muffler from my neck) to bind up and dry your hair. Wrap, I beseech you, your feet in my great-coat; and withdraw farther from the wind and rain."
before her, lapping the skirts and sleeves of my envied coat about the little feet and delicate ankles. Yet it seemed to me that she received my services rather with a grateful condescension, than, as I desired, with frank enjoyment of them. So, pausing a moment to account for such a manner, I recollected, and the recollection covered me with confusion, that I must have been, to say the least, as rough a comrade as any one need wish to meet with under a hedge; for, purposing to leave Ireland in another month for Germany, I had, during the last week, allowed my beard to grow all round; putting off from day to day the forming of the moustache, to which I meant to reduce it, and so had my face, at no time very smooth, now covered from ear to ear with a stubble, long, strong, and black as a shoe-brush. My broad-brimmed hat was battered and dinted into strangely uncouth cavities, and the leaf hung flapping over my brows like a broken umbrella; my jacket was tinselled indeed, but it was with the ancient scales of trout; my leathern overalls were black-glazed and greasy; and my whole equipment bore, I must confess, the evident signs of an unexceptionable rascal.'
Indignant at my unworthy appearance, I put myself upon my mettle; and after drawing my fair companion from her intrenchments of shyness and hauteur, succeeded in engaging her in the fair field of a conversation the most animated and interesting, in which it was ever my good fortune and credit to bear a part. She had at first, indeed, when I began by running a parallel between our positions, explained the circumstances of her being driven thither alone, in a manner so general, and with such evident painfulness of hesitation, that I had hardly expected a few slow commonplaces at the most. Such wit, then, and vivacity, tempered with such dignified discretion, as she evinced, when I turned the conversation from what I perceived to be perplexing, were by their unexpectedness doubly delightful.
Time and the tempest swept on equally unheeded; topic induced topic, smile challenged smile, and when at last, in obedience to her
wishes, I looked towards the north to see whether the sky were clearing, I only prayed that it might rain on till sunset, when I might accompany her to her home, which, to my surprise, I learned was within a few miles, although I did ascertain exactly where. My rayers were likely enough to be fulfilled; the sky was still one rush of rain-but, heaven and earth! the river had overflowed its banks above: a broad sheet of water was sailing down the hollow behind; and there we were, no human habitation within sight, in the midst of a tempest, between two rapid rivers, with no better shelter, during the continuance of a Lammas flood, than the hollow of a bank which n might be ten feet under water in an hour.
I ran down the back of the hill to the edge of the interposing flood; a stunted tree was in the middle, the fork of which I knew was as high as my shoulder; a mass of weeds and briars was already gathered against it; the water had raised them within a foot of the first branch; then I might still ford a passage; no moment was to be lost; I ran back for the lady, but met her half-way in wild alarm, her head bare, her beautiful hair shaken out into the blast, her hands clasped, and her figure just sinking. I caught her in my arms, and bore her forward with all my speed; but before I again reached the sweeping inundation, insensibility had released her from the terrors of our passage.
I dashed in, holding her across my body, with her head resting on my shoulder; the first step took me to the knee. I raised my burden and plunged forward; the water rose to my haunches. I lifted her again across my breast, rushed on, and sank to the waist. I felt that I could not long support a dead weight in that position; so lowering her limbs into the water, I profited by that relief, and reached the tree.
The flood had now covered me to the breast, and the lady's neck and bosom were all that remained unimmersed. I leaned against the old trunk, and breathed myself. I raised her drooping head on my shoulder, and pressed my cheek to her forehead; but neither lip nor eyelid moved. I could not but gaze
upon her face; it lay among the long floating tresses and turbulent eddies, fair as the water's own lily, and as unconscious. My heart warmed to the lovely being, and I bent over her, kissing her lips, and pressing her bosom to mine, with an affection so strangely strong, that I might have stood thus till escape had been impossible, but that the rustling of the rubbish, as it crept up the rugged stump with the rise of the waters, caught my ear-a thunderbolt smouldering at my feet could not have sounded so horrible-all my fresh affections rushed back to my heart in multiplied alarm for the safety of their new-found treasureI started from my resting-place, and swinging back the long hair from my eyes, once more breasted the stream with clenched teeth and dripping brows. But still as farther I advan- ced, the water grew deeper and deeper, and the current split upon my shoulder, and twisted through my legs, still stronger and stronger. Lumps of black moss, dried peats, and heavy sods, now struck me, and tumbled on; while wisps of yellow grass and long straws doubled across my body and entangled me. My limbs wavered at every step, as I strained and writhed them through the current. I gave way-I was half lifted-the river and the burn met not a hundred yards below-had I had the strength of ten men, I could not have supported her through that tumult-every step swerved towards the conclusion of at least her exist ence; yet with love tenfold did I now press her to my heart, and with tenfold energy struggle to make good her rescue her eyes opened I murmured prayers, comforts, and endearments-she saw the red torrent around, the tawny breakers before, the black storm overhead; but she saw love in my eye, she heard it in my words; and there, within her probable death-bed, and in the embrace of her probable companion in death, she was wooed among the waters, and was won. Another effort-but the eddy swung me round, and I had given up all as lost, save my interest in that perishing girl; when suddenly I heard, through the dashing of waves and the hissing of rain, the hoarse cry of a man, " Courage-hold up, sir-this way, halloo!"
I turned, half thinking it imagination, but there I really saw a man up to the breast in the flood, supporting with arms and shoulders a powerful black horse which he urged across the current. Another minute, and I stood firm behind the breakwater they formed at my side. My dear charge had again fainted; he assisted me to raise her to the saddle; but suddenly as he looked at her, he uttered a wild cry of astonishment, and kissing and embracing her, exclaimed, "My Madeline, my daughter, my dear child!-Why, sir, how is this?"
"Oh, sir, the river is rising a foot a-minute-take the bridle, I beseech you, and let me support the lady and the horse's flank—I will explain all when she is out of danger." So saying, I laid my shoulder to the work and urged him on ; we had an easier task, and in another minute succeeded in getting safe out of that perilous passage.
I now looked at our preserver; he was a handsome, tall, and vigorous man, about forty; evidently a soldier and gentleman. He lifted his daughter from the saddle; and while I recounted the particulars of her adventure, unclasped her habit and chafed her forehead; but all was of no avail. He looked distractedly, first at his daughter and then at me; and after a pause of contending emotions, rose, laid her across the pommel, placed his foot in the stirrup, and turning to me said, "I am embarrassed by many circumstances—take my blessings for this day's help-and forget us.'
"I can never forget."
"Then take this trifling remembrance." He pulled a ring from his finger and handed it to me; threw himself into the saddle; placed his daughter across his body, and crying, ere I could say a word for sheer amazement, "Farewell, farewell!" and once more, with some emotion, "Farewell, sir, and may God bless you!" put spurs to his horse, and dashed off at full speed for a pass which leads into the wild country of the Misty Braes.
Till they disappeared among the hills, I stood watching them from the bank where they had left me, bareheaded, numbed, and indignant; with the rain still pelting on me, and the ring between my fingers. It was a
costly diamond; I pitched it after him with a curse, and bent my weary way towards Knowehead, a distance of full five miles, in a maze of uncertainty and speculation. She had not told her name, and she seemed to desire a concealment of her residence; her father's conduct more plainly evinced the same motive; many of the heads of the rebellion were still lurking with their families among the mountains of Ulster; the only house in the direction they had taken, at all likely to be the retreat of respectable persons, was the old Grange of Moyabel; and it was the property of a gentleman then abroad, but connected with all the chief Catholic rebels in the North. All this made me naturally conclude that these were some of that unhappy party; and when I considered that both daughter and father had been riding from different quarters to the same destination-for, as well as I could surmise from her vague account of herself, she had left the servant, behind whom she had come so far, to wait the arrival of her father, who had promised to join them there. I was able to satisfy myself of their being only on their way to Moyabel; and I therefore determined not to create suspicion by making useless enquiries as to the present family there, but to take the first opportunity of judging for myself of the new comers. But how after such a dismissal introduce myself? Here lay the difficulty; and beyond this I could fix on nothing, so with a heavy heart I climbed the hill before my kinsman's house, and presented myself at the wide door of the kitchen, just as the twilight was darkening down into night.
I found my host sitting as was his wont; his nightcap on his head, his long staff in his hand, and two greyhounds at his feet, behind the fire upon his oaken settle. "I'm thinkin', Willie,” he began as he saw me enter—“I'm thinkin' ye hae catched a wet sark.-Janet, lass, fetch your cusin a dram-Nane o' your piperly smellin' bottles," cried he, as she produced some cordials in an ancient liquor-stand-" Nane o' your auld wife's jaups for ane o' my name -fetch something purpose-like; for when my nevoy has changed himsell, we'll hae a stoup o' whisky, and a
crack thegither." In a few minutes I was seated in dry clothes, before a bowl of punch and a blazing fire, beside the old gentleman on his oaken sofa. At any other time I would have enjoyed the scene with infinite satisfaction; for the national tipple, in my mind, drinks nowhere so pleasantly as on a bench behind the broad hearth-stone of such a kitchen-hallas my friend's. Our smaller gentry had, it is true, long since betaken themselves to their parlours and their drawing-rooms; and the steams of whisky-punch had already risen with the odours of bohea, and the smoke of seaborne coals, to the damask hangings and alabaster cornices of many high-ceiled and stately apartments. Yet there were still some of the old school, who, like my good friend, continued to make their headquarters, after the ancient fashion, among their own domestics, and behind their own hearth-stone; for in all old houses the fire is six feet at least from the gable, and the space between is set apart for the homely
It was strange, then, that I, who hitherto had so, intensely relished such a scene, should be so absent now that it was spread round me in its perfection. The peat and bogfir fire before me, and the merry faces glistening through the white smoke beyond; the chimney overhead, like some great minster bell (the huge hanging pot for the clapper); the antlers, broadsword, and sporting tackle on the wall behind; the goodly show of fat flitches and briskets around me and above, and that merry and wise old fellow, glass in hand, with endless store of good stories, pithy sayings, and choice points of humour, by my side; yet with all I sat melancholy and ill at ease. In vain did the rare old man tell me his best marvels; how he once fought with Tom Hughes, a wild Welshman, whom he met in a perilous journey through the forests of Cheshire; how Tom would not let go his grip when he had him down ("whilk was a foul villainy;") and how he had to roll into a running water before he could get loose ("whilk shewed the savage natur of thae menseless barbarians.") In vain he told me that pleasant jest, how my grandfather ance