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« He that shall sound that horn and draw that sword,» said the stranger, who now intimated that he was the fa. mous Thomas of Hersildoune, «shall, if his heart fail him not, be king over all broad Britain. So speaks the tongue that cannot lie. But all depends on courage, and much on your taking the sword or the horn first.»
Dick was much disposed to take the sword, but his bold spirit was quailed by the supernatural terrors of the hall, and he thought to unsheath the sword first, might be construed into defiance, and give offence to the powers of the Mountain. He took the bugle with a trembling hand, and a feeble note, but loud enough to produce a terrible an
Thunder rolled in stunning peals through the immense hall; horses and men started to life; the steeds snorted, stamped, grinded their bits, and tossed on high their heads ;- the warriors sprung to their feet, clashed their armour, and brandished their swords. Dick's terror was extreme at seeing the whole army, which had been so lately silent as the grave, in uproar, and about to rush on him. He dropped the horn, and made a feeble attempt to seize the enchanted sword; but at the same moment a voice pronounced aloud the mysterious words
Woe to the coward, that ever he was born,
At the same time a whirlwind of irresistible fury howled through the long hall, bore the unfortunate horse-jockey clear out of the mouth of the cavern, and precipitated him over a steep bank of loose stones, where the shepherds found him the next morning, with just breath sufficient to tell his fearful tale, after concluding which he expired.
This legend, with several variations, is found in many parts of Scotland and England-the scene is sometimes laid in some favourite glen of the Highlands, sometimes in the deep coal-mines of Northumberland and Cumberland, which run so far beneath the ocean. It is also to bę
found in Reginald Scott's book on Witchcraft, which was written in the 16th century. It would be in vain to ask what was the original of the tradition. The choice between the horn and sword may, perhaps, include as a moral, that it is fool-hardy to awaken danger before we have arms in our hands to resist it.
Although admitting of much poetical ornament, it is clear that this legend would have formed but an unhappy foundation for a prose story, and must have degenerated into a mere fairy tale. Dr John Leyden has beautifully introduced the tradition in his Scenes of Infancy:
Mysterious Rhymer, doom’d by fate's decree
Scenes of Infancy, Part I.
In the same cabinet with the preceding fragment, the following occurred among other disjecta membra. It seems to be an attempt at a of a different description from the last, but was almost instantly abandoned. The introduction points out the time of the composition to have been about the end of the 18th century.
THE LORD OF ENNERDALE.
IN A FRAGMENT OF A LETTER FROM JOHN B-, ESQ. OF THAT ILK, TO WILLIAM G F.R.S.E.
« Fill a bumper,” said the Knight ; « the ladies may spare us a little longer-Fill a bumper to the Archduke Charles.»
The company did due honour to the toast of their landlord.
« The success of the Archduke,» said the muddy Vicar, « will tend to further our negotiation at Paris ; and if »
« Pardon the interruption, Doctor,» quoth a thin emaciated figure, with somewhat of a foreign accent ; « but why should
you connect those events, unless to hope that the bravery and victories of our allies may supersede the necessity of a degrading treaty?»
« We begin to feel, Monsieur l'Abbé,» answered the Vicar, with some asperity, « that a Continental war entered into for the defence of an ally who was unwilling to defend himself, and for the restoration of a royal family, nobility, and priesthood, who tamely abandoned their own rights, is a burden too much even for the resources of this
country.” « And was the war then on ahe part of Great Britain,» rejoined the Abbé, « a gratuitous exertion of generosity ? Was there no fear of the wide-wasting spirit of innovation which had gone abroad? Did not the laity tremble for their property, the clergy for their religion, and every loyal heart for the Constitution ? Was it not thought necessary to destroy the building which was on fire, ere the conflagration spread around the vicinity?,
Yet, if upon trial,» said the Doctor, « the walls were found to resist our utmost efforts, I see no great prudence in persevering in our labour amid the smouldering ruins.»
What! Doctor,» said the Baronet, « must I call to your recollection your own sermon on the late general fast ?did you not encourage us to hope that the Lord of Hosts would go forth with our armies, and that our enemies, who blasphemed him, should be put to shame ?»
« It may please a kind father to chasten even his beloved children,» answered the Vicar.
« I think,» said a gentleman near the foot of the table,
« that the Covenanters made some apology of the same kind for the failure of their prophecies at the battle of Dunbar, when their mutinous preachers compelled the prudent Lesley to go down against the Philistines in Gilgal.»
The Vicar fixed a scrutinizing and not a very complacent eye upon this intruder. He was a young man of mean stature, and rather a reserved appearance. Early and severe study had quenched in his features the gaiety peculiar to his age, and impressed upon them a premature cast of thoughtfulness. His eye had, however, retained its fire, and his gesture its animation. Had he remained silent, he would have been long unnoticed ; but when he spoke, there was something in his manner which arrested attention.
« Who is this young man ?» said the Vicar, in a low voice, to his neighbour.
« A Scotchman, called Maxwell, on a visit to Sir Henry,” was the answer.
« I thought so, from his accent and his manners,” said the Vicar. It
may be here observed, that the northern English retain rather more of the ancient hereditary aversion to their neighbours than their countrymen of the South. The interference of other disputants, each of whom urged his opinion with all the vehemence of wine and politics, rendered the summons to the drawing-room agreeable to the more sober part of the company.
The company dispersed by degrees, and at length the Vicar and the young Scotchman alone remained, besides the Baronet, his lady, daughters, and myself. The clergyman had not, it would seem, forgot the observation which ranked him with the false prophets of Dunbar, for he addressed Mr Maxwell upon the first opportunity
« Hem! I think, sir, you mentioned something about the civil wars of last century? You must be deeply skilled
in thein indeed, if you can draw any parallel betwixt those and the present evil days-days which, I am ready to maintain, are the most gloomy that ever darkened the prospects of Britain.»
« God forbid, Doctor, that I should draw a comparison between the present times and those you mention. I am too sensible of the advantages we enjoy over our ancestors. Faction and ambition have introduced division among us, but we are still free from the guilt of civil bloodshed, and from all the evils which flow from it. Our foes, sir, are not those of our own household; and while we continue united and firm, from the attacks of a foreign enemy, however artful, or however inveterate, we have, I hope, little to dread.»
« Have you found any thing curious, Mr Maxwell, among the dusty papers ?» said Sir Henry, who seemed to dread a revival of political discussion.
My investigation amongst them led to reflections which I have just now hinted,» said Maxwell ; « and I think they are pretty strongly exemplified by a story which I have been endeavouring to arrange from some of your family manuscripts.
You are welcome to make what use of them you please,» said Sir Henry; they have been undisturbed for many a day,—and I have often wished for some person as well skilled as you in these old pot-hooks, to tell me their meaning.”
« Those I just mentioned,» answered Maxwell, « relate to a piece of private history, savouring not a liule of the marvellous, and intimately connected with your family: if it is agreeable, I can read to you the anecdotes in the modern shape into which I have been endeavouring to throw them, and you can then judge of the value of the originals.
There was something in this proposal, agreeable to all parties. Sir Henry had family pride, which prepared him to take an interest in whatever related to his ancestors.