Imágenes de página


She does no work by halves, yon raving ocean ;
Engolphing those she strangles, her wild womb
Affords the mariners whom she hath dealt on,
Their death at once, and sepulchre.

Old Play.

THERE were ten “lang Scots miles” betwixt Stourburgh and Jarlshof; and though the pedestrian did not number all the impediments which crossed Tam o'Shanter's path, -for, in a country where there are neither hedges nor stone inclosures, there can be neither“ slaps norstiles," yet the number and nature of the “ waters and mosses” which he had to cross in his peregrination, was fully sufficient to balance the account, and to render his journey as toilsome and dangerous as that of the celebrated retreat from Ayr. Neither witch nor warlock crossed Mordaunt's path, however. The length of the day

[blocks in formation]

was already considerable, and he arrived safe at Jarlshof by eleven o'clock at night. All was still and dark around the mansion, and it was not till he had whistled twice or thrice beneath Swertha's window, that she replied to the signal.

At the first sound, Swertha fell into an agreeable dream of a young whale-fisher, who some forty years since used to make such a signal beneath the window of her hut; at the second, she waked to remember that Johnnie Fea slept sound amongst the frozen waves of Greenland for this many a year, and that she was Mr Mertoun's gouvernante at Jarlshof, at the third, she arose and opened the window.

“Whae is that,” she demanded, " at sic an hour of the night?”.

“ It is I," said the youth.

“ And what for come naye in? The door's on the latch, and there is a gathering peat on the kitchen fire, and a spunk beside it-yecan light your ain candle."

“ All well;” replied Mordaunt; but I want to know how my father is.”

***. Just in his ordinary, gude gentleman-asking for you, Master Mordaunt; ye are owrę far and ower later in your walks, young gentleman."

“Then the dark hour has passed, Swertha ?

"In troth has it, Master Mordaunt,"answered the gouvernante; “and your father is very reasonably good-natured for him,'poor gentleman. I spake to him twice yesterday withouthis speaking first; and the first time he answered me as civil as you could do, and the neist time he bade me no plague him; and then, thought I, three times were aye canny, so I spake to him again for luck's-sake, and he called me a chattering old devil, but it was quite and clean in a civil sort of way.

“ Enough, enough, Swertha,” answered Mordaunt; "and now get up and find me something to eat, for I have dined but poorly.”

“ Then you have been at the new folks at Stourburgh ? for there is no another house in a? the Isles but they wad hae gi'en ye the best share of the best they had. Saw ye ought of Norua of the Fitful-head? She went to Stourburgh this morning, and returned to the town at night."...,

« Returned !--then she is here. How could she travel three leagues and better in so short a time ?”

“Wha kens how she travels ?" replied Swertha; “ but I heard her tell the Ranzelman wi’ my ain lugs, that she intended that day to have gone on to Burgh-Westra, to speak with Minna Troil, but she had seen that at Stourburgh indeed she said at Harfra, for she never calls it by the other name of Stourburgh,) that sent her back to our town. But gang your ways round, and ye shall have plenty of supper-ours is nae toom pantry, and still less a locked ane, though my master be a stranger, and no just that tight in the upper rigging, as the Ranzelman says.”

Mordaunt walked round to the kitchen accordingly, where Swertha's care speedily accommodated him with a plentiful, though coarse meal, which indemnified him for the scanty hospitality he had experienced at Stourburgh.

In the morning, some feelings of fatigue made young Mertoun later than usual in leaving his bed; so that, contrary to what was the ordinary case, he found his father in the apartment where

they eat, and which served them indeed for every common purpose, save that of a bed, chamber or of a kitchen. The son greeted the father in mute reverence, and waited until he should address him.

“ You were absent yesterday, Mordaunt,” said his father. Mordaunt's absence had lasted a week and more; but he had often observed that his father never seemed to notice how time passed during the time he was affected with his sullen vapours. He assented to what the elder Mr Mertoun had said.

“And you were at Burgh-Westra, as I think,” continued his father.

“Yes, sir," replied Mordaunt. The elder Mertoun was then silent for some time, and paced the floor in deep silence, with an air of sombre reflection, which seemed as if he was about to relapse into his moody fit. Suddenly turning to his son, however, he observed, in the tone of a query, “Magnus Troil has two daughters—they must be now young women; they are thought handsome, of course ?

“ Very generally, sir,” answered Mordaunt, rather surprised to hear his father making any

« AnteriorContinuar »