« AnteriorContinuar »
Flora Mac-Ivor bore a most striking resemblance to her brother Fergus; so much so, that they might have played Viola and Sebaslian with the same exquisile effect produced by the appearance of Mrs. Henry Siddons and her brother, Mr. William Murray, in these characters. They had the same antique and regular correctness of profile; the same dark eyes, eye-lashes, and eye-brows; the same clearness of complexion, excepting that Fergus's was embrowned by exercise, and Flora's possessed the utmost feminine delicacy. But the haugly, and somewhat stern, regularity of Fergus's features was beautifully softened in those of Flora. Their voices were also similar in tone, though differing in the key. That of Fergus, especially while issuing orders to his followers during their military exercise, reminded Edward of a favourite passage in the description of Emetrius :
-whose voice was heard around, Loud as a trumpet with a silver sound.
That of Flora, on the contrary, was soft and sweel," an excellent thing in woman;" yet, in urging any favourite topic, which she often pursued with natural eloquence, it possessed as well the tones which impress awe and conviction, as those of persuasive insinuation. The eager glance of the keen black eye, which, in the Chieftain, seemed impatient even of the material obstacles it encountered, had, in his sister, acquired a gentle pensiveness. His looks seemed to seek glory, power, all that could exalt him above others in the race of humanity; while those of his sister, as if she were already conscious of mental superiority, seemed to pity rather than envy, those who were struggling for any farther distinction, Her sentiments corresponded with the expression of her countenance. Early education had impressed upon her mind, as well as on that of the Chieftain, the most devoted attachment to the exiled family of Stewart. She believed it the duty of her brother, of his clan, of every man in Britain, at whatever personal hazard, to contribute to that restoration which the partisans of the Chevalier St. George had not ceased to hope for. For this she was prepared to do all, to suffer all, to sacrifice all. But her loyalty, as it exceeded her brother's in fanaticism, excelled it also in purity, Accustomed to petty intrigue, and necessarily involved in a thousand paltry and selfish discussions, ambitious also by nature, his political faith was linctured, at least, if not tainted, by the views of interest and adyancement so easily combined with it; and at the moment he should unsheathe his claymore, it might be difficult to say whether it would be most with the view of making James Stewart a king, or Fergus Mac-Ivor an earl. This indeed, was a mixture of feeling which he did not avow even to himself, but it existed, nevertheless, in a powerful degree.
In Flora's bosom, on the contrary, the zeal of loyalty burnt pure and unmixed with any selfish feeling ; she would have as soon made religion the mask of ambitious and interested views, as have shrouded them under the opinions which she had been tanght to think patriotism. Such instances of devolion were not uncommon among the followers of the unhappy race of Stewart of which many memorable proofs will recur to the mind of most of my readers. But peculiar attention on the part of the Chevalier de St. George and his princess to the parents of Fergus and his sister, and to themselves, when orphans, had riveted their faith. Fergus, upon the death of his parents, had been for some time a page of honour in the train of the Chevalier's lady, and, from his beauty and sprightly lemper, was uniformly treated by her with the utmost distinction. This was also extended to Flora, who was maintained for some time at a convent of the first order, at the princess's expense, and removed from thence into her own family, where she spent nearly two years. Both brother and sister retained the deepest and most grateful sense of her kindness.
Having thus touched upon the leading principle of Flora's character, I may dismiss the rest more slightly. She was highly accomplished, and had acquired those elegant manners to be expected from one who, in early youth, had been the companion of a princess; yet she had not learned to substitute the gloss of politeness for the reality of feeling. When settled in the lonely regions of Glennaquoich, she found that her resources in French, English, and Italian literature, were likely to be few and interrupted ; and, in order to fill up the vacant time, she bestowed a part of it upon the music and poelical traditions of the Highlanders, and began really to feel the pleasure in the pursuit, which her brother, whose perceplions of literary merit were more blunt, rather affected for the sake of popularity than actually experienced. Her resolution was strengthened in these researches, by the extreme delight which her inquiries seemed to afford those to whom she resorted for information.
Her love of her clan, an attachment which was almost hereditary in her bosom, was, like her loyalty, a more pure passion than that of her brother. He was too thorough a politician, regarded his patriarchal influence too much as the means of accomplishing his own aggrandizement, that we should term him the model of a Highland Chieftain. Flora felt the same anxiety for cherishing and extending their patriarchal sway, but it was with the generous desire of vindicating from poverty, or at least from want and foreign oppression, those whom her brother was by birth, according to the nolions of the time and country, entitled to govern. The savings of her income, for she had a small pension from the Princess Sobieski, were dedicated, nol to add to thc comforts of the
peasanlry, for that was a word which they neither knew nor apparently wished to know, but to relieve their absolute necessities, when in sickness or extreme old age. At every other period, they rather toiled to procure something which they might share with the Chief, as a proof of their attachment, than expected other assistance from him save what was afforded hy the rude hospitality of his castle, and the general division and subdivision of his estale among them. Flora was so much beloved by them, that when Mac-Murrough composed a song, in which he enumerated all the principal beauties of the district, and intimated her superiority by concluding, that“ the fairest apple bung on the highest bough,” he received, in donatives from the individuals of the clan, more seed-barley than would have sowed his Highland Parnassus, the Bard's croft, as it was called, ten times over.
From situation, as well as choice, Miss Mac-Ivor's sociely was extremely limited. Her most intimate friend had been Rose Bradwardine, to whom she was much attached ; and when seen together, they would have afforded an artist two admirable subjects for the gay and the melancholy muse. Indeed Rose was so tenderly walched by her father, and her circle of wishes was so limited, that none arose but what he was willing to gratify, and scarce any which did not come within the compass of his power. With Flora it was olherwise. While almost a girl, she had undergone the most complete change of scene, from gaiety and splendour lo absolute solitude and comparative poverty; and the ideas and wishes which she chiefly fostered, respected great national events, and changes not to be brought round without both hazard and bloodshed, and therefore not to be thought of with levity. Her manner, consequently, was grave, though she readily contributed her talents to the amusement of society, and stood very high in the opinion of the old Baron, who used to sing along with her such French duels of Lindor and Cloris, etc. as were in fashion about the end of the reign of old Louis le Grand.
It was generally believed, though no one durst have hinted it to the Baron of Bradwardine, that Flora's intreaties had no small share in allaying the wrath of Fergus upon occasion of their quarrel. She took her brother on the assailable side, by dwelling first upon the Baron's age, and then representing the injury which the cause might sustain, and the damage which must arise to his own character in point of prudence, so necessary to a political agent, if he persisted in carrying it to extremity. Otherwise it is probable it would have terminated in a duel, both because the Baron had, on a former occasion, shed blood of the clan, though the matter had been timely accommodaled, and on account of his high reputation for address at his weapon, which Fergus almost condescended to envy. For the same reason she had urged their reconciliation,
which the Chieftain the more readily agreed to, as it favoured some ulterior projects of his own.
To this young lady, now presiding at the female empire of the tea-table, Fergus introduced Captain Waverley, whom she received with the usual forms of politeness.
When the first salutations had passed, Fergus said to his sister, “ My dear Flora, before I return to the barbarous ritual of our forefathers, I must tell you that Captain Waverley is a worshipper of the Celtic muse, not the less so perhaps that he does not understand a word of her language. I have told him you are eminent as a translator of Highland poetry, and that Mac-Murrough admires your version of his songs upon the same principle that Captain Waverley admires the original, --because he does not comprehend them. Will you have the goodness to read or recite to our guest, in English, the extraordinary string of names which Mac-Murrough has tacked together in Gaelic? - My life to a moor-fowl's feather, you are provided with a version; for I know you are in all the bard's councils, and acquainted with his songs long before be rehearses them in the hall."
“ How can you say so, Fergus? You know how little these verses can possibly interest an English stranger, even if I could translate them as you pretend."
“ Nol less than they interest me, lady fair. To-day your joint composition, for I insist you had a share in it, has cost me the last silver cup in the castle, and I suppose will cost me something else next time I hold cour plénière, if the muse descends on MacMurrough, for you know our proverb,-When the hand of the chief ceases to bestow, the breath of the bard is frozen in the utterance.-Well, I would it were even so : there are three things that are useless to a modern Highlander,-a sword which he must not draw,--a bard to sing of deeds which he dare not imitate,-and a large goat-skin purse without a louis-d'or to put into it.”
“Well, brother, since you betray my secrets, you cannot expect me to keep yours.-I assure you, Captain Waverley, that Fergus is too proud to exchange his broadsword for a marechal's balon; that he esteems Mac-Murrough a far grealer poet than Homer, and would not give up his goal-skin purse for all the louis-d'or which it could contain."
“Well pronounced, Flora; blow for blow, as Conan' said to the devil. Now do you two talk of bards and poetry, is not of purses and claymores, while I return to do the final honours to the scnators of the tribe of Ivor." So saying, he left the room.
The conversation continued between Flora and Waverley; for two well-dressed young women, whose character seemed lo hover between that of companions and dependents, took no share in it. They were both prelty girls, but served only as foils to the grace and beauty of their patroness. The discourse followed the turn which the Chieftain had given it, and Waverley was equally amused and surprised with the account which the lady gave him of Celtic poetry.
“The recitalion,” she said, “ of poems, recording the feats of heroes, the complaints of lovers, and the wars of contending tribes, forms the chief amusement of a winter fire-side in the Highlands. Some of these are said to be very ancient, and, if they are ever translated into any of the languages of civilized Europe, cannot fail to produce a deep and general sensation. Others are more modern, the composition of those family bards whom the chieftains of more distinguished name and power retain as the poets and historians of their tribes. These, of course, possess various degrees of meril; but much of it must evaporate in translation, or be lost on those who do not sympathize with the feelings of the poet."
“And your bard, whose effusions seemed to produce such effect upon the company to-day, is he reckoned among the favourite poets of the mountains ?”
" That is a trying question. His reputation is high among his countrymen, and you must not expect me to depreciate it.",
“But the song, Miss Mac-Ivor, seemed to awaken all those warriors, both young and old.”
“The song is lillle more than a catalogue of names of the Highland clans under their distinctive peculiarities, and an exhortation to them to remember and to emulate the actions of their forefathers.'
“And am I wrong in conjecturing, however extraordinary the guess appears, that there was some allusion to me in the verses which he recited ?"
'In the Irish ballads, relating to Fion, (the Fingal of Mac-Pherson,) there occurs, as the primitive poetry of most nations, a cycle of heroes, each of whom has some distinguishing attribute; upon these qualities, and the adventures of those possessing them, many proverbs are formed, which are still current in the Highlands. Among other characters, Conan is distinguished as in some respects a kind of Thersites, bul brave and daring even to rashness. He had made a vow that he would never take a blow without retarning il; and having, like other heroes of antiquity, descended to the infernal regions, be received a cuf from the Arch-liend, who presided there, which he instantly relurned, using the expression in the text. Sometimes the proverb is worded thus:- “Claw for claw, and the devil take the shortest nails, as Conan said to the devil."
· The Highland poet almost always was an improvisatore. Captain Burt met one of them at Loval's lable.