« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
ing to rest, and beseech him to be merciful to them, who were all alike sinners.
During all this time, Mary Stewart had stood pate and breathless as a statue, drinking in every word her mother uttered, 'marking every tone of her voice, and every change of expression upon her countenance. She had been a mere girl when her brother went abroad; and though she remembered him well, and had loved him with all the tender enthusiasm of childhood, yet her growing thoughts and feelings towards a thousand new objects, calculated by their nature to interest and de light her heart, had grown over that early affection : and when she looked at her brother's picture on the wall of her bed-room, or the inscription on the marble slab in the kirk, it was with 'a perfectly calm spirit, without vain repining or regret, and with a pleasant revival of old remembrancés otherwise half obliterated. When, therefore, she saw her mother once more reconciled to the presence of their guest, and willing that one so mournfully connected with their fate in life, and so strangely brought to them, should not wander off for ever thus forlorn and despairing, her soul rejoiced within 'her, the former brightness of her visage was restored, and once more the smile was seen that mantles from a heart made happy, without and almost against its will, in the power of its purity and innocence.
As they walked back through Glen-Creran to the old mansion, the character of the weather of the scenery of the day, seemed to them all to have undergone a change. A more sober music was in the rills; the sky was not so dazzingly clear; a dim shadow crept over the sweet Loch-Phoil-and, as if a hawk had been in the air, the voice of every bird was silent in the woods. Few words were uttered, but these few became always less and less unhappy; and as the lady and her daughter once more welcomed the English guest beneath their gate, it was with a profound feeling, in which aversion, dislike, or repugnance had no share-all these had vanished-although, when they sat down together in the parlour, there was first an utter silence, and then several sobs and a gush of tears. A few hours ago he was an interesting stranger about to pass away into oblivion—now he was one whom they could never forget and whom they both felt must be for ever regarded by them, now that the first startling agony was over, with affection for his own sake, with pity for his misfortune, and with sympathy for the contrition which he endured for an act which he, more than themselves or others, regarded as a heinous crime.
The mother and daughter retired to their own room early in the evening, and Edward Ashton was left his own thoughts. He went out into the glen, and walked about the beautiful calm woods till his soul was soothed with the untroubled solitude. He had seen those whom in all the world he had most feared ever to see and gentle looks and kind words had flowed mutually from each others hearts. They were both perfectly happy--their grief had passed away—and he began to hope, that, after his long penance, for him too there was to be peace. Across all these thoughts came insensibly the image of sweet Mary Stewart ; and he almost ventured to ask himself, “ Does she love any one or has her gentle heart been left to itself in her native soli. tude ?” This was a passing drcam--but it passed away only to return; and when he met her again, just as the heavens were beginning to show their stars, he felt towards her an affection so tender and profound, that he wondered how a day could have produced it; but then he considered what a day that had been, and he wondered no more.
All the domestics now came into the room, some of them old greyhaired people, who had been faithful servants to several generations, and Mary Stewart read to them several chapters from the Bible. It was a calm and happy scene ; and as a halo, in old pictures, is drawn round the heads of saints, it might well seem to him who looked on her, and listened to her gentle voice, that a halo now encircled the fair temples of Mary Stewart, as they bent down with their clustering ringlets over the word of God.
His thoughts, during the wild solitude of the night before, had been many, and almost all pleasant, for he had lain in a chamber within an old tower of the mansion, like an adventurer of the days of old in the land of Faery ; but during this night they were all most solemn under the weight of mere humanity ; and while his fancy slept, it may be said that his heart was broad awake. His hand had deprived that mother of her only son that sweet maiden of her only brother-and might it not be in his power to supply to each her separate loss? His own heart had hitherto conceived no deep affection--but had loved phantoms alone of its own creation. He had led a wandering, restless, and wretched life, for several years, and now, when the light of joy seemed to be breaking from a distance, like the far-off and faint streak of the doubtful dawn, his spirit expanded within him, and he dared to look forward to a bright futurity. Had not that fatal quarrel been forced upon him by the impetuous character of his antagonist ? Had he net received from him perfect forgiveness, and manly acknowledgment of his courage and his honour ? None reproached him for a quarrel that had not been of his own seeking, and he had long used his skill for the defence only of his own life. But two accomplished swordsmen had held each other at the point, and the young Highland chieftain had received his death-wound. This night was as still and breathless as the preceding night had been loud and stormy; and so, in some measure, was it with the heart of Edward Ashton. His thoughts, and feelings, and passions, had worked themselves to rest a tranquillity, to which he had too long been a stranger, took possession of his mind, and in the morning he cast a rejoicing look over the awakened beauty and magnificence of nature.
The lady, in whose hospitable house he slept, had thought all night long alternately of him and of her son. The melancholy life he had for some years been leading in his solitary wanderings, touched her heart with the profoundest pity, and she wondered if his parents were dead, or if he had a father or a mother who suffered him thus to cherish his unwitnessed and unparticipated grief. Many a one who had been involved in the same fatality, easily and soon forgot it, and led the same cheerful or careless life as before, without blame from others, or remorse of their own consciences ; but his whole youth was tinged with sadness, and the solemnity of age was affectingly blended with the natural candour of his prime. How was it possible to refuse affection to such a man? And her last thought, before sinking into the world of dreams
was, that her son had expired with a cold hand clasped in his, and with his head on a pillow which his care had smoothed. As for Mary Stewart, when she “ lay down in her loveliness,” she tried to banish from her closed eyes the image of the stranger. Yet why should she not think of him ? What was he or could be to her, but one who, when far away, would remember her in sorrow, as the sister of the man whose death lay heavy on his soul ? She felt the tears on her cheek, and wiped them away in the silent darkness ; once more she prayed that God would send peace to his heart ; and when the touch of the morning light awakened her from disturbed sleep, to him her earliest thought unconsciously turned, and he was not forgotten in her orisons.
The rich and cheerful beauty of the early autumn covered all the gleng-and it was not easy for the wanderer to leave the heaven that to him lay both within and without the house. Sometimes he ascended by himself to the mountain-tops, and waited till the wreathed mist rose up in the early sun light, and revealed far below the motionless silence of the wooden glen. He sat alone by the mountain-cataracts, and traversed the heathery shores of the great wide inland lochs, or the rocky margin of arms of the sea. Valleys that stretched off into the dim and distant day shortened beneath his feet; and he enjoyed the stern silence of the black pine forest, darkening for leagues the base of some mighty mountain. The belling of the red deer came to him in the desert, as the echo of his footsteps roused up their antlered heads; and he strained his eyes to catch a sight of the eagle whose wild shriek he heard in the blue hollow of the sky. These were his day's wild penance in the uncompanioned solitude of nature. But hours of a sweet and human happiness were now often his ; for he walked with fair Mary Stewart alone, or with her mother, through coverts by the streamlet's banks_along green meadow-fields-glades where the young fawn might be seen at play—and into cottages where many a blithe and weather-beaten face welcomed the visits of them whose visits were ever of kindness, charity, or love.
Thus day after day passed along, and still Edward Ashton was in Glen-Creran. He had narrated all the circumstances of her son's death to the mother and she felt, too truly, that her wild and headstrong Charles had sought his doom ! But not the less on that account did her maternal heart weep blessings on her dead son, while it yearned with indescribable emotions of tenderness and pity towards him who did justice to all his virtues, and who was willing to let all blame rest on his own head, rather than that any of it should alight on him who was in his grave. 6 0, sir,-if my dear Charles and you had met as friends, well would you have loved one another ! Had he been alive now and you had come here an unconnected stranger, you would have crossed the moors and mountains together after the roe or the red deer. But his life has passed away, even as that shadow that is now passing over into Glenco-See, it is gone !”
They were sitting alone in the woods--no living thing near them but the squirrel leaping from tree to tree, no sound but that of the cushat mixing with the murmur of the waterfall. Edward Ashton looked steadfastly in her face, and said, “ Why am I lingering here ?
need I say it ? Your daughter Mary I do most tenderly love ; if I can gain her affection, could you bear to look on me as your son-inlaw ? If not, I will leave Glen-Creran to-night.” He spoke with great emotion, although suppressed ; for to be pitied, and even esteemed, was still far different indeed from being received as a son into the bosom of a family whose dearest peace he had been the means of breaking. He waited in terror for the first words of the reply, and they at once raised up his soul into a heaven of joy. “ If I saw you married to my Mary, then could I lay down my head and die in peace. I feel as if God had sent you here to be our comforter.” His soul was satisfied, and he gave a history of himself and his family-telling how he had changed his name for that of a kinsman, to whose estate be had succeeded. “ England is the country where I ought to live but if your sweet daughter can be won, every year will we visit Glen-Creran. But, alas ! all my hopes are but a dream. She never can be made to
The lady looked upon him with a pleasant countenance, and an encouraging smile. “ My daughter's heart is free and it is impossible but that she must soon love you.” They rose up, and returned in silence to the house.
That evening Edward Ashton and Mary Stewart walked up the wild and lonely Glenure, and before they reached home, there was a clear moon to light them through the fragrant birch woods. Her heart was given up entirely, with all its calm, pure, and innocent thoughts and feelings, to him who was now her lover; it knew no disguise, nor had it one single emotion to vail or conceal. No passion agitated sweet Mary Stewart, no wild dreams of imagination, no enthusiastic transports of the fancy ; but his smile was light, and his voice was music to her soul; and in the serene depth of an affection which had been growing within her heart, even from the very first moment she beheld the stranger in the Pine Grove, would she now have willingly gone with him to the uttermost parts of the earth, or laid down her young and happy life for his sake. When he folded her to his heart, as they mutually pledged their faith, her tears fell down in showers, and the kisses that then touched her eyes and cheek thrilled with unutterable happiness through her innocent and virgin heart. But dear to her as he then was, she felt, when about to part from him in a few days afterwards, that he was then far dearer; she then thought of being his wife in a vision of delight, for she was now deeply in love; and her soul sickened as the shadow fell on the sun-dial in the garden, that told the hour was come in which he must take his departure, for some months, from Glen-Creran.
Mary Stewart, except the year she had lived abroad with her mother after her brother's death, had led a solitary life in the Highlands. Her heart had slept in peaceful dreams, and had been as undisturbed as that of a child. But now it was overflowing with a pure passion, and her eyes beheld no longer the shadows and mists of her native mountains, her ears heard no longer the murmurs of her native stream. Edward Ashton was now to her all in all,—and her former life, happy as she had thought it, seemed now a vapid and empty dream.
The sun was high in heaven, and with his full radiance smote the distant clouds that were dissolving into a gentle shower, over the woody
termination of the glen. “ What a beautiful Rainbow !" said Mary Stewart, with the tears in her eyes--as her lover kissed them off, about to say farewell. 66 A Rainbow brought me here ; and as I am going away, lo ! again shines in all its beauty the fair Arch of Promise." These were his last words at parting, and they were remembered by Mary Stewart, and often repeated by her, as she wandered through the solitary woods, thinking on her betrothed Edward. The hours, though they seemed to linger cruelly, at last had chased one another down the channel of time, like the waters of a changeful rivulet; and the morning of Mary Stewart's wedding-day shone over Glen-Creran. A happy day it was all among the mountains of Appin, and also over the beautiful vale of Lorthon in England, where, between their Christmas carols, many a cup went round among his tenantry, to the young Squire and his Scottish bride.
LILY OF THE VALLEY.
WHITE bud! that in meek beauty so dost lean,
The cloistered cheek as pale as moonlight snow,
An Eremite beneath his mountain's brow.
White bud ! thou’rt emblem of a lovelier thing,
The broken spirit that its anguish bears
To Heaven, the holy fragrance of its tears.
THE fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the ocean ;
With a sweet emotion ;
All things by a law divine
Why not I in thine ?