Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

head on her bosom gently wiped the cold and clammy perspiration from his throbbing temples. He looked up, but there was no recognition in his eyes. He spoke no word of endearment to the being who was dearest to him in existence. She bent over him and drew her small mouth close to his, as if to catch his breathings and learn the wherefore of his apathy. Beautiful “ as an angel o'er the dead who die in righteousness," she pryed into his features, as though each individual lineament were imbued with a perception of her sorrow, and longed to assuage it with a consolatory response. Her efforts were worse than abortive. He shrunk from her, as if the fabled Upas were shedding its deadly influence on his vitals, and gliding from her soft support sunk heavily upon the floor.

Mrs. Austin snatched up a butter-cooler from the table and flung a handful of water in his face. A scream of mingled rage and fearfulness broke from the wretched sufferer as he sprang to his feet and glared hideously upon Lucy, his eyes dilated, his face crimson and purple and white again, like an optical analysis of light, and the muscles of the throat moving the white with convulsive rapidity, Mrs. Austin swooned with a groan ; Lucy shuddered as she heard her mother fall, yet dared not withdraw her eyes from Leader. I was completely powerless, and leant languidly against the wall, doubting if I dreamt. My uncertainty, however, was speedily dispelled by seeing him dart upon the fragile form that stood before him, and encircling her waist with his right arm he raised her from the floor and dashed her against a book-case some two or

three behind her.

Here then was the realization of one of Mrs. Radcliffe's cavern scenes, two lifeless women and a man equally helpless, alone with a maniac. Walking fiercely up to me he raised his hand, as if to strike me down, and I fully expected a murderous blow; but his arm fell feebly by his side, and bursting into tears he cast himself beside Lucy on the ground, weeping aloud like a child. His grief was boundless. Burying his head in her bosom, while her unloosened and luxuriant tresses fell upon his face, he called upon her in accents that bespoke the extremest woe, to wake, to look upon him, to be his own, his Lucy once again. At length she slowly unclosed her eyelids. Their glances met, and faintly murmuring "Herman!" she again relapsed into insensibility. His mourning now became outrageous; he accused himself of being her murderer, her executioner, and vehemently cursed the destiny that kept such a crime for his perpetration. In vain I attempted to reason with him. To all my suggestions that he would leave the unconscious girl to my care he listened with a deaf ear, and protested that his spirit should shortly rejoin hers, where sorrow is unknown. To call aloud for the ser. vants would, I apprehended, inflame him again. I dared not apply water to either Miss Austin or her mother, lest the sight of it should renew his frightful spasms; but hoping to effect the ladies' restoration by the admission of the cool morning air, I threw up the window, and the grateful breeze fanned life and health into Lucy's wan cheeks. Mrs. Austin showed no signs of returning animation for some time after, but I succeeded in placing her in an arm chair by the open

paces

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

casement, while Leader sat on a sofa dashing his extended fingers through his hair as if his salvation depended upon the rapidity of his movements.

“My God, my God! Herman," cried the agonised Lucy, advancing towards him and clasping her hands, “ tell ine, I implore you, do tell me what is the matter with you ?"

Tell you !” bellowed he so furiously that we both started at his tones, “aye, I will tell you. I am mad, the most horrid and frightful of all madness-hydrophobia ;" then dropping his voice he hissed between his teeth with appalling distinctness, “ Whip bit me the day that Ned rescued you from the same fate. Mad!” shouted he again after a moment's pause and striking the edge of the sofa so violently that the blood flowed from his hand; “Mad by all that's sacred ! Mad beyond the power of redemption! Now you know the whole of it,” and he made towards the door. Lucy's gentleness was only equalled by her firmness when she knew the worst. She arrested his footsteps, and leading him again to the sofa seated herself beside him, avoiding by a sort of instinct to let her breath reach him. Then binding his hand in her handkerchief, and looking in his face, her eyes suffused with tenderness, gently exclaimed, “Leader dearest, surely there is hope at least !"

“Oh, no, no, no!” cried he in the most heart-rending accents, raising her up and kissing her forehead ; " Lucy, my love, leave me. Horrid thoughts are haunting me. God keep me from doing a desperate deed, for a fiend is in my brain. T'he miseries of the damned inust be bliss to what I endure: but I am comparatively in heaven when you are absent, for then I can cheat myself into a belief that my wretchedness is not shared by yon.”

“Herman, Herman,” sobbed she distractedly, “ hope, my life, hope !"

No hope, no life, for me !" said he languidly, his visage assuming a ghastly hue. Then suddenly roared he at the top of his voice, Avoid me, Lucy; I tell you, avoid me or by

_” she started and seemed about to obey when he strained her madly to his breast, imprinting kisses with frantic eagerness on her lips, then exclaiming, Ned, I beseech you take her away,” fell convulsively on the sofa.

I tore her from him forcibly, for her pliant and delicate limbs seemed indued with the tenacity of ivy entwined in a ruin, and would yield to nothing but absolute violence. I returned inmediately with several doinestics, some of whom removed Mrs. Austin, and the others and myself betook us to the care of Leader, whose nalady soon was at its height. No description could give the faintest notions of his sufferings. Insanity in any form is a subject too harrowing to be dwelt on, but in so horrid a shape as this above all

. His strength while the disorder was at the crisis was superhuman. Four Stalworth men and myself could with the utmost difficulty restrain his efforts lo rise. Singular enough, his violence was almost exclusively directed against me, whoin he vowed to rend in a million of fragments and scatter to the winds of heaven. But

every alternate five minutes, as the intensity of his agonies abated and reason resumed her sway, he would implore me in the inost piteous terms to pardon him and forget

his rage.

. This to me was excruciating, to see him one moment in the wildest delirium and the next soliciting, as rationally as could be, forgiveness for his involuntary excesses. But why should I endeavour to pourtray that, which no one but an actual witness can even imperfectly imagine ? Be it sufficient to add, that every medical man of any repute in the neighbourhood attended him ; but all they could effect was a partial mitigation of his torments. In eighteen hours after Lucy left him he expired, endeavouring to articulate her name with his last breath.

E. B. N.

JOHN ROSE, THE GAUGER.

Auld Cleuts cam' clatterin' doon the toon,

An' danced awa' wie' the Gauger;
An' ilka Carlin cried, 'Auld Mahoun,
Ye hae gotten ye'r maik I'll wager.'

Old Song. The mystic line which once separated the land of the Sagsenach from the fastnesses of the Gael, in the northern part of this island, is now more completely obliterated than the fortifications by which, each more southerly than its predecessor, the Romans, attempted to build in the mountain spirit by rampart and fosse, or than the long drawn Clawdd Offa, by means of which ditto was attempted and ditto achieved against the hot and hard heads of the Principality, though tradition sings that a certain “illustrious personage” had a hoof in the work. The obliteration is wise and well; for our little island has really no room for two contending races of people ; and, if as much speech could be produced with as little sense and purpose in it without them, we would be every jot as wise, and as well were we“ fairly shot” of the two political parties, which are always pulling plasters off each other's sores, and looking hurt in the eyes of the world, while the country is flayed with legislation in some patches, fevered and scurfy for want of it in others, and looking altogether like a deserted pig without'a swine-herd. But there are certain stories and traditions, the memory of which has either been scorched off by one of these causes, or choked by the other, and which would have afforded pleasant reading, even in these days of modern Babylonization of our native tongue by numberless ranks, placed lower and lower than each other, and waxing more and more honourable as they descend, like the seats in a Roman amphitheatre.

Ofthose which relate to the more recent doings of a political nature, we have some sweet conserves by Scott, but still he was a borderer, and certes also somewhat of a bogtrotter, to his heart's core ; and thus, though he trenched boldly on the margin, he did not get into the arcana of highland life, in the glens of the midland mountains where the character and the manners were free from foreign taint. No contemporary observer told the tale of these until after “the fortyfive,” and thus the real highland character is a lapsed leaf from the volume of human history. There are still however a few traits which a “cannie hand” might glean, as the last flickerings did not go out for at least half a century after the period alluded to.

Every thing of a political nature ceased when the insurgent chiefs got back their lands, and wended to the court of St James's to do reluctant homage for the same. Even there however there were some "scenes," the memory of which was not forgotten for a time. Among others, the laird of Glengarry, no very gainly subject for bending at the footstools of kings, went to do his basiation on the regal fist; and though Craggan 'an Phitheach had sustained the sable wing of its dark and direful bird, from the time of the strife of Ranald and Donald the Vikengr, through Alastair Mhor, and Heaven knows how many Macs, Vics, and Mhic Vichs, it was doomed to let him down among Jews and German beauties in the repulsive capitol of Sagsenach domination.

The then “ raven of the rock,"—for so runs the living anagram of Craggan 'an Phitheach, the rock of the raven,-was of goodly stature, rivalling in his person the Anakim of old, and beating in the matter of a bedstead all the inonarchs that ever ruled the kine of Bashan with a bull's horn; for Og himself was fain to sleep on an iron hurdle only nine cubits long and four cubits broad, or about twelve feet by five and a half, whereas the bedstead of the chief of Glengarry was a ridge of granite some thirty miles long and twenty in breadth, and thus ample enough for all the monarchs of the earth to enjoy a comfortable snooze upon without nasal offence to each other, however sonorous they may be in that most prominent organ of majesty

Being of such ainple dimensions himself, and so substantially and extensively bedded, and being conversant with other chieftains of the same mould, Glengarry naturally concluded that the Sagsenach monarch, by whose deputy they had all been vanquished, must be a man of such stature as to be able to gather the stars from the northwest with the same ease as they could gather his nuts in the copses by Loch Garry. When therefore he saw the diminutive stature of George the Second, he is said to have exclaimed, “ Cood Cracious ! is t'at t'a Crætur ?" and strode back to the hills scorning the introduction. Now that this is known, and sure, as sure as the Old Monthly assists the moon in ruling the midnight orgies of the westend, which, as Paddy said of the rope, must have had “the end cut off,” as the curious mystery of spinning nothing out of nothing, runs on and on there in omne volubilis ævum, that is “ without end," the post midnight optic of some weird brother or sister there, we shall have Bellower or Blistertongue or some other thrice more honourable, thrice more dipped, and thrice more dipping, swelling it out with gas of every hugue, to the stipulated measure of three tomes, and neither our printer nor Tom Duncombe making one of the number. Be that as it may, or rather as it can, for that is the west-end word, Glengarry held fast to the old system of tail and tyranny after all the rest of the highlands had become as soft and harmless as hairs in the furnishings of their hinder ends.

But to our tale, if tale it can be called. In later times, some of

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

the most striking anecdotes and points of local character in the north, arose out of the state of the excise laws, and the extensive smuggling which was their necessary consequence.

How the "

Temperancers" and “Tee-totalers” of our times, when every man fags and drudges so piously, and so pains-takingly in curing the vices of his neighbour, and seems so thoroughly devoted as to brave the brimstone in his own proper person so that others may escape Scratch-fire, would have held up their hands, and rolled eye-ball and iris inward to gaze upon former iniquity, if they had four.d a government conferring the right of making whisky without taxation upon such a patriot as Duncan Forbes of Culloden. To distil whisky duty free upon his Ross-shire estate of Ferintosh, was however the government reward of this truly great man, and there was an imaginary line within which there was no duty upon whisky, but beyond which there was a duty exceeding the cost of the article.

Now, if the object had been to tempt, actually to force, the people into the practice of smuggling, and to justify them in their own minds in both parts of it, the authors of such a project could not have been more successful. There was the greatest inducement to distil in opposition to the Ferintosh monopoly, and to smuggle along the whole line of the boundary ; and as there was not a shadow of reason or justice in either restriction, there could be no moral restraint upon even the most moral of the people. No surveillance of excisemen could stop either practice; and thus « The Gauger," as he was called, in general consulted his advantage and safety in letting them distil and smuggle away, and going for his salary on collection days, but never carrying a single penny to the public revenue. The office of Gauger was thus a little sinecure for any one that could command a small patronage; and if any of the race attempted to do his duty, woe was to him. The people were not a cruel people, but they cared not what tricks they played upon an intermeddling exciseman; and if such captured an illicit still or a quantity of smuggled whisky he never felt the last of it. Government at length bought up the monopoly and abolished the boundary, but these remained till ihe habits of the people had been confirmed; nor was it till the last revisal of the law that the axe was laid to the root of this most corrupting system. So much for the former state of the excise in the highlands; and now for the particular case of John Rose.

“ John Rose the Gauger” was a name so detested in a certain large and lovely strath of the highlands, little known and seldom visited by the people of the south, that the women terrified their babies to sleep by the mere mention of it. John was in some way related to, or patronized by, a certain great man. He had been educated for the Scottish church, but whether from imitating the mystic serpents of the Egyptians or from what other cause we know not, he became what Meg Merrilies styles Dominie Sampson "a Sticket stibbler,” or as the French render it un Prètre Assassinée, and so he became a Gauger. He had influence, he had ambition; and thus there was

no reason” why he should not become a supervisor, a collector, a commissioner of excise, before he was gathered to his mother, the only patent branch of his pedigree.

1

« НазадПродовжити »