Imagini ale paginilor



THERE were fear and melancholy in all the glens and valleys that lay stretching around, or down upon St. Mary's Loch; for it was a time of religious persecution. Many a sweet cottage stood untenanted on the hill-side and in the hollow: some had felt the fire, and had been consumed; and violent hands had torn off the turf roof from the green shealing of the shepherd. In the wide and deep silence and solitariness of the mountains, it seemed as if human life were nearly extinct. Caverns and clefts, in which the fox had kenneled, were now the shelter of Christian souls; and when a lonely figure crept stealingly from one hiding-place to another, on a visit of love to some hunted brother in faith, the crows would hover over him, and the hawk shriek at human steps, now rare in the desert.

When the babe was born, there might be none near to baptize it; or the minister, driven from his kirk, perhaps, poured the sacramental water upon its face, from some pool in the glen, whose rocks guarded the persecuted family from the oppressor. Bridals now were unfrequent, and in the solemn sadness of love. Many died before their time, of minds sunken, and of broken hearts. White hair was on heads long before they were old; and the silver locks of ancient men were often ruefully soiled in the dust, and stained with their martyred blood.

But this is the dark side of the picture; for even in their caves were these people happy. Their children were with them, even like the wild flowers that blossomed all about the entrances of their dens. And when the voice of psalms rose up from the profound silence of the solitary place of rocks, the ear of God was open, and they knew that their prayers and praises were heard in heaven. If a child was born, it belonged unto the faithful; if an old man died, it was in the religion of his forefathers. The hidden powers of their souls were brought forth into the light, and they knew the strength that was in them for these days of trial. The thoughtless became sedate; the wild were tamed; the unfeeling made compassionate; hard hearts were softened, and the wicked saw the error of their ways.

All deep passion purifies and strengthens the soul; and so

was it now.

Now was shown and put to the proof, the stern, austere, impenetrable strength of men, that would neither bend nor break; the calm, serene determination of matrons, who, with meek eyes and unblanched cheeks, met the scowl of the murderer; the silent beauty of maidens, who with smiles received their death; and the mysterious courage of children, who, in the inspiration of innocent and spotless nature, kneeled down among the dew drops on the green sward, and died fearlessly by their parents' sides. Arrested were they at their work, or in their play; and, with no other bandage over their eyes, but haply some clustering ringlet of their sunny hair, did many a sweet creature of twelve summers, ask just to be allowed to say her prayers, and then go, unappalled, from her cottage door to the breast of her Redeemer.

In those days, had old Samuel Grieve and his spouse suffered sorely for their faith. But they left not their own house; willing to die there, or to be slaughtered, whenever God should so appoint. They were now childless; but a little granddaughter about ten years old, lived with them, and she was an orphan. The thought of death was so familiar to her, that, although sometimes it gave a slight quaking throb to her heart in its glee, yet it scarcely impaired the natural joyfulness of her girlhood; and often, unconsciously, after the gravest or the saddest talk with ner old parents, would she glide off, with a lightsome step, a blithe face, and a voice, humming sweetly some cheerful tune. The old people looked often upon her in her happiness, till their dim eyes filled with tears; while the grandmother said, "If this nest were to be destroyed at last, and our heads in the mold, who would feed this young bird in the wild, and where would she find shelter in which to fold her bonny wings?"

Lilias Grieve was the shepherdess of a small flock, among the green pasturage at the head of St. Mary's Loch, and up the hillside, and over into some of the little neighboring glens. Sometimes she sat in that beautiful church-yard, with her sheep lying scattered around her upon the quiet graves, where, on still, sunny days, she could see their shadows in the water in the loch, and herself sitting close to the low walls of the house of God. She had no one to speak to, but her Bible to read; and day after day, the rising sun beheld her in growing beauty, and innocence that could not fade, happy and silent as a fairy upon

the knoll, with the blue heavens over her head, and the blue lake smiling at her feet.

"My fairy" was the name she bore by the cottage fire, where the old people were gladdened by her glee, and turned away from all melancholy thoughts. And it was a name that suited sweet Lilias well; for she was clothed in a garb of green, and often, in her joy, the green, graceful plants, that grew among the hills, were wreathed around her hair. So was she dressed one Sabbath day, watching her flock at a considerable distance from home, and singing to herself a psalm in the solitary moor; when, in a moment, a party of soldiers were upon a mount, on the opposite side of a narrow dell.

Lilias was invisible as a green linnet upon the grass; but her sweet voice had betrayed her, and then one of the soldiers caught the wild gleam of her eyes; and, as she sprung frightened to her feet, he called out, "A roe! a roe! See how she bounds along the bent!" and the ruffian took aim at the child with his musket, half in sport, half in ferocity. Lilias kept appearing and disappearing, while she flew, as on wings, across a piece of black heathery moss, full of pits and hollows; and still the soldier kept his musket at its aim. His comrades called to him to hold his hand, and not shoot a poor, little, innocent child; but he at length fired, and the bullet was heard to whiz past her fern-crowned head, and to strike a bank which she was about to ascend. The child paused for a moment, and looked back, and then bounded away over the smooth turf; till, like a cushat, she dropped into a little birchen glen, and disappeared. Not a sound of her feet was heard; she seemed to have sunk into the ground; and the soldier stood, without any effort to follow her, gazing through the smoke toward the spot where she had vanished.

A sudden superstition assailed the hearts of the party, as they sat down together upon a hedge of stone. "Saw you her face, Riddle, as my ball went whizzing past her ear? If she be not one of those hill fairies, she had been dead as a herring; but I believe the bullet glanced off her yellow hair as against a buckler." 66 "It was the act of a gallows-rogue to fire upon the creature, fairy or not fairy; and you deserve the weight of this hand, the hand of an Englishman, you brute, for your cruelty."

And up rose the speaker to put his threat into execution, when the other retreated some distance, and began to load his musket; but the Englishman was upon him, and, with a Cumberland gripe and trip, laid him upon the hard ground with a force that drove the breath out of his body, and left him stunned, and almost insensible.

The fallen ruffian now arose somewhat humbled, and sullenly sat down among the rest. "Why," quoth Allen Sleigh, “I wager you a week's pay, you don't venture fifty yards, without your musket, down yonder shingle, where the fairy disappeared;" and, the wager being accepted, the half-drunken fellow rushed on toward the head of the glen, and was heard crashing away through the shrubs. In a few minutes, he returned, declaring, with an oath, that he had seen her at the mouth of a cave, where no human foot could reach, standing with her hair all on fire, and an angry countenance; and that he had tumbled backward into the burn, and been nearly drowned. "Drowned ?" cried Allen Sleigh. "Ay, drowned; why not? A hundred yards down that bit glen, the pools are as black as pitch, and the water roars like thunder; drowned! why not, you English son of a deer-stealer?" Why not? because, who was ever drowned that was born to be hanged?" And that jest created universal laughter, as it is always sure to do, often as it may be repeated, in a company of ruffians; such is felt to be its perfect truth, and unanswerable simplicity.





AFTER an hour's quarreling, and gibing, and mutiny, this disorderly band of soldiers proceeded on their way down into the head of Yarrow, and there saw, in the solitude, the house of Samuel Grieve. Thither they proceeded to get some refreshment, and ripe for any outrage that any occasion might suggest. The old man and his wife, hearing a tumult of many voices and many feet, came out, and were immediately saluted with many opprobrious epithets. The hut was soon rifled of any small articles of wearing apparel; and Samuel, without emo tion, set before them whatever provisions he had-butter,

cheese, bread, and milk-and hoped they would not be too hard upon old people, who were desirous of dying, as they had lived, in peace. Thankful were they both, in their parental hearts, that their little Lilias was among the hills; and the old man trusted that if she returned before the soldiers were gone, she would see, from some distance, their muskets on the green before the door, and hide herself among the brakens.

The soldiers devoured their repast with many oaths, and much hideous and obscene language, which it was sore against the old man's soul to hear in his own hut; but he said nothing, for that would have been willfully to sacrifice his life. At last, one of the party ordered him to return thanks, in words impious and full of blasphemy; which Samuel calmly refused to do, beseeching them at the same time, for the sake of their own souls, not so to offend their great and bountiful Preserver. "Confound the old canting Covenanter; I will prick him with my bayonet, if he won't say grace!" and the blood trickled down the old man's cheek, from a slight wound on his forehead.

The sight of it seemed to awaken the dormant blood-thirstiness in the tiger heart of the soldier, who now swore, if the old man did not instantly repeat the words after him, he would shoot him dead. And, as if cruelty were contagious, almost the whole party agreed that the demand was but reasonable. and that the old hypocritical knave must preach or perish. "Here is a great musty Bible," cried one of them. "If he won't speak, I will gag him, with a vengeance. Here, old Mr. Peden the prophet, let me cram a few chapters of St Luke down your maw. St. Luke was a physician, I believe. Well, here is a dose of him. Open your jaws." And, with these words, he tore a handful of leaves out of the Bible, and advanced toward the old man, from whose face his terrified wife was now wiping off the blood.

Samuel Grieve was nearly fourscore; but his sinews were not yet relaxed, and, in his younger days, he had been a man of great strength. When, therefore, the soldier grasped him by the neck, the sense of receiving an indignity from such a slave, made his blood boil, and, as if his youth had been renewed, the gray-headed man, with one blow, felled the ruffian to the floor.

« ÎnapoiContinuă »