« PreviousContinue »
Donald-bane was a Calt* of his mother's.— I will go indeed,' says he, 'were it twice farther;' and a lad ran to the hill to catch him a horse. But before he arrived, poor Donald was speechless, though he still knew him, and grasped him by the hand as if he grappled for the bare life. "Donald's children were all present; some of them, grown up and married off the house, were come from a distance to console his last moments, and to receive his blessing. His poor old woman sat behind him in the bed, supporting his head on her knees. They had lived together forty years, and loved each other too, Mary. Young Rory, who was tender-hearted, could not help shedding tears as poor Donald-bane clung to him ;besides, Donald was his mother's Cho-alt, you know. Well, in a few minutes he breathed his last,-and his daughter threw the plaid over him.
Rory could be of no more use to poor Donald, and his presence was a restraint to the grief of the family; so they gave him a blanket, and he went to lean in the cellar till morning. But Rory's warm heart would not let him sleep; for he heard Donald's children weeping, and his wife mourning, as she still sat in the bed. She at last began to speak, and he listened to her words:
“You are now lying there in corpse, Donald, my husband,' said she,' and forty years ago, ere I knew you, or thought of you, I saw you thus!--Oh! Mary, and it was no time for telling lies, when the spirit of Donald was just gone forth! 'I was then a young girl,' said she to the children, and had no thought of your father, for another sought me for his wife. I foolishly entreated old Morag-crotach to show me my fortune. It was evening, and we went to the banks of the lone stream.t She made me place my foot on her's;—she held my hands within her own, and her spirit came upon me;-I saw with her eyes. I saw you, Donald, my husband! who now lie on my knees a corpse, -I saw you cross that stream, followed by our four children. In your arms you carried the two I have born dead !—I had heard of Donald-bane: he often went to Ireland, and round among the isles, with his boat, and was often in danger; and I asked Morag if he would be drowned.—No!' said she, 'No; Donald will die at home.”—My Donald has indeed died at home!'-and the poor woman wept more bitterly.
"I am sure my father knew he never would be drowned ;' said Donald's eldest son, 'for well do I remember one night that we were in the Sound of Jura. It blew loud and wildly; the sea rolled with a heavy swell, and we saw neither moon nor star, but heard the dreadful roar of Corywrekan. My brother and I were much alarmed, but my father told us not to fear, he would never be drowned. So we took courage, and ran in for Blackmull's Bay. We saw he knew something, though we dared not question him.'
* Cho-alt, a connexion by fosterage, which includes the whole race of the nurse. + In this manner seers impart a portion of their gift. Probably something of this kind is meant, when the Rhymer is said to have showed Corspatrick the death of King Alexander, when
He put his hand on the Earlie's head,
“Donald's family continued to talk over these circumstances all night. They were all alone, the widow and her children. When morning dawned, Rory took leave. He was a light-hearted young man, and in the Lowlands had learned to laugh at our stories; but he said, 'If ever there was a true tale of second-sight, it was that of Donald-bane's wife, who apostrophized the newly departed spirit of her husband.' •*
During this relation, Mary had often hitched her stool (formed of twisted bent) nearer to Moome; who continued to add tale to tale, with the garrulity peculiar to her age, and to her character; for Moome was doubly endowed with the gift of story-telling—it is the failing of age, and was likewise the weakness of Moome.
“Hark!" cried Mary, during a pause in the conversation, “Heard you not a noise over-head!"
“No, my dear,” replied Moome coolly, “but I am old and deaf; -it would only be the boards cracking, of which your father will make the stranger's coffin ;, that always happens.”—There were several boards laid across the rafters of Ronald's cottage, to be ready on any emergency; and in the meanwhile, they formed a kind of rude ceiling, which gave the hut an air of snugness and comfort, superior to most Highland dwellings.
I have seen the walls of Balclutha, but they were desolate; and the voice of the people is heard no more. The thistle shook there its lonely head: the moss whistled to the wind. The fox looked out from the window, the rank grass of the wall waved round his head. Desolate is the dwelling of Moina, and silence is in the hall of her fathers.
OSSIAN. Day was now dawning, and Ronald's wife arose, which interrupted Moome's tales; but she promised to renew them on the following night; and Mary retired, leaving the orphan to her care.
The inhabitants of Dunalbyn were still ignorant of the addition the last night had made to their little society; but the news spread apace, and Ronald's cottage was soon filled by a group, which pity, curiosity, and a variety of motives, had drawn together.-Moome, who was the village orator, had related the story for the tenth time,
* Note. Among a thousand tales of second-sight, the writer of these pages has chosen that above detailed; because it affords a tolerable specimen, and is of recent occurrence. Donald.bane was, a few years since, a ferryman between Mull and Ulva, exactly on the route of fashionable tourists ; and it is pro able that his widow, the heroine of this story, still resides there. In relating her story, her own words have been translated.
when Ronald proposed to go to “The Island,” and take the advice of "The Lady,” in his future arrangements.
Lady Augusta Macalbyn was the last of her race. Like a column in the melancholy waste, she stood, in solitary majesty, pointing out the spot where clan greatness had risen, and flourished, and faded. She was the only living descendant of Sir Norman Macalbyn, once hereditary proprietor of an extensive tract of country, stretching out on every side from Glenalbyn, far as the eye could
He had been the chief of a powerful clan; but attachment to the ancient line of Scottish kings, and the profusion of his age, had estranged his property: and his princely domain now increased the accumulating fortunes of a newer family. Lady Augusta was an only daughter. She had seen seven gallant brothers descend to the grave before her; and now stood alone and unsubdued amid the wrecks of time. Her life, lengthened out beyond the usual span of human existence, had been loaded with more than the customary portion of human misfortune; and she had lived to weep all those transitory blessings, which, in possession, seldom bestow enjoyment.--Her figure, which rose to the majestic, was still erect, and unbroken as that mind, whose energies had risen superior to the reiterated crush of misfortune, and resisted the continual pressure of adversity. Time, which had stolen the rose from her cheeks, and silvered her dark locks, had neither dimmed the lustre of her full-orbed eye, nor furrowed that ample forehead, which still seemed the polished image of a strong and noble mind. The beauty which in early life shone conspicuous in Lady Augusta, was impressive and commanding: she seemed destined to sustain the tottering honours of her race; but she was now chiefly distinguished by a benignity of countenance, and kindness of manner, which spoke a language of love and indulgence to all mankind; she was destined to raise the veneration still felt for the name of Macalbyn, to a species of adoration; and, by her single virtues, to keep in remembrance the long fallen honours of her family.
Many years before this period, the lady had returned from France, and fixed her lonely residence
nominal retainers of her ancestors. Embosomed in the solitude of the mountains, she appeared to them the embodied spirit of benevolence and feudal kindness. Her virtues, her misfortunes, and her rank, in a country where almost idolatrous respect is paid to hereditary greatness, had thrown a mysterious veil around her, which curiosity never ventured to withdraw. Her griefs were sacred to herself: they belonged to another age, and to another class of beings. Never had the sanctity of her sorrows been profaned by mortal tongue;- she leaned upon her own mighty spirit, and its strength seemed able to sustain that weight of misfortune which sixty years had accumulated. Her smiles, her courtesies, her kindnesses, and her benedictions, were given to her people;-if she ever complained, it was to the wilds of Eleenalin !--if she ever wept, it was in the solitude she loved !
It was whispered, that in early life, Lady Augusta had been married to a gentleman
of France; but no one knew, and no one ventured to overstep, the mysterious circle misfortune had drawn around her. Indeed, this very mystery served to enhance the reverence universally felt for “The Lady," (for in the glen this was her emphatic name;) and it was thought that its elucidation, as well as its concealment, must have concurred to do honour to the most exalted of human beings.
Such was “The Lady,” to whom Ronald hastened. It may now be proper to introduce our readers to the remote region which her presence embellished.
Glenalbyn is about five miles in length, and hardly one in breadth; it is situated in one of the most remote districts of the West Highlands, and encircled by some of the loftiest and most rugged of the Caledonian mountains. Rich in all the characteristic scenery of a romantic country, it cannot be described as merely beautiful, or merely sublime; but from a felicitous combination of picturesque beauty, wonderful magnificence, and gloomy grandeur, often bordering on horror, results a whole which seems the favourite finishing of nature; a chosen spot where she has compiled all her charms.
On the north side of the glen is seen a lofty range of mountains, gradually sloping towards a beautiful lake, which,
like an embossed mirror, gleams at their
base. Its opposite side is skirted by a ridge of precipitous cliffs. Starting boldly from the lake athwart which they often throw a lurid shade, they are seen grouped in every grotesque form, the favourite and unmolested haunt of numerous birds of prey. Beyond these, and rising from them by a gentle swell, ridge above ridge, the summit of one range forming the base of another, tower the softer hills of Kenanowen, now fading in the haze of distance, and now brought near to the eye by the thin mists which enveloped their aerial tops, or rolled along their dark sides, like the broken billows of a stormy ocean.
The verbal delineation of external nature seldom conveys a very lively, and still more seldom a very faithful, image of the objects described. It were vain to paint Glenalbyn !-which exhibits combinations of terrific grandeur, and gloomy sublimity, from which the eagle-genius of Salvator might have caught bolder images, and a loftier tone of conception. The effect of these is powerfully heightened, when contrasted with the soft and endearing charms exclusively appropriated to the scenery of the Scottish glens. The clear lake, gracefully retiring in tle bays, and sprinkled with wooded islets; the shrubby slope, connecting the mountain with the plain; the rustic mead which the ploughshare had never violated; the mossy rill, creeping unseen beneath tangling thickets, and be. trayed only by their verdure; and the Alpine torrent, dashing furiously from cliff to cliff, and tracing its impetuous course down the mountains, by a sweeping line of silver foam.
side may also be seen many an irregular acclivity, and many a “bosky cleugh,” hung with the shaggy underwood peculiar to the country. The dwarf-oak, the holly, the trembling poplar, and the weeping birch, sighing and breathing fragrance, adorn the inferior range of bills, while the mountain-ash, its resplendent berries glowing amid its light foliage, drops from every rifted rock. On the steep banks of the mountain streams, and impending over their channels, hang the alder, the hazel, the wildguin and white thorn; garlanded with
the brier-rose, the woodbine, and all those beautiful climbers which the hand of Nature has woven around them, in gay and luxuriant festoons:-for here she may be still viewed in her original state, joyous, smiling, liberal, and sportive;-unmolested by the trappings of art, and unconfined by the robes of ceremony, she unfolds her native charms, and defies every attempt to improve her wildly rustic graces."
But the soul which animated this wild scene,--the point from which its interest diverged, was the straggling hamlet of Dunalbyn ;-its blue smokes,
slowly rising among the old elms, under whose shade many successive generations had reposed; its fairy group of infant inhabitants; its domestic animals browsing on the ferný braes; the natural, though rude disposition of its little domiciles,--all announcing its claim to antiquity, and undecayed simplicity of manners. At the eastern extremity of the glen, where the lake narrows in a fine sweep, are seen the turrets of Dunalbyn Castle. Surrounded by groves of oak, which seem coeval with the Druids, and frowning in desolation, it overhangs the waters of the lake, its mouldering grandeur conveying to the mind a fine image of the fallen fortunes of those who for ages had been its proud possessors.
Besides the hamlet of Dunalbyn, many clusters of warm and sheltered huts were sprinkled over this once populous glen ;now nestling amid thick copses, and now under the shadow of some friendly rock. But Dunalbyn was the capital of the vale; for there stood Ronald's smithy, a corn-mill, and a little hut where humble lore was taught, and sermon occasionally heard: for in Highland parishes, of such extent, the minister often preaches at different places. This shelter was, however, only sought in inclement weather; for when the sun shone bright and warm over all that little glen, the good pastor would meet his hill-side flock on a daisied slope before the school-house,-the loved scene of many an infant revel. And sweet was the hymn of praise ascending from that hillside flock, which came, in a still morning, floating over the lake to the delighted ears of "The Lady."
It was in an island, near the centre of the lake, that Lady Augusta had fixed her residence. Eleenalin, literally “ the beautiful island,” had been, from time immemorial, the burying-place of the chiefs of Clan-Albyn; and her humble friends regarded her proposal, of living among the spirits of her ancestors, as something bordering at once on madness and presumption. Often at midnight had dreadful screams been heard to issue from the island, and often had a pale blue light been seen playing there, amid surrounding darkness. Lady Augusta had now lived in Eleenalin undisturbed for upwards of thirty years. Indeed, her presence seemed to have banished all its supernatural inhabitants ; no sound was now heard save the wind howling amid the cliffs; nor was any light seen, save the twinkling of a solitary lamp, which, streaming from the cottage of the Lady, shed its fairy ray on the still waters of the lake.
This lovely islet, of scarce half a mile in circumference, was an epitome of all the beauties of the glen. It boasted its little emi