Page images
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

'Tis said that words and signs have power
O'er sprites in planetary hour;
But scarce 1 praise their venturous part,
Who tamper with such dangerous art.

Lay of the Last Minstrel.




[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]





• He could not deny, that, looking round upon the dreary region, and seeing nothing but bleak fields, and naked trees, hills obscured by fogs, and flats covered with inundations, he did for some time suffer melan. choly to prevail upon him, and wished himself again safe at home.'

Travels of Will. Marvel, Idler, No. 49.

It was in the beginning of the month of Novem. ber, 17—, when a young English gentleman, who had just left the university of Oxford, made use of the liberty afforded him, to visit some parts of the north of England, and curiosity extended his tour into the adjacent frontier of the sister country. He had visited, upon the day that opens our history, some monastic ruins in the county of Dumfries, and spent much of the day in making drawings of them from different points; so that upon mounting his horse to resume his journey, the brief and gloomy twilight of the season had already commenced. His way lay through a wide track of black moss, extending for miles on each side, and before him. Little eminen

ces arose like islands on its surface, bearing here and there patches of corn, which even at this season was green, and sometimes a hut, or farm-house, shaded by a willow or two, and surrounded by large elder-bushes. These insulated dwellings communicated with each other by winding passages through the moss, impassable by any but the natives themselves. The public road, however, was tolerably well made and safe, so that the prospect of being benighted brought with it no real danger. Still it is uncomfortable to travel, alone in the dark, through an unknown country, and there are few ordinary occasions upon which Fancy frets herself so much as in a situation like that of Mannering.

As the light grew faint and more faint, and the morass appeared blacker and blacker, our traveller questioned more closely each chance passenger upon his distance from the village of Kippletringan, where he proposed to quarter for the night. His queries were usually answered by a counter-challange respecting the place from whence he came. While sufficient daylight remained to show the dress and appearance of a gentleman, these cross interrogatories were usually put in the form of a case supposed, as, ' Ye'll hae been at the auld abbey o' Halycross, sir? there's mony English gentlemen gang to see that'-or, * Your honour will be come from the house o' Pouderloupat??-But when the voice of the querist alone was distinguishable, the response usually was where are ye coming frae at sick a time o' night as the like o'this?-or,“ Ye'll no be of this country, freend?' The answers, when obtained, were neither very reconcileable to each other, nor accurate in the information which they afforded. Kippletringan was distant, at

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

first, “a gay bit;' then the “gay bit was more accurately, described, as aiblins three miles;' then the

three miles' diminished into' like a mile and a bittock;' then extended themselves into four miles, or there awa;' and, lastly, a female voice having hushed a wailing infant which the spokes-woman carried in her arms, assured Guy Mannering, 'It was a weary lang gait yet to Kippletringan, and unco heavy road for foot passengers. The poor hack upon which Mannering was mounted was probably of opinion that it suited him as ill as the female respondent; he began to flag very much, answered each application of the spur with a groan, and stumbled at every stone (and they were not few) which lay in his road.

Mannering now grew impatient. He was occasionally betrayed into a deceitful hope, that the end of his journey was near, by the apparition of a twinkling light or two; but as he came up, he was disappointed to find the gleams proceeded from some of those farm houses which occasionally ornamented the surface of the extensive bog. At length to complete his perplexity, he arrived at a place where the road divided into two. If there had been light to consult the reliques of a finger-post which stood there it would have been of little avail, as, according to the good custom of North Britain, the inscription had been defaced shortly after its erection. Our adventurer was, therefore, compelled, like a knight errant of old, to trust to the sagacity of his horse, which, without any demur, chose the left hand path, and seemed to proceed at a somewhat livelier pace than formerly, affording thereby a hope that he knew he was drawing near his quarters for the

« PreviousContinue »