Page images
PDF
EPUB

Such, dearest Matilda, was my first alarmi. I must not forget to add, that the ruffians left at a cottage on the road-side, the man whose face was blackened with powder, apparently because he was unable to bear transportation. He died in about half an hour after. On examining the corpse, it proved to be that of a profligate boor in the neighbourhood, a person notorious as a poacher and smuggler. We received many messages of congratulation from the neighbouring families, and it was generally allowed that a few such instances of spirited resistance would greatly check the presumption of these lawless men. My father distributed rewards among his servants, and praised Hazlewood's courage and coolness to the skies. Lucy and I came in for a share of his applause, because we had stood fire with firmness, and had not disturbed him with screams

or expostulations. As for the Dominie, my father took an opportunity of begging to exchange snuff-boxes with him. The honest gentleman was much flattered with the proposal, and extolled the beauty of his new snuff-box excessively. “It looked,' he said, “as well as if it were real gold from OphirIndeed it would be odd if it should not, being formed in fact of that very metal ; but, to do this honest creature justice, I believe the knowledge of its real value would not enhance his sense of my father's kindness, supposing it, as he does, to be pinchbeck gilded. He has had a hard task replacing the folios which were used in the barricade, smoothing out the creases and dogs-ears, and repairing the other disasters

they have sustained during their service in the fortification. He brought us some pieces of lead and bullets which these ponderous tomes had intercepted during the action, and which he had extracted with great care ; and, were I in spirits, I could give you a comic account of his astonishment at the apathy with which we heard of the wounds and mutilation suffered by Thomas Aquinas, or the venerable Chrysostom. But I am not in spirits, and I have yet another and a more interesting incident to communicate. I feel, however, so much fatigued with my present exertion, that I cannot resume the pen till to-morrow. I will detain this letter notwithstanding, that you may not feel any anxiety upon account of your own

“JULIA MANNERING."

[ocr errors]
[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed]

CHAPTER THE THIRTY-FIRST.

Here's a good world!
-Knew you of this fair work ?

KING John.

JULIA MANNERING TO MATILDA MARCHMONT.

“I must take up the thread of my story, my dearest Matilda, where I broke off yesterday.

“For two or three days we talked of nothing but our siege and its probable consequences, and dinned into my father's unwilling ears a proposal to go to Edinburgh, or at least to Dumfries, where there is remarkably good society, until the resentment of these outlaws should blow over. He answered with great composure, that he had no mind to have his landlord's house and his own property at Woodbourne destroyed; that, with our good leave, he had usually been esteemed competent to taking measures for the safety or protection of his family ; that if he remained quiet at home, he conceived the welcome the villains had received was not of a nature to invite a second visit, but should he show any signs of alarm, it would be the sure way to incur the very risk which we were afraid of. Heartened by his arguments, and by the extreme indifference with which he treated the supposed danger, we began to

grow a little bolder, and to walk about as usual. Only the gentlemen were sometimes invited to take their guns when they attended us, and I observed that my father for several nights paid particular attention to having the house properly secured, and required his domestics to keep their arms in readiness in case of necessity.

“But three days ago chanced an occurrence, of a nature which alarmed me more by far than the attack of the smugglers. “I told

you

there was a small lake at some distance from Woodbourne, where the gentlemen sometimes go to shoot wild-fowl. I happened at breakfast to say I should like to see this place in its present frozen state, occupied by skaters and curlers, as they call those who play a particular sort of game upon the ice. There is snow on the ground, but frozen so hard that I thought Lucy and I might venture to that distance, as the footpath leading there was well beaten by the repair of those who frequented it for pastime. Hazlewood instantly offered to attend us, and we stipulated that he should take his fowling-piece. He laughed a good deal at the idea of going a-shooting in the snow ; but, to relieve our tremors, desired that a groom, who acts as gamekeeper occasionally, should follow us with his gun. As for Colonel Mannering, he does not like crowds or sights of any kind where human figures make up the show, unless indeed it were a military review—so he declined the party.

“We set out unusually early, on a fine frosty

exhilarating morning, and we felt our minds, as well as our nerves, braced by the elasticity of the pure air. Our walk to the lake was delightful, or at least the difficulties were only such as diverted us, a slippery descent for instance, or a frozen ditch to cross, which made Hazlewood's assistance absolutely necessary. I don't think Lucy liked her walk the less for these occasional embarrassments.

“The scene upon the lake was beautiful. One side of it is bordered by a steep crag, from which hung a thousand enormous icicles all glittering in the sun ; on the other side was a little wood, now exhibiting that fantastic appearance which the pine-trees present when their branches are loaded with snow. On the frozen bosom of the lake itself were a multitude of moving figures, some flitting along with the velocity of swallows, some sweeping in the most graceful circles, and others deeply interested in a less active pastime, crowding round the spot where the inhabitants of two rival parishes contended for the prize at curling, -an honour of no small importance, if we were to judge from the anxiety expressed both by the players and bystanders. We walked round the little lake, supported by Hazlewood, who lent us each an arm. He spoke, poor fellow, with great kindness, to old and young, and seemed deservedly popular among the assembled crowd. At length we thought of retiring.

Why do I mention these trivial occurrences ?-not, Heaven ows, from the interest I can now attach to them-but because, like a drowning man who catches

« PreviousContinue »