Page images
PDF
EPUB

at a brittle twig, I seize every apology for delaying the subsequent and dreadful part of my narrative. But it must be communicated—I must have the sympathy of at least one friend under this heart-rending calamity.

“We were returning home by a footpath, which led through a plantation of firs. Lucy had quitted Hazlewood's arm—it is only the plea of absolute necessity which reconciles her to accept his assistance. I still leaned upon his other arm. Lucy followed us close, and the servant was too or three paces behind us. Such was our position, when at once, and as if he had started out of the earth, Brown stood before us at a short turn of the road! He was very plainly, I might say coarsely, dressed, and his whole appearance had in it something wild and agitated. I screamed between surprise and terror-Hazlewood mistook the nature of my alarm, and, when Brown advanced towards me as if to speak, commanded him haughtily to stand back, and not to alarm the lady. Brown replied, with equal asperity, he had no occasion to take lessons from him how to behave to that or any other lady. I rather believe that Hazlewood, impressed with the idea that he belonged to the band of smugglers, and had some bad purpose in view, heard and understood him imperfectly. He snatched the gun from the servant, who had come up on a line with us, and, pointing the muzzle at Brown, commanded him to stand off at his peril. My screams,

for
my

terror prevented my finding articulate language, only hastened the catastrophe. Brown, thus menaced, sprung upon Hazlewood, grappled with him, and had nearly succeeded

[ocr errors]

in wrenching the fowling-piece from his grasp, when the gun went off in the struggle, and the contents were lodged in Hazlewood's shoulder, who instantly fell. I saw no more, for the whole scene reeled before my eyes, and I fainted away ; but, by Lucy's report, the unhappy perpetrator of this action gazed a moment on the scene before him, until her screams began to alarm the people upon the lake, several of whom now came in sight. He then bounded over a hedge, which divided the footpath from the plantation, and has not since been heard of. The servant made no attempt to stop or secure him, and the report he made of the matter to those who came up to us, induced them rather to exercise their humanity in recalling me to life, than show their courage by pursuing a desperado, described by the groom as a man of tremendous personal strength, and completely armed.

“Hazlewood was conveyed home, that is to Woodbourne, in safety—I trust his wound will prove in no respect dangerous, though he suffers much. But to Brown the consequences must be most disastrous. He is already the object of my father's resentment, and he has now incurred danger from the law of the country, as well as from the clamorous vengeance of the father of Hazlewood, who threatens to move heaven and earth against the author of his son's wound. How will he be able to shroud himself from the vindictive activity of the pursuit ? how to defend himself, if taken, against the severity of laws which I am told may even affect his life ? and how can I find means to warn him of his danger? Then poor Lucy's ill-concealed grief, occasioned

by her lover's wound, is another source of distress to me, and every thing round me appears to bear witness against that indiscretion which has occasioned this calamity.

“For two days I was very ill indeed. The news that Hazlewood was recovering, and that the person who had shot him was nowhere to be traced, only that for certain he was one of the leaders of the gang of smugglers, gave me some comfort. The suspicion and pursuit being directed towards those people, must naturally facilitate Brown's escape, and, I trust, has, ere this, ensured it. But patrols of horse and foot traverse the country in all directions, and I am tortured by a thousand confused and unauthenticated rumours of arrests and discoveries.

“Meanwhile, my greatest source of comfort is the generous candour of Hazlewood, who persists in declaring, that with whatever intentions the person by whom he was wounded approached our party, he is convinced the gun went off in the struggle by accident, and that the injury he received was undesigned. The groom, on the other hand, maintains that the piece was wrenched out of Hazlewood's hands, and deliberately pointed at his body, and Lucy inclines to the same opinion—I do not suspect them of wilful exaggeration, yet such is the fallacy of human testimony, for the unhappy shot was most unquestionably discharged unintentionally. Perhaps it would be the best way to confide the whole secret to Hazlewood— but he is very young, and I feel the utmost repugnance to communi

cate to him my folly. I once thought of disclosing the mystery to Lucy, and began by asking what she recollected of the person and features of the man whom we had so unfortunately met ;—but she ran out into such a horrid description of a hedge-ruffian, that I was deprived of all courage and disposition to own my attachment to one of such appearance as she attributed to him. I must say Miss Bertram is strangely biassed by her prepossessions, for there are few handsomer men than poor

Brown. I had not seen him for a long time, and even in his strange and sudden apparition on this unhappy occasion, and under every disadvantage, his form seems to me, on reflection, improved in grace, and his features in expressive dignity.Shall we ever meet again?

Who can answer that question ?- Write to me kindly, my dearest Matilda— but when did you otherwise ?—yet, again, write to me soon, and write to me kindly. I am not in a situation to profit by advice or reproof, nor have I my usual spirits to parry them by raillery. I feel the terrors of a child, who has, in heedless sport, put in motion some powerful piece of machinery; and, while he beholds wheels revolving, chains clashing, cylinders rolling around him, is equally astonished at the tremendous powers which his weak agency has called into action, and terrified for the consequences which he is compelled to await, without the possibility of averting them, “I must not omit to

say
that
my
father is

very

kind and affectionate. The alarm which I have received forms a sufficient apology for my nervous complaints.

VOL. IV.

B

My hopes are, that Brown has made his escape into the sister kingdom of England, or perhaps to Ireland, or the Isle of Man. In either case he may wait the issue of Hazlewood's wound with safety and with patience, for the communication of these countries with Scotland, for the purpose of justice, is not (thank Heaven) of an intimate nature. The consequences

of his being apprehended would be terrible at this moment. I endeavour to strengthen my mind by arguing against the possibility of such a calamity. Alas ! how soon have sorrows and fears, real as well as severe, followed the uniform and tranquil state of existence at which so lately I was disposed to repine! But I will not oppress you any longer with my complaints. Adieu, my dearest Matilda !

“ JULIA MANNERING."

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »