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get opposite the door, I may show you a trick
that will astonish you." So planning his
scheme, he continued retreating before his as-
sailants, and holding up his cudgel in the true
scientific position till he came within a foot of
the door; most fortunately it stood wide open.
One step aside, and the threshold was gained
another, and it was passed. In the twink-
ling of an eve, swift like a thunderbolt, fell
"Knock-him-down" upon the head of the most
forward opponent, and in another out bolted
William Laidlaw from the cottage. The whole
was the work of an instant. He who received
the blow fell stunned and bleeding to the
ground, and his companions were so confound-
ed that they stood mute and gazing at each
other for several seconds. Their resolution was
soon taken, and in a mood between shame and
revenge, they sallied out after the fugitive.
Their speed was, however, employed in vain
against the fleetest runner of the Cheviots, and
they were afraid to separate, lest each might
encounter singly this formidable adversary,
who perhaps might have dealt with them in the
same manner as Horatius did with the Curiatii
of old. The pursuit continued but a short way,
as the yeoman more than double distanced his*
pursuers in the first two minutes, and left
them no chance of coming up with him.

It was by this time three in the morning.
The intense darkness of midnight had worn
away, and though the sun was yet beneath the
horizon, a sort of reflected light so far pre-
vailed as to render near objects visible. In the
course of an hour the hill tops became exposed
above the misty wreaths which hung heavily
upon their sides, and which began to dissolve
a\vay and float slowly down the glen in pale
columns. In a short time a hue like that of
twilight rendered distinctly visible the moun-
tain boundaries of the vale. William walked
onward with his usual speed. Such at last was
Lis prodigious rapidity of movement, that he
utterly lost the use of his senses. He appeared

to himself to fly rather than walk over the
earth; his head became giddy, and it is difficult
to say where his flight might have ended, when
" Knock-him-down" was suddenly swept from
his hand. This in a moment arrested his
speed, for such was his sympathy with this
companion that he could not possibly get on,
or even live without it. "Knock-him-down,
whare are ye?" was his first exclamation at the
departure of his favourite. " I say, Knock-
him-down whare are ye?" Here honest Wil-
liam sat down upon the heath to bemoan his
misfortune. Now for the first time in his life
he parted with all recollection. A strange,
mysterious, indescribable ringing took place in
his ears the hills reeled his head nodded
once, twice, and again and in a few seconds
he dropped into a profound sleep.

This may be considered an epoch in the
yeoman's life, for here he, for the first time,
according to his own account, was visited by a
dream. Out of the pale mist of the glen he
imagined he saw approach him the very person
to whose house he was bound. The aspect of
this man was melancholy his face deadly pale
and as he stood opposite to the Borderer, and
said, "William Laidlaw," the latter felt his
flesh creep with an unutterable dread.

"William Laidlaw," continued he, "you
are going to my house, but you will not find
me at home. I have gone to a far country
Neil M'Kinnon and his two cousins sent me
there. You will find my body in the pit near
the Cairn of Dalgulish. The money you are
bringing to me give to my poor family, and
may God bless yon!" Having pronounced
these words the figure vanished, nor had the
Borderer the power to recal it. He did not,
however, awake, but lay in the same restless
state till the sun, shining in all the splendour
of an August morning, burst upon him.

William awoke a sober man. The morning
was indeed beautiful. The sun shone in his
strength, lighting up the vale with a flood of
radiance. On the summits of the hills not a
cloud rested all was clear and lucid as crystal,
and the untainted sky hung like a vault of
pure sapphire over the thousand rocks and
glens beneath. The object which first arrested
our friend's attention was " Knock-him-down"
stuck up in the middle of a whin bush, and
his immediate impulse was to relieve it from
this inglorious situation. Having done this,
stretched his limbs, and examined his pocket-
book, which he found "tight and well." he
proceeded on his journey. He was naturally
the reverse of superstitious, but somehow or
other a train of unpleasant thoughts cam over



him, which he could not get rid of. His mind
was so unaccustomed to thinking of any kind,
and, above all, to gloomy thinking, that he
knew not what to make of the matter. He
whistled and sung in vain to dispel the feeling.
The same load hung upon his mind, and op-
pressed it grievously.

In this train he found himself at length in
front of the clachan of Ballacher. This small
village was in possession of the individual to
whom he was journeying. His dwelling, a
large farmhouse, was in the centre; the cot-
tages which surrounded it were occupied by
his servants and tenantry.

It was about mid-day when he entered the
village. It was deserted, while a strange
and subduing melancholy seemed to hang over
it. He strode slowly on, but no human being
made his appearance. At length a funeral
procession, followed by many women and chil-
dren, came silently up the middle avenue of
the village. It might be a deception of his
fancy, but he thought the looks of the mourners
were more sad and more profoundly interesting
than he had ever witnessed on any previous
occasion. He followed the convoy to the ceme-
tery, which was not far distant, and when the
last shovelful of earth was thrown upon the
grave, he inquired whose funeral it was.

" It is that of Allaster AVilson, our master,"
was the reply.

" Good Heaven! and how did he die?" cried
William, deeply agitated.

" That no one knows," answered an old man
who stood by; " he was found murdered; but
a day will come when the Lord will cause his
blood to be requited on his murderers."

"And where was his body found?" said the
astonished Borderer.

"In the chalkpit near the Cairn of Dal-
gulish," replied the senior, and he wiped his
aged eyes and walked slowly away.

William started back with horror, and in-
stantly recollected his dream. It was indeed
the very individual to whose house he was
journeying, that he now saw laid in his grave.
His first duty was to go to the bereaved family
of his departed friend, and to comfort the
widow and the fatherless. A tear rolled from
his manly eye as he entered the mansion of
sorrow; and when he saw the relict and the
weeping family of his friend he thought his
heart would have died within him. Having
paid into their hands the money he owed them,
and performed various offices of kindness, he
bade them for the present adieu, and went to

He had no business to transact there; his

only object was to obtain the aid of justice in
pursuit of the three men whom he supposed to
be the murderers. Neil M'Kinnon was appre-
hended at the house where Laidlaw first saw
him; but though his guilt was strongly sus-
pected, no positive proof could be adduced
against him, and he was dismissed. The two
other men were never heard of. It was sup-
posed that they had gone on board a smuggling
cutter which left Fort- William, and afterwards
perished, with all its crew, in the Sound of

The dream still continued to agitate the
yeoman's mind to a great degree, and from
being the gayest farmer of the Borders, he re-
turned as thoughtful as a philosopher.



I ask'd an Aged Man, a man of cares,
Wrinkled, and curved, and white with hoary hairs:
' Time is the warp of life," he said, " Oh tell
The young, the fair, the gay, to weave it well !"

I ask'd the aged Venerable Dead,
Sages who wrote, and warriors who bled :
From the cold grave a hollow murmur flow'd,
!< Time sowed the seed we reap in this abode."

I asked a Dying Sinner, ere the tide
Of life had left his veins : " Time," he replied
" I've lost it ! Ah, the treasure !" and he died.

I asked the Golden Sun and Silver Spheres,
Those bright Chronometers of days and years :
They answer'd, "Time is but a meteor glare,
And bids us for Eternity prepare."

I asked the Seasons in their annual round,
Which beautify and desolate the ground ;
And they replied (no oracle more wise),

" 'Tis folly's loss, and virtue's highest prize."


I nsk'd a Spirit Lost ; but, oh ! the shriek
That pierced my soul ! I shudder while I speak.
It cried " A particle, a speck, a mite
Of endless years, duration infinite!"

Of Things Inanimate my dial I
Consulted, and it made me this reply :
" Time is the season fair of living well,
The path of Glory, or the path of HelL

I ask'd my Bible, and methinks it said,
"Time is the present hour, the past is fled :
Live ! live to day ! To morrow never yet
On aiiy human being rose or set."



I ask'd Old Father Time himself at last;
But in a moment he flew quickly past ;
His chariot was a cloud ; the viewless wind
His noiseless steeds, which left no trace behind.

I ask'd the Mighty Angel, who shall stand
One foot on sea, and one on solid land :
" By heaven," he cried, " I swear the mystery's o'er ;
Time was !" he cried, " but Time shall be no more.'


[Mrs. Catherine Grace Gore, born in Nottingham-
shire, 1800 ; died 2t)th January, 1861. A prolific writer
of novels chiefly descriptive of "fashionable life." She
produced upwards of 150 volumes, besides contributing
prose and verse to miscellaneous publications. Her
first novel, Marchmout, or The Maid of Honour, ap-
peared in 1823. Bond, a dramatic poem, and Two
Broken Hearts are the most notable of her poetical
efforts. Of her numerous tales the best remembered
are: The Ambassador's Wife; The Debutante; Hungarian
Tales: The Money-lender; The Soldier of Lyons; The
Woman of Business: The Woman of the World, <fec. &c.
They "reflect accurately enough the notions current
among the upper classes respecting religion, politics,
domestic morals, the social affections, and that coarse
aggregate of dealing with our neighbours which is em-
braced by the term common honesty." Athenaeum.}

In the course of the campaigns immediately
following the French Revolution, the fortress
of Ehrenbreitstein, on the banks of the Rhine,
experienced, on more than one occasion, the
unequal fortunes of war ; and was compelled
to submit to the superior force, or superior
skill, of a conquering army. After the passage
of the French troops under Hoche, effected
at Weisse Thurm, in 1797, a blockade, which
endured until the peace of Leoben, harassed
its devoted garrison. It was then abandoned
to the possession of the troops of the Elector of
Mayence; and although the little town of Thai,
situated at its base, had been sacrificed in the
course of the siege, Coblentz, whose position on
the opposite bank, at the confluence of the
Moselle with the Rhine, derives its best secur-
ity from the fortress, was thus restored to tran-
quillity, and a hope of happier times. The
confusion of an ill-disciplined and inexperienced
army had indeed rendered abortive to the
Rhenish shores those local advantages by which
they ought to have been secured from devasta-
tion; and the prolonged disorganization and
disunion prevalent in the adjacent provinces
had, by the most impolitic inconsistency, em-
barrassed every branch of public business, and
while agriculture was driven from the ravaged

plains, and commerce from the ensanguined
waves of the Rhine, civil discord had embroiled
the citizens of almost every town of mark along
its course. But affairs were now beginning to
wear a more promising aspect. The Congress
of Rastadt had already opened its negotiations,
and despair on one side, and exhaustion or
weariness on the other, had succeeded in cool-
ing the heat of those national feuds which had
brought the ruinous footsteps of advancing
and retreating armies to trample the bosom
of an afflicted country. That there were some
among its sons over-eager to avenge the deep
scars thus inflicted, the murder of the French
deputies at the very gates of Rastadt terribly

It chanced that some days previous to the
opening of the congress, a French noble,
the Count D'Aubigny, with his wife and son,
had been arrested, on their return to their
native country, by the authorities of Coblentz;
who, judging from the passports and papers in
his possession that he had high influence, and
an important connection with the Directory,
secured him in the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein
as a valuable hostage for the interests of their
city. The count, who had sought safety in
emigration during the short supremacy of one
of the earlier and more furious factions of the
republic, had been recently recalled to fill an
appointment of dignity and honour under the
new government. Galling as it was to his feel-
ings to be thus thwarted and restrained upon
the very threshold of France, yet his trust in
the efficacy of an appeal M-hich he had for-
warded to the congress prevented him from
giving way to the natural impatience of his
mind. A deeper feeling, however a feeling
of horror and desperation soon superseded
his irritation and regrets: a body of French
troops presented itself before the fortress, men-
acing its garrison and luckless inhabitants with
all the horrors of a protracted siege.

It was in vain that D'Aubigny recalled to
his own mind, and whispered to his fair com-
panion, that the fortress was bomb-proof and
casemated with unequal art ; and still more
vain were his entreaties to Colonel Faber,
its brave but sturdy commandant, that his
wife and child might be conveyed under a
flag of truce to Coblentz. The colonel, to
whom his prisoner was both nationally and
individually an object of distrust, persisted
that the interest of his command forbade the

"Your ladies of France," said he, "God give
them grace ! are too nimble-tongued to be
trusted in an enemy's camp, and Moritz Fabtr



will scarcely be tempted to enable the fair
countess to carry tidings of the nakedness of
the land, and of the impoverished resources
of the fort, unto a band which bears the tri-
coloured rag as its ensign, and treachery as its
password. No, no ! abide in the old eagle's
nest. Our galleries are a surety from your
friends in the valley; and when our provisions
fail which fail they shall ere I yield the
charge committed to my hand unto a gang of
marauding cut-throats the countess and her
son shall honourably share our fare and our
famine. Perhaps the plea of a lady's sufferings
may more promptly disperse your gentle coun-
trymen yonder, who write themselves preux
chevaliers, than falconet or culverin!"

Count D'Aubigny, finding persuasion fruit-
less, and knowing that resistance might even
less avail him, could only pray, that either the
return of his own estafette from Rastadt, or of
that despatched by Colonel Faber, might bring
a mandate of intelligence between the besieging
and besieged. A few days sufficed to show him,
and the expiration of several weeks tended
most horribly to prove, that the fortress had
been indeed surprised in an hour of security
and consequent destitution; he looked tremb-
lingly to the result, and marked the daily dim-
inution of their apportionment of provisions,
with a sense of dread he dared not reveal to
his companions in misfortune.

If any woman, however, could be gifted to
receive with fortitude an announcement of evil,
severe as that anticipated by the count, it was
Eveline his lovely and most beloved wife: for
her mind was as firm and elevated in its char-
acter, as her demeanour and disposition were
femininely gentle: and her attachment to the
young Eugene, the son of D'Aubigny by a for-
mer marriage, partook of a conscientious de-
votion to his interests, such as the mere tender-
ness of maternal love could not have alone
suggested. It was for him it was for that
fair boy, who had loved her so fondly that
her first apprehensions of the horror of their
position became terrible to her mind. Eugene
was frail and delicate, and had been nurtured
with the softest tending; he had attained
neither the strength of body nor mind essential
to the endurance of an evil from which his high
condition might have seemed to secure him;
and his parents, for they were equally so in
affection for the child, had not courage to fore-
warn and inure him to the approaching calam-

They saw him from the first reject with
silent but evident loathing the coarse food
tendered for his support. They marked his

soft cheek grow wan under the deprivation
his little voice gradually weaken his step
bound less playfully along the rude pavement
of their chamber; and they looked into each
other's faces with tearful eyes as they first
noted the change; but dared not interrogate
the boy, or utter one audible comment. Soon,
however, fatally soon, the miserable fact became
too loudly a matter of comment in the garri-
son for even the child to remain in ignorance
of their threatened destiny. Day after day
passed, and brought nothing but sights of
death and sounds of lamentation ; and the
wasting strength of the prisoners rendered their
minds still more susceptible of terror and de-
spair; but neither their wants, nor the mur-
murs of the soldiery, could influence by the
weight of a feather the stern determination
of the commandant to yield but in his hour
of death.

Let those who limit their consciousness of
the pangs of hunger by the loss of an occasional
meal, which may have rendered restless their
luxurious couch, affect to underrate the agonies
of starvation, and to attemper according to
Adam Smith's theory of morality their argu-
ments for the indecency of bewailing a vulgar
lack of food. But the actual sense of famine,
the gnawing, irritating sense, which con-
fuses the ears with strange sounds the body
with sickness the heart with perturbation
the head with dizzy bewilderment these are
sufferings which defy the mastery of mental
fortitude !

D'Aubigny was the first to give utterance to
his feelings, for they were solely urged by the
suppressed torments he was condemned to wit-
ness. "My Eveline," said he, "my sweet, my
heavenly-minded wife, could I have believed
when I sought your hand, amid the lofty pomp
of your high estate, that I should but win it to
share in the horrors of my evil destiny could
I have dreamed, when I wept my first glad
tears over this boy's cradle, that I should live
to wish him unborn to see him perish
slowly horribly "

" Hush! D'Aubigny, he sleeps; his head hath
sunk upon my knee."

"No! mother," said the boy, very faintly, "I
am not sleeping; I am listening quietly to my
kind father's voice. "

"It is exhaustion! by the God of mercy! it
is exhaustion which hath bowed his head!"
exclaimed the count, taking his son into his
arms, and gazing with an indescribable thrill
upon his attenuated countenance, then rushing
forwards in despite of the outcry and resistance
of the various sentries, he forced himself into



the presence of Colonel Faber, still straining
his child to his bosom.

"Look on him! " said he, with a voice broken
by sobs; "'tis my only child, look upon him,
and if you have the heart of a man, deny
not my petition. It is not yet too late,
send him from Ehrenbreitstein."

" It cannot be," answered Faber, resolutely;
although the manifest condition of the lovely
boy brought a deep flush even to his temples.
" I will give him up my own share of provi-
sion with pleasure, Count D'Aubigny; but not
a living soul must leave the fortress! I am
deeply responsible to my country: and the
famishing condition of my soldiers my chil-
dren might otherwise prompt me to desert
a trust which the Congress of Rastadt appear
so little interested to protect. My duty,
sir, is one of sternness; I cannot grant your
request. "

"Do not weep, father," murmured the child,
faintly, "I never saw tears of thine before;
do not let them fall for Eugene. I will be
better; I will feed heartily on the food we can
still procure; do not weep, father."

And with an effort mighty at his age, the
child did indeed force between his lips the
loathsome morsels which fell scantily to their
share. Every domestic animal within the walls
had been sacrificed; and the obscene flesh of
dogs and horses had become a delicacy beyond
the soldiers' power of purchase! and on such
revolting aliments did Eveline force herself to
feed, in order to entice and deceive the boy's
enfeebled appetite. But all would not do;
already many of the least hardy of the garrison
had fallen a sacrifice to want of wholesome
food; and the failing strength and tremulous
lips of Eugene and his mother proclaimed that
they were soon to follow. Yes, they were dying
of starvation!

Again the count attempted to move the
feelings of Faber in their behalf; but he no
longer bore denial with resignation. Moved
beyond his patience, he raved, threatened, and
even attempted violence; and as the scene had
many witnesses, the commandant felt it due
to himself to punish the offender with soli-
tary confinement. " Thus, too," thought the
stanch old soldier, " I shall spare this unfor-
tunate parent the misery of looking upon suf-
ferings which he cannot alleviate."

The wretched chamber inhabited by the
Countess D'Aubigny was situated in one of
the loftiest and most secure towers of the
fortress ; and when the sun, which had lost
its power to cheer the desponding prisoners,
dawned through the arrow-slits on the day

succeeding that of D'Aubigny's imprisonment,
Eveline rose to drag her failing, quivering
limbs towards the morning air, and resting
her head beside the narrow opening, looked
down upon the blue, glassy, dancing, free
waters of the Rhine, that rippled far, far below
the fortress, and prayed that they might rise
and overwhelm her. But she instantly re-
proved the thought, as she had already done
the proposal of her husband, that they should
anticipate their inevitable and horrible end.
"This child," she had replied, "is a sacred
deposit in our hands; we have no right to
leave him orphaned, to his sorrow ; and you
could not no! you could not attempt his little

" What seest thou yonder, mother?" faltered
the boy, whom her movement had disturbed,
but who was now too weak to approach the
soupirail for refreshment.

" I see Heaven's mighty sunshine, dear
Eugene, bright as if it shone upon no human
misery. I see the white city of Coblentz,
backed by its green plantations, and sending
up the smoke of a thousand hearths. Beside
them there is happiness, Eugene, smiles and
food, child, and with us abideth nought save
trust in the mercy of God. Think upon it,
think, beloved child, that we shall soon be free
from pain and grief! "

"I cannot think, mother; my head swims
strangely. But there is still feeling in my
heart, and it is all for thee and for my

" Eugene, should we survive this peril, and
thou hast the strength of youth in thy favour,
let this remembrance become a pledge for the
tender mercies of thy future life ; so that the
poor and the hungry may not plead to thee in

"Mother, thy words reach not my failing
ears; draw nearer, mother, for I would die
with my hand in thine."

On that very day the destinies of the fortress
were accomplished; and the sacrifice which had
been made was made in vain: the fiat of the
Congress of Rastadt commanded the brave
Faber to open its gates to the enemy of his
country. The noble brother of Eveline D'Au-
bigny, whose anxiety for her liberation had
motived in a great measure the blockade of
Ehrenbreitstein, was the first to rush into the
chamber of the captive. No living thing stirred
there. The boy had died first, for his face was
covered, and his limbs composed; and Eveline
if the fair wasted thing which lay beside
him might claim that name had perished in
the effort of executing that last duty!





It was the pleasant season yet,
When the stones at cottage doors

Dry quickly, while the roads are wet,
After the silver showers.

The green leaves they looked greener still,
And the thrush, renewing his tune,

Shook a loud note from his gladsome bill
Into the bright blue noon.

Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 5 of 75)