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A JOURNAL OF ENTERTAINMENT AND INSTRUCTION
FOR GENERAL READING.
NOVEMBER 1, 1845.
1744-5) inhabited by a Scotch Laird and his sister. This gentleman, on the death of his elder brother, had re.
cently retired from foreign service, and returned to HE following story is gathered Scotland, bringing with him his young sister, who had from an interesting narrative been educated in France. For some months their time published by Miss Porter many passed pleasantly in scenes and habits of life new to both years ago. The incidents, to of them; but after this the young lady observed with which we have confined our- concern that her brother's spirits became depressed, and selves, were told her by a lady of that his natural cheerfulness was changing into an ex rank, who assured her that every pression of habitual gloom and melancholy. Herself of circumstance was strictly true, a remarkably timid, gentle character, she had no power and well known to a member of to contend against his growing depression, and her spirits her own family.
sank with his, till at length, to relieve her own troubled The scene of this remarkable adventure was a castle and anxious fears, as well as in the hope that another in Argyleshire, now in ruins, but at that time (the year might have more skill to chase away her brother's gloom
than she had found herself to possess, she persuaded him, the castle, whence he would conduct her to the spot
the clock struck twelve she opened her door, and lightly She was not long in confiding to her friend the change descending the stairs, and threading the mazes of a long in her brother which had caused her so much uneasi. and intricate passage, she let herself out by a back door ness; and Miss Mackay's keen observation very soon led into one of the open courts. From thence she made her her to suspect that his evident depression was owing to way through other deserted passages, and roofless porsome painful or dangerous secret which weighed heavily tions of the building, till she entered the most distant on his mind. Acting on this conviction, she endea quadrangle, where stood the great tower. By the light voured, by every kind and unobtrusive atte tion, to of a small lantern, which she kept carefully turned in win his esteem and confidence; the only means by an opposite direction from the inhabited part of the castle, which she could hope to be of real service. During her she saw the Laird was waiting for her at the appointed stay at the castle, many accidental circumstances oc- spot. In silence he bowed his head as she came up to curred to bring out her extraordinary qualities. On one him, and, leading the way, proceeded to a door at the occasion especially, when the house where they happened foot of the tower. This he opened with a small key, to be visiting took fire, the Laird could not but be struck and having entered at the bottom of a spiral staircase, by her courage, and extraordinary presence of mind. locked the door, and, turning to her, asked, in a low This led him voluntarily to seek her society, instead of voice, if, in spite of such almost awful precautions, she giving way to the habits of lonely musing which had still adhered to her first resolution,-entreating her, if she lately grown upon him; so that his sister, rejoicing in felt any fear, to return at once. The hour, and the this change, and attributing it only to one cause, began strange mystery, for a moment daunted her spirits; but, to form high hopes that the friend she loved best in the summoning her courage, she answered boldly, that she world might one day become her sister. Miss Mackay, would go through with what she had undertaken. however, understood his manner better, and being very From the first landing-place, they turned into a long sure that admiration, in the ordinary acceptation of the suite of apartments, which occupied the whole of that word, had no part in his feeling towards herself, she side of the building. They were large and deserted. was at liberty to pursue her plan of kindness towards In some the windows were entirely shaken out, in others him.
they were loose and shaking. In the last chamber, His sister's timidity and delicate health did not allow which was smaller than the preceding ones, and the her to venture on horseback; but Miss Mackay was glad windows of which were better secured, the Laird stopped, to be able to explore, under his escort, the neighbouring locked the door, and warning his companion to rememcountry, and thus she had fresh opportunities for ob- ber all he did, pressed his foot upon the spring of a trapserving his deportment. Among the possible causes for door, which immediately started up. He then guided his depression, she began to suppose him the victim of her down a steep flight of stone steps into a vault, evisecond-sight, (a belief still prevalent in Scotland,) an dently running far under the castle. Here he paused, opinion which was one day much strengthened, when, and pointing to a large iron chest, begged his companion on reaching a height which commanded a view of the to rest upon it, while he should explain all she had seen, sea, she heard him exclaim to himself, “I see, I see the and try to secure her aid in a good cause. bloody issue !"
He then told her of the projected invasion of Scotland by At these words, Miss Mackay boldly stepped forward, him whom she had been taught to consider the son of her and, allowing the nature of her suspicions to transpire, rightful king, and that he was shortly expected to head, entreated him, if he could trust in her kindness and in person, such an army as his friends might privately regard, and she could in any way relieve or assist him, collect. The Laird had been presented to the Prince to say what it was that weighed so heavily on his mind; abroad, and had there entered into his cause with enadding, that though she could not claim a sister's right, thusiasm. He had come to Scotland full of hope ; but, yet, in his case, a sister's very anxiety and affection in the progress of his negotiations with the different might prevent her being an equally safe confidant. noblemen and gentlemen who were to take part in the
Thus urged, he owned that he had a secret, though enterprise, he had found so much lukewarmness, rashnot of the nature she had hinted at, nor his alone ; that ness, and folly, in those concerned, that all his bright it was one fraught with difficulty and danger, yet in expectations faded, and he was full of despair for the which she might be of the greatest service, if
, as he issue. It was this that had so clouded his spirits; his believed, she had courage for the part that might be faculties had become bewildered, as he looked forward to assigned to her, and was willing to incur the risk to the future; he foresaw a fatal end to the enterprise ere it which she wonld render herself liable. He then asked, began; and, conscious that his castle contained docuif she was willing to hear this secret, under the solemn ments of vital importance to many, he was tormented promise never to reveal it to any one.
with apprehensions for others, which he disregarded for She answered, “If your secret contains nothing against himself. In the iron chest on which Miss Mackay sat, the commandment of God, and the well-being of my were deposited many deeds and bonds from the great country, I am here ready to hear it, keep it, swear to it." exile, to different noblemen and gentlemen, acknow
He assured her that there was nothing in it which, as ledging loans of money, and pledging himself to reward a religious Scotchwoman, she might not lend her hand present services by future grants. These documents, if and heart to; but that he must not tell it then; adding, discovered, together with a correct list of all the persons with solemnity, that there was but one place, and one contributing to the cause, either by gold or men, might hour, in which he should feel it safe to reveal it-that prove the ruin of some of the best and bravest men in hour was twelve o'clock of the same night, and the place Scotland. of meeting the smaller door of the last quadrangle of | The Laird knew that, either just before or immedi.
ately upon his royal master's landing, he would be sum- | time to return. Miss Mackay most carefully noted all moned to report certain needful details; and he feared his movements; learnt the secret of the spring which leaving the high trusts committed to him behind in the opened the trap-door, and passing with her guide castle, within the very grasp of Argyle, without also through the solitary chambers, found herself again in leaving some one empowered to destroy them in his the court of the quadrangle. Here she received from absence, should any misfortune render such a measure him the key of the tower door, and the more important necessary. As Miss Mackay's character had opened upon one belonging to the chest; and they then took a solemn him, he had been struck with the thought, that Provi. farewell of each other, as he was to leave early next day. dence had in her provided him with the very person he More than a fortnight passed before Miss Mackay was needed. Time and further observation only strengthened called upon to execute any part of her commission. At this opinion; when, just at this point, and while still in length, one morning, on going to her window, which she doubt, a summons had arrived, commanding him to now always did on first rising, she observed a cross repair to another staunch friend of the Stuarts, where marked on the ash tree, and two smaller ones cut below Charles Edward's most confidential agent was expected it. She could not help feeling some apprehension, as from France. It was at this eventful moment that Miss she thought of the task that lay before her. The reMackay had opened the way to confidence, and he was membrance of the large deserted chambers of the gloomy now in consequence disclosing to her all that had vault, to be descended at midnight, now and then apweighed so long on his mind, and asking her co- palled her ; but she concealed all appearance of anxiety, operation.
and passed the day as cheerfully as usual. His auditor listened to all he had to tell with the Half an hour before midnight, when every one was deepest interest; for she had ever been taught to con- asleep, she lighted her lantern, and wrapping herself sider Charles Edward her rightful prince, and the thought from head to foot in her plaid, issued from the dwellingof being in any way able to devote herself to his service house into the first court. The moon shone brightly, brought the fire to her eye, and the warm blood into and everything was so calm, that her confidence reher cheek
turned. Encouraging herself by thoughts of prayer, she When the Laird, in conclusion, asked, whether she reached the door of the tower, and there a faint sound would take upon her the charge of what he must leave made her turn towards the place whence it proceeded. behind, or, refusing that, simply give him her oath A gentleman in a highland dress instantly stepped fornever to divulge what she knew, she readily promised to ward into the moonlight, from the archway where he do all he had asked, and, kneeling down, took an oath to had been standing, and, with an inclination of respect, this effect on the little pocket Bible the Laird had whispered the word “Bruce.” In the same tone, she anbrought with him. He then opened the iron chest, and swered,“ Charles Edward,” and hurrying into the tower, displayed its contents. There were, besides the parch- locked herself within it. ments he had mentioned, several leathern bags, which She had remembered every direction, so that she found he told her contained money and jewels, contributed by no difficulty in reaching the vault. The bags were so faithful Scotchmen to the cause. He then begged her heavy, that she found it necessary to carry each sepato listen carefully to the instructions he would give her. rately to the foot of the tower stairs. She then opened He was going instantly to join the Prince's party in the door, and, without either uttering a word, the bags Inverness, and, when gold was needed, would send a of gold were exchanged for the receipt; and, once again messenger she might entirely trust, to whom she must locking herself in, she returned to the vault, and from deliver it under the shadow of night. The arrival of thence, when her task was done, returned to her own such a messenger would be notified to her by the figure room. The whole had been accomplished so easily, that, of a cross being cut on the trunk of a great ash tree after this, she felt no alarm or anxiety on her own acwhich grew opposite her chamber-window; and a cer- count for any future errand of the same kind with which tain number of very small crosses cut under the large she might be entrusted. one would notify the number of bags she should give him. The Laird's absence, meanwhile, crept on from week If, instead of money, the messenger should have to an- to week; neither by public report nor private information nounce defeat and disaster, a figure of an axe should be did any news of Charles Edward's landing reach her; marked on the tree instead of a cross; in which case and her zeal for his cause kept her in constant nervous her business would be to destroy every written paper or watchfulness. Winter was now far advanced : her young parchment in the chest. After that, he bid her use her friend, anxious about her brother, whose absence was own discretion whether to remain in the castle or de unaccountable to her, and alarmed, too, at living withpart; he himself by that time would probably be lying a out his protection in that lonely place, at such a season, corpse on the field of battle. In conclusion, he assured her, claimed more and more of her care. Some kind friends that he did not believe himself to be bringing her into from a distance would, every now and then, leave their real danger by the commission he now gave her, adding homes, and spend a day or two with their timid young further directions, that on seeing the given sign on the friend; but these meetings often more than failed in tree, she was to repair at night to the same spot where their object, from the ill-chosen nature of their topics for he had met her, go down to the vault, bring up the bags, conversation. With long fireside-evenings came stories of and, before opening the door into the quadrangle, (of murder and witchcraft, of ghosts and apparitions, all of which the messenger would have no key,) one was to give which had a peculiar fascination for the poor young lady the pass-word, “ Bruce," to which the other would answer, at the time, though they left her less fit than ever to “Charles Edward.” She then might open the door and sustain cheerfulness under adverse circumstances. Even deliver the bags into his hands; the messenger would Miss Mackay's stronger mind was not proof against give a voucher in return, which she must go back to the effect of these gloomy histories; and, after an evendeposit in the iron chest, and her duty would be over. ing thus spent, she did not feel her nerves in the fittest
Îf, however, the secret announcement were disaster, state for executing the commission she had received that she might burn the documents, one by one, at the candle morning, by the given sign on the ash tree. She rein her lantern. Mark,” he said, in conclusion,“ mark, membered, too, that the deserted chambers she had to I pray you, all the peculiarities of the places you will pass through were reported to be haunted. She would have to pass through, so that nothing may embarrass not, however, suffer such imaginations to hinder her in you, should accident extinguish your light. Above all the performance of her duty; and, at the appointed hour, things, remember to leave the trap-door well settled on she set out on her errand. its supports, as it opens only from the outside. For Instead of the friendly moonlight which had cheered Heaven's sake, be careful to observe this!"
her before, a fearful tempest now raged without. The After some further discourse, as to what would be best roar of the distant sea was heard in the intervals of the to do for his sister in case of his death, they found it still louder wind, which pealed like thunder through
the mountain chasms. The crash of trees, and the fall to be the precursor of sharper and fiercer pangs of of fragments from the ruined walls of the castle, added hunger. Her head became giddy, and she feared her to the noise and danger. Not a star was visible; every senses were leaving her; but, with a strong effort of will, thing was wrapped in thick darkness. Some fear she she overcame the temptation to wander, and fixing her could not but feel, as she hurried through the tottering mind on the thoughts best suited for such an hour, trees and groaning ruins; and, added to this, she fancied gave herself up to the will of her heavenly Father, she heard footsteps behind her, as it were pursuing her. and resigned herself wholly into His hands. Every
It was a relief when she reached the tower-door, and moment she felt herself grow weaker. Her tongue could lock herself within. Lighted by the dim flame of cleaved to the roof of her mouth; she could utter no her lantern, she passed along the suite of rooms, the audible sound; her head grew more dizzy; her limbs wind howling through them, and rattling against the were benumbed; by degrees sense and recollection loose and broken cagements. Her hand shook a little, failed her, and she sank lifeless on the steps of the vault. as she settled the rests of the trap-door; but by degrees It seemed as if death had come to her relief. But there she regained her composure, and, counting out the bags was help at hand for her. By a wonderful chance, as it of gold which had been sent for, she carried them down, would be called, but more justly by a merciful proone by one, as before ; delivered them with the given vidence, it so fell, that twenty-four hours after the Laird signal to the messenger without; locked the door again, had despatched his friend to the castle for the gold they and returned once more to the vault with the voucher, were in need of, he found he had immediate occasion in order to deposit it in the iron chest. Just as she was for one of the papers in the iron chest; and, as the best replacing it there, she was startled by a loud crash, fol- and shortest means of obtaining it, he set out himself. lowed by a thundering clap. After a moment's pause, Having the master-key of all the doors, he had no she flew up the steps to see what was the cause. She occasion to go into the house, but proceeded at once, had not yet realized her misfortune : it was the trap it being nightfall
, to the tower-door. It was his intendoor which had fallen,-blown down by a sudden gust tion to leave a line on the chest, informing Miss Mackay of wind, which had forced in the window just above it. of what he had done, for he did not deem it prudent
In a moment she understood the full misery of her to venture into the house, or see his sister. He walked situation. Her first effort was to push against the door, calmly through the desolate apartments, observed the hoping it was not firmly fixed in its place ; but it resisted damage done by the wind, and at length he lifted the her wildest efforts of strength, and she remembered that trap-door, and was descending, when his light fell upon the Laird had said it could only be opened from without. the bright colours of Miss Mackay's plaid. In alarm Again and again she repeated her ineffectual efforts, and and astonishment he gazed on the motionless form, pale in despair called aloud for help. The wind alone an- as death, that lay extended before him, and at once comswered her cry, pealing in the distance above her. prehending what had happened, sprang down the re
There was but one person who could help her—the maining steps, and flew to her assistance, if indeed help owner of the castle, who was far away: and, as she did not come too late. Happily he carried a flask of paused from the wild energy of her first despair, she spirits with him, and succeeded in pouring some drops began to doubt how far it would be right, even if it were into her lips. By slow degrees she revived, and within possible, to call for other aid, if she could only procure an hour after sinking into unconsciousness, she opened it by revealing a secret in which the lives and fortunes her eyes on him who had been sent to her rescue. of so many were involved. She sunk upon the steps in Before asking her any questions, he made her swallow a confusion of dreadful feelings; the dews of death a few morsels of the oaten cake he happened to have seemed to spread over her as she faced the full horrors with him. Under this refreshment she soon revived; of her situation. She saw she must either risk the and her deliverer could now give utterance to his thankdiscovery of this awful secret, or be content to remain fulness at having thus come in time for her relief, where she was, and perish by slow degrees. How light pledging himself never more to require of her a similar and easy would death on the scaffold have appeared to effort of friendship and loyalty. She was too lost in her, contrasted with this solitary lingering fate of horror! thoughts of gratitude to Heaven for her wonderful deThoughts like these for a time rendered her passive ; | liverance, to hear what he said, or listen to the plans he then she would revive her hopeless exertions for re- was forming to entrust his friend the messenger henceleasing herself, till, exhausted by fatigue, she could do forward with the entire accomplishment of his hazardous
At length, wearied and hopeless, she left the errand. At length she roused herself to arrange with steps, and returned into the vault, and throwing herself | him the best mode of accounting for her absence without on the damp floor, from which her plaid was hier only exciting dangerous suspicions; then, refreshing herself protection, she tried to compose herself
, and seek for with another small portion of his travelling fare, she left patience and submission in prayer. She lay listening her prison, and, supported by his arm, reached the last to the dreary sounds which reached her from without, court before the house, where she took leave of her to the progress of the storm, and to the heavy rain conductor, who, much as he longed to see his poor sister, which succeeded it, and which she could hear pour down dared not venture to show himself. through the rafts in the roof upon the trap-door of her Her absence could only have been observed since dungeon. From this sound, dreary as it was, she breakfast time; and, as she was in the habit of taking gathered that there was some chance of her cries being early morning walks, it might well be supposed that, heard, should she determine on its being right to use such tempted by a gleam of fine weather after the night's efforts for her release.
storm, she had ventured out, and that the subsequent The storm had subsided, so that she could hear the heavy rain had detained her in the shelter of some clock strike five : her lantern had long burnt out, and distant cavern or sheiling till its violence had abated. she remained in total darkness, as hour by hour passed Weak and exbausted she entered the house, and was by: at length noon struck, though no ray of light received with the utmost delight by her friend, who had reached her to tell her of the cheerful day. Sounds of been in the greatest alarm on her account. Miss Mackay, life from a distance came upon her ear, only making who was evidently too weak for much conversation, her own state more terrible ; she became bewildered by spoke of having been seized with a fainting fit, of her wild thronging thoughts, and almost unconscious; for a inability to send word where sbe was to the castle; and few moments she called piercingly for help. She thought her friend, occupied in attending upon her obvious how heavily her death would weigh on his mind wants, readily credited the few words which implied who had unwittingly led her into such a grave. In | rather than told what it was desirable she should be. alternations of distraction and resignation the day wore lieve, and, in anxiety for her health and comfort, all away. She grew weak from want of food, and a sickening farther questions were forgotten. feeling of exhaustion came upon her, which she knew Here Miss Mackay's share in the perils of the rebellion