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» And thus died«, said the earl, »even so as was reported?«
» No, my lord. I had gane out to the cove the tide was in, and it flowed, as ye'll remember, to the foot of that cliff it was a great convenience that for my husband's trade Where am I wandering? – I saw a white object dart frae the top o' the cliff like a sea-maw through the mist, and then a heavy flash and sparkle of the waters showed me it was a human creature that had fa'en into the
I was bold and strong, and familiar with the tide. I rushed in and grasped her gown, and drew her out and carried her on my shouthers I could hae carried twa sic then carried her to my hut, and laid her on my bed. Neighbours cam and brought help but the words she uttered in her ravings, when she got back the use of speech, were such, that I was fain to send them awa, and get up word to Glenallan-house. The Countess sent down her Spanish servant Teresa if ever there was a fiend on earth in human form, that woman was
She and I were to watch the unhappy leddy, and let no other person approach. God knows what Teresa's part was to hae been she tauld it not to me but Heaven took the conclusion in its ain hand. The poor leddy! she took the pangs of travail before her time, bore a male child, and died in the arms of me of her mortal enemy! Ay, ye may weep
she was a sightly creature to see to but think ye, if I didna mourn her then, that I can mourn her now? Na, na!
I left Teresa wi' the dead corpse and new-born babe, till I gaed up to take the Countess's commands what was to be done. Late as it was, I ca'd her up, and she gar'd me ca' up your brother
» My brother?
» Yes, Lord Geraldin, e'en your brother, that some said she aye wished to be her heir. At ony rate, he was the person maist concerned in the succession and heritance of the house of Glenallan«.
» And is it possible to believe, then, that my brother, out of avarice to grasp at my inheritance, would lend himself to such a base and dreadful stratagem?
» Your mother believed it«, said the old beldam with a fiendish laugh - »it was nae plot of my making - but what they did or said I will not say, because I did not hear. Lang and sair they consulted in the black wainscot dressingroom; and when your brother passed through the room where I was waiting, it seemed to me (and I have often thought sae since syne) that the fire of hell was in his cheek
and een. But he had left some of it with his mother at ony rate. She entered the room like a woman demented, and the first words she spoke were, 'Elspeth Cheyne, did ye ever pull a new-budded flower?' I answered, as ye may believe, that I often had; Then', said she, 'ye will ken the better how to blight the spurious and heretical blossom that has sprung forth this night to disgrace my father's noble house - See here'; (and she gave me a golden bodkin) Nothing but gold must shed the blood of Glenallan. This child is already as one of the dead, and since thou and Teresa alone ken that it lives, let it be dealt upon as ye will answer to me!' and she turned away in her fury, and left me with the bodkin in my hand. Here it is; that and the ring of Miss Neville are a' I hae preserved of my ill-gotten gear for muckle was the gear I got. And weel hae I keepit the secret, but no for the gowd or gear either«.
Her long and bony hand held out to Lord Glenallan a gold bodkin, down which in fancy he saw the blood of his infant trickling
» Wretch! had you the heart?«
»I kenna if I could hae had it or no. I returned to my cottage without feeling the ground that I trode on; but Teresa and the child were gane
a' that was alive was gane naething left but the lifeless corpse«, » And did you never learn my infant's fate?«
>I could but guess. I have tauld ye your mother's purpose, and I ken Teresa was a fiend. She was never mair seen in Scotland, and I have heard that she returned to her ain land. A dark curtain has fa'en ower the past, and the few that witnessed ony part of it could only surmise something of seduction and suicide. You yourself
>I know - I know it all«, answered the earl. .
» You indeed know all that I can say And now, heir of Glenallan, can you forgive me?«
» Ask forgiveness of God, and not of man«, said the earl, turning away.
» And how shall I ask of the pure and unstained what is denied to me by a sinner like mysell? - If I hae sinned, hae I not suffered? Hae I had a day's peace or an hour's rest since these lang wet locks of hair first lay upon my pillow at Craigburnfoot? - Has not my house been burned, wi' my bairn in the cradle? Have not my boats been wrecked, when a' others weathered the gale? - Have not a' that were near and dear to me dree'd penance for my sin?
Has not the fire had its share o' them the winds had
the sea had her part? - And oh!« (she added, with a lengthened groan, looking first upwards towards heaven, and then bending her eyes on the floor) »Oh! that the earth would take her part, that 's been lang lang wearying to be joined to it!
Lord Glenallan had reached the door of the cottage, but the generosity of his nature did not permit him to leave the unhappy woman in this state of desperate reprobation. » May God forgive thee, wretched woman«, he said, »as sincerely as I do! turn for mercy to Him, who can alone grant mercy, and may your prayers be heard as if they were mine own!
I will send a religious man«.
»Na, na, nae priest! nae priest!« she ejaculated; and the door of the cottage opening as she spoke, prevented her from proceeding
4. Elspeth's Song.
As the Antiquary lifted the latch of the hut, he was surprised to hear the shrill tremulous voice of Elspeth chanting forth an old ballad in a wild and doleful recitative.
»The herring loves the merry moonlight,
The mackerel loves the wind,
For they come of a gentle kind.«
A diligent collector of these legendary scraps of ancient poetry, his foot refused to cross the threshold when his ear was thus arrested, and his hand instinctively took pencil and memorandum-book. From time to time the old woman spoke as if to the children
» Oy ay, hinnies, whisht, whisht! and I 'll begin a bonnier ane than that
»Now haud your tongue, baith wife and carle,
And listen, great and sma',
That fought on the red Harlaw.
»The cronach's cried on Bennachie,
And doun the Don and a',
For the sair field of Harlaw.
I dinna mind the neist verse weel - my memory 's failed, and there 's unco thoughts come ower me God keep us frae temptation!«
Here her voice sunk in indistinct muttering.
» It 's a historical ballad«, said Oldbuck eagerly, »a genuine and undoubted fragment of minstrelsy! Percy would admire its simplicity Ritson could not impugn its authenticity«.
» Ay, but it 's a sad thing«, said Ochiltree, »to see human nature sae farowertaen as to be skirling at auld sangs on the back of a loss like hers«.
»Hush, hush!« said the Antiquary, >she has gotten the thread of the story again«.
And as he spoke,
»They saddled a hundred milk-white steeds,
They hae bridled a hundred black,
And a good knight upon his back.«
» Chafron!« exclaimed the Antiquary, » equivalent, perhaps, to cheveron - the word 's worth a dollar«, and down it went in his red book.
»They hadna ridden a mile, a mile,
A mile, but barely ten,
Wi' twenty thousand men.
»Their tartans they were waving wide,
Their glaives were glancing clear,
Would deafen ye to hear.
»The great Earl in his stirrups stood
That Highland host to see:
May prove a jeopardie:
That rides beside my peyne,
And I were Roland Cheyne?
To fight were wondrous peril,
Were ye Glenallan's Earl?'
» Ye maun ken, hinnies, that this Roland Cheyne, for as poor and auld as I sit in the chimney-neuk, was my forbear, and an awfu’ man he was that day in the fight, but specially after the earl had fa'en; for he blamed himsell for the counsel he gave, to fight before Mar came up wi' Mearns, and Aberdeen, and Angus«.
Her voice rose and became more animated as she recited the warlike counsel of her ancestor:
O Caledonia! stern and wild,