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out something like alarm, that he beheld this mysterious female standing of a sudden so close beside him, and looking upon him with such sad and severe eyes, as those with which the Fatal Virgins, who, according to northern mythology, were called the Valkyriur, or 6 chusers of the slain,” were supposed to regard the young champions whom they selected to share the banquet of Odin.
It was, indeed, reckoned unlucky, to say the least, to meet with Norna suddenly alone, and in a place remote from witnesses; and she was supposed, on such occasions, to have been usually a prophetess of evil, as well as an omen of misfortune, to those who had such a rencontre. There were few or none of the islanders, however familiarized with her occasional appearance in society, that would not have trembled to meet her on the solitary banks of the Green Loch.
“ I bring you no evil, Mordaunt Mertoun," she said, reading perhaps something of this superstitious feeling in the looks of the
young “ Evil from me you never felt, and never will."
“ Nor do I fear any,” said Mordaunt, exerting himself to throw aside an apprehension which he felt to be unmanly.
Why should I, mother, you have been ever my friend ?”
Yet, Mordaunt, thou art not of our region; but to none of Zetland blood, no, not even to those who sit around the hearth-stone of Magnus Troil, the noble descendants of the ancient Jarls of Orkney, am I more a well-wisher, than I am to thee, thou kind and brave-hearted boy. When I hung around thy neck that gifted chain, which all in our isles know was wrought by no earthly artist, but by the Drows, in the secret recesses of their caverns, thou wert then but fifteen years old; yet thy foot had been on the Maiden-skerrie of Northmaven, known before but to the webbed sole of the swartback, and thy skiff had been in the deepest cavern of Brinnastir, where the haaf-fish * had before slumbered in dark obscurity. Therefore I gave thee that noble gift;
• The larger seal, or sea-calf, which seeks the litary recesses for its abode. See Dr Edmonstone's Zetland, vol. II. p. 294.
and well thou knowest, that since that day, every eye in these isles has looked on thee as a son, or as a brother, endowed beyond other youths, and the favoured of those whose hour of power is when the night meets with the day.” *
“ Alas! mother," said Mordaunt, your kind gift may have given me favour, but it has not been able to keep it for me, or I have not been able to keep it for myself.-What matters it? I shall learn to set as little by others as they do by me. My father says that I shallsoon leave these islands; and therefore, Mother
* The Drows or Trows, the legitimate successors of the northern duergar, and somewhat allied to the fairies, reside like them in the interior of green hills and caverns, and are most powerful at midnight. They are curious artificers in iron, as well as in the precious metals, and are sometimes propitious to mortals, but more frequently capricious and malevolent. Among the common people of Zetland, their existence still forms an article of universal belief. In the neighbouring isles of Feroe, they are called Foddenskencand, or subterranean people; and Lucas Jacobson Debes, well acquainted with their nature, assures us that they inhabit in those places which are polluted with the effusion of blood, or the practice of any crying sin. They have a government, which seems to be monarchical.
Norna, I will return to you your fairy gift, that it may bring more lasting luck to some other than it has done to me."
“Despise not the gift of the nameless race," said Norna, frowning; then suddenly changing her tone of displeasure to that of mournful solemnity, she added,—" Despise them not, but, O Mordaunt, court them not! Sit down on that grey stone—thou art the son of my adoption, and I will doff, as far as I may, those attributes that sever me from the common mass of humanity, and speak with you as a parent with a child.”
There was a tremulous tone of grief which mingled with the loftiness of her language and carriage, and was calculated to excite sympathy, as well as to attract attention. Mordaunt sate down on the rock which she pointed out, a fragment which, with many others that lay scattered around, had been torn by some winter storm from the precipice at the foot of which it lay, upon the very verge of the water. Norna took her own seat on a stone at about three feet distance, adjusted her mantle so that little more than her forehead, her eyes, and a single lock of her grey hair, were seen from beneath the shade of her dark wadmaal cloak, and then proceeded in a tone in which the imaginary consequence and importance so often assumed by lunacy, seemed to contend against. the deep workings of some extraordinary and deeply-rooted mental affliction.
“ I was not always,” she said, "that which I now am. I was not always the wise, the powerful, the commanding, before whom the young stand abashed, and the old uncover their grey heads. There was a time when my appearance did not silence mirth, when I sympathized with human passion, and had my own share in human joy and sorrow. It was a time of helplessness-it was a time of folly—it was a time of idle and unfruitful laughter-it was a time of causeless and senseless tears ;-and yet, with its follies and its sorrows and its weaknesses, what would Norna of Fitful-head give to be again the unmarked and happy maiden that she was in her early days! Hear me, Mordaunt, and bear with
hear me utter complaints which have never sounded into mortal ears, and which in mortal ears shall never sound