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again. I will be what I ought,” she continued, starting up, and extending her lean and wither
" the queen and protectress of these wild and neglected isles,-I will be her whose foot the waves wet not, save by her permission; ay, even though its rage be at its wildest madness-whose robe the whirlwind respects when it rends the house-rigging from the roof-tree. Bear me witness, Mordaunt Mertoun,- you heard my words at Harfra-you saw the tempest sink before them-Speak, bear me wit
To have contradicted her in this strain of high-toned enthusiasm, would have been cruel and unavailing, even had Mordaunt been more decidedly convinced than he was, that an insane woman, not one of supernatural power, stood before him.
“I heard you sing,” he replied, " and I saw the tempest abate.”
“ Abate ?” exclaimed Norna, striking the ground impatiently with her staff of black oak; “ thou speakest it but half—it sunk at oncesunk in shorter space than the child that is hushed to silence by the nurse.--Enough, you know my power— but you know not-mortal man knows not, and never shall know, the price which I paid to attain it. No, Mordaunt, never for the widest sway that the ancient Norsemen boasted, when their banners waved victorious from Bergen to Palestine---never, for all that the round world contains, do thou barter thy peace of mind for such greatness as Norna's.” She resumed her seat upon the rock, drew the mantle over her face, rested her head upon her hands, and by the convulsive motion which agitated her bosom, appeared to be weeping bitterly.
“Good Norna," said Mordaunt, and paused, scarce knowing what to say that might console the unhappy woman —“Good Norna,” he again resumed, “if there be aught on your mind that troubles it, were you not best to go to the worthy minister at Dunrossness ? Men say you have not for many years been in a Christian congregation — that cannot be well, or right. You are yourself well known as a healer of bodily disease; but when the mind is sick, we should draw to the Physician of our souls.”
Norna had raised her person slowly from the
stooping posture in which she sate; but at length she started up on her feet, threw back her mantle, extended her arm, and while her lip foamed, and her eye sparkled, exclaimed in a tone resembling a scream,-“ Me did you speak —me did you bid seek out a priest!Would you kill the good man with horror?Me in a Christian congregation !-Would you have the roof to fall on the sackless assembly, and mingle their blood with their worship ?(-I seek to the good Physician !-Would you have the fiend claim his prey openly before God and man?"
The extreme agitation of the unhappy speaker naturally led Mordaunt to the conclusion, which was generally adopted and accredited in that superstitious country and period. Wretched woman," he said, “ if indeed thou hast leagued thyself with the powers of Evil, why should you not seek even yet for repentance ? But do as thou wilt, I cannot, dare not, as a Christian, abide longer with you; and take again your gift,” he said, offering back the chain. “ Good can never come of it, if indeed evil hath not come already."
“ Be still and hear me, thou foolish boy," said Norna calmly, as if she had been restored to reason by the alarm and horror which she perceived in Mordaunt's countenance ;-“ hear me, I say. I am not of those who have leagued themselves with the Enemy of mankind, or derive skill or power from his ministry. And although the unearthly powers were propitiated by a sacrifice which human tongue can never utter, yet, God knows, my guilt in that offering was no more than that of the blind man who falls from the precipice which he could neither see nor shun. 0, leave me not-shun me not in this hour of weakness! Remain with me till the temptation be passed, or I will plunge myself into that lake, and rid myself at once of my power and my wretchedness.”
Mordaunt, who had always looked up to this singular woman with a sort of affection, occasioned no doubt by the early kindness and distinction which she had shewn to him, was readily induced to reassume his seat, and listen to what she had further to say, in hopes that she would gradually overcome the violence of her agitation. It was not long ere she seemed
to have gained the victory her companion expected, for she addressed him in her usually steady and authoritative manner.
It was not of myself, Mordaunt, that I purposed to speak, when I beheld you from the summit of yonder grey rock, and came down the path to meet with you. My fortunes are fixed beyond change, be it for weal or for woe. For myself I have ceased to feel much; but for those whom she loves, Norna of the Fitful-head has still those feelings which link her to her kind.. Mark me there is an eagle, the noblest that builds in these airy precipices, and into that eagle's nest there has crept an adder-wilt thou lend thy aid to crush the reptile, and to save the noble brood of the lord of the north sky?"
“ You must speak more plainly, Norna,” said Mordaunt, “ if you would have me understand or answer you. I am no guesser of riddles.”
“ In plain language, then, you know well the family of Burgh-Westra -- the lovely daughters s of the generous old Udaller, Magnus Troil, — Minna and Brenda, I mean.
You know them, and you love them.”