페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

and in disposing its ornaments. It was, indeed, during his last residence at. Burgh-Westra, as free to his entrance and occupation, as to its proper mistresses. But now, so much were times altered, that he remained with his finger on the latch, uncertain whether he should take the freedom to draw it, until Brenda's voice pronounced the words “ Come in then," in the tone of one who is interrupted by an unwelcome disturber, who is to be heard and dispatched with all the speed possible. 1. At this signal, Mertoun entered the fanciful cabinet of the sisters, which, by the addition of many ornaments, including some articles of considerable value, had been fitted up for the approaching festival. The daughters of Magnus, at the moment of Mordaunt's entrance, were seated in deep consultation with the stranger Cleveland, and with a little slightmade old man, whose eye retained all the vivacity of spirit, which had supported him under the thousand vicissitudes of a changeful and precarious life, and which, accompanying him in his old age, rendered his grey hairs less awfully reverend perhaps, but not less beloyed, than would a more grave and less imaginative expression of countenance and character. There was even a penetrating shrewdness mingled in the look of curiosity, with which, as he stepped for an instant aside, he seemed to watch the meeting of Mordaunt with the two lovely sisters.

The reception the youth met with resembled, in general character, that which he had experienced from Magnus himself; but the maidens could not so well cover their sense of the change of circumstances under which they met. Both blushed, as rising, and without extending the hand, far less offering the cheek, as the fashion of the times permitted, and almost exacted, they paid to Mordaunt the salutation due to an ordinary acquaintance. But the blush of the elder was one of those transient evidences of fitting emotion, that vanish as fast as the passing thought which excites them. In an instant she stood before Mordaunt calm and cold, returning, with guarded and cautious courtesy, the usual civilities, which, with a faultering voice, Mordaunt endeavoured to present to her. The emotion of Brenda bore, externally at least, a deeper and more agitating character. Her blush extended over every part of her beautiful skin which her dress permitted to be visible, including her slender neck, and the upper region of a finely formed bosom. Neither did she even attempt to reply to what share of his confused compliment Mordaunt addressed to her in particular, but regarded him with eyes, in wbich displeasure was evidently mingled with feelings of regret, and recollections of former times. Mordaunt felt, as it were, assured upon the instant, that the regard of Minna was extinguished, but that it might be yet possible to recover that of the milder Brenda; and such is the waywardness of human fancy, that though he had never hitherto made any distinct difference betwixt these two beautiful and interesting girls, the favour of her, which seemed most absolutely withdrawn, became at the moment the most interesting in his eyes.

He was disturbed in these hasty reflections by Cleveland, who advanced, with military frankness, to pay his compliments to his preserver, having only delayed long enough to

permit the exchange of the ordinary salutation betwixt the visitor and the ladies of the family. He made his approach with so good a grace, that it was impossible for Mordaunt, although he dated the loss of favour at Burgh-Westra from this stranger's appearance on the coast, and domestication in the family, to do less than return his advances as courtesy demanded, accept his thanks with an appearance of satisfaction, and hope that his time had passed pleasantly since their last meeting. ..Cleveland was about to answer, when he was anticipated by the little old man, formerly noticed, who now, thrusting himself forward, and seizing Mordaunt's hand, kissed him on the forehead; and then at the same time echoed and answered his question-" How passes time at Burgh-Westra ? Was it you that asked it, my prince of the cliff and of the scaur ? How should it pass, but with all the wings that beauty and joy can add to help its flight!"

“ And wit and song, too, my good old friend,” said Mordaunt, half-serious, half-jesting, as he shook the old man cordially by the hand. These cannot be wanting, where Claud Halcro comes !"

“ Jeer me not, Mordaunt, my good lad,” replied the old man; “ when your foot is as slow as mine, your wit frozen, and your song out of tune.

“How can you belie yourself, my good master?'' answered Mordaunt, who was not un willing to avail himself of his old friend's peculiarities to introduce something like conversation, break the awkwardness of this singular meeting, and gain time for observation, ere requiring an explanation of the change of conduct which the family seemed to have adopted towards him. “Say not so," he continued. “ Time, my old friend, lays his hand lightly on the bard. Have I not heard you say, the poet partakes the immortality of the song? and surely the great English poet, you used to tell us of, was elder than yourself when he pulled the bow-oar among all the wits of London."

This alluded to a story which was, as the French term it, Halcro's cheval de battaille, and any, allusion to which was certain at once to

« 이전계속 »