« 이전계속 »
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies."
Their father loved the maidens both so well, that it might be difficult to say which he liked best, saving that, perchance, he loved his graver damsel better in the walk without doors, and his merry maiden better by the fire-side: that he more desired the society of Minna when he was sad, and that of Brenda when he was mirthful; and, what was nearly the same thing, preferred Minna before noon, and Brenda after the glass had circulated in the evening.
But it was still more extraordinary, that the affections of Mordaunt Mertoun seemed to ho ver with the same impartialityas those of their father betwixt the two lovely sisters. From his boyhood, as we have noticed, he had been a frequent inmate of the residence of Magnus at Burgh-Westra, although it lay nearly twenty miles distant from Jarlshof. The impassable character of the country betwixt these places, extending over hills covered with loose and quaking bog, and frequently intersected by the creeks or arms of the sea, which indent the island on either side, as well as by fresh-water
streams and lakes, rendered the journey difficult, and even dangerous, in the dark season ; yet, as soon as the state of his father's mind warned him to absent himself, Mordaunt, at every risk, and under every difficulty, was pretty sure to be found upon the next day at Burgh-Westra, having achieved his journey in less time than would have been employed perhaps by the most active native.
He was of course set down as a wooer of one of the daughters of Magnus, by the public of
and when the old udaller's great partiality to the youth was considered, nobody doubted that he might aspire to the hand of either of those distinguished beauties, with as large a share of islets, rocky moorland, and shore-fishings, as might be the fitting portion of a favoured child, and with the prospect of possessing half the domains of the ancient house of Troil, when their present owner was
This seemed all a reasonable specu: lation, and, in theory at least, better constructed than many that are current through the world ás unquestionable facts. i But, alas ! all that sharpness of observation which could be ap
plied to the conduct of the parties, failed to determine the main point, to which of the young persons, namely, the attentions of Mor daunt were peculiarly devoted. He seemed, in general, to treat them as an affectionate and attached brother might have treated two sisters, so equally dear to him that a breath would have turned the scale of affection. Or if, at any time, which often happened, the one maiden appeared the more especial object of his attention, it seemed only to be because circumstances called her peculiar talents and disposition into more particular and immediate exercise.
They were both accomplished in the simple music of the north, and Mordaunt, who was their assistant, and sometimes their preceptor, when they were practising this delightful art, might be now seen assisting Minna in the acquisition of those wild, solemn, and simple airs, to which Scalds and harpers sung of old the deeds of heroes, and presently found equally active in teaching Brenda the more lively and complicated music, which their father's affection caused to be brought from the English or
Scottish capital for the use of his daughters. And while conversing with them, Mordaunt, who mingled a strain of deep and ardent enthusiasm with the gay and ungovernable gaiety of youth, was equally ready to enter into the wild and poetical visions of Minna, or into the lively, and often humorous chat of her gayer sister. In short, so little did he seem to attach himself to either damsel exclusively, that he was sometimes heard to say, that Minna never looked so lovely as when her light-hearted sister had induced her, for the time, to forget her habitual gravity; or Brenda so interesting as when she sate listening, a subdued and affected partaker of the deep pathos of her sister Minna.
The public were, therefore, to use the hunter's phrase, at fault in their farther conclusions, and could but determine, after long vacillating betwixt the maidens, that Mordaunt was positively to marry one of them, but which could only be determined when his approaching manhood, or the interference of stout old Magnus, the father, should teach Master Mordaunt Mertoun to know his own mind. “ It was a pretty thing, indeed,” they usually concluded, “ that he, no native born, and possessed of no visible means of subsistence that was known to any one, should presume to hesitate, or affect to have the power of selection and choice, betwixt the two most distinguished beauties of Zetland. If they were Magnus Troil, they would soon be at the bottom of the matter" -- and so forth. All which remarks were only whispered, for the hasty disposition of the udaller had too much of the old Norse fire about it to render it safe for any one to become an unauthorized intermeddler with his family affairs ; and thus stood the relation of Mordaunt Mertoun to the family of Mr Troil of Burgh-Westra, when the following incidents took place.