remembered the former birth-days of Allan, when prayers of thankfulness from lips now silent for ever, were mingled with every rational and innocent enjoyment of social intercourse. They were no ordinary tears with which Lady Edith looked out that day from her window at the smiling village, once embellished by the well-directed enthusiasm of Sir Evan, and now glowing under the bright tints of a rising sun, unconscious of its impending doom. They were bitter tears, indeed, with which Lady Edith contrasted the industrious prosperity of Protestant Clanmarina with that Popish beggarly portion of the hamlet, robbed of all its income by the domination of a grasping and most expensive superstition. Very different days from hitherto must now befal the honest-hearted, sound-headed villagers, those Bible Christians, to whose welfare Lady Edith was so entirely devoted; and from henceforth her teaching of the children, as well as her care of the sick, would be sternly discouraged. Even her continuing to reside at Heatherbrae must be an unwelcome intrusion on the new proprietors; but she steadily resolved, while life remained, to brave every difficulty among the old clansmen of M*Alpine. “No religion utterly strips people like Jesuitism,” thought Lady Edith mournfully; “but it is the triumph of its superstition that a convert like Allan shall be born into Jesuitism naked as when he was born into the world, for the very clothes he is to wear are sent to him by the priests. Sir Evan's picture, his mother's hair,

my own letters, all must be forfeited; and if he even reserves an old nail or a bit of twine to be his own, he breaks his vow of poverty. Allan, being too truthful and honest for their purposes, will not be actively employed, but will be consigned to the depths of La Trappe for life, the willing victim of a delirious infatuation. God help that poor boy! He is beyond the reach of all who really love him!” exclaimed Lady Edith, leaning heavily on the arm of Beatrice, as they walked out together. “Will he pay me his promised visit to-day? He pledged himself solemnly to give me one last interview. It would be a melancholy comfort yet.”

“ He dare not trust himself, and he will not be trusted by the priests,” replied Lady Anne, sadly. "Father Ambrose, his uncle, was obliged yesterday to go abroad, but the spell of Father Eustace's eye is still upon him. They will not allow him to see his old haunts, and I believe Sir Allan could more easily face a regiment of artillery now, than a group of old friends like us. No, he will not, and dare not come.”

Certainly not,” added Beatrice, with sorrowful despondency; and as nothing is more provoking sometimes than to be agreed with in opinion, so Lady Anne felt it now. “ Allan's tether will not be extended to this house, and the iron bars must very soon stand between him and us for ever. The portcullis falls to-day.”

“Could we not get up a de lunatico inquirendo ?” asked Lady Anne, with a mournful attempt

[blocks in formation]

at mirth. “I am sure two months ago it would have been merciful to shut me up under Dr. M“Indre, rather than under Father Eustace | There is a death-cloud now over my remembrance of those days, never to be removed. I felt as if pounded in a mortar with the weight of that fearful blow which awoke me; and who would not wish Sir Allan emancipated, even if the remedy were as severe! Certainly, as a monk is considered dead to the world when he enters a monastery, he should at once be succeeded by his nearest sane relative. The most distant cousin is a nearer heir than the Pope.” Lady Edith and her three companions had gone out before breakfast to gather some fresh dewy buds from a moss-rose bush which almost overhung the high road, and were in earnest conversation on the hideous prospect of Sir Allan's ruin, when Beatrice suddenly observed at some distance a horse and its rider, not at all agreed as to the way they were to take. The spirited animal reared and plunged frightfully, while the skilful horseman, enveloped in a cloud of dust, so that she could scarcely see him, kept his seat with admirable dexterity. The conflict was long and desperate, but at length the rein suddenly broke, the horse sprung forward like a cat, the rider lost his seat, and Beatrice, with a scream of dismay, pointed to him prostrate on the road. A moment more and the horse was at full speed towards the place where the ladies had rushed out on the highway, and the unfortunate rider's foot being entangled in the stirrup, he was dragged helplessly along the ground. “This road is narrow—let us make a chain across it,” exclaimed Lady Edith, steadily planting herself in the centre, while the other ladies handin-hand instantly formed a line which could not be passed. As the excited animal approached this barrier, he slackened his speed, and at length paused as if doubtful whether to turn or advance. Lady Edith then speaking gently and approaching slowly, succeeded in seizing an end of the broken rein, and Beatrice in a moment cut the stirrup-strap, so as completely to disengage the prostrate rider's foot. It was the work of a moment, and the horse then left to himself galloped, fleet as the wind, out of sight towards Eaglescairn Castle. The horseman lay apparently dead, his coat torn, his face disfigured, and his whole person so dabbled and besmeared with blood and dust, that no one could recognise him; till at length Lady Anne exclaimed with a shriek of sudden horror, “It is Sir Allan " Another glance, and Lady Edith saw that it was so. Meanwhile the servants, by her orders, had brought out a mattress on which the insensible sufferer was laid. They bore him carefully into the cottage, and a heavy moan, when M*Ronald laid him on the bed, was the only sign he gave of life and of suffering. Lady Edith, with solemn anxiety too great for utterance, had him placed in her own room, and sent instantly for the nearest advice, not only from Clanmarina, but also from Inverness. Scarcely a spark of life lingered in that shattered body, and the doctors, after a long consultation, said the head had been so much injured that a brain fever was greatly to be apprehended; at all events, Dr. Campbell said that for weeks, or perhaps months, if consciousness were restored, he must be kept perfectly and intensely quiet, or the consequences of the least emotion would be almost immediately fatal. Lady Edith in the depths of her sorrow for Allan's very imminent danger, felt one gleam of actual joy. Her own beloved Allan must remain under her roof, and if he lived, no earthly power could for months to come take the beloved suf. ferer from her affectionate care. She gazed at his livid face, begrimed with blood and rigid as death, and listened with a look of searching and fearful anxiety to Dr. Campbell, who gave her very hopeless encouragement by assuring her, that he had once, but only once, seen a case as bad, in which the patient recovered. Still Lady Edith clung to hope, and felt almost ashamed of the irresistible pleasure it was to her, in spite of all his sufferings and danger, when she saw Allan delivered, for a time at least, from those who would have consigned him for life to an imprisonment worse than death. While prayers for the best of blessings on him streamed from her lips, Lady Edith felt the full comfort of that deep conviction, engrained into her mind, that whatever happens to any individual is by the special direc

« VorigeDoorgaan »