Imagens das páginas

the king of birds, which he had very frequently in vain attempted before.

Having drawn his small shot, and put ball into his gun, he sent O'Gollochar home with his burden, and began to make a wide circuit, concealing himself by such banks and hollows as lay in his way. But notwithstanding all his care, the wily bird disappointed him, by rising long before he could come within proper distance, and mounting with broad and vigorous wing to the summit of the cliff, it settled there, and sat as if looking down upon him in derision, and bidding him defiance. Very much baulked, he approached the object the animal had pounced upon, and found that it was a sheep that appeared to have recently fallen from the cliff.

Seeing that he had not the smallest chance of reaching the monarch of the skies, even with ball, whilst he occupied his present lofty throne, he hastily turned his steps in the direction O’Gollochar had taken. But long before he had got into what was to him terra cognita, the night fell so dark that he mistook his road. He was not at first aware of this, however, and having gained a great extent of wood, where he thought he was well

acquainted with the way, he entered it confidently, but soon found himself embarrassed, and became convinced, when too late, that he had taken a wrong direction.

After wandering for a long time through trackless thickets, he was at last gladdened by the appearance of a light that glimmered through the foliage, and he scrambled towards it with the hope of finding some one who could put him on his way.

On his nearer approach, he found that the light proceeded from the interior of a hovel formed of sods, on a foundation of dry stones. It stood not far from the edge of a bank overhanging a deep ravine, through which a stream held its course. The door was more than half a-jar, and he listened for voices from within, but all was silent. He advanced and knocked, but his appeal was unattended to; he repeated his signal, and, as he still had no answer, he ventured to enter.

A wood-fire was burning on the earthen-floor, as if somebody had been recently there ; but seeing no one within, he was about to leave the place, with the idea that, by following the course of the stream, he would soon arrive at the great


valley, to which it must be a tributary, when an object caught his eye that immediately arrested bis attention. This was no other than the

very travelling trunk he had so particularly remarked the night before, with the letters S. H. M, in brass nails upon its lid; and among a variety of other strange things scattered up and down, he descried three other trunks, of different sizes, all of them with the same letters.

Very disagreeable ideas now crowded upon his imagination, and sensible how dangerous his situation was, he was about to make a hasty retreat, when, as he moved away, a bright object glan

amongst some branches of brushwood, lying over the rafters at the farther end of the hut. As he looked with more attention, he thought it resembled a silver button. The brushwood seemed to be pressed down just in that particular spot, as if from a superincumbent weight, and he was seized with an irresistible desire to ascertain what was there. He lifted up a şmall fragment of lighted fir, and proceeded to satisfy himself. His eyes rested upon a ghastly human face, which being turned downwards, stared at him from among the withered branches.


ced upon

He started involuntarily, and put his hand to his gun, believing it was some one with whom he should have to contend; but it moved not, and he discovered, with the utmost horror, that the eyes, though wide open, were fixed in death.

Availing himself of a large chest standing underneath, he mounted, and raised his head and shoulders through between the rafters, and, holding up his light, he discovered the dead body of an officer in full regimentals. He put his hand on the corpse, and felt that it was still so warm as to indicate the murder to have been very recent.

He had hardly time to give it a cursory examination, when he was alarmed by the sound of numerous voices, and the noise of feet running towards the hut. All chance of retreating unperceived was cut off. What was to be done ? To be discovered in his present situation would ensure his murder, as his single fowling-piece could have been but of small avail against many armed men. There was nothing for it but immediate 'concealment. He had not a moment to deliberate. The gang were alınost at the door. He extinguished his torch, and, drawing himself and his gun hastily up between the rafters, he laid himself at length by the dead body on the birch boughs.

He had hardly crept out of sight, before a party of seven or eight Highlanders came hastily into the hovel, vociferating in Gaelic, and exhibiting every appearance of having made a precipitate retreat into their concealment. They were all armed, most of them with long guns, and all with broad-swords, dirks, and pistols, and at their head was Alexander Macgillivray. From the spot where he lay, he commanded a sufficiently distinct view of the scene below, through the interstices of the dry birch boughs, which sufficiently concealed him. The men hastily shut and barred the door behind them, as if apprehensive of pursuit, and, drawing around the fire, they continued their clamorous talk in Gaelic.

“ Winna ye no gie ower wi' yere damned Erse, and let a body ken what ye’re saying?” cried one of them, whom Amherst immediately recognized as the person, with whom Alexander Macgillivray had held so much close converse in his way down the glen, when returning from the deer hunt, and whose dress, as we before remarked, par

« AnteriorContinuar »