« AnteriorContinuar »
Margaret of Salisbury, the last of the proud name of Plantagenet, and those two fair queens who perished by the jealous rage of Henry. Such was the dust with which the dust of Monmouth was mingled.
2.-THE FUNERAL OF THE FISHERMAN'S SON, FROM THE
ANTIQUARY. The Antiquary, being now alone, hastened his pace, and soon arrived before the half-dozen cottages at Mussel-crag. They now had, in addition to their usual squalid and uncomfortable appearance, the melancholy attributes of the house of mourning. The boats were all drawn up on the beach; and, though the day was fine and the season favourable, the chant, which is used by the fishers when at sea, was silent, as well as the prattle of the children, and the shrill song of the mother as she sits mending her nets by the door. A few of the neighbours, some in their antique and well-saved suits of black, others in their ordinary clothes, but all bearing an expression of mournful sympathy with distress so sudden and unexpected, stood gathered around the door of Mucklebackit's cottage, waiting till “the body was lifted.” As the Laird of Monkbarns approached, they made way for him to enter, doffing their hats and bonnets as he passed with an air of melancholy courtesy, and he returned their salutes in the same manner.
In the inside of the cottage was a scene which our Wilkie alone could have painted with that exquisite feeling of nature that characterizes his enchanting productions.
The body was laid in its coffin within the wooden bedstead which the young fisher had occupied while alive. At a little distance stood the father, whose rugged weather-beaten countenance, shaded by his grizzled hair, had faced many a stormy night and nightlike day. He was apparently revolving his loss in bis mind with that strong feeling of painful grief peculiar to harsh and rough characters, which almost breaks forth into hatred against the world and all that remain in it after the beloved object is withdrawn. The old man had made the most desperate efforts to save his son, and had been withheld only by main force from renewing them at a moment when, without the possibility of assisting the sufferer, he must himself have perished. All this apparently was boiling in his recollection. His glance was directed sidelong towards the coffin as to an object on which he could not steadfastly look, and yet from which he could not withdraw his eyes. His answers to the necessary questions which were occasionally put to him were brief, harsh, and almost fierce. His family had not yet dared to address to him a word either of sympathy or consolation. His masculine wife, virago as she was, and absolute mistress of the family, as she justly boasted herself on all ordinary occasions, was, by this great loss, terrified into silence and submission, and compelled to hide from her husband's observation the bursts of her female sorrow. As he had rejected food ever since the disaster had happened, not daring herself to approach him, she had that morning with affectionate artifice employed the youngest and favourite child to present her husband with some nourishment. His first action was to push it from him with an angry violence that frightened the child, his next, to snatch up the boy and devour him with kisses. Such was the disconsolate state of the father.
In another corner of the cottage, her face covered by her apron, which was flung over it, sat the mother, the nature of her grief sufficiently indicated by the wringing of her hands and the convulsive agitations of her bosom, which the covering could not conceal. Two of her gossips, officiously whispering into her ear the commonplace topic of resignation under irremediable misfortune, seemed as if they were endeavouring to stem the grief which they could not console. The sorrow of the children was mingled with wonder at the preparations they beheld around them, and at the unusual display of wheaten bread and wine, which the poorest peasant or fisher offers to the guests on these mournful occasions; and thus their grief for their brother's death was almost already lost in admiration of the splendour of his funeral.
The coffin, covered with a pall, and supported upon handspikes by the nearest relatives, now only waited the father to support the head as is customary. Two or three of these privileged persons spoke to him, but he answered only by shaking his hand and his head in token of refusal..
The mourners, in regular gradation according to their rank or their relationship to the deceased, had filed from the cottage, while the younger male children were led along to totter after the bier of their brother, and to view with wonder a ceremonial which they could hardly comprehend. The female gossips next rose to depart, and, with consideration for the situation of the parents, carried along with them the girls of the family, to give the unhappy pair time and opportunity to open their hearts to each other, and soften their grief by communicating it. But their kind intention was without effect. The last of them had darkened the entrance of the cottage as she went out, and drawn the door softly behind her, when the father, first ascertaining by a hasty glance that no stranger remained, started up, clasped his hands wildly above his head, uttered a cry of despair which he had hitherto repressed, and, in all the impotent impatience of grief, half rushed, half staggered forward to the bed on which the coffin had been deposited, threw himself down upon it, and smothering, as it were, his head among the bed-clothes, gave vent to the full passion of his sorrow. It was in vain that the wretched mother, terrified by the vehemence of her husband's affliction-affliction still more fearful as agitating a man of hardened manners and a robust framesuppressed her own sobs and tears, and, pulling him by the skirts of his coat, implored him to rise and remember that, though one was removed, he had still a wife and children to comfort and support. The appeal came at too early a period of his anguish, and was totally unattended to; he continued to remain prostrate, indicating, by sobs so bitter and violent, that they shook the bed and partition against which it rested, by clenched hands which grasped the bed-clothes, and by the vehement and convulsive motion of his legs, how deep and how terrible was the agony of a father's sorrow. Scott.
3.-MARIA.- PART I. They were the sweetest notes I ever heard; and I instantly let down the fore-glass to hear them more distinctly. —'Tis Maria, said the postilion, observing I was listeningPoor Maria, continued he, (leaning his body on one side to let me see her, for he was in a line betwixt us), is sitting upon a bank playing her vespers upon her pipe, with her little goat beside her.
The young fellow uttered this with an accent and a look so perfectly in tune to a feeling heart, that I instantly made a vow, I would give him a four-and-twenty sous piece, when I got to Moulines.
And who is poor Maria ? said I. The love and pity of all the villages around us, said the postilion—it is but three years ago, that the sun did not shine upon so fair, so quick-witted, and amiable a maid; and better fate did Maria deserve, than to have her banns forbid, by the intrigues of the curate of the parish who published them.
He was going on, when Maria, who had made a short pause, put the pipe to her mouth and began the air again—they were the same notes ;-yet were ten times sweeter: It is the evening service to the Virgin, said the young man—but who has taught her to play it or how she came by her pipe, no one knows; we think that Heaven has assisted her in both; for ever since she has been unsettled in her mind, it seems her only consolation—she has never once had the pipe out of her hand, but plays that service upon it almost night and day.
The postilion delivered this with so much discretion and natural eloquence, that I could not help deciphering something in his face above his condition, and should have sifted out his history, had not poor Maria's taken such full possession of me.
We had got up by this time almost to the bank where Maria was sitting: she was in a thin white jacket, with her hair, all but two tresses, drawn up into a silk net, with a few olive leaves twisted a little fantastically on one side-she was beautiful; and if ever I felt the full force of an honest heart-ach, it was the moment I saw her.
God help her! poor damsel ! above a hundred masses, said the postilion, have been said in the several parish churches and convents around, for her,—but without effect; we have still hopes, as she is sensible for short intervals, that the Virgin at last will restore her to herself; but her parents, who know her best, are hopeless upon that score, and think her senses are lost for ever.
As the postilion spoke this, Maria made a cadence so melancholy, so tender and querulous, that I sprung out of the chaise to help her, and found myself sitting betwixt her and her goat before I relapsed from my enthusiasm.
Maria looked wistfully for some time at me, and then at her goat,--and then at me- —and then at her goat again, and so on, alternately.
Well, Maria, said I softly—what resemblance do you find ?
I do entreat the candid reader to believe me, that it was from the humblest conviction of what a beast man is, that I asked the question; and that I would not have let fall an unseasonable pleasantry in the venerable presence of Misery, to be entitled to all the wit that Rabelais ever scattered.
Adieu, Maria -adieu, poor hapless damsell some time, but not now, I may hear thy sorrows from thy own lips—but I was deceived; for that moment she took her pipe and told me such a tale of woe with it, that I rose up, and with broken and irregular steps walked softly to my chaise. STERNE.
WHEN we had got within half a league of Moulines, at a little opening in the road leading to a thicket, I discovered poor Maria sitting under a poplar-she was sitting with her elbow in her lap, and her head leaning on one side within her hand -a small brook ran at the foot of the tree.
I bade the postilion go on with the chaise to Moulines—and La Fleur to bespeak my supper—and that I would walk after him.