PERHAPS you are all acquainted with the history of the Black Watch, which, as Mr. Macpherson has already told you, was afterwards formed into that gallant corps now immortalised by its actions as the Forty-Second Highlanders? General Stewart of Garth, in his interesting account of the Highland Regiments, tells us that it was originally composed of independent companies, which were raised about 1725 or 1730. These were stationed in small bodies in different parts of the country, in order to preserve the peace of the Highlands. It was, in some sort, a great National Guard, and it was considered so great an honour to belong to it, that most of the privates were the sons of gentlemen or tenants. Most of them generally rode on horseback, and had gillies to carry their arms at all times, except when they were on parade or on duty. they were called Freiceadan Dubh, or the Black Watch, from the dark colour of their well-known regimental tartan, in opposition to the Seider-Deargg, or Red Soldiers, who were so named from the colour of their coats. You may probably remember the circumstance of their having been most unfairly marched to London, under the pretence that they were to be reviewed by the King, – of their having been ordered abroad, – of their refusal to go, – of their having been moved, as if by one impulse pervading every indignant bosom among them, to make that most extraordinary march of retreat which they effected to Northampton, – of their having been ultimately brought under subjection,* – and, finally, of their brave conduct in Flanders, from which country they returned in October 1745.
After their return to Great Britain, the Black Watch were ordered into Kent, instead of being sent into Scotland with the troops under General Hawley, to act against those who had risen for Prince Charles. This arrangement probably arose entirely from great consideration and delicacy on the part of the government, who, fully aware of the high honour of the individuals of the corps, never entertained the smallest doubt of their loyalty, but who felt the cruelty of exposing men to the dreadful alternative of fighting against their friends and relatives, many of whom were necessarily to be found in the ranks of the insurgents. There were, however, three additional companies raised in the Highlands, a little time before the return of the regiment from abroad. These were kept in Scotland, and however distressing to their feelings the duty was which they were called upon to perform, on the side for which they were enlisted, they did that duty most honourably. One of these was recruited and commanded by Duncan Campbell, laird of Inverawe.
After various services in their own country during the period that the rest of the corps was abroad for the second time, these three companies were ordered to embark, in March 1748, to join the regiment in Flanders. But the preliminaries of peace having been soon afterwards signed, the order was countermanded, and they were reduced.
During the time that Campbell of Inverawe’s company was occupied in the unpleasant duty to which I have alluded, he had been on one occasion compelled to march into the district of Lorn, and to burn and destroy the houses and effects of a few small gentlemen, who were of that resolute description that they would have sacrificed all they had, and even life itself, rather than yield to what they held to be the government of an usurper. Having been thus led to pursue his route, in a certain direction, for many a mile, he happened, on his return, to be detained behind his men by some accidental circumstance, and having lost his way after night-fall, he wandered about alone for several hours, until he became considerably oppressed with hunger and fatigue. With the expectation of gathering some better knowledge of his way, he left the lower grounds, where the darkness of night had settled more deeply and decidedly down, and he climbed the side of a hill with the hope of benefitting, in some degree, by the half twilight which lingers longer upon these elevations, continuing to rest upon them sometimes for hours after it has altogether deserted their lower regions. With the dogged perseverance of one who labours on because he has no other alternative, he blindly pursued his hap-hazard course in a diagonal line along the abrupt face, always rising as he proceeded, until his way became every moment more and more difficult. The side of the hill became steeper and steeper at every step, until he began to be satisfied that he had no chance of reaching its brow, except by retracing his steps, in order to discover some other means of ascending to it. To any such alternative as this he could by no means make up his mind. He cursed his own folly for allowing his company to march on without him. He uttered many a wish that he was with them. He felt sufficiently convinced that he had acted imprudently in having thus exposed himself alone, in the midst of a district which was yet reeking with the vengeance which his duty had compelled him so unwillingly to pour out upon it. But his courage was indomitable, and his way lay onwards, and onwards he without hesitation resolved to go.
He had not proceeded far, until high cliffs began to rear themselves over his head, whilst, from his very feet, perpendicular precipices shot down into the deep night that prevailed below. The goat or deer track that he followed became every moment more and more blocked up with stony fragments, until at length it offered one continuous series of dangerous steps, requiring his utmost care and attention to preserve him from a slip or fall that might have been fatal.
Whilst he was thus proceeding, with his whole attention occupied in self-preservation, he was suddenly challenged in Gaelic by a rough voice in his front.
“Who comes there?”
“A friend,” replied Inverawe, in the same language in which he was addressed.
“I am not sure of that,” said the same voice hoarsely and bitterly. “Is he alone?”
“He is alone,” said a voice a little way behind Inverawe; “we are quite safe.”
“Come on then, sir,” said the voice inn front, “you have nothing to fear.”
“Fear!” cried Inverawe, in a tone which implied that any such feeling had ever been a stranger to him; “I fear nothing.”
“I know you to be a brave man, Inverawe!” said the man who now appeared in front of him. “Come on then without apprehension. You need not put your hand into the guard of your claymore, for no one here will harm you. But what strange chance has brought you here?”
“The loss of my way,” replied Inverawe. “But how do you come to know me so well?”
“It is no matter how I know you,” replied the other. “It is sufficient that I do know you, and know you to be a brave man, to whom, as such, I am prepared to do what kindness I can. What are your wants then, and what can I do for you?”
“My wants are, simply to find my lost way, and then to procure some food, of which I stand much in need,” replied Inverawe.
“Be at ease then, for I shall help you to both,” replied the person with whom he was conversing; “but methinks your last want requires to be first attended to, as the most urgent; so follow me, and look sharply to your footing.” Then, speaking in a louder tone to some individuals, who, though unseen, were posted somewhere in the obscurity to the rear of Inverawe, he said, “Look well to your post, lads, I shall be with you by-and-bye.” And then again turning to Inverawe, he added – “Come on, sir, you must climb up this way; the ascent is steep, and you will require to use hands as well as feet. Goats were wont to be the only travellers here, and even they must have been hardy ones. But troublous times will often people the desert cliffs themselves with human beings, and scare the very eagle from her aerie, that she may yield her lodging to weary man.”
Inverawe now began to clamber up after his guide up a steep, tortuous, and dangerous ascent, where in some places they were compelled to pull up their bodies by the strength of their hands and arms. It lasted for some time; and he of the Black Watch, albeit well accustomed to such work, was beginning to be very weary of it, when at length they landed on a tolerably wide natural ledge, where Inverawe perceived that the cliffs that arose from the inner angle of it so overhung their base as to render it self-evident that all farther ascent in this direction was cut off by them. Rounding a huge fallen mass of rock, which lay poised on the very edge of the precipice, they came suddenly on a ravine, or rift, in the face of the cliff above, on climbing a few paces up which, they discovered the low, arched mouth of a cave, whence issued a faint gleam of light, and an odour of smoke. His guide stooped under the projection of the cliff that hung over it, and let himself down through the narrow entrance. Inverawe followed his example without fear, and found himself in a cavern of an irregular form, from ten to twenty feet in diameter. This he discovered partly by the light of a fire of peats that smouldered near the entrance, and partially filled the place with smoke, but more perfectly by a torch of bog-fir which his guide immediately lighted. But he felt no curiosity about this, in comparison with that which he experienced in regard to the figure and features of his guide, with which he was intensely anxious to make himself acquainted.
He was a tall and remarkably fine looking man, considerably below middle age. He was dressed in a grey plaid and kilt, betokening disguise, but with the full compliment of Highland armour about him. His hair hung in long black curls around his head. His face was very handsome, his nose aquiline, his mouth small and well formed, having its upper lip graced by a dark and well-trimmed moustache. His eyes, and his whole general expression, were extremely benignant. After scanning his face with great attention, Inverawe was satisfied that he never had seen him before, and he had ample opportunity of ascertaining the reverse, if it had been otherwise, for the man stood with the bog-fir torch blazing in his hand, as if he wished to give his guest the fullest advantage of it in his scrutiny of him, and then, as if guessing the conclusion to which that scrutiny had brought him, he at last began to speak.
“Aye,” said he calmly, “you are right, Inverawe. Your eyes have never beheld me until this moment. But I have seen you to my cost. I was looking on all the while that you and your men were burning and destroying my house, goods, and gear, this blessed morning, and I can never forget you.”
“I know you not, that is certain,” replied Inverawe; “and the cruel duty we were on to-day was so extensive in its operation, that I cannot even guess whom you are.”
“You shall never know it from me, Inverawe,” replied the other.
“And why not?” demanded Inverawe.
“From no fear for myself,” replied the stranger; “but because I would not add to that remorse, which you must feel, from being compelled to execute deeds which are as unworthy of you, as I know they are contrary to your generous and kindly nature. I have suffered from you deeply – deeply indeed have I suffered. But I look upon you but as an involuntary minister of the vengeance of a cruel Government, and perhaps as an agent in the hand of a just God, who would punish me for those sins and frailties which are inherent in my human nature. I blame not you, and I can have no feeling of anger against you, far less of revenge. Give me, then, the right hand of fellowship.”
“Willingly, most willingly!” said Inverawe, cordially shaking hands with him. “You are a noble high-minded man; for certainly I can imagine what your feelings might have very naturally been against me, and I know that I am now in your power.”
“All I ask, Inverawe, is this,” continued the stranger; “that as I have been, and will continue to be honourable towards you, you will be the same to me; and in asking that, I know that I am asking what is sure to be granted. The confidence in your honour which I have shown by bringing you here, will not be betrayed.”
“Never!” said Inverawe, with energy. “Never while I have life!”
“I know I can rely upon you,” said the stranger; “and now let me hasten to give you such refreshment as I possess. Sit down, I pray you, as near to the ground as possible, you will find that the smoke will annoy you less.”
Inverawe did as his host had recommended, and, seating himself on some heather which lay on the floor of the place, the stranger opened a wicker pannier that stood in a low recess, and speedily produced from it various articles of food, of no mean description, together with a bottle of French wine, and, spreading the viands before his guest, he seated himself by him, and they ate and drank together. They had little conversation; and the stranger no sooner saw that Inverawe’s hunger was satisfied, than he arose, and proposed that he should now guide him on his journey. Creeping from the hole, therefore, they descended the crags together, with all that care which the steepness of the declivity rendered necessary, until they came to the spot where they had first encountered each other, and then the stranger began to guide Inverawe onwards in the same direction he had been formerly pursuing.
They had not proceeded far, until they were challenged by voices among the rocks, showing that his host’s place of retreat was protected by sentinels in all quarters. His guide answered the challenge, and they then went on without molestation. After about an hour’s walk over very rugged ground, during which they wound over the mountain, and threaded their way through various bogs and woods, that completely bewildered Inverawe, his guide suddenly brought him out upon a road which he well knew, and then shaking hands with him, and bidding him farewell, he dived again into the wood, and disappeared.
Inverawe rejoined his company at their night’s quarters. They had spent an anxious time, regarding him, during his absence, and they were clamorous in their enquiries as to what had become of him. He gave them an account of the circumstance of his losing his way; but he told them not a syllable of his adventure with the stranger, resolving that it should be forever buried in his own bosom. There, however, it produced many a thought; and often did he earnestly hope, that chance might again bring him into contact with the man who had taken so noble a revenge of him – to whom he felt as an honest bankrupt might do towards his generous and forgiving creditor; and whose person and features he had engraven so deeply on his recollection, to be embalmed there amidst the warmest and kindliest affections of his heart.
It was soon after the disbanding of his company, that Campbell of Inverawe returned to his own romantic territory, and to his ancient castle, standing in the midst of beautiful natural lawns, surrounded by wooded banks and knolls, lying at the north-western base of the mighty Ben-Cruachan. Speaking in a general way, the country around was thickly covered with oak and birch woods, giving double value, both in point of beauty and utility, to the rich, glady pastures, which were seen to spread their verdant surface to the sun, along the course of the river Awe. Behind the grey towers of the building, broken rocks arose here and there, in bare masses, in the direction of the mountain, – whilst the blue expanse of Loch Etive stretched away from the eye towards the north-east, as well as to the west. To the south-west, the groves, and grassy slopes, were abruptly broken off by the perpendicular crags of the romantic ravine through which the river makes its way, to pour itself across the open haughs of Bunawe, and into Loch Etive. To sketch out the remainder of the neighbourhood, so that you may be fully aware of the nature of the country, which was the scene where one of the most important circumstances of my tale took place, I may add, that about a mile above the ravine, the river has its origin from a long narrow arm of Loch Awe, which presents one of the most romantic ranges of scenery in Scotland. The lake in the bottom, is there everywhere about eighty or an hundred yards wide only; and whilst a bare, rocky mountain front, furrowed by many a misty cataract, rises sheer up out of the water on its western side, the steep, lofty, and rugged face of Cruachan shuts it in on the eastern side, forming the grand and wild pass of Brandera. Here the mountain exhibits every variety of picturesque form, – of prominent crag, and half-concealed hollow, among which the grey mists are continually playing and producing magical effects; together with deep torrent beds, and innumerable waterfalls, thundering downwards unseen, save in glimpses, amid the thick copse which, generation after generation, has sprung from the stools of those giant oaks, which were once permitted to rear their spreading heads, and to throw their bold arms freely abroad athwart the rocky steeps that rear themselves so high up above, as to be softened by distance and air, till they almost melt from human vision.
Having thus put you in possession of the scenery, I shall now proceed to tell you, that Campbell of Inverawe, after his long absence from home on military duty, felt all the luxury of enjoyment which these his own quiet scenes could bestow. And his mind expanding to all his old friendships, he largely exercised all the hospitalities of life. Frequently did he fill the hall of his fathers with gay and merry feasters, and his own hilarious disposition always made him the very soul of the mirth that prevailed among them.
On one occasion, it happened that he had congregated a large party together. The wine circulated freely. The fire bickered on the hearth, and threw a cheerful blaze over the walls of the hall, reddening the very roof, and gleaming on the warlike weapons that hung around. The wine was good, – the jests were merry, – and the conversation sparkling, so that the guests were as loath to depart as their kind host was unwilling to let them go. His lady had retired to her chamber – but still they sat on, making the old building ring again with their jocund laughter. But all things must have an end. The parting cup, to their host’s rooftree, was proposed by a certain young man called George Campbell, and it was filled to the brim. But as all were on their legs to drain it, with heart and good will, to the bottom, a rattling peal of thunder rolled directly over their heads. there was not a man of them that did not feel that the omen was appalling. Some hardy ones tried to laugh it off, as a salvo from heaven in homologation of their good wishes to the house of Inverawe. But the pleasantry went ill down with the rest. Servants were called for, – horses were ordered, and out poured their owners to mount them, – when they were all surprised to see the heavens quite serene and tranquil. But not a word of remark was ventured by any one on this so very strange a circumstance. Their hospitable entertainer saw every man of them take his stirrup cup; and they galloped away, one after the other.
After they were all gone, Inverawe paced about in the courtyard for some time, in sombre thought, which stole involuntarily upon him. He then sought his way upstairs, and lifting an oaken chair towards the great hearth, where the billets had by this time begun to burn red, and without flame, he sat down in it for a while, listlessly to ponder over the events of the evening. The weary servants had gladly stolen away to bed, and the whole castle was soon as silent as the grave. Not a sound was to be heard within the walls but the dull, drowsy buzzing of a large fly, when the flickering light of a solitary lamp, left on the table, had prevented from retiring to some cranny of repose. The master of the mansion smiled for a moment, as the whimsical idea crossed him, that this tiny insect was perhaps the only thing of life which, at that time, kept watch with him within the castle.
Inverawe’s thoughts reverted to the last toast which had been given by his young friend Campbell, and the strange circumstances by which it had been accompanied. He had an only son, called Donald, a promising young man, who was the prop of his house, and too whose future career in life he looked forward with all a father’[s anxiety. He had been long accustomed to weave a silken tissue of anticipated happiness and honours for the young man, and to view him, in his mind’s eye, as the father of many generations to come. The youth was at that time from home; and this was the very first moment of his life that the notion of there being any chance of his being one day left childless had ever occurred to him. He tried to shake off these gloomy presentiments, but still they returned, and clung to him with a force and pertinacity that no reason could conquer. He would fain have risen to go to his chamber, but he felt as if some powerful, though unseen, hand had held him down to his chair, – and he continued to sit on, absorbed in contemplative musings on these gloomy and painful dreams, till the billets on the hearth had consumed themselves to their red embers.
Suddenly all such thoughts were put to flight from his mind. He distinctly heard the great outer door of the castle creak upon its hinges. He remembered, that although he had not locked it, he had shut it behind him when he came in. It now banged against its doorway, and sent a hollow sound echoing up the long turnpike stair. Faint, quick, and stealthy foot-steps were then heard ascending. One or two other doors were moved in succession. The footsteps approached with cautious expedition. And as Inverawe listened with breathless attention, the door of the hall was thrust open, – a human countenance appeared for an instant in the dusky aperture – and then a man, with a naked dirk in his hand, – his clothes dripping wet, – his long hair hanging streaming over his shoulders, and half veiling his glaring eyes and pale and haggard countenance, rushed in, and made straight up to him.
Inverawe started to his feet, drew his dirk, and prepared to defend himself from the unlooked for attempt at assassination. But ere he had well plucked it forth from its sheath, the intruder assumed the attitude of a suppliant.
“For mercy’s sake pardon my unceremonious entrance, Inverawe!” said the stranger, in a hollow, husky, and exhausted voice. “And be not alarmed, for I come with no hostile intention against you or yours. I am an unfortunate wretch who, in a sudden quarrel, have shed the blood of a fellow-creature. He was a man of Lorn. I have been hotly pursued by his friends, and though I have thrown those who are after me considerably out during the long chase they have kept up, yet they are still pressing like blood-hounds on my track. To baffle them, if possible, I threw myself into the river, and swam across it, and I now claim that protection, and that hospitality, which no one ever failed to find within the house of Inverawe.”
“By Cruachan!” cried Inverawe, sheathing his dirk, and slapping it smartly with the open palm of his hand – “By Cruachan, I swear that you shall have both!”
Now, I must tell you, that this was considered as the most solemn pledge that a Campbell of Inverawe could give. Their war-cry was, “Coar-a-Cruachan,” that is, “Help from Cruachan.” And this expression had a double meaning, inasmuch as the word Cruachan had reference both to the mountain of that name and to the hip where the dirk hung. To swear by Cruachan, therefore, and to strengthen the oath by slapping the dirk with the open palm, was to utter an oath which must, under all circumstances, be for ever held inviolable.
“But tell me,” said Inverawe, “how happened this unlucky affair?”
“We were all met to make merry at a wedding,” replied the stranger, “when, as I was dancing with – But hold! – I hear voices! They approach the castle! I am lost if you do not hide me immediately.”
“This way,” said Inverawe, leading him to a certain obscure part of the hall. “Aid me to lift this trap. – Now, down with ye and crouch there. – They come.”
Inverawe had barely time to drop the trap-door into its place, to resume his seat at the fire, and to affect to be in a deep sleep, when the voices and the sound of human footsteps were heard ascending the stairs. Three men entered the hall in reeking haste – claymores in hand. They rushed towards the fire-place, where he was sitting. Inverawe started up as if just awaked by the noise they made, and drew his dirk, as if to defend himself from their meditated attack.
“Ha!” cried he with well-feigned surprise. “Assassins! Then must I sell my life as dearly as I can.”
“Not assassins!” cried they. “We are not assassins, Inverawe. we crave your pardon for this apparently rude intrusion, but we are in pursuit of an assassin. We come to look for a man who has murdered another. Have we your permission to search for him?”
“Certainly,” said Inverawe, “wherever you please.”
“He cannot be here, said one of the men. “I told you that he could not be here. Don’t you see plainly that he could not have come in here without awaking Inverawe. We lose time here. We had better be on after our friends.”
“Depend on’t he has run up Loch Etive side,” said another of them.
“What are all these wet foot-steps on the floor?” said the first of them that spoke. “He might have been here without Inverawe’s knowledge.”
“Don’t you see that Inverawe has had a feast, and that wine, water, and whisky too, have been flowing in gallons in all directions?” said the second man. “See there is a large pool of lost liquor. I verily believe that some of these footsteps are my own, made this moment, by walking accidentally through it. I tell you he never could have come here.”
“It is true that I have had a feast,” said Inverawe, carelessly, “as you may see from the wrecks of it that still remain on the table.”
“I told you so,” said the second man. “We only lose time here. If you had only been guided by my counsel we might have been hard at his heels by this time, as well as the rest.”
“Haste then, let us go!” said the first man.
“Away! away!” cried his companions, and, without waiting for further parley, they rushed out of the hall, and Inverawe heard with some satisfaction, their footsteps hurrying down stairs, and the shouts which they yelled forth after their companions, growing fainter and fainter, until they were altogether lost in the direction of Loch Etive.
Inverawe was no sooner certain that they were fairly gone, without all risk of returning, than he proceeded, in the first place, to secure the outer door of the castle, and then returning to the hall he went to the trap-door, and calling softly to the man concealed below it, he desired him to aid him in raising it, by applying his strength to force it upwards, and thus their united strength enabled them speedily to open it, and to lift it up.
“Come forth now, unfortunate man,” said Inverawe; “your pursuers are gone.”
“I come,” said the stranger, in his husky hoarse voice, and as he raised himself from the trap-door, his haggard countenance, and his blood-shot eyes, that glared with the horror of his situation, half seen as they were through his long moist locks, chilled Inverawe’s very heart as he looked upon him.
“Now, sir,” said Inverawe, “you are safe for the present, your pursuers have passed on.”
“Thanks! thanks!” replied the man; “I know not how sufficiently to thank you.”
“Aye – all is so far well for you,” said Inverawe; “but concealment for you here is impossible. You must remove into a place of more certain safety, and no time is to be lost. At present you may remove without observation or suspicion; but no one can say how soon the search for you hereabouts may be renewed. Here,” continued he, setting before him some of the remains of the feast, which the tired servants had not removed from the sideboard; “take what refreshment circumstances may allow, whilst I go for a basket, in which to carry food enough to last you during to-morrow. We must go to Ben-Cruachan, with as much secrecy and expedition as we can.”
The stranger, thus left for a few minutes by himself, hastily devoured some of the viands, of which he had much need, and having swallowed a full cup of wine, he was rejoined by Inverawe with a basket, into which he hastily packed some provisions, and, without a moment’s delay, they quietly and stealthily quitted the hall and the castle, and the moment they found themselves in the open air, Inverawe led the way diagonally up the slope on the western side of Ben-Cruachan.
Their way was long, and their path rough, and they moved on through the woods, and over rocks, without uttering a word. Many a half expressed exclamation, indeed, burst involuntarily from the stranger, betraying a mind ill at ease with itself, and many a start did he give, as if he apprehended surprise from some lurking pursuer; and Inverawe shuddered to think that the haggard appearance of the man, and these his guilty-like apprehensions, were more in accordance with the accusation of murder, or unfair slaughter, which seemed to have been made against him, by the expressions of some of those who had come into the hall in search of him, than with the chance-medley killing of a man in an affray, which was the complexion he had himself wished to put on the matter. Be this as it might, however, his most solemn pledge had been given for his security, and accordingly he determined honourably to fulfil it, at all hazards to himself. His reflections, as he went with this man, were of anything but a pleasing nature.
After a long and painful walk, or rather race, for their pace had been more like that than walking, Inverawe began to climb up the abrupt face of Cruachan, till he came to that part of it which hangs over the northern entrance of the Pass of Brandera, where the river Awe breaks away from the end of the narrow branch of the lake, and there, after some scrambling, he led the stranger high up the face of the mountain, to a cave that yawned in the perpendicular cliff. The concealment here was perfect, for its mouth was masked in front by a cairn of large stones, which might have been accidentally accumulated by falling during successive ages from the rocks above, or perhaps artificially piled up there in memory of some person or event long since forgotten. It was moreover surrounded by trees of all sorts of growth; indeed, the universal wooding which prevailed over the surrounding features of nature, of itself rendered any object on the ground of the mountain side difficult to be discovered by any creature that did not, like an eagle, mount into the sky. In addition to this, the great elevation of the position added to the security of the place, and the ravine-seamed front of the perpendicular mountain of rock that guarded the western side of the pass, immediately opposite to the face of Cruachan, precluded all chance of observation from that quarter.
“This is not exactly the place where Campbell of Inverawe wold wish to exercise his hospitality, to anyone who deigns to ask for his protection,” said the Laird, whilst he was engaged in striking a light; “but in your circumstances it is the best retreat in which I can extend it towards you. Here is a lamp; and I will leave this tinder-box, and this flask of oil with you. The cave is dry enough, and there is abundance of heather to be had around you. Use your lamp only when you may find it absolutely necessary so to do; for its light might betray you; and take care to show yourself as little as possible during the daylight of to-morrow. I have promised you protection by Cruachan, and by Cruachan you shall have it. You must be contented with this my assurance for the present, for your safety demands that I shall not see you again, until I can do so without observation, under the veil of to-morrow-night’s darkness. Till then, you must e’en do with such provisions as this basket contains, and you may reckon on my bringing a fresh supply with me when I return. Farewell, for I must hurry back, so as to escape discovery.”
“Thanks! thanks! kind Inverawe!” said the man, in a state of extreme agitation and excitement, – “a thousand thanks! But, must you – must you leave me thus alone? Alone, for a whole night, on this wild mountain side, with that yawning hole for my place of rest, and with nothing but the roar of these eternal cataracts, mingled with the wild howl of the wind through the pass to lull me to repose! That cairn, too! – may not that be a cairn which marks the spot where – where – where some murder has been done? Can you assure me that no ghosts ever haunt this wild place?”
“The soul that is free from all consciousness of guilt may hold patient, solitary, and fearless converse with ghost or goblin, even on such a wild mountain side as this,” said Inverawe, somewhat impatiently. “But surely you cannot expect that my hospitality to you should require my sharing this mountain concealment with you? If you do, I must tell you, what common prudence ought to teach you, that if I were disposed to do so, nothing could be more unwise, as nothing could more certainly lead to your detection. My absence from home would create so much surprise and anxiety, that the whole country would turn out to seek for me, and their search for me, could not fail to produce your discovery. Even now, I may be risking it by thus delaying to return.”
“True, true, Inverawe!” said the stranger, in a desponding tone, and apparently making a strong effort to command his feelings. “There is too much truth in what you say. I must steel myself up to this night. My safety, as you say, demands it. Yet, ‘tis a terrible trial! Would that the dawn were come! Is it far from day?”
“I hope it is, indeed,” replied Inverawe, “else might my absence and all be discovered. It cannot, as yet, as I suppose, be much after midnight; but even that is late enough for me. I must borrow the swiftness of the roebuck to carry me back. So again I say farewell till to-morrow-night.”
Inverawe tarried not for an answer, but, darting off through the wood, he rapidly descended among the rocks, and then bounded over all the obstacles in his way, with a swiftness almost rivalling that of the animal he had alluded to; and so he reached his own door, in a space of time so short, as to be almost incredible. The fire in the hall had now sank into white ashes. The lamp, which he had left burning, was now flickering in its last expiring efforts. He swallowed a single draught of wine to restore his exhausted strength, and then he stole to his chamber, and crept into bed, happy in the conviction that his lady, who was in a deep sleep, had never discovered that he had been absent.
The sleep that immediately fell upon Inverawe himself was that of the most perfect unconsciousness of existence. He knew not, of course, how long it had lasted, nor was he, in the least degree, sensible of the cause or manner of its interruption. But he did awake, somehow or other; and then it was that he discovered, to his great wonder and astonishment, that the chamber which, on going to bed, he had left as dark as the most impenetrable night could make it, was now illuminated with a lambent light, of a bluish cast, which shone through the very curtains of his bed. A certain feeling of awe crept chillingly over him; for he was at once convinced that the light was something very different from the dawn of morning. It became gradually more and more intense, till, through the thick drapery that surrounded him, he distinctly beheld the shadow of a human figure approaching his bed. He was a brave man; but he felt that every nerve and muscle of his frame was paralysed, he knew not how. he watched the slow advance of the figure with motionless awe. The shadowy arm was extended, and the curtain was slowly and silently raised. The bluish light that so miraculously pervaded the chamber, then suddenly arose to a degree of splendour that was dazzling to his sight, and clearly defined the appalling object that own presented itself to his eyes. The face and figure were those of the very man who had formerly entertained him in the hole in the same grey plaid, too. But those handsome features, which had made so deep an impression on the recollection of Inverawe, were now pale and fixed, as if all the pulses of life had ceased, and the raven locks, which hung curling around them, and the moustaches which once gave so much expression to his upper lip, now only served to increase the ghastliness of the hue of death that overspread his countenance, as well as that of the glaze of those immoveable eyes which had then exhibited so much generous intelligence. Inverawe lay petrified, his expanded orbs devouring the spectacle before them. With noiseless action, the figure dropped one corner of the shadowy plain in which it was enveloped, and displayed a gaping wound in is bosom, which appeared to pour out rivers of blood. Its lips moved not; yet it spoke, – slowly, and in a sepulchral tone.
“Inverawe! – blood must flow for blood! Shield not the murderer!”
Slowly did the spectre drop the curtain; and its shadow, seen through it, gradually faded away in the waning light, ere Inverawe could well gather together his routed faculties to his aid. He rubbed his eyes, started up in bed, leaned on his pillow, and brushed the curtain hastily aside. All was again dark and silent. Again he rubbed his eyes, and looked; but again he looked into impenetrable night.
“It was a dream,” thought, rather than said, Inverawe; “a horrible dream – but nevertheless it was a dream – curious in its coincidences, but not unnatural. Nay, it was most natural, that the strangest adventure of my past life, should be recalled by the yet stranger occurrences of this night, and that both should thus link themselves confusedly and irrationally together during sleep. Pshaw! It is absurd for a rational man to think of this illusion more. I’ll to sleep again.”
But sleep is one of those blessed conditions of human nature, which cannot be controlled or commanded by the mere will, certain to put it to flight. The vision, or whatever else it might have been, haunted his imagination, and kept his thoughts so busily occupied, that he could not sleep. When his lady awaked in the morning, she found him lying fevered, restless, and unrefreshed. Her inquiries were anxious and affectionate; but, by carelessly attributing his indisposition to the prolonged revelry of the previous evening, he at last succeeded in ridding himself of farther question, and springing from his couch, he tried to banish all thought of the unpleasant dilemma into which he had been brought, by occupying himself actively in the business of the day.
He was so far successful for a time; but as night approached, his uncomfortable reflections and anticipations began again to crowd into his mind. He must fulfil his promise of visiting his guest of the cave, a guest whom he now could not help looking upon with horror as a foul murderer; and yet, if he disbelieved the reality of the previous night’s visitation, there was no reason that he should so regard him more now, than he had done before. The difficulty of contriving the means of managing his visit, so that it should escape observation or suspicion on the part of his lady, or his domestics, was very considerable. His lady was that evening more than ordinarily solicitous about him, from the conviction that pressed upon her, that he had had little or no sleep the previous night, and remarking his jaded appearance, she eagerly urged him to retire to bed at an early hour.
“My dearest,” said he affectionately, ”I shall; but before I can do so, I have some otter-traps to set. Perhaps I had better go and finish that business now, while there is yet some twilight. Go you to your chamber, and retire to rest. I shall sleep all the sounder by and by, after breathing the fresh air of this balmy evening for an hour or so.”
The lady yielded to his persuasion, and she had no sooner left him, than he took an opportunity of filling his basket, with such provisions as he could appropriate for the stranger, with the least possible chance of detection; and putting a few of his otter-traps over all, by way of a blind, he sallied forth in the direction of the river. There he first most conscientiously made good his word, by planting his traps, and then, as it was by that time dark, he turned his steps up the side of Ben-Cruachan, and made the best of his way towards the cliffs where the cave was situated. As he drew near to its mouth, he was in some degree, alarmed by observing light proceeding from it. He approached it with caution, and, in entering it, he beheld the stranger sitting in the farthest corner of it on the bed of heather, with his figure drawn up and compressed together, and his features painfully distorted, whilst his eyes were intently fixed on vacancy. For a moment Inverawe doubted whether some fit had not seized upon him; but he started at the noise made by the entrance of his protector, and sprang up to meet him.
“Oh, Inverawe,” said he, “what a relief it is to behold you! Oh what a wretched weary time I have passed since you left me!”
“I have brought you something to comfort you,” said Inverawe, so shocked with his haggard appearance, and conscience-worn countenance, as almost to recoil from him. “You know that I could not come sooner. You seem to be exhausted with watching. You had better take some of this wine.”
“Oh, yes, yes, give me wine – a large cup of wine!” cried the stranger, wildly seizing the vessel which Inverawe had filled, and swallowing its contents with avidity. “Oh, such a time as I have spent!”
“This place is quite secure,” said Inverawe. “you have no cause for such anxiety, if you will only be prudent. But why do you keep this light burning? Did I not tell you it was most dangerous to do so. Some wandering or belated shepherd or huntsman might be guided hither by it, and if your retreat should be once discovered, your certain destruction must follow.”
“I could not remain in darkness,” replied the stranger, with a cold shudder; “it was agonising to do so! Horrid shapes continually haunted me, – horrid, horrid shapes! Even the shutting of my eyes could not exclude them. Oh, such a night as last! never have I before endured anything so horrible.”
“You must take your own way then,” said Inverawe, as he spread out the contents of the basket before him; “I am sorry that I can do nothing better for you, but this is the best fare I could provide for you, without exciting suspicion in my own house. Stay – here is a blanket to help to make your bed somewhat more comfortable. And now, I must hurry away. Yet, before I go, let me once more caution you about the light. perhaps I had better make all secure, by taking the lamp with me.”
“Oh no! no! no! no!” cried the stranger, his eyes glaring like those of a maniac, while he rushed towards the lamp and seized it up, and clasped it within his arms. “No, nothing shall rend it from me! I will sacrifice my life to preserve it. What! would you leave me to another long, long, and dreadful night? Would you leave me to utter darkness and despair?”
“Leave you I must,” replied Inverawe; “and if you will keep the lamp, you must do so at your own risk. But your thoughts must be dreadful thoughts indeed, so to disturb you. If conscious guilt be the cause of them, I can only advise you to confess yourself humbly to your Creator, and to pray for his forgiveness.”
Without waiting for a reply, Inverawe lest the cave, and made the best of his way home. On reaching his apartment, he found his lady awake.
“You have been a long time absent, Inverawe,” said she anxiously.
“I have, my love,” replied he carelessly; “the delicious air of this night induced me to stay out longer than I had intended; but I hope I shall sleep all the better for it.”
Exhausted as he was by fatigue of body and mind, as well as worn out by want of rest, Inverawe did fall asleep immediately, and his sleep was sound and deep. For aught he knew, it might have lasted for some hours, when again, as on the previous night, he was awaked, he could not tell how. The curtains of his bed were drawn close, but the same uncouth blue light which pervaded the apartment on the former night, now again rendered them quite transparent. To convince himself that he was awake, Inverawe looked round upon his wife. Even at this early stage, the light was sufficiently bright to enable him distinctly to see his lady’s features as her head lay in calm repose on the pillow beside him. He turned again towards the side of the bed, and his eyes were dazzled by the sudden increase of light, produced by the curtain being raised as before, by the extended hand of the spectre. The same well remembered features were there, pale, fixed, and corpse-like, but the expression of the brow, and bloodless lips, was more stern than it was on the previous night. Again the spectre dropped the fold of the filmy plaid that covered the bosom, and displayed the yawning gash, which continued to pour out rivers of blood. The spectacle was horrible, and Inverawe’s very arteries were frozen up. Again it spoke in a deep hollow tone, whilst its lips moved not.
“Inverawe! My first visit has been fruitless! – Once more I come to warn you that blood must flow for blood. No longer shield the murderer! Force me not to appear again, when all warning will be in vain!”
Inverawe made an effort to question it. His parched mouth, and dried and stiffened tongue, refused to do their office. The curtain fell, and the light in the room, as well as the shadow of the figure, began to wane away. He struggled to spring out of bed, but his nerves and muscles refused to obey his will, until it was gone, and all was again in darkness. the moment that his powers returned to him, he dashed back the curtain, threw himself from the bed, and searched through the roon, with outstretched arms, yet, bold and desperate as he was, he almost feared that they might embrace the cold and bloody figure which he had beheld. His search, however, was in vain, and, utterly confused and confounded, he returned to bed with his very heart as cold as ice. Fortunately, his lady had lain perfectly undisturbed, and amidst his own horror, and amidst all his own agonising agitation of thought, he felt thankful that she had escaped sharing in the terrors to which he had been subjected. As on the former night, he tried to persuade himself that all that had passed was nothing more than a dream, – but all the reasoning powers he possessed were ineffectual in removing from his mind the conviction that now laid hold of it, that it really was a spirit that had appeared to him. Sleep was banished from his eyelids for the remainder of the night; and never before had he so anxiously longed for daybreak. It came at last; and soon afterwards his lady awaked.
“Inverawe,” said she, tenderly and anxiously addressing him, “you are ill – very ill. What, in the name of all goodness, is the matter with you? Your worn-out looks tell me that something terrible has occurred to you. Your late excursion of last night has something mysterious about it. You were not wont thus to have concealment from me – from me your affectionate wife! – What is it that preys upon your mind? – I must know it.”
“Promise me, upon the honour of Inverawe’s wife,” said he, now seeing that concealment from her was no longer practicable; “Promise me on that honour which is pure and unsullied as the snow, that you will not divulge what I have to tell you, and your curiosity shall be satisfied.”
With a look of intense and apprehensive interest, the lady promised what he desired, and then Inverawe communicated to her every circumstance that had occurred to him. She was struck dumb and petrified by the narration; but she had no sooner gathered sufficient nerve to speak, than she earnestly entreated him to have nothing to do in concealing the guilty stranger.
“Let not this awful warning, now given you for the second time, be neglected,” said she. “Send for the officers of justice without delay, and give up the murderer to be tried by the offended laws of his country. You know not what curse may fall upon you, for thus trying to arrest Heaven’s judgment on the guilty man. Oh, Inverawe, it is dreadful to think of it!”
“All this earnestness on your part, my love, is natural,” said Inverawe calmly. “But think of the solemn oath I have sworn;- you would not have Inverawe – you would not have your husband – break a pledge so solemnly given? Whatever may befal me here, I cannot so dishonour myself. Besides,” added he, “whilst, on the one hand, I know that he to whom I am so pledged it like myself, a man of flesh and blood, who, for anything I know to the contrary, may, after all, be really less guilty than unfortunate; I cannot even yet say with certainty, that I have not been the sport of dreams, naturally enough arising out of the strange circumstances to which I have been exposed. But were it otherwise, and that, contrary to all our accustomed rational belief, I have indeed been visited by a spirit, what proof have I that is it a spirit of health? What proof have I that it may not be a spirit wickedly commissioned by the Father of lies to take this form, in order to seduce me into that breach of my pledge, which would forever blacken the high name of Campbell of Inverawe, and doom myself to ceaseless remorse during the rest of my days? – No, no, lady! – I must keep my solemn vow, whatever may befal me.”
The lady was silenced by these words from her husband, but her anxiety was not thereby allayed. It increased as night approached; and especially when Inverawe told her that he must again visit the man in the cave. During that day, various rumours had reached him, of people being afoot in search of a murderer, who was supposed to have found a place of concealment somewhere in that neighbourhood; and it was with some difficulty that he could suppress a hope that unconsciously arose within him, that he might be relieved from his pledge, and from his present most distressing and embarrassing position, by the accidental capture of him for whom they were searching. The duty of visiting the wretched man had now become oppressively painful to Inverawe, – and the painfulness of it was not decreased by the additional risk which he now ran of being detected. But Inverawe was not a man to abandon any duty for any such reasons. Having again privately made up his basket of provisions therefore, and put his otter traps over its contents, as formerly, he left the castle as twilight came on, and making his circuit by the river side with yet more care and caution than before, he climbed along the side of Cruachan, and in due course of time reached the mouth of the cave. The light was burning as before, and on entering the place, its inmate was sitting with a countenance and expression if possible more haggard and terrific than he had exhibited on the previous night.
“Welcome! – welcome!” cried he, starting wildly up, and speaking in a frantic tone, as he rushed forward to seize Inverawe’s cold hand in both of his, that felt like heated iron, – “welcome, my guardian angel! All other good angels have fled from me now! – And the bad! – Oh! – But you will not leave me to-night? – Oh, say that you will not leave me to-night!”
“I grieve to say, that, for your own sake, I cannot gratify you,” replied Inverawe, withdrawing his hand involuntarily from the contamination of his touch, and shrinking back with horror from the glare of his phrenzied and blood-shot eyes, though with a heart almost moved to pity for the wretch before him, whose very manhood seemed to have abandoned him. “It is vain to ask me to stay with you, as I have already frequently explained to you; but much more so, now that I have learned that there are men out searching for you in this neighbourhood, brought hither by the stong conviction that you are concealed somewhere hereabouts. This circumstance renders it imperatively necessary that you should no longer persevere in the perilous practice of burning your lamp, which exposes you to tenfold danger.”
“Talk not to me of danger!” exclaimed the man, in a dreadful state of excitement, and in a tone and words that seemed more like those of a raving madman than anything else – “I must have light – I should go distracted if I had not light. Darkness would drive me to self-destruction! I tell you it is filled with horrible shapes. Even when I shut my eyes the horrible spectre appears. Have pity! – have mercy on me, and stay with me but this one single night! – for even the light of the lamp itself cannot always banish the terrific spectre from before me!”
“Spectre!” cried Inverawe, shuddering with horror. – “what spectre?”
“Aye, the horrible spectre,” replied the man. And then suddenly starting back, with his hands stretched forth, as if to keep off some terrific shape that had instantaneously risen before him, and with his eye-balls glaring towards the dark opening of the cave, he shrieked out – “Hell and torments! ‘tis there again, – there – there – see there!”
“I see nothing,” said Inverawe, with some difficulty retaining a proper command of himself. “But this is madness – absolute insanity. See, here is your food; – I must leave you immediately.”
“Oh, do not go!” said the stranger, following Inverawe for a few steps towards the mouth of the cave, and entreating him in a subdued and abject tone. And then, just as his protector was about to make his exit, he again started back, and stood as if he had been transfixed, whilst, with his hands stretched out before him, and his eyes fearfully staring on the vacancy of the darkness that was beyond the cavern’s mouth, he again yelled out – “There! there! – see there!”
It must be honestly confessed, that it was with no very imperturbed state of nerves, that Inverawe committed himself to the obscurity of that night, to hurry homewards, and though no spectre appeared before his visual orbs, yet the harrowing spectacle which the guilty man had exhibited, and the allusion which he had made to the supposed spectre which he had seen in his imagination, kept that which he had himself beheld constantly floating before his mind’s eye, during the whole of the way home; and he was not sorry, when he reached his own hall, to find his lady sitting by the fire waiting for his return. She was lonely, and cheerless, and full of anxious thoughts regarding him; but her eyes brightened up at his entrance, and she filled him a goblet of wine. Inverawe swallowed it greedily down, – gave her a brief and bare account of his evening’s expedition, – and then they retired to their chamber.
On this occasion Inverawe silently took the precaution of bolting the door of the apartment; and, on going to bed, the lady, with great resolution of mind, determined within herself to keep off sleep, and to watch, so that she too might behold whatever apparition might appear; hoping that if the spectre which had so disturbed Inverawe, should, after all, prove to be nothing but a dream, she might be able, from her own observation, to disabuse him of his phantasy. But it so happened that, notwithstanding all her precautions, and all her mental exertions to prevent it, she fell immediately into a most unaccountably deep sleep; and Inverawe himself, in spite of all his harassing and distressing thoughts, was speedily plunged into a similar state of utter unconsciousness.
Again, for this the third night, he was awaked by the same light streaming through the apartment, and rendering the curtain of his bed transparent by its wonderful illumination. Again he looked round on his wife, and beheld every feature of her face clearly by its influence. She lay in the soundest and sweetest repose. His first impulse was to awake her, – but he instantly checked himself, and felt grateful that she was thus to be saved from the contemplation of the terrific spectral appearance, the shadow of which he now observed gliding slowly towards the bed. the curtain was again raised. The same well-remembered figure and face appeared under the usual increased intensity of light. Again the filmy plaid was partially dropped, and the fearful gash in the bosom was exposed, as before, pouring out blood. Again the deep, hollow voice came from the motionless lips, but it was accompanied by a yet sterner expression of the eyes, and of the pale countenance.
“Inverawe” My warnings have been vain. The time is now past. Yet blood must flow for blood! The blood of the murderer might have been offered up – now your blood must flow for his! We meet once more at Ticonderoga!”
This last visitation of the apparition, accompanied as it was by a denunciation so terrible, had a yet more overwhelming effect upon Inverawe than either of those that preceded it. Bereft of all power over himself, he lay, conscious of existence it is true, but utterly incapable of commanding thought, much less of exercising action. Ere he could rally his intellect, or his nervous energy, the spectre was gone, and the apartment was dark. When his thoughts began to arise within him, they were of a more agonising character than any which he had formerly experienced – “Your blood must flow for his.” These dreadful words still sounded in his ears, in the same deep, sepulchral tone in which they had been uttered. Do not suppose that one thought of himself ever crossed his mind. He thought of his son – that son, for whose welfare every desire of his life was concentrated – that was his blood, against which he conceived this dread prophecy to be directed – that was his blood which he dreaded might flow. He shivered at the very thought. He recalled the strange circumstances which had attended the drinking of the toast to his roof-tree. His anxiety about his son was raised to a pitch, that converted his bed, for that night at least, into a bed of thorns. He slept not, – yet all his tossings failed to awaken his lady, who slept as if she had been drenched with some soporiferous drug. The sun had no sooner darted his first rays through the casement, however, than she awaked as if from a most refreshing sleep. She looked round upon her husband – observed his haggard and tortured expression – and the whole recollection of what she previously knew having come upon her at once, she began vehemently to upbraid herself.
“I have slept,” said she, in a tone of vexed self-reprehension. “After all my determination to the contrary, I have slept throughout the whole night; and you have been again disturbed. Say! – what has happened! Have you seen him again?”
“I have seen him,” replied Inverawe in a subdued tone and manner – “I have seen him, and his appearance was terrible.”
“Say – tell me – what passed?” exclaimed the lady, earnestly. “Inverawe, I must know all.”
Inverawe would have fain eaten in his words. He would have especially wished to have left his wife in ignorance of the denunciation to which the apparition had given utterance. But he had not as yet recovered sufficient mastery over himself, to enable him to baffle the questioning of an acute woman. In a short time the whole truth was extracted from him; and now the lady, in a state of agitation that very much exceeded his, began to press upon him the necessity of giving up the criminal to justice. Her argument was long and energetic; and during the time that it occupied, he gradually resumed the full possession of himself.
“I have heard you, my love,” replied he, calmly; “yet you have urged, and you can urge nothing which can persuade me to break my solemn pledge. The hitherto spotless honour of Inverawe shall never be tarnished in my person. Dreadful as is the curse which had been denounced upon me, I am still resolved to act as an honourable man. Yet I will do this much. I will again visit the man in the cave, and insist with him that he shall seek some other place of refuge. I have done enough for him. I have suffered enough on his account. He must go elsewhere. Perhaps I should have come to this resolve yesterday – the time, alas! may now be past. But, come what come may, I am deermined that the visit of this night shall be the last that I shall pay to him. He must go elsewhere. Even his own safety requires that he shall do so – and mine! But no matter, he must seek some other asylum.”
Even this resolve – late though it might be, was, for the time, some consolation to the afflicted mind of his wife. Nay, it was in some degree matter of alleviation to his own sufferings. The broad sunlight of Heaven, and the bustling action of the creatures of this world, while all creation is awake, produces a wonderful effect upon the human mind, in relieving it from all those phantoms of anticipated evil which the silent shades of night are so apt to conjure up within it. Inverawe and his lady were less oppressed with gloomy thoughts during that day than might have been supposed possible. It is true, that he often secretly repeated over the denunciation of the apparition, but even yet he would have fain persuaded himself, as he tried to persuade his wife, that he had been the sport of dreams, resulting from some morbid state of his system.
“Ticonderoga!” said he, “where is Ticonderoga? I know of no such place; nay, I never heard of any such; and, in truth, I do not believe that any such place really exists on the face of this earth. Ticonderoga! I name so utterly unknown to me, and so strangely uncouth in itself, would lead me to believe that it is the coinage of my own distempered brain; and, if so, then the whole must have been an illusion. Yet it is altogether unaccountable and inexplicable.
Thus it was that Inverawe reasoned during that day; but as night again approached, it brought all its phantoms of the imagination along with it.
Inverawe, however, wound himself up to go through with that which he now considered as his last trial. Having filled his basket as before, he set off on his wonted circuitous route to the cave, As he went thither, he endeavoured to steel up his mind to assume that resolute tone with the stranger which he now felt to be absolutely necessary to rid himself of so troublesome and distressing a charge. Much as it did violence to his innate feelings of hospitality to come to any such determination, he resolved to insist on his departure from the cave that very night, and he had no difficulty in persuading himself that his doing this would be the best line of safety he could prescribe for the stranger, seeing that by the active use of his limbs during the remaining portion of it, he might well enough reach some distant place of concealment before daybreak. Full of such ideas, he pressed on towards the cave, that he might get him off with as little delay as possible. The light which had shone from its mouth upon former occasions was now absent, and Inverawe hailed the circumstance as a proof that the wretched man had at last become more rational. He approached the orifice in the cliff, and gently called to him. his own voice alone was returned to him from the hollow bowels of the rock. All was so mysteriously silent, that an involuntary chill fell upon Inverawe. He repeated his call in a louder voice, but still there was no reply – no stir from within. A cold shudder crept over him, and for a moment he half expected to see issue from the black void before him, that appalling apparition which had now three several times appeared by his bedside. A little thought enabled him to get rid of this temporary weakness. He recalled the last words of the spectre, and the strange uncouth name of Tigonderoga. If such a place had existence at all, it was there, and there only, that he could expect to behold him again. he became reassured, and all his wonted manliness returned to him. he struck a light, and crept into the cave. A short survey of its interior satisfied him that the stranger was gone. The blanket, the extinguished lamp, and some other things lay there, but no other vestige of its recent inmate was to be seen. Inverawe felt relieved; he was saved from even the semblance of inhospitality. but the recollection of the apparition’s last words recurred to him, and then everything around him seemed to whisper him that indeed the time might now be past. He began, most inconsistently, to wish that the stranger had still been there – nay, he almost hoped that he might yet be lingering about the neighbouring rocks or thickets. He sallied forth from the cave, and abandoning all his former caution, he shouted twice or thrice in succession, at the very top of his voice, but without obtaining any response, except that which came from the echoes of the cliffs, muffled as they were by the roar of the numerous cataracts of the mountain side, and the howling blast that swept downward through the pass far below. For a moment he felt that if the stranger had been still in his power, he could have given him up to justice, to be dealt with as a murderer; but reason made him blush, by bringing back to him his high and chivalric sense of honour in its fullest force, so that he turned to go homewards possessed with a very different train of thought. When his lady met him, she was eager in her enquiries, and deeply depressed when she learned that Inverawe had now lost all chance of delivering up the murderer.
“Alas!” said she, in an agony of tears, “the time is now past.”
“Do not allow this matter to distress you so, my love,” said Inverawe, endeavouring to soothe her into a calm, which he could by no means command for himself. “The more I think of it, the more I am persuaded that the whole has been a phantasm of the brain. Let us have a cup of wine, and laugh all such foolish fancies away ere we go to bed. this perplexing and distressing adventure has now passed by, and this night I hope to shake off all such vapours of the imagination.”
Inverawe had little sleep that night, but he was undisturbed by any re-appearance of the apparition. Unknown to his wife, he made a circuitous excursion next day to Ben-Cruachan, where a more accurate examination of the cave and its environs satisfied him that the stranger was indeed gone. And he was gone for ever, for Inverawe never afterwards saw him, – nor, indeed, did he ever again hear the slightest intelligence regarding him.
Days, weeks, and months rolled away, and by degrees the gloom which these extraordinary and portentous events had brought upon Inverawe, as well as upon his lady, began to be in a great degree dissipated. His son had long since returned home in full health and vigour, and things fell gradually into their natural and usual course.