Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

Many long years had rolled away since the nuptials of Lyon and Ladye Jean were celebrated in the Castle of Stirling, yet, although actively engaged in the stirring scenes of that eventful period, and victorious in many a hard-fought conflict on the field of battle, the Lindsay never forgot the scene, the plot, the threat, nor Ladye Jean!

The day of vengeance came at last. On the moss of Balhill, to the eastward of Glamis, the Lindsay and De Lyon once more, and for the last time, met. Each had brought his own retainers to the deadly combat, and long and fierce did the furious conflict rage. With ponderous battle-axe and shivering spear, midst hellish shoutings of the savage hordes, the combatants were stricken down upon the plain, while along the ridges like the rushing rain ran the crimson blood of the doughty warriors, till the battle-field was thickly strewn with the ghastly heaps of the dying and the dead.

"Hold !” cried the Lindsay; "cease the strife, spill no more precious blood; to single combat, Lyon--thy life or mine shall now decide the day.”

Paralysed by the fierceness and determination of his adversary, and, doubtless, feeling that now indeed his hour was come, De Lyon lost all presence of mind, advancing to meet his deadly enemy as if in a trance or mystic dream.

Not so the Lindsay ! On, on impetuously he rushed and with one true and deadly blow, low laid the suppliant Lyon at his feet.

"Take that," he fiercely cried, as he thrust at Lyon's heart his bloody sword. “'Twill be some time ere thou embrace again-thy Ladye Jean!”

[ocr errors]

And thus in bloody combat fell,
On Balhill Moss—there, mark it well-
The first that name of Lyon bore,
Who owned the Barony of Strathmore.

CHAPTER VI.

THE LEGEND OF THE MURDER OF MALCOLM II.

Strange, we should meet thus drear and lone
Beside King Malcolm's sculptured stone :
'Tis well we come not to this shrine
To plight in fear your faith and mine-
An evil omen hovers round
This curs’d, mysterious, fatal ground.

ROBERT CHAMBERS, in his “Memoir of Burns," with reference to the vision seen at Alloway Kirk by Tam o' Shanter, makes the prosaic yet not altogether surprising observation that the witches must have had very little room in which to dance—he and others of like sort and compass of mind entirely ignoring the truism that he who created the witches could also have created space. Applying generally this rule and plummet kind of criticism, what would become of all our fondly-cherished associations, our venerated legendary romance, our ancient love and vivid 'realisation of the creations of poetic genius?

What distinguishes Homer as the greatest of all poets is his invention. It is this amazing and unequalled trait of his unrivalled genius that hurries on his verses

“ Like a fire that sweeps the whole earth before it." It is this invention that places the Iliad of Homer so far above the Æneas of Virgil, and stamps the author thereof as the highest in rank of any writer that ever lived. In the vividness of his descriptions ; in the animation of his battles; in the unfolding of the workings of the tender passions ; in the force and delineation of character, everything lives, and moves,

and has a being, and this to such an intense degree, that we forget we are reading a magnificent fable, and see only as a realised reality the matchless beauty of Helen, the insatiable wrath of Achilles, the generalship of Agamemnon, the bravery of Hector, the galleys of Crocylia, the ships of Athens, and the barks of Crete; the glittering spires of Ilion, the imperial towers of Corinth, and the lofty guarded walls and spear-crowned battlements of Troy!

Coming down to the remote events of our own country, notwithstanding that modern historians now generally assert that Malcolm II. died a peaceable death, we still obstinately cling to the mystical tradition which represents him as having been barbarously murdered by some of the adherents of Kenneth V., in the wood of Thornton, while on his way to the Castle of Glamis. The wood of Thornton, it may be remarked, takes its designation from the hamlet of that name, situated immediately to the eastward, in the parish of Kinnettles. In reality, however, it is not a distinct wood by itself, being merely the northern shoulder of the Hunter Hill already noticed, and to which frequent allusion will be made in the future.

It was winter-night-in the year of our Lord 1033; the snow lay deep upon the ground; wild, dreary desolation reigned throughout the great Howe of Strathmore. As an invited and ever-welcome guest, King Malcolm was on his way to the ancient Castle of Glamis. His gallant and gailycaparisoned steed bore him with fearless haste along the hard, crisp snow, until, having passed lone Kerbet Bridge, the lights of the battlemented castle appeared in the distance to gladden the heart of the royal traveller. His journey was nearly ended ; and, bidding adieu to the cares and anxieties of State, he slowly reined in his impetuous steed, and, dreaming not of danger, he gave himself up to the full enjoyment of the hour.

Alas! these walls no more again
Shall echo glad his joyous strain;

No more shall be in court or hall
Gay maiden's yielding hearts enthral,
Nor softly sing in Ladye's bowers,
At ev'ning's sweet and stilly hours ;
Nor in the forest, or the hill,
When early morn her dews distil,
At thrilling sound of hunter's horn,
Shall chase the deer through brake and thorn;
Soon shall the song in Glamis' hall
Be changed to wailing, and o'er all
Be hung, in dark funereal gloom,
The sable mantle of the tomb !

The king had now reached the middle of the dark, thicklyplanted wood of Thornton, when, rushing out from a clump of waving pine, three stalwart assassins, armed with sword and battleaxe, confronted the unsuspecting monarch. In a twinkling they unhorsed the King, and before he could draw his sword in self-defence, he was felled to the earth by his cowardly murderers, his gushing heart's blood dyeing with crimson gore the white and virgin snow all around where he fell.

His warrior steed, who had often before bome his royal master to the princely Castle of Glamis, with strange instinct, almost amounting to reason, careered away to Glamis the moment the monarch fell. Besmeared with the crimson blood of his master, he stood neighing at the gates of the Castle until admitted by the astonished and horror-stricken warder, who immediately gave the alarm to the inmates of the Castle.

In a moment the revels ceased. Save those of vengeance, no sounds were now heard in the princely Castle. The banquet hall resounded with the wild shrieks of agony, and fear and horror filled the minds of all.

The lawn in front of the Castle was soon thronged by doughty warriors and armed retainers, determined to unravel the mystery, for that the King had been basely murdered there could be no shadow of doubt. They waited long and patiently for the Lord of Glamis to give the word, and lead

[ocr errors]

them on to vengeance with his trusty sword, but they waited in vain. With a deep and ominous sound it was whispered hoarsely that he had mysteriously disappeared !

The chief warder of the Castle, however, now manfully put himself at their head; and, tracing the horse's bloody hoofprints on the frozen snow, they soon reached the wood at Thornton, where, to their grief and horror, in a dark clump of mountain pine, they found the mangled remains of the barbarously murdered King.

Wild and deep now loudly arose the coronach's ringing wail, striking terror into the hearts of the cowardly assassins, who still hovered round the scene of the murder. But, guided by their bloody track, their fierce avengers were soon on the pursuit. Following close on their heels, they gave instant chase, pursuing the assassins o'er the snowy moonlit plain. Almost overtaken, they betook themselves to the lake of Forfar, which being but imperfectly frozen over, the ice gave way, and they miserably perished in sight of their avengers, but not until the spirit of their murdered King had appeared unto them, wielding the sword of vengeance o'er their guilty heads as they sank to rise no more.

To the keen eye of the warder, two only seemed to die in the lake, whereas all along the vale the bloody footprints of three different persons were distinctly traceable on the snow, until, having reached the lonely pine wood on the shore, the imprints of one had disappeared! The absence of their noble host from the Castle when the blood-smeared steed appeared at its gates did to him seem mysterious and unaccountable. He kept these dark thoughts, however, within his own breast, trusting to time to unravel the mystery.

The avengers now retraced their footsteps to the wood of Thornton, where they had left one of their number in charge of the body of the King. Clad in a flowing robe of Kendal green, the Bard of Glamis, grey and hoary with years, walked with stately and measured tread before the royal corpse, which, amidst profound grief, was now borne to the silent halls of the

« PoprzedniaDalej »