صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

one of that pleasant story of Vers- a melancholy regret, as on a parting tigan, how a Scotsman, descending from loved and honoured friends one of the sandy hollows of the who may never be beheld again. steppes of Tartary, heard from be. Hence the mood in which such a low a clear sweet voice singing scene beholds our farewell is ever “Bothwell bank, thou bloomest remembered as an event in life. fair," and found it to come from a The eve before I went was warm countrywoman naturalised there. and mellow, and the peaks were all

These monks justified the char- steeped in sunshine, which, graduacter of the Benedictines as good ally deserting mountain after mounscholars and good fellows. Their tain according to its height, left share in the burdens, woes, and the snows to grow grey and deepen pains, laid on the monastic life, they into the blackness of night. chose to take out in the studious la- Next morning all was changed. bours that lead to high scholarship, The angry winds were throwing ratherthan in silence, laceration, and about great handfuls of cold rain, starvation. The last of them that and roaring in the recesses of remained always insisted on laying the mountains no longer visible. hold of and hospitably entertain. It was a scene adapted forcibly to ing any fellow-countryman found remind one of those noble lines lurking in tourist fashion about the uttered by Campbell when bidding premises. When I wandered through adieu to the same land :their doinus vacuas, they had not the odours redolent of domestic life “Adieu ! the woods and waters' side,

Imperial Danube's rich domain; which pervade an ordinary German

Adieu ! the grotto wild and wide, dwelling, but rather the mustiness The rocks abrupt, the grassy plain; of a deserted house. Some pictures For pallid autumn once again were in the chambers, one profess

Hath swollen each torrent of the hill,

Her clouds collect, her shadows sail, ing to represent Queen Mary just

And watery winds that swell the gale before her execution. Some of the Come loud and louder still." trifles not worth removing which people leave to be disposed of by Selfishness suggested how lucky their successors when they fit to it was that the storm just waited new premises, seemed to be pre- till I was making off, and left all my served with zealous care. One of days in the mountain region bright them, an ear-trumpet, hinted that and available. Sentiment, on the one of the later occupants had been other hand, would have preferred a deaf; and a fat, flabby umbrella of genial smile at parting, instead of faded purple, was a meet symbol of those stormy tears; and sentiment the city of rain.

was to be gratified after all. As I must have one word of farewell the train swept through the great on leaving those noble hills, whose plain whence the Alps rise right up companionship has imparted the without intervening undulations, greater part of their brightness to a the storm abated, and the black few well-enjoyed days. There is curtain of clouds began to rise something exhilarating in the very slowly up, exhibiting the lower atmosphere of such a district that ranges of the mountains, at first reminds one of Milton's drinking coldly and darkly, but then with “ empyrial" (not imperial) air. patches of brilliancy, where the sun When you turn your back on the had bored a hole in the canopy of mountains, you are leaving behind cloud; and ere I lost sight of them, you an existence of glory and gran- I had the enjoyment of beholding deur to tread the dusty highway the whole range relieved from their that traverses the vulgar flat plain dark wet pall, and drying themof common life. Even if the road selves with smiles in the warm sunbe homewards, you cannot but feel shine. VOL. XCVI.-NO. DXC.

3 D


On the 1st of December, fifteen had arrived at years of sufficient years ago, I made my first appear- discretion to enable his or her hair ance in a county ball-room. That to stand on end when terrified; but I should choose the 1st of Decem- the luxury of horror which Aunt ber, fifteen years later, to make my Ann's story invariably inspired was first appearance in print, is probably religiously kept as a great Christmas due to the fact that I have spent treat, and was looked upon as quite the interval in Russia. Consider- unrivalled in its line-partly being how extremely fond I have al- cause it was true, and partly because ways been of putting my impres- no other aunt in any neighbouring sions upon paper, and the volumin- family had ever had any such ous correspondence with which the thing happen to her; a circumstance friends of my youth have been which was always dwelt upon with favoured during my long absence great triumph and satisfaction from England, I can only suppose when any other children ventured that it never occurred to me to pub either to praise their aunts or to lish, because I never met a lady in discuss ghosts in the abstract. So my adopted home who had ven- in the darkening hours of a gloomy tured upon so bold a measure. autumn afternoon I told my own Moreover I feel certain that, had I story, for I saw it would be imposhinted at the possibility of so un- sible to put it off until Christmas; feminine a proceeding to my hus- and when my little audience, whose band—who was then an officer in thorough knowledge of every incithe Imperial Guard—I should have dent did not in the least prevent increased instead of dissipated cer- them listening with the same rapt tain prejudices against the English interest each time the story was told nation, which, however, had not them, had trotted off, I thought prevented his asking me to go with that if they could bear to hear it so him to his own country. That I many times, some older children did so at the age of seventeen, is might bear to read it once. So now, the best proof I can give that I am as the clocks are striking midnight, not constitutionally timid-a fact I stir the fire with a chuckle, for I which I will ask my readers to bear have not seen a fireplace for fifteen in mind in the course of the narra- years, and I pull near it my comtive I am about to relate. I am en- fortable arm-chair-I have not seen couraged to believe it to be worth what I call an arm-chair for the telling from the circumstance, that same time; with a fervent blessing no sooner did I reach my old home on the stately homes of England, in England, than a cluster of chil- I shall proceed to give my first exdren who had not existed when I perience of my dreary home in left it, invaded the sanctity of my Russia. bedroom when I was lying down to I had been little more than a year rest before dinner on the day of my in St Petersburg when my husband arrival, and insisted upon my tell- was ordered on special service to a dising them myself the ghost story, tant part of the empire. As the duty by virtue of which the name of he was sent to perform would, in their near relation was kept ever all probability, involve a prolonged fresh in their memories. Those absence, it was decided that I should thrilling details wbich I had com- be sent to a chateau which belonged municated in my letters at full to him in the Ukraine, and there length at the time had, been re- wait his return; as, however, I was peated by my sister to each succeed- utterly inexperienced in the maning nephew and niece as he or she pers and customs of Russian country

life, I was furnished with a guide, me on such occasions, and which, if philosopher, and friend, in the per- it goes on increasing, will ultimateson of his sister Olga, then a very ly include a pier-glass and a piano. charming debutante, now a very dis- How I wondered then at the tinguished member of the Russian rapidity with which the servants corps diplomatique. It was no made things comfortable, and still wonder, after having turned so more at the singular ideas which many heads during the winter, that both they and Olga entertained of her own began to swim, and that what comfort was! she should look forward with plea- At length, after many days, and sure to the repose of a country life, now and then a night or two, of and the novel task of initiating a travel, we came upon the steppe stranger into its mysteries. Nor country, where the forests were more was it without a flutter of excite- scattered and the population sparment that I found myself packed ser, until at last the whole landinto a roomy travelling carriage, scape was a boundless expanse of containing my friend, my baby, and grass, except in one direction, where the nurse, and followed by two a dark mass, like the sbadow of a other curiously constructed vehicles, cloud, marked a distant wood. No covered with as many goods and sooner was it visible than my comchattels as if we were going finally panion clapped her hands with deto settle in some newly inhabited light, the horses were urged into a colony. When I looked at the ser- gallop, the carriage bounded more vants, bedding, and provisions that wildly than usual over the deep were stowed away in and over our ruts formed by the winter rains, three cumbrous equipages, I felt as now baked into troughs that would if I was leading an exploring party, have smashed ordinary springs, and and responsible to the Geographical I needed no other evidence to prove Society for the results of my obser- to me that our destination was at vations ; indeed, so vivid were the hand. I confess my heart sank impressions which the incidents of within me, for there was something this my first journey through the inexpressibly dreary in the proheart of the country made upon spect. My baby, who had undermy mind, that I feel sure I should gone the trials of the journey with have produced a very good paper a fortitude and a power of endurfor an evening meeting. But now, ance truly Sclavonic, set up a loud how monotonous does that well- wail, which it seemed to me could known way-with its sign-posts over only arise from instinctive dread dreary wastes of snow in winter, its and dismay. I looked round in bottomless sloughs in spring and every direction, and though the autumn, its clouds of dust in range of vision was most extensive, summer, its tracts of deep sand, its not the vestige of a cottage was gloomy pine forests, and its rolling visible, not a human being enlivengrass steppes-seem to me! How ed the scene; so I sank gently back distinctly do I recall the deserted and in silence, and added my tears post-stations where the horses are to baby's. Fortunately, Olga was never forthcoming, and how well I too much excited to notice me, and seem to know even the individual after violently hugging my firsthorses when they do come, and can born in a paroxysm of delight, she distinguish between the yamchiks performed the same operation upon who are my friends, and those for me. Thanks to the moisture she whom I have an antipathy. As for had acquired from the cheeks of night quarters, there is not an inn that little cherub, she did not dison the whole line of road the rooms cover the tears on mine; so we of which I have not, at some time plunged into the gloomy recesses or other, furnished with all that of the wood, and I was cheered portable material which I carry with by seeing a road branch off to the

right, which she informed me led was very wrong, I know, and I conto the village. While wondering cealed my feelings as much as I whether it would be possible to do could, but she felt me shudder as I a little “parish” in it, and secretly leant upon her arm, and stopped making up my mind to open a Sun- suddenly. “Why," she said, “ do day school, I was startled by the you tremble so much ? are you hollow sound of the horses' hoofs frightened ? Who told you the upon a wooden bridge, and looking castle was haunted ?” I had never out, saw that we were crossing a heard anything about the castle, dry moat, and entering an old moss- except that my husband used to grown castle, through a somewhat make there what he called his dilapidated archway.

“ economies,” by which he meant Immense trees overhung the that he had a bailiff who lived in building, which I had only time to it and farmed his property for him; observe was very ancient, but still and as for its being haunted, it was apparently substantial, and very a positive relief to my mind to hear quaint and irregular in form. anything about it half so interest

We pulled up at a low door in a ing. So I laughed at the notion of grass-grown quadrangle, where stood an Englishwoman either believing an old white-headed servitor, into in or being afraid of ghosts, and whose arms Olga precipitated her said I shivered because a cold self with the most ardent expres- draught came down the passage sions of joy : behind him a row of along which we were passing. domestics evidently gazed with no “Yes," observed my companion, little awe and respect upon the “since the bailiff refused to live in retinue of town servants we had it, the castle has been quite uninbrought from St Petersburg. Not- habited, so that the air feels chilly; withstanding the bustle and the but we will have the stoves lighted high state of preparation of every- and make ourselves comfortable. body for our arrival, I felt chilled There is not the least danger in the by a sensation of solitude and deso- daytime, and at night we will sleep lation I had not experienced since in the cottage, which papa built leaving England : the whirl and just before his death, when the gaiety of the capital, the constant ghosts made it impossible to sleep attendance at court which fell to any longer in the castle." As she my lot—the excitement and novelty said this we were standing in a of a life altogether which never al fine old hall, round which were lowed a moment for serious thought ranged some figures in armour; the —had kept me, as I supposed, con- walls were decorated with tapestry, tented and happy. Too young to dis- and where the wood panelling apcover cares in life which did not ex- peared, it was in many places paintist, too giddy to seek out occupation ed so as to form a picture with the I did not desire, I had lived like a edge of the panel for the frame. butterfly in a beautiful garden, and Very uncouth men and women innow suddenly found myself without deed the worthy progenitors of my the flowers, and the sunshine, and husband appeared, as depicted upon the other butterflies that used to these ancestral walls—capable of pay me court. It was a moment of any deed of darkness, and just the terrible reaction—even my compan- sort of people who would continue ion's high spirits failed to make me to live in the castle when they take a cheerful view of things. When ought to have been reposing like I followed the old white-headed man respectable members of the Greek under the low doorway, and Olga Church in the number of square linked her arm in mine, I felt as if feet of soil allotted to them. Unhe was the jailer, and she was es- fortunately, instead of being buried, corting me to a dungeon in which some had been put into a family I was to be confined for life. It vault, and were perhaps more restless on that account. Whatever be able and light, and I felt my spirits the reason, the current superstition rising again. A small dining-room was, that the originals of some of opened off the drawing-room, but the portraits which adorned the on festive occasions the large hall walls of this large hall continued to I have already described was used. inhabit the castle, to the exclusion Beyond the small dining-room there of its present lawful possessors; and was a billiard-room. A passage an extremely savage-looking Sclavo- led from the drawing-room to a nian warrior, with a battle-axe in glass door, upon opening which we his hand, and what seemed to be emerged upon a bridge which crosssome sort of drum at his feet, was ed the moat, but which was coverthe most generally acknowledged ed in partly with glass and partly spectre. Why he was chosen, I with planking. This led into a know not, except that the favourite detached cottage, consisting of nosound of the ghostly occupant was thing but bedrooms. The fact that said to be the rattle of a drum, or the castle itself was of immense rather a thing like a tom-tom, which dimensions, and contained any in those early days was one of the amount of accommodation, and that musical instruments of these bar- the family had nevertheless been barians. I confess, at the moment positively driven out of it by ghosts, I was thinking very little about my and obliged to build a cottage to husband's restless ancestors ; my sleep in, was the most practical thoughts were back in my own dear evidence I could have desired that, little room at home—that room in whatever might be the foundation which I am now writing this ; and of the belief, it existed pretty I would have embraced the knees strongly. I have been obliged, for of the most disreputable of spectres reasons which will presently appear, who should at that moment have to be thus particular in describing pounced upon me from any of the the plan of the castle, and of the surrounding pictures, and in the principal rooms in it. twinkling of an eye have landed The cottage was decidedly an imme on the door-steps of the paternal provement on the gloomy structure mansion. So I turned a deaf ear we had left. Whereas the castle to Olga's patter about goblins, and was surrounded on three sides by gazed vacantly at the gaunt figures dense black pine forest, the trees of in armour, and the gloomy groined which overhung the moat, and alroof overhead, and the faded tapes- most shot their branches into the try and ill-drawn portraits. I saw upper windows, the view from that a massive staircase led to re- the cottage windows presented the gions overhead, as yet unexplored, strangest contrast from my bedand I perceived that it was really room window : not a tree bigger true that we were not going to than a rose-bush was visible any. sleep in the castle. Still we seemed where ; a neglected flower-garden to be going partially to inhabit it, was bounded by a sunk fence, to for a rather dark passage led from which it descended in a gentle slope, the hall into a really charming and beyond that nothing but grass, drawing-room, where the air had with here and there a field of Inbeen warmed, and the temperature dian-corn or wheat stubble ; still, was agreeable. It was furnished with the bright sun setting upon in the most modern Parisian style, it, there was something comforting and from one window a view was in its very grandeur and expanse. obtained of a straggling cottage or I seemed to breathe again after two of the village, the greater part having been nearly stifled in the of which was concealed by the wood. castle. The dungeon-feeling was That window was quite a consola- going off, and a momentary sensation to me for the moment, and tion of butterfly seemed to thrill altogether the room looked habit through me. Two peasant women

« السابقةمتابعة »