Chapter 35

A hopeless darkness settles o’er my fate;
I’ve seen the last look of her heavenly eyes,—
I’ve heard the last sound of her blessed voice,—
I’ve seen her fair form from my sight depart:
My doom is closed.

Count Basil.

“I ken not what to make of you, Mr. Osbaldistone,” said MacGregor, as he pushed the flask towards me. “You eat not, you show no wish for rest; and yet you drink not, though that flask of Bourdeaux might have come out of Sir Hildebrand’s ain cellar. Had you been always as abstinent, you would have escaped the deadly hatred of your cousin Rashleigh.”

“Had I been always prudent,” said I, blushing at the scene he recalled to my recollection, “I should have escaped a worse evil—the reproach of my own conscience.”

MacGregor cast a keen and somewhat fierce glance on me, as if to read whether the reproof, which he evidently felt, had been intentionally conveyed. He saw that I was thinking of myself, not of him, and turned his face towards the fire with a deep sigh. I followed his example, and each remained for a few minutes wrapt in his own painful reverie. All in the hut were now asleep, or at least silent, excepting ourselves.

MacGregor first broke silence, in the tone of one who takes up his determination to enter on a painful subject. “My cousin Nicol Jarvie means well,” he said, “but he presses ower hard on the temper and situation of a man like me, considering what I have been—what I have been forced to become—and, above all, that which has forced me to become what I am.”

He paused; and, though feeling the delicate nature of the discussion in which the conversation was likely to engage me, I could not help replying, that I did not doubt his present situation had much which must be most unpleasant to his feelings. “I should be happy to learn,” I added, “that there is an honourable chance of your escaping from it.”

“You speak like a boy,” returned MacGregor, in a low tone that growled like distant thunder—“like a boy, who thinks the auld gnarled oak can be twisted as easily as the young sapling. Can I forget that I have been branded as an outlaw,—stigmatised as a traitor,—a price set on my head as if I had been a wolf,—my family treated as the dam and cubs of the hill-fox, whom all may torment, vilify, degrade, and insult,—the very name which came to me from a long and noble line of martial ancestors, denounced, as if it were a spell to conjure up the devil with?”

As he went on in this manner, I could plainly see, that, by the enumeration of his wrongs, he was lashing himself up into a rage, in order to justify in his own eyes the errors they had led him into. In this he perfectly succeeded; his light grey eyes contracting alternately and dilating their pupils, until they seemed actually to flash with flame, while he thrust forward and drew back his foot, grasped the hilt of his dirk, extended his arm, clenched his fist, and finally rose from his seat.

“And they shall find,” he said, in the same muttered, but deep tone of stifled passion, “that the name they have dared to proscribe—that the name of MacGregor—is a spell to raise the wild devil withal.—They shall hear of my vengeance, that would scorn to listen to the story of my wrongs—The miserable Highland drover, bankrupt, barefooted,—stripped of all, dishonoured and hunted down, because the avarice of others grasped at more than that poor all could pay, shall burst on them in an awful change. They that scoffed at the grovelling worm, and trod upon him, may cry and howl when they see the stoop of the flying and fiery-mouthed dragon.—But why do I speak of all this?” he said, sitting down again, and in a calmer tone—“Only ye may opine it frets my patience, Mr. Osbaldistone, to be hunted like an otter, or a sealgh, or a salmon upon the shallows, and that by my very friends and neighbours; and to have as many sword-cuts made, and pistols flashed at me, as I had this day in the ford of Avondow, would try a saint’s temper, much more a Highlander’s, who are not famous for that gude gift, as ye may

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