Imágenes de páginas

townsmen, and that the time will speedily come when the only reproach which rests upon their fair fame shall be wholly obliterated.

But let us leave this region, the only unpleasant one in the whole of this magnificent city, and ascend to the old Castle, where we shall see the Regalia of Scotland, preserved in a little room at the top of the Castle. These regalia consist of the crown of Robert Bruce the hero of Bannockburn, the sceptre of James the Fifth, a sword presented by Pope Julius the Second to James the Sixth, and other articles of inferior note. It is somewhat singular that the Regalia should have lain concealed from 1745 to the year 1818. At the time of the Union in 1707 between England and Scotland, they were walled up by some Scottish patriots, in order to prevent their being removed to London.

What recollections of the stormy but glorious history of Scotland cluster around the mind, while gazing at that antique-looking crown which adorned the head of the Bruces and the ill-fated Mary. The freedom and prosperity now enjoyed by the nation had a gloomy and tempestuous birth. Their very religion, placid and beautiful now, was cradled amid the war of elements and the shock of battle. But, thanks to God, it is all the purer and stronger for its rough and tempestuous youth.

Draw near to the edge of that battlement, and look down over the frowning rock. Would it be possible, think you, to storm the Castle from that side? One would suppose it beyond the power of man. It has been done, however, and the circum

stance illustrates the spirit of hardihood and enterprise which has ever distinguished the people of Scotland. In the year 1313, when the Castle was in the possession of the English, Randolph, Earl of Moray, was one day surveying the gigantic rock, when he was accosted by one of his men at arms with the question, "Do you think it impracticable, my lord?" Randolph turned his eyes upon the speaker, a man a little past the prime of life, but of a firm well-knit figure, and bearing in his keen eye and open forehead marks of intrepidity which had already gained him distinction in the Scottish army. "Do you mean the rock, Francis?" said the Earl; "perhaps not, if we could borrow the wings of our gallant hawks."*

"There are wings," replied Francis, with a thoughtful smile, "as strong, as buoyant, and as daring. My father was keeper of yonder fortress."

"What of that? You speak in riddles."

"I was then young, reckless, high-hearted: I was screwed up in that convent-like castle; my sweetheart was in the plain below""Well, what then?"

[ocr errors]

"'Sdeath, my lord, can you not imagine that I speak of the wings of love? Every night I descended that steep at the witching hour, and every morning before the dawn I crept back to my bar

* We give the version of Leitch Ritchie, who has thrown the facts into the form of a dialogue, and given a false name to the hero; otherwise the narration is entirely authentic.

racks. I constructed a light twelve-foot ladder, by means of which I was able to pass the places that are perpendicular; and so well, at length, did I become acquainted with the route, that in the darkest and stormiest night, I found my way as easily as when the moonlight enabled me to see my love in the distance waiting for me at the cottage door."

"You are a daring, desperate, noble fellow, Francis! However, your motive is now gone; your mistress"

"She is dead; say no more; but another has taken her place."

"Ay, ay, it's the soldier's way. Women will die or even grow old; and what are we to do? Come, who is your mistress now?"

"MY COUNTRY! What I have done for love, I can do again for honor; and what I can accomplish, you, noble Randolph, and many of our comrades can do far better. Give me thirty picked men, and a twelve-foot ladder, and the fortress is our own!"

"The Earl of Moray, whatever his real thoughts of the enterprise might have been, was not the man to refuse such a challenge. A ladder was provided, and thirty men chosen from the troops; and in the middle of a dark night, the party, commanded by Randolph himself, and guided by William Francis, set forth on their desperate enterprise.

"By catching at crag after crag, and digging their fingers into the interstices of the rocks, they succeeded in mounting a considerable way; but the weather was now so thick, they could receive

but little assistance from their eyes; and thus they continued to climb, almost in utter darkness, like men struggling up a precipice in the night-mare. They at length reached a shelving table of the cliff, above which the ascent, for ten or twelve feet, was perpendicular; and having fixed their ladder, the whole party lay down to recover breath.

[ocr errors]

"From this place they could hear the tread and voices of the check watches,' or patrol, above; and, surrounded by the perils of such a moment, it is not wonderful that some illusions may have mingled with their thoughts. They even imagined that they were seen from the battlements, although, being themselves unable to see the warders, this was highly improbable. It became evident, notwithstanding, from the words they caught here and there in the pauses of the night-wind, that the conversation of the English soldiers above related to a surprise of the Castle; and at length these apalling words broke like thunder on their ears: Stand! I see you well! A fragment of the rock was hurled down at the same instant; and as rushing from crag to crag it bounded over their heads, Randolph and his brave followers, in this wild, helpless, and extraordinary situation, felt the damp of mortal terror gathering upon their brow, as they clung with a death-grip to the precipice.

"The startled echoes of the rock were at length silent, and so were the voices above. The adventurers paused, listening breathless; no sound was heard but the sighing of the wind, and the measured tread of the sentinel who had resumed his

walk. The men thought they were in a dream, and no wonder; for the incident just mentioned, which is related by Barbour, was one of the most singular coincidences that ever occurred. The shout of the sentinel and the missile he had thrown, were merely a boyish freak; and while listening to the echoes of the rock, he had not the smallest idea that the sounds which gave pleasure to him carried terror and almost despair into the hearts of the enemy.

"The adventurers, half uncertain whether they were not the victims of some illusion, determined that it was as safe to go on as to turn back; and pursuing their laborious and dangerous path, they at length reached the bottom of the wall. This last barrier they scaled by means of their ladder; and leaping down among the astonished checkwatches, they cried their war-cry, and in the midst of answering shouts of treason! treason!' notwithstanding the desperate resistance of the garrison, captured the Castle of Edinburgh."


Sit down here on the edge of this parapet. That huge cannon there is called Mons Meg, from being cast at Mons, in Flanders, and reminds us, somewhat significantly, of the terrible use to which all the arrangements of the Castle are applied.* How singular, that men have to be governed and controlled like bull-dogs, that castles and dungeons, halters, and cannon, are necessary to keep them

* At present it is used as a barracks for soldiers and a magazine of arms.

« AnteriorContinuar »