Imatges de pÓgina

Though not a small portion of this work might be branded as a failure, yet even its dullest parts are interspersed with passages of force and energy. Its greatest fault_that of being too evidently an imitation—is regarded as venial by the reader, when he finds the royal personage who figures so conspicuously in the Fortunes of Nigel, again brought forward, not only with all the recommendations of old ac quaintance, but, with a fidelity which discovers many traits in his character lightly, if at all, touched upon in that work. Altogether, the delight which every reader of taste must derive from these volumes, will induce him to hope, that their fair author (for so we are, instructed to speak by that veracious lady Common Fame-who must in courtesy be allowed to ask, with Autolycus, 'why should I carry lies abroad?') will soon redeem her pledge, by favouring the public with a continuation of the valuable manuscript, whose discovery is so capriciously related in an ill-timed valedictory epistle of most unconscionable length.


The inhabitants of that part of the palace of Holyrood next the Park were disturbed betimes in the morning by the noise of a hundred hammers, which resounded in preparation for the performance to be exhibited in the open air, which attracting the attention of all within its hearing, quickly caused inquiries to be made as to the intent of the operations. The answers given to these questions spread with the rapidity of lightning through the city, and to the ute most limits of its suburbs. A report of the revival of their ancient May-games, by the authority of his majesty, soon sent hundreds to ascertain its truth, by becoming themselves eye-witnesses of the preparations then making for them in the King's Park.-The ministers of Edinburgh took the alarm, and endeavoured to persuade the people to continue at their usual occupations. But it was in vain that they hurried from place to place, exhorting the timid, and threatening the obstinate. All alike joined the flood that was pouring toward the Park, and Edinburgh seemed to be

emptied of its population long before the hour of exhibition.

The day was uncommonly favourable for the purpose, the air being soft and balmy, in a degree unusual to the climate at that season of the year. The sun in his cloudless progress exerted his genial influence on all around, and expanded the buds of the plane-tree and such others of early foliage as were intermixed with the stately oaks, which, with browner and graver aspect, still defied his power. The spot fixed on for the players' performance, was an open space, nearly opposite to the back of the palace, where the new spring grass of freshest green, studded here and there with the early wild flower, presented a thick soft carpet of enamelled turf. On a perfectly level part of this space, was a long platform, about ten feet wide, raised about five feet above the ground, to which a flight of steps gave access at each end. On the centre of this was placed the royal canopy of scarlet cloth, fringed with gold, above two chairs covered with the same materials, and elevated a step higher than two benches that run from end to end in a line with them on each side, covered with tapestry, which serving also as a carpet for the platform, fell down in front of it to the ground. To the right and left of this were two long wooden benches, fixed on the turf, for the accommodation of such of the followers of the King and the noblemen present as were raised above the rank of menials; and from each end of them ran barriers which entered a square space from the intrusion of the spectators, sufficient for the free movements of the actors. These preparations were carried on with such vigour, that all was in readiness for the reception of their majesties before the appointed hour of two o'clock in the afternoon; and the populace were so eager for the representation to begin, that it required some exertion in the King's guard, who had been placed there at an early hour, to keep them in order.

Satisfaction and glee were painted in each face, from the burly peasant, in his garments of coarse grey, or sky blue coloured cloth, with his flat broad blue bonnet, to the richer tradesman, in a cloth of English or French manufacture. And here and there some young scape-grace of more equivocal occupation, affecting a costume between the citizen and the courtier, clad in stuff, ornamented with silk lace, with hat and short feather, rapier and cloak, might be seen urging his way to obtain next the platform a place best suited to


the display of his graces, and commanding a view of the court dames, on some one of whom vanity perchance whispered that his handsome person might make a favourable impression ;, while he disdained not, meantime, to fish for the admiration of the simpler maidens who stood around him with hair smoothly combed and neatly snooded. this motley crowd the gay colour of the women's plaids gave animation, similar to that bestowed by the gaudy tulip, when mixed in a border of more sober-coloured flowers.

Tedious was the interval of expectation, till the hour of two sounded from the clock of the palace ; which had no sooner flung its warning on the air, than a flourish of trumpets, and the twang of bagpipes, announced the approach of their majesties. The nobles and ladies poured forth, and formed a line, reaching from the gate at which they issued, to the platform through which their majesties passed, and ascending its steps, took their seats under the canopy. . A smile of exultation sat on the countenances of both, for the multitude had not disappointed their most sanguine expectation, and they looked around them with so gracious an expression, that bonnets were tumultuously thrown aloft, and the air resounded with rude shouts of gratulation and joy. The players advanced from a temporary building erected for the purpose of a tiring-room, and no sooner appeared, than profound silence reigned among the multitude. The play chosen for this occasion was the

Midsummer Night's Dream,' from the appropriateness of the place to its general scenery, and the partiality of her majesty for the plays of Shakspeare. The Amazonian Queen, and enamoured Duke, stepped forward on the turf, and the charge of the latter, which was spoken with much animation, to

Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments,
Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth,
And turn melancholy forth to funerals,

seemed not only literally obeyed by the Scottish youth then present, but also by the hoary head of age, who all replied to it by a simultaneous shout of revelry. But as the drama proceeded, silence again reigned ; and the Earl of Gowrie was perhaps, with the exception of Agnes, the only person on whom the scene immediately following, when Theseus questions Hermia, concerning her resolution to become a

nun,-had other effect than that of amusement. And he was only roused from his profound reverie by the cheering given to Quince and his comrades, when they met to allot to each the characters for the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe. For here the delight of the populace, in a scene so calculated for their amusement, knew no bounds.

When the first act concluded, and the players retired to the tiring-room, the multitude began to regale themselves with such luxuries as, in this holiday time, they had provided; and many were there who, like the Squire of La Mancha, fixed their eyes upon the heavens, while the bottoms of their ale or wine-flasks were uppermost. Nor was this most delectable amusement, confined to the lower class of the audience ; for a page approached his majesty with a cup of wine, which he graciously receiving, raised to his lips, and appeared to kiss the goblet with as much fervour as any of his plebeian subjects, applying to it again and again, until the players returned, habited as fairies, and the pastime proceeded, and continued to amuse the spectators more and more as it drew toward a close. Shouts of applause attended the appearance of him who represented the Lion, and who, clad in a skin of that lordly animal, came ambling through the trees, accompanied by Moonshine. They had scarce appeared, however, and given time for this expression of pleasure in the multitude to subside, when a confused and tumultuous noise was heard in the direction of the craigs, while loud vociferations of—To the play-field with her, to the king with the witch ! resounded through the air, as those who uttered them approached nearer and

The attention of the crowd, which had been exclusively fastened on the actors, was now transferred to the authors of the tumult. His majesty rose from his seat, and walked forward to the front of the platform, where he perceived a number of people bearing, as in triumph, a woman seated in an arm-chair, with whom they were endeavouring to force their way into the area occupied by the players. James, one of whose principal weaknesses, it is well known, was a' firm belief in witchcraft, and who had a peculiar delight in examining those accused of that crime, gave orders, in a loud voice, that, the people who carried the woman, should be allowed to pass with her and her accusers into the open space, and directed them forward immediately in front of his person. There they placed the chair in which the woman sat, and dragging forward a dead mastiff


by a rope fastened round his neck, laid him at her side. For some moments, with looks of mingled rage and anguish, she continued to regard the animal, that, bloody and mangled, with his eyes opened and turned up toward - her face, still showed his teeth, as if grinning defiance on her enemies.

There was at all times something uncommon in the appearance of old Euphan; but now seated in the midst of an assembled multitude, all of whom she considered her adversaries, her keen black eyes flashed fire, as she turned their flame of inexpressible scorn on all sides of her, and sat erect, as if feeling herself superior to all she looked upon. There was so striking an impression of fearlessness and contempt of worldly authority stamped upon her pallid countenance, that it was impossible not to experience a degree of awe in contemplating it, as the expression of one who had survived all hope and fear. The king began to bend his attention on the old woman with a peculiar animation in his manner and countenance, which told that he was now employed to his heart's content.

• Let this woman's accusers stand forth !' said James. • Please your majesty,' said a man, who directly answered to the summons, and who, from his dwarfish and elfish appearance, and the fiendish glee that seemed to possess him, might himself have been mistaken for an agent of the evil one,- Please your majesty, this same auld beldame is ane o the most pestilent witches that ever cast her cantrips ower a country-side. Lang and sair hae the people and cattle suffered for mony a mile round, frae divers strange diseases, but the ill-daer was ne'er found out or yesterday, when a callant cam to my house, and tellit me and my niebours, that, living at Musselburgh, and rising with the gray dawn, about his maister's wark, ae morning, he had nae sooner opened the door to issue furth, than he spied a mawkin away frae it, whan, thinking to fell her, he cast a stane after her, and brak ane o' her legs; but she still ran on, hirpling on the tither three; and though he made up

wi' her nows and than, she aye jinked him at some odd corner; but he fallowed, and she led him through breers and through whuns, till at the last she led him up the gully yonder, whaur he lost her. But now comes the clearest pruif that was e'er gi'en your majesty anent a witch ; for what does he find out, but that this auld brimstane, whae has a house up there, has broken her leg, naebody kend how but hersel. Sae a'

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