Imatges de pàgina
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abode. One corner of the room was screened from my view by a large piece of coarse cloth, that was suspended from the ceiling to the ground. No bed appearing in the apartment, and this cloth being stained in several parts with blood, while a large congealed mass stood beneath upon the ground, my curiosity tempted me to remove the coarse veil that held me in suspense, but dreading to behold some shocking object (which indeed my imagination had instantly formed, the first moment in which I had beheld the mysterious spot;) horror for what I might see, continued for some time to prevent my cariosity from being gratified. The murdered body of some miserable human being, perhaps newly slain, and then weltering in its gore, presented it. self, arrayed in all its ghastly terrors to my disordered imagination, and deterred my adventurous hands, which were several times extended for the purpose of removing the mystery, and which as often relinquished the attempt.

At length hearing footsteps upon the staircase, I rushed forwards, seized the cloth, and throwing it upon one side, discovered a sight, amidst

all my terrors I could not have conceived. Instead of the murdered body of an human being, I beheld, suspended by the beels, a newly slaughtered sheep, dripping gore. So powerful is the effect caused upon the imagination by a combination of melancholy or disagreeable images, that my mind had been worked

up to an unusual pitch of terrific expectation, by this simple appearance.

Much indeed might be said on behalf of such a temperature of mind, in my then pre. sent situation. The poignant anguish which I felt from the unfortunate fate of the poor Highlander, who had fallen a sacrifice to my own interests, oppressed my mind, while the gloom of a stormy night, the loneliness and igno. rance of my real situation, and the combination of 'so many disagreeable and sadly-presaging images, all conspired against her peace. A man who could not have felt alive, and been solennly impressed by so many melan. choly objects, must indeed have been devoid of all sensibility and feeling.

The footsteps I had heard upon the stairs were those of my antique hostess, who was coming with a large knife in her hand, to dismember part of the sheep before mentioned for my supper; but had this wrinkled hag presented herself, with her great knife, before I had discovered the carcass of the sheep, and while I was labouring under the painful influence of so many shocking presages, some bad effects would, in all probability, have been the consequence of her intrusion. She made many apologies for hanging the sheep in that part of her house, but alledged that she had no other place where it would be safe from the attacks of vermin, and therefore whenever she had any meat, (which was about once, or perhaps twice, during the year) she hung it in her best apartment. When I enquired for my bed, she opened a small square door on one side of the room, and upon holding the candle to the opening, I beheld a narrow, and dark cavity in the wall, which much resembled the shape and dimensions of a coffin. In this nauseous hole was thrust some dirty bed linen, amongst which I was informed her visitors of distinction usually dwelt for the night, and which I was then to occupy.

Having made as good a meal upon part of the sheep, and some potatoes, as Scotch filth

would allow, I dismissed the old woman, who attended me with too much assiduity, and was preparing to creep upon my hands and knees into the recess in the wall, where my bed was deposited, when a very loud knocking was heard at the door of the inn, together with the confused noise of many voices below the window of my room. I opened the casement and looked out, but such was the impenetrable darkness of the night, that I could not discern any particular object.

The knocking having continued with increased violence, and the noise of many harsh voices becoming more vociferous for admittance, my ancient hostess suddenly burst into my room, having no other habilliments to screen her beauteous nakedness, than a vile and ragged shift. In an harmonious voice, which united some of the most pleasing sounds imaginable, such as the croak of a

raven, the hooting of an owl, and the harsh screams of a jay, she informed me that some of the lame soldiers from the fort had brought the dead body of a man, demanding immediate admittance to the stranger, (meaning myself) who had arrived that night; but, said she,

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• God forbid that I, who am as good a christian as any breathing, should suffer a dead man to enter my house, for if I did, I'm sure and cartain his ghost would never quit me unto my dying day, and my house would never know peace and quietness, and that's God's truth."

Not having any doubt that the old invalids of the fort, whom I had sent upon the search for the body of my poor guide, had succeeded in their undertaking, and that they had now arrived with his body, I told the old woman, in a very authoritative voice, that I insisted upon the immediate admittance of those without, and that if she did not choose to perform those commands I would myself break open the door.

Perceiving that I was resolute, the ancient harridan thought fit to obey, and forthwith opened the door. Instantly a whole troop of invalids, some without an eye, some without a leg, and others armless, rushed in, bearing upon their shoulders the body of a man, whom they immediately deposited upon the ground.

I had no sooner viewed the body ihan I recognised the unfortunate person of my hap.

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