The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne HTML version

Chapter I
ON the north-east coast of Scotland, in the most romantic part of the Highlands,
stood the Castle of Athlin; an edifice built on the summit of a rock whose base
was in the sea. This pile was venerable from its antiquity, and from its Gothic
structure; but more venerable from the virtues which it enclosed. It was the
residence of the still beautiful widow, and the children of the noble Earl of Athlin,
who was slain by the hand of Malcolm, a neighbouring chief, proud, oppressive,
revengeful; and still residing in all the pomp of feudal greatness, within a few
miles of the castle of Athlin. Encroachment on the domain of Athlin, was the
occasion of the animosity which subsisted between the chiefs. Frequent broils
had happened between their clans, in which that of Athlin had generally been
victorious. Malcolm, whose pride was touched by the defeat of his people; whose
ambition was curbed by the authority, and whose greatness was rivalled by the
power of the Earl, conceived for him that deadly hatred which opposition to its
favourite passions naturally excites in a mind like his, haughty and
unaccustomed to controul; and he meditated his destruction. He planned his
purpose with all that address which so eminently marked his character, and in a
battle which was attended by the chiefs of each party in person, he contrived, by
a curious finesse, to entrap the Earl, accompanied by a small detachment, in his
wiles, and there slew him. A general rout of his clan ensued, which was followed
by a dreadful slaughter; and a few only escaped to tell the horrid catastrophe to
Matilda. Overwhelmed by the news, and deprived of those numbers which would
make revenge successful, Matilda forbore to sacrifice the lives of her few
remaining people to a feeble attempt at retaliation, and she was constrained to
endure in silence her sorrows and her injuries.
Inconsolable for his death, Matilda had withdrawn from the public eye, into
this ancient seat of feudal government, and there, in the bosom of her people
and her family, had devoted herself to the education of her children. One son and
one daughter were all that survived to her care, and their growing virtues
promised to repay all her tenderness. Osbert was in his nineteenth year: nature
had given him a mind ardent and susceptible, to which education had added
refinement and expansion. The visions of genius were bright in his imagination,
and his heart, unchilled by the touch of disappointment, glowed with all the
warmth of benevolence.
When first we enter on the theatre of the world, and begin to notice its
features, young imagination heightens every scene, and the warm heart expands
to all around it. The happy benevolence of our feelings prompts us to believe that
every body is good, and excites our wonder why every body is not happy. We are
fired with indignation at the recital of an act of injustice, and at the unfeeling vices
of which we are told. At a tale of distress our tears flow a full tribute to pity: at a
deed of virtue our heart unfolds, our soul aspires, we bless the action, and feel
ourselves the doer. As we advance in life, imagination is compelled to relinquish
a part of her sweet delirium; we are led reluctantly to truth through the paths of
experience; and the objects of our fond attention are viewed with a severer eye.
Here an altered scene appears;–frowns where late were smiles; deep shades