The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne HTML version

Chapter IX
IT was at this period, that, one stormy evening, the Countess was sitting with her
family in a room, the windows of which looked upon the sea. The winds burst in
sudden squalls over the deep, and dashed the foaming waves against the rocks
with inconceivable fury. The spray, notwithstanding the high situation of the
castle, flew up with violence against the windows. The Earl went out upon the
terrace beneath to contemplate the storm. The moon shone faintly by intervals,
through broken clouds upon the waters, illumining the white foam which burst
around, and enlightening the scene sufficiently to render it visible. The surges
broke on the distant shores in deep resounding murmurs, and the solemn pauses
between the stormy gusts filled the mind with enthusiastic awe. As the Earl stood
wrapt in the sublimity of the scene, the moon, suddenly emerging from a heavy
cloud, shewed him at some distance a vessel driven by the fury of the blast
towards the coast. He presently heard the signals of distress; and soon after
shrieks of terror, and a confused uproar of voices were borne on the wind. He
hastened from the terrace to order his people to go out with boats to the
assistance of the crew, for he doubted not that the vessel was wrecked; but the
sea ran so high as to make the adventure impracticable. The sound of voices
ceased, and he concluded that the wretched mariners were lost, when the
screams of distress again struck his ear, and again were lost in the tumult of the
storm; in a moment after, the vessel struck upon the rock beneath the castle; an
universal shriek ensued. The Earl, with his people, hastened to the assistance of
the crew; the fury of the gust was now abated, and the Earl, jumping into a boat
with Alleyn and some others, rowed to the ship, where they rescued a part of the
drowning people. They were conducted to the castle, and every comfort was
liberally administered to them. Among those, whom the Earl had received into his
boat, was a stranger, whose dignified aspect and manners bespoke him to be of
rank; he had several people belonging to him, but they were foreigners, and
ignorant of the language of the country. He thanked his deliverer with a noble
frankness, that charmed him. In the hall they were met by the Countess and her
daughter, who received the stranger with the warm welcome, which compassion
for his situation had inspired. He was conducted to the supper room, where the
magnificence of the board exhibited only the usual hospitality of his host. The
stranger spoke English fluently, and displayed in his conversation a manly and
vigorous mind, acquainted with the sciences, and with life; and the cast of his
observations seemed to characterize the benevolence of his heart. The Earl was
so much pleased with his guest, that he pressed him to remain at his castle till
another vessel could be procured; his guest equally pleased with the Earl, and a
stranger to the country, accepted the invitation.
New distress now broke upon the peace of Athlin; several days had expired,
and the messenger, who had been sent to Malcolm, did not appear. It was
almost evident, that the Baron, disappointed and enraged at the escape of his
prisoner, and eager for a sacrifice, had seized this man as the subject of a paltry
revenge. The Earl, however, resolved to wait a few days, and watch the event.