Page images

“ Yes, really,“ returned Emily, setting down her basket of flowers, and extending her hand to receive the crook, inwardly delighted at the opportunity thus afforded her of becoming a shepherdess. The weather was charming, the birds were singing, the waters rushing, the flowers breathing their freshest odours, the snowy mountains shining in their purity, and the lakes beneath reflecting all their glories. Could any thing be more a propos than the sort of necessity in which Emily found herself, of assuming the pastoral office? Preliminaries were accordingly speedily settled.

The little boy, who wondered at nothing but the great kindness of the young lady, was now all animation, while he

gave her directions respecting what she was to do, and what she was to leave undone.

“ Look, lady," said the young shepherd,“ the sheep are not to go towards the crags; if you see any of them near to them, you must call Aime. We have named our dog Aime, because he is beloved. Only say, ' Mind, Aime ! to your post, Aime !' and he will be up and on the watch in a moment. And now, lady, you must count your sheep-twelve full-grown, and six lambs-you must not forget to count them every now and then; and don't let them go down the side of the pasture; for if the lambs get among the bushes, we shall have hard work to drive them up again."

We !” said Emily, laughing: “we, indeed! Well, this will caution to me how I make myself too intimate with the shepherds on the Dole.”

The little boy was too much engaged, by the important business of directing Emily how she was to manage her flock, to pay much attention to what Emily had last said. And now, as he prepared to leave the alp, he bowed to his fair substitute; and once more entreated her to take care of the sheep “ Farewell, lady,” he said, “I will return very speedily, and I shall love you more than ever I did before, if that is possible,” he added, as he turned away; and presently he was seen bounding down from steep to steep, like the fleet gazelle when pursued by the hunter.

And now, my gentle reader, having followed our little mountaineer in his descent, let us turn our attention to our

shepherdess of the Alps ; who, being seated on a point of the rock where she was shaded from the direct rays of the sun, which had now nearly obtained its midday height, had already counted her flock, and summoned Aime to his duty. For a while the exulting cries of the little boy, sounding more and more remote, disturbed the deep silence; but at length these sounds had ceased, and the silence remained unbroken, except by the occasional bleating of the sheep, and the rush of falling waters, the sound of which was brought to the ear at intervals by the breeze, and again passed away in low and almost inaudible murmurs.

Emily, now left alone, thought of her father, and the thought was delightful. “ How is he now engaged ?" she reflected; “ perhaps in prayer for poor Christopher: I may unite in these prayers, though not with him. Oh, my Christopher ! my brother!” Thus exclaiming, for she spoke these words aloud, and adding to them a short yet earnest prayer, she fell into a state of reflection on the early days of childhood; and, insensibly becoming lost in these recollections, she took the flowers from her basket, and began to weavethe crimson roses, with their buds and leaves, into a garland, with which she decorated her straw hat. This little work being completed, she again counted her sheep, and again looked round her. The rush of the waters continued, and there was a murmur of the wind amidst the higher points of the mountain. A cloud had passed between her and Mont Blanc. It was now gone, and the snowy peak had assumed a rosy hue of inexpressible beauty ; while the valley beneath her feet, with the unruffled bosom of the lake, presented a calm and delightful scene. The roses lay scattered on the grass by Emily. She gathered them up, and occupied herself again in preparing another garland ; which being finished,

she passed it over her shoulder; thinking that it formed a very appropriate ornament, over her white dress, for one in her present situation.

When this second garland was completed, as Wilhelm did not appear, she amused herself by adorning her crook with the residue of her flowers. She then counted her sheep again, and rehearsed several of the hymns of the Vaudois ; wishing for her harp, that she might accompany it with her own voice in these songs of praise ; for she thought

that some lyre of simple construction would be in unison with her present situation.

At length, however, a kind of disturbance among her sheep drew her attention; they had drawn closely together, and stood looking in one direction. To add to the terror of Emily, Aime was already on the alert, his ears were erect, and he had uttered one or two low growling sounds, and short interrupted barkings. The shepherdess arose in haste; she quitted her shady retreat, and grasped her flowery crook. It might have been a question at that moment whether she was not more terrified than the very lambs of her flock; neither would it have been easy to say what dreadful enemy she had prepared herself to behold.

At length, her eye being directed by the surer eye of the dog, she was aware of the point from which the enemy might be expected. It was at that point where the pasture-ground touched upon a little coppice, through which the country-people had worn a path, the entrance to which, being embowered with thick trees, yawned fearfully on the terrified shepherdess. Emily had heard of wolves, and read of banditti; and it was unfortunate that the remembrance of these should occur to her just at that moment, when honour forbade her to run away and forsake her bleating charge.

At length a sound, as of steps, or voices, or of something she knew not what, issued from the terrific wood; and, anon, a four-footed hairy creature, which might perhaps be as large as a wolf, if it was not a wolf indeed, appeared in the very centre of the shadowy archway. Emily, in increased terror, called on Aime, whose quick eye glanced from the flock to the enemy, and from the enemy to the flock, which latter he seemed endeavouring to keep together. The growls and barking of Aime now became more decided, his ears became more erect, and his very hair seemed to bristle. The four-footed creature approached; and, though it undoubtedly had every appearance, and the very voice, of a creature of the canine race, yet it was impossible for Emily at that crisis to think of any thing but a wolf. The dog of the mountain and he of the wood were now come within view of each other; and they neglected not to salute each other with fierce growling; which

adding fresh terror to the trembling flock, they ran precipitately down the steeps in the northern border of the pasture, leaving the shepherdess, who had made one or two vain efforts to stop them, in a state of such confusion and alarm as almost induced her to join the routed party, and make the best of her way down the side of the mountain. Turning, however, once again to look, fearing that some nischance might befall Aime, she saw a young gentleman, m the dress of a sportsman, advancing towards the dogs, whom he presently separated; when Aime ran precipitately down the hill after the sheep. Emily waited not to give a second look at the stranger: all she now thought of was how to avoid him; but, in turning hastily round, her petticoat was caught in a thorny bush; and, before she could extricate herself, the stranger had come up to her, and offered his services to assist her. She stammered some excuse, and was moving away, without venturing another look at the intruder; but he begged her attention for a moment, expressed his sorrow for the disturbance he had caused by bringing his dog within the precincts of her pasture-ground, and entreated permission to follow her sheep, and bring them back.

Emily thought of the garlands with which she had adorned herself, and the extraordinary figure which she must make in the eyes of this stranger. She felt it impossible either to answer him or look at him.

· Fair shepherdess,” said the young gentleman, “I fear that I have unintentionally occasioned you great fear. I have a thousand apologies to make; but let me first assist your dog to bring back your sheep, and then I trust


will receive my acknowledgments more favourably.” So say, ing, the young man ran immediately down the pasture, and making a circuit round the flock, shortly appeared again, driving the sheep before him.

During his short absence, Emily tried to recover her composure, but he was with her again before she had succeeded; and, while wiping away a tear, which had stolen down her cheek, a tear too for which she could scarcely account, she heard his voice again, requesting her to lay aside her fears, and assuring her that he had brought back all her sheep.

Emily thanked him; but she spoke in a low voice, and did not venture to cast one look towards him; being too


[ocr errors][merged small]

much impressed by the fanciful appearance which she had assumed.

" I am truly sorry," said the stranger, who seemed resolved to increase his acquaintance with her, “ that I have caused you so much alarm, fair lady; but I had not the smallest intention of so doing. Indeed, I had no idea of the scenes I was to witness on this mountain ; but surely I am come into a land of wonders.”

Emily had nothing to say, and especially, as she was aware that the young gentleman had made one or two attempts (with what success she knew not) to obtain a view of her face, which was considerably shaded by her shepherdess's hat.

“ I am afraid,” said the stranger," that you have not recovered your alarm, Madam. I fear that you have not forgiven me for intruding thus upon your solitary avocation.” And while he spoke, Emily was aware, by the tone of his voice, that he had some difficulty to restrain himself from laughing.

“ How rude he is !" she thought : “I wish Wilhelm would come back, that I might leave this place !"

“I have heard much of this country,” said the young man, “and of the beauty of its inhabitants ; but certainly I had no expectation of seeing such a shepherdess, even in Switzerland I had always considered the Arcadia of the poets to have had no existence in real life ; but I shall be a sceptic on this subject no longer."

“ Who cares what you supposed ?" thought Emily, turning quite away from him towards the sheep.

“ I trust that you have not lost one of your flock, fair shepherdess !" said the stranger, following her steps.

“ I should be obliged to you, Sir," said Emily, ifand she hesitated.

“What can I do for you?" said the stranger, with alacrity ; “ I am wholly at


service.” Emily was silent; she did not know what to say.

“ Would you have the kindness, Madam,” said the young man,“ to inform me, as I am a stranger in this country, whether there are any other shepherdesses on the Dole resembling yourself?”

Emily did not speak. “I mean to say," continued the young, man,“ have the

[ocr errors]
« EelmineJätka »