NIR T. D. LAUDER'S LEGENDARY TALES.
SIR THOMAS indulges a great partiality for national legends, especially for those of his native country; and when, during his rambles, he falls in with an ancient " Seanachaidh," he writes down whatever" curious matter it may have been his good fortune to gather from him." The volumes before us appear to be a selection from the stories illustrative of the" traditional and local histories of the Highlands," which our author has collected in this way; and which, judging from a hint, are to be continued till the stock is exhausted.
The framework of Tales of the Highlands corresponds with the mode in which Sir Triosies indicates he collected his materials and observed the landscape and modes of life he introduces into his stories. An " author ' and several friends set out on a pedestrian tour, with a Scotch Sergeant as cicerone. To beguile the way, the old soldier first narrates the story of his own life ; when they fall in with a relic whereby hangs a tale, he tells the tale ; if a locality has been the scene of any extraordinary natural convulsion—as a flood, or a snow-storm—it is described ; and when the party are fairly housed for the night, the veteran pours forth his stories over their cups ; a few natural incidents, such as may be supposed to occur at a Highland inn, giving pause and diversity to the Ser- geant's yarns.
The book is readable ; the tales are natural ; and the life and cha- racter described are Scotch,—though Sir THOMAS DICK LADDER has not sufficient imaginative power to throw himself back into former ages, but makes the national characteristics that he has himself observed do duty for all time. The nature, too, is literal : it seems as if the author had transferred to paper the stories as they were told him, without allowing for the difference between the living ani- mation of oral delivery with its fitting accompaniments, and the cold perusal of a reader, whose attention must be stimulated by an artful and a rapid narrative, altogether passing over subordinate circumstances, and bringing out the more important features by a few well-designed touches rather than by an accumulation of minutim. This particularity, in which the untaught always delight, has another disadvantage beyond that of compelling the reader to travel a longer way than is at all needful, and smothering the vivida via, if any there be : it extends the work to an undue length. These three volumes contain only six of strictly legendary tales, (and perhaps a Scotch antiquary might doubt whether they all re- lated to the Highlands) : so that if Sir THOMAS contemplates a com- plete collection, his work will outgrow patience, purses, and book- cases.
An extract from the adventures of the guide, Sergeant Archy Stewart, will not only afford a good idea of the style of the volumes, but will also convey a life-like notion of war, in this case the more exact and true from its very homeliness.
"And now, gentlemen, I believe I have little more to tell you about myself, except that I got my jaw broken in two places by a musket-ball in Holland on the 19th September 1799. See what a queer kind of a mouth it has made me in the inside here. You see I had been out superintending the working- party in the redoubts; and I had returned, tired as a dog, to the barn where the ht company were quartered, and had just laid my head on my wife's knee to take a nap—for I was married by this time—when a terrible thumping came to the door, and Corporal Parrot ran to see who was there. Now, it happened that one of our sergeants was sick and the othee had been killed. It was Ad- jutant Orchard who knocked so loud.
"Where is Sergeant Stewart?" demanded he in a terrible hurry, the zoo- silent he entered the place.
"Can't I do instead of him ? " replied Corporal Parrot ; "for he is just new out of the trenches."
"No!" replied the Adjutant : "if he was new out of hell, I must have him directly."
" Whst's ado, Sir?" demanded I, jumping up. "You know as much as I do," replied the Adjutant; "but depend upon it, we are not wanted to build churches. Get you out the light bobs as fast as you can." Well, I hurried about and got out the light company with as little delay as possible : and no very easy matter it was to get hold of the r fellows, knocked up as they were. Some of them I actually pulled out oft e hay-stacks by the legs, as you would pull out periwinkles from their shells. The troops marched fifteen miles without a halt. We found the French and Russians hard at it, blazing away so that we could see the very straws at our feet as we marched over the sand. The balls came whistling about us like hail, as we advanced. First came one, and knocked away the hilt of my sword; then came another, and cracked off the iron head of my halberd. • •
I stooped to take a musket from a dead Russian, for my own defence. The piece was a rifle, and it was yet warm in his hand from the last discharge. "By your leave, my poor fellow," said I, "I'll borrow your firelock for a shot or two, seeing that you have no further use for it at this present time." But dead as he was, the last gripe of departing life had made him hold it SO fast that I was obliged to twist it round ere I could make him part with it. I took off his cartridge-box by pulling the belt over his head. He had fired but two cartridges, and eighteen still remained. flooded and fired twice ; and I was just in the act of biting off the end of my third cartridge to fire again, when a musket-ball took me in the left cheek, and knocked me over as flat as a six- pence on the ground. The captain of the company looked behind him, and seeing that I was still able to move my hands, he very humanely ordered a file of men to carry me to the rear. They lifted me up from the ground, and the whole world seemed to be going round with me. They supported me under the arms, and I staggered along like a drunk man. They took me to a barn, where I lay insensible for some time; until coming to myself somewhat, as I lay there, I saw two surgeons employed with the wounded. "You will have little trouble with me, gentlemen," thought I within myself; "I shall be dead before you can get at me." Just at this moment I heard one of the surgeons say to the other, "I believe I shall die of hunger."
"I am like to faint from absolute want," said the other.
I could not speak, but I beckoned.
"By and by," said one of the surgeons, shaking his head.
" Your turn is not come yet," said the other.
I beckoned again, and pointed to the wallet at my side.
"Oh ho!" said the first surgeon, crossing the place, and rapidly followed by the other ; "Oh ho !" I comprehend you now. Let's see what you have got in your larder." He put his hand into the wallet, and found some balls of oatmeal, which my wife, honest woman, had made by rolling them up with water, and then giving them a roast among the ashes. The two gentlemen devoured them with great glee. They then looked at my ehafts, put some lint into the wound, and bound it up.
" Well," thought I to myself; "a leaden ball made the wound, and a ball of oatmeal has doctored it. Many thanks to my worthy wife, God bless her I"
After the doctors left us, the place, which was pitch-dark, became hot and pestiferous; and the groans that came from some of the poor wretches put me in mind of pandemonium. 1 WAR for some time feverish and restless. I tried to stretch myself out at length ; but I felt some one at my feet, who would not stir, all I could do. Though I could not speak, I was not sparing of my kicks; but still the person regarded me not. Next to me was Sergeant Wilson, with a broken leg, and be was pressed upon by some one at his side. But the Ser- geant had the full use of his tongue. "Sir," said he to his neighbour, for he was noted for being a very polite man, "will you do me the favour to lie a little further over, and take your elbow out of my stomach ?"
His civil request was disregarded, and there was no reply.
" Oh !" said the Sergeant, "perhaps the gentleman is a furreiner; but all them furreiners understands French, so I'll try my hand at that with him. bloushee, wooly woos have the goodness to takes your elbow out of my guts? Confound the fellow, what an edification he has had that he does not understand French ! I've heard Ensign Flitterkin say that it is the language of Europe. Pray, Sir, may I ax you if you be a European ? No answer by my soul, then, I may make bold to say that you are any thing but a civilian. Sir," continued the Sergeant, beginning to lose patience altogether, and to wax very wroth, "I insist on your removing your elbow. I say, rascal! take your elbow out of my stomach this moment !"
And so the Sergeant went on from bad to worse, till he swore, and went on to swear at the poor man more and more bloodily the whole night. But neither his swearing nor my kicking could rid either of us of our troublesome com- panions. And it was no great wonder indeed, for when the daylight came, we iiscovered that they were—two dead Russians. "This is a horrible place l" exclaimed the principal surgeon, when he came back in the morning. "As near as I can guess, one hundred and fifty-two men have died in this wretched barn since last night. We must have the wounded out of this."