I’ve just came a cross the following sentence:
It seemed to breathe from a bosom labouring under the deadliest terror.
and can’t puzzle out the meaning of this two words combined together in this sentence. Could someone explain?
This is the full sentence
“Hush!” said her companion; and there was something in the tone with
which the word was uttered that thrilled and rather shook my spirits.
It seemed to breathe from a bosom labouring under the deadliest
terror; I have never heard another syllable so expressive; and I still
hear it again when I am feverish at night and my mind runs upon the
From the statement concerning the expressiveness of the syllable, it is reasonable to interpret ‘bosom‘ in its figurative sense of
the centre of human feelings
As well as its literal sense of
the front of a person’s chest
‘labour under‘ means
to be burdened (by) or be at a disadvantage (because of)
Therefore the whole can be taken to mean that the word ‘hush!’ was uttered as it would be by a person who was terrified to their core.
By using ‘bosom’ rather than ‘heart’ or ‘mind’ to indicate how the speaker experienced the terror, Stevenson invokes the impression of heavy or stressed breathing while actually talking about the speaker’s apparent emotional state.