Guy Mannering, Or, the Astrologer — Volume 01
Produced by Robert Rowe, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
BY SIR WALTER SCOTT
'Tis said that words and signs have power
O'er sprites in planetary hour;
But scarce I praise their venturous part
Who tamper with such dangerous art.
Lay of the Last Minstrel.
The Novel or Romance of Waverley made its way to the public slowly, of course, at first, but afterwards with such accumulating popularity as to encourage the Author to a second attempt. He looked about for a name and a subject; and the manner in which the novels were composed cannot be better illustrated than by reciting the simple narrative on which Guy Mannering was originally founded; but to which, in the progress of the work, the production ceased to bear any, even the most distant resemblance. The tale was originally told me by an old servant of my father's, an excellent old Highlander, without a fault, unless a preference to mountain dew over less potent liquors be accounted one. He believed as firmly in the story as in any part of his creed.
A grave and elderly person, according to old John MacKinlay's account, while travelling in the wilder parts of Galloway, was benighted. With difficulty he found his way to a country seat, where, with the hospitality of the time and country, he was readily admitted. The owner of the house, a gentleman of good fortune, was much struck by the reverend appearance of his guest, and apologised to him for a certain degree of confusion which must unavoidably attend his reception, and could not escape his eye. The lady of the house was, he said, confined to her apartment, and on the point of making her husband a father for the first time, though they had been ten years married. At such an emergency, the laird said, he feared his guest might meet with some apparent neglect.
'Not so, sir,' said the stranger; 'my wants are few, and easily supplied, and I trust the present circumstances may even afford an opportunity of showing my gratitude for your hospitality. Let me only request that I may be informed of the exact minute of the birth; and I hope to be able to put you in possession of some particulars which may influence in an important manner the future prospects of the child now about to come into this busy and changeful world. I will not conceal from you that I am skilful in understanding and interpreting the movements of those planetary bodies which exert their influences on the destiny of mortals. It is a science which I do not practise, like others who call themselves astrologers, for hire or reward; for I have a competent estate, and only use the knowledge I possess for the benefit of those in whom I feel an interest.' The laird bowed in respect and gratitude, and the stranger was accommodated with an apartment which commanded an ample view of the astral regions.
The guest spent a part of the night in ascertaining the position of the heavenly bodies, and calculating their probable influence; until at length the result of his observations induced him to send for the father and conjure him in the most solemn manner to cause the assistants to retard the birth if practicable, were it but for five minutes. The answer declared this to be impossible; and almost in the instant that the message was returned the father and his guest were made acquainted with the birth of a boy.
The Astrologer on the morrow met the party who gathered around the breakfast table with looks so grave and ominous as to alarm the fears of the father, who had hitherto exulted in the prospects held out by the birth of an heir to his ancient property, failing which event it must have passed to a distant branch of the family. He hastened to draw the stranger into a private room.
'I fear from your looks,' said the father, 'that you have bad tidings to tell me of my young stranger; perhaps God will resume the blessing He has bestowed ere he attains the age of manhood, or perhaps he is destined to be unworthy of the affection which we are naturally disposed to devote to our offspring?'
'Neither the one nor the other,' answered the stranger; 'unless my judgment greatly err, the infant will survive the years of minority, and in temper and disposition will prove all that his parents can wish. But with much in his horoscope which promises many blessings, there is one evil influence strongly predominant, which threatens to subject him to an unhallowed and unhappy temptation about the time when he shall attain the age of twenty-one, which period, the constellations intimate, will be the crisis of his fate. In what shape, or with what peculiar urgency, this temptation may beset him, my art cannot discover.'
'Your knowledge, then, can afford us no defence,' said the anxious father, 'against the threatened evil?'
'Pardon me,' answered the stranger, 'it can. The influence of the constellations is powerful; but He who made the heavens is more powerful than all, if His aid be invoked in sincerity and truth. You ought to dedicate this boy to the immediate service of his Maker, with as much sincerity as Samuel was devoted to the worship in the Temple by his parents. You must regard him as a being separated from the rest of the world. In childhood, in boyhood, you must surround him with the pious and virtuous, and protect him to the utmost of your power from the sight or hearing of any crime, in word or action. He must be educated in religious and moral principles of the strictest description. Let him not enter the world, lest he learn to partake of its follies, or perhaps of its vices. In short, preserve him as far as possible from all sin, save that of which too great a portion belongs to all the fallen race of Adam. With the approach of his twenty-first birthday comes the crisis of his fate. If he survive it, he will be happy and prosperous on earth, and a chosen vessel among those elected for heaven. But if it be otherwise--' The Astrologer stopped, and sighed deeply.
'Sir,' replied the parent, still more alarmed than before, 'your words are so kind, your advice so serious, that I will pay the deepest attention to your behests; but can you not aid me farther in this most important concern? Believe me, I will not be ungrateful.'
'I require and deserve no gratitude for doing a good action,' said the stranger, 'in especial for contributing all that lies in my power to save from an abhorred fate the harmless infant to whom, under a singular conjunction of planets, last night gave life. There is my address; you may write to me from time to time concerning the progress of the boy in religious knowledge. If he be bred up as I advise, I think it will be best that he come to my house at the time when the fatal and decisive period approaches, that is, before he has attained his twenty-first year complete. If you send him such as I desire, I humbly trust that God will protect His own through whatever strong temptation his fate may subject him to.' He then gave his host his address, which was a country seat near a post town in the south of England, and bid him an affectionate farewell.
The mysterious stranger departed, but his words remained impressed upon the mind of the anxious parent. He lost his lady while his boy was still in infancy. This calamity, I think, had been predicted by the Astrologer; and thus his confidence, which, like most people of the period, he had freely given to the science, was riveted and confirmed. The utmost care, therefore, was taken to carry into effect the severe and almost ascetic plan of education which the sage had enjoined. A tutor of the strictest principles was employed to superintend the youth's education; he was surrounded by domestics of the most established character, and closely watched and looked after by the anxious father himself.
The years of infancy, childhood, and boyhood passed as the father could have wished. A young Nazarene could not have been bred up with more rigour. All that was evil was withheld from his observation: he only heard what was pure in precept, he only witnessed what was worthy in practice.
But when the boy began to be lost in the youth, the attentive father saw cause for alarm. Shades of sadness, which gradually assumed a darker character, began to over-cloud the young man's temper. Tears, which seemed involuntary, broken sleep, moonlight wanderings, and a melancholy for which he could assign no reason, seemed to threaten at once his bodily health and the stability of his mind. The Astrologer was consulted by letter, and returned for answer that this fitful state of mind was but the commencement of his trial, and that the poor youth must undergo more and more desperate struggles with the evil that assailed him. There was no hope of remedy, save that he showed steadiness of mind in the study of the Scriptures. 'He suffers, continued the letter of the sage,' from the awakening of those harpies the passions, which have slept with him, as with others, till the period of life which he has now attained. Better, far better, that they torment him by ungrateful cravings than that he should have to repent having satiated them by criminal indulgence.'
The dispositions of the young man were so excellent that he combated, by reason and religion, the fits of gloom which at times overcast his mind, and it was not till he attained the commencement of his twenty-first year that they assumed a character which made his father tremble for the consequences. It seemed as if the gloomiest and most hideous of mental maladies was taking the form of religious despair. Still the youth was gentle, courteous, affectionate, and submissive to his father's will, and resisted with all his power the dark suggestions which were breathed into his mind, as it seemed by some emanation of the Evil Principle, exhorting him, like the wicked wife of Job, to curse God and die.
The time at length arrived when he was to perform what was then thought a long and somewhat perilous journey, to the mansion of the early friend who had calculated his nativity. His road lay through several places of interest, and he enjoyed the amusement of travelling more than he himself thought would have been possible. Thus he did not reach the place of his destination till noon on the day preceding his birthday. It seemed as if he had been carried away with an unwonted tide of pleasurable sensation, so as to forget in some degree what his father had communicated concerning the purpose of his journey. He halted at length before a respectable but solitary old mansion, to which he was directed as the abode of his father's friend.
The servants who came to take his horse told him he had been expected for two days. He was led into a study, where the stranger, now a venerable old man, who had been his father's guest, met him with a shade of displeasure, as well as gravity, on his brow. 'Young man,' he said, 'wherefore so slow on a journey of such importance?' 'I thought,' replied the guest, blushing and looking downward,' that there was no harm in travelling slowly and satisfying my curiosity, providing I could reach your residence by this day; for such was my father's charge.' 'You were to blame,' replied the sage, 'in lingering, considering that the avenger of blood was pressing on your footsteps. But you are come at last, and we will hope for the best, though the conflict in which you are to be engaged will be found more dreadful the longer it is postponed. But first accept of such refreshments as nature requires to satisfy, but not to pamper, the appetite.'
The old man led the way into a summer parlour, where a frugal meal was placed on the table. As they sat down to the board they were joined by a young lady about eighteen years of age, and so lovely that the sight of her carried off the feelings of the young stranger from the peculiarity and mystery of his own lot, and riveted his attention to everything she did or said. She spoke little and it was on the most serious subjects. She played on the harpsichord at her father's command, but it was hymns with which she accompanied the instrument. At length, on a sign from the sage, she left the room, turning on the young stranger as she departed a look of inexpressible anxiety and interest.
The old man then conducted the youth to his study, and conversed with him upon the most important points of religion, to satisfy himself that he could render a reason for the faith that was in him. During the examination the youth, in spite of himself, felt his mind occasionally wander, and his recollections go in quest of the beautiful vision who had shared their meal at noon. On such occasions the Astrologer looked grave, and shook his head at this relaxation of attention; yet, on the whole, he was pleased with the youth's replies.
At sunset the young man was made to take the bath; and, having done so, he was directed to attire himself in a robe somewhat like that worn by Armenians, having his long hair combed down on his shoulders, and his neck, hands, and feet bare. In this guise he was conducted into a remote chamber totally devoid of furniture, excepting a lamp, a chair, and a table, on which lay a Bible. 'Here,' said the Astrologer, 'I must leave you alone to pass the most critical period of your life. If you can, by recollection of the great truths of which we have spoken, repel the attacks which will be made on your courage and your principles, you have nothing to apprehend. But the trial will be severe and arduous.' His features then assumed a pathetic solemnity, the tears stood in his eyes, and his voice faltered with emotion as he said, 'Dear child, at whose coming into the world I foresaw this fatal trial, may God give thee grace to support it with firmness!'
The young man was left alone; and hardly did he find himself so, when, like a swarm of demons, the recollection of all his sins of omission and commission, rendered even more terrible by the scrupulousness with which he had been educated, rushed on his mind, and, like furies armed with fiery scourges, seemed determined to drive him to despair. As he combated these horrible recollections with distracted feelings, but with a resolved mind, he became aware that his arguments were answered by the sophistry of another, and that the dispute was no longer confined to his own thoughts. The Author of Evil was present in the room with him in bodily shape, and, potent with spirits of a melancholy cast, was impressing upon him the desperation of his state, and urging suicide as the readiest mode to put an end to his sinful career. Amid his errors, the pleasure he had taken in prolonging his journey unnecessarily, and the attention which he had bestowed on the beauty of the fair female when his thoughts ought to have been dedicated to the religious discourse of her father, were set before him in the darkest colours; and he was treated as one who, having sinned against light, was therefore deservedly left a prey to the Prince of Darkness.
As the fated and influential hour rolled on, the terrors of the hateful Presence grew more confounding to the mortal senses of the victim, and the knot of the accursed sophistry became more inextricable in appearance, at least to the prey whom its meshes surrounded. He had not power to explain the assurance of pardon which he continued to assert, or to name the victorious name in which he trusted. But his faith did not abandon him, though he lacked for a time the power of expressing it. 'Say what you will,' was his answer to the Tempter; 'I know there is as much betwixt the two boards of this Book as can ensure me forgiveness for my transgressions and safety for my soul.' As he spoke, the clock, which announced the lapse of the fatal hour, was heard to strike. The speech and intellectual powers of the youth were instantly and fully restored; he burst forth into prayer, and expressed in the most glowing terms his reliance on the truth and on the Author of the Gospel. The Demon retired, yelling and discomfited, and the old man, entering the apartment, with tears congratulated his guest on his victory in the fated struggle.
The young man was afterwards married to the beautiful maiden, the first sight of whom had made such an impression on him, and they were consigned over at the close of the story to domestic happiness. So ended John MacKinlay's legend.
The Author of Waverley had imagined a possibility of framing an interesting, and perhaps not an unedifying, tale out of the incidents of the life of a doomed individual, whose efforts at good and virtuous conduct were to be for ever disappointed by the intervention, as it were, of some malevolent being, and who was at last to come off victorious from the fearful struggle. In short, something was meditated upon a plan resembling the imaginative tale of Sintram and his Companions, by Mons. le Baron de la Motte Fouque, although, if it then existed, the author had not seen it.
The scheme projected may be traced in the three or four first chapters of the work; but farther consideration induced the author to lay his purpose aside. It appeared, on mature consideration, that astrology, though its influence was once received and admitted by Bacon himself, does not now retain influence over the general mind sufficient even to constitute the mainspring of a romance. Besides, it occurred that to do justice to such a subject would have required not only more talent than the Author could be conscious of possessing, but also involved doctrines and discussions of a nature too serious for his purpose and for the character of the narrative. In changing his plan, however, which was done in the course of printing, the early sheets retained the vestiges of the original tenor of the story, although they now hang upon it as an unnecessary and unnatural incumbrance. The cause of such vestiges occurring is now explained and apologised for.
It is here worthy of observation that, while the astrological doctrines have fallen into general contempt, and been supplanted by superstitions of a more gross and far less beautiful character, they have, even in modern days, retained some votaries.
One of the most remarkable believers in that forgotten and despised science was a late eminent professor of the art of legerdemain. One would have thought that a person of this description ought, from his knowledge of the thousand ways in which human eyes could be deceived, to have been less than others subject to the fantasies of superstition. Perhaps the habitual use of those abstruse calculations by which, in a manner surprising to the artist himself, many tricks upon cards, etc., are performed, induced this gentleman to study the combination of the stars and planets, with the expectation of obtaining prophetic communications.
He constructed a scheme of his own nativity, calculated according to such rules of art as he could collect from the best astrological authors. The result of the past he found agreeable to what had hitherto befallen him, but in the important prospect of the future a singular difficulty occurred. There were two years during the course of which he could by no means obtain any exact knowledge whether the subject of the scheme would be dead or alive. Anxious concerning so remarkable a circumstance, he gave the scheme to a brother astrologer, who was also baffled in the same manner. At one period he found the native, or subject, was certainly alive; at another that he was unquestionably dead; but a space of two years extended between these two terms, during which he could find no certainty as to his death or existence.
The astrologer marked the remarkable circumstance in his diary, and continued his exhibitions in various parts of the empire until the period was about to expire during which his existence had been warranted as actually ascertained. At last, while he was exhibiting to a numerous audience his usual tricks of legerdemain, the hands whose activity had so often baffled the closest observer suddenly lost their power, the cards dropped from them, and he sunk down a disabled paralytic. In this state the artist languished for two years, when he was at length removed by death. It is said that the diary of this modern astrologer will soon be given to the public.
The fact, if truly reported, is one of those singular coincidences which occasionally appear, differing so widely from ordinary calculation, yet without which irregularities human life would not present to mortals, looking into futurity, the abyss of impenetrable darkness which it is the pleasure of the Creator it should offer to them. Were everything to happen in the ordinary train of events, the future would be subject to the rules of arithmetic, like the chances of gaming. But extraordinary events and wonderful runs of luck defy the calculations of mankind and throw impenetrable darkness on future contingencies.
To the above anecdote, another, still more recent, may be here added. The author was lately honoured with a letter from a gentleman deeply skilled in these mysteries, who kindly undertook to calculate the nativity of the writer of Guy Mannering, who might be supposed to be friendly to the divine art which he professed. But it was impossible to supply data for the construction of a horoscope, had the native been otherwise desirous of it, since all those who could supply the minutiae of day, hour, and minute have been long removed from the mortal sphere.
Having thus given some account of the first idea, or rude sketch, of the story, which was soon departed from, the Author, in following out the plan of the present edition, has to mention the prototypes of the principal characters in Guy Mannering.
Some circumstances of local situation gave the Author in his youth an opportunity of seeing a little, and hearing a great deal, about that degraded class who are called gipsies; who are in most cases a mixed race between the ancient Egyptians who arrived in Europe about the beginning of the fifteenth century and vagrants of European descent.
The individual gipsy upon whom the character of Meg Merrilies was founded was well known about the middle of the last century by the name of Jean Gordon, an inhabitant of the village of Kirk Yetholm, in the Cheviot Hills, adjoining to the English Border. The Author gave the public some account of this remarkable person in one of the early numbers of Blackwood's Magazine, to the following purpose:--
'My father remembered old Jean Gordon of Yetholm, who had great sway among her tribe. She was quite a Meg Merrilies, and possessed the savage virtue of fidelity in the same perfection. Having been often hospitably received at the farmhouse of Lochside, near Yetholm, she had carefully abstained from committing any depredations on the farmer's property. But her sons (nine in number) had not, it seems, the same delicacy, and stole a brood-sow from their kind entertainer. Jean was mortified at this ungrateful conduct, and so much ashamed of it that she absented herself from Lochside for several years.
'It happened in course of time that, in consequence of some temporary pecuniary necessity, the goodman of Lochside was obliged to go to Newcastle to raise some money to pay his rent. He succeeded in his purpose, but, returning through the mountains of Cheviot, he was benighted and lost his way.
'A light glimmering through the window of a large waste barn, which had survived the farm-house to which it had once belonged, guided him to a place of shelter; and when he knocked at the door it was opened by Jean Gordon. Her very remarkable figure, for she was nearly six feet high, and her equally remarkable features and dress, rendered it impossible to mistake her for a moment, though he had not seen her for years; and to meet with such a character in so solitary a place, and probably at no great distance from her clan, was a grievous surprise to the poor man, whose rent (to lose which would have been ruin) was about his person.
'Jean set up a loud shout of joyful recognition--
"Eh, sirs! the winsome gudeman of Lochside! Light down, light down; for ye maunna gang farther the night, and a friend's house sae near." The farmer was obliged to dismount and accept of the gipsy's offer of supper and a bed. There was plenty of meat in the barn, however it might be come by, and preparations were going on for a plentiful repast, which the farmer, to the great increase of his anxiety, observed was calculated for ten or twelve guests, of the same description, probably, with his landlady.
'Jean left him in no doubt on the subject. She brought to his recollection the story of the stolen sow, and mentioned how much pain and vexation it had given her. Like other philosophers, she remarked that the world grew worse daily; and, like other parents, that the bairns got out of her guiding, and neglected the old gipsy regulations, which commanded them to respect in their depredations the property of their benefactors. The end of all this was an inquiry what money the farmer had about him; and an urgent request, or command, that he would make her his purse-keeper, since the bairns, as she called her sons, would be soon home. The poor farmer made a virtue of necessity, told his story, and surrendered his gold to Jean's custody. She made him put a few shillings in his pocket, observing, it would excite suspicion should he be found travelling altogether penniless.
'This arrangement being made, the farmer lay down on a sort of shake-down, as the Scotch call it, or bed-clothes disposed upon some straw, but, as will easily be believed, slept not.
'About midnight the gang returned, with various articles of plunder, and talked over their exploits in language which made the farmer tremble. They were not long in discovering they had a guest, and demanded of Jean whom she had got there.
'"E'en the winsome gudeman of Lochside, poor body," replied Jean; "he's been at Newcastle seeking for siller to pay his rent, honest man, but deil-be-lickit he's been able to gather in, and sae he's gaun e'en hame wi' a toom purse and a sair heart."
"'That may be, Jean," replied one of the banditti, "but we maun ripe his pouches a bit, and see if the tale be true or no." Jean set up her throat in exclamations against this breach of hospitality, but without producing any change in their determination. The farmer soon heard their stifled whispers and light steps by his bedside, and understood they were rummaging his clothes. When they found the money which the providence of Jean Gordon had made him retain, they held a consultation if they should take it or no; but the smallness of the booty, and the vehemence of Jean's remonstrances, determined them in the negative. They caroused and went to rest. As soon as day dawned Jean roused her guest, produced his horse, which she had accommodated behind the hallan, and guided him for some miles, till he was on the highroad to Lochside. She then restored his whole property; nor could his earnest entreaties prevail on her to accept so much as a single guinea.
'I have heard the old people at Jedburgh say, that all Jean's sons were condemned to die there on the same day. It is said the jury were equally divided, but that a friend to justice, who had slept during the whole discussion, waked suddenly and gave his vote for condemnation in the emphatic words, "Hang them a'!" Unanimity is not required in a Scottish jury, so the verdict of guilty was returned. Jean was present, and only said, "The Lord help the innocent in a day like this!" Her own death was accompanied with circumstances of brutal outrage, of which poor Jean was in many respects wholly undeserving. She had, among other demerits, or merits, as the reader may choose to rank it, that of being a stanch Jacobite. She chanced to be at Carlisle upon a fair or market-day, soon after the year 1746, where she gave vent to her political partiality, to the great offence of the rabble of that city. Being zealous in their loyalty when there was no danger, in proportion to the tameness with which they had surrendered to the Highlanders in 1745, the mob inflicted upon poor Jean Gordon no slighter penalty than that of ducking her to death in the Eden. It was an operation of some time, for Jean was a stout woman, and, struggling with her murderers, often got her head above water; and, while she had voice left, continued to exclaim at such intervals, "Charlie yet! Charlie yet!" When a child, and among the scenes which she frequented, I have often heard these stories, and cried piteously for poor Jean Gordon.
'Before quitting the Border gipsies, I may mention that my grandfather, while riding over Charterhouse Moor, then a very extensive common, fell suddenly among a large band of them, who were carousing in a hollow of the moor, surrounded by bushes. They instantly seized on his horse's bridle with many shouts of welcome, exclaiming (for he was well known to most of them) that they had often dined at his expense, and he must now stay and share their good cheer. My ancestor was, a little alarmed, for, like the goodman of Lochside, he had more money about his person than he cared to risk in such society. However, being naturally a bold, lively-spirited man, he entered into the humour of the thing and sate down to the feast, which consisted of all the varieties of game, poultry, pigs, and so forth that could be collected by a wide and indiscriminate system of plunder. The dinner was a very merry one; but my relative got a hint from some of the older gipsies to retire just when--
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious,
and, mounting his horse accordingly, he took a French leave of his entertainers, but without experiencing the least breach of hospitality. I believe Jean Gordon was at this festival.'[Footnote: Blackwood's Magazine, vol. I, p. 54]
Notwithstanding the failure of Jean's issue, for which
Weary fa' the waefu' wuddie,
a granddaughter survived her, whom I remember to have seen. That is, as Dr. Johnson had a shadowy recollection of Queen Anne as a stately lady in black, adorned with diamonds, so my memory is haunted by a solemn remembrance of a woman of more than female height, dressed in a long red cloak, who commenced acquaintance by giving me an apple, but whom, nevertheless, I looked on with as much awe as the future Doctor, High Church and Tory as he was doomed to be, could look upon the Queen. I conceive this woman to have been Madge Gordon, of whom an impressive account is given in the same article in which her mother Jean is mentioned, but not by the present writer:--
'The late Madge Gordon was at this time accounted the Queen of the Yetholm clans. She was, we believe, a granddaughter of the celebrated Jean Gordon, and was said to have much resembled her in appearance. The following account of her is extracted from the letter of a friend, who for many years enjoyed frequent and favourable opportunities of observing the characteristic peculiarities of the Yetholm tribes:--"Madge Gordon was descended from the Faas by the mother's side, and was married to a Young. She was a remarkable personage--of a very commanding presence and high stature, being nearly six feet high. She had a large aquiline nose, penetrating eyes, even in her old age, bushy hair, that hung around her shoulders from beneath a gipsy bonnet of straw, a short cloak of a peculiar fashion, and a long staff nearly as tall as herself. I remember her well; every week she paid my father a visit for her awmous when I was a little boy, and I looked upon Madge with no common degree of awe and terror. When she spoke vehemently (for she made loud complaints) she used to strike her staff upon the floor and throw herself into an attitude which it was impossible to regard with indifference. She used to say that she could bring from the remotest parts of the island friends to revenge her quarrel while she sat motionless in her cottage; and she frequently boasted that there was a time when she was of still more considerable importance, for there were at her wedding fifty saddled asses, and unsaddled asses without number. If Jean Gordon was the prototype of the CHARACTER of Meg Merrilies, I imagine Madge must have sat to the unknown author as the representative of her PERSON."'[Footnote: Blackwood's Magazine, vol. I, p. 56.]
How far Blackwood's ingenious correspondent was right, how far mistaken, in his conjecture the reader has been informed.
To pass to a character of a very different description, Dominie Sampson,--the reader may easily suppose that a poor modest humble scholar who has won his way through the classics, yet has fallen to leeward in the voyage of life, is no uncommon personage in a country where a certain portion of learning is easily attained by those who are willing to suffer hunger and thirst in exchange for acquiring Greek and Latin. But there is a far more exact prototype of the worthy Dominie, upon which is founded the part which he performs in the romance, and which, for certain particular reasons, must be expressed very generally.
Such a preceptor as Mr. Sampson is supposed to have been was actually tutor in the family of a gentleman of considerable property. The young lads, his pupils, grew up and went out in the world, but the tutor continued to reside in the family, no uncommon circumstance in Scotland in former days, where food and shelter were readily afforded to humble friends and dependents. The laird's predecessors had been imprudent, he himself was passive and unfortunate. Death swept away his sons, whose success in life might have balanced his own bad luck and incapacity. Debts increased and funds diminished, until ruin came. The estate was sold; and the old man was about to remove from the house of his fathers to go he knew not whither, when, like an old piece of furniture, which, left alone in its wonted corner, may hold together for a long while, but breaks to pieces on an attempt to move it, he fell down on his own threshold under a paralytic affection.
The tutor awakened as from a dream. He saw his patron dead, and that his patron's only remaining child, an elderly woman, now neither graceful nor beautiful, if she ever had been either the one or the other, had by this calamity become a homeless and penniless orphan. He addressed her nearly in the words which Dominie Sampson uses to Miss Bertram, and professed his determination not to leave her. Accordingly, roused to the exercise of talents which had long slumbered, he opened a little school and supported his patron's child for the rest of her life, treating her with the same humble observance and devoted attention which he had used towards her in the days of her prosperity.
Such is the outline of Dominie Sampson's real story, in which there is neither romantic incident nor sentimental passion; but which, perhaps, from the rectitude and simplicity of character which it displays, may interest the heart and fill the eye of the reader as irresistibly as if it respected distresses of a more dignified or refined character.
These preliminary notices concerning the tale of Guy Mannering and some of the characters introduced may save the author and reader in the present instance the trouble of writing and perusing a long string of detached notes.
I may add that the motto of this novel was taken from the Lay of the Last Minstrel, to evade the conclusions of those who began to think that, as the author of Waverley never quoted the works of Sir Walter Scott, he must have reason for doing so, and that the circumstances might argue an identity between them.
ABBOTSFORD, August 1, 1829.
GALWEGIAN LOCALITIES AND PERSONAGES WHICH HAVE BEEN SUPPOSED TO BE ALLUDED TO IN THE NOVEL
An old English proverb says, that more know Tom Fool than Tom Fool knows; and the influence of the adage seems to extend to works composed under the influence of an idle or foolish planet. Many corresponding circumstances are detected by readers of which the Author did not suspect the existence. He must, however, regard it as a great compliment that, in detailing incidents purely imaginary, he has been so fortunate in approximating reality as to remind his readers of actual occurrences. It is therefore with pleasure he notices some pieces of local history and tradition which have been supposed to coincide with the fictitious persons, incidents, and scenery of Guy Mannering.
The prototype of Dirk Hatteraick is considered as having been a Dutch skipper called Yawkins. This man was well known on the coast of Galloway and Dumfriesshire, as sole proprietor and master of a buckkar, or smuggling lugger, called the 'Black Prince.' Being distinguished by his nautical skill and intrepidity, his vessel was frequently freighted, and his own services employed, by French, Dutch, Manx, and Scottish smuggling companies.
A person well known by the name of Buckkar-tea, from having been a noted smuggler of that article, and also by that of Bogle Bush, the place of his residence, assured my kind informant Mr. Train, that he had frequently seen upwards of two hundred Lingtow men assemble at one time, and go off into the interior of the country, fully laden with contraband goods.
In those halcyon days of the free trade, the fixed price for carrying a box of tea or bale of tobacco from the coast of Galloway to Edinburgh was fifteen shillings, and a man with two horses carried four such packages. The trade was entirely destroyed by Mr. Pitt's celebrated commutation law, which, by reducing the duties upon excisable articles, enabled the lawful dealer to compete with the smuggler. The statute was called in Galloway and Dumfries-shire, by those who had thriven upon the contraband trade, 'the burning and starving act.'
Sure of such active assistance on shore, Yawkins demeaned himself so boldly that his mere name was a terror to the officers of the revenue. He availed himself of the fears which his presence inspired on one particular night, when, happening to be ashore with a considerable quantity of goods in his sole custody, a strong party of excisemen came down on him. Far from shunning the attack, Yawkins sprung forward, shouting, 'Come on, my lads; Yawkins is before you.' The revenue officers were intimidated and relinquished their prize, though defended only by the courage and address of a single man. On his proper element Yawkins was equally successful. On one occasion he was landing his cargo at the Manxman's Lake near Kirkcudbright, when two revenue cutters (the 'Pigmy' and the 'Dwarf') hove in sight at once on different tacks, the one coming round by the Isles of Fleet, the other between the point of Rueberry and the Muckle Ron. The dauntless freetrader instantly weighed anchor and bore down right between the luggers, so close that he tossed his hat on the deck of the one and his wig on that of the other, hoisted a cask to his maintop, to show his occupation, and bore away under an extraordinary pressure of canvass, without receiving injury. To account for these and other hairbreadth escapes, popular superstition alleged that Yawkins insured his celebrated buckkar by compounding with the devil for one-tenth of his crew every voyage. How they arranged the separation of the stock and tithes is left to our conjecture. The buckkar was perhaps called the 'Black Prince' in honour of the formidable insurer.
The 'Black Prince' used to discharge her cargo at Luce, Balcarry, and elsewhere on the coast; but her owner's favourite landing-places were at the entrance of the Dee and the Cree, near the old Castle of Rueberry, about six miles below Kirkcudbright. There is a cave of large dimensions in the vicinity of Rueberry, which, from its being frequently used by Yawkins and his supposed connexion with the smugglers on the shore, is now called Dirk Hatteraick's Cave. Strangers who visit this place, the scenery of which is highly romantic, are also shown, under the name of the Gauger's Loup, a tremendous precipice, being the same, it is asserted, from which Kennedy was precipitated.
Meg Merrilies is in Galloway considered as having had her origin in the traditions concerning the celebrated Flora Marshal, one of the royal consorts of Willie Marshal, more commonly called the Caird of Barullion, King of the Gipsies of the Western Lowlands. That potentate was himself deserving of notice from the following peculiarities:--He was born in the parish of Kirkmichael about the year 1671; and, as he died at Kirkcudbright 23d November 1792, he must then have been in the one hundred and twentieth year of his age. It cannot be said that this unusually long lease of existence was noted by any peculiar excellence of conduct or habits of life. Willie had been pressed or enlisted in the army seven times, and had deserted as often; besides three times running away from the naval service. He had been seventeen times lawfully married; and, besides, such a reasonably large share of matrimonial comforts, was, after his hundredth year, the avowed father of four children by less legitimate affections. He subsisted in his extreme old age by a pension from the present Earl of Selkirk's grandfather. Will Marshal is buried in Kirkcudbright church, where his monument is still shown, decorated with a scutcheon suitably blazoned with two tups' horns and two cutty spoons.
In his youth he occasionally took an evening walk on the highway, with the purpose of assisting travellers by relieving them of the weight of their purses. On one occasion the Caird of Barullion robbed the Laird of Bargally at a place between Carsphairn and Dalmellington. His purpose was not achieved without a severe struggle, in which the gipsy lost his bonnet, and was obliged to escape, leaving it on the road. A respectable farmer happened to be the next passenger, and, seeing the bonnet, alighted, took it up, and rather imprudently put it on his own head. At this instant Bargally came up with some assistants, and, recognising the bonnet, charged the farmer of Bantoberick with having robbed him, and took him into custody. There being some likeness between the parties, Bargally persisted in his charge, and, though the respectability of the farmer's character was proved or admitted, his trial before the Circuit Court came on accordingly. The fatal bonnet lay on the table of the court. Bargally swore that it was the identical article worn by the man who robbed him; and he and others likewise deponed that they had found the accused on the spot where the crime was committed, with the bonnet on his head. The case looked gloomily for the prisoner, and the opinion of the judge seemed unfavourable. But there was a person in court who knew well both who did and who did not commit the crime. This was the Caird of Barullion, who, thrusting himself up to the bar near the place where Bargally was standing, suddenly seized on the bonnet, put it on his head, and, looking the Laird full in the face, asked him, with a voice which attracted the attention of the court and crowded audience--'Look at me, sir, and tell me, by the oath you have sworn--Am not _I_ the man who robbed you between Carsphairn and Dalmellington?' Bargally replied, in great astonishment, 'By Heaven! you are the very man.' 'You see what sort of memory this gentleman has,' said the volunteer pleader; 'he swears to the bonnet whatever features are under it. If you yourself, my Lord, will put it on your head, he will be willing to swear that your Lordship was the party who robbed him between Carsphairn and Dalmellington.' The tenant of Bantoberick was unanimously acquitted; and thus Willie Marshal ingeniously contrived to save an innocent man from danger, without incurring any himself, since Bargally's evidence must have seemed to every one too fluctuating to be relied upon.
While the King of the Gipsies was thus laudably occupied, his royal consort, Flora, contrived, it is said, to steal the hood from the judge's gown; for which offence, combined with her presumptive guilt as a gipsy, she was banished to New England, whence she never returned.
Now, I cannot grant that the idea of Meg Merrilies was, in the first concoction of the character, derived from Flora Marshal, seeing I have already said she was identified with Jean Gordon, and as I have not the Laird of Bargally's apology for charging the same fact on two several individuals. Yet I am quite content that Meg should be considered as a representative of her sect and class in general, Flora as well as others.
The other instances in which my Gallovidian readers have obliged me by assigning to
A local habitation and a name,
shall also be sanctioned so far as the Author may be entitled to do so. I think the facetious Joe Miller records a case pretty much in point; where the keeper of a museum, while showing, as he said, the very sword with which Balaam was about to kill his ass, was interrupted by one of the visitors, who reminded him that Balaam was not possessed of a sword, but only wished for one. 'True, sir,' replied the ready-witted cicerone; 'but this is the very sword he wished for.' The Author, in application of this story, has only to add that, though ignorant of the coincidence between the fictions of the tale and some real circumstances, he is contented to believe he must unconsciously have thought or dreamed of the last while engaged in the composition of Guy Mannering.
He could not deny that, looking round upon the dreary region,
and seeing nothing but bleak fields and naked trees, hills
obscured by fogs, and flats covered with inundations, he did
for some time suffer melancholy to prevail upon him, and
wished himself again safe at home.
--'Travels of Will. Marvel,' IDLER, No. 49.
It was in the beginning of the month of November 17--when a young English gentleman, who had just left the university of Oxford, made use of the liberty afforded him to visit some parts of the north of England; and curiosity extended his tour into the adjacent frontier of the sister country. He had visited, on the day that opens our history, some monastic ruins in the county of Dumfries, and spent much of the day in making drawings of them from different points, so that, on mounting his horse to resume his journey, the brief and gloomy twilight of the season had already commenced. His way lay through a wide tract of black moss, extending for miles on each side and before him. Little eminences arose like islands on its surface, bearing here and there patches of corn, which even at this season was green, and sometimes a hut or farm-house, shaded by a willow or two and surrounded by large elder-bushes. These insulated dwellings communicated with each other by winding passages through the moss, impassable by any but the natives themselves. The public road, however, was tolerably well made and safe, so that the prospect of being benighted brought with it no real danger. Still it is uncomfortable to travel alone and in the dark through an unknown country; and there are few ordinary occasions upon which Fancy frets herself so much as in a situation like that of Mannering.
As the light grew faint and more faint, and the morass appeared blacker and blacker, our traveller questioned more closely each chance passenger on his distance from the village of Kippletringan, where he proposed to quarter for the night. His queries were usually answered by a counter-challenge respecting the place from whence he came. While sufficient daylight remained to show the dress and appearance of a gentleman, these cross interrogatories were usually put in the form of a case supposed, as, 'Ye'll hae been at the auld abbey o' Halycross, sir? there's mony English gentlemen gang to see that.'--Or, 'Your honour will be come frae the house o' Pouderloupat?' But when the voice of the querist alone was distinguishable, the response usually was, 'Where are ye coming frae at sic a time o' night as the like o' this?'--or, 'Ye'll no be o' this country, freend?' The answers, when obtained, were neither very reconcilable to each other nor accurate in the information which they afforded. Kippletringan was distant at first 'a gey bit'; then the 'gey bit' was more accurately described as 'ablins three mile'; then the 'three mile' diminished into 'like a mile and a bittock'; then extended themselves into 'four mile or thereawa'; and, lastly, a female voice, having hushed a wailing infant which the spokeswoman carried in her arms, assured Guy Mannering, 'It was a weary lang gate yet to Kippletringan, and unco heavy road for foot passengers.' The poor hack upon which Mannering was mounted was probably of opinion that it suited him as ill as the female respondent; for he began to flag very much, answered each application of the spur with a groan, and stumbled at every stone (and they were not few) which lay in his road.
Mannering now grew impatient. He was occasionally betrayed into a deceitful hope that the end of his journey was near by the apparition of a twinkling light or two; but, as he came up, he was disappointed to find that the gleams proceeded from some of those farm-houses which occasionally ornamented the surface of the extensive bog. At length, to complete his perplexity, he arrived at a place where the road divided into two. If there had been light to consult the relics of a finger-post which stood there, it would have been of little avail, as, according to the good custom of North Britain, the inscription had been defaced shortly after its erection. Our adventurer was therefore compelled, like a knight-errant of old, to trust to the sagacity of his horse, which, without any demur, chose the left-hand path, and seemed to proceed at a somewhat livelier pace than before, affording thereby a hope that he knew he was drawing near to his quarters for the evening. This hope, however, was not speedily accomplished, and Mannering, whose impatience made every furlong seem three, began to think that Kippletringan was actually retreating before him in proportion to his advance.
It was now very cloudy, although the stars from time to time shed a twinkling and uncertain light. Hitherto nothing had broken the silence around him but the deep cry of the bog-blitter, or bull-of-the-bog, a large species of bittern, and the sighs of the wind as it passed along the dreary morass. To these was now joined the distant roar of the ocean, towards which the traveller seemed to be fast approaching. This was no circumstance to make his mind easy. Many of the roads in that country lay along the sea-beach, and were liable to be flooded by the tides, which rise with great height, and advance with extreme rapidity. Others were intersected with creeks and small inlets, which it was only safe to pass at particular times of the tide. Neither circumstance would have suited a dark night, a fatigued horse, and a traveller ignorant of his road. Mannering resolved, therefore, definitively to halt for the night at the first inhabited place, however poor, he might chance to reach, unless he could procure a guide to this unlucky village of Kippletringan.
A miserable hut gave him an opportunity to execute his purpose. He found out the door with no small difficulty, and for some time knocked without producing any other answer than a duet between a female and a cur-dog, the latter yelping as if he would have barked his heart out, the other screaming in chorus. By degrees the human tones predominated; but the angry bark of the cur being at the instant changed into a howl, it is probable something more than fair strength of lungs had contributed to the ascendency.
'Sorrow be in your thrapple then!' these were the first articulate words, 'will ye no let me hear what the man wants, wi' your yaffing?'
'Am I far from Kippletringan, good dame?'
'Frae Kippletringan!!!' in an exalted tone of wonder, which we can but faintly express by three points of admiration. 'Ow, man! ye should hae hadden eassel to Kippletringan; ye maun gae back as far as the whaap, and baud the whaap till ye come to Ballenloan, and then--'
'This will never do, good dame! my horse is almost quite knocked up; can you not give me a night's lodgings?'
'Troth can I no; I am a lone woman, for James he's awa to Drumshourloch Fair with the year-aulds, and I daurna for my life open the door to ony o' your gang-there-out sort o' bodies.'
'But what must I do then, good dame? for I can't sleep here upon the road all night.'
'Troth, I kenna, unless ye like to gae down and speer for quarters at the Place. I'se warrant they'll tak ye in, whether ye be gentle or semple.'
'Simple enough, to be wandering here at such a time of night,' thought Mannering, who was ignorant of the meaning of the phrase; 'but how shall I get to the PLACE, as you call it?'
'Ye maun baud wessel by the end o' the loan, and take tent o' the jaw-hole.'
'O, if ye get to eassel and wessel again, I am undone! Is there nobody that could guide me to this Place? I will pay him handsomely.'
The word pay operated like magic. 'Jock, ye villain,' exclaimed the voice from the interior, 'are ye lying routing there, and a young gentleman seeking the way to the Place? Get up, ye fause loon, and show him the way down the muckle loaning. He'll show you the way, sir, and I'se warrant ye'll be weel put up; for they never turn awa naebody frae the door; and ye'll be come in the canny moment, I'm thinking, for the laird's servant--that's no to say his body-servant, but the helper like--rade express by this e'en to fetch the houdie, and he just staid the drinking o' twa pints o' tippenny to tell us how my leddy was ta'en wi' her pains.'
'Perhaps,' said Mannering, 'at such a time a stranger's arrival might be inconvenient?'
'Hout, na, ye needna be blate about that; their house is muckle eneugh, and decking time's aye canty time.'
By this time Jock had found his way into all the intricacies of a tattered doublet and more tattered pair of breeches, and sallied forth, a great white-headed, bare-legged, lubberly boy of twelve years old, so exhibited by the glimpse of a rush-light which his half-naked mother held in such a manner as to get a peep at the stranger without greatly exposing herself to view in return. Jock moved on westward by the end of the house, leading Mannering's horse by the bridle, and piloting with some dexterity along the little path which bordered the formidable jaw-hole, whose vicinity the stranger was made sensible of by means of more organs than one. His guide then dragged the weary hack along a broken and stony cart-track, next over a ploughed field, then broke down a slap, as he called it, in a drystone fence, and lugged the unresisting animal through the breach, about a rood of the simple masonry giving way in the splutter with which he passed. Finally, he led the way through a wicket into something which had still the air of an avenue, though many of the trees were felled. The roar of the ocean was now near and full, and the moon, which began to make her appearance, gleamed on a turreted and apparently a ruined mansion of considerable extent. Mannering fixed his eyes upon it with a disconsolate sensation.
'Why, my little fellow,' he said, 'this is a ruin, not a house?'
'Ah, but the lairds lived there langsyne; that's Ellangowan Auld Place. There's a hantle bogles about it; but ye needna be feared, I never saw ony mysell, and we're just at the door o' the New Place.'
Accordingly, leaving the ruins on the right, a few steps brought the traveller in front of a modern house of moderate size, at which his guide rapped with great importance. Mannering told his circumstances to the servant; and the gentleman of the house, who heard his tale from the parlour, stepped forward and welcomed the stranger hospitably to Ellangowan. The boy, made happy with half-a-crown, was dismissed to his cottage, the weary horse was conducted to a stall, and Mannering found himself in a few minutes seated by a comfortable supper, for which his cold ride gave him a hearty appetite.
Comes me cranking in,
And cuts me from the best of all my land
A huge half-moon, a monstrous cantle, out
Henry IV, Part 1.
The company in the parlour at Ellangowan consisted of the Laird and a sort of person who might be the village schoolmaster, or perhaps the minister's assistant; his appearance was too shabby to indicate the minister, considering he was on a visit to the Laird.
The Laird himself was one of those second-rate sort of persons that are to be found frequently in rural situations. Fielding has described one class as feras consumere nati; but the love of field-sports indicates a certain activity of mind, which had forsaken Mr. Bertram, if ever he possessed it. A good-humoured listlessness of countenance formed the only remarkable expression of his features, although they were rather handsome than otherwise. In fact, his physiognomy indicated the inanity of character which pervaded his life. I will give the reader some insight into his state and conversation before he has finished a long lecture to Mannering upon the propriety and comfort of wrapping his stirrup-irons round with a wisp of straw when he had occasion to ride in a chill evening.
Godfrey Bertram of Ellangowan succeeded to a long pedigree and a short rent-roll, like many lairds of that period. His list of forefathers ascended so high that they were lost in the barbarous ages of Galwegian independence, so that his genealogical tree, besides the Christian and crusading names of Godfreys, and Gilberts, and Dennises, and Rolands without end, bore heathen fruit of yet darker ages--Arths, and Knarths, and Donagilds, and Hanlons. In truth, they had been formerly the stormy chiefs of a desert but extensive domain, and the heads of a numerous tribe called Mac-Dingawaie, though they afterwards adopted the Norman surname of Bertram. They had made war, raised rebellions, been defeated, beheaded, and hanged, as became a family of importance, for many centuries. But they had gradually lost ground in the world, and, from being themselves the heads of treason and traitorous conspiracies, the Bertrams, or Mac-Dingawaies, of Ellangowan had sunk into subordinate accomplices. Their most fatal exhibitions in this capacity took place in the seventeenth century, when the foul fiend possessed them with a spirit of contradiction, which uniformly involved them in controversy with the ruling powers. They reversed the conduct of the celebrated Vicar of Bray, and adhered as tenaciously to the weaker side as that worthy divine to the stronger. And truly, like him, they had their reward.
Allan Bertram of Ellangowan, who flourished tempore Caroli primi, was, says my authority, Sir Robert Douglas, in his Scottish Baronage (see the title 'Ellangowan'), 'a steady loyalist, and full of zeal for the cause of His Sacred Majesty, in which he united with the great Marquis of Montrose and other truly zealous and honourable patriots, and sustained great losses in that behalf. He had the honour of knighthood conferred upon him by His Most Sacred Majesty, and was sequestrated as a malignant by the parliament, 1642, and afterwards as a resolutioner in the year 1648.' These two cross-grained epithets of malignant and resolutioner cost poor Sir Allan one half of the family estate. His son Dennis Bertram married a daughter of an eminent fanatic who had a seat in the council of state, and saved by that union the remainder of the family property. But, as ill chance would have it, he became enamoured of the lady's principles as well as of her charms, and my author gives him this character: 'He was a man of eminent parts and resolution, for which reason he was chosen by the western counties one of the committee of noblemen and gentlemen to report their griefs to the privy council of Charles II. anent the coming in of the Highland host in 1678.' For undertaking this patriotic task he underwent a fine, to pay which he was obliged to mortgage half of the remaining moiety of his paternal property. This loss he might have recovered by dint of severe economy, but on the breaking out of Argyle's rebellion Dennis Bertram was again suspected by government, apprehended, sent to Dunnotar Castle on the coast of the Mearns, and there broke his neck in an attempt to escape from a subterranean habitation called the Whigs' Vault, in which he was confined with some eighty of the same persuasion. The apprizer therefore (as the holder of a mortgage was then called) entered upon possession, and, in the language of Hotspur, 'came me cranking in,' and cut the family out of another monstrous cantle of their remaining property.
Donohoe Bertram, with somewhat of an Irish name and somewhat of an Irish temper, succeeded to the diminished property of Ellangowan. He turned out of doors the Reverend Aaron Macbriar, his mother's chaplain (it is said they quarrelled about the good graces of a milkmaid); drank himself daily drunk with brimming healths to the king, council, and bishops; held orgies with the Laird of Lagg, Theophilus Oglethorpe, and Sir James Turner; and lastly, took his grey gelding and joined Clavers at Killiecrankie. At the skirmish of Dunkeld, 1689, he was shot dead by a Cameronian with a silver button (being supposed to have proof from the Evil One against lead and steel), and his grave is still called the Wicked Laird's Lair.
His son Lewis had more prudence than seems usually to have belonged to the family. He nursed what property was yet left to him; for Donohoe's excesses, as well as fines and forfeitures, had made another inroad upon the estate. And although even he did not escape the fatality which induced the Lairds of Ellangowan to interfere with politics, he had yet the prudence, ere he went out with Lord Kenmore in 1715, to convey his estate to trustees, in order to parry pains and penalties in case the Earl of Mar could not put down the Protestant succession. But Scylla and Charybdis--a word to the wise--he only saved his estate at expense of a lawsuit, which again subdivided the family property. He was, however, a man of resolution. He sold part of the lands, evacuated the old cattle, where the family lived in their decadence as a mouse (said an old farmer) lives under a firlot. Pulling down part of these venerable ruins, he built with the stones a narrow house of three stories high, with a front like a grenadier's cap, having in the very centre a round window like the single eye of a Cyclops, two windows on each side, and a door in the middle, leading to a parlour and withdrawing-room full of all manner of cross lights.
This was the New Place of Ellangowan, in which we left our hero, better amused perhaps than our readers, and to this Lewis Bertram retreated, full of projects for re-establishing the prosperity of his family. He took some land into his own hand, rented some from neighbouring proprietors, bought and sold Highland cattle and Cheviot sheep, rode to fairs and trysts, fought hard bargains, and held necessity at the staff's end as well as he might. But what he gained in purse he lost in honour, for such agricultural and commercial negotiations were very ill looked upon by his brother lairds, who minded nothing but cock-fighting, hunting, coursing, and horse-racing, with now and then the alternative of a desperate duel. The occupations which he followed encroached, in their opinion, upon the article of Ellangowan's gentry, and he found it necessary gradually to estrange himself from their society, and sink into what was then a very ambiguous character, a gentleman farmer. In the midst of his schemes death claimed his tribute, and the scanty remains of a large property descended upon Godfrey Bertram, the present possessor, his only son.
The danger of the father's speculations was soon seen. Deprived of Laird Lewis's personal and active superintendence, all his undertakings miscarried, and became either abortive or perilous. Without a single spark of energy to meet or repel these misfortunes, Godfrey put his faith in the activity of another. He kept neither hunters nor hounds, nor any other southern preliminaries to ruin; but, as has been observed of his countrymen, he kept a man of business, who answered the purpose equally well. Under this gentleman's supervision small debts grew into large, interests were accumulated upon capitals, movable bonds became heritable, and law charges were heaped upon all; though Ellangowan possessed so little the spirit of a litigant that he was on two occasions charged to make payment of the expenses of a long lawsuit, although he had never before heard that he had such cases in court. Meanwhile his neighbours predicted his final ruin. Those of the higher rank, with some malignity, accounted him already a degraded brother. The lower classes, seeing nothing enviable in his situation, marked his embarrassments with more compassion. He was even a kind of favourite with them, and upon the division of a common, or the holding of a black-fishing or poaching court, or any similar occasion when they conceived themselves oppressed by the gentry, they were in the habit of saying to each other, 'Ah, if Ellangowan, honest man, had his ain that his forbears had afore him, he wadna see the puir folk trodden down this gait.' Meanwhile, this general good opinion never prevented their taking advantage of him on all possible occasions, turning their cattle into his parks, stealing his wood, shooting his game, and so forth, 'for the Laird, honest man, he'll never find it; he never minds what a puir body does.' Pedlars, gipsies, tinkers, vagrants of all descriptions, roosted about his outhouses, or harboured in his kitchen; and the Laird, who was 'nae nice body,' but a thorough gossip, like most weak men, found recompense for his hospitality in the pleasure of questioning them on the news of the country side.
A circumstance arrested Ellangowan's progress on the highroad to ruin. This was his marriage with a lady who had a portion of about four thousand pounds. Nobody in the neighbourhood could conceive why she married him and endowed him with her wealth, unless because he had a tall, handsome figure, a good set of features, a genteel address, and the most perfect good-humour. It might be some additional consideration, that she was herself at the reflecting age of twenty-eight, and had no near relations to control her actions or choice.
It was in this lady's behalf (confined for the first time after her marriage) that the speedy and active express, mentioned by the old dame of the cottage, had been despatched to Kippletringan on the night of Mannering's arrival.
Though we have said so much of the Laird himself, it still remains that we make the reader in some degree acquainted with his companion. This was Abel Sampson, commonly called, from his occupation as a pedagogue, Dominie Sampson. He was of low birth, but having evinced, even from his cradle, an uncommon seriousness of disposition, the poor parents were encouraged to hope that their bairn, as they expressed it, 'might wag his pow in a pulpit yet.' With an ambitious view to such a consummation, they pinched and pared, rose early and lay down late, ate dry bread and drank cold water, to secure to Abel the means of learning. Meantime, his tall, ungainly figure, his taciturn and grave manners, and some grotesque habits of swinging his limbs and screwing his visage while reciting his task, made poor Sampson the ridicule of all his school-companions. The same qualities secured him at Glasgow College a plentiful share of the same sort of notice. Half the youthful mob of 'the yards' used to assemble regularly to see Dominie Sampson (for he had already attained that honourable title) descend the stairs from the Greek class, with his lexicon under his arm, his long misshapen legs sprawling abroad, and keeping awkward time to the play of his immense shoulder-blades, as they raised and depressed the loose and threadbare black coat which was his constant and only wear. When he spoke, the efforts of the professor (professor of divinity though he was) were totally inadequate to restrain the inextinguishable laughter of the students, and sometimes even to repress his own. The long, sallow visage, the goggle eyes, the huge under-jaw, which appeared not to open and shut by an act of volition, but to be dropped and hoisted up again by some complicated machinery within the inner man, the harsh and dissonant voice, and the screech-owl notes to which it was exalted when he was exhorted to pronounce more distinctly,--all added fresh subject for mirth to the torn cloak and shattered shoe, which have afforded legitimate subjects of raillery against the poor scholar from Juvenal's time downward. It was never known that Sampson either exhibited irritability at this ill usage, or made the least attempt to retort upon his tormentors. He slunk from college by the most secret paths he could discover, and plunged himself into his miserable lodging, where, for eighteenpence a week, he was allowed the benefit of a straw mattress, and, if his landlady was in good humour, permission to study his task by her fire. Under all these disadvantages, he obtained a competent knowledge of Greek and Latin, and some acquaintance with the sciences.
In progress of time, Abel Sampson, probationer of divinity, was admitted to the privileges of a preacher. But, alas! partly from his own bashfulness, partly owing to a strong and obvious disposition to risibility which pervaded the congregation upon his first attempt, he became totally incapable of proceeding in his intended discourse, gasped, grinned, hideously rolled his eyes till the congregation thought them flying out of his head, shut the Bible, stumbled down the pulpit-stairs, trampling upon the old women who generally take their station there, and was ever after designated as a 'stickit minister.' And thus he wandered back to his own country, with blighted hopes and prospects, to share the poverty of his parents. As he had neither friend nor confidant, hardly even an acquaintance, no one had the means of observing closely how Dominie Sampson bore a disappointment which supplied the whole town with a week's sport. It would be endless even to mention the numerous jokes to which it gave birth, from a ballad called 'Sampson's Riddle,' written upon the subject by a smart young student of humanity, to the sly hope of the Principal that the fugitive had not, in imitation of his mighty namesake, taken the college gates along with him in his retreat.
To all appearance, the equanimity of Sampson was unshaken. He sought to assist his parents by teaching a school, and soon had plenty of scholars, but very few fees. In fact, he taught the sons of farmers for what they chose to give him, and the poor for nothing; and, to the shame of the former be it spoken, the pedagogue's gains never equalled those of a skilful ploughman. He wrote, however, a good hand, and added something to his pittance by copying accounts and writing letters for Ellangowan. By degrees, the Laird, who was much estranged from general society, became partial to that of Dominie Sampson. Conversation, it is true, was out of the question, but the Dominie was a good listener, and stirred the fire with some address. He attempted even to snuff the candles, but was unsuccessful, and relinquished that ambitious post of courtesy after having twice reduced the parlour to total darkness. So his civilities, thereafter, were confined to taking off his glass of ale in exactly the same time and measure with the Laird, and in uttering certain indistinct murmurs of acquiescence at the conclusion of the long and winding stories of Ellangowan.
On one of these occasions, he presented for the first time to Mannering his tall, gaunt, awkward, bony figure, attired in a threadbare suit of black, with a coloured handkerchief, not over clean, about his sinewy, scraggy neck, and his nether person arrayed in grey breeches, dark-blue stockings, clouted shoes, and small copper buckles.
Such is a brief outline of the lives and fortunes of those two persons in whose society Mannering now found himself comfortably seated.
Do not the hist'ries of all ages
Relate miraculous presages
Of strange turns in the world's affairs,
Foreseen by astrologers, soothsayers,
Chaldeans, learned genethliacs,
And some that have writ almanacks?
The circumstances of the landlady were pleaded to Mannering, first, as an apology for her not appearing to welcome her guest, and for those deficiencies in his entertainment which her attention might have supplied, and then as an excuse for pressing an extra bottle of good wine. 'I cannot weel sleep,' said the Laird, with the anxious feelings of a father in such a predicament, 'till I hear she's gotten ower with it; and if you, sir, are not very sleepery, and would do me and the Dominie the honour to sit up wi' us, I am sure we shall not detain you very late. Luckie Howatson is very expeditious. There was ance a lass that was in that way; she did not live far from hereabouts--ye needna shake your head and groan, Dominie; I am sure the kirk dues were a' weel paid, and what can man do mair?--it was laid till her ere she had a sark ower her head; and the man that she since wadded does not think her a pin the waur for the misfortune. They live, Mr. Mannering, by the shoreside at Annan, and a mair decent, orderly couple, with six as fine bairns as ye would wish to see plash in a saltwater dub; and little curlie Godfrey--that's the eldest, the come o' will, as I may say--he's on board an excise yacht. I hae a cousin at the board of excise; that's Commissioner Bertram; he got his commissionership in the great contest for the county, that ye must have heard of, for it was appealed to the House of Commons. Now I should have voted there for the Laird of Balruddery; but ye see my father was a Jacobite, and out with Kenmore, so he never took the oaths; and I ken not weel how it was, but all that I could do and say, they keepit me off the roll, though my agent, that had a vote upon my estate, ranked as a good vote for auld Sir Thomas Kittlecourt. But, to return to what I was saying, Luckie Howatson is very expeditious, for this lass--'
Here the desultory and long-winded narrative of the Laird was interrupted by the voice of some one ascending the stairs from the kitchen story, and singing at full pitch of voice. The high notes were too shrill for a man, the low seemed too deep for a woman. The words, as far as Mannering could distinguish them, seemed to run thus:--
Canny moment, lucky fit!
Is the lady lighter yet?
Be it lad, or be it lass,
Sign wi' cross and sain wi' mass.
'It's Meg Merrilies, the gipsy, as sure as I am a sinner,' said Mr. Bertram. The Dominie groaned deeply, uncrossed his legs, drew in the huge splay foot which his former posture had extended, placed it perpendicularly, and stretched the other limb over it instead, puffing out between whiles huge volumes of tobacco smoke. 'What needs ye groan, Dominie? I am sure Meg's sangs do nae ill.'
'Nor good neither,' answered Dominie Sampson, in a voice whose untuneable harshness corresponded with the awkwardness of his figure. They were the first words which Mannering had heard him speak; and as he had been watching with some curiosity when this eating, drinking, moving, and smoking automaton would perform the part of speaking, he was a good deal diverted with the harsh timber tones which issued from him. But at this moment the door opened, and Meg Merrilies entered.
Her appearance made Mannering start. She was full six feet high, wore a man's great-coat over the rest of her dress, had in her hand a goodly sloethorn cudgel, and in all points of equipment, except her petticoats, seemed rather masculine than feminine. Her dark elf-locks shot out like the snakes of the gorgon between an old-fashioned bonnet called a bongrace, heightening the singular effect of her strong and weather-beaten features, which they partly shadowed, while her eye had a wild roll that indicated something like real or affected insanity.
'Aweel, Ellangowan,' she said, 'wad it no hae been a bonnie thing, an the leddy had been brought to bed, and me at the fair o' Drumshourloch, no kenning, nor dreaming a word about it? Wha was to hae keepit awa the worriecows, I trow? Ay, and the elves and gyre-carlings frae the bonnie bairn, grace be wi' it? Ay, or said Saint Colme's charm for its sake, the dear?' And without waiting an answer she began to sing--
Trefoil, vervain, John's-wort, dill,
Hinders witches of their
will, Weel is them, that weel may
Fast upon Saint Andrew's day.
Saint Bride and her brat,
Saint Colme and his cat,
Saint Michael and his spear,
Keep the house frae reif and wear.
This charm she sung to a wild tune, in a high and shrill voice, and, cutting three capers with such strength and agility as almost to touch the roof of the room, concluded, 'And now, Laird, will ye no order me a tass o' brandy?'
'That you shall have, Meg. Sit down yont there at the door and tell us what news ye have heard at the fair o' Drumshourloch.'
'Troth, Laird, and there was muckle want o' you, and the like o' you; for there was a whin bonnie lasses there, forbye mysell, and deil ane to gie them hansels.'
'Weel, Meg, and how mony gipsies were sent to the tolbooth?'
'Troth, but three, Laird, for there were nae mair in the fair, bye mysell, as I said before, and I e'en gae them leg-bail, for there's nae ease in dealing wi' quarrelsome fowk. And there's Dunbog has warned the Red Rotten and John Young aff his grunds--black be his cast! he's nae gentleman, nor drap's bluid o' gentleman, wad grudge twa gangrel puir bodies the shelter o' a waste house, and the thristles by the roadside for a bit cuddy, and the bits o' rotten birk to boil their drap parritch wi'. Weel, there's Ane abune a'; but we'll see if the red cock craw not in his bonnie barn-yard ae morning before day-dawing.'
'Hush! Meg, hush! hush! that's not safe talk.'
'What does she mean?' said Mannering to Sampson, in an undertone.
'Fire-raising,' answered the laconic Dominie.
'Who, or what is she, in the name of wonder?'
'Harlot, thief, witch, and gipsy,' answered Sampson again.
'O troth, Laird,' continued Meg, during this by-talk, 'it's but to the like o' you ane can open their heart; ye see, they say Dunbog is nae mair a gentleman than the blunker that's biggit the bonnie house down in the howm. But the like o' you, Laird, that's a real gentleman for sae mony hundred years, and never hunds puir fowk aff your grund as if they were mad tykes, nane o' our fowk wad stir your gear if ye had as mony capons as there's leaves on the trysting-tree. And now some o' ye maun lay down your watch, and tell me the very minute o' the hour the wean's born, an I'll spae its fortune.'
'Ay, but, Meg, we shall not want your assistance, for here's a student from Oxford that kens much better than you how to spae its fortune; he does it by the stars.'
'Certainly, sir,' said Mannering, entering into the simple humour of his landlord, 'I will calculate his nativity according to the rule of the "triplicities," as recommended by Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Diocles, and Avicenna. Or I will begin ab hora questionis, as Haly, Messahala, Ganwehis, and Guido Bonatus have recommended.'
One of Sampson's great recommendations to the favour of Mr. Bertram was, that he never detected the most gross attempt at imposition, so that the Laird, whose humble efforts at jocularity were chiefly confined to what were then called bites and bams, since denominated hoaxes and quizzes, had the fairest possible subject of wit in the unsuspecting Dominie. It is true, he never laughed, or joined in the laugh which his own simplicity afforded--nay, it is said, he never laughed but once in his life, and on that memorable occasion his landlady miscarried, partly through surprise at the event itself, and partly from terror at the hideous grimaces which attended this unusual cachinnation. The only effect which the discovery of such impositions produced upon this saturnine personage was, to extort an ejaculation of 'Prodigious!' or 'Very facetious!' pronounced syllabically, but without moving a muscle of his own countenance.
On the present occasion, he turned a gaunt and ghastly stare upon the youthful astrologer, and seemed to doubt if he had rightly understood his answer to his patron.
'I am afraid, sir,' said Mannering, turning towards him, 'you may be one of those unhappy persons who, their dim eyes being unable to penetrate the starry spheres, and to discern therein the decrees of heaven at a distance, have their hearts barred against conviction by prejudice and misprision.'
'Truly,' said Sampson, 'I opine with Sir Isaac Newton, Knight, and umwhile master of his Majesty's mint, that the (pretended) science of astrology is altogether vain, frivolous, and unsatisfactory.' And here he reposed his oracular jaws.
'Really,' resumed the traveller, 'I am sorry to see a gentleman of your learning and gravity labouring under such strange blindness and delusion. Will you place the brief, the modern, and, as I may say, the vernacular name of Isaac Newton in opposition to the grave and sonorous authorities of Dariot, Bonatus, Ptolemy, Haly, Eztler, Dieterick, Naibob, Harfurt, Zael, Taustettor, Agrippa, Duretus, Maginus, Origen, and Argol? Do not Christians and Heathens, and Jews and Gentiles, and poets and philosophers, unite in allowing the starry influences?'
'Communis error--it is a general mistake,' answered the inflexible Dominie Sampson.
'Not so,' replied the young Englishman; 'it is a general and well-grounded belief.'
'It is the resource of cheaters, knaves, and cozeners,' said Sampson.
'Abusus non tollit usum.--The abuse of anything doth not abrogate the lawful use thereof.'
During this discussion Ellangowan was somewhat like a woodcock caught in his own springe. He turned his face alternately from the one spokesman to the other, and began, from the gravity with which Mannering plied his adversary, and the learning which he displayed in the controversy, to give him credit for being half serious. As for Meg, she fixed her bewildered eyes upon the astrologer, overpowered by a jargon more mysterious than her own.
Mannering pressed his advantage, and ran over all the hard terms of art which a tenacious memory supplied, and which, from circumstances hereafter to be noticed, had been familiar to him in early youth.
Signs and planets, in aspects sextile, quartile, trine, conjoined, or opposite; houses of heaven, with their cusps, hours, and minutes; almuten, almochoden, anabibazon, catabibazon; a thousand terms of equal sound and significance, poured thick and threefold upon the unshrinking Dominie, whose stubborn incredulity bore him out against the pelting of this pitiless storm.
At length the joyful annunciation that the lady had presented her husband with a fine boy, and was (of course) as well as could be expected, broke off this intercourse. Mr. Bertram hastened to the lady's apartment, Meg Merrilies descended to the kitchen to secure her share of the groaning malt and the 'ken-no,' [Footnote: See Note i.] and Mannering, after looking at his watch, and noting with great exactness the hour and minute of the birth, requested, with becoming gravity, that the Dominie would conduct him to some place where he might have a view of the heavenly bodies.
The schoolmaster, without further answer, rose and threw open a door half sashed with glass, which led to an old-fashioned terrace-walk behind the modern house, communicating with the platform on which the ruins of the ancient castle were situated. The wind had arisen, and swept before it the clouds which had formerly obscured the sky. The moon was high, and at the full, and all the lesser satellites of heaven shone forth in cloudless effulgence. The scene which their light presented to Mannering was in the highest degree unexpected and striking.
We have observed, that in the latter part of his journey our traveller approached the sea-shore, without being aware how nearly. He now perceived that the ruins of Ellangowan Castle were situated upon a promontory, or projection of rock, which formed one side of a small and placid bay on the sea-shore. The modern mansion was placed lower, though closely adjoining, and the ground behind it descended to the sea by a small swelling green bank, divided into levels by natural terraces, on which grew some old trees, and terminating upon the white sand. The other side of the bay, opposite to the old castle, was a sloping and varied promontory, covered chiefly with copsewood, which on that favoured coast grows almost within water-mark. A fisherman's cottage peeped from among the trees. Even at this dead hour of night there were lights moving upon the shore, probably occasioned by the unloading a smuggling lugger from the Isle of Man which was lying in the bay. On the light from the sashed door of the house being observed, a halloo from the vessel of 'Ware hawk! Douse the glim!' alarmed those who were on shore, and the lights instantly disappeared.
It was one hour after midnight, and the prospect around was lovely. The grey old towers of the ruin, partly entire, partly broken, here bearing the rusty weather-stains of ages, and there partially mantled with ivy, stretched along the verge of the dark rock which rose on Mannering's right hand. In his front was the quiet bay, whose little waves, crisping and sparkling to the moonbeams, rolled successively along its surface, and dashed with a soft and murmuring ripple against the silvery beach. To the left the woods advanced far into the ocean, waving in the moonlight along ground of an undulating and varied form, and presenting those varieties of light and shade, and that interesting combination of glade and thicket, upon which the eye delights to rest, charmed with what it sees, yet curious to pierce still deeper into the intricacies of the woodland scenery. Above rolled the planets, each, by its own liquid orbit of light, distinguished from the inferior or more distant stars. So strangely can imagination deceive even those by whose volition it has been excited, that Mannering, while gazing upon these brilliant bodies, was half inclined to believe in the influence ascribed to them by superstition over human events. But Mannering was a youthful lover, and might perhaps be influenced by the feelings so exquisitely expressed by a modern poet:--
For fable is Love's world, his home, his birthplace:
Delightedly dwells he 'mong fays, and talismans,
And spirits, and delightedly believes
Divinities, being himself divine
The intelligible forms of ancient poets,
The fair humanities of old religion,
The power, the beauty, and the majesty,
That had their haunts in dale, or piny mountain,
Or forest, by slow stream, or pebbly spring,
Or chasms and wat'ry depths--all these have vanish'd;
They live no longer in the faith of reason!
But still the heart doth need a language, still
Doth the old instinct bring back the old names.
And to yon starry world they now are gone,
Spirits or gods, that used to share this earth
With man as with their friend, and to the lover
Yonder they move, from yonder visible sky
Shoot influence down; and even at this day
'T is Jupiter who brings whate'er is great,
And Venus who brings everything that's fair.
Such musings soon gave way to others. 'Alas!' he muttered, 'my good old tutor, who used to enter so deep into the controversy between Heydon and Chambers on the subject of astrology, he would have looked upon the scene with other eyes, and would have seriously endeavoured to discover from the respective positions of these luminaries their probable effects on the destiny of the new-born infant, as if the courses or emanations of the stars superseded, or at least were co-ordinate with, Divine Providence. Well, rest be with him! he instilled into me enough of knowledge for erecting a scheme of nativity, and therefore will I presently go about it.' So saying, and having noted the position of the principal planetary bodies, Guy Mannering returned to the house. The Laird met him in the parlour, and, acquainting him with great glee that the boy was a fine healthy little fellow, seemed rather disposed to press further conviviality. He admitted, however, Mannering's plea of weariness, and, conducting him to his sleeping apartment, left him to repose for the evening.
Come and see' trust thine own eyes
A fearful sign stands in the house of life,
An enemy a fiend lurks close behind
The radiance of thy planet O be warned!
COLERIDGE, from SCHILLER
The belief in astrology was almost universal in the middle of the seventeenth century; it began to waver and become doubtful towards the close of that period, and in the beginning of the eighteenth the art fell into general disrepute, and even under general ridicule. Yet it still retained many partizans even in the seats of learning. Grave and studious men were both to relinquish the calculations which had early become the principal objects of their studies, and felt reluctant to descend from the predominating height to which a supposed insight into futurity, by the power of consulting abstract influences and conjunctions, had exalted them over the rest of mankind.
Among those who cherished this imaginary privilege with undoubting faith was an old clergyman with whom Mannering was placed during his youth. He wasted his eyes in observing the stars, and his brains in calculations upon their various combinations. His pupil, in early youth, naturally caught some portion of his enthusiasm, and laboured for a time to make himself master of the technical process of astrological research; so that, before he became convinced of its absurdity, William Lilly himself would have allowed him 'a curious fancy and piercing judgment in resolving a question of nativity.'
On the present occasion he arose as early in the morning as the shortness of the day permitted, and proceeded to calculate the nativity of the young heir of Ellangowan. He undertook the task secundum artem, as well to keep up appearances as from a sort of curiosity to know whether he yet remembered, and could practise, the imaginary science. He accordingly erected his scheme, or figure of heaven, divided into its twelve houses, placed the planets therein according to the ephemeris, and rectified their position to the hour and moment of the nativity. Without troubling our readers with the general prognostications which judicial astrology would have inferred from these circumstances, in this diagram there was one significator which pressed remarkably upon our astrologer's attention. Mars, having dignity in the cusp of the twelfth house, threatened captivity or sudden and violent death to the native; and Mannering, having recourse to those further rules by which diviners pretend to ascertain the vehemency of this evil direction, observed from the result that three periods would be particularly hazardous--his fifth, his tenth, his twenty-first year.
It was somewhat remarkable that Mannering had once before tried a similar piece of foolery at the instance of Sophia Wellwood, the young lady to whom he was attached, and that a similar conjunction of planetary influence threatened her with death or imprisonment in her thirty-ninth year. She was at this time eighteen; so that, according to the result of the scheme in both cases, the same year threatened her with the same misfortune that was presaged to the native or infant whom that night had introduced into the world. Struck with this coincidence, Mannering repeated his calculations; and the result approximated the events predicted, until at length the same month, and day of the month, seemed assigned as the period of peril to both.
It will be readily believed that, in mentioning this circumstance, we lay no weight whatever upon the pretended information thus conveyed. But it often happens, such is our natural love for the marvellous, that we willingly contribute our own efforts to beguile our better judgments. Whether the coincidence which I have mentioned was really one of those singular chances which sometimes happen against all ordinary calculations; or whether Mannering, bewildered amid the arithmetical labyrinth and technical jargon of astrology, had insensibly twice followed the same clue to guide him out of the maze; or whether his imagination, seduced by some point of apparent resemblance, lent its aid to make the similitude between the two operations more exactly accurate than it might otherwise have been, it is impossible to guess; but the impression upon his mind that the results exactly corresponded was vividly and indelibly strong.
He could not help feeling surprise at a coincidence so singular and unexpected. 'Does the devil mingle in the dance, to avenge himself for our trifling with an art said to be of magical origin? Or is it possible, as Bacon and Sir Thomas Browne admit, that there is some truth in a sober and regulated astrology, and that the influence of the stars is not to be denied, though the due application of it by the knaves who pretend to practise the art is greatly to be suspected?' A moment's consideration of the subject induced him to dismiss this opinion as fantastical, and only sanctioned by those learned men either because they durst not at once shock the universal prejudices of their age, or because they themselves were not altogether freed from the contagious influence of a prevailing superstition. Yet the result of his calculations in these two instances left so unpleasing an impression on his mind that, like Prospero, he mentally relinquished his art, and resolved, neither in jest nor earnest, ever again to practise judicial astrology.
He hesitated a good deal what he should say to the Laird of Ellangowan concerning the horoscope of his first-born; and at length resolved plainly to tell him the judgment which he had formed, at the same time acquainting him with the futility of the rules of art on which he had proceeded. With this resolution he walked out upon the terrace.
If the view of the scene around Ellangowan had been pleasing by moonlight, it lost none of its beauty by the light of the morning sun. The land, even in the month of November, smiled under its influence. A steep but regular ascent led from the terrace to the neighbouring eminence, and conducted Mannering to the front of the old castle. It consisted of two massive round towers projecting deeply and darkly at the extreme angles of a curtain, or flat wall, which united them, and thus protecting the main entrance, that opened through a lofty arch in the centre of the curtain into the inner court of the castle. The arms of the family, carved in freestone, frowned over the gateway, and the portal showed the spaces arranged by the architect for lowering the portcullis and raising the drawbridge. A rude farm-gate, made of young fir-trees nailed together, now formed the only safeguard of this once formidable entrance. The esplanade in front of the castle commanded a noble prospect.
The dreary scene of desolation through which Mannering's road had lain on the preceding evening was excluded from the view by some rising ground, and the landscape showed a pleasing alternation of hill and dale, intersected by a river, which was in some places visible, and hidden in others, where it rolled betwixt deep and wooded banks. The spire of a church and the appearance of some houses indicated the situation of a village at the place where the stream had its junction with the ocean. The vales seemed well cultivated, the little inclosures into which they were divided skirting the bottom of the hills, and sometimes carrying their lines of straggling hedgerows a little way up the ascent. Above these were green pastures, tenanted chiefly by herds of black cattle, then the staple commodity of the country, whose distant low gave no unpleasing animation to the landscape. The remoter hills were of a sterner character, and, at still greater distance, swelled into mountains of dark heath, bordering the horizon with a screen which gave a defined and limited boundary to the cultivated country, and added at the same time the pleasing idea that it was sequestered and solitary. The sea-coast, which Mannering now saw in its extent, corresponded in variety and beauty with the inland view. In some places it rose into tall rocks, frequently crowned with the ruins of old buildings, towers, or beacons, which, according to tradition, were placed within sight of each other, that, in times of invasion or civil war, they might communicate by signal for mutual defence and protection. Ellangowan Castle was by far the most extensive and important of these ruins, and asserted from size and situation the superiority which its founders were said once to have possessed among the chiefs and nobles of the district. In other places the shore was of a more gentle description, indented with small bays, where the land sloped smoothly down, or sent into the sea promontories covered with wood.
A scene so different from what last night's journey had presaged produced a proportional effect upon Mannering. Beneath his eye lay the modern house--an awkward mansion, indeed, in point of architecture, but well situated, and with a warm, pleasant exposure. 'How happily,' thought our hero, 'would life glide on in such a retirement! On the one hand, the striking remnants of ancient grandeur, with the secret consciousness of family pride which they inspire; on the other, enough of modern elegance and comfort to satisfy every moderate wish. Here then, and with thee, Sophia!'
We shall not pursue a lover's day-dream any farther. Mannering stood a minute with his arms folded, and then turned to the ruined castle.
On entering the gateway, he found that the rude magnificence of the inner court amply corresponded with the grandeur of the exterior. On the one side ran a range of windows lofty and large, divided by carved mullions of stone, which had once lighted the great hall of the castle; on the other were various buildings of different heights and dates, yet so united as to present to the eye a certain general effect of uniformity of front. The doors and windows were ornamented with projections exhibiting rude specimens of sculpture and tracery, partly entire and partly broken down, partly covered by ivy and trailing plants, which grew luxuriantly among the ruins. That end of the court which faced the entrance had also been formerly closed by a range of buildings; but owing, it was said, to its having been battered by the ships of the Parliament under Deane, during the long civil war, this part of the castle was much more ruinous than the rest, and exhibited a great chasm, through which Mannering could observe the sea, and the little vessel (an armed lugger), which retained her station in the centre of the bay. [Footnote: The outline of the above description, as far as the supposed ruins are concerned, will be found somewhat to resemble the noble remains of Carlaverock Castle, six or seven miles from Dumfries, and near to Lochar Moss.] While Mannering was gazing round the ruins, he heard from the interior of an apartment on the left hand the voice of the gipsy he had seen on the preceding evening. He soon found an aperture through which he could observe her without being himself visible; and could not help feeling that her figure, her employment, and her situation conveyed the exact impression of an ancient sibyl.
She sate upon a broken corner-stone in the angle of a paved apartment, part of which she had swept clean to afford a smooth space for the evolutions of her spindle. A strong sunbeam through a lofty and narrow window fell upon her wild dress and features, and afforded her light for her occupation; the rest of the apartment was very gloomy. Equipt in a habit which mingled the national dress of the Scottish common people with something of an Eastern costume, she spun a thread drawn from wool of three different colours, black, white, and grey, by assistance of those ancient implements of housewifery now almost banished from the land, the distaff and spindle. As she spun, she sung what seemed to be a charm. Mannering, after in vain attempting to make himself master of the exact words of her song, afterwards attempted the following paraphrase of what, from a few intelligible phrases, he concluded to be its purport:--
Twist ye, twine ye! even so
Mingle shades of joy and woe,
Hope, and fear, and peace, and strife,
In the thread of human life.
While the mystic twist is spinning,
And the infant's life beginning,
Dimly seen through twilight bending,
Lo, what varied shapes attending!
Passions wild, and Follies vain,
Pleasures soon exchanged for pain,
Doubt, and Jealousy, and Fear
In the magic dance appear.
Now they wax, and now they dwindle,
Whirling with the whirling spindle.
Twist ye, twine ye! even so
Mingle human bliss and woe.
Ere our translator, or rather our free imitator, had arranged these stanzas in his head, and while he was yet hammering out a rhyme for DWINDLE, the task of the sibyl was accomplished, or her wool was expended. She took the spindle, now charged with her labours, and, undoing the thread gradually, measured it by casting it over her elbow and bringing each loop round between her forefinger and thumb. When she had measured it out, she muttered to herself--'A hank, but not a haill ane--the full years o' three score and ten, but thrice broken, and thrice to OOP (i.e. to unite); he'll be a lucky lad an he win through wi't.'
Our hero was about to speak to the prophetess, when a voice, hoarse as the waves with which it mingled, hallooed twice, and with increasing impatience--'Meg, Meg Merrilies! Gipsy--hag--tausend deyvils!'
'I am coming, I am coming, Captain,' answered Meg; and in a moment or two the impatient commander whom she addressed made his appearance from the broken part of the ruins.
He was apparently a seafaring man, rather under the middle size, and with a countenance bronzed by a thousand conflicts with the north-east wind. His frame was prodigiously muscular, strong, and thick-set; so that it seemed as if a man of much greater height would have been an inadequate match in any close personal conflict. He was hard-favoured, and, which was worse, his face bore nothing of the insouciance, the careless, frolicsome jollity and vacant curiosity, of a sailor on shore. These qualities, perhaps, as much as any others, contribute to the high popularity of our seamen, and the general good inclination which our society expresses towards them. Their gallantry, courage, and hardihood are qualities which excite reverence, and perhaps rather humble pacific landsmen in their presence; and neither respect nor a sense of humiliation are feelings easily combined with a familiar fondness towards those who inspire them. But the boyish frolics, the exulting high spirits, the unreflecting mirth of a sailor when enjoying himself on shore, temper the more formidable points of his character. There was nothing like these in this man's face; on the contrary, a surly and even savage scowl appeared to darken features which would have been harsh and unpleasant under any expression or modification. 'Where are you, Mother Deyvilson?' he said, with somewhat of a foreign accent, though speaking perfectly good English. 'Donner and blitzen! we have been staying this half-hour. Come, bless the good ship and the voyage, and be cursed to ye for a hag of Satan!'
At this moment he noticed Mannering, who, from the position which he had taken to watch Meg Merrilies's incantations, had the appearance of some one who was concealing himself, being half hidden by the buttress behind which he stood. The Captain, for such he styled himself, made a sudden and startled pause, and thrust his right hand into his bosom between his jacket and waistcoat as if to draw some weapon. 'What cheer, brother? you seem on the outlook, eh?' Ere Mannering, somewhat struck by the man's gesture and insolent tone of voice, had made any answer, the gipsy emerged from her vault and joined the stranger. He questioned her in an undertone, looking at Mannering--'A shark alongside, eh?'
She answered in the same tone of under-dialogue, using the cant language of her tribe--'Cut ben whids, and stow them; a gentry cove of the ken.' [Footnote: Meaning--Stop your uncivil language; that is a gentleman from the house below.]
The fellow's cloudy visage cleared up. 'The top of the morning to you, sir; I find you are a visitor of my friend Mr. Bertram. I beg pardon, but I took you for another sort of a person.'
Mannering replied, 'And you, sir, I presume, are the master of that vessel in the bay?'
'Ay, ay, sir; I am Captain Dirk Hatteraick, of the Yungfrauw Hagenslaapen, well known on this coast; I am not ashamed of my name, nor of my vessel--no, nor of my cargo neither for that matter.'
'I daresay you have no reason, sir.'
'Tausend donner, no; I'm all in the way of fair trade. Just loaded yonder at Douglas, in the Isle of Man--neat cogniac--real hyson and souchong--Mechlin lace, if you want any--right cogniac--we bumped ashore a hundred kegs last night.'
'Really, sir, I am only a traveller, and have no sort of occasion for anything of the kind at present.'
'Why, then, good-morning to you, for business must be minded--unless ye'll go aboard and take schnaps; you shall have a pouch-full of tea ashore. Dirk Hatteraick knows how to be civil.'
There was a mixture of impudence, hardihood, and suspicious fear about this man which was inexpressibly disgusting. His manners were those of a ruffian, conscious of the suspicion attending his character, yet aiming to bear it down by the affectation of a careless and hardy familiarity. Mannering briefly rejected his proffered civilities; and, after a surly good-morning, Hatteraick retired with the gipsy to that part of the ruins from which he had first made his appearance. A very narrow staircase here went down to the beach, intended probably for the convenience of the garrison during a siege. By this stair the couple, equally amiable in appearance and respectable by profession, descended to the sea-side. The soi-disant captain embarked in a small boat with two men, who appeared to wait for him, and the gipsy remained on the shore, reciting or singing, and gesticulating with great vehemence.
You have fed upon my seignories,
Dispark'd my parks, and fell'd my forest woods,
From mine own windows torn my household coat,
Razed out my impress, leaving me no sign,
Save men's opinions and my living blood,
To show the world I am a gentleman.
When the boat which carried the worthy captain on board his vessel had accomplished that task, the sails began to ascend, and the ship was got under way. She fired three guns as a salute to the house of Ellangowan, and then shot away rapidly before the wind, which blew off shore, under all the sail she could crowd.
'Ay, ay,' said the Laird, who had sought Mannering for some time, and now joined him, 'there they go--there go the free-traders--there go Captain Dirk Hatteraick and the Yungfrauw Hagenslaapen, half Manks, half Dutchman, half devil! run out the boltsprit, up mainsail, top and top-gallant sails, royals, and skyscrapers, and away--follow who can! That fellow, Mr. Mannering, is the terror of all the excise and custom-house cruisers; they can make nothing of him; he drubs them, or he distances them;--and, speaking of excise, I come to bring you to breakfast; and you shall have some tea, that--'
Mannering by this time was aware that one thought linked strangely on to another in the concatenation of worthy Mr. Bertram's ideas,
Like orient pearls at random strung;
and therefore, before the current of his associations had drifted farther from the point he had left, he brought him back by some inquiry about Dirk Hatteraick.
'O he's a--a--gude sort of blackguard fellow eneugh; naebody cares to trouble him--smuggler, when his guns are in ballast--privateer, or pirate, faith, when he gets them mounted. He has done more mischief to the revenue folk than ony rogue that ever came out of Ramsay.'
'But, my good sir, such being his character, I wonder he has any protection and encouragement on this coast.'
'Why, Mr. Mannering, people must have brandy and tea, and there's none in the country but what comes this way; and then there's short accounts, and maybe a keg or two, or a dozen pounds, left at your stable-door, instead of a d--d lang account at Christmas from Duncan Robb, the grocer at Kippletringan, who has aye a sum to make up, and either wants ready money or a short-dated bill. Now, Hatteraick will take wood, or he'll take bark, or he'll take barley, or he'll take just what's convenient at the time. I'll tell you a gude story about that. There was ance a laird--that's Macfie of Gudgeonford,--he had a great number of kain hens--that's hens that the tenant pays to the landlord, like a sort of rent in kind. They aye feed mine very ill; Luckie Finniston sent up three that were a shame to be seen only last week, and yet she has twelve bows sowing of victual; indeed her goodman, Duncan Finniston--that's him that's gone--(we must all die, Mr. Mannering, that's ower true)--and, speaking of that, let us live in the meanwhile, for here's breakfast on the table, and the Dominie ready to say the grace.'
The Dominie did accordingly pronounce a benediction, that exceeded in length any speech which Mannering had yet heard him utter. The tea, which of course belonged to the noble Captain Hatteraick's trade, was pronounced excellent. Still Mannering hinted, though with due delicacy, at the risk of encouraging such desperate characters. 'Were it but in justice to the revenue, I should have supposed--'
'Ah, the revenue lads'--for Mr. Bertram never embraced a general or abstract idea, and his notion of the revenue was personified in the commissioners, surveyors, comptrollers, and riding officers whom he happened to know--'the revenue lads can look sharp eneugh out for themselves, no ane needs to help them; and they have a' the soldiers to assist them besides; and as to justice--you'll be surprised to hear it, Mr. Mannering, but I am not a justice of peace!'
Mannering assumed the expected look of surprise, but thought within himself that the worshipful bench suffered no great deprivation from wanting the assistance of his good-humoured landlord. Mr. Bertram had now hit upon one of the few subjects on which he felt sore, and went on with some energy.
'No, sir, the name of Godfrey Bertram of Ellangowan is not in the last commission, though there's scarce a carle in the country that has a plough-gate of land, but what he must ride to quarter-sessions and write J.P. after his name. I ken fu' weel whom I am obliged to--Sir Thomas Kittlecourt as good as tell'd me he would sit in my skirts if he had not my interest at the last election; and because I chose to go with my own blood and third cousin, the Laird of Balruddery, they keepit me off the roll of freeholders; and now there comes a new nomination of justices, and I am left out! And whereas they pretend it was because I let David Mac-Guffog, the constable, draw the warrants, and manage the business his ain gate, as if I had been a nose o' wax, it's a main untruth; for I granted but seven warrants in my life, and the Dominie wrote every one of them--and if it had not been that unlucky business of Sandy Mac-Gruthar's, that the constables should have keepit twa or three days up yonder at the auld castle, just till they could get conveniency to send him to the county jail--and that cost me eneugh o' siller. But I ken what Sir Thomas wants very weel--it was just sic and siclike about the seat in the kirk o' Kilmagirdle--was I not entitled to have the front gallery facing the minister, rather than Mac-Crosskie of Creochstone, the son of Deacon Mac-Crosskie, the Dumfries weaver?'
Mannering expressed his acquiescence in the justice of these various complaints.
'And then, Mr. Mannering, there was the story about the road and the fauld-dike. I ken Sir Thomas was behind there, and I said plainly to the clerk to the trustees that I saw the cloven foot, let them take that as they like. Would any gentleman, or set of gentlemen, go and drive a road right through the corner of a fauld-dike and take away, as my agent observed to them, like twa roods of gude moorland pasture? And there was the story about choosing the collector of the cess--'
'Certainly, sir, it is hard you should meet with any neglect in a country where, to judge from the extent of their residence, your ancestors must have made a very important figure.'
'Very true, Mr. Mannering; I am a plain man and do not dwell on these things, and I must needs say I have little memory for them; but I wish ye could have heard my father's stories about the auld fights of the Mac-Dingawaies--that's the Bertrams that now is--wi' the Irish and wi' the Highlanders that came here in their berlings from Ilay and Cantire; and how they went to the Holy Land--that is, to Jerusalem and Jericho, wi' a' their clan at their heels--they had better have gaen to Jamaica, like Sir Thomas Kittlecourt's uncle--and how they brought hame relics like those that Catholics have, and a flag that's up yonder in the garret. If they had been casks of muscavado and puncheons of rum it would have been better for the estate at this day; but there's little comparison between the auld keep at Kittlecourt and the castle o' Ellangowan; I doubt if the keep's forty feet of front. But ye make no breakfast, Mr. Mannering; ye're no eating your meat; allow me to recommend some of the kipper. It was John Hay that catcht it, Saturday was three weeks, down at the stream below Hempseed ford,' etc. etc. etc.
The Laird, whose indignation had for some time kept him pretty steady to one topic, now launched forth into his usual roving style of conversation, which gave Mannering ample time to reflect upon the disadvantages attending the situation which an hour before he had thought worthy of so much envy. Here was a country gentleman, whose most estimable quality seemed his perfect good-nature, secretly fretting himself and murmuring against others for causes which, compared with any real evil in life, must weigh like dust in the balance. But such is the equal distribution of Providence. To those who lie out of the road of great afflictions are assigned petty vexations which answer all the purpose of disturbing their serenity; and every reader must have observed that neither natural apathy nor acquired philosophy can render country gentlemen insensible to the grievances which occur at elections, quarter-sessions, and meetings of trustees.
Curious to investigate the manners of the country, Mannering took the advantage of a pause in good Mr. Bertram's string of stories to inquire what Captain Hatteraick so earnestly wanted with the gipsy woman.
'O, to bless his ship, I suppose. You must know, Mr. Mannering, that these free-traders, whom the law calls smugglers, having no religion, make it all up in superstition; and they have as many spells and charms and nonsense--'
'Vanity and waur!' said the Dominie;' it is a trafficking with the Evil One. Spells, periapts, and charms are of his device--choice arrows out of Apollyon's quiver.'
'Hold your peace, Dominie; ye're speaking for ever'--by the way, they were the first words the poor man had uttered that morning, excepting that he said grace and returned thanks--'Mr. Mannering cannot get in a word for ye! And so, Mr. Mannering, talking of astronomy and spells and these matters, have ye been so kind as to consider what we were speaking about last night?'
'I begin to think, Mr. Bertram, with your worthy friend here, that I have been rather jesting with edge-tools; and although neither you nor I, nor any sensible man, can put faith in the predictions of astrology, yet, as it has sometimes happened that inquiries into futurity, undertaken in jest, have in their results produced serious and unpleasant effects both upon actions and characters, I really wish you would dispense with my replying to your question.'
It was easy to see that this evasive answer only rendered the Laird's curiosity more uncontrollable. Mannering, however, was determined in his own mind not to expose the infant to the inconveniences which might have arisen from his being supposed the object of evil prediction. He therefore delivered the paper into Mr. Bertram's hand, and requested him to keep it for five years with the seal unbroken, until the month of November was expired. After that date had intervened he left him at liberty to examine the writing, trusting that, the first fatal period being then safely overpassed, no credit would be paid to its farther contents. This Mr. Bertram was content to promise, and Mannering, to ensure his fidelity, hinted at misfortunes which would certainly take place if his injunctions were neglected. The rest of the day, which Mannering, by Mr. Bertram's invitation, spent at Ellangowan, passed over without anything remarkable; and on the morning of that which followed the traveller mounted his palfrey, bade a courteous adieu to his hospitable landlord and to his clerical attendant, repeated his good wishes for the prosperity of the family, and then, turning his horse's head towards England, disappeared from the sight of the inmates of Ellangowan. He must also disappear from that of our readers, for it is to another and later period of his life that the present narrative relates.
Next, the Justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances--
And so he plays his part
--As You Like It
When Mrs. Bertram of Ellangowan was able to hear the news of what had passed during her confinement, her apartment rung with all manner of gossiping respecting the handsome young student from Oxford who had told such a fortune by the stars to the young Laird, 'blessings on his dainty face.' The form, accent, and manners of the stranger were expatiated upon. His horse, bridle, saddle, and stirrups did not remain unnoticed. All this made a great impression upon the mind of Mrs. Bertram, for the good lady had no small store of superstition.
Her first employment, when she became capable of a little work, was to make a small velvet bag for the scheme of nativity which she had obtained from her husband. Her fingers itched to break the seal, but credulity proved stronger than curiosity; and she had the firmness to inclose it, in all its integrity, within two slips of parchment, which she sewed round it to prevent its being chafed. The whole was then put into the velvet bag aforesaid, and hung as a charm round the neck of the infant, where his mother resolved it should remain until the period for the legitimate satisfaction of her curiosity should arrive.
The father also resolved to do his part by the child in securing him a good education; and, with the view that it should commence with the first dawnings of reason, Dominie Sampson was easily induced to renounce his public profession of parish schoolmaster, make his constant residence at the Place, and, in consideration of a sum not quite equal to the wages of a footman even at that time, to undertake to communicate to the future Laird of Ellangowan all the erudition which he had, and all the graces and accomplishments which--he had not indeed, but which he had never discovered that he wanted. In this arrangement the Laird found also his private advantage, securing the constant benefit of a patient auditor, to whom he told his stories when they were alone, and at whose expense he could break a sly jest when he had company.
About four years after this time a great commotion took place in the county where Ellangowan is situated.
Those who watched the signs of the times had long been of opinion that a change of ministry was about to take place; and at length, after a due proportion of hopes, fears, and delays, rumours from good authority and bad authority, and no authority at all; after some clubs had drank Up with this statesman and others Down with him; after riding, and running, and posting, and addressing, and counter-addressing, and proffers of lives and fortunes, the blow was at length struck, the administration of the day was dissolved, and parliament, as a natural consequence, was dissolved also.
Sir Thomas Kittlecourt, like other members in the same situation, posted down to his county, and met but an indifferent reception. He was a partizan of the old administration; and the friends of the new had already set about an active canvass in behalf of John Featherhead, Esq., who kept the best hounds and hunters in the shire. Among others who joined the standard of revolt was Gilbert Glossin, writer in--, agent for the Laird of Ellangowan. This honest gentleman had either been refused some favour by the old member, or, what is as probable, he had got all that he had the most distant pretension to ask, and could only look to the other side for fresh advancement. Mr. Glossin had a vote upon Ellangowan's property; and he was now determined that his patron should have one also, there being no doubt which side Mr. Bertram would embrace in the contest. He easily persuaded Ellangowan that it would be creditable to him to take the field at the head of as strong a party as possible; and immediately went to work, making votes, as every Scotch lawyer knows how, by splitting and subdividing the superiorities upon this ancient and once powerful barony. These were so extensive that, by dint of clipping and paring here, adding and eking there, and creating over-lords upon all the estate which Bertram held of the crown, they advanced at the day of contest at the head of ten as good men of parchment as ever took the oath of trust and possession. This strong reinforcement turned the dubious day of battle. The principal and his agent divided the honour; the reward fell to the latter exclusively. Mr. Gilbert Glossin was made clerk of the peace, and Godfrey Bertram had his name inserted in a new commission of justices, issued immediately upon the sitting of the parliament.
This had been the summit of Mr. Bertram's ambition; not that he liked either the trouble or the responsibility of the office, but he thought it was a dignity to which he was well entitled, and that it had been withheld from him by malice prepense. But there is an old and true Scotch proverb, 'Fools should not have chapping sticks'; that is, weapons of offence. Mr. Bertram was no sooner possessed of the judicial authority which he had so much longed for than he began to exercise it with more severity than mercy, and totally belied all the opinions which had hitherto been formed of his inert good-nature. We have read somewhere of a justice of peace who, on being nominated in the commission, wrote a letter to a bookseller for the statutes respecting his official duty in the following orthography--'Please send the ax relating to a gustus pease.' No doubt, when this learned gentleman had possessed himself of the axe, he hewed the laws with it to some purpose. Mr. Bertram was not quite so ignorant of English grammar as his worshipful predecessor; but Augustus Pease himself could not have used more indiscriminately the weapon unwarily put into his hand.
In good earnest, he considered the commission with which he had been entrusted as a personal mark of favour from his sovereign; forgetting that he had formerly thought his being deprived of a privilege, or honour, common to those of his rank was the result of mere party cabal. He commanded his trusty aid-de-camp, Dominie Sampson, to read aloud the commission; and at the first words, 'The King has been pleased to appoint'--'Pleased!' he exclaimed in a transport of gratitude; 'honest gentleman! I'm sure he cannot be better pleased than I am.'
Accordingly, unwilling to confine his gratitude to mere feelings or verbal expressions, he gave full current to the new-born zeal of office, and endeavoured to express his sense of the honour conferred upon him by an unmitigated activity in the discharge of his duty. New brooms, it is said, sweep clean; and I myself can bear witness that, on the arrival of a new housemaid, the ancient, hereditary, and domestic spiders who have spun their webs over the lower division of my bookshelves (consisting chiefly of law and divinity) during the peaceful reign of her predecessor, fly at full speed before the probationary inroads of the new mercenary. Even so the Laird of Ellangowan ruthlessly commenced his magisterial reform, at the expense of various established and superannuated pickers and stealers who had been his neighbours for half a century. He wrought his miracles like a second Duke Humphrey; and by the influence of the beadle's rod caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, and the palsied to labour. He detected poachers, black-fishers, orchard-breakers, and pigeon-shooters; had the applause of the bench for his reward, and the public credit of an active magistrate.
All this good had its rateable proportion of evil. Even an admitted nuisance of ancient standing should not be abated without some caution. The zeal of our worthy friend now involved in great distress sundry personages whose idle and mendicant habits his own lachesse had contributed to foster, until these habits had become irreclaimable, or whose real incapacity for exertion rendered them fit objects, in their own phrase, for the charity of all well-disposed Christians. The 'long-remembered beggar,' who for twenty years had made his regular rounds within the neighbourhood, received rather as an humble friend than as an object of charity, was sent to the neighbouring workhouse. The decrepit dame, who travelled round the parish upon a hand-barrow, circulating from house to house like a bad shilling, which every one is in haste to pass to his neighbour,--she, who used to call for her bearers as loud, or louder, than a traveller demands post-horses,--even she shared the same disastrous fate. The 'daft Jock,' who, half knave, half idiot, had been the sport of each succeeding race of village children for a good part of a century, was remitted to the county bridewell, where, secluded from free air and sunshine, the only advantages he was capable of enjoying, he pined and died in the course of six months. The old sailor, who had so long rejoiced the smoky rafters of every kitchen in the country by singing 'Captain Ward' and 'Bold Admiral Benbow,' was banished from the county for no better reason than that he was supposed to speak with a strong Irish accent. Even the annual rounds of the pedlar were abolished by the Justice, in his hasty zeal for the administration of rural police.
These things did not pass without notice and censure. We are not made of wood or stone, and the things which connect themselves with our hearts and habits cannot, like bark or lichen, be rent away without our missing them. The farmer's dame lacked her usual share of intelligence, perhaps also the self-applause which she had felt while distributing the awmous (alms), in shape of a gowpen (handful) of oatmeal, to the mendicant who brought the news. The cottage felt inconvenience from interruption of the petty trade carried on by the itinerant dealers. The children lacked their supply of sugarplums and toys; the young women wanted pins, ribbons, combs, and ballads; and the old could no longer barter their eggs for salt, snuff, and tobacco. All these circumstances brought the busy Laird of Ellangowan into discredit, which was the more general on account of his former popularity. Even his lineage was brought up in judgment against him. They thought 'naething of what the like of Greenside, or Burnville, or Viewforth might do, that were strangers in the country; but Ellangowan! that had been a name amang them since the Mirk Monanday, and lang before--HIM to be grinding the puir at that rate! They ca'd his grandfather the Wicked Laird; but, though he was whiles fractious aneuch, when he got into roving company and had ta'en the drap drink, he would have scorned to gang on at this gate. Na, na, the muckle chumlay in the Auld Place reeked like a killogie in his time, and there were as mony puir folk riving at the banes in the court, and about the door, as there were gentles in the ha'. And the leddy, on ilka Christmas night as it came round, gae twelve siller pennies to ilka puir body about, in honour of the twelve apostles like. They were fond to ca' it papistrie; but I think our great folk might take a lesson frae the papists whiles. They gie another sort o' help to puir folk than just dinging down a saxpence in the brod on the Sabbath, and kilting, and scourging, and drumming them a' the sax days o' the week besides.'
Such was the gossip over the good twopenny in every ale-house within three or four miles of Ellangowan, that being about the diameter of the orbit in which our friend Godfrey Bertram, Esq., J. P., must be considered as the principal luminary. Still greater scope was given to evil tongues by the removal of a colony of gipsies, with one of whom our reader is somewhat acquainted, and who had for a great many years enjoyed their chief settlement upon the estate of Ellangowan.
Come, princes of the ragged regiment,
You of the blood! PRIGS, my most upright lord,
And these, what name or title e'er they bear,
JARKMAN, or PATRICO, CRANKE or CLAPPER-DUDGEON,
PRATER or ABRAM-MAN--I speak of all.
Although the character of those gipsy tribes which formerly inundated most of the nations of Europe, and which in some degree still subsist among them as a distinct people, is generally understood, the reader will pardon my saying a few words respecting their situation in Scotland.
It is well known that the gipsies were at an early period acknowledged as a separate and independent race by one of the Scottish monarchs, and that they were less favourably distinguished by a subsequent law, which rendered the character of gipsy equal in the judicial balance to that of common and habitual thief, and prescribed his punishment accordingly. Notwithstanding the severity of this and other statutes, the fraternity prospered amid the distresses of the country, and received large accessions from among those whom famine, oppression, or the sword of war had deprived of the ordinary means of subsistence. They lost in a great measure by this intermixture the national character of Egyptians, and became a mingled race, having all the idleness and predatory habits of their Eastern ancestors, with a ferocity which they probably borrowed from the men of the north who joined their society. They travelled in different bands, and had rules among themselves, by which each tribe was confined to its own district. The slightest invasion of the precincts which had been assigned to another tribe produced desperate skirmishes, in which there was often much blood shed.
The patriotic Fletcher of Saltoun drew a picture of these banditti about a century ago, which my readers will peruse with astonishment:--
'There are at this day in Scotland (besides a great many poor families very meanly provided for by the church boxes, with others who, by living on bad food, fall into various diseases) two hundred thousand people begging from door to door. These are not only no way advantageous, but a very grievous burden to so poor a country. And though the number of them be perhaps double to what it was formerly, by reason of this present great distress, yet in all times there have been about one hundred thousand of those vagabonds, who have lived without any regard or subjection either to the laws of the land or even those of God and nature ... No magistrate could ever discover, or be informed, which way one in a hundred of these wretches died, or that ever they were baptized. Many murders have been discovered among them; and they are not only a most unspeakable oppression to poor tenants (who, if they give not bread or some kind of provision to perhaps forty such villains in one day, are sure to be insulted by them), but they rob many poor people who live in houses distant from any neighbourhood. In years of plenty, many thousands of them meet together in the mountains, where they feast and riot for many days; and at country weddings, markets, burials, and other the like public occasions, they are to be seen, both man and woman, perpetually drunk, cursing, blaspheming, and fighting together.'
Notwithstanding the deplorable picture presented in this extract, and which Fletcher himself, though the energetic and eloquent friend of freedom, saw no better mode of correcting than by introducing a system of domestic slavery, the progress of time, and increase both of the means of life and of the power of the laws, gradually reduced this dreadful evil within more narrow bounds. The tribes of gipsies, jockies, or cairds--for by all these denominations such banditti were known--became few in number, and many were entirely rooted out. Still, however, a sufficient number remained to give, occasional alarm and constant vexation. Some rude handicrafts were entirely resigned to these itinerants, particularly the art of trencher-making, of manufacturing horn-spoons, and the whole mystery of the tinker. To these they added a petty trade in the coarse sorts of earthenware. Such were their ostensible means of livelihood. Each tribe had usually some fixed place of rendezvous, which they occasionally occupied and considered as their standing camp, and in the vicinity of which they generally abstained from depredation. They had even talents and accomplishments, which made them occasionally useful and entertaining. Many cultivated music with success; and the favourite fiddler or piper of a district was often to be found in a gipsy town. They understood all out-of-door sports, especially otter-hunting, fishing, or finding game. They bred the best and boldest terriers, and sometimes had good pointers for sale. In winter the women told fortunes, the men showed tricks of legerdemain; and these accomplishments often helped to while away a weary or stormy evening in the circle of the 'farmer's ha'.' The wildness of their character, and the indomitable pride with which they despised all regular labour, commanded a certain awe, which was not diminished by the consideration that these strollers were a vindictive race, and were restrained by no check, either of fear or conscience, from taking desperate vengeance upon those who had offended them. These tribes were, in short, the pariahs of Scotland, living like wild Indians among European settlers, and, like them, judged of rather by their own customs, habits, and opinions, than as if they had been members of the civilised part of the community. Some hordes of them yet remain, chiefly in such situations as afford a ready escape either into a waste country or into another Jurisdiction. Nor are the features of their character much softened. Their numbers, however, are so greatly diminished that, instead of one hundred thousand, as calculated by Fletcher, it would now perhaps be impossible to collect above five hundred throughout all Scotland.
A tribe of these itinerants, to whom Meg Merrilies appertained, had long been as stationary as their habits permitted in a glen upon the estate of Ellangowan. They had there erected a few huts, which they denominated their 'city of refuge,' and where, when not absent on excursions, they harboured unmolested, as the crows that roosted in the old ash-trees around them. They had been such long occupants that they were considered in some degree as proprietors of the wretched shealings which they inhabited. This protection they were said anciently to have repaid by service to the Laird in war, or more frequently, by infesting or plundering the lands of those neighbouring barons with whom he chanced to be at feud. Latterly their services were of a more pacific nature. The women spun mittens for the lady, and knitted boot-hose for the Laird, which were annually presented at Christmas with great form. The aged sibyls blessed the bridal bed of the Laird when he married, and the cradle of the heir when born. The men repaired her ladyship's cracked china, and assisted the Laird in his sporting parties, wormed his dogs, and cut the ears of his terrier puppies. The children gathered nuts in the woods, and cranberries in the moss, and mushrooms on the pastures, for tribute to the Place. These acts of voluntary service, and acknowledgments of dependence, were rewarded by protection on some occasions, connivance on others, and broken victuals, ale, and brandy when circumstances called for a display of generosity; and this mutual intercourse of good offices, which had been carried on for at least two centuries, rendered the inhabitants of Derncleugh a kind of privileged retainers upon the estate of Ellangowan. 'The knaves' were the Laird's 'exceeding good friends'; and he would have deemed himself very ill used if his countenance could not now and then have borne them out against the law of the country and the local magistrate. But this friendly union was soon to be dissolved.
The community of Derncleugh, who cared for no rogues but their own, were wholly without alarm at the severity of the Justice's proceedings towards other itinerants. They had no doubt that he determined to suffer no mendicants or strollers in the country but what resided on his own property, and practised their trade by his immediate permission, implied or expressed. Nor was Mr. Bertram in a hurry to exert his newly-acquired authority at the expense of these old settlers. But he was driven on by circumstances.
At the quarter-sessions our new Justice was publicly upbraided by a gentleman of the opposite party in county politics, that, while he affected a great zeal for the public police, and seemed ambitious of the fame of an active magistrate, he fostered a tribe of the greatest rogues in the country, and permitted them to harbour within a mile of the house of Ellangowan. To this there was no reply, for the fact was too evident and well known. The Laird digested the taunt as he best could, and in his way home amused himself with speculations on the easiest method of ridding himself of these vagrants, who brought a stain upon his fair fame as a magistrate. Just as he had resolved to take the first opportunity of quarrelling with the pariahs of Derncleugh, a cause of provocation presented itself.
Since our friend's advancement to be a conservator of the peace, he had caused the gate at the head of his avenue, which formerly, having only one hinge, remained at all times hospitably open--he had caused this gate, I say, to be newly hung and handsomely painted. He had also shut up with paling, curiously twisted with furze, certain holes in the fences adjoining, through which the gipsy boys used to scramble into the plantations to gather birds' nests, the seniors of the village to make a short cut from one point to another, and the lads and lasses for evening rendezvous--all without offence taken or leave asked. But these halcyon days were now to have an end, and a minatory inscription on one side of the gate intimated 'prosecution according to law' (the painter had spelt it 'persecution'--l'un vaut bien l'autre) to all who should be found trespassing on these inclosures. On the other side, for uniformity's sake, was a precautionary annunciation of spring-guns and man-traps of such formidable powers that, said the rubrick, with an emphatic nota bene--'if a man goes in they will break a horse's leg.'
In defiance of these threats, six well-grown gipsy boys and girls were riding cock-horse upon the new gate, and plaiting may-flowers, which it was but too evident had been gathered within the forbidden precincts. With as much anger as he was capable of feeling, or perhaps of assuming, the Laird commanded them to descend;--they paid no attention to his mandate: he then began to pull them down one after another;--they resisted, passively at least, each sturdy bronzed varlet making himself as heavy as he could, or climbing up as fast as he was dismounted.
The Laird then called in the assistance of his servant, a surly fellow, who had immediate recourse to his horsewhip. A few lashes sent the party a-scampering; and thus commenced the first breach of the peace between the house of Ellangowan and the gipsies of Derncleugh.
The latter could not for some time imagine that the war was real; until they found that their children were horsewhipped by the grieve when found trespassing; that their asses were poinded by the ground-officer when left in the plantations, or even when turned to graze by the roadside, against the provision of the turnpike acts; that the constable began to make curious inquiries into their mode of gaining a livelihood, and expressed his surprise that the men should sleep in the hovels all day, and be abroad the greater part of the night.
When matters came to this point, the gipsies, without scruple, entered upon measures of retaliation. Ellangowan's hen-roosts were plundered, his linen stolen from the lines or bleaching-ground, his fishings poached, his dogs kidnapped, his growing trees cut or barked. Much petty mischief was done, and some evidently for the mischief's sake. On the other hand, warrants went forth, without mercy, to pursue, search for, take, and apprehend; and, notwithstanding their dexterity, one or two of the depredators were unable to avoid conviction. One, a stout young fellow, who sometimes had gone to sea a-fishing, was handed over to the captain of the impress service at D--; two children were soundly flogged, and one Egyptian matron sent to the house of correction.
Still, however, the gipsies made no motion to leave the spot which they had so long inhabited, and Mr. Bertram felt an unwillingness to deprive them of their ancient 'city of refuge'; so that the petty warfare we have noticed continued for several months, without increase or abatement of hostilities on either side.
So the red Indian, by Ontario's side,
Nursed hardy on the brindled panther's hide,
As fades his swarthy race, with anguish sees
The white man's cottage rise beneath the trees;
He leaves the shelter of his native wood,
He leaves the murmur of Ohio's flood,
And forward rushing in indignant grief,
Where never foot has trod the fallen leaf,
He bends his course where twilight reigns sublime.
O'er forests silent since the birth of time.
SCENES OF INFANCY.
In tracing the rise and progress of the Scottish Maroon war, we must not omit to mention that years had rolled on, and that little Harry Bertram, one of the hardiest and most lively children that ever made a sword and grenadier's cap of rushes, now approached his fifth revolving birthday. A hardihood of disposition, which early developed itself, made him already a little wanderer; he was well acquainted with every patch of lea ground and dingle around Ellangowan, and could tell in his broken language upon what baulks grew the bonniest flowers, and what copse had the ripest nuts. He repeatedly terrified his attendants by clambering about the ruins of the old castle, and had more than once made a stolen excursion as far as the gipsy hamlet.
On these occasions he was generally brought back by Meg Merrilies, who, though she could not be prevailed upon to enter the Place of Ellangowan after her nephew had been given up to the press-gang, did not apparently extend her resentment to the child. On the contrary, she often contrived to waylay him in his walks, sing him a gipsy song, give him a ride upon her jackass, and thrust into his pocket a piece of gingerbread or a red-cheeked apple. This woman's ancient attachment to the family, repelled and checked in every other direction, seemed to rejoice in having some object on which it could yet repose and expand itself. She prophesied a hundred times, 'that young Mr. Harry would be the pride o' the family, and there hadna been sic a sprout frae the auld aik since the death of Arthur Mac-Dingawaie, that was killed in the battle o' the Bloody Bay; as for the present stick, it was good for nothing but fire-wood.' On one occasion, when the child was ill, she lay all night below the window, chanting a rhyme which she believed sovereign as a febrifuge, and could neither be prevailed upon to enter the house nor to leave the station she had chosen till she was informed that the crisis was over.
The affection of this woman became matter of suspicion, not indeed to the Laird, who was never hasty in suspecting evil, but to his wife, who had indifferent health and poor spirits. She was now far advanced in a second pregnancy, and, as she could not walk abroad herself, and the woman who attended upon Harry was young and thoughtless, she prayed Dominie Sampson to undertake the task of watching the boy in his rambles, when he should not be otherwise accompanied. The Dominie loved his young charge, and was enraptured with his own success in having already brought him so far in his learning as to spell words of three syllables. The idea of this early prodigy of erudition being carried off by the gipsies, like a second Adam Smith,[Footnote: The father of Economical Philosophy was, when a child, actually carried off by gipsies, and remained some hours in their possession.] was not to be tolerated; and accordingly, though the charge was contrary to all his habits of life, he readily undertook it, and might be seen stalking about with a mathematical problem in his head, and his eye upon a child of five years old, whose rambles led him into a hundred awkward situations. Twice was the Dominie chased by a cross-grained cow, once he fell into the brook crossing at the stepping-stones, and another time was bogged up to the middle in the slough of Lochend, in attempting to gather a water-lily for the young Laird. It was the opinion of the village matrons who relieved Sampson on the latter occasion, 'that the Laird might as weel trust the care o' his bairn to a potatoe bogle'; but the good Dominie bore all his disasters with gravity and serenity equally imperturbable. 'Pro-di-gi-ous!' was the only ejaculation they ever extorted from the much-enduring man.
The Laird had by this time determined to make root-and-branch work with the Maroons of Derncleugh. The old servants shook their heads at his proposal, and even Dominie Sampson ventured upon an indirect remonstrance. As, however, it was couched in the oracular phrase, 'Ne moveas Camerinam,' neither the allusion, nor the language in which it was expressed, were calculated for Mr. Bertram's edification, and matters proceeded against the gipsies in form of law. Every door in the hamlet was chalked by the ground-officer, in token of a formal warning to remove at next term. Still, however, they showed no symptoms either of submission or of compliance. At length the term-day, the fatal Martinmas, arrived, and violent measures of ejection were resorted to. A strong posse of peace-officers, sufficient to render all resistance vain, charged the inhabitants to depart by noon; and, as they did not obey, the officers, in terms of their warrant, proceeded to unroof the cottages, and pull down the wretched doors and windows--a summary and effectual mode of ejection still practised in some remote parts of Scotland when a tenant proves refractory. The gipsies for a time beheld the work of destruction in sullen silence and inactivity; then set about saddling and loading their asses, and making preparations for their departure. These were soon accomplished, where all had the habits of wandering Tartars; and they set forth on their journey to seek new settlements, where their patrons should neither be of the quorum nor custos rotulorum.
Certain qualms of feeling had deterred Ellangowan from attending in person to see his tenants expelled. He left the executive part of the business to the officers of the law, under the immediate direction of Frank Kennedy, a supervisor, or riding-officer, belonging to the excise, who had of late become intimate at the Place, and of whom we shall have more to say in the next chapter. Mr. Bertram himself chose that day to make a visit to a friend at some distance. But it so happened, notwithstanding his precautions, that he could not avoid meeting his late tenants during their retreat from his property.
It was in a hollow way, near the top of a steep ascent, upon the verge of the Ellangowan estate, that Mr. Bertram met the gipsy procession. Four or five men formed the advanced guard, wrapped in long loose great-coats that hid their tall slender figures, as the large slouched hats, drawn over their brows, concealed their wild features, dark eyes, and swarthy faces. Two of them carried long fowling-pieces, one wore a broadsword without a sheath, and all had the Highland dirk, though they did not wear that weapon openly or ostentatiously. Behind them followed the train of laden asses, and small carts or TUMBLERS, as they were called in that country, on which were laid the decrepit and the helpless, the aged and infant part of the exiled community. The women in their red cloaks and straw hats, the elder children with bare heads and bare feet, and almost naked bodies, had the immediate care of the little caravan. The road was narrow, running between two broken banks of sand, and Mr. Bertram's servant rode forward, smacking his whip with an air of authority, and motioning to the drivers to allow free passage to their betters. His signal was unattended to. He then called to the men who lounged idly on before, 'Stand to your beasts' heads, and make room for the Laird to pass.'
'He shall have his share of the road,' answered a male gipsy from under his slouched and large-brimmed hat, and without raising his face, 'and he shall have nae mair; the highway is as free to our cuddies as to his gelding.'
The tone of the man being sulky, and even menacing, Mr. Bertram thought it best to put his dignity in his pocket, and pass by the procession quietly, on such space as they chose to leave for his accommodation, which was narrow enough. To cover with an appearance of indifference his feeling of the want of respect with which he was treated, he addressed one of the men, as he passed him without any show of greeting, salute, or recognition--'Giles Baillie,' he said, 'have you heard that your son Gabriel is well?' (The question respected the young man who had been pressed.)
'If I had heard otherwise,' said the old man, looking up with a stern and menacing countenance, 'you should have heard of it too.' And he plodded on his way, tarrying no further question. [Footnote: This anecdote is a literal fact.] When the Laird had pressed on with difficulty among a crowd of familiar faces, which had on all former occasions marked his approach with the reverence due to that of a superior being, but in which he now only read hatred and contempt, and had got clear of the throng, he could not help turning his horse, and looking back to mark the progress of their march. The group would have been an excellent subject for the pencil of Calotte. The van had already reached a small and stunted thicket, which was at the bottom of the hill, and which gradually hid the line of march until the last stragglers disappeared.
His sensations were bitter enough. The race, it is true, which he had thus summarily dismissed from their ancient place of refuge, was idle and vicious; but had he endeavoured to render them otherwise? They were not more irregular characters now than they had been while they were admitted to consider themselves as a sort of subordinate dependents of his family; and ought the mere circumstance of his becoming a magistrate to have made at once such a change in his conduct towards them? Some means of reformation ought at least to have been tried before sending seven families at once upon the wide world, and depriving them of a degree of countenance which withheld them at least from atrocious guilt. There was also a natural yearning of heart on parting with so many known and familiar faces; and to this feeling Godfrey Bertram was peculiarly accessible, from the limited qualities of his mind, which sought its principal amusements among the petty objects around him. As he was about to turn his horse's head to pursue his journey, Meg Merrilies, who had lagged behind the troop, unexpectedly presented herself.
She was standing upon one of those high precipitous banks which, as we before noticed, overhung the road, so that she was placed considerably higher than Ellangowan, even though he was on horseback; and her tall figure, relieved against the clear blue sky, seemed almost of supernatural stature. We have noticed that there was in her general attire, or rather in her mode of adjusting it, somewhat of a foreign costume, artfully adopted perhaps for the purpose of adding to the effect of her spells and predictions, or perhaps from some traditional notions respecting the dress of her ancestors. On this occasion she had a large piece of red cotton cloth rolled about her head in the form of a turban, from beneath which her dark eyes flashed with uncommon lustre. Her long and tangled black hair fell in elf-locks from the folds of this singular head-gear. Her attitude was that of a sibyl in frenzy, and she stretched out in her right hand a sapling bough which seemed just pulled.
'I'll be d--d,' said the groom, 'if she has not been cutting the young ashes in the dukit park!' The Laird made no answer, but continued to look at the figure which was thus perched above his path.
'Ride your ways,' said the gipsy, 'ride your ways, Laird of Ellangowan; ride your ways, Godfrey Bertram! This day have ye quenched seven smoking hearths; see if the fire in your ain parlour burn the blyther for that. Ye have riven the thack off seven cottar houses; look if your ain roof-tree stand the faster. Ye may stable your stirks in the shealings at Derncleugh; see that the hare does not couch on the hearthstane at Ellangowan. Ride your ways, Godfrey Bertram; what do ye glower after our folk for? There's thirty hearts there that wad hae wanted bread ere ye had wanted sunkets, and spent their life-blood ere ye had scratched your finger. Yes; there's thirty yonder, from the auld wife of an hundred to the babe that was born last week, that ye have turned out o' their bits o' bields, to sleep with the tod and the blackcock in the muirs! Ride your ways, Ellangowan. Our bairns are hinging at our weary backs; look that your braw cradle at hame be the fairer spread up; not that I am wishing ill to little Harry, or to the babe that's yet to be born--God forbid--and make them kind to the poor, and better folk than their father! And now, ride e'en your ways; for these are the last words ye'll ever hear Meg Merrilies speak, and this is the last reise that I'll ever cut in the bonny woods of Ellangowan.'
So saying, she broke the sapling she held in her hand, and flung it into the road. Margaret of Anjou, bestowing on her triumphant foes her keen-edged malediction, could not have turned from them with a gesture more proudly contemptuous. The Laird was clearing his voice to speak, and thrusting his hand in his pocket to find a half-crown; the gipsy waited neither for his reply nor his donation, but strode down the hill to overtake the caravan.
Ellangowan rode pensively home; and it was remarkable that he did not mention this interview to any of his family. The groom was not so reserved; he told the story at great length to a full audience in the kitchen, and concluded by swearing, that 'if ever the devil spoke by the mouth of a woman, he had spoken by that of Meg Merrilies that blessed day.'
Paint Scotland greeting ower her thrissle,
Her mutchkin stoup as toom's a whistle,
And d--n'd excisemen in a bustle,
Seizing a stell,
Triumphant crushin't like a mussel,
Or lampit shell
During the period of Mr. Bertram's active magistracy, he did not forget the affairs of the revenue. Smuggling, for which the Isle of Man then afforded peculiar facilities, was general, or rather universal, all along the southwestern coast of Scotland. Almost all the common people were engaged in these practices; the gentry connived at them, and the officers of the revenue were frequently discountenanced in the exercise of their duty by those who should have protected them.
There was at this period, employed as a riding-officer or supervisor, in that part of the country a certain Francis Kennedy, already named in our narrative--a stout, resolute, and active man, who had made seizures to a great amount, and was proportionally hated by those who had an interest in the fair trade, as they called the pursuit of these contraband adventurers. This person was natural son to a gentleman of good family, owing to which circumstance, and to his being of a jolly, convivial disposition, and singing a good song, he was admitted to the occasional society of the gentlemen of the country, and was a member of several of their clubs for practising athletic games, at which he was particularly expert.
At Ellangowan Kennedy was a frequent and always an acceptable guest. His vivacity relieved Mr. Bertram of the trouble of thought, and the labour which it cost him to support a detailed communication of ideas; while the daring and dangerous exploits which he had undertaken in the discharge of his office formed excellent conversation. To all these revenue adventures did the Laird of Ellangowan seriously incline, and the amusement which he derived from Kennedy's society formed an excellent reason for countenancing and assisting the narrator in the execution of his invidious and hazardous duty.
'Frank Kennedy,' he said, 'was a gentleman, though on the wrang side of the blanket; he was connected with the family of Ellangowan through the house of Glengubble. The last Laird of Glengubble would have brought the estate into the Ellangowan line; but, happening to go to Harrigate, he there met with Miss Jean Hadaway--by the by, the Green Dragon at Harrigate is the best house of the twa--but for Frank Kennedy, he's in one sense a gentleman born, and it's a shame not to support him against these blackguard smugglers.'
After this league had taken place between judgment and execution, it chanced that Captain Dirk Hatteraick had landed a cargo of spirits and other contraband goods upon the beach not far from Ellangowan, and, confiding in the indifference with which the Laird had formerly regarded similar infractions of the law, he was neither very anxious to conceal nor to expedite the transaction. The consequence was that Mr. Frank Kennedy, armed with a warrant from Ellangowan, and supported by some of the Laird's people who knew the country, and by a party of military, poured down upon the kegs, bales, and bags, and after a desperate affray, in which severe wounds were given and received, succeeded in clapping the broad arrow upon the articles, and bearing them off in triumph to the next custom-house. Dirk Hatteraick vowed, in Dutch, German, and English, a deep and full revenge, both against the gauger and his abettors; and all who knew him thought it likely he would keep his word.
A few days after the departure of the gipsy tribe, Mr. Bertram asked his lady one morning at breakfast whether this was not little Harry's birthday.
'Five years auld exactly, this blessed day,' answered the lady; 'so we may look into the English gentleman's paper.'
Mr. Bertram liked to show his authority in trifles. 'No, my dear, not till to-morrow. The last time I was at quarter-sessions the sheriff told us that DIES--that dies inceptus--in short, you don't understand Latin, but it means that a term-day is not begun till it's ended.'
'That sounds like nonsense, my dear.'
'May be so, my dear; but it may be very good law for all that. I am sure, speaking of term-days, I wish, as Frank Kennedy says, that Whitsunday would kill Martinmas and be hanged for the murder; for there I have got a letter about that interest of Jenny Cairns's, and deil a tenant's been at the Place yet wi' a boddle of rent, nor will not till Candlemas. But, speaking of Frank Kennedy, I daresay he'll be here the day, for he was away round to Wigton to warn a king's ship that's lying in the bay about Dirk Hatteraick's lugger being on the coast again, and he'll be back this day; so we'll have a bottle of claret and drink little Harry's health.'
'I wish,' replied the lady, 'Frank Kennedy would let Dirk Hatteraick alane. What needs he make himself mair busy than other folk? Cannot he sing his sang, and take his drink, and draw his salary, like Collector Snail, honest man, that never fashes ony body? And I wonder at you, Laird, for meddling and making. Did we ever want to send for tea or brandy frae the borough-town when Dirk Hatteraick used to come quietly into the bay?'
'Mrs. Bertram, you know nothing of these matters. Do you think it becomes a magistrate to let his own house be made a receptacle for smuggled goods? Frank Kennedy will show you the penalties in the act, and ye ken yoursell they used to put their run goods into the Auld Place of Ellangowan up by there.'
'Oh dear, Mr. Bertram, and what the waur were the wa's and the vault o' the auld castle for having a whin kegs o' brandy in them at an orra time? I am sure ye were not obliged to ken ony thing about it; and what the waur was the King that the lairds here got a soup o' drink and the ladies their drap o' tea at a reasonable rate?--it's a shame to them to pit such taxes on them!--and was na I much the better of these Flanders head and pinners that Dirk Hatteraick sent me a' the way from Antwerp? It will be lang or the King sends me ony thing, or Frank Kennedy either. And then ye would quarrel with these gipsies too! I expect every day to hear the barnyard's in a low.'
'I tell you once more, my dear, you don't understand these things--and there's Frank Kennedy coming galloping up the avenue.'
'Aweel! aweel! Ellangowan,' said the lady, raising her voice as the Laird left the room, 'I wish ye may understand them yoursell, that's a'!'
From this nuptial dialogue the Laird joyfully escaped to meet his faithful friend, Mr. Kennedy, who arrived in high spirits. 'For the love of life, Ellangowan,' he said, 'get up to the castle! you'll see that old fox Dirk Hatteraick, and his Majesty's hounds in full cry after him.' So saying, he flung his horse's bridle to a boy, and ran up the ascent to the old castle, followed by the Laird, and indeed by several others of the family, alarmed by the sound of guns from the sea, now distinctly heard.
On gaining that part of the ruins which commanded the most extensive outlook, they saw a lugger, with all her canvass crowded, standing across the bay, closely pursued by a sloop of war, that kept firing upon the chase from her bows, which the lugger returned with her stern-chasers. 'They're but at long bowls yet,' cried Kennedy, in great exultation, 'but they will be closer by and by. D--n him, he's starting his cargo! I see the good Nantz pitching overboard, keg after keg! That's a d--d ungenteel thing of Mr. Hatteraick, as I shall let him know by and by. Now, now! they've got the wind of him! that's it, that's it! Hark to him! hark to him! Now, my dogs! now, my dogs! Hark to Ranger, hark!'
'I think,' said the old gardener to one of the maids, 'the ganger's fie,' by which word the common people express those violent spirits which they think a presage of death.
Meantime the chase continued. The lugger, being piloted with great ability, and using every nautical shift to make her escape, had now reached, and was about to double, the headland which formed the extreme point of land on the left side of the bay, when a ball having hit the yard in the slings, the mainsail fell upon the deck. The consequence of this accident appeared inevitable, but could not be seen by the spectators; for the vessel, which had just doubled the headland, lost steerage, and fell out of their sight behind the promontory. The sloop of war crowded all sail to pursue, but she had stood too close upon the cape, so that they were obliged to wear the vessel for fear of going ashore, and to make a large tack back into the bay, in order to recover sea-room enough to double the headland.
'They'll lose her, by--, cargo and lugger, one or both,' said Kennedy; 'I must gallop away to the Point of Warroch (this was the headland so often mentioned), and make them a signal where she has drifted to on the other side. Good-bye for an hour, Ellangowan; get out the gallon punch-bowl and plenty of lemons. I'll stand for the French article by the time I come back, and we'll drink the young Laird's health in a bowl that would swim the collector's yawl.' So saying, he mounted his horse and galloped off.
About a mile from the house, and upon the verge of the woods, which, as we have said, covered a promontory terminating in the cape called the Point of Warroch, Kennedy met young Harry Bertram, attended by his tutor, Dominie Sampson. He had often promised the child a ride upon his galloway; and, from singing, dancing, and playing Punch for his amusement, was a particular favourite. He no sooner came scampering up the path, than the boy loudly claimed his promise; and Kennedy, who saw no risk, in indulging him, and wished to tease the Dominie, in whose visage he read a remonstrance, caught up Harry from the ground, placed him before him, and continued his route; Sampson's 'Peradventure, Master Kennedy-' being lost in the clatter of his horse's feet. The pedagogue hesitated a moment whether he should go after them; but Kennedy being a person in full confidence of the family, and with whom he himself had no delight in associating, 'being that he was addicted unto profane and scurrilous jests,' he continued his own walk at his own pace, till he reached the Place of Ellangowan.
The spectators from the ruined walls of the castle were still watching the sloop of war, which at length, but not without the loss of considerable time, recovered sea-room enough to weather the Point of Warroch, and was lost to their sight behind that wooded promontory. Some time afterwards the discharges of several cannon were heard at a distance, and, after an interval, a still louder explosion, as of a vessel blown up, and a cloud of smoke rose above the trees and mingled with the blue sky. All then separated on their different occasions, auguring variously upon the fate of the smuggler, but the majority insisting that her capture was inevitable, if she had not already gone to the bottom.
'It is near our dinner-time, my dear,' said Mrs. Bertram to her husband; 'will it be lang before Mr. Kennedy comes back?'
'I expect him every moment, my dear,' said the Laird; 'perhaps he is bringing some of the officers of the sloop with him.'
'My stars, Mr. Bertram! why did not ye tell me this before, that we might have had the large round table? And then, they're a' tired o' saut meat, and, to tell you the plain truth, a rump o' beef is the best part of your dinner. And then I wad have put on another gown, and ye wadna have been the waur o' a clean neck-cloth yoursell. But ye delight in surprising and hurrying one. I am sure I am no to baud out for ever against this sort of going on; but when folk's missed, then they are moaned.'
'Pshaw, pshaw! deuce take the beef, and the gown, and table, and the neck-cloth! we shall do all very well. Where's the Dominie, John? (to a servant who was busy about the table) where's the Dominie and little Harry?'
'Mr. Sampson's been at hame these twa hours and mair, but I dinna think Mr. Harry cam hame wi' him.'
'Not come hame wi' him?' said the lady; 'desire Mr. Sampson to step this way directly.'
'Mr. Sampson,' said she, upon his entrance, 'is it not the most extraordinary thing in this world wide, that you, that have free up-putting--bed, board, and washing--and twelve pounds sterling a year, just to look after that boy, should let him out of your sight for twa or three hours?'
Sampson made a bow of humble acknowledgment at each pause which the angry lady made in her enumeration of the advantages of his situation, in order to give more weight to her remonstrance, and then, in words which we will not do him the injustice to imitate, told how Mr. Francis Kennedy 'had assumed spontaneously the charge of Master Harry, in despite of his remonstrances in the contrary.'
'I am very little obliged to Mr. Francis Kennedy for his pains,' said the lady, peevishly; 'suppose he lets the boy drop from his horse, and lames him? or suppose one of the cannons comes ashore and kills him? or suppose--'
'Or suppose, my dear,' said Ellangowan, 'what is much more likely than anything else, that they have gone aboard the sloop or the prize, and are to come round the Point with the tide?'
'And then they may be drowned,' said the lady.
'Verily,' said Sampson, 'I thought Mr. Kennedy had returned an hour since. Of a surety I deemed I heard his horse's feet.'
'That,' said John, with a broad grin, 'was Grizzel chasing the humble-cow out of the close.'
Sampson coloured up to the eyes, not at the implied taunt, which he would never have discovered, or resented if he had, but at some idea which crossed his own mind. 'I have been in an error,' he said; 'of a surety I should have tarried for the babe.' So saying, he snatched his bone-headed cane and hat, and hurried away towards Warroch wood faster than he was ever known to walk before or after.
The Laird lingered some time, debating the point with the lady. At length he saw the sloop of war again make her appearance; but, without approaching the shore, she stood away to the westward with all her sails set, and was soon out of sight. The lady's state of timorous and fretful apprehension was so habitual that her fears went for nothing with her lord and master; but an appearance of disturbance and anxiety among the servants now excited his alarm, especially when he was called out of the room, and told in private that Mr. Kennedy's horse had come to the stable door alone, with the saddle turned round below its belly and the reins of the bridle broken; and that a farmer had informed them in passing that there was a smuggling lugger burning like a furnace on the other side of the Point of Warroch, and that, though he had come through the wood, he had seen or heard nothing of Kennedy or the young Laird, 'only there was Dominie Sampson gaun rampauging about like mad, seeking for them.'
All was now bustle at Ellangowan. The Laird and his servants, male and female, hastened to the wood of Warroch. The tenants and cottagers in the neighbourhood lent their assistance, partly out of zeal, partly from curiosity. Boats were manned to search the sea-shore, which, on the other side of the Point, rose into high and indented rocks. A vague suspicion was entertained, though too horrible to be expressed, that the child might have fallen from one of these cliffs.
The evening had begun to close when the parties entered the wood, and dispersed different ways in quest of the boy and his companion. The darkening of the atmosphere, and the hoarse sighs of the November wind through the naked trees, the rustling of the withered leaves which strewed the glades, the repeated halloos of the different parties, which often drew them together in expectation of meeting the objects of their search, gave a cast of dismal sublimity to the scene.
At length, after a minute and fruitless investigation through the wood, the searchers began to draw together into one body, and to compare notes. The agony of the father grew beyond concealment, yet it scarcely equalled the anguish of the tutor. 'Would to God I had died for him!' the affectionate creature repeated, in notes of the deepest distress. Those who were less interested rushed into a tumultuary discussion of chances and possibilities. Each gave his opinion, and each was alternately swayed by that of the others. Some thought the objects of their search had gone aboard the sloop; some that they had gone to a village at three miles' distance; some whispered they might have been on board the lugger, a few planks and beams of which the tide now drifted ashore.
At this instant a shout was heard from the beach, so loud, so shrill, so piercing, so different from every sound which the woods that day had rung to, that nobody hesitated a moment to believe that it conveyed tidings, and tidings of dreadful import. All hurried to the place, and, venturing without scruple upon paths which at another time they would have shuddered to look at, descended towards a cleft of the rock, where one boat's crew was already landed. 'Here, sirs, here! this way, for God's sake! this way! this way!' was the reiterated cry. Ellangowan broke through the throng which had already assembled at the fatal spot, and beheld the object of their terror. It was the dead body of Kennedy. At first sight he seemed to have perished by a fall from the rocks, which rose above the spot on which he lay in a perpendicular precipice of a hundred feet above the beach. The corpse was lying half in, half out of the water; the advancing tide, raising the arm and stirring the clothes, had given it at some distance the appearance of motion, so that those who first discovered the body thought that life remained. But every spark had been long extinguished.
'My bairn! my bairn!' cried the distracted father, 'where can he be?' A dozen mouths were opened to communicate hopes which no one felt. Some one at length mentioned--the gipsies! In a moment Ellangowan had reascended the cliffs, flung himself upon the first horse he met, and rode furiously to the huts at Derncleugh. All was there dark and desolate; and, as he dismounted to make more minute search, he stumbled over fragments of furniture which had been thrown out of the cottages, and the broken wood and thatch which had been pulled down by his orders. At that moment the prophecy, or anathema, of Meg Merrilies fell heavy on his mind. 'You have stripped the thatch from seven cottages; see that the roof-tree of your own house stand the surer!'
'Restore,' he cried, 'restore my bairn! bring me back my son, and all shall be forgot and forgiven!' As he uttered these words in a sort of frenzy, his eye caught a glimmering of light in one of the dismantled cottages; it was that in which Meg Merrilies formerly resided. The light, which seemed to proceed from fire, glimmered not only through the window, but also through the rafters of the hut where the roofing had been torn off.
He flew to the place; the entrance was bolted. Despair gave the miserable father the strength of ten men; he rushed against the door with such violence that it gave way before the momentum of his weight and force. The cottage was empty, but bore marks of recent habitation: there was fire on the hearth, a kettle, and some preparation for food. As he eagerly gazed around for something that might confirm his hope that his child yet lived, although in the power of those strange people, a man entered the hut.
It was his old gardener. 'O sir!' said the old man, 'such a night as this I trusted never to live to see! ye maun come to the Place directly!'
'Is my boy found? is he alive? have ye found Harry Bertram? Andrew, have ye found Harry Bertram?'
'No, sir; but-'
'Then he is kidnapped! I am sure of it, Andrew! as sure as that I tread upon earth! She has stolen him; and I will never stir from this place till I have tidings of my bairn!'
'O, but ye maun come hame, sir! ye maun come hame! We have sent for the Sheriff, and we'll seta watch here a' night, in case the gipsies return; but YOU--ye maun come hame, sir, for my lady's in the dead-thraw.'
Bertram turned a stupefied and unmeaning eye on the messenger who uttered this calamitous news; and, repeating the words 'in the dead-thraw!' as if he could not comprehend their meaning, suffered the old man to drag him towards his horse. During the ride home he only said, 'Wife and bairn baith--mother and son baith,--sair, sair to abide!'
It is needless to dwell upon the new scene of agony which awaited him. The news of Kennedy's fate had been eagerly and incautiously communicated at Ellangowan, with the gratuitous addition, that, doubtless, 'he had drawn the young Laird over the craig with him, though the tide had swept away the child's body; he was light, puir thing, and would flee farther into the surf.'
Mrs. Bertram heard the tidings; she was far advanced in her pregnancy; she fell into the pains of premature labour, and, ere Ellangowan had recovered his agitated faculties, so as to comprehend the full distress of his situation, he was the father of a female infant, and a widower.
But see, his face is black and full of blood;
His eye-balls farther out than when he lived,
Staring full ghastly like a strangled man,
His hair uprear'd, his nostrils stretch d with struggling,
His hands abroad display'd, as one that grasp'd
And tugg'd for life, and was by strength subdued
Henry VI, Part II
The Sheriff-depute of the county arrived at Ellangowan next morning by daybreak. To this provincial magistrate the law of Scotland assigns judicial powers of considerable extent, and the task of inquiring into all crimes committed within his jurisdiction, the apprehension and commitment of suspected persons, and so forth. [Footnote: The Scottish sheriff discharges, on such occasions as that now mentioned, pretty much the same duty as a coroner.]
The gentleman who held the office in the shire of---at the time of this catastrophe was well born and well educated; and, though somewhat pedantic and professional in his habits, he enjoyed general respect as an active and intelligent magistrate. His first employment was to examine all witnesses whose evidence could throw light upon this mysterious event, and make up the written report, proces verbal, or precognition, as it is technically called, which the practice of Scotland has substituted for a coroner's inquest. Under the Sheriff's minute and skilful inquiry, many circumstances appeared which seemed incompatible with the original opinion that Kennedy had accidentally fallen from the cliffs. We shall briefly detail some of these.
The body had been deposited in a neighbouring fisher-hut, but without altering the condition in which it was found. This was the first object of the Sheriff's examination. Though fearfully crushed and mangled by the fall from such a height, the corpse was found to exhibit a deep cut in the head, which, in the opinion of a skilful surgeon, must have been inflicted by a broadsword or cutlass. The experience of this gentleman discovered other suspicious indications. The face was much blackened, the eyes distorted, and the veins of the neck swelled. A coloured handkerchief, which the unfortunate man had worn round his neck, did not present the usual appearance, but was much loosened, and the knot displaced and dragged extremely tight; the folds were also compressed, as if it had been used as a means of grappling the deceased, and dragging him perhaps to the precipice.
On the other hand, poor Kennedy's purse was found untouched; and, what seemed yet more extraordinary, the pistols which he usually carried when about to encounter any hazardous adventure were found in his pockets loaded. This appeared particularly strange, for he was known and dreaded by the contraband traders as a man equally fearless and dexterous in the use of his weapons, of which he had given many signal proofs. The Sheriff inquired whether Kennedy was not in the practice of carrying any other arms? Most of Mr. Bertram's servants recollected that he generally had a couteau de chasse, or short hanger, but none such was found upon the dead body; nor could those who had seen him on the morning of the fatal day take it upon them to assert whether he then carried that weapon or not.
The corpse afforded no other indicia respecting the fate of Kennedy; for, though the clothes were much displaced and the limbs dreadfully fractured, the one seemed the probable, the other the certain, consequences of such a fall. The hands of the deceased were clenched fast, and full of turf and earth; but this also seemed equivocal.
The magistrate then proceeded to the place where the corpse was first discovered, and made those who had found it give, upon the spot, a particular and detailed account of the manner in which it was lying. A large fragment of the rock appeared to have accompanied, or followed, the fall of the victim from the cliff above. It was of so solid and compact a substance that it had fallen without any great diminution by splintering; so that the Sheriff was enabled, first, to estimate the weight by measurement, and then to calculate, from the appearance of the fragment, what portion of it had been bedded into the cliff from which it had descended. This was easily detected by the raw appearance of the stone where it had not been exposed to the atmosphere. They then ascended the cliff, and surveyed the place from whence the stony fragment had fallen. It seemed plain, from the appearance of the bed, that the mere weight of one man standing upon the projecting part of the fragment, supposing it in its original situation, could not have destroyed its balance and precipitated it, with himself, from the cliff. At the same time, it appeared to have lain so loose that the use of a lever, or the combined strength of three or four men, might easily have hurled it from its position. The short turf about the brink of the precipice was much trampled, as if stamped by the heels of men in a mortal struggle, or in the act of some violent exertion. Traces of the same kind, less visibly marked, guided the sagacious investigator to the verge of the copsewood, which in that place crept high up the bank towards the top of the precipice.
With patience and perseverance they traced these marks into the thickest part of the copse, a route which no person would have voluntarily adopted, unless for the purpose of concealment. Here they found plain vestiges of violence and struggling, from space to space. Small boughs were torn down, as if grasped by some resisting wretch who was dragged forcibly along; the ground, where in the least degree soft or marshy, showed the print of many feet; there were vestiges also which might be those of human blood. At any rate it was certain that several persons must have forced their passage among the oaks, hazels, and underwood with which they were mingled; and in some places appeared traces as if a sack full of grain, a dead body, or something of that heavy and solid description, had been dragged along the ground. In one part of the thicket there was a small swamp, the clay of which was whitish, being probably mixed with marl. The back of Kennedy's coat appeared besmeared with stains of the same colour.
At length, about a quarter of a mile from the brink of the fatal precipice, the traces conducted them to a small open space of ground, very much trampled, and plainly stained with blood, although withered leaves had been strewed upon the spot, and other means hastily taken to efface the marks, which seemed obviously to have been derived from a desperate affray. On one side of this patch of open ground was found the sufferer's naked hanger, which seemed to have been thrown into the thicket; on the other, the belt and sheath, which appeared to have been hidden with more leisurely care and precaution.
The magistrate caused the footprints which marked this spot to be carefully measured and examined. Some corresponded to the foot of the unhappy victim; some were larger, some less; indicating that at least four or five men had been busy around him. Above all, here, and here only, were observed the vestiges of a child's foot; and as it could be seen nowhere else, and the hard horse-track which traversed the wood of Warroch was contiguous to the spot, it was natural to think that the boy might have escaped in that direction during the confusion. But, as he was never heard of, the Sheriff, who made a careful entry of all these memoranda, did not suppress his opinion, that the deceased had met with foul play, and that the murderers, whoever they were, had possessed themselves of the person of the child Harry Bertram.
Every exertion was now made to discover the criminals. Suspicion hesitated between the smugglers and the gipsies. The fate of Dirk Hatteraick's vessel was certain. Two men from the opposite side of Warroch Bay (so the inlet on the southern side of the Point of Warroch is called) had seen, though at a great distance, the lugger drive eastward, after doubling the headland, and, as they judged from her manoeuvres, in a disabled state. Shortly after, they perceived that she grounded, smoked, and finally took fire. She was, as one of them expressed himself, 'in a light low' (bright flame) when they observed a king's ship, with her colours up, heave in sight from behind the cape. The guns of the burning vessel discharged themselves as the fire reached them; and they saw her at length blow up with a great explosion. The sloop of war kept aloof for her own safety; and, after hovering till the other exploded, stood away southward under a press of sail. The Sheriff anxiously interrogated these men whether any boats had left the vessel. They could not say, they had seen none; but they might have put off in such a direction as placed the burning vessel, and the thick smoke which floated landward from it, between their course and the witnesses' observation.
That the ship destroyed was Dirk Hatteraick's no one doubted. His lugger was well known on the coast, and had been expected just at this time. A letter from the commander of the king's sloop, to whom the Sheriff made application, put the matter beyond doubt; he sent also an extract from his log-book of the transactions of the day, which intimated their being on the outlook for a smuggling lugger, Dirk Hatteraick master, upon the information and requisition of Francis Kennedy, of his Majesty's excise service; and that Kennedy was to be upon the outlook on the shore, in case Hatteraick, who was known to be a desperate fellow, and had been repeatedly outlawed, should attempt to run his sloop aground. About nine o'clock A.M. they discovered a sail which answered the description of Hatteraick's vessel, chased her, and, after repeated signals to her to show colours and bring-to, fired upon her. The chase then showed Hamburgh colours and returned the fire; and a running fight was maintained for three hours, when, just as the lugger was doubling the Point of Warroch, they observed that the main-yard was shot in the slings, and that the vessel was disabled. It was not in the power of the man-of-war's men for some time to profit by this circumstance, owing to their having kept too much in shore for doubling the headland. After two tacks, they accomplished this, and observed the chase on fire and apparently deserted. The fire having reached some casks of spirits, which were placed on the deck, with other combustibles, probably on purpose, burnt with such fury that no boats durst approach the vessel, especially as her shotted guns were discharging one after another by the heat. The captain had no doubt whatever that the crew had set the vessel on fire and escaped in their boats. After watching the conflagration till the ship blew up, his Majesty's sloop, the Shark, stood towards the Isle of Man, with the purpose of intercepting the retreat of the smugglers, who, though they might conceal themselves in the woods for a day or two, would probably take the first opportunity of endeavouring to make for this asylum. But they never saw more of them than is above narrated.
Such was the account given by William Pritchard, master and commander of his Majesty's sloop of war, Shark, who concluded by regretting deeply that he had not had the happiness to fall in with the scoundrels who had had the impudence to fire on his Majesty's flag, and with an assurance that, should he meet Mr. Dirk Hatteraick in any future cruise, he would not fail to bring him into port under his stern, to answer whatever might be alleged against him.
As, therefore, it seemed tolerably certain that the men on board the lugger had escaped, the death of Kennedy, if he fell in with them in the woods, when irritated by the loss of their vessel and by the share he had in it, was easily to be accounted for. And it was not improbable that to such brutal tempers, rendered desperate by their own circumstances, even the murder of the child, against whose father, as having become suddenly active in the prosecution of smugglers, Hatteraick was known to have uttered deep threats, would not appear a very heinous crime.
Against this hypothesis it was urged that a crew of fifteen or twenty men could not have lain hidden upon the coast, when so close a search took place immediately after the destruction of their vessel; or, at least, that if they had hid themselves in the woods, their boats must have been seen on the beach; that in such precarious circumstances, and when all retreat must have seemed difficult if not impossible, it was not to be thought that they would have all united to commit a useless murder for the mere sake of revenge. Those who held this opinion supposed either that the boats of the lugger had stood out to sea without being observed by those who were intent upon gazing at the burning vessel, and so gained safe distance before the sloop got round the headland; or else that, the boats being staved or destroyed by the fire of the Shark during the chase, the crew had obstinately determined to perish with the vessel. What gave some countenance to this supposed act of desperation was, that neither Dirk Hatteraick nor any of his sailors, all well-known men in the fair trade, were again seen upon that coast, or heard of in the Isle of Man, where strict inquiry was made. On the other hand, only one dead body, apparently that of a seaman killed by a cannon-shot, drifted ashore. So all that could be done was to register the names, description, and appearance of the individuals belonging to the ship's company, and offer a reward for the apprehension of them, or any one of them, extending also to any person, not the actual murderer, who should give evidence tending to convict those who had murdered Francis Kennedy.
Another opinion, which was also plausibly supported, went to charge this horrid crime upon the late tenants of Derncleugh. They were known to have resented highly the conduct of the Laird of Ellangowan towards them, and to have used threatening expressions, which every one supposed them capable of carrying into effect. The kidnapping the child was a crime much more consistent with their habits than with those of smugglers, and his temporary guardian might have fallen in an attempt to protect him. Besides, it was remembered that Kennedy had been an active agent, two or three days before, in the forcible expulsion of these people from Derncleugh, and that harsh and menacing language had been exchanged between him and some of the Egyptian patriarchs on that memorable occasion.
The Sheriff received also the depositions of the unfortunate father and his servant, concerning what had passed at their meeting the caravan of gipsies as they left the estate of Ellangowan. The speech of Meg Merrilies seemed particularly suspicious. There was, as the magistrate observed in his law language, damnum minatum--a damage, or evil turn, threatened--and malum secutum--an evil of the very kind predicted shortly afterwards following. A young woman, who had been gathering nuts in Warroch wood upon the fatal day, was also strongly of opinion, though she declined to make positive oath, that she had seen Meg Merrilies--at least a woman of her remarkable size and appearance --start suddenly out of a thicket; she said she had called to her by name, but, as the figure turned from her and made no answer, she was uncertain if it were the gipsy or her wraith, and was afraid to go nearer to one who was always reckoned, in the vulgar phrase, 'no canny.' This vague story received some corroboration from the circumstance of a fire being that evening found in the gipsy's deserted cottage. To this fact Ellangowan and his gardener bore evidence. Yet it seemed extravagant to suppose that, had this woman been accessory to such a dreadful crime, she would have returned, that very evening on which it was committed, to the place of all others where she was most likely to be sought after.
Meg Merrilies was, however, apprehended and examined. She denied strongly having been either at Derncleugh or in the wood of Warroch upon the day of Kennedy's death; and several of her tribe made oath in her behalf, that she had never quitted their encampment, which was in a glen about ten miles distant from Ellangowan. Their oaths were indeed little to be trusted to; but what other evidence could be had in the circumstances? There was one remarkable fact, and only one, which arose from her examination. Her arm appeared to be slightly wounded by the cut of a sharp weapon, and was tied up with a handkerchief of Harry Bertram's. But the chief of the horde acknowledged he had 'corrected her' that day with his whinger; she herself, and others, gave the same account of her hurt; and for the handkerchief, the quantity of linen stolen from Ellangowan during the last months of their residence on the estate easily accounted for it, without charging Meg with a more heinous crime.
It was observed upon her examination that she treated the questions respecting the death of Kennedy, or 'the gauger,' as she called him, with indifference; but expressed great and emphatic scorn and indignation at being supposed capable of injuring little Harry Bertram. She was long confined in jail, under the hope that something might yet be discovered to throw light upon this dark and bloody transaction. Nothing, however, occurred; and Meg was at length liberated, but under sentence of banishment from the county as a vagrant, common thief, and disorderly person. No traces of the boy could ever be discovered; and at length the story, after making much noise, was gradually given up as altogether inexplicable, and only perpetuated by the name of 'The Gauger's Loup,' which was generally bestowed on the cliff from which the unfortunate man had fallen or been precipitated.
ENTER TIME, AS CHORUS
I, that please some, try all, both joy and terror
Of good and bad; that make and unfold error,
Now take upon me, in the name of Time,
To use my wings Impute it not a crime
To me, or my swift passage, that I slide
O'er sixteen years, and leave the growth untried
Of that wide gap.
Our narration is now about to make a large stride, and omit a space of nearly seventeen years; during which nothing occurred of any particular consequence with respect to the story we have undertaken to tell. The gap is a wide one; yet if the reader's experience in life enables him to look back on so many years, the space will scarce appear longer in his recollection than the time consumed in turning these pages.
It was, then, in the month of November, about seventeen years after the catastrophe related in the last chapter, that, during a cold and stormy night, a social group had closed around the kitchen-fire of the Gordon Arms at Kippletringan, a small but comfortable inn kept by Mrs. Mac-Candlish in that village. The conversation which passed among them will save me the trouble of telling the few events occurring during this chasm in our history, with which it is necessary that the reader should be acquainted.
Mrs. Mac-Candlish, throned in a comfortable easychair lined with black leather, was regaling herself and a neighbouring gossip or two with a cup of genuine tea, and at the same time keeping a sharp eye upon her domestics, as they went and came in prosecution of their various duties and commissions. The clerk and precentor of the parish enjoyed at a little distance his Saturday night's pipe, and aided its bland fumigation by an occasional sip of brandy and water. Deacon Bearcliff, a man of great importance in the village, combined the indulgence of both parties: he had his pipe and his tea-cup, the latter being laced with a little spirits. One or two clowns sat at some distance, drinking their twopenny ale.
'Are ye sure the parlour's ready for them, and the fire burning clear, and the chimney no smoking?' said the hostess to a chambermaid.
She was answered in the affirmative. 'Ane wadna be uncivil to them, especially in their distress,' said she, turning to the Deacon.
'Assuredly not, Mrs. Mac-Candlish; assuredly not. I am sure ony sma' thing they might want frae my shop, under seven, or eight, or ten pounds, I would book them as readily for it as the first in the country. Do they come in the auld chaise?'
'I daresay no,' said the precentor; 'for Miss Bertram comes on the white powny ilka day to the kirk--and a constant kirk-keeper she is--and it's a pleasure to hear her singing the psalms, winsome young thing.'
'Ay, and the young Laird of Hazlewood rides hame half the road wi' her after sermon,' said one of the gossips in company. 'I wonder how auld Hazlewood likes that.'
'I kenna how he may like it now,' answered another of the tea-drinkers; 'but the day has been when Ellangowan wad hae liked as little to see his daughter taking up with their son.'
'Ay, has been,' answered the first, with somewhat of emphasis.
'I am sure, neighbour Ovens,' said the hostess, 'the Hazlewoods of Hazlewood, though they are a very gude auld family in the county, never thought, till within these twa score o' years, of evening themselves till the Ellangowans. Wow, woman, the Bertrams of Ellangowan are the auld Dingawaies lang syne. There is a sang about ane o' them marrying a daughter of the King of Man; it begins--
Blythe Bertram's ta'en him ower the faem,
To wed a wife, and bring her hame--
I daur say Mr. Skreigh can sing us the ballant.'
'Gudewife,' said Skreigh, gathering up his mouth, and sipping his tiff of brandy punch with great solemnity, 'our talents were gien us to other use than to sing daft auld sangs sae near the Sabbath day.'
'Hout fie, Mr. Skreigh; I'se warrant I hae heard you sing a blythe sang on Saturday at e'en before now. But as for the chaise, Deacon, it hasna been out of the coach-house since Mrs. Bertram died, that's sixteen or seventeen years sin syne. Jock Jabos is away wi' a chaise of mine for them; I wonder he's no come back. It's pit mirk; but there's no an ill turn on the road but twa, and the brigg ower Warroch burn is safe eneugh, if he haud to the right side. But then there's Heavieside Brae, that's just a murder for post-cattle; but Jock kens the road brawly.'
A loud rapping was heard at the door.
'That's no them. I dinna hear the wheels. Grizzel, ye limmer, gang to the door.'
'It's a single gentleman,' whined out Grizzel; 'maun I take him into the parlour?'
'Foul be in your feet, then; it'll be some English rider. Coming without a servant at this time o' night! Has the hostler ta'en the horse? Ye may light a spunk o' fire in the red room.'
'I wish, ma'am,' said the traveller, entering the kitchen, 'you would give me leave to warm myself here, for the night is very cold.'
His appearance, voice, and manner produced an instantaneous effect in his favour. He was a handsome, tall, thin figure, dressed in black, as appeared when he laid aside his riding-coat; his age might be between forty and fifty; his cast of features grave and interesting, and his air somewhat military. Every point of his appearance and address bespoke the gentleman. Long habit had given Mrs. Mac-Candlish an acute tact in ascertaining the quality of her visitors, and proportioning her reception accordingly:--
To every guest the appropriate speech was made,
And every duty with distinction paid;
Respectful, easy, pleasant, or polite--
'Your honour's servant!' 'Mister Smith, good-night.'
On the present occasion she was low in her courtesy and profuse in her apologies. The stranger begged his horse might be attended to: she went out herself to school the hostler.
'There was never a prettier bit o' horse-flesh in the stable o' the Gordon Arms,' said the man, which information increased the landlady's respect for the rider. Finding, on her return, that the stranger declined to go into another apartment (which, indeed, she allowed, would be but cold and smoky till the fire bleezed up), she installed her guest hospitably by the fireside, and offered what refreshment her house afforded.
'A cup of your tea, ma'am, if you will favour me.'
Mrs. Mac-Candlish bustled about, reinforced her teapot with hyson, and proceeded in her duties with her best grace. 'We have a very nice parlour, sir, and everything very agreeable for gentlefolks; but it's bespoke the night for a gentleman and his daughter that are going to leave this part of the country; ane of my chaises is gane for them, and will be back forthwith. They're no sae weel in the warld as they have been; but we're a' subject to ups and downs in this life, as your honour must needs ken,--but is not the tobacco-reek disagreeable to your honour?'
'By no means, ma'am; I am an old campaigner, and perfectly used to it. Will you permit me to make some inquiries about a family in this neighbourhood?'
The sound of wheels was now heard, and the landlady hurried to the door to receive her expected guests; but returned in an instant, followed by the postilion. 'No, they canna come at no rate, the Laird's sae ill.'
'But God help them,' said the landlady, 'the morn's the term, the very last day they can bide in the house; a' thing's to be roupit.'
'Weel, but they can come at no rate, I tell ye; Mr. Bertram canna be moved.'
'What Mr. Bertram?' said the stranger; 'not Mr. Bertram of Ellangowan, I hope?'
'Just e'en that same, sir; and if ye be a friend o' his, ye have come at a time when he's sair bested.'
'I have been abroad for many years,--is his health so much deranged?'
'Ay, and his affairs an' a',' said the Deacon; 'the creditors have entered into possession o' the estate, and it's for sale; and some that made the maist by him--I name nae names, but Mrs. Mac-Candlish kens wha I mean (the landlady shook her head significantly)--they're sairest on him e'en now. I have a sma' matter due myself, but I would rather have lost it than gane to turn the auld man out of his house, and him just dying.'
'Ay, but,' said the parish clerk, 'Factor Glossin wants to get rid of the auld Laird, and drive on the sale, for fear the heir-male should cast up upon them; for I have heard say, if there was an heir-male they couldna sell the estate for auld Ellangowan's debt.'
'He had a son born a good many years ago,' said the stranger; 'he is dead, I suppose?'
'Nae man can say for that,' answered the clerk mysteriously.
'Dead!' said the Deacon, 'I'se warrant him dead lang syne; he hasna been heard o' these twenty years or thereby.'
'I wot weel it's no twenty years,' said the landlady; 'it's no abune seventeen at the outside in this very month. It made an unco noise ower a' this country; the bairn disappeared the very day that Supervisor Kennedy cam by his end. If ye kenn'd this country lang syne, your honour wad maybe ken Frank Kennedy the Supervisor. He was a heartsome pleasant man, and company for the best gentlemen in the county, and muckle mirth he's made in this house. I was young then, sir, and newly married to Bailie Mac-Candlish, that's dead and gone (a sigh); and muckle fun I've had wi' the Supervisor. He was a daft dog. O, an he could hae hauden aff the smugglers a bit! but he was aye venturesome. And so ye see, sir, there was a king's sloop down in Wigton Bay, and Frank Kennedy, he behoved to have her up to chase Dirk Hatteraick's lugger--ye'll mind Dirk Hatteraick, Deacon? I daresay ye may have dealt wi' him--(the Deacon gave a sort of acquiescent nod and humph). He was a daring chield, and he fought his ship till she blew up like peelings of ingans; and Frank Kennedy, he had been the first man to board, and he was flung like a quarter of a mile off, and fell into the water below the rock at Warroch Point, that they ca' the Gauger's Loup to this day.'
'And Mr. Bertram's child,' said the stranger, 'what is all this to him?'
'Ou, sir, the bairn aye held an unco wark wi' the Supervisor; and it was generally thought he went on board the vessel alang wi' him, as bairns are aye forward to be in mischief.'
'No, no,' said the Deacon, 'ye're clean out there, Luckie; for the young Laird was stown away by a randy gipsy woman they ca'd Meg Merrilies--I mind her looks weel--in revenge for Ellangowan having gar'd her be drumm'd through Kippletringan for stealing a silver spoon.'
'If ye'll forgieme, Deacon,' said the precentor, 'ye're e'en as far wrang as the gudewife.'
'And what is your edition of the story, sir?' said the stranger, turning to him with interest.
'That's maybe no sae canny to tell,' said the precentor, with solemnity.
Upon being urged, however, to speak out, he preluded with two or three large puffs of tobacco-smoke, and out of the cloudy sanctuary which these whiffs formed around him delivered the following legend, having cleared his voice with one or two hems, and imitating, as near as he could, the eloquence which weekly thundered over his head from the pulpit.
'What we are now to deliver, my brethren,--hem--hem,--I mean, my good friends,--was not done in a corner, and may serve as an answer to witch-advocates, atheists, and misbelievers of all kinds. Ye must know that the worshipful Laird of Ellangowan was not so preceese as he might have been in clearing his land of witches (concerning whom it is said, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live"), nor of those who had familiar spirits, and consulted with divination, and sorcery, and lots, which is the fashion with the Egyptians, as they ca' themsells, and other unhappy bodies, in this our country. And the Laird was three years married without having a family; and he was sae left to himsell, that it was thought he held ower muckle troking and communing wi' that Meg Merrilies, wha was the maist notorious witch in a' Galloway and Dumfries-shire baith.'
'Aweel, I wot there's something in that,' said Mrs. Mac-Candlish; 'I've kenn'd him order her twa glasses o' brandy in this very house.'
'Aweel, gudewife, then the less I lee. Sae the lady was wi' bairn at last, and in the night when she should have been delivered there comes to the door of the ha' house--the Place of Ellangowan as they ca'd--an ancient man, strangely habited, and asked for quarters. His head, and his legs, and his arms were bare, although it was winter time o' the year, and he had a grey beard three-quarters lang. Weel, he was admitted; and when the lady was delivered, he craved to know the very moment of the hour of the birth, and he went out and consulted the stars. And when he came back he tell'd the Laird that the Evil One wad have power over the knave-bairn that was that night born, and he charged him that the babe should be bred up in the ways of piety, and that he should aye hae a godly minister at his elbow to pray WI' the bairn and FOR him. And the aged man vanished away, and no man of this country ever saw mair o' him.'
'Now, that will not pass,' said the postilion, who, at a respectful distance, was listening to the conversation, 'begging Mr. Skreigh's and the company's pardon; there was no sae mony hairs on the warlock's face as there's on Letter-Gae's [Footnote: The precentor is called by Allan Ramsay, The letter-gae of haly rhyme.] ain at this moment, and he had as gude a pair o' boots as a man need streik on his legs, and gloves too; and I should understand boots by this time, I think.'
'Whisht, Jock,' said the landlady.
'Ay? and what do YE ken o' the matter, friend Jabos?' said the precentor, contemptuously.
'No muckle, to be sure, Mr. Skreigh, only that I lived within a penny-stane cast o' the head o' the avenue at Ellangowan, when a man cam jingling to our door that night the young Laird was born, and my mother sent me, that was a hafflin callant, to show the stranger the gate to the Place, which, if he had been sic a warlock, he might hae kenn'd himsell, ane wad think; and he was a young, weel-faured, weel-dressed lad, like an Englishman. And I tell ye he had as gude a hat, and boots, and gloves, as ony gentleman need to have. To be sure he DID gie an awesome glance up at the auld castle, and there WAS some spae-wark gaed on, I aye heard that; but as for his vanishing, I held the stirrup mysell when he gaed away, and he gied me a round half-crown. He was riding on a haick they ca'd Souple Sam, it belanged to the George at Dumfries; it was a blood-bay beast, very ill o' the spavin; I hae seen the beast baith before and since.'
'Aweel, aweel, Jock,' answered Mr. Skreigh, with a tone of mild solemnity, 'our accounts differ in no material particulars; but I had no knowledge that ye had seen the man. So ye see, my friends, that this soothsayer having prognosticated evil to the boy, his father engaged a godly minister to be with him morn and night.'
'Ay, that was him they ca'd Dominie Sampson,' said the postilion.
'He's but a dumb dog that,' observed the Deacon; 'I have heard that he never could preach five words of a sermon endlang, for as lang as he has been licensed.'
'Weel, but,' said the precentor, waving his hand, as if eager to retrieve the command of the discourse, 'he waited on the young Laird by night and day. Now it chanced, when the bairn was near five years auld, that the Laird had a sight of his errors, and determined to put these Egyptians aff his ground, and he caused them to remove; and that Frank Kennedy, that was a rough, swearing fellow, he was sent to turn them off. And he cursed and damned at them, and they swure at him; and that Meg Merrilies, that was the maist powerfu' with the Enemy of Mankind, she as gude as said she would have him, body and soul, before three days were ower his head. And I have it from a sure hand, and that's ane wha saw it, and that's John Wilson, that was the Laird's groom, that Meg appeared to the Laird as he was riding hame from Singleside, over Gibbie's know, and threatened him wi' what she wad do to his family; but whether it was Meg, or something waur in her likeness, for it seemed bigger than ony mortal creature, John could not say.'
'Aweel,' said the postilion, 'it might be sae, I canna say against it, for I was not in the country at the time; but John Wilson was a blustering kind of chield, without the heart of a sprug.'
'And what was the end of all this?' said the stranger, with some impatience.
'Ou, the event and upshot of it was, sir,' said the precentor, 'that while they were all looking on, beholding a king's ship chase a smuggler, this Kennedy suddenly brake away frae them without ony reason that could be descried--ropes nor tows wad not hae held him--and made for the wood of Warroch as fast as his beast could carry him; and by the way he met the young Laird and his governor, and he snatched up the bairn, and swure, if HE was bewitched, the bairn should have the same luck as him; and the minister followed as fast as he could, and almaist as fast as them, for he was wonderfully swift of foot, and he saw Meg the witch, or her master in her similitude, rise suddenly out of the ground, and claught the bairn suddenly out of the ganger's arms; and then he rampauged and drew his sword, for ye ken a fie man and a cusser fearsna the deil.'
'I believe that's very true,' said the postilion.
'So, sir, she grippit him, and clodded him like a stane from the sling ower the craigs of Warroch Head, where he was found that evening; but what became of the babe, frankly I cannot say. But he that was minister here then, that's now in a better place, had an opinion that the bairn was only conveyed to fairy-land for a season.'
The stranger had smiled slightly at some parts of this recital, but ere he could answer the clatter of a horse's hoofs was heard, and a smart servant, handsomely dressed, with a cockade in his hat, bustled into the kitchen, with 'Make a little room, good people'; when, observing the stranger, he descended at once into the modest and civil domestic, his hat sunk down by his side, and he put a letter into his master's hands. 'The family at Ellangowan, sir, are in great distress, and unable to receive any visits.'
'I know it,' replied his master. 'And now, madam, if you will have the goodness to allow me to occupy the parlour you mentioned, as you are disappointed of your guests--'
'Certainly, sir,' said Mrs. Mac-Candlish, and hastened to light the way with all the imperative bustle which an active landlady loves to display on such occasions.
'Young man,' said the Deacon to the servant, filling a glass, 'ye'll no be the waur o' this, after your ride.'
'Not a feather, sir; thank ye, your very good health, sir.'
'And wha may your master be, friend?'
'What, the gentleman that was here? that's the famous Colonel Mannering, sir, from the East Indies.'
'What, him we read of in the newspapers?'
'Ay, ay, just the same. It was he relieved Cuddieburn, and defended Chingalore, and defeated the great Mahratta chief, Ram Jolli Bundleman. I was with him in most of his campaigns.'
'Lord safe us,' said the landlady; 'I must go see what he would have for supper; that I should set him down here!'
'O, he likes that all the better, mother. You never saw a plainer creature in your life than our old Colonel; and yet he has a spice of the devil in him too.'
The rest of the evening's conversation below stairs tending little to edification, we shall, with the reader's leave, step up to the parlour.
Reputation! that's man's idol
Set up against God, the Maker of all laws,
Who hath commanded us we should not kill,
And yet we say we must, for Reputation!
What honest man can either fear his own,
Or else will hurt another's reputation?
Fear to do base unworthy things is valour;
If they be done to us, to suffer them
Is valour too.
The Colonel was walking pensively up and down the parlour when the officious landlady reentered to take his commands. Having given them in the manner he thought would be most acceptable 'for the good of the house,' be begged to detain her a moment.
'I think,' he said, 'madam, if I understood the good people right, Mr. Bertram lost his son in his fifth year?'
'O ay, sir, there's nae doubt o' that, though there are mony idle clashes about the way and manner, for it's an auld story now, and everybody tells it, as we were doing, their ain way by the ingleside. But lost the bairn was in his fifth year, as your honour says, Colonel; and the news being rashly tell'd to the leddy, then great with child, cost her her life that samyn night; and the Laird never throve after that day, but was just careless of everything, though, when his daughter Miss Lucy grew up, she tried to keep order within doors; but what could she do, poor thing? So now they're out of house and hauld.'
'Can you recollect, madam, about what time of the year the child was lost?' The landlady, after a pause and some recollection, answered, 'she was positive it was about this season'; and added some local recollections that fixed the date in her memory as occurring about the beginning of November 17--.
The stranger took two or three turns round the room in silence, but signed to Mrs. Mac-Candlish not to leave it.
'Did I rightly apprehend,' he said, 'that the estate of Ellangowan is in the market?'
'In the market? It will be sell'd the morn to the highest bidder--that's no the morn, Lord help me! which is the Sabbath, but on Monday, the first free day; and the furniture and stocking is to be roupit at the same time on the ground. It's the opinion of the haill country that the sale has been shamefully forced on at this time, when there's sae little money stirring in Scotland wi' this weary American war, that somebody may get the land a bargain. Deil be in them, that I should say sae!'--the good lady's wrath rising at the supposed injustice.
'And where will the sale take place?'
'On the premises, as the advertisement says; that's at the house of Ellangowan, your honour, as I understand it.'
'And who exhibits the title-deeds, rent-roll, and plan?'
'A very decent man, sir; the sheriff-substitute of the county, who has authority from the Court of Session. He's in the town just now, if your honour would like to see him; and he can tell you mair about the loss of the bairn than ony body, for the sheriff-depute (that's his principal, like) took much pains to come at the truth o' that matter, as I have heard.'
'And this gentleman's name is--'
'Mac-Morlan, sir; he's a man o' character, and weel spoken o'.'
'Send my compliments--Colonel Mannering's compliments to him, and I would be glad he would do me the pleasure of supping with me, and bring these papers with him; and I beg, good madam, you will say nothing of this to any one else.'
'Me, sir? ne'er a word shall I say. I wish your honour (a courtesy), or ony honourable gentleman that's fought for his country (another courtesy), had the land, since the auld family maun quit (a sigh), rather than that wily scoundrel Glossin, that's risen on the ruin of the best friend he ever had. And now I think on't, I'll slip on my hood and pattens, and gang to Mr. Mac-Morlan mysell, he's at hame e'en now; it's hardly a step.'
'Do so, my good landlady, and many thanks; and bid my servant step here with my portfolio in the meantime.'
In a minute or two Colonel Mannering was quietly seated with his writing materials before him. We have the privilege of looking over his shoulder as he writes, and we willingly communicate its substance to our readers. The letter was addressed to Arthur Mervyn, Esq., of Mervyn Hall, Llanbraithwaite, Westmoreland. It contained some account of the writer's previous journey since parting with him, and then proceeded as follows:--
'And now, why will you still upbraid me with my melancholy, Mervyn? Do you think, after the lapse of twenty-five years, battles, wounds, imprisonment, misfortunes of every description, I can be still the same lively, unbroken Guy Mannering who climbed Skiddaw with you, or shot grouse upon Crossfell? That you, who have remained in the bosom of domestic happiness, experience little change, that your step is as light and your fancy as full of sunshine, is a blessed effect of health and temperament, cooperating with content and a smooth current down the course of life. But MY career has been one of difficulties and doubts and errors. From my infancy I have been the sport of accident, and, though the wind has often borne me into harbour, it has seldom been into that which the pilot destined. Let me recall to you--but the task must be brief--the odd and wayward fates of my youth, and the misfortunes of my manhood.
'The former, you will say, had nothing very appalling. All was not for the best; but all was tolerable. My father, the eldest son of an ancient but reduced family, left me with little, save the name of the head of the house, to the protection of his more fortunate brothers. They were so fond of me that they almost quarrelled about me. My uncle, the bishop, would have had me in orders, and offered me a living; my uncle, the merchant, would have put me into a counting-house, and proposed to give me a share in the thriving concern of Mannering and Marshall, in Lombard Street. So, between these two stools, or rather these two soft, easy, well-stuffed chairs of divinity and commerce, my unfortunate person slipped down, and pitched upon a dragoon saddle. Again, the bishop wished me to marry the niece and heiress of the Dean of Lincoln; and my uncle, the alderman, proposed to me the only daughter of old Sloethorn, the great wine-merchant, rich enough to play at span-counter with moidores and make thread-papers of bank-notes; and somehow I slipped my neck out of both nooses, and married--poor, poor Sophia Wellwood.
'You will say, my military career in India, when I followed my regiment there, should have given me some satisfaction; and so it assuredly has. You will remind me also, that if I disappointed the hopes of my guardians, I did not incur their displeasure; that the bishop, at his death, bequeathed me his blessing, his manuscript sermons, and a curious portfolio containing the heads of eminent divines of the church of England; and that my uncle, Sir Paul Mannering, left me sole heir and executor to his large fortune. Yet this availeth me nothing; I told you I had that upon my mind which I should carry to my grave with me, a perpetual aloes in the draught of existence. I will tell you the cause more in detail than I had the heart to do while under your hospitable roof. You will often hear it mentioned, and perhaps with different and unfounded circumstances. I will therefore speak it out; and then let the event itself, and the sentiments of melancholy with which it has impressed me, never again be subject of discussion between us.
'Sophia, as you well know, followed me to India. She was as innocent as gay; but, unfortunately for us both, as gay as innocent. My own manners were partly formed by studies I had forsaken, and habits of seclusion not quite consistent with my situation as commandant of a regiment in a country where universal hospitality is offered and expected by every settler claiming the rank of a gentleman. In a moment of peculiar pressure (you know how hard we were sometimes run to obtain white faces to countenance our line-of-battle), a young man named Brown joined our regiment as a volunteer, and, finding the military duty more to his fancy than commerce, in which he had been engaged, remained with us as a cadet. Let me do my unhappy victim justice: he behaved with such gallantry on every occasion that offered that the first vacant commission was considered as his due. I was absent for some weeks upon a distant expedition; when I returned I found this young fellow established quite as the friend of the house, and habitual attendant of my wife and daughter. It was an arrangement which displeased me in many particulars, though no objection could be made to his manners or character. Yet I might have been reconciled to his familiarity in my family, but for the suggestions of another. If you read over--what I never dare open--the play of "Othello," you will have some idea of what followed--I mean of my motives; my actions, thank God! were less reprehensible. There was another cadet ambitious of the vacant situation. He called my attention to what he led me to term coquetry between my wife and this young man. Sophia was virtuous, but proud of her virtue; and, irritated by my jealousy, she was so imprudent as to press and encourage an intimacy which she saw I disapproved and regarded with suspicion. Between Brown and me there existed a sort of internal dislike. He made an effort or two to overcome my prejudice; but, prepossessed as I was, I placed them to a wrong motive. Feeling himself repulsed, and with scorn, he desisted; and as he was without family and friends, he was naturally more watchful of the deportment of one who had both.
'It is odd with what torture I write this letter. I feel inclined, nevertheless, to protract the operation, just as if my doing so could put off the catastrophe which has so long embittered my life. But--it must be told, and it shall be told briefly.
'My wife, though no longer young, was still eminently handsome, and--let me say thus far in my own justification-she was fond of being thought so--I am repeating what I said before. In a word, of her virtue I never entertained a doubt; but, pushed by the artful suggestions of Archer, I thought she cared little for my peace of mind, and that the young fellow Brown paid his attentions in my despite, and in defiance of me. He perhaps considered me, on his part, as an oppressive aristocratic man, who made my rank in society and in the army the means of galling those whom circumstances placed beneath me. And if he discovered my silly jealousy, he probably considered the fretting me in that sore point of my character as one means of avenging the petty indignities to which I had it in my power to subject him. Yet an acute friend of mine gave a more harmless, or at least a less offensive, construction to his attentions, which he conceived to be meant for my daughter Julia, though immediately addressed to propitiate the influence of her mother. This could have been no very flattering or pleasing enterprise on the part of an obscure and nameless young man; but I should not have been offended at this folly as I was at the higher degree of presumption I suspected. Offended, however, I was, and in a mortal degree.
'A very slight spark will kindle a flame where everything lies open to catch it. I have absolutely forgot the proximate cause of quarrel, but it was some trifle which occurred at the card-table which occasioned high words and a challenge. We met in the morning beyond the walls and esplanade of the fortress which I then commanded, on the frontiers of the settlement. This was arranged for Brown's safety, had he escaped. I almost wish he had, though at my own expense; but he fell by the first fire. We strove to assist him; but some of these looties, a species of native banditti who were always on the watch for prey, poured in upon us. Archer and I gained our horses with difficulty, and cut our way through them after a hard conflict, in the course of which he received some desperate wounds. To complete the misfortunes of this miserable day, my wife, who suspected the design with which I left the fortress, had ordered her palanquin to follow me, and was alarmed and almost made prisoner by another troop of these plunderers. She was quickly released by a party of our cavalry; but I cannot disguise from myself that the incidents of this fatal morning gave a severe shock to health already delicate. The confession of Archer, who thought himself dying, that he had invented some circumstances, and for his purposes put the worst construction upon others, and the full explanation and exchange of forgiveness with me which this produced, could not check the progress of her disorder. She died within about eight months after this incident, bequeathing me only the girl of whom Mrs. Mervyn is so good as to undertake the temporary charge. Julia was also extremely ill; so much so that I was induced to throw up my command and return to Europe, where her native air, time, and the novelty of the scenes around her have contributed to dissipate her dejection and restore her health.
'Now that you know my story, you will no longer ask me the reason of my melancholy, but permit me to brood upon it as I may. There is, surely, in the above narrative enough to embitter, though not to poison, the chalice which the fortune and fame you so often mention had prepared to regale my years of retirement.
'I could add circumstances which our old tutor would have quoted as instances of DAY FATALITY,--you would laugh were I to mention such particulars, especially as you know I put no faith in them. Yet, since I have come to the very house from which I now write, I have learned a singular coincidence, which, if I find it truly established by tolerable evidence, will serve as hereafter for subject of curious discussion. But I will spare you at present, as I expect a person to speak about a purchase of property now open in this part of the country. It is a place to which I have a foolish partiality, and I hope my purchasing may be convenient to those who are parting with it, as there is a plan for buying it under the value. My respectful compliments to Mrs. Mervyn, and I will trust you, though you boast to be so lively a young gentleman, to kiss Julia for me. Adieu, dear Mervyn.--Thine ever, GUY MANNERING.'
Mr. Mac-Morlan now entered the room. The well-known character of Colonel Mannering at once disposed this gentleman, who was a man of intelligence and probity, to be open and confidential. He explained the advantages and disadvantages of the property. 'It was settled,' he said, 'the greater part of it at least, upon heirs-male, and the purchaser would have the privilege of retaining in his hands a large proportion of the price, in case of the reappearance, within a certain limited term, of the child who had disappeared.'
'To what purpose, then, force forward a sale?' said Mannering. Mac-Morlan smiled. 'Ostensibly,' he answered, 'to substitute the interest of money instead of the ill-paid and precarious rents of an unimproved estate; but chiefly it was believed, to suit the wishes and views of a certain intended purchaser, who had become a principal creditor, and forced himself into the management of the affairs by means best known to himself, and who, it was thought, would find it very convenient to purchase the estate without paying down the price.'
Mannering consulted with Mr. Mac-Morlan upon the steps for thwarting this unprincipled attempt. They then conversed long on the singular disappearance of Harry Bertram upon his fifth birthday, verifying thus the random prediction of Mannering, of which, however, it will readily be supposed he made no boast. Mr. Mac-Morlan was not himself in office when that incident took place; but he was well acquainted with all the circumstances, and promised that our hero should have them detailed by the sheriff-depute himself, if, as he proposed, he should become a settler in that part of Scotland. With this assurance they parted, well satisfied with each other and with the evening's conference.
On the Sunday following, Colonel Mannering attended the parish church with great decorum. None of the Ellangowan family were present; and it was understood that the old Laird was rather worse than better. Jock Jabos, once more despatched for him, returned once more without his errand; but on the following day Miss Bertram hoped he might be removed.
They told me, by the sentence of the law,
They had commission to seize all thy fortune.
Here stood a ruffian with a horrid face,
Lording it o'er a pile of massy plate,
Tumbled into a heap for public sale;
There was another, making villainous jests
At thy undoing; he had ta'en possession
Of all thy ancient most domestic ornaments.
Early next morning Mannering mounted his horse and, accompanied by his servant, took the road to Ellangowan. He had no need to inquire the way. A sale in the country is a place of public resort and amusement, and people of various descriptions streamed to it from all quarters.
After a pleasant ride of about an hour, the old towers of the ruin presented themselves in the landscape. The thoughts, with what different feelings he had lost sight of them so many years before, thronged upon the mind of the traveller. The landscape was the same; but how changed the feelings, hopes, and views of the spectator! Then life and love were new, and all the prospect was gilded by their rays. And now, disappointed in affection, sated with fame and what the world calls success, his mind, goaded by bitter and repentant recollection, his best hope was to find a retirement in which he might nurse the melancholy that was to accompany him to his grave. 'Yet why should an individual mourn over the instability of his hopes and the vanity of his prospects? The ancient chiefs who erected these enormous and massive towers to be the fortress of their race and the seat of their power,--could they have dreamed the day was to come when the last of their descendants should be expelled, a ruined wanderer, from his possessions! But Nature's bounties are unaltered. The sun will shine as fair on these ruins, whether the property of a stranger or of a sordid and obscure trickster of the abused law, as when the banners of the founder first waved upon their battlements.'
These reflections brought Mannering to the door of the house, which was that day open to all. He entered among others, who traversed the apartments, some to select articles for purchase, others to gratify their curiosity. There is something melancholy in such a scene, even under the most favourable circumstances. The confused state of the furniture, displaced for the convenience of being easily viewed and carried off by the purchasers, is disagreeable to the eye. Those articles which, properly and decently arranged, look creditable and handsome, have then a paltry and wretched appearance; and the apartments, stripped of all that render them commodious and comfortable, have an aspect of ruin and dilapidation. It is disgusting also to see the scenes of domestic society and seclusion thrown open to the gaze of the curious and the vulgar, to hear their coarse speculations and brutal jests upon the fashions and furniture to which they are unaccustomed,--a frolicsome humour much cherished by the whisky which in Scotland is always put in circulation on such occasions. All these are ordinary effects of such a scene as Ellangowan now presented; but the moral feeling, that in this case they indicated the total ruin of an ancient and honourable family, gave them treble weight and poignancy.
It was some time before Colonel Mannering could find any one disposed to answer his reiterated questions concerning Ellangowan himself. At length an old maidservant, who held her apron to her eyes as she spoke, told him 'the Laird was something better, and they hoped he would be able to leave the house that day. Miss Lucy expected the chaise every moment, and, as the day was fine for the time o' year, they had carried him in his easychair up to the green before the auld castle, to be out of the way of this unco spectacle.' Thither Colonel Mannering went in quest of him, and soon came in sight of the little group, which consisted of four persons. The ascent was steep, so that he had time to reconnoitre them as he advanced, and to consider in what mode he should make his address.
Mr. Bertram, paralytic and almost incapable of moving, occupied his easy-chair, attired in his nightcap and a loose camlet coat, his feet wrapped in blankets. Behind him, with his hands crossed on the cane upon which he rested, stood Dominie Sampson, whom Mannering recognised at once. Time had made no change upon him, unless that his black coat seemed more brown, and his gaunt cheeks more lank, than when Mannering last saw him. On one side of the old man was a sylph-like form--a young woman of about seventeen, whom the Colonel accounted to be his daughter. She was looking from time to time anxiously towards the avenue, as if expecting the post-chaise; and between whiles busied herself in adjusting the blankets so as to protect her father from the cold, and in answering inquiries, which he seemed to make with a captious and querulous manner. She did not trust herself to look towards the Place, although the hum of the assembled crowd must have drawn her attention in that direction. The fourth person of the group was a handsome and genteel young man, who seemed to share Miss Bertram's anxiety, and her solicitude to soothe and accommodate her parent.
This young man was the first who observed Colonel Mannering, and immediately stepped forward to meet him, as if politely to prevent his drawing nearer to the distressed group. Mannering instantly paused and explained. 'He was,' he said, 'a stranger to whom Mr. Bertram had formerly shown kindness and hospitality; he would not have intruded himself upon him at a period of distress, did it not seem to be in some degree a moment also of desertion; he wished merely to offer such services as might be in his power to Mr. Bertram and the young lady.'
He then paused at a little distance from the chair. His old acquaintance gazed at him with lack-lustre eye, that intimated no tokens of recognition; the Dominie seemed too deeply sunk in distress even to observe his presence. The young man spoke aside with Miss Bertram, who advanced timidly, and thanked Colonel Mannering for his goodness; 'but,' she said, the tears gushing fast into her eyes, 'her father, she feared, was not so much himself as to be able to remember him.'
She then retreated towards the chair, accompanied by the Colonel. 'Father,' she said, 'this is Mr. Mannering, an old friend, come to inquire after you.'
'He's very heartily welcome,' said the old man, raising himself in his chair, and attempting a gesture of courtesy, while a gleam of hospitable satisfaction seemed to pass over his faded features; 'but, Lucy, my dear, let us go down to the house; you should not keep the gentleman here in the cold. Dominie, take the key of the wine-cooler. Mr. a--a--the gentleman will surely take something after his ride.'
Mannering was unspeakably affected by the contrast which his recollection made between this reception and that with which he had been greeted by the same individual when they last met. He could not restrain his tears, and his evident emotion at once attained him the confidence of the friendless young lady.
'Alas!' she said, 'this is distressing even to a stranger; but it may be better for my poor father to be in this way than if he knew and could feel all.'
A servant in livery now came up the path, and spoke in an undertone to the young gentleman--'Mr. Charles, my lady's wanting you yonder sadly, to bid for her for the black ebony cabinet; and Lady Jean Devorgoil is wi' her an' a'; ye maun come away directly.'
'Tell them you could not find me, Tom, or, stay,--say I am looking at the horses.'
'No, no, no,' said Lucy Bertram, earnestly; 'if you would not add to the misery of this miserable moment, go to the company directly. This gentleman, I am sure, will see us to the carriage.'
'Unquestionably, madam,' said Mannering, 'your young friend may rely on my attention.'
'Farewell, then,' said young Hazlewood, and whispered a word in her ear; then ran down the steep hastily, as if not trusting his resolution at a slower pace.
'Where's Charles Hazlewood running?' said the invalid, who apparently was accustomed to his presence and attentions; 'where's Charles Hazlewood running? what takes him away now?'
'He'll return in a little while,' said Lucy, gently.
The sound of voices was now heard from the ruins. The reader may remember there was a communication between the castle and the beach, up which the speakers had ascended.
'Yes, there's a plenty of shells and seaware for manure, as you observe; and if one inclined to build a new house, which might indeed be necessary, there's a great deal of good hewn stone about this old dungeon, for the devil here--'
'Good God!' said Miss Bertram hastily to Sampson, ''t is that wretch Glossin's voice! If my father sees him, it will kill him outright!'
Sampson wheeled perpendicularly round, and moved with long strides to confront the attorney as he issued from beneath the portal arch of the ruin. 'Avoid ye!' he said, 'avoid ye! wouldst thou kill and take possession?'
'Come, come, Master Dominie Sampson,' answered Glossin insolently, 'if ye cannot preach in the pulpit, we'll have no preaching here. We go by the law, my good friend; we leave the gospel to you.'
The very mention of this man's name had been of late a subject of the most violent irritation to the unfortunate patient. The sound of his voice now produced an instantaneous effect. Mr. Bertram started up without assistance and turned round towards him; the ghastliness of his features forming a strange contrast with the violence of his exclamations.--'Out of my sight, ye viper! ye frozen viper, that I warmed, till ye stung me! Art thou not afraid that the walls of my father's dwelling should fall and crush thee limb and bone? Are ye not afraid the very lintels of the door of Ellangowan Castle should break open and swallow you up? Were ye not friendless, houseless, penniless, when I took ye by the hand; and are ye not expelling me--me and that innocent girl--friendless, houseless, and penniless, from the house that has sheltered us and ours for a thousand years?'
Had Glossin been alone, he would probably have slunk off; but the consciousness that a stranger was present, besides the person who came with him (a sort of land-surveyor), determined him to resort to impudence. The task, however, was almost too hard even for his effrontery--'Sir--sir--Mr. Bertram, sir, you should not blame me, but your own imprudence, sir--'
The indignation of Mannering was mounting very high. 'Sir,' he said to Glossin, 'without entering into the merits of this controversy, I must inform you that you have chosen a very improper place, time, and presence for it. And you will oblige me by withdrawing without more words.'
Glossin, being a tall, strong, muscular man, was not unwilling rather to turn upon the stranger, whom he hoped to bully, than maintain his wretched cause against his injured patron.--'I do not know who you are, sir,' he said, 'and I shall permit no man to use such d--d freedom with me.'
Mannering was naturally hot-tempered: his eyes flashed a dark light; he compressed his nether lip so closely that the blood sprung, and approaching Glossin--'Look you, sir,' he said,' that you do not know me is of little consequence. _I_ KNOW YOU; and if you do not instantly descend that bank, without uttering a single syllable, by the Heaven that is above us you shall make but one step from the top to the bottom!'
The commanding tone of rightful anger silenced at once the ferocity of the bully. He hesitated, turned on his heel, and, muttering something between his teeth about unwillingness to alarm the lady, relieved them of his hateful company.
Mrs. Mac-Candlish's postilion, who had come up in time to hear what passed, said aloud, 'If he had stuck by the way, I would have lent him a heezie, the dirty scoundrel, as willingly as ever I pitched a boddle.'
He then stepped forward to announce that his horses were in readiness for the invalid and his daughter. But they were no longer necessary. The debilitated frame of Mr. Bertram was exhausted by this last effort of indignant anger, and when he sunk again upon his chair, he expired almost without a struggle or groan. So little alteration did the extinction of the vital spark make upon his external appearance that the screams of his daughter, when she saw his eye fix and felt his pulse stop, first announced his death to the spectators.
The bell strikes one. We take no note of time
But from its loss. To give it then a tongue
Is wise in man. As if an angel spoke,
I feel the solemn sound.
The moral which the poet has rather quaintly deduced from the necessary mode of measuring time may be well applied to our feelings respecting that portion of it which constitutes human life. We observe the aged, the infirm, and those engaged in occupations of immediate hazard, trembling as it were upon the very brink of non-existence, but we derive no lesson from the precariousness of their tenure until it has altogether failed. Then, for a moment at least--
Our hopes and fears
Start up alarm'd, and o'er life's narrow verge
Look down--on what? a fathomless abyss,
A dark eternity, how surely ours!
The crowd of assembled gazers and idlers at Ellangowan had followed the views of amusement, or what they called business, which brought them there, with little regard to the feelings of those who were suffering upon that occasion. Few, indeed, knew anything of the family. The father, betwixt seclusion, misfortune, and imbecility, had drifted, as it were, for many years out of the notice of his contemporaries; the daughter had never been known to them. But when the general murmur announced that the unfortunate Mr. Bertram had broken his heart in the effort to leave the mansion of his forefathers, there poured forth a torrent of sympathy like the waters from the rock when stricken by the wand of the prophet. The ancient descent and unblemished integrity of the family were respectfully remembered; above all, the sacred veneration due to misfortune, which in Scotland seldom demands its tribute in vain, then claimed and received it.
Mr. Mac-Morlan hastily announced that he would suspend all farther proceedings in the sale of the estate and other property, and relinquish the possession of the premises to the young lady, until she could consult with her friends and provide for the burial of her father.
Glossin had cowered for a few minutes under the general expression of sympathy, till, hardened by observing that no appearance of popular indignation was directed his way, he had the audacity to require that the sale should proceed.
'I will take it upon my own authority to adjourn it,' said the Sheriff-substitute, 'and will be responsible for the consequences. I will also give due notice when it is again to go forward. It is for the benefit of all concerned that the lands should bring the highest price the state of the market will admit, and this is surely no time to expect it. I will take the responsibility upon myself.'
Glossin left the room and the house too with secrecy and despatch; and it was probably well for him that he did so, since our friend Jock Jabos was already haranguing a numerous tribe of bare-legged boys on the propriety of pelting him off the estate.
Some of the rooms were hastily put in order for the reception of the young lady, and of her father's dead body. Mannering now found his farther interference would be unnecessary, and might be misconstrued. He observed, too, that several families connected with that of Ellangowan, and who indeed derived their principal claim of gentility from the alliance, were now disposed to pay to their trees of genealogy a tribute which the adversity of their supposed relatives had been inadequate to call forth; and that the honour of superintending the funeral rites of the dead Godfrey Bertram (as in the memorable case of Homer's birthplace) was likely to be debated by seven gentlemen of rank and fortune, none of whom had offered him an asylum while living. He therefore resolved, as his presence was altogether useless, to make a short tour of a fortnight, at the end of which period the adjourned sale of the estate of Ellangowan was to proceed.
But before he departed he solicited an interview with the Dominie. The poor man appeared, on being informed a gentleman wanted to speak to him, with some expression of surprise in his gaunt features, to which recent sorrow had given an expression yet more grisly. He made two or three profound reverences to Mannering, and then, standing erect, patiently waited an explanation of his commands.
'You are probably at a loss to guess, Mr. Sampson,' said Mannering, 'what a stranger may have to say to you?'
'Unless it were to request that I would undertake to train up some youth in polite letters and humane learning; but I cannot--I cannot; I have yet a task to perform.'
'No, Mr. Sampson, my wishes are not so ambitious. I have no son, and my only daughter, I presume, you would not consider as a fit pupil.'
'Of a surety no,' replied the simple-minded Sampson. 'Nathless, it was I who did educate Miss Lucy in all useful learning, albeit it was the housekeeper who did teach her those unprofitable exercises of hemming and shaping.'
'Well, sir,' replied Mannering, 'it is of Miss Lucy I meant to speak. You have, I presume, no recollection of me?'
Sampson, always sufficiently absent in mind, neither remembered the astrologer of past years, nor even the stranger who had taken his patron's part against Glossin, so much had his friend's sudden death embroiled his ideas.
'Well, that does not signify,' pursued the Colonel; 'I am an old acquaintance of the late Mr. Bertram, able and willing to assist his daughter in her present circumstances. Besides, I have thoughts of making this purchase, and I should wish things kept in order about the place; will you have the goodness to apply this small sum in the usual family expenses?' He put into the Dominie's hand a purse containing some gold.
'Pro-di-gi-ous!' exclaimed Dominie Sampson. 'But if your honour would tarry--'
'Impossible, sir, impossible,' said Mannering, making his escape from him.
'Pro-di-gi-ous!' again exclaimed Sampson, following to the head of the stairs, still holding out the purse. 'But as touching this coined money--'
Mannering escaped downstairs as fast as possible.
'Pro-di-gi-ous!' exclaimed Dominie Sampson, yet the third time, now standing at the front door. 'But as touching this specie--'
But Mannering was now on horseback, and out of hearing. The Dominie, who had never, either in his own right or as trustee for another, been possessed of a quarter part of this sum, though it was not above twenty guineas, 'took counsel,' as he expressed himself, 'how he should demean himself with respect unto the fine gold' thus left in his charge. Fortunately he found a disinterested adviser in Mac-Morlan, who pointed out the most proper means of disposing of it for contributing to Miss Bertram's convenience, being no doubt the purpose to which it was destined by the bestower.
Many of the neighbouring gentry were now sincerely eager in pressing offers of hospitality and kindness upon Miss Bertram. But she felt a natural reluctance to enter any family for the first time as an object rather of benevolence than hospitality, and determined to wait the opinion and advice of her father's nearest female relation, Mrs. Margaret Bertram of Singleside, an old unmarried lady, to whom she wrote an account of her present distressful situation.
The funeral of the late Mr. Bertram was performed with decent privacy, and the unfortunate young lady was now to consider herself as but the temporary tenant of the house in which she had been born, and where her patience and soothing attentions had so long 'rocked the cradle of declining age.' Her communication with Mr. Mac-Morlan encouraged her to hope that she would not be suddenly or unkindly deprived of this asylum; but fortune had ordered otherwise.
For two days before the appointed day for the sale of the lands and estate of Ellangowan, Mac-Morlan daily expected the appearance of Colonel Mannering, or at least a letter containing powers to act for him. But none such arrived. Mr. Mac-Morlan waked early in the morning, walked over to the Post-office,--there were no letters for him. He endeavoured to persuade himself that he should see Colonel Mannering to breakfast, and ordered his wife to place her best china and prepare herself accordingly. But the preparations were in vain. 'Could I have foreseen this,' he said, 'I would have travelled Scotland over, but I would have found some one to bid against Glossin.' Alas! such reflections were all too late. The appointed hour arrived; and the parties met in the Masons' Lodge at Kippletringan, being the place fixed for the adjourned sale. Mac-Morlan spent as much time in preliminaries as decency would permit, and read over the articles of sale as slowly as if he had been reading his own death-warrant. He turned his eye every time the door of the room opened, with hopes which grew fainter and fainter. He listened to every noise in the street of the village, and endeavoured to distinguish in it the sound of hoofs or wheels. It was all in vain. A bright idea then occurred, that Colonel Mannering might have employed some other person in the transaction; he would not have wasted a moment's thought upon the want of confidence in himself which such a manoeuvre would have evinced. But this hope also was groundless. After a solemn pause, Mr. Glossin offered the upset price for the lands and barony of Ellangowan. No reply was made, and no competitor appeared; so, after a lapse of the usual interval by the running of a sand-glass, upon the intended purchaser entering the proper sureties, Mr. Mac-Morlan was obliged, in technical terms, to 'find and declare the sale lawfully completed, and to prefer the said Gilbert Glossin as the purchaser of the said lands and estate.' The honest writer refused to partake of a splendid entertainment with which Gilbert Glossin, Esquire, now of Ellangowan, treated the rest of the company, and returned home in huge bitterness of spirit, which he vented in complaints against the fickleness and caprice of these Indian nabobs, who never knew what they would be at for ten days together. Fortune generously determined to take the blame upon herself, and cut off even this vent of Mac-Morlan's resentment.
An express arrived about six o'clock at night, 'very particularly drunk,' the maid-servant said, with a packet from Colonel Mannering, dated four days back, at a town about a hundred miles' distance from Kippletringan, containing full powers to Mr. Mac-Morlan, or any one whom he might employ, to make the intended purchase, and stating that some family business of consequence called the Colonel himself to Westmoreland, where a letter would find him, addressed to the care of Arthur Mervyn, Esq., of Mervyn Hall.
Mac-Morlan, in the transports of his wrath, flung the power of attorney at the head of the innocent maidservant, and was only forcibly withheld from horse-whipping the rascally messenger by whose sloth and drunkenness the disappointment had taken place.
My gold is gone, my money is spent,
My land now take it unto thee.
Give me thy gold, good John o' the Scales,
And thine for aye my land shall be.
Then John he did him to record draw.
And John he caste him a gods-pennie;
But for every pounde that John agreed,
The land, I wis, was well worth three.
HEIR OF LINNE.
The Galwegian John o' the Scales was a more clever fellow than his prototype. He contrived to make himself heir of Linne without the disagreeable ceremony of 'telling down the good red gold.' Miss Bertram no sooner heard this painful, and of late unexpected, intelligence than she proceeded in the preparations she had already made for leaving the mansion-house immediately. Mr. Mac-Morlan assisted her in these arrangements, and pressed upon her so kindly the hospitality and protection of his roof, until she should receive an answer from her cousin, or be enabled to adopt some settled plan of life, that she felt there would be unkindness in refusing an invitation urged with such earnestness. Mrs. Mac-Morlan was a ladylike person, and well qualified by birth and manners to receive the visit, and to make her house agreeable to Miss Bertram. A home, therefore, and an hospitable reception were secured to her, and she went on with better heart to pay the wages and receive the adieus of the few domestics of her father's family.
Where there are estimable qualities on either side, this task is always affecting; the present circumstances rendered it doubly so. All received their due, and even a trifle more, and with thanks and good wishes, to which some added tears, took farewell of their young mistress. There remained in the parlour only Mr. Mac-Morlan, who came to attend his guest to his house, Dominie Sampson, and Miss Bertram. 'And now,' said the poor girl, 'I must bid farewell to one of my oldest and kindest friends. God bless you, Mr. Sampson, and requite to you all the kindness of your instructions to your poor pupil, and your friendship to him that is gone. I hope I shall often hear from you.' She slid into his hand a paper containing some pieces of gold, and rose, as if to leave the room.
Dominie Sampson also rose; but it was to stand aghast with utter astonishment. The idea of parting from Miss Lucy, go where she might, had never once occurred to the simplicity of his understanding. He laid the money on the table. 'It is certainly inadequate,' said Mac-Morlan, mistaking his meaning, 'but the circumstances--'
Mr. Sampson waved his hand impatiently.--'It is not the lucre, it is not the lucre; but that I, that have ate of her father's loaf, and drank of his cup, for twenty years and more--to think that I am going to leave her, and to leave her in distress and dolour! No, Miss Lucy, you need never think it! You would not consent to put forth your father's poor dog, and would you use me waur than a messan? No, Miss Lucy Bertram, while I live I will not separate from you. I'll be no burden; I have thought how to prevent that. But, as Ruth said unto Naomi, "Entreat me not to leave thee, nor to depart from thee; for whither thou goest I will go, and where thou dwellest I will dwell; thy people shall be my people, and thy God shall be my God. Where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death do part thee and me."'
During this speech, the longest ever Dominie Sampson was known to utter, the affectionate creature's eyes streamed with tears, and neither Lucy nor Mac-Morlan could refrain from sympathising with this unexpected burst of feeling and attachment. 'Mr. Sampson,' said Mac-Morlan, after having had recourse to his snuff-box and handkerchief alternately, 'my house is large enough, and if you will accept of a bed there while Miss Bertram honours us with her residence, I shall think myself very happy, and my roof much favoured, by receiving a man of your worth and fidelity.' And then, with a delicacy which was meant to remove any objection on Miss Bertram's part to bringing with her this unexpected satellite, he added, 'My business requires my frequently having occasion for a better accountant than any of my present clerks, and I should be glad to have recourse to your assistance in that way now and then.'
'Of a surety, of a surety,' said Sampson eagerly; 'I understand book-keeping by double entry and the Italian method.'
Our postilion had thrust himself into the room to announce his chaise and horses; he tarried, unobserved, during this extraordinary scene, and assured Mrs. Mac-Candlish it was the most moving thing he ever saw; 'the death of the grey mare, puir hizzie, was naething till't.' This trifling circumstance afterwards had consequences of greater moment to the Dominie.
The visitors were hospitably welcomed by Mrs. Mac-Morlan, to whom, as well as to others, her husband intimated that he had engaged Dominie Sampson's assistance to disentangle some perplexed accounts, during which occupation he would, for convenience sake, reside with the family. Mr. Mac-Morlan's knowledge of the world induced him to put this colour upon the matter, aware that, however honourable the fidelity of the Dominie's attachment might be both to his own heart and to the family of Ellangowan, his exterior ill qualified him to be a'squire of dames,' and rendered him, upon the whole, rather a ridiculous appendage to a beautiful young woman of seventeen.
Dominie Sampson achieved with great zeal such tasks as Mr. Mac-Morlan chose to entrust him with; but it was speedily observed that at a certain hour after breakfast he regularly disappeared, and returned again about dinner-time. The evening he occupied in the labour of the office. On Saturday he appeared before Mac-Morlan with a look of great triumph, and laid on the table two pieces of gold. 'What is this for, Dominie?' said Mac-Morlan.
'First to indemnify you of your charges in my behalf, worthy sir; and the balance for the use of Miss Lucy Bertram.'
'But, Mr. Sampson, your labour in the office much more than recompenses me; I am your debtor, my good friend.'
'Then be it all,' said the Dominie, waving his hand, 'for Miss Lucy Bertram's behoof.'
'Well, but, Dominie, this money-'
'It is honestly come by, Mr. Mac-Morlan; it is the bountiful reward of a young gentleman to whom I am teaching the tongues; reading with him three hours daily.'
A few more questions extracted from the Dominie that this liberal pupil was young Hazlewood, and that he met his preceptor daily at the house of Mrs. Mac-Candlish, whose proclamation of Sampson's disinterested attachment to the young lady had procured him this indefatigable and bounteous scholar.
Mac-Morlan was much struck with what he heard. Dominie Sampson was doubtless a very good scholar, and an excellent man, and the classics were unquestionably very well worth reading; yet that a young man of twenty should ride seven miles and back again each day in the week, to hold this sort of TETE-A-TETE of three hours, was a zeal for literature to which he was not prepared to give entire credit. Little art was necessary to sift the Dominie, for the honest man's head never admitted any but the most direct and simple ideas. 'Does Miss Bertram know how your time is engaged, my good friend?'
'Surely not as yet. Mr. Charles recommended it should be concealed from her, lest she should scruple to accept of the small assistance arising from it; but,' he added, 'it would not be possible to conceal it long, since Mr. Charles proposed taking his lessons occasionally in this house.'
'O, he does!' said Mac-Morlan.' Yes, yes, I can understand that better. And pray, Mr. Sampson, are these three hours entirely spent inconstruing and translating?'
'Doubtless, no; we have also colloquial intercourse to sweeten study: neque semper arcum tendit apollo.'
The querist proceeded to elicit from this Galloway Phoebus what their discourse chiefly turned upon.
'Upon our past meetings at Ellangowan; and, truly, I think very often we discourse concerning Miss Lucy, for Mr. Charles Hazlewood in that particular resembleth me, Mr. Mac-Morlan. When I begin to speak of her I never know when to stop; and, as I say (jocularly), she cheats us out of half our lessons.'
'O ho!' thought Mac-Morlan, 'sits the wind in that quarter? I've heard something like this before.'
He then began to consider what conduct was safest for his protegee, and even for himself; for the senior Mr. Hazlewood was powerful, wealthy, ambitious, and vindictive, and looked for both fortune and title in any connexion which his son might form. At length, having the highest opinion of his guest's good sense and penetration, he determined to take an opportunity, when they should happen to be alone, to communicate the matter to her as a simple piece of intelligence. He did so in as natural a manner as he could. 'I wish you joy of your friend Mr. Sampson's good fortune, Miss Bertram; he has got a pupil who pays him two guineas for twelve lessons of Greek and Latin.'
'Indeed! I am equally happy and surprised. Who can be so liberal? is Colonel Mannering returned?'
'No, no, not Colonel Mannering; but what do you think of your acquaintance, Mr. Charles Hazlewood? He talks of taking his lessons here; I wish we may have accommodation for him.'
Lucy blushed deeply. 'For Heaven's sake, no, Mr. Mac-Morlan, do not let that be; Charles Hazlewood has had enough of mischief about that already.'
'About the classics, my dear young lady?' wilfully seeming to misunderstand her; 'most young gentlemen have so at one period or another, sure enough; but his present studies are voluntary.'
Miss Bertram let the conversation drop, and her host made no effort to renew it, as she seemed to pause upon the intelligence in order to form some internal resolution.
The next day Miss Bertram took an opportunity of conversing with Mr. Sampson. Expressing in the kindest manner her grateful thanks for his disinterested attachment, and her joy that he had got such a provision, she hinted to him that his present mode of superintending Charles Hazlewood's studies must be so inconvenient to his pupil that, while that engagement lasted, he had better consent to a temporary separation, and reside either with his scholar or as near him as might be. Sampson refused, as indeed she had expected, to listen a moment to this proposition; he would not quit her to be made preceptor to the Prince of Wales. 'But I see,' he added, 'you are too proud to share my pittance; and peradventure I grow wearisome unto you.'
'No indeed; you were my father's ancient, almost his only, friend. I am not proud; God knows, I have no reason to be so. You shall do what you judge best in other matters; but oblige me by telling Mr. Charles Hazlewood that you had some conversation with me concerning his studies, and that I was of opinion that his carrying them on in this house was altogether impracticable, and not to be thought of.'
Dominie Sampson left her presence altogether crest-fallen, and, as he shut the door, could not help muttering the 'varium et mutabile' of Virgil. Next day he appeared with a very rueful visage, and tendered Miss Bertram a letter. 'Mr. Hazlewood,' he said, 'was to discontinue his lessons, though he had generously made up the pecuniary loss. But how will he make up the loss to himself of the knowledge he might have acquired under my instruction? Even in that one article of writing,--he was an hour before he could write that brief note, and destroyed many scrolls, four quills, and some good white paper. I would have taught him in three weeks a firm, current, clear, and legible hand; he should have been a calligrapher,--but God's will be done.'
The letter contained but a few lines, deeply regretting and murmuring against Miss Bertram's cruelty, who not only refused to see him, but to permit him in the most indirect manner to hear of her health and contribute to her service. But it concluded with assurances that her severity was vain, and that nothing could shake the attachment of Charles Hazlewood.
Under the active patronage of Mrs. Mac-Candlish, Sampson picked up some other scholars--very different indeed from Charles Hazlewood in rank, and whose lessons were proportionally unproductive. Still, however, he gained something, and it was the glory of his heart to carry it to Mr. Mac-Morlan weekly, a slight peculium only subtracted to supply his snuff-box and tobacco-pouch.
And here we must leave Kippletringan to look after our hero, lest our readers should fear they are to lose sight of him for another quarter of a century.
Our Polly is a sad slut, nor heeds what we have taught her,
I wonder any man alive will ever rear a daughter,
For when she's drest with care and cost, all tempting, fine,
As men should serve a cucumber, she flings herself away.
After the death of Mr. Bertram, Mannering had set out upon a short tour, proposing to return to the neighbourhood of Ellangowan before the sale of that property should take place. He went, accordingly, to Edinburgh and elsewhere, and it was in his return towards the south-western district of Scotland, in which our scene lies, that, at a post-town about a hundred miles from Kippletringan, to which he had requested his friend, Mr. Mervyn, to address his letters, he received one from that gentleman which contained rather unpleasing intelligence. We have assumed already the privilege of acting a secretis to this gentleman, and therefore shall present the reader with an extract from this epistle.
'I beg your pardon, my dearest friend, for the pain I have given you in forcing you to open wounds so festering as those your letter referred to. I have always heard, though erroneously perhaps, that the attentions of Mr. Brown were intended for Miss Mannering. But, however that were, it could not be supposed that in your situation his boldness should escape notice and chastisement. Wise men say that we resign to civil society our natural rights of self-defence only on condition that the ordinances of law should protect us. Where the price cannot be paid, the resignation becomes void. For instance, no one supposes that I am not entitled to defend my purse and person against a highwayman, as much as if I were a wild Indian, who owns neither law nor magistracy. The question of resistance or submission must be determined by my means and situation. But if, armed and equal in force, I submit to injustice and violence from any man, high or low, I presume it will hardly be attributed to religious or moral feeling in me, or in any one but a Quaker. An aggression on my honour seems to me much the same. The insult, however trifling in itself, is one of much deeper consequence to all views in life than any wrong which can be inflicted by a depredator on the highway, and to redress the injured party is much less in the power of public jurisprudence, or rather it is entirely beyond its reach. If any man chooses to rob Arthur Mervyn of the contents of his purse, supposing the said Arthur has not means of defence, or the skill and courage to use them, the assizes at Lancaster or Carlisle will do him justice by tucking up the robber; yet who will say I am bound to wait for this justice, and submit to being plundered in the first instance, if I have myself the means and spirit to protect my own property? But if an affront is offered to me, submission under which is to tarnish my character for ever with men of honour, and for which the twelve judges of England, with the chancellor to boot, can afford me no redress, by what rule of law or reason am I to be deterred from protecting what ought to be, and is, so infinitely dearer to every man of honour than his whole fortune? Of the religious views of the matter I shall say nothing, until I find a reverend divine who shall condemn self-defence in the article of life and property. If its propriety in that case be generally admitted, I suppose little distinction can be drawn between defence of person and goods and protection of reputation. That the latter is liable to be assailed by persons of a different rank in life, untainted perhaps in morals, and fair in character, cannot affect my legal right of self-defence. I may be sorry that circumstances have engaged me in personal strife with such an individual; but I should feel the same sorrow for a generous enemy who fell under my sword in a national quarrel. I shall leave the question with the casuists, however; only observing, that what I have written will not avail either the professed duellist or him who is the aggressor in a dispute of honour. I only presume to exculpate him who is dragged into the field by such an offence as, submitted to in patience, would forfeit for ever his rank and estimation in society.
'I am sorry you have thoughts of settling in Scotland, and yet glad that you will still be at no immeasurable distance, and that the latitude is all in our favour. To move to Westmoreland from Devonshire might make an East-Indian shudder; but to come to us from Galloway or Dumfries-shire is a step, though a short one, nearer the sun. Besides, if, as I suspect, the estate in view be connected with the old haunted castle in which you played the astrologer in your northern tour some twenty years since, I have heard you too often describe the scene with comic unction to hope you will be deterred from making the purchase. I trust, however, the hospitable gossiping Laird has not run himself upon the shallows, and that his chaplain, whom you so often made us laugh at, is still in rerum natura.
'And here, dear Mannering, I wish I could stop, for I have incredible pain in telling the rest of my story; although I am sure I can warn you against any intentional impropriety on the part of my temporary ward, Julia Mannering. But I must still earn my college nickname of Downright Dunstable. In one word, then, here is the matter.
'Your daughter has much of the romantic turn of your disposition, with a little of that love of admiration which all pretty women share less or more. She will besides, apparently, be your heiress; a trifling circumstance to those who view Julia with my eyes, but a prevailing bait to the specious, artful, and worthless. You know how I have jested with her about her soft melancholy, and lonely walks at morning before any one is up, and in the moonlight when all should be gone to bed, or set down to cards, which is the same thing. The incident which follows may not be beyond the bounds of a joke, but I had rather the jest upon it came from you than me.
'Two or three times during the last fortnight I heard, at a late hour in the night or very early in the morning, a flageolet play the little Hindu tune to which your daughter is so partial. I thought for some time that some tuneful domestic, whose taste for music was laid under constraint during the day, chose that silent hour to imitate the strains which he had caught up by the ear during his attendance in the drawing-room. But last night I sat late in my study, which is immediately under Miss Mannering's apartment, and to my surprise I not only heard the flageolet distinctly, but satisfied myself that it came from the lake under the window. Curious to know who serenaded us at that unusual hour, I stole softly to the window of my apartment. But there were other watchers than me. You may remember, Miss Mannering preferred that apartment on account of a balcony which opened from her window upon the lake. Well, sir, I heard the sash of her window thrown up, the shutters opened, and her own voice in conversation with some person who answered from below. This is not "Much ado about nothing"; I could not be mistaken in her voice, and such tones, so soft, so insinuating; and, to say the truth, the accents from below were in passion's tenderest cadence too,--but of the sense I can say nothing. I raised the sash of my own window that I might hear something more than the mere murmur of this Spanish rendezvous; but, though I used every precaution, the noise alarmed the speakers; down slid the young lady's casement, and the shutters were barred in an instant. The dash of a pair of oars in the water announced the retreat of the male person of the dialogue. Indeed, I saw his boat, which he rowed with great swiftness and dexterity, fly across the lake like a twelve-oared barge. Next morning I examined some of my domestics, as if by accident, and I found the gamekeeper, when making his rounds, had twice seen that boat beneath the house, with a single person, and had heard the flageolet. I did not care to press any farther questions, for fear of implicating Julia in the opinions of those of whom they might be asked. Next morning, at breakfast, I dropped a casual hint about the serenade of the evening before, and I promise you Miss Mannering looked red and pale alternately. I immediately gave the circumstance such a turn as might lead her to suppose that my observation was merely casual. I have since caused a watch-light to be burnt in my library, and have left the shutters open, to deter the approach of our nocturnal guest; and I have stated the severity of approaching winter, and the rawness of the fogs, as an objection to solitary walks. Miss Mannering acquiesced with a passiveness which is no part of her character, and which, to tell you the plain truth, is a feature about the business which I like least of all. Julia has too much of her own dear papa's disposition to be curbed in any of her humours, were there not some little lurking consciousness that it may be as prudent to avoid debate.
'Now my story is told, and you will judge what you ought to do. I have not mentioned the matter to my good woman, who, a faithful secretary to her sex's foibles, would certainly remonstrate against your being made acquainted with these particulars, and might, instead, take it into her head to exercise her own eloquence on Miss Mannering; a faculty which, however powerful when directed against me, its legitimate object, might, I fear, do more harm than good in the case supposed. Perhaps even you yourself will find it most prudent to act without remonstrating, or appearing to be aware of this little anecdote. Julia is very like a certain friend of mine; she has a quick and lively imagination, and keen feelings, which are apt to exaggerate both the good and evil they find in life. She is a charming girl, however, as generous and spirited as she is lovely. I paid her the kiss you sent her with all my heart, and she rapped my fingers for my reward with all hers. Pray return as soon as you can. Meantime rely upon the care of, yours faithfully, 'ARTHUR MERVYN.
'P.S.--You will naturally wish to know if I have the least guess concerning the person of the serenader. In truth, I have none. There is no young gentleman of these parts, who might be in rank or fortune a match for Miss Julia, that I think at all likely to play such a character. But on the other side of the lake, nearly opposite to Mervyn Hall, is a d--d cake-house, the resort of walking gentlemen of all descriptions--poets, players, painters, musicians--who come to rave, and recite, and madden about this picturesque land of ours. It is paying some penalty for its beauties, that they are the means of drawing this swarm of coxcombs together. But were Julia my daughter, it is one of those sort of fellows that I should fear on her account. She is generous and romantic, and writes six sheets a week to a female correspondent; and it's a sad thing to lack a subject in such a case, either for exercise of the feelings or of the pen. Adieu, once more. Were I to treat this matter more seriously than I have done, I should do injustice to your feelings; were I altogether to overlook it, I should discredit my own.'
The consequence of this letter was, that, having first despatched the faithless messenger with the necessary powers to Mr. Mac-Morlan for purchasing the estate of Ellangowan, Colonel Mannering turned his horse's head in a more southerly direction, and neither 'stinted nor staid' until he arrived at the mansion of his friend Mr. Mervyn, upon the banks of one of the lakes of Westmoreland.
Heaven first, in its mercy, taught mortals their letters,
For ladies in limbo, and lovers in fetters,
Or some author, who, placing his persons before ye,
Ungallantly leaves them to write their own story.
When Mannering returned to England, his first object had been to place his daughter in a seminary for female education, of established character. Not, however, finding her progress in the accomplishments which he wished her to acquire so rapid as his impatience expected, he had withdrawn Miss Mannering from the school at the end of the first quarter. So she had only time to form an eternal friendship with Miss Matilda Marchmont, a young lady about her own age, which was nearly eighteen. To her faithful eye were addressed those formidable quires which issued forth from Mervyn Hall on the wings of the post while Miss Mannering was a guest there. The perusal of a few short extracts from these may be necessary to render our story intelligible.
'Alas! my dearest Matilda, what a tale is mine to tell! Misfortune from the cradle has set her seal upon your unhappy friend. That we should be severed for so slight a cause--an ungrammatical phrase in my Italian exercise, and three false notes in one of Paisiello's sonatas! But it is a part of my father's character, of whom it is impossible to say whether I love, admire, or fear him the most. His success in life and in war, his habit of making every obstacle yield before the energy of his exertions, even where they seemed insurmountable--all these have given a hasty and peremptory cast to his character, which can neither endure contradiction nor make allowance for deficiencies. Then he is himself so very accomplished. Do you know, there was a murmur, half confirmed too by some mysterious words which dropped from my poor mother, that he possesses other sciences, now lost to the world, which enable the possessor to summon up before him the dark and shadowy forms of future events! Does not the very idea of such a power, or even of the high talent and commanding intellect which the world may mistake for it,--does it not, dear Matilda, throw a mysterious grandeur about its possessor? You will call this romantic; but consider I was born in the land of talisman and spell, and my childhood lulled by tales which you can only enjoy through the gauzy frippery of a French translation. O, Matilda, I wish you could have seen the dusky visages of my Indian attendants, bending in earnest devotion round the magic narrative, that flowed, half poetry, half prose, from the lips of the tale-teller! No wonder that European fiction sounds cold and meagre, after the wonderful effects which I have seen the romances of the East produce upon their hearers.'
'You are possessed, my dear Matilda, of my bosom-secret, in those sentiments with which I regard Brown. I will not say his memory; I am convinced he lives, and is faithful. His addresses to me were countenanced by my deceased parent, imprudently countenanced perhaps, considering the prejudices of my father in favour of birth and rank. But I, then almost a girl, could not be expected surely to be wiser than her under whose charge nature had placed me. My father, constantly engaged in military duty, I saw but at rare intervals, and was taught to look up to him with more awe than confidence. Would to Heaven it had been otherwise! It might have been better for us all at this day!'
'You ask me why I do not make known to my father that Brown yet lives, at least that he survived the wound he received in that unhappy duel, and had written to my mother expressing his entire convalescence, and his hope of speedily escaping from captivity. A soldier, that "in the trade of war has oft slain men," feels probably no uneasiness at reflecting upon the supposed catastrophe which almost turned me into stone. And should I show him that letter, does it not follow that Brown, alive and maintaining with pertinacity the pretensions to the affections of your poor friend for which my father formerly sought his life, would be a more formidable disturber of Colonel Mannering's peace of mind than in his supposed grave? If he escapes from the hands of these marauders, I am convinced he will soon be in England, and it will be then time to consider how his existence is to be disclosed to my father. But if, alas! my earnest and confident hope should betray me, what would it avail to tear open a mystery fraught with so many painful recollections? My dear mother had such dread of its being known, that I think she even suffered my father to suspect that Brown's attentions were directed towards herself, rather than permit him to discover their real object; and O, Matilda, whatever respect I owe to the memory of a deceased parent, let me do justice to a living one. I cannot but condemn the dubious policy which she adopted, as unjust to my father, and highly perilous to herself and me. But peace be with her ashes! her actions were guided by the heart rather than the head; and shall her daughter, who inherits all her weakness, be the first to withdraw the veil from her defects?'
FOURTH EXTRACT 'MERVYN HALL.
'If India be the land of magic, this, my dearest Matilda, is the country of romance. The scenery is such as nature brings together in her sublimest moods-sounding cataracts--hills which rear their scathed heads to the sky--lakes that, winding up the shadowy valleys, lead at every turn to yet more romantic recesses--rocks which catch the clouds of heaven. All the wildness of Salvator here, and there the fairy scenes of Claude. I am happy too in finding at least one object upon which my father can share my enthusiasm. An admirer of nature, both as an artist and a poet, I have experienced the utmost pleasure from the observations by which he explains the character and the effect of these brilliant specimens of her power. I wish he would settle in this enchanting land. But his views lie still farther north, and he is at present absent on a tour in Scotland, looking, I believe, for some purchase of land which may suit him as a residence. He is partial, from early recollections, to that country. So, my dearest Matilda, I must be yet farther removed from you before I am established in a home. And O how delighted shall I be when I can say, Come, Matilda, and be the guest of your faithful Julia!
'I am at present the inmate of Mr. and Mrs. Mervyn, old friends of my father. The latter is precisely a good sort of woman, ladylike and housewifely; but for accomplishments or fancy--good lack, my dearest Matilda, your friend might as well seek sympathy from Mrs. Teach'em;--you see I have not forgot school nicknames. Mervyn is a different--quite a different being from my father, yet he amuses and endures me. He is fat and good-natured, gifted with strong shrewd sense and some powers of humour; but having been handsome, I suppose, in his youth, has still some pretension to be a beau garcon, as well as an enthusiastic agriculturist. I delight to make him scramble to the tops of eminences and to the foot of waterfalls, and am obliged in turn to admire his turnips, his lucerne, and his timothy grass. He thinks me, I fancy, a simple romantic Miss, with some--the word will be out--beauty and some good-nature; and I hold that the gentleman has good taste for the female outside, and do not expect he should comprehend my sentiments farther. So he rallies, hands, and hobbles (for the dear creature has got the gout too), and tells old stories of high life, of which he has seen a great deal; and I listen, and smile, and look as pretty, as pleasant, and as simple as I can, and we do very well.
'But, alas! my dearest Matilda, how would time pass away, even in this paradise of romance, tenanted as it is by a pair assorting so ill with the scenes around them, were it not for your fidelity in replying to my uninteresting details? Pray do not fail to write three times a week at least; you can be at no loss what to say.'
'How shall I communicate what I have now to tell! My hand and heart still flutter so much, that the task of writing is almost impossible! Did I not say that he lived? did I not say I would not despair? How could you suggest, my dear Matilda, that my feelings, considering I had parted from him so young, rather arose from the warmth of my imagination than of my heart? O I was sure that they were genuine, deceitful as the dictates of our bosom so frequently are. But to my tale--let it be, my friend, the most sacred, as it is the most sincere, pledge of our friendship.
'Our hours here are early--earlier than my heart, with its load of care, can compose itself to rest. I therefore usually take a book for an hour or two after retiring to my own room, which I think I have told you opens to a small balcony, looking down upon that beautiful lake of which I attempted to give you a slight sketch. Mervyn Hall, being partly an ancient building, and constructed with a view to defence, is situated on the verge of the lake. A stone dropped from the projecting balcony plunges into water deep enough to float a skiff. I had left my window partly unbarred, that, before I went to bed, I might, according to my custom, look out and see the moonlight shining upon the lake. I was deeply engaged with that beautiful scene in the "Merchant of Venice" where two lovers, describing the stillness of a summer night, enhance on each other its charms, and was lost in the associations of story and of feeling which it awakens, when I heard upon the lake the sound of a flageolet. I have told you it was Brown's favourite instrument. Who could touch it in a night which, though still and serene, was too cold, and too late in the year, to invite forth any wanderer for mere pleasure? I drew yet nearer the window, and hearkened with breathless attention; the sounds paused a space, were then resumed, paused again, and again reached my ear, ever coming nearer and nearer. At length I distinguished plainly that little Hindu air which you called my favourite. I have told you by whom it was taught me; the instrument, the tones, were his own! Was it earthly music, or notes passing on the wind, to warn me of his death?
'It was some time ere I could summon courage to step on the balcony; nothing could have emboldened me to do so but the strong conviction of my mind that he was still alive, and that we should again meet; but that conviction did embolden me, and I ventured, though with a throbbing heart. There was a small skiff with a single person. O, Matilda, it was himself! I knew his appearance after so long an absence, and through the shadow of the night, as perfectly as if we had parted yesterday, and met again in the broad sunshine! He guided his boat under the balcony, and spoke to me; I hardly knew what he said, or what I replied. Indeed, I could scarcely speak for weeping, but they were joyful tears. We were disturbed by the barking of a dog at some distance, and parted, but not before he had conjured me to prepare to meet him at the same place and hour this evening.
'But where and to what is all this tending? Can I answer this question? I cannot. Heaven, that saved him from death and delivered him from captivity, that saved my father, too, from shedding the blood of one who would not have blemished a hair of his head, that Heaven must guide me out of this labyrinth. Enough for me the firm resolution that Matilda shall not blush for her friend, my father for his daughter, nor my lover for her on whom he has fixed his affection.'
Talk with a man out of a window!--a proper saying.
Much Ado about Nothing.
We must proceed with our extracts from Miss Mannering's letters, which throw light upon natural good sense, principle, and feelings, blemished by an imperfect education and the folly of a misjudging mother, who called her husband in her heart a tyrant until she feared him as such, and read romances until she became so enamoured of the complicated intrigues which they contain as to assume the management of a little family novel of her own, and constitute her daughter, a girl of sixteen, the principal heroine. She delighted in petty mystery and intrigue and secrets, and yet trembled at the indignation which these paltry manoeuvres excited in her husband's mind. Thus she frequently entered upon a scheme merely for pleasure, or perhaps for the love of contradiction, plunged deeper into it than she was aware, endeavoured to extricate herself by new arts, or to cover her error by dissimulation, became involved in meshes of her own weaving, and was forced to carry on, for fear of discovery, machinations which she had at first resorted to in mere wantonness.
Fortunately the young man whom she so imprudently introduced into her intimate society, and encouraged to look up to her daughter, had a fund of principle and honest pride which rendered him a safer intimate than Mrs. Mannering ought to have dared to hope or expect. The obscurity of his birth could alone be objected to him; in every other respect,
With prospects bright upon the world he came,
Pure love of virtue, strong desire of fame,
Men watched the way his lofty mind would take,
And all foretold the progress he would make.
But it could not be expected that he should resist the snare which Mrs. Mannering's imprudence threw in his way, or avoid becoming attached to a young lady whose beauty and manners might have justified his passion, even in scenes where these are more generally met with than in a remote fortress in our Indian settlements. The scenes which followed have been partly detailed in Mannering's letter to Mr. Mervyn; and to expand what is there stated into farther explanation would be to abuse the patience of our readers.
We shall therefore proceed with our promised extracts from Miss Mannering's letters to her friend.
'I have seen him again, Matilda--seen him twice. I have used every argument to convince him that this secret intercourse is dangerous to us both; I even pressed him to pursue his views of fortune without farther regard to me, and to consider my peace of mind as sufficiently secured by the knowledge that he had not fallen under my father's sword. He answers--but how can I detail all he has to answer? He claims those hopes as his due which my mother permitted him to entertain, and would persuade me to the madness of a union without my father's sanction. But to this, Matilda, I will not be persuaded. I have resisted, I have subdued, the rebellious feelings which arose to aid his plea; yet how to extricate myself from this unhappy labyrinth in which fate and folly have entangled us both!
'I have thought upon it, Matilda, till my head is almost giddy; nor can I conceive a better plan than to make a full confession to my father. He deserves it, for his kindness is unceasing; and I think I have observed in his character, since I have studied it more nearly, that his harsher feelings are chiefly excited where he suspects deceit or imposition; and in that respect, perhaps, his character was formerly misunderstood by one who was dear to him. He has, too, a tinge of romance in his disposition; and I have seen the narrative of a generous action, a trait of heroism, or virtuous self-denial, extract tears from him which refused to flow at a tale of mere distress. But then Brown urges that he is personally hostile to him. And the obscurity of his birth, that would be indeed a stumbling-block. O, Matilda, I hope none of your ancestors ever fought at Poictiers or Agincourt! If it were not for the veneration which my father attaches to the memory of old Sir Miles Mannering, I should make out my explanation with half the tremor which must now attend it.'
'I have this instant received your letter--your most welcome letter! Thanks, my dearest friend, for your sympathy and your counsels; I can only repay them with unbounded confidence.
'You ask me what Brown is by origin, that his descent should be so unpleasing to my father. His story is shortly told. He is of Scottish extraction, but, being left an orphan, his education was undertaken by a family of relations settled in Holland. He was bred to commerce, and sent very early to one of our settlements in the East, where his guardian had a correspondent. But this correspondent was dead when he arrived in India, and he had no other resource than to offer himself as a clerk to a counting-house. The breaking out of the war, and the straits to which we were at first reduced, threw the army open to all young men who were disposed to embrace that mode of life; and Brown, whose genius had a strong military tendency, was the first to leave what might have been the road to wealth, and to choose that of fame. The rest of his history is well known to you; but conceive the irritation of my father, who despises commerce (though, by the way, the best part of his property was made in that honourable profession by my great-uncle), and has a particular antipathy to the Dutch--think with what ear he would be likely to receive proposals for his only child from Vanbeest Brown, educated for charity by the house of Vanbeest and Vanbruggen! O, Matilda, it will never do; nay, so childish am I, I hardly can help sympathising with his aristocratic feelings. Mrs. Vanbeest Brown! The name has little to recommend it, to be sure. What children we are!'
'It is all over now, Matilda! I shall never have courage to tell my father; nay, most deeply do I fear he has already learned my secret from another quarter, which will entirely remove the grace of my communication, and ruin whatever gleam of hope I had ventured to connect with it. Yesternight Brown came as usual, and his flageolet on the lake announced his approach. We had agreed that he should continue to use this signal. These romantic lakes attract numerous visitors, who indulge their enthusiasm in visiting the scenery at all hours, and we hoped that, if Brown were noticed from the house, he might pass for one of those admirers of nature, who was giving vent to his feelings through the medium of music. The sounds might also be my apology, should I be observed on the balcony. But last night, while I was eagerly enforcing my plan of a full confession to my father, which he as earnestly deprecated, we heard the window of Mr. Mervyn's library, which is under my room, open softly. I signed to Brown to make his retreat, and immediately reentered, with some faint hopes that our interview had not been observed.
'But, alas! Matilda, these hopes vanished the instant I beheld Mr. Mervyn's countenance at breakfast the next morning. He looked so provokingly intelligent and confidential, that, had I dared, I could have been more angry than ever I was in my life; but I must be on good behaviour, and my walks are now limited within his farm precincts, where the good gentleman can amble along by my side without inconvenience. I have detected him once or twice attempting to sound my thoughts, and watch the expression of my countenance. He has talked of the flageolet more than once, and has, at different times, made eulogiums upon the watchfulness and ferocity of his dogs, and the regularity with which the keeper makes his rounds with a loaded fowling-piece. He mentioned even man-traps and springguns. I should be loth to affront my father's old friend in his own house; but I do long to show him that I am my father's daughter, a fact of which Mr. Mervyn will certainly be convinced if ever I trust my voice and temper with a reply to these indirect hints. Of one thing I am certain--I am grateful to him on that account--he has not told Mrs. Mervyn. Lord help me, I should have had such lectures about the dangers of love and the night air on the lake, the risk arising from colds and fortune-hunters, the comfort and convenience of sack-whey and closed windows! I cannot help trifling, Matilda, though my heart is sad enough. What Brown will do I cannot guess. I presume, however, the fear of detection prevents his resuming his nocturnal visits. He lodges at an inn on the opposite shore of the lake, under the name, he tells me, of Dawson; he has a bad choice in names, that must be allowed. He has not left the army, I believe, but he says nothing of his present views.
'To complete my anxiety, my father is returned suddenly, and in high displeasure. Our good hostess, as I learned from a bustling conversation between her housekeeper and her, had no expectation of seeing him for a week; but I rather suspect his arrival was no surprise to his friend Mr. Mervyn. His manner to me was singularly cold and constrained, sufficiently so to have damped all the courage with which I once resolved to throw myself on his generosity. He lays the blame of his being discomposed and out of humour to the loss of a purchase in the south-west of Scotland on which he had set his heart; but I do not suspect his equanimity of being so easily thrown off its balance. His first excursion was with Mr. Mervyn's barge across the lake to the inn I have mentioned. You may imagine the agony with which I waited his return! Had he recognized Brown, who can guess the consequence! He returned, however, apparently without having made any discovery. I understand that, in consequence of his late disappointment, he means now to hire a house in the neighbourhood of this same Ellangowan, of which I am doomed to hear so much; he seems to think it probable that the estate for which he wishes may soon be again in the market. I will not send away this letter until I hear more distinctly what are his intentions.'
'I have now had an interview with my father, as confidential as, I presume, he means to allow me. He requested me to-day, after breakfast, to walk with him into the library; my knees, Matilda, shook under me, and it is no exaggeration to say I could scarce follow him into the room. I feared I knew not what. From my childhood I had seen all around him tremble at his frown. He motioned me to seat myself, and I never obeyed a command so readily, for, in truth, I could hardly stand. He himself continued to walk up and down the room. You have seen my father, and noticed, I recollect, the remarkably expressive cast of his features. His eyes are naturally rather light in colour, but agitation or anger gives them a darker and more fiery glance; he has a custom also of drawing in his lips when much moved, which implies a combat between native ardour of temper and the habitual power of self-command. This was the first time we had been alone since his return from Scotland, and, as he betrayed these tokens of agitation, I had little doubt that he was about to enter upon the subject I most dreaded.
'To my unutterable relief, I found I was mistaken, and that, whatever he knew of Mr. Mervyn's suspicions or discoveries, he did not intend to converse with me on the topic. Coward as I was, I was inexpressibly relieved, though, if he had really investigated the reports which may have come to his ear, the reality could have been nothing to what his suspicions might have conceived. But, though my spirits rose high at my unexpected escape, I had not courage myself to provoke the discussion, and remained silent to receive his commands.
'"Julia," he said, "my agent writes me from Scotland that he has been able to hire a house for me, decently furnished, and with the necessary accommodation for my family; it is within three miles of that I had designed to purchase." Then he made a pause, and seemed to expect an answer.
'"Whatever place of residence suits you, sir, must be perfectly agreeable to me."
'"Umph! I do not propose, however, Julia, that you shall reside quite alone in this house during the winter."
'"Mr. and Mrs. Mervyn," thought I to myself.--"Whatever company is agreeable to you, sir," I answered aloud.
'"O, there is a little too much of this universal spirit of submission, an excellent disposition in action, but your constantly repeating the jargon of it puts me in mind of the eternal salaams of our black dependents in the East. In short, Julia, I know you have a relish for society, and I intend to invite a young person, the daughter of a deceased friend, to spend a few months with us."
'"Not a governess, for the love of Heaven, papa!" exclaimed poor I, my fears at that moment totally getting the better of my prudence.
'"No, not a governess, Miss Mannering," replied the Colonel, somewhat sternly, "but a young lady from whose excellent example, bred as she has been in the school of adversity, I trust you may learn the art to govern yourself."
'To answer this was trenching upon too dangerous ground, so there was a pause.
'"Is the young lady a Scotchwoman, papa?"
'"Has she much of the accent, sir?"
'"Much of the devil!" answered my father hastily; "do you think I care about a's and aa's, and i's and ee's,? I tell you, Julia, I am serious in the matter. You have a genius for friendship, that is, for running up intimacies which you call such." (Was not this very harshly said, Matilda?) "Now I wish to give you an opportunity at least to make one deserving friend, and therefore I have resolved that this young lady shall be a member of my family for some months, and I expect you will pay to her that attention which is due to misfortune and virtue."
'"Certainly, sir. Is my future friend red-haired?"
'He gave me one of his stern glances; you will say, perhaps, I deserved it; but I think the deuce prompts me with teasing questions on some occasions.
'"She is as superior to you, my love, in personal appearance as in prudence and affection for her friends."
'"Lord, papa, do you think that superiority a recommendation? Well, sir, but I see you are going to take all this too seriously; whatever the young lady may be, I am sure, being recommended by you, she shall have no reason to complain of my want of attention." After a pause--"Has she any attendant? because you know I must provide for her proper accommodation if she is without one."
'"N--no--no, not properly an attendant; the chaplain who lived with her father is a very good sort of man, and I believe I shall make room for him in the house."
"'Chaplain, papa? Lord bless us!"
'"Yes, Miss Mannering, chaplain; is there anything very new in that word? Had we not a chaplain at the Residence, when we were in India?"
'"Yes, papa, but you was a commandant then."
'"So I will be now, Miss Mannering, in my own family at least."
'"Certainly, sir. But will he read us the Church of England service?"
'The apparent simplicity with which I asked this question got the better of his gravity. "Come, Julia," he said, "you are a sad girl, but I gain nothing by scolding you. Of these two strangers, the young lady is one whom you cannot fail, I think, to love; the person whom, for want of a better term, I called chaplain, is a very worthy, and somewhat ridiculous personage, who will never find out you laugh at him if you don't laugh very loud indeed."
'"Dear papa, I am delighted with that part of his character. But pray, is the house we are going to as pleasantly situated as this?"
'"Not perhaps as much to your taste; there is no lake under the windows, and you will be under the necessity of having all your music within doors."
'This last coup de main ended the keen encounter of our wits, for you may believe, Matilda, it quelled all my courage to reply.
'Yet my spirits, as perhaps will appear too manifest from this dialogue, have risen insensibly, and, as it were, in spite of myself. Brown alive, and free, and in England! Embarrassment and anxiety I can and must endure. We leave this in two days for our new residence. I shall not fail to let you know what I think of these Scotch inmates, whom I have but too much reason to believe my father means to quarter in his house as a brace of honourable spies; a sort of female Rozencrantz and reverend Guildenstern, one in tartan petticoats, the other in a cassock. What a contrast to the society I would willingly have secured to myself! I shall write instantly on my arriving at our new place of abode, and acquaint my dearest Matilda with the farther fates of--her
Which sloping hills around inclose,
Where many a beech and brown oak grows
Beneath whose dark and branching bowers
Its tides a far-fam'd river pours,
By natures beauties taught to please,
Sweet Tusculan of rural easel
Woodbourne, the habitation which Mannering, by Mr. Mac-Morlan's mediation, had hired for a season, was a large comfortable mansion, snugly situated beneath a hill covered with wood, which shrouded the house upon the north and east; the front looked upon a little lawn bordered by a grove of old trees; beyond were some arable fields, extending down to the river, which was seen from the windows of the house. A tolerable, though old-fashioned garden, a well-stocked dove-cot, and the possession of any quantity of ground which the convenience of the family might require, rendered the place in every respect suitable, as the advertisements have it, 'for the accommodation of a genteel family.'
Here, then, Mannering resolved, for some time at least, to set up the staff of his rest. Though an East-Indian, he was not partial to an ostentatious display of wealth. In fact, he was too proud a man to be a vain one. He resolved, therefore, to place himself upon the footing of a country gentleman of easy fortune, without assuming, or permitting his household to assume, any of the faste which then was considered as characteristic of a nabob.
He had still his eye upon the purchase of Ellangowan, which Mac-Morlan conceived Mr. Glossin would be compelled to part with, as some of the creditors disputed his title to retain so large a part of the purchase-money in his own hands, and his power to pay it was much questioned. In that case Mac-Morlan was assured he would readily give up his bargain, if tempted with something above the price which he had stipulated to pay. It may seem strange that Mannering was so much attached to a spot which he had only seen once, and that for a short time, in early life. But the circumstances which passed there had laid a strong hold on his imagination. There seemed to be a fate which conjoined the remarkable passages of his own family history with those of the inhabitants of Ellangowan, and he felt a mysterious desire to call the terrace his own from which he had read in the book of heaven a fortune strangely accomplished in the person of the infant heir of that family, and corresponding so closely with one which had been strikingly fulfilled in his own. Besides, when once this thought had got possession of his imagination, he could not, without great reluctance, brook the idea of his plan being defeated, and by a fellow like Glossin. So pride came to the aid of fancy, and both combined to fortify his resolution to buy the estate if possible.
Let us do Mannering justice. A desire to serve the distressed had also its share in determining him. He had considered the advantage which Julia might receive from the company of Lucy Bertram, whose genuine prudence and good sense could so surely be relied upon. This idea had become much stronger since Mac-Morlan had confided to him, under the solemn seal of secrecy, the whole of her conduct towards young Hazlewood. To propose to her to become an inmate in his family, if distant from the scenes of her youth and the few whom she called friends, would have been less delicate; but at Woodbourne she might without difficulty be induced to become the visitor of a season, without being depressed into the situation of an humble companion. Lucy Bertram, with some hesitation, accepted the invitation to reside a few weeks with Miss Mannering. She felt too well that, however the Colonel's delicacy might disguise the truth, his principal motive was a generous desire to afford her his countenance and protection, which his high connexions, and higher character, were likely to render influential in the neighbourhood.
About the same time the orphan girl received a letter from Mrs. Bertram, the relation to whom she had written, as cold and comfortless as could well be imagined. It inclosed, indeed, a small sum of money, but strongly recommended economy, and that Miss Bertram should board herself in some quiet family, either at Kippletringan or in the neighbourhood, assuring her that, though her own income was very scanty, she would not see her kinswoman want. Miss Bertram shed some natural tears over this cold-hearted epistle; for in her mother's time this good lady had been a guest at Ellangowan for nearly three years, and it was only upon succeeding to a property of about L400 a year that she had taken farewell of that hospitable mansion, which otherwise might have had the honour of sheltering her until the death of its owner. Lucy was strongly inclined to return the paltry donation, which, after some struggles with avarice, pride had extorted from the old lady. But on consideration she contented herself with writing that she accepted it as a loan, which, she hoped in a short time to repay, and consulted her relative upon the invitation she had received from Colonel and Miss Mannering. This time the answer came in course of post, so fearful was Mrs. Bertram that some frivolous delicacy, or nonsense, as she termed it, might induce her cousin to reject such a promising offer, and thereby at the same time to leave herself still a burden upon her relations. Lucy, therefore, had no alternative, unless she preferred continuing a burden upon the worthy Mac-Morlans, who were too liberal to be rich. Those kinsfolk who formerly requested the favour of her company had of late either silently, or with expressions of resentment that she should have preferred Mac-Morlan's invitation to theirs, gradually withdrawn their notice.
The fate of Dominie Sampson would have been deplorable had it depended upon any one except Mannering, who was an admirer of originality, for a separation from Lucy Bertram would have certainly broken his heart. Mac-Morlan had given a full account of his proceedings towards the daughter of his patron. The answer was a request from Mannering to know whether the Dominie still possessed that admirable virtue of taciturnity by which he was so notably distinguished at Ellangowan. Mac-Morlan replied in the affirmative. 'Let Mr. Sampson know,' said the Colonel's next letter, 'that I shall want his assistance to catalogue and put in order the library of my uncle, the bishop, which I have ordered to be sent down by sea. I shall also want him to copy and arrange some papers. Fix his salary at what you think befitting. Let the poor man be properly dressed, and accompany his young lady to Woodbourne.'
Honest Mac-Morlan received this mandate with great joy, but pondered much upon executing that part of it which related to newly attiring the worthy Dominie. He looked at him with a scrutinising eye, and it was but too plain that his present garments were daily waxing more deplorable. To give him money, and bid him go and furnish himself, would be only giving him the means of making himself ridiculous; for when such a rare event arrived to Mr. Sampson as the purchase of new garments, the additions which he made to his wardrobe by the guidance of his own taste usually brought all the boys of the village after him for many days. On the other hand, to bring a tailor to measure him, and send home his clothes, as for a school-boy, would probably give offence. At length Mac-Morlan resolved to consult Miss Bertram, and request her interference. She assured him that, though she could not pretend to superintend a gentleman's wardrobe, nothing was more easy than to arrange the Dominie's.
'At Ellangowan,' she said, 'whenever my poor father thought any part of the Dominie's dress wanted renewal, a servant was directed to enter his room by night, for he sleeps as fast as a dormouse, carry off the old vestment, and leave the new one; nor could any one observe that the Dominie exhibited the least consciousness of the change put upon him on such occasions.'
Mac-Morlan, in conformity with Miss Bertram's advice, procured a skilful artist, who, on looking at the Dominie attentively, undertook to make for him two suits of clothes, one black and one raven-grey, and even engaged that they should fit him--as well at least (so the tailor qualified his enterprise) as a man of such an out-of-the-way build could be fitted by merely human needles and shears. When this fashioner had accomplished his task, and the dresses were brought home, Mac-Morlan, judiciously resolving to accomplish his purpose by degrees, withdrew that evening an important part of his dress, and substituted the new article of raiment in its stead. Perceiving that this passed totally without notice, he next ventured on the waistcoat, and lastly on the coat. When fully metamorphosed, and arrayed for the first time in his life in a decent dress, they did observe that the Dominie seemed to have some indistinct and embarrassing consciousness that a change had taken place on his outward man. Whenever they observed this dubious expression gather upon his countenance, accompanied with a glance that fixed now upon the sleeve of his coat, now upon the knees of his breeches, where he probably missed some antique patching and darning, which, being executed with blue thread upon a black ground, had somewhat the effect of embroidery, they always took care to turn his attention into some other channel, until his garments, 'by the aid of use, cleaved to their mould.' The only remark he was ever known to make on the subject was, that 'the air of a town like Kippletringan seemed favourable unto wearing apparel, for he thought his coat looked almost as new as the first day he put it on, which was when he went to stand trial for his license as a preacher.'
When the Dominie first heard the liberal proposal of Colonel Mannering, he turned a jealous and doubtful glance towards Miss Bertram, as if he suspected that the project involved their separation; but when Mr. Mac-Morlan hastened to explain that she would be a guest at Woodbourne for some time, he rubbed his huge hands together, and burst into a portentous sort of chuckle, like that of the Afrite in the tale of 'The Caliph Vathek.' After this unusual explosion of satisfaction, he remained quite passive in all the rest of the transaction.
It had been settled that Mr. and Mrs. Mac-Morlan should take possession of the house a few days before Mannering's arrival, both to put everything in perfect order and to make the transference of Miss Bertram's residence from their family to his as easy and delicate as possible. Accordingly, in the beginning of the month of December the party were settled at Woodbourne.
A gigantic genius fit to grapple with whole libraries
--BOSWELL'S LIFE OF JOHNSON
The appointed day arrived when the Colonel and Miss Mannering were expected at Woodbourne. The hour was fast approaching, and the little circle within doors had each their separate subjects of anxiety. Mac-Morlan naturally desired to attach to himself the patronage and countenance of a person of Mannering's wealth and consequence. He was aware, from his knowledge of mankind, that Mannering, though generous and benevolent, had the foible of expecting and exacting a minute compliance with his directions. He was therefore racking his recollection to discover if everything had been arranged to meet the Colonel's wishes and instructions, and, under this uncertainty of mind, he traversed the house more than once from the garret to the stables. Mrs. Mac-Morlan revolved in a lesser orbit, comprehending the dining-parlour, housekeeper's room, and kitchen. She was only afraid that the dinner might be spoiled, to the discredit of her housewifely accomplishments. Even the usual passiveness of the Dominie was so far disturbed that he twice went to the window which looked out upon the avenue, and twice exclaimed, 'Why tarry the wheels of their chariot?' Lucy, the most quiet of the expectants, had her own melancholy thoughts. She was now about to be consigned to the charge, almost to the benevolence, of strangers, with whose character, though hitherto very amiably, displayed, she was but imperfectly acquainted. The moments, therefore, of suspense passed anxiously and heavily.
At length the trampling of horses and the sound of wheels were heard. The servants, who had already arrived, drew up in the hall to receive their master and mistress, with an importance and EMPRESSEMENT which to Lucy, who had never been accustomed to society, or witnessed what is called the manners of the great, had something alarming. Mac-Morlan went to the door to receive the master and mistress of the family, and in a few moments they were in the drawing-room.
Mannering, who had travelled as usual on horseback, entered with his daughter hanging upon his arm. She was of the middle size, or rather less, but formed with much elegance; piercing dark eyes, and jet-black hair of great length, corresponded with the vivacity and intelligence of features in which were blended a little haughtiness, and a little bashfulness, a great deal of shrewdness, and some power of humorous sarcasm. 'I shall not like her,' was the result of Lucy Bertram's first glance; 'and yet; I rather think I shall,' was the thought excited by the second.
Miss Mannering was furred and mantled up to the throat against the severity of the weather; the Colonel in his military great-coat. He bowed to Mrs. Mac-Morlan, whom his daughter also acknowledged with a fashionable courtesy, not dropped so low as at all to incommode her person. The Colonel then led his daughter up to Miss Bertram, and, taking the hand of the latter, with an air of great kindness and almost paternal affection, he said, 'Julia, this is the young lady whom I hope our good friends have prevailed on to honour our house with a long visit. I shall be much gratified indeed if you can render Woodbourne as pleasant to Miss Bertram as Ellangowan was to me when I first came as a wanderer into this country.'
The young lady courtesied acquiescence, and took her new friend's hand. Mannering now turned his eye upon the Dominie, who had made bows since his entrance into the room, sprawling out his leg, and bending his back like an automaton, which continues to repeat the same movement until the motion is stopt by the artist. 'My good friend, Mr. Sampson,' said Mannering, introducing him to his daughter, and darting at the same time a reproving glance at the damsel, notwithstanding he had himself some disposition to join her too obvious inclination to risibility; 'this gentleman, Julia, is to put my books in order when they arrive, and I expect to derive great advantage from his extensive learning.'
'I am sure we are obliged to the gentleman, papa, and, to borrow a ministerial mode of giving thanks, I shall never forget the extraordinary countenance he has been pleased to show us. But, Miss Bertram,' continued she hastily, for her father's brows began to darken, 'we have travelled a good way; will you permit me to retire before dinner?'
This intimation dispersed all the company save the Dominie, who, having no idea of dressing but when he was to rise, or of undressing but when he meant to go to bed, remained by himself, chewing the cud of a mathematical demonstration, until the company again assembled in the drawing-room, and from thence adjourned to the dining-parlour.
When the day was concluded, Mannering took an opportunity to hold a minute's conversation with his daughter in private.
'How do you like your guests, Julia?'
'O, Miss Bertram of all things; but this is a most original parson; why, dear sir, no human being will be able to look at him without laughing.'
'While he is under my roof, Julia, every one must learn to do so.'
'Lord, papa, the very footmen could not keep their gravity!'
'Then let them strip off my livery,' said the Colonel, 'and laugh at their leisure. Mr. Sampson is a man whom I esteem for his simplicity and benevolence of character.'
'O, I am convinced of his generosity too,' said this lively lady; 'he cannot lift a spoonful of soup to his mouth without bestowing a share on everything round.'
'Julia, you are incorrigible; but remember I expect your mirth on this subject to be under such restraint that it shall neither offend this worthy man's feelings nor those of Miss Bertram, who may be more apt to feel upon his account than he on his own. And so, goodnight, my dear; and recollect that, though Mr. Sampson has certainly not sacrificed to the graces, there are many things in this world more truly deserving of ridicule than either awkwardness of manners or simplicity of character.'
In a day or two Mr. and Mrs. Mac-Morlan left Woodbourne, after taking an affectionate farewell of their late guest. The household were now settled in their new quarters. The young ladies followed their studies and amusements together. Colonel Mannering was agreeably surprised to find that Miss Bertram was well skilled in French and Italian, thanks to the assiduity of Dominie Sampson, whose labour had silently made him acquainted with most modern as well as ancient languages. Of music she knew little or nothing, but her new friend undertook to give her lessons, in exchange for which she was to learn from Lucy the habit of walking, and the art of riding, and the courage necessary to defy the season. Mannering was careful to substitute for their amusement in the evening such books as might convey some solid instruction with entertainment, and, as he read aloud with great skill and taste, the winter nights passed pleasantly away.
Society was quickly formed where there were so many inducements. Most of the families of the neighbourhood visited Colonel Mannering, and he was soon able to select from among them such as best suited his taste and habits. Charles Hazlewood held a distinguished place in his favour, and was a frequent visitor, not without the consent and approbation of his parents; for there was no knowing, they thought, what assiduous attention might produce, and the beautiful Miss Mannering, of high family, with an Indian fortune, was a prize worth looking after. Dazzled with such a prospect, they never considered the risk which had once been some object of their apprehension, that his boyish and inconsiderate fancy might form an attachment to the penniless Lucy Bertram, who had nothing on earth to recommend her but a pretty face, good birth, and a most amiable disposition. Mannering was more prudent. He considered himself acting as Miss Bertram's guardian, and, while he did not think it incumbent upon him altogether to check her intercourse with a young gentleman for whom, excepting in wealth, she was a match in every respect, he laid it under such insensible restraints as might prevent any engagement or ECLAIRCISSEMENT taking place until the young man should have seen a little more of life and of the world, and have attained that age when he might be considered as entitled to judge for himself in the matter in which his happiness was chiefly interested.
While these matters engaged the attention of the other members of the Woodbourne family, Dominie Sampson was occupied, body and soul, in the arrangement of the late bishop's library, which had been sent from Liverpool by sea, and conveyed by thirty or forty carts from the sea-port at which it was landed. Sampson's joy at beholding the ponderous contents of these chests arranged upon the floor of the large apartment, from whence he was to transfer them to the shelves, baffles all description. He grinned like an ogre, swung his arms like the sails of a wind-mill, shouted 'Prodigious' till the roof rung to his raptures. 'He had never,' he said, 'seen so many books together, except in the College Library'; and now his dignity and delight in being superintendent of the collection raised him, in his own opinion, almost to the rank of the academical librarian, whom he had always regarded as the greatest and happiest man on earth. Neither were his transports diminished upon a hasty examination of the contents of these volumes. Some, indeed, of BELLES LETTRES, poems, plays, or memoirs he tossed indignantly aside, with the implied censure of 'psha,' or 'frivolous'; but the greater and bulkier part of the collection bore a very different character. The deceased prelate, a divine of the old and deeply-learned cast, had loaded his shelves with volumes which displayed the antique and venerable attributes so happily described by a modern poet:--
That weight of wood, with leathern coat o'erlaid,
Those ample clasps of solid metal made,
The close-press'd leaves unoped for many an age,
The dull red edging of the well-fill'd page,
On the broad back the stubborn ridges roll'd,
Where yet the title stands in tarnish'd gold.
Books of theology and controversial divinity, commentaries, and polyglots, sets of the Fathers, and sermons which might each furnish forth ten brief discourses of modern date, books of science, ancient and modern, classical authors in their best and rarest forms--such formed the late bishop's venerable library, and over such the eye of Dominie Sampson gloated with rapture. He entered them in the catalogue in his best running hand, forming each letter with the accuracy of a lover writing a valentine, and placed each individually on the destined shelf with all the reverence which I have seen a lady pay to a jar of old china. With all this zeal his labours advanced slowly. He often opened a volume when halfway up the library steps, fell upon some interesting passage, and, without shifting his inconvenient posture, continued immersed in the fascinating perusal until the servant pulled him by the skirts to assure him that dinner waited. He then repaired to the parlour, bolted his food down his capacious throat in squares of three inches, answered ay and no at random to whatever question was asked at him, and again hurried back to the library, as soon as his napkin was removed, and sometimes with it hanging round his neck like a pinafore;--
How happily the days of Thalaba went by!
And, having thus left the principal characters of our tale in a situation which, being sufficiently comfortable to themselves, is, of course, utterly uninteresting to the reader, we take up the history of a person who has as yet only been named, and who has all the interest that uncertainty and misfortune can give.
What say'st thou, Wise One? that all powerful Love
Can fortune's strong impediments remove,
Nor is it strange that worth should wed to worth,
The pride of genius with the pride of birth.
V. Brown--I will not give at full length his thrice unhappy name--had been from infancy a ball for fortune to spurn at; but nature had given him that elasticity of mind which rises higher from the rebound. His form was tall, manly, and active, and his features corresponded with his person; for, although far from regular, they had an expression of intelligence and good-humour, and when he spoke, or was particularly animated, might be decidedly pronounced interesting. His manner indicated the military profession, which had been his choice, and in which he had now attained the rank of captain, the person who succeeded Colonel Mannering in his command having laboured to repair the injustice which Brown had sustained by that gentleman's prejudice against him. But this, as well as his liberation from captivity, had taken place after Mannering left India. Brown followed at no distant period, his regiment being recalled home. His first inquiry was after the family of Mannering, and, easily learning their route northward, he followed it with the purpose of resuming his addresses to Julia. With her father he deemed he had no measures to keep; for, ignorant of the more venomous belief which had been instilled into the Colonel's mind, he regarded him as an oppressive aristocrat, who had used his power as a commanding officer to deprive him of the preferment due to his behaviour, and who had forced upon him a personal quarrel without any better reason than his attentions to a pretty young woman, agreeable to herself, and permitted and countenanced by her mother. He was determined, therefore, to take no rejection unless from the young lady herself, believing that the heavy misfortunes of his painful wound and imprisonment were direct injuries received from the father, which might dispense with his using much ceremony towards him. How far his scheme had succeeded when his nocturnal visit was discovered by Mr. Mervyn, our readers are already informed.
Upon this unpleasant occurrence Captain Brown absented himself from the inn in which he had resided under the name of Dawson, so that Colonel Mannering's attempts to discover and trace him were unavailing. He resolved, however, that no difficulties should prevent his continuing his enterprise while Julia left him a ray of hope. The interest he had secured in her bosom was such as she had been unable to conceal from him, and with all the courage of romantic gallantry he determined upon perseverance. But we believe the reader will be as well pleased to learn his mode of thinking and intention from his own communication to his special friend and confidant, Captain Delaserre, a Swiss gentleman who had a company in his regiment.
'Let me hear from you soon, dear Delaserre. Remember, I can learn nothing about regimental affairs but through your friendly medium, and I long to know what has become of Ayre's court-martial, and whether Elliot gets the majority; also how recruiting comes on, and how the young officers like the mess. Of our kind friend the Lieutenant-Colonel I need ask nothing; I saw him as I passed through Nottingham, happy in the bosom of his family. What a happiness it is, Philip, for us poor devils, that we have a little resting-place between the camp and the grave, if we can manage to escape disease, and steel, and lead, and the effects of hard living. A retired old soldier is always a graceful and respected character. He grumbles a little now and then, but then his is licensed murmuring; were a lawyer, or a physician, or a clergyman to breathe a complaint of hard luck or want of preferment, a hundred tongues would blame his own incapacity as the cause. But the most stupid veteran that ever faltered out the thrice-told tale of a siege and a battle, and a cock and a bottle, is listened to with sympathy and reverence when he shakes his thin locks and talks with indignation of the boys that are put over his head. And you and I, Delaserre, foreigners both--for what am I the better that I was originally a Scotchman, since, could I prove my descent, the English would hardly acknowledge me a countryman?--we may boast that we have fought out our preferment, and gained that by the sword which we had not money to compass otherwise. The English are a wise people. While they praise themselves, and affect to undervalue all other nations, they leave us, luckily, trap-doors and back-doors open, by which we strangers, less favoured by nature, may arrive at a share of their advantages. And thus they are in some respects like a boastful landlord, who exalts the value and flavour of his six-years-old mutton, while he is delighted to dispense a share of it to all the company. In short, you, whose proud family, and I, whose hard fate, made us soldiers of fortune, have the pleasant recollection that in the British service, stop where we may upon our career, it is only for want of money to pay the turnpike, and not from our being prohibited to travel the road. If, therefore, you can persuade little Weischel to come into OURS, for God's sake let him buy the ensigncy, live prudently, mind his duty, and trust to the fates for promotion.
'And now, I hope you are expiring with curiosity to learn the end of my romance. I told you I had deemed it convenient to make a few days' tour on foot among the mountains of Westmoreland with Dudley, a young English artist with whom I have formed some acquaintance. A fine fellow this, you must know, Delaserre: he paints tolerably, draws beautifully, converses well, and plays charmingly on the flute; and, though thus well entitled to be a coxcomb of talent, is, in fact, a modest unpretending young man. On our return from our little tour I learned that the enemy had been reconnoitring. Mr. Mervyn's barge had crossed the lake, I was informed by my landlord, with the squire himself and a visitor.
'"What sort of person, landlord?"
'"Why, he was a dark officer-looking mon, at they called Colonel. Squoire Mervyn questioned me as close as I had been at 'sizes. I had guess, Mr. Dawson" (I told you that was my feigned name), "but I tould him nought of your vagaries, and going out a-laking in the mere a-noights, not I; an I can make no sport, I'se spoil none; and Squoire Mervyn's as cross as poy-crust too, mon; he's aye maundering an my guests but land beneath his house, though it be marked for the fourth station in the survey. Noa, noa, e'en let un smell things out o' themselves for Joe Hodges."
'You will allow there was nothing for it after this but paying honest Joe Hodges's bill and departing, unless I had preferred making him my confidant, for which I felt in no way inclined. Besides, I learned that our ci-devant Colonel was on full retreat for Scotland, carrying off poor Julia along with him. I understand from those who conduct the heavy baggage that he takes his winter quarters at a place called Woodbourne, in ---shire in Scotland. He will be all on the alert just now, so I must let him enter his entrenchments without any new alarm. And then, my good Colonel, to whom I owe so many grateful thanks, pray look to your defence.
'I protest to you, Delaserre, I often think there is a little contradiction enters into the ardour of my pursuit. I think I would rather bring this haughty insulting man to the necessity of calling his daughter Mrs. Brown than I would wed her with his full consent, and with the King's permission to change my name for the style and arms of Mannering, though his whole fortune went with them. There is only one circumstance that chills me a little: Julia is young and romantic. I would not willingly hurry her into a step which her riper years might disapprove; no--nor would I like to have her upbraid me, were it but with a glance of her eye, with having ruined her fortunes, far less give her reason to say, as some have not been slow to tell their lords, that, had I left her time for consideration, she would have been wiser and done better. No, Delaserre, this must not be. The picture presses close upon me, because I am aware a girl in Julia's situation has no distinct and precise idea of the value of the sacrifice she makes. She knows difficulties only by name; and, if she thinks of love and a farm, it is a ferme ornee, such as is only to be found in poetic description or in the park of a gentleman of twelve thousand a year. She would be ill prepared for the privations of that real Swiss cottage we have so often talked of, and for the difficulties which must necessarily surround us even before we attained that haven. This must be a point clearly ascertained. Although Julia's beauty and playful tenderness have made an impression on my heart never to be erased, I must be satisfied that she perfectly understands the advantages she foregoes before she sacrifices them for my sake.
'Am I too proud, Delaserre, when I trust that even this trial may terminate favourably to my wishes? Am I too vain when I suppose that the few personal qualities which I possess, with means of competence, however moderate, and the determination of consecrating my life to her happiness, may make amends for all I must call upon her to forego? Or will a difference of dress, of attendance, of style, as it is called, of the power of shifting at pleasure the scenes in which she seeks amusement--will these outweigh in her estimation the prospect of domestic happiness and the interchange of unabating affection? I say nothing of her father: his good and evil qualities are so strangely mingled that the former are neutralised by the latter; and that which she must regret as a daughter is so much blended with what she would gladly escape from, that I place the separation of the father and child as a circumstance which weighs little in her remarkable case. Meantime I keep up my spirits as I may. I have incurred too many hardships and difficulties to be presumptuous or confident in success, and I have been too often and too wonderfully extricated from them to be despondent.
'I wish you saw this country. I think the scenery would delight you. At least it often brings to my recollection your glowing descriptions of your native country. To me it has in a great measure the charm of novelty. Of the Scottish hills, though born among them, as I have always been assured, I have but an indistinct recollection. Indeed, my memory rather dwells upon the blank which my youthful mind experienced in gazing on the levels of the isle of Zealand, than on anything which preceded that feeling; but I am confident, from that sensation as well as from the recollections which preceded it, that hills and rocks have been familiar to me at an early period, and that, though now only remembered by contrast, and by the blank which I felt while gazing around for them in vain, they must have made an indelible impression on my infant imagination. I remember, when we first mounted that celebrated pass in the Mysore country, while most of the others felt only awe and astonishment at the height and grandeur of the scenery, I rather shared your feelings and those of Cameron, whose admiration of such wild rocks was blended with familiar love, derived from early association. Despite my Dutch education, a blue hill to me is as a friend, and a roaring torrent like the sound of a domestic song that hath soothed my infancy. I never felt the impulse so strongly as in this land of lakes and mountains, and nothing grieves me so much as that duty prevents your being with me in my numerous excursions among recesses. Some drawings I have attempted, but I succeed vilely. Dudley, on the contrary, draws delightfully, with that rapid touch which seems like magic; while I labour and botch, and make this too heavy and that too light, and produce at last a base caricature. I must stick to the flageolet, for music is the only one of the fine arts which deigns to acknowledge me.
'Did you know that Colonel Mannering was a draughtsman? I believe not, for he scorned to display his accomplishments to the view of a subaltern. He draws beautifully, however. Since he and Julia left Mervyn Hall, Dudley was sent for there. The squire, it seems, wanted a set of drawings made up, of which Mannering had done the first four, but was interrupted by his hasty departure in his purpose of completing them. Dudley says he has seldom seen anything so masterly, though slight; and each had attached to it a short poetical description. Is Saul, you will say, among the prophets? Colonel Mannering write poetry! Why, surely this man must have taken all the pains to conceal his accomplishments that others do to display theirs. How reserved and unsociable he appeared among us! how little disposed to enter into any conversation which could become generally interesting! And then his attachment to that unworthy Archer, so much below him in every respect; and all this because he was the brother of Viscount Archerfield, a poor Scottish peer! I think, if Archer had longer survived the wounds in the affair of Cuddyboram, he would have told something that might have thrown light upon the inconsistencies of this singular man's character. He repeated to me more than once, "I have that to say which will alter your hard opinion of our late Colonel." But death pressed him too hard; and if he owed me any atonement, which some of his expressions seemed to imply, he died before it could be made.
'I propose to make a further excursion through this country while this fine frosty weather serves, and Dudley, almost as good a walker as myself, goes with me for some part of the way. We part on the borders of Cumberland, when he must return to his lodgings in Marybone, up three pair of stairs, and labour at what he calls the commercial part of his profession. There cannot, he says, be such a difference betwixt any two portions of existence as between that in which the artist, if an enthusiast, collects the subjects of his drawings and that which must necessarily be dedicated to turning over his portfolio and exhibiting them to the provoking indifference, or more provoking criticism, of fashionable amateurs. "During the summer of my year," says Dudley, "I am as free as a wild Indian, enjoying myself at liberty amid the grandest scenes of nature; while during my winters and springs I am not only cabined, cribbed, and confined in a miserable garret, but condemned to as intolerable subservience to the humour of others, and to as indifferent company, as if I were a literal galley slave." I have promised him your acquaintance, Delaserre; you will be delighted with his specimens of art, and he with your Swiss fanaticism for mountains and torrents.
'When I lose Dudley's company, I am informed that I can easily enter Scotland by stretching across a wild country in the upper part of Cumberland; and that route I shall follow, to give the Colonel time to pitch his camp ere I reconnoitre his position. Adieu! Delaserre. I shall hardly find another opportunity of writing till I reach Scotland.'
Jog on, jog on, the footpath way,
And merrily bend the stile-a,
A merry heart goes all the day,
A sad one tires in a mile-a.
Let the reader conceive to himself a clear frosty November morning, the scene an open heath, having for the background that huge chain of mountains in which Skiddaw and Saddleback are preeminent; let him look along that BLIND ROAD, by which I mean the track so slightly marked by the passengers' footsteps that it can but be traced by a slight shade of verdure from the darker heath around it, and, being only visible to the eye when at some distance, ceases to be distinguished while the foot is actually treading it; along this faintly-traced path advances the object of our present narrative. His firm step, his erect and free carriage, have a military air which corresponds well with his well-proportioned limbs and stature of six feet high. His dress is so plain and simple that it indicates nothing as to rank; it may be that of a gentleman who travels in this manner for his pleasure, or of an inferior person of whom it is the proper and usual garb. Nothing can be on a more reduced scale than his travelling equipment. A volume of Shakspeare in each pocket, a small bundle with a change of linen slung across his shoulders, an oaken cudgel in his hand, complete our pedestrian's accommodations, and in this equipage we present him to our readers.
Brown had parted that morning from his friend Dudley, and begun his solitary walk towards Scotland.
The first two or three miles were rather melancholy, from want of the society to which he had of late been accustomed. But this unusual mood of mind soon gave way to the influence of his natural good spirits, excited by the exercise and the bracing effects of the frosty air. He whistled as he went along, not 'from want of thought,' but to give vent to those buoyant feelings which he had no other mode of expressing. For each peasant whom he chanced to meet he had a kind greeting or a good-humoured jest; the hardy Cumbrians grinned as they passed, and said, 'That's a kind heart, God bless un!' and the market-girl looked more than once over her shoulder at the athletic form, which corresponded so well with the frank and blythe address of the stranger. A rough terrier dog, his constant companion, who rivalled his master in glee, scampered at large in a thousand wheels round the heath, and came back to jump up on him and assure him that he participated in the pleasure of the journey. Dr. Johnson thought life had few things better than the excitation produced by being whirled rapidly along in a post-chaise; but he who has in youth experienced the confident and independent feeling of a stout pedestrian in an interesting country, and during fine weather, will hold the taste of the great moralist cheap in comparison.
Part of Brown's view in choosing that unusual track which leads through the eastern wilds of Cumberland into Scotland, had been a desire to view the remains of the celebrated Roman Wall, which are more visible in that direction than in any other part of its extent. His education had been imperfect and desultory; but neither the busy scenes in which he had been engaged, nor the pleasures of youth, nor the precarious state of his own circumstances, had diverted him from the task of mental improvement. 'And this then is the Roman Wall,' he said, scrambling up to a height which commanded the course of that celebrated work of antiquity. 'What a people! whose labours, even at this extremity of their empire, comprehended such space, and were executed upon a scale of such grandeur! In future ages, when the science of war shall have changed, how few traces will exist of the labours of Vauban and Coehorn, while this wonderful people's remains will even then continue to interest and astonish posterity! Their fortifications, their aqueducts, their theatres, their fountains, all their public works, bear the grave, solid, and majestic character of their language; while our modern labours, like our modern tongues, seem but constructed out of their fragments.' Having thus moralised, he remembered that he was hungry, and pursued his walk to a small public-house, at which he proposed to get some refreshment.
The alehouse, for it was no better, was situated in the bottom of a little dell, through which trilled a small rivulet. It was shaded by a large ash tree, against which the clay-built shed that served the purpose of a stable was erected, and upon which it seemed partly to recline. In this shed stood a saddled horse, employed in eating his corn. The cottages in this part of Cumberland partake of the rudeness which characterises those of Scotland. The outside of the house promised little for the interior, notwithstanding the vaunt of a sign, where a tankard of ale voluntarily decanted itself into a tumbler, and a hieroglyphical scrawl below attempted to express a promise of 'good entertainment for man and horse.' Brown was no fastidious traveller: he stopped and entered the cabaret. [Footnote: See Note 2.]
The first object which caught his eye in the kitchen was a tall, stout, country-looking man in a large jockey great-coat, the owner of the horse which stood in the shed, who was busy discussing huge slices of cold boiled beef, and casting from time to time an eye through the window to see how his steed sped with his provender. A large tankard of ale flanked his plate of victuals, to which he applied himself by intervals. The good woman of the house was employed in baking. The fire, as is usual in that country, was on a stone hearth, in the midst of an immensely large chimney, which had two seats extended beneath the vent. On one of these sat a remarkably tall woman, in a red cloak and slouched bonnet, having the appearance of a tinker or beggar. She was busily engaged with a short black tobacco-pipe.
At the request of Brown for some food, the landlady wiped with her mealy apron one corner of the deal table, placed a wooden trencher and knife and fork before the traveller, pointed to the round of beef, recommended Mr. Dinmont's good example, and finally filled a brown pitcher with her home-brewed. Brown lost no time in doing ample credit to both. For a while his opposite neighbour and he were too busy to take much notice of each other, except by a good-humoured nod as each in turn raised the tankard to his head. At length, when our pedestrian began to supply the wants of little Wasp, the Scotch store-farmer, for such was Mr. Dinmont, found himself at leisure to enter into conversation.
'A bonny terrier that, sir, and a fell chield at the vermin, I warrant him; that is, if he's been weel entered, for it a' lies in that.'
'Really, sir,' said Brown, 'his education has been somewhat neglected, and his chief property is being a pleasant companion.'
'Ay, sir? that's a pity, begging your pardon, it's a great pity that; beast or body, education should aye be minded. I have six terriers at hame, forbye twa couple of slow-hunds, five grews, and a wheen other dogs. There's auld Pepper and auld Mustard, and young Pepper and young Mustard, and little Pepper and little Mustard. I had them a' regularly entered, first wi' rottens, then wi' stots or weasels, and then wi' the tods and brocks, and now they fear naething that ever cam wi' a hairy skin on't.'
'I have no doubt, sir, they are thoroughbred; but, to have so many dogs, you seem to have a very limited variety of names for them?'
'O, that's a fancy of my ain to mark the breed, sir. The Deuke himsell has sent as far as Charlie's Hope to get ane o' Dandy Dinmont's Pepper and Mustard terriers. Lord, man, he sent Tam Hudson [Footnote: The real name of this veteran sportsman is now restored.] the keeper, and sicken a day as we had wi' the foumarts and the tods, and sicken a blythe gae-down as we had again e'en! Faith, that was a night!'
'I suppose game is very plenty with you?'
'Plenty, man! I believe there's mair hares than sheep on my farm; and for the moor-fowl or the grey-fowl, they lie as thick as doos in a dookit. Did ye ever shoot a blackcock, man?'
'Really I had never even the pleasure to see one, except in the museum at Keswick.'
'There now! I could guess that by your Southland tongue. It's very odd of these English folk that come here, how few of them has seen a blackcock! I'll tell you what--ye seem to be an honest lad, and if you'll call on me, on Dandy Dinmont, at Charlie's Hope, ye shall see a blackcock, and shoot a blackcock, and eat a blackcock too, man.'
'Why, the proof of the matter is the eating, to be sure, sir; and I shall be happy if I can find time to accept your invitation.'
'Time, man? what ails ye to gae hame wi' me the now? How d' ye travel?'
'On foot, sir; and if that handsome pony be yours, I should find it impossible to keep up with you.'
'No, unless ye can walk up to fourteen mile an hour. But ye can come ower the night as far as Riccarton, where there is a public; or if ye like to stop at Jockey Grieve's at the Heuch, they would be blythe to see ye, and I am just gaun to stop and drink a dram at the door wi' him, and I would tell him you're coming up. Or stay--gudewife, could ye lend this gentleman the gudeman's galloway, and I'll send it ower the Waste in the morning wi' the callant?'
The galloway was turned out upon the fell, and was swear to catch.--'Aweel, aweel, there's nae help for't, but come up the morn at ony rate. And now, gudewife, I maun ride, to get to the Liddel or it be dark, for your Waste has but a kittle character, ye ken yoursell.'
'Hout fie, Mr. Dinmont, that's no like you, to gie the country an ill name. I wot, there has been nane stirred in the Waste since Sawney Culloch, the travelling-merchant, that Rowley Overdees and Jock Penny suffered for at Carlisle twa years since. There's no ane in Bewcastle would do the like o' that now; we be a' true folk now.'
'Ay, Tib, that will be when the deil's blind; and his een's no sair yet. But hear ye, gudewife, I have been through maist feck o' Galloway and Dumfries-shire, and I have been round by Carlisle, and I was at the Staneshiebank Fair the day, and I would like ill to be rubbit sae near hame, so I'll take the gate.'
'Hae ye been in Dumfries and Galloway?' said the old dame who sate smoking by the fireside, and who had not yet spoken a word.
'Troth have I, gudewife, and a weary round I've had o't.'
'Then ye'll maybe ken a place they ca' Ellangowan?'
'Ellangowan, that was Mr. Bertram's? I ken the place weel eneugh. The Laird died about a fortnight since, as I heard.'
'Died!' said the old woman, dropping her pipe, and rising and coming forward upon the floor--'died? are you sure of that?'
'Troth, am I,' said Dinmont, 'for it made nae sma' noise in the country-side. He died just at the roup of the stocking and furniture; it stoppit the roup, and mony folk were disappointed. They said he was the last of an auld family too, and mony were sorry; for gude blude's scarcer in Scotland than it has been.'
'Dead!' replied the old woman, whom our readers have already recognised as their acquaintance Meg Merrilies--'dead! that quits a' scores. And did ye say he died without an heir?'
'Ay did he, gudewife, and the estate's sell'd by the same token; for they said they couldna have sell'd it if there had been an heir-male.'
'Sell'd!' echoed the gipsy, with something like a scream; 'and wha durst buy Ellangowan that was not of Bertram's blude? and wha could tell whether the bonny knave-bairn may not come back to claim his ain? wha durst buy the estate and the castle of Ellangowan?'
'Troth, gudewife, just ane o' thae writer chields that buys a' thing; they ca' him Glossin, I think.'
'Glossin! Gibbie Glossin! that I have carried in my creels a hundred times, for his mother wasna muckle better than mysell--he to presume to buy the barony of Ellangowan! Gude be wi' us; it is an awfu' warld! I wished him ill; but no sic a downfa' as a' that neither. Wae's me! wae's me to think o't!' She remained a moment silent but still opposing with her hand the farmer's retreat, who betwixt every question was about to turn his back, but good-humouredly stopped on observing the deep interest his answers appeared to excite.
'It will be seen and heard of--earth and sea will not hold their peace langer! Can ye say if the same man be now the sheriff of the county that has been sae for some years past?'
'Na, he's got some other birth in Edinburgh, they say; but gude day, gudewife, I maun ride.' She followed him to his horse, and, while he drew the girths of his saddle, adjusted the walise, and put on the bridle, still plied him with questions concerning Mr. Bertram's death and the fate of his daughter; on which, however, she could obtain little information from the honest farmer.
'Did ye ever see a place they ca' Derncleugh, about a mile frae the Place of Ellangowan?'
'I wot weel have I, gudewife. A wild-looking den it is, wi' a whin auld wa's o' shealings yonder; I saw it when I gaed ower the ground wi' ane that wanted to take the farm.'
'It was a blythe bit ance!' said Meg, speaking to herself. 'Did ye notice if there was an auld saugh tree that's maist blawn down, but yet its roots are in the earth, and it hangs ower the bit burn? Mony a day hae I wrought my stocking and sat on my sunkie under that saugh.'
'Hout, deil's i' the wife, wi' her saughs, and her sunkies, and Ellangowans. Godsake, woman, let me away; there's saxpence t' ye to buy half a mutchkin, instead o' clavering about thae auld-warld stories.'
'Thanks to ye, gudeman; and now ye hae answered a' my questions, and never speired wherefore I asked them, I'll gie you a bit canny advice, and ye maunna speir what for neither. Tib Mumps will be out wi' the stirrup-dram in a gliffing. She'll ask ye whether ye gang ower Willie's Brae or through Conscowthart Moss; tell her ony ane ye like, but be sure (speaking low and emphatically) to tak the ane ye dinna tell her.' The farmer laughed and promised, and the gipsy retreated.
'Will you take her advice?' said Brown, who had been an attentive listener to this conversation.
'That will I no, the randy quean! Na, I had far rather Tib Mumps kenn'd which way I was gaun than her, though Tib's no muckle to lippen to neither, and I would advise ye on no account to stay in the house a' night.'
In a moment after Tib, the landlady, appeared with her stirrup-cup, which was taken off. She then, as Meg had predicted, inquired whether he went the hill or the moss road. He answered, the latter; and, having bid Brown good-bye, and again told him, 'he depended on seeing him at Charlie's Hope, the morn at latest,' he rode off at a round pace.
Gallows and knock are too powerful on the highway
The hint of the hospitable farmer was not lost on Brown. But while he paid his reckoning he could not avoid repeatedly fixing his eyes on Meg Merrilies. She was in all respects the same witch-like figure as when we first introduced her at Ellangowan Place. Time had grizzled her raven locks and added wrinkles to her wild features, but her height remained erect, and her activity was unimpaired. It was remarked of this woman, as of others of the same description, that a life of action, though not of labour, gave her the perfect command of her limbs and figure, so that the attitudes into which she most naturally threw herself were free, unconstrained, and picturesque. At present she stood by the window of the cottage, her person drawn up so as to show to full advantage her masculine stature, and her head somewhat thrown back, that the large bonnet with which her face was shrouded might not interrupt her steady gaze at Brown. At every gesture he made and every tone he uttered she seemed to give an almost imperceptible start. On his part, he was surprised to find that he could not look upon this singular figure without some emotion. 'Have I dreamed of such a figure?' he said to himself, 'or does this wild and singular-looking woman recall to my recollection some of the strange figures I have seen in our Indian pagodas?'
While he embarrassed himself with these discussions, and the hostess was engaged in rummaging out silver in change of half-a-guinea, the gipsy suddenly made two strides and seized Brown's hand. He expected, of course, a display of her skill in palmistry, but she seemed agitated by other feelings.
'Tell me,' she said, 'tell me, in the name of God, young man, what is your name, and whence you came?'
'My name is Brown, mother, and I come from the East Indies.'
'From the East Indies!' dropping his hand with a sigh; 'it cannot be then. I am such an auld fool, that everything I look on seems the thing I want maist to see. But the East Indies! that cannot be. Weel, be what ye will, ye hae a face and a tongue that puts me in mind of auld times. Good day; make haste on your road, and if ye see ony of our folk, meddle not and make not, and they'll do you nae harm.'
Brown, who had by this time received his change, put a shilling into her hand, bade his hostess farewell, and, taking the route which the farmer had gone before, walked briskly on, with the advantage of being guided by the fresh hoof-prints of his horse. Meg Merrilies looked after him for some time, and then muttered to herself, 'I maun see that lad again; and I maun gang back to Ellangowan too. The Laird's dead! aweel, death pays a' scores; he was a kind man ance. The Sheriff's flitted, and I can keep canny in the bush; so there's no muckle hazard o' scouring the cramp-ring. I would like to see bonny Ellangowan again or I die.'
Brown meanwhile proceeded northward at a round pace along the moorish tract called the Waste of Cumberland. He passed a solitary house, towards which the horseman who preceded him had apparently turned up, for his horse's tread was evident in that direction. A little farther, he seemed to have returned again into the road. Mr. Dinmont had probably made a visit there either of business or pleasure. 'I wish,' thought Brown, 'the good farmer had staid till I came up; I should not have been sorry to ask him a few questions about the road, which seems to grow wilder and wilder.'
In truth, nature, as if she had designed this tract of country to be the barrier between two hostile nations, has stamped upon it a character of wildness and desolation. The hills are neither high nor rocky, but the land is all heath and morass; the huts poor and mean, and at a great distance from each other. Immediately around them there is generally some little attempt at cultivation; but a half-bred foal or two, straggling about with shackles on their hind legs, to save the trouble of inclosures, intimate the farmer's chief resource to be the breeding of horses. The people, too, are of a ruder and more inhospitable class than are elsewhere to be found in Cumberland, arising partly from their own habits, partly from their intermixture with vagrants and criminals, who make this wild country a refuge from justice. So much were the men of these districts in early times the objects of suspicion and dislike to their more polished neighbours, that there was, and perhaps still exists, a by-law of the corporation of Newcastle prohibiting any freeman of that city to take for apprentice a native of certain of these dales. It is pithily said, 'Give a dog an ill name and hang him'; and it may be added, if you give a man, or race of men, an ill name they are very likely to do something that deserves hanging. Of this Brown had heard something, and suspected more, from the discourse between the landlady, Dinmont, and the gipsy; but he was naturally of a fearless disposition, had nothing about him that could tempt the spoiler, and trusted to get through the Waste with daylight. In this last particular, however, he was likely to be disappointed. The way proved longer than he had anticipated, and the horizon began to grow gloomy just as he entered upon an extensive morass.
Choosing his steps with care and deliberation, the young officer proceeded along a path that sometimes sunk between two broken black banks of moss earth, sometimes crossed narrow but deep ravines filled with a consistence between mud and water, and sometimes along heaps of gravel and stones, which had been swept together when some torrent or waterspout from the neighbouring hills overflowed the marshy ground below. He began to ponder how a horseman could make his way through such broken ground; the traces of hoofs, however, were still visible; he even thought he heard their sound at some distance, and, convinced that Mr. Dinmont's progress through the morass must be still slower than his own, he resolved to push on, in hopes to overtake him and have the benefit of his knowledge of the country. At this moment his little terrier sprung forward, barking most furiously.
Brown quickened his pace, and, attaining the summit of a small rising ground, saw the subject of the dog's alarm. In a hollow about a gunshot below him a man whom he easily recognised to be Dinmont was engaged with two others in a desperate struggle. He was dismounted, and defending himself as he best could with the butt of his heavy whip. Our traveller hastened on to his assistance; but ere he could get up a stroke had levelled the farmer with the earth, and one of the robbers, improving his victory, struck him some merciless blows on the head. The other villain, hastening to meet Brown, called to his companion to come along, 'for that one's CONTENT,' meaning, probably, past resistance or complaint. One ruffian was armed with a cutlass, the other with a bludgeon; but as the road was pretty narrow, 'bar fire-arms,' thought Brown, 'and I may manage them well enough.' They met accordingly, with the most murderous threats on the part of the ruffians. They soon found, however, that their new opponent was equally stout and resolute; and, after exchanging two or three blows, one of them told him to 'follow his nose over the heath, in the devil's name, for they had nothing to say to him.'
Brown rejected this composition as leaving to their mercy the unfortunate man whom they were about to pillage, if not to murder outright; and the skirmish had just recommenced when Dinmont unexpectedly recovered his senses, his feet, and his weapon, and hastened to the scene of action. As he had been no easy antagonist, even when surprised and alone, the villains did not choose to wait his joining forces with a man who had singly proved a match for them both, but fled across the bog as fast as their feet could carry them, pursued by Wasp, who had acted gloriously during the skirmish, annoying the heels of the enemy, and repeatedly effecting a moment's diversion in his master's favour.
'Deil, but your dog's weel entered wi' the vermin now, sir!' were the first words uttered by the jolly farmer as he came up, his head streaming with blood, and recognised his deliverer and his little attendant.
'I hope, sir, you are not hurt dangerously?'
'O, deil a bit, my head can stand a gay clour; nae thanks to them, though, and mony to you. But now, hinney, ye maun help me to catch the beast, and ye maun get on behind me, for we maun off like whittrets before the whole clanjamfray be doun upon us; the rest o' them will no be far off.' The galloway was, by good fortune, easily caught, and Brown made some apology for overloading the animal.
'Deil a fear, man,' answered the proprietor; 'Dumple could carry six folk, if his back was lang eneugh; but God's sake, haste ye, get on, for I see some folk coming through the slack yonder that it may be just as weel no to wait for.'
Brown was of opinion that this apparition of five or six men, with whom the other villains seemed to join company, coming across the moss towards them, should abridge ceremony; he therefore mounted Dumple en croupe, and the little spirited nag cantered away with two men of great size and strength as if they had been children of six years old. The rider, to whom the paths of these wilds seemed intimately known, pushed on at a rapid pace, managing with much dexterity to choose the safest route, in which he was aided by the sagacity of the galloway, who never failed to take the difficult passes exactly at the particular spot, and in the special manner, by which they could be most safely crossed. Yet, even with these advantages, the road was so broken, and they were so often thrown out of the direct course by various impediments, that they did not gain much on their pursuers. 'Never mind,' said the undaunted Scotchman to his companion, 'if we were ance by Withershins' Latch, the road's no near sae soft, and we'll show them fair play for't.'
They soon came to the place he named, a narrow channel, through which soaked, rather than flowed, a small stagnant stream, mantled over with bright green mosses. Dinmont directed his steed towards a pass where the water appeared to flow with more freedom over a harder bottom; but Dumple backed from the proposed crossing-place, put his head down as if to reconnoitre the swamp more nearly, stretching forward his fore-feet, and stood as fast as if he had been cut out of stone.
'Had we not better,' said Brown, 'dismount, and leave him to his fate; or can you not urge him through the swamp?'
'Na, na,' said his pilot, 'we maun cross Dumple at no rate, he has mair sense than mony a Christian.' So saying, he relaxed the reins, and shook them loosely. 'Come now, lad, take your ain way o't, let's see where ye'll take us through.'
Dumple, left to the freedom of his own will, trotted briskly to another part of the latch, less promising, as Brown thought, in appearance, but which the animal's sagacity or experience recommended as the safer of the two, and where, plunging in, he attained the other side with little difficulty.
'I'm glad we're out o' that moss,' said Dinmont, 'where there's mair stables for horses than change-houses for men; we have the Maiden-way to help us now, at ony rate.' Accordingly, they speedily gained a sort of rugged causeway so called, being the remains of an old Roman road which traverses these wild regions in a due northerly direction. Here they got on at the rate of nine or ten miles an hour, Dumple seeking no other respite than what arose from changing his pace from canter to trot. 'I could gar him show mair action,' said his master, 'but we are twa lang-legged chields after a', and it would be a pity to stress Dumple; there wasna the like o' him at Staneshiebank Fair the day.'
Brown readily assented to the propriety of sparing the horse, and added that, as they were now far out of the reach of the rogues, he thought Mr. Dinmont had better tie a handkerchief round his head, for fear of the cold frosty air aggravating the wound.
'What would I do that for?' answered the hardy farmer; 'the best way's to let the blood barken upon the cut; that saves plasters, hinney.'
Brown, who in his military profession had seen a great many hard blows pass, could not help remarking, 'he had never known such severe strokes received with so much apparent indifference.'
'Hout tout, man! I would never be making a humdudgeon about a scart on the pow; but we'll be in Scotland in five minutes now, and ye maun gang up to Charlie's Hope wi' me, that's a clear case.'
Brown readily accepted the offered hospitality. Night was now falling when they came in sight of a pretty river winding its way through a pastoral country. The hills were greener and more abrupt than those which Brown had lately passed, sinking their grassy sides at once upon the river. They had no pretensions to magnificence of height, or to romantic shapes, nor did their smooth swelling slopes exhibit either rocks or woods. Yet the view was wild, solitary, and pleasingly rural. No inclosures, no roads, almost no tillage; it seemed a land which a patriarch would have chosen to feed his flocks and herds. The remains of here and there a dismantled and ruined tower showed that it had once harboured beings of a very different description from its present inhabitants; those freebooters, namely, to whose exploits the wars between England and Scotland bear witness.
Descending by a path towards a well-known ford, Dumple crossed the small river, and then, quickening his pace, trotted about a mile briskly up its banks, and approached two or three low thatched houses, placed with their angles to each other, with a great contempt of regularity. This was the farm-steading of Charlie's Hope, or, in the language of the country, 'the town.' A most furious barking was set up at their approach by the whole three generations of Mustard and Pepper, and a number of allies, names unknown. The farmer [Footnote: See Note 3.] made his well-known voice lustily heard to restore order; the door opened, and a half-dressed ewe-milker, who had done that good office, shut it in their faces, in order that she might run 'ben the house' to cry 'Mistress, mistress, it's the master, and another man wi' him.' Dumple, turned loose, walked to his own stable-door, and there pawed and whinnied for admission, in strains which were answered by his acquaintances from the interior. Amid this bustle Brown was fain to secure Wasp from the other dogs, who, with ardour corresponding more to their own names than to the hospitable temper of their owner, were much disposed to use the intruder roughly.
In about a minute a stout labourer was patting Dumple, and introducing him into the stable, while Mrs. Dinmont, a well-favoured buxom dame, welcomed her husband with unfeigned rapture. 'Eh, sirs! gudeman, ye hae been a weary while away!'
Liddell till now, except in Doric lays,
Tuned to her murmurs by her love-sick swains,
Unknown in song, though not a purer stream
Rolls towards the western main
Art of Preserving Health.
The present store-farmers of the south of Scotland are a much more refined race than their fathers, and the manners I am now to describe have either altogether disappeared or are greatly modified. Without losing the rural simplicity of manners, they now cultivate arts unknown to the former generation, not only in the progressive improvement of their possessions but in all the comforts of life. Their houses are more commodious, their habits of life regulated so as better to keep pace with those of the civilised world, and the best of luxuries, the luxury of knowledge, has gained much ground among their hills during the last thirty years. Deep drinking, formerly their greatest failing, is now fast losing ground; and, while the frankness of their extensive hospitality continues the same, it is, generally speaking, refined in its character and restrained in its excesses.
'Deil's in the wife,' said Dandie Dinmont, shaking off his spouse's embrace, but gently and with a look of great affection; 'deil's in ye, Ailie; d'ye no see the stranger gentleman?'
Ailie turned to make her apology--'Troth, I was sae weel pleased to see the gudeman, that--but, gude gracious! what's the matter wi' ye baith?' for they were now in her little parlour, and the candle showed the streaks of blood which Dinmont's wounded head had plentifully imparted to the clothes of his companion as well as to his own. 'Ye've been fighting again, Dandie, wi' some o' the Bewcastle horse-coupers! Wow, man, a married man, wi' a bonny family like yours, should ken better what a father's life's worth in the warld'; the tears stood in the good woman's eyes as she spoke.
'Whisht! whisht! gudewife,' said her husband, with a smack that had much more affection than ceremony in it; 'never mind, never mind; there's a gentleman that will tell you that, just when I had ga'en up to Lourie Lowther's, and had bidden the drinking of twa cheerers, and gotten just in again upon the moss, and was whigging cannily awa hame, twa landloupers jumpit out of a peat-hag on me or I was thinking, and got me down, and knevelled me sair aneuch, or I could gar my whip walk about their lugs; and troth, gudewife, if this honest gentleman hadna come up, I would have gotten mair licks than I like, and lost mair siller than I could weel spare; so ye maun be thankful to him for it, under God.' With that he drew from his side-pocket a large greasy leather pocket-book, and bade the gudewife lock it up in her kist.
'God bless the gentleman, and e'en God bless him wi' a' my heart; but what can we do for him, but to gie him the meat and quarters we wadna refuse to the poorest body on earth--unless (her eye directed to the pocketbook, but with a feeling of natural propriety which made the inference the most delicate possible), unless there was ony other way--' Brown saw, and estimated at its due rate, the mixture of simplicity and grateful generosity which took the downright way of expressing itself, yet qualified with so much delicacy; he was aware his own appearance, plain at best, and now torn and spattered with blood, made him an object of pity at least, and perhaps of charity. He hastened to say his name was Brown, a captain in the----regiment of cavalry, travelling for pleasure, and on foot, both from motives of independence and economy; and he begged his kind landlady would look at her husband's wounds, the state of which he had refused to permit him to examine. Mrs. Dinmont was used to her husband's broken heads more than to the presence of a captain of dragoons. She therefore glanced at a table-cloth not quite clean, and conned over her proposed supper a minute or two, before, patting her husband on the shoulder, she bade him sit down for 'a hard-headed loon, that was aye bringing himsell and other folk into collie-shangies.'
When Dandie Dinmont, after executing two or three caprioles, and cutting the Highland fling, by way of ridicule of his wife's anxiety, at last deigned to sit down and commit his round, black, shaggy bullet of a head to her inspection, Brown thought he had seen the regimental surgeon look grave upon a more trifling case. The gudewife, however, showed some knowledge of chirurgery; she cut away with her scissors the gory locks whose stiffened and coagulated clusters interfered with her operations, and clapped on the wound some lint besmeared with a vulnerary salve, esteemed sovereign by the whole dale (which afforded upon fair nights considerable experience of such cases); she then fixed her plaster with a bandage, and, spite of her patient's resistance, pulled over all a night-cap, to keep everything in its right place. Some contusions on the brow and shoulders she fomented with brandy, which the patient did not permit till the medicine had paid a heavy toll to his mouth. Mrs. Dinmont then simply, but kindly, offered her assistance to Brown.
He assured her he had no occasion for anything but the accommodation of a basin and towel.
'And that's what I should have thought of sooner,' she said; 'and I did think o't, but I durst na open the door, for there's a' the bairns, poor things, sae keen to see their father.'
This explained a great drumming and whining at the door of the little parlour, which had somewhat surprised Brown, though his kind landlady had only noticed it by fastening the bolt as soon as she heard it begin. But on her opening the door to seek the basin and towel (for she never thought of showing the guest to a separate room), a whole tide of white-headed urchins streamed in, some from the stable, where they had been seeing Dumple, and giving him a welcome home with part of their four-hours scones; others from the kitchen, where they had been listening to old Elspeth's tales and ballads; and the youngest, half-naked, out of bed, all roaring to see daddy, and to inquire what he had brought home for them from the various fairs he had visited in his peregrinations. Our knight of the broken head first kissed and hugged them all round, then distributed whistles, penny-trumpets, and gingerbread, and, lastly, when the tumult of their joy and welcome got beyond bearing, exclaimed to his guest--'This is a' the gude-wife's fault, Captain; she will gie the bairns a' their ain way.'
'Me! Lord help me,' said Ailie, who at that instant entered with the basin and ewer, 'how can I help it? I have naething else to gie them, poor things!'
Dinmont then exerted himself, and, between coaxing, threats, and shoving, cleared the room of all the intruders excepting a boy and girl, the two eldest of the family, who could, as he observed, behave themselves 'distinctly.' For the same reason, but with less ceremony, all the dogs were kicked out excepting the venerable patriarchs, old Pepper and Mustard, whom frequent castigation and the advance of years had inspired with such a share of passive hospitality that, after mutual explanation and remonstrance in the shape of some growling, they admitted Wasp, who had hitherto judged it safe to keep beneath his master's chair, to a share of a dried-wedder's skin, which, with the wool uppermost and unshorn, served all the purposes of a Bristol hearth-rug.
The active bustle of the mistress (so she was called in the kitchen, and the gudewife in the parlour) had already signed the fate of a couple of fowls, which, for want of time to dress them otherwise, soon appeared reeking from the gridiron, or brander, as Mrs. Dinmont denominated it. A huge piece of cold beef-ham, eggs, butter, cakes, and barley-meal bannocks in plenty made up the entertainment, which was to be diluted with home-brewed ale of excellent quality and a case-bottle of brandy. Few soldiers would find fault with such cheer after a day's hard exercise and a skirmish to boot; accordingly Brown did great honour to the eatables. While the gudewife partly aided, partly instructed, a great stout servant girl, with cheeks as red as her top-knot, to remove the supper matters and supply sugar and hot water (which, in the damsel's anxiety to gaze upon an actual live captain, she was in some danger of forgetting), Brown took an opportunity to ask his host whether he did not repent of having neglected the gipsy's hint.
'Wha kens?' answered he; 'they're queer deevils; maybe I might just have 'scaped ae gang to meet the other. And yet I'll no say that neither; for if that randy wife was coming to Charlie's Hope, she should have a pint bottle o' brandy and a pound o' tobacco to wear her through the winter. They're queer deevils; as my auld father used to say, they're warst where they're warst guided. After a', there's baith gude and ill about the gipsies.'
This, and some other desultory conversation, served as a 'shoeing-horn' to draw on another cup of ale and another 'cheerer,' as Dinmont termed it in his country phrase, of brandy and water. Brown then resolutely declined all further conviviality for that evening, pleading his own weariness and the effects of the skirmish, being well aware that it would have availed nothing to have remonstrated with his host on the danger that excess might have occasioned to his own raw wound and bloody coxcomb. A very small bed-room, but a very clean bed, received the traveller, and the sheets made good the courteous vaunt of the hostess, 'that they would be as pleasant as he could find ony gate, for they were washed wi' the fairy-well water, and bleached on the bonny white gowans, and bittled by Nelly and herself, and what could woman, if she was a queen, do mair for them?'
They indeed rivalled snow in whiteness, and had, besides, a pleasant fragrance from the manner in which they had been bleached. Little Wasp, after licking his master's hand to ask leave, couched himself on the coverlet at his feet; and the traveller's senses were soon lost in grateful oblivion.
Give ye, Britons, then,
Your sportive fury, pitiless to pour
Loose on the nightly robber of the fold.
Him from his craggy winding haunts unearth'd,
Let all the thunder of the chase pursue.
Brown rose early in the morning and walked out to look at the establishment of his new friend. All was rough and neglected in the neighbourhood of the house;--a paltry garden, no pains taken to make the vicinity dry or comfortable, and a total absence of all those little neatnesses which give the eye so much pleasure in looking at an English farm-house. There were, notwithstanding, evident signs that this arose only from want of taste or ignorance, not from poverty or the negligence which attends it. On the contrary, a noble cow-house, well filled with good milk-cows, a feeding-house, with ten bullocks of the most approved breed, a stable, with two good teams of horses, the appearance of domestics active, industrious, and apparently contented with their lot; in a word, an air of liberal though sluttish plenty indicated the wealthy farmer. The situation of the house above the river formed a gentle declivity, which relieved the inhabitants of the nuisances that might otherwise have stagnated around it. At a little distance was the whole band of children playing and building houses with peats around a huge doddered oak-tree, which was called Charlie's Bush, from some tradition respecting an old freebooter who had once inhabited the spot. Between the farm-house and the hill-pasture was a deep morass, termed in that country a slack; it had once been the defence of a fortalice, of which no vestiges now remained, but which was said to have been inhabited by the same doughty hero we have now alluded to. Brown endeavoured to make some acquaintance with the children, but 'the rogues fled from him like quicksilver,' though the two eldest stood peeping when they had got to some distance. The traveller then turned his course towards the hill, crossing the foresaid swamp by a range of stepping-stones, neither the broadest nor steadiest that could be imagined. He had not climbed far up the hill when he met a man descending.
He soon recognised his worthy host, though a 'maud,' as it is called, or a grey shepherd's plaid, supplied his travelling jockey-coat, and a cap, faced with wild-cat's fur, more commodiously covered his bandaged head than a hat would have done. As he appeared through the morning mist, Brown, accustomed to judge of men by their thewes and sinews, could not help admiring his height, the breadth of his shoulders, and the steady firmness of his step. Dinmont internally paid the same compliment to Brown, whose athletic form he now perused somewhat more at leisure than he had done formerly. After the usual greetings of the morning, the guest inquired whether his host found any inconvenient consequences from the last night's affray.
'I had maist forgotten't,' said the hardy Borderer; 'but I think this morning, now that I am fresh and sober, if you and I were at the Withershins' Latch, wi' ilka ane a gude oak souple in his hand, we wadna turn back, no for half a dizzen o' yon scaff-raff.'
'But are you prudent, my good sir,' said Brown, 'not to take an hour or two's repose after receiving such severe contusions?'
'Confusions!' replied the farmer, laughing in derision. 'Lord, Captain, naething confuses my head. I ance jumped up and laid the dogs on the fox after I had tumbled from the tap o' Christenbury Craig, and that might have confused me to purpose. Na, naething confuses me, unless it be a screed o' drink at an orra time. Besides, I behooved to be round the hirsel this morning and see how the herds were coming on; they're apt to be negligent wi' their footballs, and fairs, and trysts, when ane's away. And there I met wi' Tarn o' Todshaw, and a wheen o' the rest o' the billies on the water side; they're a' for a fox-hunt this morning,--ye'll gang? I'll gie ye Dumple, and take the brood mare mysell.'
'But I fear I must leave you this morning, Mr. Dinmont,' replied Brown.
'The fient a bit o' that,' exclaimed the Borderer. 'I'll no part wi' ye at ony rate for a fortnight mair. Na, na; we dinna meet sic friends as you on a Bewcastle moss every night.'
Brown had not designed his journey should be a speedy one; he therefore readily compounded with this hearty invitation by agreeing to pass a week at Charlie's Hope.
On their return to the house, where the goodwife presided over an ample breakfast, she heard news of the proposed fox-hunt, not indeed with approbation, but without alarm or surprise. 'Dand! ye're the auld man yet; naething will make ye take warning till ye're brought hame some day wi' your feet foremost.'
'Tut, lass!' answered Dandle, 'ye ken yoursell I am never a prin the waur o' my rambles.'
So saying, he exhorted Brown to be hasty in despatching his breakfast, as, 'the frost having given way, the scent would lie this morning primely.'
Out they sallied accordingly for Otterscope Scaurs, the farmer leading the way. They soon quitted the little valley, and involved themselves among hills as steep as they could be without being precipitous. The sides often presented gullies, down which, in the winter season, or after heavy rain, the torrents descended with great fury. Some dappled mists still floated along the peaks of the hills, the remains of the morning clouds, for the frost had broken up with a smart shower. Through these fleecy screens were seen a hundred little temporary streamlets, or rills, descending the sides of the mountains like silver threads. By small sheep-tracks along these steeps, over which Dinmont trotted with the most fearless confidence, they at length drew near the scene of sport, and began to see other men, both on horse and foot, making toward the place of rendezvous. Brown was puzzling himself to conceive how a fox-chase could take place among hills, where it was barely possible for a pony, accustomed to the ground, to trot along, but where, quitting the track for half a yard's breadth, the rider might be either bogged or precipitated down the bank. This wonder was not diminished when he came to the place of action.
They had gradually ascended very high, and now found themselves on a mountain-ridge, overhanging a glen of great depth, but extremely narrow. Here the sportsmen had collected, with an apparatus which would have shocked a member of the Pychely Hunt; for, the object being the removal of a noxious and destructive animal, as well as the pleasures of the chase, poor Reynard was allowed much less fair play than when pursued in form through an open country. The strength of his habitation, however, and the nature of the ground by which it was surrounded on all sides, supplied what was wanting in the courtesy of his pursuers. The sides of the glen were broken banks of earth and rocks of rotten stone, which sunk sheer down to the little winding stream below, affording here and there a tuft of scathed brushwood or a patch of furze. Along the edges of this ravine, which, as we have said, was very narrow, but of profound depth, the hunters on horse and foot ranged themselves; almost every farmer had with him at least a brace of large and fierce greyhounds, of the race of those deer-dogs which were formerly used in that country, but greatly lessened in size from being crossed with the common breed. The huntsman, a sort of provincial officer of the district, who receives a certain supply of meal, and a reward for every fox he destroys, was already at the bottom of the dell, whose echoes thundered to the chiding of two or three brace of foxhounds. Terriers, including the whole generation of Pepper and Mustard, were also in attendance, having been sent forward under the care of a shepherd. Mongrel, whelp, and cur of low degree filled up the burden of the chorus. The spectators on the brink of the ravine, or glen, held their greyhounds in leash in readiness to slip them at the fox as soon as the activity of the party below should force him to abandon his cover.
The scene, though uncouth to the eye of a professed sportsman, had something in it wildly captivating. The shifting figures on the mountain-ridge, having the sky for their background, appeared to move in the air. The dogs, impatient of their restraint, and maddened with the baying beneath, sprung here and there, and strained at the slips, which prevented them from joining their companions. Looking down, the view was equally striking. The thin mists were not totally dispersed in the glen, so that it was often through their gauzy medium that the eye strove to discover the motions of the hunters below. Sometimes a breath of wind made the scene visible, the blue rill glittering as it twined itself through its rude and solitary dell. They then could see the shepherds springing with fearless activity from one dangerous point to another, and cheering the dogs on the scent, the whole so diminished by depth and distance that they looked like pigmies. Again the mists close over them, and the only signs of their continued exertions are the halloos of the men and the clamours of the hounds, ascending as it were out of the bowels of the earth. When the fox, thus persecuted from one stronghold to another, was at length obliged to abandon his valley, and to break away for a more distant retreat, those who watched his motions from the top slipped their greyhounds, which, excelling the fox in swiftness, and equalling him in ferocity and spirit, soon brought the plunderer to his life's end.
In this way, without any attention to the ordinary rules and decorums of sport, but apparently as much to the gratification both of bipeds and quadrupeds as if all due ritual had been followed, four foxes were killed on this active morning; and even Brown himself, though he had seen the princely sports of India, and ridden a-tiger-hunting upon an elephant with the Nabob of Arcot, professed to have received an excellent morning's amusement. When the sport was given up for the day, most of the sportsmen, according to the established hospitality of the country, went to dine at Charlie's Hope.
During their return homeward Brown rode for a short time beside the huntsman, and asked him some questions concerning the mode in which he exercised his profession. The man showed an unwillingness to meet his eye, and a disposition to be rid of his company and conversation, for which Brown could not easily account. He was a thin, dark, active fellow, well framed for the hardy profession which he exercised. But his face had not the frankness of the jolly hunter; he was down-looked, embarrassed, and avoided the eyes of those who looked hard at him. After some unimportant observations on the success of the day, Brown gave him a trifling gratuity, and rode on with his landlord. They found the goodwife prepared for their reception; the fold and the poultry-yard furnished the entertainment, and the kind and hearty welcome made amends for all deficiencies in elegance and fashion.
The Elliots and Armstrongs did convene,
They were a gallant company!
Ballad of Johnnie Armstrong
Without noticing the occupations of an intervening day or two, which, as they consisted of the ordinary silvan amusements of shooting and coursing, have nothing sufficiently interesting to detain the reader, we pass to one in some degree peculiar to Scotland, which may be called a sort of salmon-hunting. This chase, in which the fish is pursued and struck with barbed spears, or a sort of long-shafted trident, called a waster, is much practised at the mouth of the Esk and in the other salmon rivers of Scotland. The sport is followed by day and night, but most commonly in the latter, when the fish are discovered by means of torches, or fire-grates, filled with blazing fragments of tar-barrels, which shed a strong though partial light upon the water. On the present occasion the principal party were embarked in a crazy boat upon a part of the river which was enlarged and deepened by the restraint of a mill-wear, while others, like the ancient Bacchanals in their gambols, ran along the banks, brandishing their torches and spears, and pursuing the salmon, some of which endeavoured to escape up the stream, while others, shrouding themselves under roots of trees, fragments of stones, and large rocks, attempted to conceal themselves from the researches of the fishermen. These the party in the boat detected by the slightest indications; the twinkling of a fin, the rising of an airbell, was sufficient to point out to these adroit sportsmen in what direction to use their weapon.
The scene was inexpressibly animating to those accustomed to it; but, as Brown was not practised to use the spear, he soon tired of making efforts which were attended with no other consequences than jarring his arms against the rocks at the bottom of the river, upon which, instead of the devoted salmon, he often bestowed his blow. Nor did he relish, though he concealed feelings which would not have been understood, being quite so near the agonies of the expiring salmon, as they lay flapping about in the boat, which they moistened with their blood. He therefore requested to be put ashore, and, from the top of a heugh or broken bank, enjoyed the scene much more to his satisfaction. Often he thought of his friend Dudley the artist, when he observed the effect produced by the strong red glare on the romantic banks under which the boat glided. Now the light diminished to a distant star that seemed to twinkle on the waters, like those which, according to the legends of the country, the water-kelpy sends for the purpose of indicating the watery grave of his victims. Then it advanced nearer, brightening and enlarging as it again approached, till the broad flickering flame rendered bank and rock and tree visible as it passed, tingeing them with its own red glare of dusky light, and resigning them gradually to darkness, or to pale moonlight, as it receded. By this light also were seen the figures in the boat, now holding high their weapons, now stooping to strike, now standing upright, bronzed by the same red glare into a colour which might have befitted the regions of Pandemonium.
Having amused himself for some time with these effects of light and shadow, Brown strolled homewards towards the farm-house, gazing in his way at the persons engaged in the sport, two or three of whom are generally kept together, one holding the torch, the others with their spears, ready to avail themselves of the light it affords to strike their prey. As he observed one man struggling with a very weighty salmon which he had speared, but was unable completely to raise from the water, Brown advanced close to the bank to see the issue of his exertions. The man who held the torch in this instance was the huntsman, whose sulky demeanour Brown had already noticed with surprise. 'Come here, sir! come here, sir! look at this ane! He turns up a side like a sow.' Such was the cry from the assistants when some of them observed Brown advancing.
'Ground the waster weel, man! ground the waster weel! Haud him down! Ye haena the pith o' a cat!' were the cries of advice, encouragement, and expostulation from those who were on the bank to the sportsman engaged with the salmon, who stood up to his middle in water, jingling among broken ice, struggling against the force of the fish and the strength of the current, and dubious in what manner he should attempt to secure his booty. As Brown came to the edge of the bank, he called out--'Hold up your torch, friend huntsman!' for he had already distinguished his dusky features by the strong light cast upon them by the blaze. But the fellow no sooner heard his voice, and saw, or rather concluded, it was Brown who approached him, than, instead of advancing his light, he let it drop, as if accidentally, into the water.
'The deil's in Gabriel!' said the spearman, as the fragments of glowing wood floated half-blazing, half-sparkling, but soon extinguished, down the stream. 'The deil's in the man! I'll never master him without the light; and a braver kipper, could I but land him, never reisted abune a pair o' cleeks.'[Footnote: See Note 4] Some dashed into the water to lend their assistance, and the fish, which was afterwards found to weigh nearly thirty pounds, was landed in safety.
The behaviour of the huntsman struck Brown, although he had no recollection of his face, nor could conceive why he should, as it appeared he evidently did, shun his observation. Could he be one of the footpads he had encountered a few days before? The supposition was not altogether improbable, although unwarranted by any observation he was able to make upon the man's figure and face. To be sure the villains wore their hats much slouched, and had loose coats, and their size was not in any way so peculiarly discriminated as to enable him to resort to that criterion. He resolved to speak to his host Dinmont on the subject, but for obvious reasons concluded it were best to defer the explanation until a cool hour in the morning.
The sportsmen returned loaded with fish, upwards of one hundred salmon having been killed within the range of their sport. The best were selected for the use of the principal farmers, the others divided among their shepherds, cottars, dependents, and others of inferior rank who attended. These fish, dried in the turf smoke of their cabins or shealings, formed a savoury addition to the mess of potatoes, mixed with onions, which was the principal part of their winter food. In the meanwhile a liberal distribution of ale and whisky was made among them, besides what was called a kettle of fish,--two or three salmon, namely, plunged into a cauldron and boiled for their supper. Brown accompanied his jolly landlord and the rest of his friends into the large and smoky kitchen, where this savoury mess reeked on an oaken table, massive enough to have dined Johnnie Armstrong and his merry-men. All was hearty cheer and huzza, and jest and clamorous laughter, and bragging alternately, and raillery between whiles. Our traveller looked earnestly around for the dark countenance of the fox-hunter; but it was nowhere to be seen.
At length he hazarded a question concerning him. 'That was an awkward accident, my lads, of one of you, who dropped his torch in the water when his companion was struggling with the large fish.'
'Awkward!' returned a shepherd, looking up (the same stout young fellow who had speared the salmon); 'he deserved his paiks for't, to put out the light when the fish was on ane's witters! I'm weel convinced Gabriel drapped the roughies in the water on purpose; he doesna like to see ony body do a thing better than himsell.'
'Ay,' said another, 'he's sair shamed o' himsell, else he would have been up here the night; Gabriel likes a little o' the gude thing as weel as ony o' us.'
'Is he of this country?' said Brown.
'Na, na, he's been but shortly in office, but he's a fell hunter; he's frae down the country, some gate on the Dumfries side.'
'And what's his name, pray?'
'But Gabriel what?'
'Oh, Lord kens that; we dinna mind folk's afternames muckle here, they run sae muckle into clans.'
'Ye see, sir,' said an old shepherd, rising, and speaking very slow, 'the folks hereabout are a' Armstrongs and Elliots,[Footnote: See Note 5] and sic like--two or three given names--and so, for distinction's sake, the lairds and farmers have the names of their places that they live at; as, for example, Tam o' Todshaw, Will o' the Flat, Hobbie o' Sorbietrees, and our good master here o' the Charlie's Hope. Aweel, sir, and then the inferior sort o' people, ye'll observe, are kend by sorts o' by-names some o' them, as Glaiket Christie, and the Deuke's Davie, or maybe, like this lad Gabriel, by his employment; as, for example, Tod Gabbie, or Hunter Gabbie. He's no been lang here, sir, and I dinna think ony body kens him by ony other name. But it's no right to rin him doun ahint his back, for he's a fell fox-hunter, though he's maybe no just sae clever as some o' the folk hereawa wi' the waster.'
After some further desultory conversation, the superior sportsmen retired to conclude the evening after their own manner, leaving the others to enjoy themselves, unawed by their presence. That evening, like all those which Brown had passed at Charlie's Hope, was spent in much innocent mirth and conviviality. The latter might have approached to the verge of riot but for the good women; for several of the neighbouring mistresses (a phrase of a signification how different from what it bears in more fashionable life!) had assembled at Charlie's Hope to witness the event of this memorable evening. Finding the punch-bowl was so often replenished that there was some danger of their gracious presence being forgotten, they rushed in valorously upon the recreant revellers, headed by our good mistress Ailie, so that Venus speedily routed Bacchus. The fiddler and piper next made their appearance, and the best part of the night was gallantly consumed in dancing to their music.
An otter-hunt the next day, and a badger-baiting the day after, consumed the time merrily. I hope our traveller will not sink in the reader's estimation, sportsman though he may be, when I inform him that on this last occasion, after young Pepper had lost a fore-foot and Mustard the second had been nearly throttled, he begged, as a particular and personal favour of Mr. Dinmont, that the poor badger, who had made so gallant a defence, should be permitted to retire to his earth without farther molestation.
The farmer, who would probably have treated this request with supreme contempt had it come from any other person, was contented in Brown's case to express the utter extremity of his wonder. 'Weel,' he said, 'that's queer aneugh! But since ye take his part, deil a tyke shall meddle wi' him mair in my day. We'll e'en mark him, and ca' him the Captain's brock; and I'm sure I'm glad I can do ony thing to oblige you,--but, Lord save us, to care about a brock!'
After a week spent in rural sport, and distinguished by the most frank attentions on the part of his honest landlord, Brown bade adieu to the banks of the Liddel and the hospitality of Charlie's Hope. The children, with all of whom he had now become an intimate and a favourite, roared manfully in full chorus at his departure, and he was obliged to promise twenty times that he would soon return and play over all their favourite tunes upon the flageolet till they had got them by heart. 'Come back again, Captain,' said one little sturdy fellow, 'and Jenny will be your wife.' Jenny was about eleven years old; she ran and hid herself behind her mammy.
'Captain, come back,' said a little fat roll-about girl of six, holding her mouth up to be kissed, 'and I'll be your wife my ainsell.'
'They must be of harder mould than I,' thought Brown, 'who could part from so many kind hearts with indifference.' The good dame too, with matron modesty, and an affectionate simplicity that marked the olden time, offered her cheek to the departing guest. 'It's little the like of us can do,' she said, 'little indeed; but yet, if there were but ony thing--'
'Now, my dear Mrs. Dinmont, you embolden me to make a request: would you but have the kindness to weave me, or work me, just such a grey plaid as the goodman wears?' He had learned the language and feelings of the country even during the short time of his residence, and was aware of the pleasure the request would confer.
'A tait o' woo' would be scarce amang us,' said the goodwife, brightening, 'if ye shouldna hae that, and as gude a tweel as ever cam aff a pirn. I'll speak to Johnnie Goodsire, the weaver at the Castletown, the morn. Fare ye weel, sir! and may ye be just as happy yoursell as ye like to see a' body else; and that would be a sair wish to some folk.'
I must not omit to mention that our traveller left his trusty attendant Wasp to be a guest at Charlie's Hope for a season. He foresaw that he might prove a troublesome attendant in the event of his being in any situation where secrecy and concealment might be necessary. He was therefore consigned to the care of the eldest boy, who promised, in the words of the old song, that he should have
A bit of his supper, a bit of his bed,
and that he should be engaged in none of those perilous pastimes in which the race of Mustard and Pepper had suffered frequent mutilation. Brown now prepared for his journey, having taken a temporary farewell of his trusty little companion.
There is an odd prejudice in these hills in favour of riding. Every farmer rides well, and rides the whole day. Probably the extent of their large pasture farms, and the necessity of surveying them rapidly, first introduced this custom; or a very zealous antiquary might derive it from the times of the 'Lay of the Last Minstrel,' when twenty thousand horsemen assembled at the light of the beacon-fires. [Footnote: It would be affectation to alter this reference. But the reader will understand that it was inserted to keep up the author's incognito, as he was not likely to be suspected of quoting his own works. This explanation is also applicable to one or two similar passages, in this and the other novels, introduced for the same reason.] But the truth is undeniable; they like to be on horseback, and can be with difficulty convinced that any one chooses walking from other motives than those of convenience or necessity. Accordingly, Dinmont insisted upon mounting his guest and accompanying him on horseback as far as the nearest town in Dumfries-shire, where he had directed his baggage to be sent, and from which he proposed to pursue his intended journey towards Woodbourne, the residence of Julia Mannering.
Upon the way he questioned his companion concerning the character of the fox-hunter; but gained little information, as he had been called to that office while Dinmont was making the round of the Highland fairs. 'He was a shake-rag like fellow,' he said, 'and, he dared to say, had gipsy blood in his veins; but at ony rate he was nane o' the smaiks that had been on their quarters in the moss; he would ken them weel if he saw them again. There are some no bad folk amang the gipsies too, to be sic a gang,' added Dandie; 'if ever I see that auld randle-tree of a wife again, I'll gie her something to buy tobacco. I have a great notion she meant me very fair after a'.'
When they were about finally to part, the good farmer held Brown long by the hand, and at length said, 'Captain, the woo's sae weel up the year that it's paid a' the rent, and we have naething to do wi' the rest o' the siller when Ailie has had her new gown, and the bairns their bits o' duds. Now I was thinking of some safe hand to put it into, for it's ower muckle to ware on brandy and sugar; now I have heard that you army gentlemen can sometimes buy yoursells up a step, and if a hundred or twa would help ye on such an occasion, the bit scrape o' your pen would be as good to me as the siller, and ye might just take yer ain time o' settling it; it wad be a great convenience to me.' Brown, who felt the full delicacy that wished to disguise the conferring an obligation under the show of asking a favour, thanked his grateful friend most heartily, and assured him he would have recourse to his purse without scruple should circumstances ever render it convenient for him. And thus they parted with many expressions of mutual regard.
If thou hast any love of mercy in thee,
Turn me upon my face that I may die.
Our traveller hired a post-chaise at the place where he separated from Dinmont, with the purpose of proceeding to Kippletringan, there to inquire into the state of the family at Woodbourne, before he should venture to make his presence in the country known to Miss Mannering. The stage was a long one of eighteen or twenty miles, and the road lay across the country. To add to the inconveniences of the journey, the snow began to fall pretty quickly. The postilion, however, proceeded on his journey for a good many miles without expressing doubt or hesitation. It was not until the night was completely set in that he intimated his apprehensions whether he was in the right road. The increasing snow rendered this intimation rather alarming, for, as it drove full in the lad's face and lay whitening all around him, it served in two different ways to confuse his knowledge of the country, and to diminish the chance of his recovering the right track. Brown then himself got out and looked round, not, it may be well imagined, from any better hope than that of seeing some house at which he might make inquiry. But none appeared; he could therefore only tell the lad to drive steadily on. The road on which they were ran through plantations of considerable extent and depth, and the traveller therefore conjectured that there must be a gentleman's house at no great distance. At length, after struggling wearily on for about a mile, the post-boy stopped, and protested his horses would not budge a foot farther; 'but he saw,' he said, 'a light among the trees, which must proceed from a house; the only way was to inquire the road there.' Accordingly, he dismounted, heavily encumbered with a long great-coat and a pair of boots which might have rivalled in thickness the seven-fold shield of Ajax. As in this guise he was plodding forth upon his voyage of discovery, Brown's impatience prevailed, and, jumping out of the carriage, he desired the lad to stop where he was by the horses, and he would himself go to the house; a command which the driver most joyfully obeyed.
Our traveller groped along the side of the inclosure from which the light glimmered, in order to find some mode of approaching in that direction, and, after proceeding for some space, at length found a stile in the hedge, and a pathway leading into the plantation, which in that place was of great extent. This promised to lead to the light which was the object of his search, and accordingly Brown proceeded in that direction, but soon totally lost sight of it among the trees. The path, which at first seemed broad and well marked by the opening of the wood through which it winded, was now less easily distinguishable, although the whiteness of the snow afforded some reflected light to assist his search. Directing himself as much as possible through the more open parts of the wood, he proceeded almost a mile without either recovering a view of the light or seeing anything resembling a habitation. Still, however, he thought it best to persevere in that direction. It must surely have been a light in the hut of a forester, for it shone too steadily to be the glimmer of an ignis fatuus. The ground at length became broken and declined rapidly, and, although Brown conceived he still moved along what had once at least been a pathway, it was now very unequal, and the snow concealing those breaches and inequalities, the traveller had one or two falls in consequence. He began now to think of turning back, especially as the falling snow, which his impatience had hitherto prevented his attending to, was coming on thicker and faster.
Willing, however, to make a last effort, he still advanced a little way, when to his great delight he beheld the light opposite at no great distance, and apparently upon a level with him. He quickly found that this last appearance was deception, for the ground continued so rapidly to sink as made it obvious there was a deep dell, or ravine of some kind, between him and the object of his search. Taking every precaution to preserve his footing, he continued to descend until he reached the bottom of a very steep and narrow glen, through which winded a small rivulet, whose course was then almost choked with snow. He now found himself embarrassed among the ruins of cottages, whose black gables, rendered more distinguishable by the contrast with the whitened surface from which they rose, were still standing; the side-walls had long since given way to time, and, piled in shapeless heaps and covered with snow, offered frequent and embarrassing obstacles to our traveller's progress. Still, however, he persevered, crossed the rivulet, not without some trouble, and at length, by exertions which became both painful and perilous, ascended its opposite and very rugged bank, until he came on a level with the building from which the gleam proceeded.
It was difficult, especially by so imperfect a light, to discover the nature of this edifice; but it seemed a square building of small size, the upper part of which was totally ruinous. It had, perhaps, been the abode in former times of some lesser proprietor, or a place of strength and concealment, in case of need, for one of greater importance. But only the lower vault remained, the arch of which formed the roof in the present state of the building. Brown first approached the place from whence the light proceeded, which was a long narrow slit or loop-hole, such as usually are to be found in old castles. Impelled by curiosity to reconnoitre the interior of this strange place before he entered, Brown gazed in at this aperture. A scene of greater desolation could not well be imagined. There was a fire upon the floor, the smoke of which, after circling through the apartment, escaped by a hole broken in the arch above. The walls, seen by this smoky light, had the rude and waste appearance of a ruin of three centuries old at least. A cask or two, with some broken boxes and packages, lay about the place in confusion. But the inmates chiefly occupied Brown's attention. Upon a lair composed of straw, with a blanket stretched over it, lay a figure, so still that, except that it was not dressed in the ordinary habiliments of the grave, Brown would have concluded it to be a corpse. On a steadier view he perceived it was only on the point of becoming so, for he heard one or two of those low, deep, and hard-drawn sighs that precede dissolution when the frame is tenacious of life. A female figure, dressed in a long cloak, sate on a stone by this miserable couch; her elbows rested upon her knees, and her face, averted from the light of an iron lamp beside her, was bent upon that of the dying person. She moistened his mouth from time to time with some liquid, and between whiles sung, in a low monotonous cadence, one of those prayers, or rather spells, which, in some parts of Scotland and the north of England, are used by the vulgar and ignorant to speed the passage of a parting spirit, like the tolling of the bell in Catholic days. She accompanied this dismal sound with a slow rocking motion of her body to and fro, as if to keep time with her song. The words ran nearly thus:--
Wasted, weary, wherefore stay,
Wrestling thus with earth and clay?
From the body pass away.
Hark! the mass is singing.
From thee doff thy mortal weed,
Mary Mother be thy speed,
Saints to help thee at thy need.
Hark! the knell is ringing.
Fear not snow-drift driving fast,
Sleet, or hail, or levin blast.
Soon the shroud shall lap thee fast,
And the sleep be on thee cast
That shall ne'er know waking.
Haste thee, haste thee, to be gone,
Earth flits fast, and time draws on.
Gasp thy gasp, and groan thy groan,
Day is near the breaking.
The songstress paused, and was answered by one or two deep and hollow groans, that seemed to proceed from the very agony of the mortal strife. 'It will not be,' she muttered to herself; 'he cannot pass away with that on his mind, it tethers him here--
Heaven cannot abide it,
Earth refuses to hide it. [Footnote: See Note 6.]
I must open the door'; and, rising, she faced towards the door of the apartment, observing heedfully not to turn back her head, and, withdrawing a bolt or two (for, notwithstanding the miserable appearance of the place, the door was cautiously secured), she lifted the latch, saying,
Open lock, end strife,
Come death, and pass life.
Brown, who had by this time moved from his post, stood before her as she opened the door. She stepped back a pace, and he entered, instantly recognising, but with no comfortable sensation, the same gipsy woman whom he had met in Bewcastle. She also knew him at once, and her attitude, figure, and the anxiety of her countenance, assumed the appearance of the well-disposed ogress of a fairy tale, warning a stranger not to enter the dangerous castle of her husband. The first words she spoke (holding up her hands in a reproving manner) were, 'Said I not to ye, Make not, meddle not? Beware of the redding straik! [Footnote: The redding straik, namely, a blow received by a peacemaker who interferes betwixt two combatants, to red or separate them, is proverbially said to be the most dangerous blow a man can receive.] You are come to no house o' fair-strae death.' So saying, she raised the lamp and turned its light on the dying man, whose rude and harsh features were now convulsed with the last agony. A roll of linen about his head was stained with blood, which had soaked also through the blankets and the straw. It was, indeed, under no natural disease that the wretch was suffering. Brown started back from this horrible object, and, turning to the gipsy, exclaimed, 'Wretched woman, who has done this?'
'They that were permitted,' answered Meg Merrilies, while she scanned with a close and keen glance the features of the expiring man. 'He has had a sair struggle; but it's passing. I kenn'd he would pass when you came in. That was the death-ruckle; he's dead.'
Sounds were now heard at a distance, as of voices. 'They are coming,' said she to Brown; 'you are a dead man if ye had as mony lives as hairs.' Brown eagerly looked round for some weapon of defence. There was none near. He then rushed to the door with the intention of plunging among the trees, and making his escape by flight from what he now esteemed a den of murderers, but Merrilies held him with a masculine grasp. 'Here,' she said, 'here, be still and you are safe; stir not, whatever you see or hear, and nothing shall befall you.'
Brown, in these desperate circumstances, remembered this woman's intimation formerly, and thought he had no chance of safety but in obeying her. She caused him to couch down among a parcel of straw on the opposite side of the apartment from the corpse, covered him carefully, and flung over him two or three old sacks which lay about the place. Anxious to observe what was to happen, Brown arranged as softly as he could the means of peeping from under the coverings by which he was hidden, and awaited with a throbbing heart the issue of this strange and most unpleasant adventure. The old gipsy in the meantime set about arranging the dead body, composing its limbs, and straighting the arms by its side. 'Best to do this,' she muttered, 'ere he stiffen.' She placed on the dead man's breast a trencher, with salt sprinkled upon it, set one candle at the head and another at the feet of the body, and lighted both. Then she resumed her song, and awaited the approach of those whose voices had been heard without.
Brown was a soldier, and a brave one; but he was also a man, and at this moment his fears mastered his courage so completely that the cold drops burst out from every pore. The idea of being dragged out of his miserable concealment by wretches whose trade was that of midnight murder, without weapons or the slightest means of defence, except entreaties, which would be only their sport, and cries for help, which could never reach other ear than their own; his safety entrusted to the precarious compassion of a being associated with these felons, and whose trade of rapine and imposture must have hardened her against every human feeling--the bitterness of his emotions almost choked him. He endeavoured to read in her withered and dark countenance, as the lamp threw its light upon her features, something that promised those feelings of compassion which females, even in their most degraded state, can seldom altogether smother. There was no such touch of humanity about this woman. The interest, whatever it was, that determined her in his favour arose not from the impulse of compassion, but from some internal, and probably capricious, association of feelings, to which he had no clue. It rested, perhaps, on a fancied likeness, such as Lady Macbeth found to her father in the sleeping monarch. Such were the reflections that passed in rapid succession through Brown's mind as he gazed from his hiding-place upon this extraordinary personage. Meantime the gang did not yet approach, and he was almost prompted to resume his original intention of attempting an escape from the hut, and cursed internally his own irresolution, which had consented to his being cooped up where he had neither room for resistance nor flight.
Meg Merrilies seemed equally on the watch. She bent her ear to every sound that whistled round the old walls. Then she turned again to the dead body, and found something new to arrange or alter in its position. 'He's a bonny corpse,' she muttered to herself, 'and weel worth the streaking.' And in this dismal occupation she appeared to feel a sort of professional pleasure, entering slowly into all the minutise, as if with the skill and feelings of a connoisseur. A long, dark-coloured sea-cloak, which she dragged out of a corner, was disposed for a pall. The face she left bare, after closing the mouth and eyes, and arranged the capes of the cloak so as to hide the bloody bandages, and give the body, as she muttered, 'a mair decent appearance.'
At once three or four men, equally ruffians in appearance and dress, rushed into the hut. 'Meg, ye limb of Satan, how dare you leave the door open?' was the first salutation of the party.
'And wha ever heard of a door being barred when a man was in the dead-thraw? how d'ye think the spirit was to get awa through bolts and bars like thae?'
'Is he dead, then?' said one who went to the side of the couch to look at the body.
'Ay, ay, dead enough,' said another; 'but here's what shall give him a rousing lykewake.' So saying, he fetched a keg of spirits from a corner, while Meg hastened to display pipes and tobacco. From the activity with which she undertook the task, Brown conceived good hope of her fidelity towards her guest. It was obvious that she wished to engage the ruffians in their debauch, to prevent the discovery which might take place if by accident any of them should approach too nearly the place of Brown's concealment.
Nor board nor garner own we now,
Nor roof nor latched door,
Nor kind mate, bound, by holy vow,
To bless a good man's store
Noon lulls us in a gloomy den,
And night is grown our day;
Uprouse ye, then, my merry men!
And use it as ye may
Brown could now reckon his foes: they were five in number; two of them were very powerful men, who appeared to be either real seamen or strollers who assumed that character; the other three, an old man and two lads, were slighter made, and, from their black hair and dark complexion, seemed to belong to Meg's tribe. They passed from one to another the cup out of which they drank their spirits. 'Here's to his good voyage!' said one of the seamen, drinking; 'a squally night he's got, however, to drift through the sky in.'
We omit here various execrations with which these honest gentlemen garnished their discourse, retaining only such of their expletives as are least offensive.
''A does not mind wind and weather; 'a has had many a north-easter in his day.'
'He had his last yesterday,' said another gruffly; 'and now old Meg may pray for his last fair wind, as she's often done before.'
'I'll pray for nane o' him,' said Meg, 'nor for you neither, you randy dog. The times are sair altered since I was a kinchen-mort. Men were men then, and fought other in the open field, and there was nae milling in the darkmans. And the gentry had kind hearts, and would have given baith lap and pannel to ony puir gipsy; and there was not one, from Johnnie Faa the upright man to little Christie that was in the panniers, would cloyed a dud from them. But ye are a' altered from the gude auld rules, and no wonder that you scour the cramp-ring and trine to the cheat sae often. Yes, ye are a' altered: you'll eat the goodman's meat, drink his drink, sleep on the strammel in his barn, and break his house and cut his throat for his pains! There's blood on your hands, too, ye dogs, mair than ever came there by fair righting. See how ye'll die then. Lang it was ere he died; he strove, and strove sair, and could neither die nor live; but you--half the country will see how ye'll grace the woodie.'
The party set up a hoarse laugh at Meg's prophecy.
'What made you come back here, ye auld beldam?' said one of the gipsies; 'could ye not have staid where you were, and spaed fortunes to the Cumberland flats? Bing out and tour, ye auld devil, and see that nobody has scented; that's a' you're good for now.'
'Is that a' I am good for now?' said the indignant matron. 'I was good for mair than that in the great fight between our folk and Patrico Salmon's; if I had not helped you with these very fambles (holding up her hands), Jean Baillie would have frummagem'd you, ye feckless do-little!'
There was here another laugh at the expense of the hero who had received this amazon's assistance.
'Here, mother,' said one of the sailors, 'here's a cup of the right for you, and never mind that bully-huff.'
Meg drank the spirits, and, withdrawing herself from farther conversation, sat down before the spot where Brown lay hid, in such a posture that it would have been difficult for any one to have approached it without her rising. The men, however, showed no disposition to disturb her.
They closed around the fire and held deep consultation together; but the low tone in which they spoke, and the cant language which they used, prevented Brown from understanding much of their conversation. He gathered in general that they expressed great indignation against some individual. 'He shall have his gruel,' said one, and then whispered something very low into the ear of his comrade.
'I'll have nothing to do with that,' said the other.
'Are you turned hen-hearted, Jack?'
'No, by G-d, no more than yourself, but I won't. It was something like that stopped all the trade fifteen or twenty years ago. You have heard of the Loup?'
'I have heard HIM (indicating the corpse by a jerk of his head) tell about that job. G-d, how he used to laugh when he showed us how he fetched him off the perch!'
'Well, but it did up the trade for one while,' said Jack.
'How should that be?' asked the surly villain.
'Why,' replied Jack, 'the people got rusty about it, and would not deal, and they had bought so many brooms that--'
'Well, for all that,' said the other, 'I think we should be down upon the fellow one of these darkmans and let him get it well.'
'But old Meg's asleep now,' said another; 'she grows a driveller, and is afraid of her shadow. She'll sing out, some of these odd-come-shortlies, if you don't look sharp.'
'Never fear,' said the old gipsy man; 'Meg's true-bred; she's the last in the gang that will start; but she has some queer ways, and often cuts queer words.'
With more of this gibberish they continued the conversation, rendering it thus, even to each other, a dark obscure dialect, eked out by significant nods and signs, but never expressing distinctly, or in plain language, the subject on which it turned. At length one of them, observing Meg was still fast asleep, or appeared to be so, desired one of the lads 'to hand in the black Peter, that they might flick it open.' The boy stepped to the door and brought in a portmanteau, which Brown instantly recognised for his own. His thoughts immediately turned to the unfortunate lad he had left with the carriage. Had the ruffians murdered him? was the horrible doubt that crossed his mind. The agony of his attention grew yet keener, and while the villains pulled out and admired the different articles of his clothes and linen, he eagerly listened for some indication that might intimate the fate of the postilion. But the ruffians were too much delighted with their prize, and too much busied in examining its contents, to enter into any detail concerning the manner in which they had acquired it. The portmanteau contained various articles of apparel, a pair of pistols, a leathern case with a few papers, and some money, etc., etc. At any other time it would have provoked Brown excessively to see the unceremonious manner in which the thieves shared his property, and made themselves merry at the expense of the owner. But the moment was too perilous to admit any thoughts but what had immediate reference to self-preservation.
After a sufficient scrutiny into the portmanteau, and an equitable division of its contents, the ruffians applied themselves more closely to the serious occupation of drinking, in which they spent the greater part of the night. Brown was for some time in great hopes that they would drink so deep as to render themselves insensible, when his escape would have been an easy matter. But their dangerous trade required precautions inconsistent with such unlimited indulgence, and they stopped short on this side of absolute intoxication. Three of them at length composed themselves to rest, while the fourth watched. He was relieved in this duty by one of the others after a vigil of two hours. When the second watch had elapsed, the sentinel awakened the whole, who, to Brown's inexpressible relief, began to make some preparations as if for departure, bundling up the various articles which each had appropriated. Still, however, there remained something to be done. Two of them, after some rummaging which not a little alarmed Brown, produced a mattock and shovel; another took a pickaxe from behind the straw on which the dead body was extended. With these implements two of them left the hut, and the remaining three, two of whom were the seamen, very strong men, still remained in garrison.
After the space of about half an hour, one of those who had departed again returned, and whispered the others. They wrapped up the dead body in the sea cloak which had served as a pall, and went out, bearing it along with them. The aged sibyl then arose from her real or feigned slumbers. She first went to the door, as if for the purpose of watching the departure of her late inmates, then returned, and commanded Brown, in a low and stifled voice, to follow her instantly. He obeyed; but, on leaving the hut, he would willingly have repossessed himself of his money, or papers at least, but this she prohibited in the most peremptory manner. It immediately occurred to him that the suspicion of having removed anything of which he might repossess himself would fall upon this woman, by whom in all probability his life had been saved. He therefore immediately desisted from his attempt, contenting himself with seizing a cutlass, which one of the ruffians had flung aside among the straw. On his feet, and possessed of this weapon, he already found himself half delivered from the dangers which beset him. Still, however, he felt stiffened and cramped, both with the cold and by the constrained and unaltered position which he had occupied all night. But, as he followed the gipsy from the door of the hut, the fresh air of the morning and the action of walking restored circulation and activity to his benumbed limbs.
The pale light of a winter's morning was rendered more clear by the snow, which was lying all around, crisped by the influence of a severe frost. Brown cast a hasty glance at the landscape around him, that he might be able again to know the spot. The little tower, of which only a single vault remained, forming the dismal apartment in which he had spent this remarkable night, was perched on the very point of a projecting rock overhanging the rivulet. It was accessible only on one side, and that from the ravine or glen below. On the other three sides the bank was precipitous, so that Brown had on the preceding evening escaped more dangers than one; for, if he had attempted to go round the building, which was once his purpose, he must have been dashed to pieces. The dell was so narrow that the trees met in some places from the opposite sides. They were now loaded with snow instead of leaves, and thus formed a sort of frozen canopy over the rivulet beneath, which was marked by its darker colour, as it soaked its way obscurely through wreaths of snow. In one place, where the glen was a little wider, leaving a small piece of flat ground between the rivulet and the bank, were situated the ruins of the hamlet in which Brown had been involved on the preceding evening. The ruined gables, the insides of which were japanned with turf-smoke, looked yet blacker contrasted with the patches of snow which had been driven against them by the wind, and with the drifts which lay around them.
Upon this wintry and dismal scene Brown could only at present cast a very hasty glance; for his guide, after pausing an instant as if to permit him to indulge his curiosity, strode hastily before him down the path which led into the glen. He observed, with some feelings of suspicion, that she chose a track already marked by several feet, which he could only suppose were those of the depredators who had spent the night in the vault. A moment's recollection, however, put his suspicions to rest. It was not to be thought that the woman, who might have delivered him up to her gang when in a state totally defenceless, would have suspended her supposed treachery until he was armed and in the open air, and had so many better chances of defence or escape. He therefore followed his guide in confidence and silence. They crossed the small brook at the same place where it previously had been passed by those who had gone before. The footmarks then proceeded through the ruined village, and from thence down the glen, which again narrowed to a ravine, after the small opening in which they were situated. But the gipsy no longer followed the same track; she turned aside, and led the way by a very rugged and uneven path up the bank which overhung the village. Although the snow in many places hid the pathway, and rendered the footing uncertain and unsafe, Meg proceeded with a firm and determined step, which indicated an intimate knowledge of the ground she traversed. At length they gained the top of the bank, though by a passage so steep and intricate that Brown, though convinced it was the same by which he had descended on the night before, was not a little surprised how he had accomplished the task without breaking his neck. Above, the country opened wide and uninclosed for about a mile or two on the one hand, and on the other were thick plantations of considerable extent.
Meg, however, still led the way along the bank of the ravine out of which they had ascended, until she heard beneath the murmur of voices. She then pointed to a deep plantation of trees at some distance. 'The road to Kippletringan,' she said, 'is on the other side of these inclosures. Make the speed ye can; there's mair rests on your life than other folk's. But you have lost all--stay.' She fumbled in an immense pocket, from which she produced a greasy purse--'Many's the awmous your house has gi'en Meg and hers; and she has lived to pay it back in a small degree;' and she placed the purse in his hand.
'The woman is insane,' thought Brown; but it was no time to debate the point, for the sounds he heard in the ravine below probably proceeded from the banditti. 'How shall I repay this money,' he said, 'or how acknowledge the kindness you have done me?'
'I hae twa boons to crave,' answered the sibyl, speaking low and hastily: 'one, that you will never speak of what you have seen this night; the other, that you will not leave this country till you see me again, and that you leave word at the Gordon Arms where you are to be heard of, and when I next call for you, be it in church or market, at wedding or at burial, Sunday or Saturday, mealtime or fasting, that ye leave everything else and come with me.'
'Why, that will do you little good, mother.'
'But 'twill do yoursell muckle, and that's what I'm thinking o'. I am not mad, although I have had eneugh to make me sae; I am not mad, nor doating, nor drunken. I know what I am asking, and I know it has been the will of God to preserve you in strange dangers, and that I shall be the instrument to set you in your father's seat again. Sae give me your promise, and mind that you owe your life to me this blessed night.'
'There's wildness in her manner, certainly,' thought Brown, 'and yet it is more like the wildness of energy than of madness.'--'Well, mother, since you do ask so useless and trifling a favour, you have my promise. It will at least give me an opportunity to repay your money with additions. You are an uncommon kind of creditor, no doubt, but--'
'Away, away, then!' said she, waving her hand. 'Think not about the goud, it's a' your ain; but remember your promise, and do not dare to follow me or look after me.' So saying, she plunged again into the dell, and descended it with great agility, the icicles and snow-wreaths showering down after her as she disappeared.
Notwithstanding her prohibition, Brown endeavoured to gain some point of the bank from which he might, unseen, gaze down into the glen; and with some difficulty (for it must be conceived that the utmost caution was necessary) he succeeded. The spot which he attained for this purpose was the point of a projecting rock, which rose precipitously from among the trees. By kneeling down among the snow and stretching his head cautiously forward, he could observe what was going on in the bottom of the dell. He saw, as he expected, his companions of the last night, now joined by two or three others. They had cleared away the snow from the foot of the rock and dug a deep pit, which was designed to serve the purpose of a grave. Around this they now stood, and lowered into it something wrapped in a naval cloak, which Brown instantly concluded to be the dead body of the man he had seen expire. They then stood silent for half a minute, as if under some touch of feeling for the loss of their companion. But if they experienced such, they did not long remain under its influence, for all hands went presently to work to fill up the grave; and Brown, perceiving that the task would be soon ended, thought it best to take the gipsy woman's hint and walk as fast as possible until he should gain the shelter of the plantation.
Having arrived under cover of the trees, his first thought was of the gipsy's purse. He had accepted it without hesitation, though with something like a feeling of degradation, arising from the character of the person by whom he was thus accommodated. But it relieved him from a serious though temporary embarrassment. His money, excepting a very few shillings, was in his portmanteau, and that was in possession of Meg's friends. Some time was necessary to write to his agent, or even to apply to his good host at Charlie's Hope, who would gladly have supplied him. In the meantime he resolved to avail himself of Meg's subsidy, confident he should have a speedy opportunity of replacing it with a handsome gratuity. 'It can be but a trifling sum,' he said to himself, 'and I daresay the good lady may have a share of my banknotes to make amends.'
With these reflections he opened the leathern purse, expecting to find at most three or four guineas. But how much was he surprised to discover that it contained, besides a considerable quantity of gold pieces, of different coinages and various countries, the joint amount of which could not be short of a hundred pounds, several valuable rings and ornaments set with jewels, and, as appeared from the slight inspection he had time to give them, of very considerable value.
Brown was equally astonished and embarrassed by the circumstances in which he found himself, possessed, as he now appeared to be, of property to a much greater amount than his own, but which had been obtained in all probability by the same nefarious means through which he had himself been plundered. His first thought was to inquire after the nearest justice of peace, and to place in his hands the treasure of which he had thus unexpectedly become the depositary, telling at the same time his own remarkable story. But a moment's consideration brought several objections to this mode of procedure In the first place, by observing this course he should break his promise of silence, and might probably by that means involve the safety, perhaps the life, of this woman, who had risked her own to preserve his, and who had voluntarily endowed him with this treasure--a generosity which might thus become the means of her ruin. This was not to be thought of. Besides, he was a stranger, and for a time at least unprovided with means of establishing his own character and credit to the satisfaction of a stupid or obstinate country magistrate. 'I will think over the matter more maturely,' he said; 'perhaps there may be a regiment quartered at the county town, in which case my knowledge of the service and acquaintance with many officers of the army cannot fail to establish my situation and character by evidence which a civil judge could not sufficiently estimate. And then I shall have the commanding officer's assistance in managing matters so as to screen this unhappy madwoman, whose mistake or prejudice has been so fortunate for me. A civil magistrate might think himself obliged to send out warrants for her at once, and the consequence, in case of her being taken, is pretty evident. No, she has been upon honour with me if she were the devil, and I will be equally upon honour with her. She shall have the privilege of a court-martial, where the point of honour can qualify strict law. Besides, I may see her at this place, Kipple--Couple--what did she call it? and then I can make restitution to her, and e'en let the law claim its own when it can secure her. In the meanwhile, however, I cut rather an awkward figure for one who has the honour to bear his Majesty's commission, being little better than the receiver of stolen goods.'
With these reflections, Brown took from the gipsy's treasure three or four guineas, for the purpose of his immediate expenses, and, tying up the rest in the purse which contained them, resolved not again to open it until he could either restore it to her by whom it was given, or put it into the hands of some public functionary. He next thought of the cutlass, and his first impulse was to leave it in the plantation. But, when he considered the risk of meeting with these ruffians, he could not resolve on parting with his arms. His walking-dress, though plain, had so much of a military character as suited not amiss with his having such a weapon. Besides, though the custom of wearing swords by persons out of uniform had been gradually becoming antiquated, it was not yet so totally forgotten as to occasion any particular remark towards those who chose to adhere to it. Retaining, therefore, his weapon of defence, and placing the purse of the gipsy in a private pocket, our traveller strode gallantly on through the wood in search of the promised highroad.
All school day's friendship childhood innocence'
We Hermia like two artificial gods
Have with our needles created both one flower,
Both on one sampler sitting on one cushion,
Both warbling of one song both in one key
As if our hands our sides, voices and minds
Had been incorporate
A Midsummer Night's Dream
JULIA MANNERING TO MATILDA MARCHMONT
'How can you upbraid me, my dearest Matilda, with abatement in friendship or fluctuation in affection? Is it possible for me to forget that you are the chosen of my heart, in whose faithful bosom I have deposited every feeling which your poor Julia dares to acknowledge to herself? And you do me equal injustice in upbraiding me with exchanging your friendship for that of Lucy Bertram. I assure you she has not the materials I must seek for in a bosom confidante. She is a charming girl, to be sure, and I like her very much, and I confess our forenoon and evening engagements have left me less time for the exercise of my pen than our proposed regularity of correspondence demands. But she is totally devoid of elegant accomplishments, excepting the knowledge of French and Italian, which she acquired from the most grotesque monster you ever beheld, whom my father has engaged as a kind of librarian, and whom he patronises, I believe, to show his defiance of the world's opinion. Colonel Mannering seems to have formed a determination that nothing shall be considered as ridiculous so long as it appertains to or is connected with him. I remember in India he had picked up somewhere a little mongrel cur, with bandy legs, a long back, and huge flapping ears. Of this uncouth creature he chose to make a favourite, in despite of all taste and opinion; and I remember one instance which he alleged, of what he called Brown's petulance, was, that he had criticised severely the crooked legs and drooping ears of Bingo. On my word, Matilda, I believe he nurses his high opinion of this most awkward of all pedants upon a similar principle. He seats the creature at table, where he pronounces a grace that sounds like the scream of the man in the square that used to cry mackerel, flings his meat down his throat by shovelfuls, like a dustman loading his cart, and apparently without the most distant perception of what he is swallowing, then bleats forth another unnatural set of tones by way of returning thanks, stalks out of the room, and immerses himself among a parcel of huge worm-eaten folios that are as uncouth as himself! I could endure the creature well enough had I anybody to laugh at him along with me; but Lucy Bertram, if I but verge on the border of a jest affecting this same Mr. Sampson (such is the horrid man's horrid name), looks so piteous that it deprives me of all spirit to proceed, and my father knits his brow, flashes fire from his eye, bites his lip, and says something that is extremely rude and uncomfortable to my feelings.
'It was not of this creature, however, that I meant to speak to you, only that, being a good scholar in the modern as well as the ancient languages, he has contrived to make Lucy Bertram mistress of the former, and she has only, I believe, to thank her own good sense, or obstinacy, that the Greek, Latin (and Hebrew, for aught I know), were not added to her acquisitions. And thus she really has a great fund of information, and I assure you I am daily surprised at the power which she seems to possess of amusing herself by recalling and arranging the subjects of her former reading. We read together every morning, and I begin to like Italian much better than when we were teased by that conceited animal Cicipici. This is the way to spell his name, and not Chichipichi; you see I grow a connoisseur.
'But perhaps I like Miss Bertram more for the accomplishments she wants than for the knowledge she possesses. She knows nothing of music whatever, and no more of dancing than is here common to the meanest peasants, who, by the way, dance with great zeal and spirit. So that I am instructor in my turn, and she takes with great gratitude lessons from me upon the harpsichord; and I have even taught her some of La Pique's steps, and you know he thought me a promising scholar.
'In the evening papa often reads, and I assure you he is the best reader of poetry you ever heard; not like that actor who made a kind of jumble between reading and acting,--staring, and bending his brow, and twisting his face, and gesticulating as if he were on the stage and dressed out in all his costume. My father's manner is quite different; it is the reading of a gentleman, who produces effect by feeling, taste, and inflection of voice, not by action or mummery. Lucy Bertram rides remarkably well, and I can now accompany her on horseback, having become emboldened by example. We walk also a good deal in spite of the cold. So, upon the whole, I have not quite so much time for writing as I used to have.
'Besides, my love, I must really use the apology of all stupid correspondents, that I have nothing to say. My hopes, my fears, my anxieties about Brown are of a less interesting cast since I know that he is at liberty and in health. Besides, I must own I think that by this time the gentleman might have given me some intimation what he was doing. Our intercourse may be an imprudent one, but it is not very complimentary to me that Mr. Vanbeest Brown should be the first to discover that such is the case, and to break off in consequence. I can promise him that we might not differ much in opinion should that happen to be his, for I have sometimes thought I have behaved extremely foolishly in that matter. Yet I have so good an opinion of poor Brown, that I cannot but think there is something extraordinary in his silence.
'To return to Lucy Bertram. No, my dearest Matilda, she can never, never rival you in my regard, so that all your affectionate jealousy on that account is without foundation. She is, to be sure, a very pretty, a very sensible, a very affectionate girl, and I think there are few persons to whose consolatory friendship I could have recourse more freely in what are called the real evils of life. But then these so seldom come in one's way, and one wants a friend who will sympathise with distresses of sentiment as well as with actual misfortune. Heaven knows, and you know, my dearest Matilda, that these diseases of the heart require the balm of sympathy and affection as much as the evils of a more obvious and determinate character. Now Lucy Bertram has nothing of this kindly sympathy, nothing at all, my dearest Matilda. Were I sick of a fever, she would sit up night after night to nurse me with the most unrepining patience; but with the fever of the heart, which my Matilda has soothed so often, she has no more sympathy than her old tutor. And yet what provokes me is, that the demure monkey actually has a lover of her own, and that their mutual affection (for mutual I take it to be) has a great deal of complicated and romantic interest. She was once, you must know, a great heiress, but was ruined by the prodigality of her father and the villainy of a horrid man in whom he confided. And one of the handsomest young gentlemen in the country is attached to her; but, as he is heir to a great estate, she discourages his addresses on account of the disproportion of their fortune.
'But with all this moderation, and self-denial, and modesty, and so forth, Lucy is a sly girl. I am sure she loves young Hazlewood, and I am sure he has some guess of that, and would probably bring her to acknowledge it too if my father or she would allow him an opportunity. But you must know the Colonel is always himself in the way to pay Miss Bertram those attentions which afford the best indirect opportunities for a young gentleman in Hazlewood's situation. I would have my good papa take care that he does not himself pay the usual penalty of meddling folks. I assure you, if I were Hazlewood I should look on his compliments, his bowings, his cloakings, his shawlings, and his handings with some little suspicion; and truly I think Hazlewood does so too at some odd times. Then imagine what a silly figure your poor Julia makes on such occasions! Here is my father making the agreeable to my friend; there is young Hazlewood watching every word of her lips, and every motion of her eye; and I have not the poor satisfaction of interesting a human being, not even the exotic monster of a parson, for even he sits with his mouth open, and his huge round goggling eyes fixed like those of a statue, admiring Mess Baartram!
'All this makes me sometimes a little nervous, and sometimes a little mischievous. I was so provoked at my father and the lovers the other day for turning me completely out of their thoughts and society, that I began an attack upon Hazlewood, from which it was impossible for him, in common civility, to escape. He insensibly became warm in his defence,--I assure you, Matilda, he is a very clever as well as a very handsome young man, and I don't think I ever remember having seen him to the same advantage,--when, behold, in the midst of our lively conversation, a very soft sigh from Miss Lucy reached my not ungratified ears. I was greatly too generous to prosecute my victory any farther, even if I had not been afraid of papa. Luckily for me, he had at that moment got into a long description of the peculiar notions and manners of a certain tribe of Indians who live far up the country, and was illustrating them by making drawings on Miss Bertram's work-patterns, three of which he utterly damaged by introducing among the intricacies of the pattern his specimens of Oriental costume. But I believe she thought as little of her own gown at the moment as of the Indian turbands and cummerbands. However, it was quite as well for me that he did not see all the merit of my little manoeuvre, for he is as sharp-sighted as a hawk, and a sworn enemy to the slightest shade of coquetry.
'Well, Matilda, Hazlewood heard this same halfaudible sigh, and instantly repented his temporary attentions to such an unworthy object as your Julia, and, with a very comical expression of consciousness, drew near to Lucy's work-table. He made some trifling observation, and her reply was one in which nothing but an ear as acute as that of a lover, or a curious observer like myself, could have distinguished anything more cold and dry than usual. But it conveyed reproof to the self-accusing hero, and he stood abashed accordingly. You will admit that I was called upon in generosity to act as mediator. So I mingled in the conversation, in the quiet tone of an unobserving and uninterested third party, led them into their former habits of easy chat, and, after having served awhile as the channel of communication through which they chose to address each other, set them down to a pensive game at chess, and very dutifully went to tease papa, who was still busied with his drawings. The chess-players, you must observe, were placed near the chimney, beside a little work-table, which held the board and men, the Colonel at some distance, with lights upon a library table; for it is a large old-fashioned room, with several recesses, and hung with grim tapestry, representing what it might have puzzled the artist himself to explain.
'"Is chess a very interesting game, papa?"
'"I am told so," without honouring me with much of his notice.
'"I should think so, from the attention Mr. Hazlewood and Lucy are bestowing on it."
'He raised his head "hastily and held his pencil suspended for an instant. Apparently he saw nothing that excited his suspicions, for he was resuming the folds of a Mahratta's turban in tranquillity when I interrupted him with--"How old is Miss Bertram, sir?"
"'How should I know, Miss? About your own age, I suppose."
'"Older, I should think, sir. You are always telling me how much more decorously she goes through all the honours of the tea-table. Lord, papa, what if you should give her a right to preside once and for ever!"
'"Julia, my dear," returned papa, "you are either a fool outright or you are more disposed to make mischief than I have yet believed you."
'"Oh, my dear sir! put your best construction upon it; I would not be thought a fool for all the world."
'"Then why do you talk like one?" said my father.
'"Lord, sir, I am sure there is nothing so foolish in what I said just now. Everybody knows you are a very handsome man" (a smile was just visible), "that is, for your time of life" (the dawn was overcast), "which is far from being advanced, and I am sure I don't know why you should not please yourself, if you have a mind. I am sensible I am but a thoughtless girl, and if a graver companion could render you more happy--"
'There was a mixture of displeasure and grave affection in the manner in which my father took my hand, that was a severe reproof to me for trifling with his feelings. "Julia," he said, "I bear with much of your petulance because I think I have in some degree deserved it, by neglecting to superintend your education sufficiently closely. Yet I would not have you give it the rein upon a subject so delicate. If you do not respect the feelings of your surviving parent towards the memory of her whom you have lost, attend at least to the sacred claims of misfortune; and observe, that the slightest hint of such a jest reaching Miss Bertram's ears would at once induce her to renounce her present asylum, and go forth, without a protector, into a world she has already felt so unfriendly."
'What could I say to this, Matilda? I only cried heartily, begged pardon, and promised to be a good girl in future. And so here am I neutralised again, for I cannot, in honour or common good-nature, tease poor Lucy by interfering with Hazlewood, although she has so little confidence in me; and neither can I, after this grave appeal, venture again upon such delicate ground with papa. So I burn little rolls of paper, and sketch Turks' heads upon visiting cards with the blackened end--I assure you I succeeded in making a superb Hyder-Ally last night--and I jingle on my unfortunate harpsichord, and begin at the end of a grave book and read it backward. After all, I begin to be very much vexed about Brown's silence. Had he been obliged to leave the country, I am sure he would at least have written to me. Is it possible that my father can have intercepted his letters? But no, that is contrary to all his principles; I don't think he would open a letter addressed to me to-night, to prevent my jumping out of window to-morrow. What an expression I have suffered to escape my pen! I should be ashamed of it, even to you, Matilda, and used in jest. But I need not take much merit for acting as I ought to do. This same Mr. Vanbeest Brown is by no means so very ardent a lover as to hurry the object of his attachment into such inconsiderate steps. He gives one full time to reflect, that must be admitted. However, I will not blame him unheard, nor permit myself to doubt the manly firmness of a character which I have so often extolled to you. Were he capable of doubt, of fear, of the shadow of change, I should have little to regret.
'And why, you will say, when I expect such steady and unalterable constancy from a lover, why should I be anxious about what Hazlewood does, or to whom he offers his attentions? I ask myself the question a hundred times a day, and it only receives the very silly answer that one does not like to be neglected, though one would not encourage a serious infidelity.
'I write all these trifles because you say that they amuse you, and yet I wonder how they should. I remember, in our stolen voyages to the world of fiction, you always admired the grand and the romantic,--tales of knights, dwarfs, giants, and distressed damsels, soothsayers, visions, beckoning ghosts, and bloody hands; whereas I was partial to the involved intrigues of private life, or at farthest to so much only of the supernatural as is conferred by the agency of an Eastern genie or a beneficent fairy. YOU would have loved to shape your course of life over the broad ocean, with its dead calms and howling tempests, its tornadoes, and its billows mountain-high; whereas I should like to trim my little pinnace to a brisk breeze in some inland lake or tranquil bay, where there was just difficulty of navigation sufficient to give interest and to require skill without any sensible degree of danger. So that, upon the whole, Matilda, I think you should have had my father, with his pride of arms and of ancestry, his chivalrous point of honour, his high talents, and his abstruse and mystic studies. You should have had Lucy Bertram too for your friend, whose fathers, with names which alike defy memory and orthography, ruled over this romantic country, and whose birth took place, as I have been indistinctly informed, under circumstances of deep and peculiar interest. You should have had, too, our Scottish residence, surrounded by mountains, and our lonely walks to haunted ruins. And I should have had, in exchange, the lawns and shrubs, and green-houses and conservatories, of Pine Park, with your good, quiet, indulgent aunt, her chapel in the morning, her nap after dinner, her hand at whist in the evening, not forgetting her fat coach-horses and fatter coachman. Take notice, however, that Brown is not included in this proposed barter of mine; his good-humour, lively conversation, and open gallantry suit my plan of life as well as his athletic form, handsome features, and high spirit would accord with a character of chivalry. So, as we cannot change altogether out and out, I think we must e'en abide as we are.'
I renounce your defiance; if you parley so roughly I'll
barricade my gates against you. Do you see yon bay window?
Storm, I care not, serving the good Duke of Norfolk
Merry Devil of Edmonton.
JULIA MANNERING to MATILDA MARCHMONT
'I rise from a sick-bed, my dearest Matilda, to communicate the strange and frightful scenes which have just passed. Alas! how little we ought to jest with futurity! I closed my letter to you in high spirits, with some flippant remarks on your taste for the romantic and extraordinary in fictitious narrative. How little I expected to have had such events to record in the course of a few days! And to witness scenes of terror, or to contemplate them in description, is as different, my dearest Matilda, as to bend over the brink of a precipice holding by the frail tenure of a half-rooted shrub, or to admire the same precipice as represented in the landscape of Salvator. But I will not anticipate my narrative.
'The first part of my story is frightful enough, though it had nothing to interest my feelings. You must know that this country is particularly favourable to the commerce of a set of desperate men from the Isle of Man, which is nearly opposite. These smugglers are numerous, resolute, and formidable, and have at different times become the dread of the neighbourhood when any one has interfered with their contraband trade. The local magistrates, from timidity or worse motives, have become shy of acting against them, and impunity has rendered them equally daring and desperate. With all this my father, a stranger in the land, and invested with no official authority, had, one would think, nothing to do. But it must be owned that, as he himself expresses it, he was born when Mars was lord of his ascendant, and that strife and bloodshed find him out in circumstances and situations the most retired and pacific.
'About eleven o'clock on last Tuesday morning, while Hazlewood and my father were proposing to walk to a little lake about three miles' distance, for the purpose of shooting wild ducks, and while Lucy and I were busied with arranging our plan of work and study for the day, we were alarmed by the sound of horses' feet advancing very fast up the avenue. The ground was hardened by a severe frost, which made the clatter of the hoofs sound yet louder and sharper. In a moment two or three men, armed, mounted, and each leading a spare horse loaded with packages, appeared on the lawn, and, without keeping upon the road, which makes a small sweep, pushed right across for the door of the house. Their appearance was in the utmost degree hurried and disordered, and they frequently looked back like men who apprehended a close and deadly pursuit. My father and Hazlewood hurried to the front door to demand who they were, and what was their business. They were revenue officers, they stated, who had seized these horses, loaded with contraband articles, at a place about three miles off. But the smugglers had been reinforced, and were now pursuing them with the avowed purpose of recovering the goods, and putting to death the officers who had presumed to do their duty. The men said that, their horses being loaded, and the pursuers gaining ground upon them, they had fled to Woodbourne, conceiving that, as my father had served the King, he would not refuse to protect the servants of government when threatened to be murdered in the discharge of their duty.
'My father, to whom, in his enthusiastic feelings of military loyalty, even a dog would be of importance if he came in the King's name, gave prompt orders for securing the goods in the hall, arming the servants, and defending the house in case it should be necessary. Hazlewood seconded him with great spirit, and even the strange animal they call Sampson stalked out of his den, and seized upon a fowling-piece which my father had laid aside to take what they call a rifle-gun, with which they shoot tigers, etc., in the East. The piece went off in the awkward hands of the poor parson, and very nearly shot one of the excisemen. At this unexpected and involuntary explosion of his weapon, the Dominie (such is his nickname) exclaimed, "Prodigious!" which is his usual ejaculation when astonished. But no power could force the man to part with his discharged piece, so they were content to let him retain it, with the precaution of trusting him with no ammunition. This (excepting the alarm occasioned by the report) escaped my notice at the time, you may easily believe; but, in talking over the scene afterwards, Hazlewood made us very merry with the Dominie's ignorant but zealous valour.
'When my father had got everything into proper order for defence, and his people stationed at the windows with their firearms, he wanted to order us out of danger--into the cellar, I believe--but we could not be prevailed upon to stir. Though terrified to death, I have so much of his own spirit that I would look upon the peril which threatens us rather than hear it rage around me without knowing its nature or its progress. Lucy, looking as pale as a marble statue, and keeping her eyes fixed on Hazlewood, seemed not even to hear the prayers with which he conjured her to leave the front of the house. But in truth, unless the hall-door should be forced, we were in little danger; the windows being almost blocked up with cushions and pillows, and, what the Dominie most lamented, with folio volumes, brought hastily from the library, leaving only spaces through which the defenders might fire upon the assailants.
'My father had now made his dispositions, and we sat in breathless expectation in the darkened apartment, the men remaining all silent upon their posts, in anxious contemplation probably of the approaching danger. My father, who was quite at home in such a scene, walked from one to another and reiterated his orders that no one should presume to fire until he gave the word. Hazlewood, who seemed to catch courage from his eye, acted as his aid-de-camp, and displayed the utmost alertness in bearing his directions from one place to another, and seeing them properly carried into execution. Our force, with the strangers included, might amount to about twelve men.
'At length the silence of this awful period of expectation was broken by a sound which at a distance was like the rushing of a stream of water, but as it approached we distinguished the thick-beating clang of a number of horses advancing very fast. I had arranged a loophole for myself, from which I could see the approach of the enemy. The noise increased and came nearer, and at length thirty horsemen and more rushed at once upon the lawn. You never saw such horrid wretches! Notwithstanding the severity of the season, they were most of them stripped to their shirts and trowsers, with silk handkerchiefs knotted about their heads, and all well armed with carbines, pistols, and cutlasses. I, who am a soldier's daughter, and accustomed to see war from my infancy, was never so terrified in my life as by the savage appearance of these ruffians, their horses reeking with the speed at which they had ridden, and their furious exclamations of rage and disappointment when they saw themselves baulked of their prey. They paused, however, when they saw the preparations made to receive them, and appeared to hold a moment's consultation among themselves. At length one of the party, his face blackened with gunpowder by way of disguise, came forward with a white handkerchief on the end of his carbine, and asked to speak with Colonel Mannering. My father, to my infinite terror, threw open a window near which he was posted, and demanded what he wanted. "We want our goods, which we have been robbed of by these sharks," said the fellow; "and our lieutenant bids me say that, if they are delivered, we'll go off for this bout without clearing scores with the rascals who took them; but if not, we'll burn the house, and have the heart's blood of every one in it,"--a threat which he repeated more than once, graced by a fresh variety of imprecations, and the most horrid denunciations that cruelty could suggest.
'"And which is your lieutenant?" said my father in reply.
'"That gentleman on the grey horse," said the miscreant, "with the red handkerchief bound about his brow."
'"Then be pleased to tell that gentleman that, if he and the scoundrels who are with him do not ride off the lawn this instant, I will fire upon them without ceremony." So saying, my father shut the window and broke short the conference.
'The fellow no sooner regained his troop than, with a loud hurra, or rather a savage yell, they fired a volley against our garrison. The glass of the windows was shattered in every direction, but the precautions already noticed saved the party within from suffering. Three such volleys were fired without a shot being returned from within. My father then observed them getting hatchets and crows, probably to assail the hall-door, and called aloud, "Let none fire but Hazlewood and me; Hazlewood, mark the ambassador." He himself aimed at the man on the grey horse, who fell on receiving his shot. Hazlewood was equally successful. He shot the spokesman, who had dismounted and was advancing with an axe in his hand. Their fall discouraged the rest, who began to turn round their horses; and a few shots fired at them soon sent them off, bearing along with them their slain or wounded companions. We could not observe that they suffered any farther loss. Shortly after their retreat a party of soldiers made their appearance, to my infinite relief. These men were quartered at a village some miles distant, and had marched on the first rumour of the skirmish. A part of them escorted the terrified revenue officers and their seizure to a neighbouring seaport as a place of safety, and at my earnest request two or three files remained with us for that and the following day, for the security of the house from the vengeance of these banditti.
'Such, dearest Matilda, was my first alarm. I must not forget to add that the ruffians left, at a cottage on the roadside, the man whose face was blackened with powder, apparently because he was unable to bear transportation. He died in about half an hour after. On examining the corpse, it proved to be that of a profligate boor in the neighbourhood, a person notorious as a poacher and smuggler. We received many messages of congratulation from the neighbouring families, and it was generally allowed that a few such instances of spirited resistance would greatly check the presumption of these lawless men. My father distributed rewards among his servants, and praised Hazlewood's courage and coolness to the skies. Lucy and I came in for a share of his applause, because we had stood fire with firmness, and had not disturbed him with screams or expostulations. As for the Dominie, my father took an opportunity of begging to exchange snuff-boxes with him. The honest gentleman was much flattered with the proposal, and extolled the beauty of his new snuff-box excessively. "It looked," he said, "as well as if it were real gold from Ophir." Indeed, it would be odd if it should not, being formed in fact of that very metal; but, to do this honest creature justice, I believe the knowledge of its real value would not enhance his sense of my father's kindness, supposing it, as he does, to be pinchbeck gilded. He has had a hard task replacing the folios which were used in the barricade, smoothing out the creases and dog's-ears, and repairing the other disasters they have sustained during their service in the fortification. He brought us some pieces of lead and bullets which these ponderous tomes had intercepted during the action, and which he had extracted with great care; and, were I in spirits, I could give you a comic account of his astonishment at the apathy with which we heard of the wounds and mutilation suffered by Thomas Aquinas or the venerable Chrysostom. But I am not in spirits, and I have yet another and a more interesting incident to communicate. I feel, however, so much fatigued with my present exertion that I cannot resume the pen till to-morrow. I will detain this letter notwithstanding, that you may not feel any anxiety upon account of your own
Here's a good world!
Knew you of this fair work?
JULIA MANNERING to MATILDA MARCHMONT
'I must take up the thread of my story, my dearest Matilda, where I broke off yesterday.
'For two or three days we talked of nothing but our siege and its probable consequences, and dinned into my father's unwilling ears a proposal to go to Edinburgh, or at least to Dumfries, where there is remarkably good society, until the resentment of these outlaws should blow over. He answered with great composure that he had no mind to have his landlord's house and his own property at Woodbourne destroyed; that, with our good leave, he had usually been esteemed competent to taking measures for the safety or protection of his family; that, if he remained quiet at home, he conceived the welcome the villains had received was not of a nature to invite a second visit, but should he show any signs of alarm, it would be the sure way to incur the very risk which we were afraid of. Heartened by his arguments, and by the extreme indifference with which he treated the supposed danger, we began to grow a little bolder, and to walk about as usual. Only the gentlemen were sometimes invited to take their guns when they attended us, and I observed that my father for several nights paid particular attention to having the house properly secured, and required his domestics to keep their arms in readiness in case of necessity.
'But three days ago chanced an occurrence of a nature which alarmed me more by far than the attack of the smugglers.
'I told you there was a small lake at some distance from Woodbourne, where the gentlemen sometimes go to shoot wild-fowl. I happened at breakfast to say I should like to see this place in its present frozen state, occupied by skaters and curlers, as they call those who play a particular sort of game upon the ice. There is snow on the ground, but frozen so hard that I thought Lucy and I might venture to that distance, as the footpath leading there was well beaten by the repair of those who frequented it for pastime. Hazlewood instantly offered to attend us, and we stipulated that he should take his fowling-piece. He laughed a good deal at the idea of going a-shooting in the snow; but, to relieve our tremors, desired that a groom, who acts as gamekeeper occasionally, should follow us with his gun. As for Colonel Mannering, he does not like crowds or sights of any kind where human figures make up the show, unless indeed it were a military review, so he declined the party.
'We set out unusually early, on a fine, frosty, exhilarating morning, and we felt our minds, as well as our nerves, braced by the elasticity of the pure air. Our walk to the lake was delightful, or at least the difficulties were only such as diverted us,--a slippery descent, for instance, or a frozen ditch to cross, which made Hazlewood's assistance absolutely necessary. I don't think Lucy liked her walk the less for these occasional embarrassments.
'The scene upon the lake was beautiful. One side of it is bordered by a steep crag, from which hung a thousand enormous icicles all glittering in the sun; on the other side was a little wood, now exhibiting that fantastic appearance which the pine trees present when their branches are loaded with snow. On the frozen bosom of the lake itself were a multitude of moving figures, some flitting along with the velocity of swallows, some sweeping in the most graceful circles, and others deeply interested in a less active pastime, crowding round the spot where the inhabitants of two rival parishes contended for the prize at curling,--an honour of no small importance, if we were to judge from the anxiety expressed both by the players and bystanders. We walked round the little lake, supported by Hazlewood, who lent us each an arm. He spoke, poor fellow, with great kindness to old and young, and seemed deservedly popular among the assembled crowd. At length we thought of retiring.
'Why do I mention these trivial occurrences? Not, Heaven knows, from the interest I can now attach to them; but because, like a drowning man who catches at a brittle twig, I seize every apology for delaying the subsequent and dreadful part of my narrative. But it must be communicated: I must have the sympathy of at least one friend under this heart-rending calamity.
'We were returning home by a footpath which led through a plantation of firs. Lucy had quitted Hazlewood's arm; it is only the plea of absolute necessity which reconciles her to accept his assistance. I still leaned upon his other arm. Lucy followed us close, and the servant was two or three paces behind us. Such was our position, when at once, and as if he had started out of the earth, Brown stood before us at a short turn of the road! He was very plainly, I might say coarsely, dressed, and his whole appearance had in it something wild and agitated. I screamed between surprise and terror. Hazlewood mistook the nature of my alarm, and, when Brown advanced towards me as if to speak, commanded him haughtily to stand back, and not to alarm the lady. Brown replied, with equal asperity, he had no occasion to take lessons from him how to behave to that or any other lady. I rather believe that Hazlewood, impressed with the idea that he belonged to the band of smugglers, and had some bad purpose in view, heard and understood him imperfectly. He snatched the gun from the servant, who had come up on a line with us, and, pointing the muzzle at Brown, commanded him to stand off at his peril. My screams, for my terror prevented my finding articulate language, only hastened the catastrophe. Brown, thus menaced, sprung upon Hazlewood, grappled with him, and had nearly succeeded in wrenching the fowling-piece from his grasp, when the gun went off in the struggle, and the contents were lodged in Hazlewood's shoulder, who instantly fell. I saw no more, for the whole scene reeled before my eyes, and I fainted away; but, by Lucy's report, the unhappy perpetrator of this action gazed a moment on the scene before him, until her screams began to alarm the people upon the lake, several of whom now came in sight. He then bounded over a hedge which divided the footpath from the plantation, and has not since been heard of. The servant made no attempt to stop or secure him, and the report he made of the matter to those who came up to us induced them rather to exercise their humanity in recalling me to life, than show their courage by pursuing a desperado, described by the groom as a man of tremendous personal strength, and completely armed.
'Hazlewood was conveyed home, that is, to Woodbourne, in safety; I trust his wound will prove in no respect dangerous, though he suffers much. But to Brown the consequences must be most disastrous. He is already the object of my father's resentment, and he has now incurred danger from the law of the country, as well as from the clamorous vengeance of the father of Hazlewood, who threatens to move heaven and earth against the author of his son's wound. How will he be able to shroud himself from the vindictive activity of the pursuit? how to defend himself, if taken, against the severity of laws which, I am told, may even affect his life? and how can I find means to warn him of his danger? Then poor Lucy's ill-concealed grief, occasioned by her lover's wound, is another source of distress to me, and everything round me appears to bear witness against that indiscretion which has occasioned this calamity.
'For two days I was very ill indeed. The news that Hazlewood was recovering, and that the person who had shot him was nowhere to be traced, only that for certain he was one of the leaders of the gang of smugglers, gave me some comfort. The suspicion and pursuit being directed towards those people must naturally facilitate Brown's escape, and I trust has ere this ensured it. But patrols of horse and foot traverse the country in all directions, and I am tortured by a thousand confused and unauthenticated rumours of arrests and discoveries.
'Meanwhile my greatest source of comfort is the generous candour of Hazlewood, who persists in declaring that, with whatever intentions the person by whom he was wounded approached our party, he is convinced the gun went off in the struggle by accident, and that the injury he received was undesigned. The groom, on the other hand, maintains that the piece was wrenched out of Hazlewood's hands and deliberately pointed at his body, and Lucy inclines to the same opinion; I do not suspect them of wilful exaggeration, yet such is the fallacy of human testimony, for the unhappy shot was most unquestionably discharged unintentionally. Perhaps it would be the best way to confide the whole secret to Hazlewood; but he is very young, and I feel the utmost repugnance to communicate to him my folly. I once thought of disclosing the mystery to Lucy, and began by asking what she recollected of the person and features of the man whom we had so unfortunately met; but she ran out into such a horrid description of a hedgeruffian, that I was deprived of all courage and disposition to own my attachment to one of such appearance as she attributed to him. I must say Miss Bertram is strangely biassed by her prepossessions, for there are few handsomer men than poor Brown. I had not seen him for a long time, and even in his strange and sudden apparition on this unhappy occasion, and under every disadvantage, his form seems to me, on reflection, improved in grace and his features in expressive dignity. Shall we ever meet again? Who can answer that question? Write to me kindly, my dearest Matilda; but when did you otherwise? Yet, again, write to me soon, and write to me kindly. I am not in a situation to profit by advice or reproof, nor have I my usual spirits to parry them by raillery. I feel the terrors of a child who has in heedless sport put in motion some powerful piece of machinery; and, while he beholds wheels revolving, chains clashing, cylinders rolling around him, is equally astonished at the tremendous powers which his weak agency has called into action, and terrified for the consequences which he is compelled to await, without the possibility of averting them.
'I must not omit to say that my father is very kind and affectionate. The alarm which I have received forms a sufficient apology for my nervous complaints. My hopes are, that Brown has made his escape into the sister kingdom of England, or perhaps to Ireland or the Isle of Man. In either case he may await the issue of Hazlewood's wound with safety and with patience, for the communication of these countries with Scotland, for the purpose of justice, is not (thank Heaven) of an intimate nature. The consequences of his being apprehended would be terrible at this moment. I endeavour to strengthen my mind by arguing against the possibility of such a calamity. Alas! how soon have sorrows and fears, real as well as severe, followed the uniform and tranquil state of existence at which so lately I was disposed to repine! But I will not oppress you any longer with my complaints. Adieu, my dearest Matilda! 'JULIA MANNERING.'
NOTE 1, p. 25
The groaning malt mentioned in the text was the ale brewed for the purpose of being drunk after the lady or goodwife's safe delivery. The ken-no has a more ancient source, and perhaps the custom may be derived from the secret rites of the Bona Dea. A large and rich cheese was made by the women of the family, with great affectation of secrecy, for the refreshment of the gossips who were to attend at the 'canny' minute. This was the ken-no, so called because its existence was secret (that is, presumed to be so) from all the males of the family, but especially from the husband and master. He was accordingly expected to conduct himself as if he knew of no such preparation, to act as if desirous to press the female guests to refreshments, and to seem surprised at their obstinate refusal. But the instant his back was turned the ken-no was produced; and after all had eaten their fill, with a proper accompaniment of the groaning malt, the remainder was divided among the gossips, each carrying a large portion home with the same affectation of great secrecy.
NOTE 2, p. 198
It is fitting to explain to the reader the locality described in chapter xxii. There is, or rather I should say there WAS, a little inn called Mumps's Hall, that is, being interpreted, Beggar's Hotel, near to Gilsland, which had not then attained its present fame as a Spa. It was a hedge alehouse, where the Border farmers of either country often stopped to refresh themselves and their nags, in their way to and from the fairs and trysts in Cumberland, and especially those who came from or went to Scotland, through a barren and lonely district, without either road or pathway, emphatically called the Waste of Bewcastle. At the period when the adventures described in the novel are supposed to have taken place, there were many instances of attacks by freebooters on those who travelled through this wild district, and Mumps's Ha' had a bad reputation for harbouring the banditti who committed such depredations.
An old and sturdy yeoman belonging to the Scottish side, by surname an Armstrong or Elliot, but well known by his soubriquet of Fighting Charlie of Liddesdale, and still remembered for the courage he displayed in the frequent frays which took place on the Border fifty or sixty years since, had the following adventure in the Waste, which suggested the idea of the scene in the text:--
Charlie had been at Stagshawbank Fair, had sold his sheep or cattle, or whatever he had brought to market, and was on his return to Liddesdale. There were then no country banks where cash could be deposited and bills received instead, which greatly encouraged robbery in that wild country, as the objects of plunder were usually fraught with gold. The robbers had spies in the fair, by means of whom they generally knew whose purse was best stocked, and who took a lonely and desolate road homeward,--those, in short, who were best worth robbing and likely to be most easily robbed.
All this Charlie knew full well; but he had a pair of excellent pistols and a dauntless heart. He stopped at Mumps's Ha', notwithstanding the evil character of the place. His horse was accommodated where it might have the necessary rest and feed of corn; and Charlie himself, a dashing fellow, grew gracious with the landlady, a buxom quean, who used all the influence in her power to induce him to stop all night. The landlord was from home, she said, and it was ill passing the Waste, as twilight must needs descend on him before he gained the Scottish side, which was reckoned the safest. But Fighting Charlie, though he suffered himself to be detained later than was prudent, did not account Mumps's Ha' a safe place to quarter in during the night. He tore himself away, therefore, from Meg's good fare and kind words, and mounted his nag, having first examined his pistols, and tried by the ramrod whether the charge remained in them.
He proceeded a mile or two at a round trot, when, as the Waste stretched black before him, apprehensions began to awaken in his mind, partly arising out of Meg's unusual kindness, which he could not help thinking had rather a suspicious appearance. He therefore resolved to reload his pistols, lest the powder had become damp; but what was his surprise, when he drew the charge, to find neither powder nor ball, while each barrel had been carefully filled with TOW, up to the space which the loading had occupied! and, the priming of the weapons being left untouched, nothing but actually drawing and examining the charge could have discovered the inefficiency of his arms till the fatal minute arrived when their services were required. Charlie bestowed a hearty Liddesdale curse on his landlady, and reloaded his pistols with care and accuracy, having now no doubt that he was to be waylaid and assaulted. He was not far engaged in the Waste, which was then, and is now, traversed only by such routes as are described in the text, when two or three fellows, disguised and variously armed, started from a moss-hag, while by a glance behind him (for, marching, as the Spaniard says, with his beard on his shoulder, he reconnoitred in every direction) Charlie instantly saw retreat was impossible, as other two stout men appeared behind him at some distance. The Borderer lost not a moment in taking his resolution, and boldly trotted against his enemies in front, who called loudly on him to stand and deliver; Charlie spurred on, and presented his pistol. 'D--n your pistol,' said the foremost robber, whom Charlie to his dying day protested he believed to have been the landlord of Mumps's Ha', 'd--n your pistol! I care not a curse for it.' 'Ay, lad,' said the deep voice of Fighting Charlie, 'but the TOW'S out now.' He had no occasion to utter another word; the rogues, surprised at finding a man of redoubted courage well armed, instead of being defenceless, took to the moss in every direction, and he passed on his way without farther molestation.
The author has heard this story told by persons who received it from Fighting Charlie himself; he has also heard that Mumps's Ha' was afterwards the scene of some other atrocious villainy, for which the people of the house suffered. But these are all tales of at least half a century old, and the Waste has been for many years as safe as any place in the kingdom.
NOTE 3, p. 213
The author may here remark that the character of Dandie Dinmont was drawn from no individual. A dozen, at least, of stout Liddesdale yeomen with whom he has been acquainted, and whose hospitality he has shared in his rambles through that wild country, at a time when it was totally inaccessible save in the manner described in the text, might lay claim to be the prototype of the rough, but faithful, hospitable, and generous farmer. But one circumstance occasioned the name to be fixed upon a most respectable individual of this class, now no more. Mr. James Davidson of Hindlee, a tenant of Lord Douglas, besides the points of blunt honesty, personal strength, and hardihood designed to be expressed in the character of Dandie Dinmont, had the humour of naming a celebrated race of terriers which he possessed by the generic names of Mustard and Pepper (according as their colour was yellow or greyish-black), without any other individual distinction except as according to the nomenclature in the text. Mr. Davidson resided at Hindlee, a wild farm on the very edge of the Teviotdale mountains, and bordering close on Liddesdale, where the rivers and brooks divide as they take their course to the Eastern and Western seas. His passion for the chase in all its forms, but especially for fox-hunting, as followed in the fashion described in chapter xxv, in conducting which he was skilful beyond most men in the South Highlands, was the distinguishing point in his character.
When the tale on which these comments are written became rather popular, the name of Dandie Dinmont was generally given to him, which Mr. Davidson received with great good-humour, only saying, while he distinguished the author by the name applied to him in the country, where his own is so common--'that the Sheriff had not written about him mair than about other folk, but only about his dogs.' An English lady of high rank and fashion, being desirous to possess a brace of the celebrated Mustard and Pepper terriers, expressed her wishes in a letter which was literally addressed to Dandie Dinmont, under which very general direction it reached Mr. Davidson, who was justly proud of the application, and failed not to comply with a request which did him and his favourite attendants so much honour.
I trust I shall not be considered as offending the memory of a kind and worthy man, if I mention a little trait of character which occurred in Mr. Davidson's last illness. I use the words of the excellent clergyman who attended him, who gave the account to a reverend gentleman of the same persuasion:--
'I read to Mr. Davidson the very suitable and interesting truths you addressed to him. He listened to them with great seriousness, and has uniformly displayed a deep concern about his soul's salvation. He died on the first Sabbath of the year (1820); an apoplectic stroke deprived him in an instant of all sensation, but happily his brother was at his bedside, for he had detained him from the meeting-house that day to be near him, although he felt himself not much worse than usual. So you have got the last little Mustard that the hand of Dandie Dinmont bestowed.
'His ruling passion was strong even on the eve of death. Mr. Baillie's fox-hounds had started a fox opposite to his window a few weeks ago, and as soon as he heard the sound of the dogs his eyes glistened; he insisted on getting out of bed, and with much difficulty got to the window and there enjoyed the fun, as he called it. When I came down to ask for him, he said, "he had seen Reynard, but had not seen his death. If it had been the will of Providence," he added, "I would have liked to have been after him; but I am glad that I got to the window, and am thankful for what I saw, for it has done me a great deal of good." Notwithstanding these eccentricities (adds the sensible and liberal clergyman), I sincerely hope and believe he has gone to a better world, and better company and enjoyments.'
If some part of this little narrative may excite a smile, it is one which is consistent with the most perfect respect for the simple-minded invalid and his kind and judicious religious instructor, who, we hope, will not be displeased with our giving, we trust, a correct edition of an anecdote which has been pretty generally circulated. The race of Pepper and Mustard are in the highest estimation at this day, not only for vermin-killing, but for intelligence and fidelity. Those who, like the author, possess a brace of them, consider them as very desirable companions.
NOTE 4, p. 232
The cleek here intimated is the iron hook, or hooks, depending from the chimney of a Scottish cottage, on which the pot is suspended when boiling. The same appendage is often called the crook. The salmon is usually dried by hanging it up, after being split and rubbed with salt, in the smoke of the turf fire above the cleeks, where it is said to 'reist,' that preparation being so termed. The salmon thus preserved is eaten as a delicacy, under the name of kipper, a luxury to which Dr. Redgill has given his sanction as an ingredient of the Scottish breakfast.--See the excellent novel entitled MARRIAGE.
NOTE 5, p. 234
The distinction of individuals by nicknames when they possess no property is still common on the Border, and indeed necessary, from the number of persons having the same name. In the small village of Lustruther, in Roxburghshire, there dwelt, in the memory of man, four inhabitants called Andrew, or Dandie, Oliver. They were distinguished as Dandie Eassil-gate, Dandie Wassilgate, Dandie Thumbie, and Dandie Dumbie. The two first had their names from living eastward and westward in the street of the village; the third from something peculiar in the conformation of his thumb; the fourth from his taciturn habits.
It is told as a well-known jest, that a beggar woman, repulsed from door to door as she solicited quarters through a village of Annandale, asked, in her despair, if there were no Christians in the place. To which the hearers, concluding that she inquired for some persons so surnamed, answered, 'Na, na, there are nae Christians here; we are a' Johnstones and Jardines.'
NOTE 6, p. 244
The mysterious rites in which Meg Merrilies is described as engaging belong to her character as a queen of her race. All know that gipsies in every country claim acquaintance with the gift of fortune-telling; but, as is often the case, they are liable to the superstitions of which they avail themselves in others. The correspondent of Blackwood, quoted in the Introduction to this Tale, gives us some information on the subject of their credulity.
'I have ever understood,' he says, speaking of the Yetholm gipsies,' that they are extremely superstitious, carefully noticing the formation of the clouds, the flight of particular birds, and the soughing of the winds, before attempting any enterprise. They have been known for several successive days to turn back with their loaded carts, asses, and children, upon meeting with persons whom they considered of unlucky aspect; nor do they ever proceed on their summer peregrinations without some propitious omen of their fortunate return. They also burn the clothes of their dead, not so much from any apprehension of infection being communicated by them, as the conviction that the very circumstance of wearing them would shorten the days of their living. They likewise carefully watch the corpse by night and day till the time of interment, and conceive that "the deil tinkles at the lyke-wake" of those who felt in their dead-thraw the agonies and terrors of remorse.'
These notions are not peculiar to the gipsies; but, having been once generally entertained among the Scottish common people, are now only found among those who are the most rude in their habits and most devoid of instruction. The popular idea, that the protracted struggle between life and death is painfully prolonged by keeping the door of the apartment shut, was received as certain by the superstitious eld of Scotland. But neither was it to be thrown wide open. To leave the door ajar was the plan adopted by the old crones who understood the mysteries of deathbeds and lykewakes. In that case there was room for the imprisoned spirit to escape; and yet an obstacle, we have been assured, was offered to the entrance of any frightful form which might otherwise intrude itself. The threshold of a habitation was in some sort a sacred limit, and the subject of much superstition. A bride, even to this day, is always lifted over it, a rule derived apparently from the Romans.
'A, he, I.
ablins, aiblins, perhaps.
aik, an oak.
ails, hinders, prevents.
auld threep, a superstitious notion.
avise, advise, deliberate.
bairn, a child.
ballant, a ballad.
bannock, a flat round or oval cake.
barken, stiffen, dry to a crust.
barrow-trams, the shafts of a hand barrow.
berling, a galley.
bield, a shelter, a house.
billie, a brother, a companion.
bing out and tour, go out and watch.
binna, be not.
birk, a birch tree.
bit, a little.
bittle, beat with a bat.
bittock, a little bit.
Black Peter, a portmanteau.
blate, shy, bashful.
blude, bluid, blood.
blunker, a cloth printer.
boddle, a copper coin worth one third of a penny.
bogle, a goblin, a spectre.
bonnet, a cap.
bonnie, bonny, pretty, fine.
bonspiel, a match game at curling.
bottle-head, beetle-head, stupid fellow.
bow, a boll.
bowster, a bolster.
brigg, a bridge.
brock, a badger, a dirty fellow.
brod, a church collection plate.
buckkar, a smuggling lugger.
bully-huff, a bully, a braggart.
burn, a brook.
cake-house, a house of entertainment.
callant, a stripling.
canny, lucky, cautious.
cantle, a fragment.
capons, castrated cocks.
carle, a churl, an old man.
cast, lot, fate.
chapping-stick, a stick to strike with.
cheerer, spirits and hot water.
chield, a young man.
chumlay, a chimney.
clashes, lies, scandal.
claught, clutched, caught.
clodded, threw heavily.
close, a lane, a narrow passage.
clour, a heavy blow.
cloyed a dud, stolen a rag.
collieshangie, an uproar.
come o' will, a child of love.
cramp-ring, shackles, fetters.
creel, a basket.
cuddy, an ass.
cusp, an entrance to a house.
cusser, a courser, a stallion.
daft, mad, foolish.
daurna, dare not.
deil-be-lickit, nothing, naught.
dike, a wall, a ditch.
dingle, a dell, a hollow.
dizzen, a dozen.
doo, a dove.
dooket, dukit, a dovecot.
douse the glim, put out the light.
dow, list, wish.
drap, a drop.
dub, a puddle.
eassel, provincial for eastward.
evening, putting on the same level.
fauld, a fold.
feck, a quantity.
fell, a skin.
fernseed, gather the, make invisible.
fie, mad, foredoomed.
fient a bit, never a bit
fient a haet, not the least.
fire-raising, setting fire.
firlot, a quarter of a boll.
fit, a foot.
flesh, fleesh, a fleece.
fond, glad to.
foumart, a polecat.
frummagem'd, throttled, hanged.
fule-body, a foolish person.
gate, gait, way.
gay, gey, very.
gelding, a castrated horse.
gentle or semple, high born or common people.
gliffing, a surprise, an instant.
gowan, a field daisy.
gowpen, a double handful.
grieve, an overseer.
grippet, grasped, caught.
gude, guid, good.
gudeman, master of a house.
hadden, held, gone.
hafflin, half grown.
hallan, a partition.
hank, a skein of yarn.
hansel, a present.
hantle, a quantity.
haud, hauld, hold.
heezie, a lift.
heuch, a crag, a steep bank.
hirsel, a flock.
hizzie, a housewife, a hussy.
hog, a young sheep.
horning, a warrant for a debtor.
houdie, a midwife.
howm, flat low ground.
humble-cow, a cow without horns.
jaw-hole, a sink.
jo, a sweetheart.
kahn, a skiff.
kaim, a low ridge, a comb.
kain, part of a farm-rent paid in fowls.
keep, a stronghold.
keepit, kept, attended.
kenna, do not know.
kibe, an ulcerated chilblain, a chapped heel.
killogie, the open space before a kiln fire.
kilting, girding or tucking up.
kimmer, a female gossip.
kipper, cured salmon.
kist, a chest, a coffin.
kitchen-mort, kinchen-mort, a girl.
kittle, tickle, ticklish.
kitt, a number, the whole.
knave, a boy.
knevell, knead, beat severely.
kobold, a hobgoblin.
laird, lord of the manor.
lampit, a limpet.
landloupers, persons of wandering tendencies.
lang or, long before.
langsyne, long ago.
lap and paunel, liquor and food.
lassie, a young girl.
leddy, a lady.
lee, pasture land.
leg bail, to give, to run away.
letter-gae, the precentor is called by Allan Ramsay
'the letter-gae of haly rhyme.'
levin, lightning, scorn.
lift, the sky.
like, as it were.
limmer, a jade, a hussy.
links, the windings of a river.
loan, an open place, a lane.
loaning, a milking place.
long bowls, ninepins.
looby, a booby, a lout.
loon, a clown, a rogue.
loup, leap, start.
low, blaze, flame.
luckie, an old woman.
lunt, blaze, torch.
lykewake, a watch at night over a dead body.
mair by token, especially.
meddling and making, interfering.
messan, a little dog.
milling in the darkmans, murder by night.
minded, looked after.
mirk, dark; pit mirk, pitch dark.
moonshie, a secretary.
moss, a morass.
moss-hag, a pit, a slough.
muckle, great, much.
muir, a moor, a heath.
muscavado, unrefined sugar.
mutchkin, a measure equal to an English pint.
na, nae, no.
needna, need not.
now, the, at once.
odd-come-shortly, chance time not far in the future.
orra, odd, occasional.
orra time, occasionally.
o't, of it.
out, out in rebellion.
out of house and hauld, destitute.
outcast, a falling out, a quarrel.
owt, the exterior, out.
parritch, oatmeal porridge.
peat-hag, a bog.
penny-stane, a stone quoit.
pinners, a headdress.
pirn, a reel.
plough-gate of land, land that can be tilled with one plough.
pock, a pouch, a bag.
poschay, a post-chaise.
pow, the head.
powny, a pony.
precentor, a leader of congregational singing.
prin, a pin.
quean, a young woman, a wench.
ramble, a spree.
randle-tree, a horizontal bar across a chimney, on which
pot-hooks are hung; sometimes used as an opprobrious epithet.
ranging and riping, scouring and searching.
rasp-house, a custom-house.
red cock craw, kindle a fire.
redding-straik, a blow received when trying to separate
reif and wear, robbery and injury.
reise, a bough.
reiver, a robber.
retour, return of a writ.
rive, rend, rob.
rotten, rottan, a rat.
roup, an auction.
roupit, sold at auction.
routing, snoring, bellowing.
rump and dozen, meat and drink, a good dinner.
run goods, smuggled goods.
samyn, the same.
sark, a shirt.
saugh, a willow tree.
scaff-raff, riff raff.
scart, scratched, written on.
schnaps, a dram of liquor.
scones, flat round cakes.
scouring the cramp-ring, said metaphorically for being
thrown into fetters or, generally, into prison.
screed o' drink, a drinking bout.
semple, simple, poor people.
shake-rag, a tatterdemalion.
shealing, sheiling, a shed, a hut.
sherra, a sheriff.
shoeing-horn, something that leads to more drinking.
shouther, a shoulder.
sic, so, such.
skeel, a bucket, a tub.
slack, a hollow, a morass.
slap, a breach.
slow-hund, a sleuth hound.
smack, smaik, a rogue, a low wretch.
soup o' drink, a spoonful.
souple, a cudgel.
sprug, a sparrow.
spunk, a spark.
stell, a stall, a covert.
stickit, stopped, hindered.
stir your gear, disturb your goods.
stark, a heifer, a bullock.
stiver, a small Dutch coin.
stoup, a drinking vessel, a wooden pitcher.
sunkets, delicacies, provisions of any kind.
sunkie, a low stool.
tait, a tuft.
tap, the top.
tass, a cup.
thereawa', thence, thereabout.
thrapple, the windpipe, the throat.
thristle, a thistle.
tippenny, ale at twopence a bottle.
tod, a fox.
tolbooth, a jail.
tow, a rope.
trine to the cheat, get hanged.
troking, intercourse, trafficking.
tulzie, tuilzie, a scuffle, a brawl.
tweel, a web.
tyke, a cur.
umwhile, formerly, late.
uncanny, weird, unlucky.
unco, strange, very.
upright man, the leader (and greatest rogue) of the gang.
warld, the world.
warlock, a wizard.
waster, a long spear.
wean, a young child.
weary fa', curse.
wedder, a wether.
weel-faured, well-favored, prepossessing.
weize, direct, incline.
whaap, the (or the Hope), is the sheltered part or hollow of the
hill. Hoff, howff, haaf, and haven are all modifications of
the same word.
wheen, a few.
whin, a few.
whinger, a kind of knife, a hanger.
whistle, give information against one.
whittret, a weasel.
witters, the barbs of the spear.
woodie, wuddie, a rope, a halter, the gallows.
worricow, a hobgoblin.
wots na, does not know.
wrang side of the blanket, illegitimate.
writer, an attorney.
wuddie, a rope, the gallows.
yaffing, chattering, barking.
yet, yere, your.
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