PLUNGED in the gloomy reflections which were naturally excited by his dismal reading, and disconsolate situation, Bertram, for the first time in his life, felt himself affected with a disposition to low spirits. I have been in worse situations than this too, he said;more dangerous, for here is no dangermore dismal in prospect, for my present confinement must necessarily be shortmore intolerable for the time, for here at least I have fire, food, and shelter. Yet with reading these bloody tales of crime and misery, in a place so corresponding to the ideas which they excite, and in listening to these sad sounds, I feel a stronger disposition to melancholy than in my life I ever experienced. But I will not give way to itBegone, thou record of guilt and infamy! he said, flinging the book upon the spare bed; a Scottish jail shall not break, on the very first day, the spirits which have resisted climate, and want, and penury, and disease, and imprisonment, in a foreign land. I have fought many a hard battle with dame Fortune, and she shall not beat me now if I can help it.
Then bending his mind to a strong effort, he endeavoured to view his situation in the most favourable light. Delaserre must soon be in Scotland; the certificates from his commanding-officer must soon arrive; nay, if Mannering were first applied to, who could say but the effect might be a reconciliation between them? He had often observed, and now remembered, that when his former colonel took the part of any one, it was never by halves, and that he seemed to love those persons most who had lain under obligation to him. In the present case, a favour, which could be asked with honour and granted with readiness, might be the means of reconciling them to each other. From this his feelings naturally turned towards Julia; and, without very nicely measuring the distance between a soldier of fortune, who expected that her fathers attestation would deliver him from confinement, and the heiress of that fathers wealth and expectations, he was building the gayest castle in the clouds and varnishing it with all the tints of a summer-evening sky, when his labour was interrupted by a loud knocking at the outer-gate, answered by the barking of the gaunt half-starved mastiff, which was quartered in the courtyard as an addition to the garrison. After much scrupulous precaution the gate was opened, and some person admitted. The house-door was next unbarred, unlocked, and unchained, a dogs feet pattered upstairs in great haste, and the animal was heard scratching and whining at the door of the room. Next a heavy step was heard lumbering up, and Mac-Guffogs voice in the character of pilotThis way, this way; take care of the step;thats the room.Bertrams door was then unbolted, and, to his great surprise and joy, his terrier Wasp rushed into the apartment, and almost devoured him with caresses, followed by the massy form of his friend from Charlies-hope.
If I hae time? said Dandie, with an accent on the word that sounded like a howl of derisionOu, what the deevil am I come here for, man, but just ance errand to see about it? But yell no be the waur o something to eat, I trow;its getting late at eenI telld the folk at the Change, where I put up Dumple, to send ower my supper here, and the chield Mac-Guffog is agreeable to let it inI hae settled a that.And now lets hear your storyWhisht, Wasp, man! wow but hes glad to see you, poor thing!
Bertrams story, being confined to the accident of Hazlewood, and the confusion made between his own identity and that of one of the smugglers who had been active in the assault of Woodbourne, and chanced to bear the same name, was soon told. Dinmont listened very attentively. Aweel, he said, this suld be nae sic dooms-desperate business surelythe lads doing well again that was hurt, and what signifies twa or three lead draps in his shouther? if ye had putten out his ee, it would hae been another case. But eh, as I wuss auld Sherra Pleydell was to the fore here!Od, he was the man for sorting them, and the queerest rough-spoken deevil too that ever ye heard!
Od, lad, queerly eneugh, said Dandie; but Ill tell ye that after we are done wi our supper, for will maybe no be sae weel to speak about it while that lang-lugged limmer o a lass is gaun flisking in and out o the room.
Bertrams curiosity was in some degree put to rest by the appearance of the supper which his friend had ordered, which, although homely enough, had the appetizing cleanliness in which Mrs. Mac-Guffogs cookery was so eminently deficient. Dinmont also, premising he had ridden the whole day since breakfast-time, without tasting anything to speak of, which qualifying phrase related to about three pounds of cold roast mutton which he had discussed at his midday stage,Dinmont, I say, fell stoutly upon the good cheer, and, like one of Homers heroes, said little, either good or bad, till the rage of thirst and hunger was appeased. At length, after a draught of home-brewed ale, he began by observing, Aweel, aweel, that hen, looking upon the lamentable relics of what had been once a large fowl, wasna a bad ane to be bred at a town end, though its no like our barndoor chuckies at Charlies-hopeand I am glad to see that this vexing job hasna taen awa your appetite, Captain.
I daur say noI daur say no, said Dandie.But now, hinny, that ye hae brought us the brandy, and the mug wi the het water, and the sugar, and a right, ye may steek the door, ye see, for we wad hae some o our ain cracks. The damsel accordingly retired, and shut the door of the apartment, to which she added the precaution of drawing a large bolt on the outside.
As soon as she was gone, Dandie reconnoitred the premises, listened at the key-hole as if he had been listening for the blowing of an otter,and having satisfied himself that there were no eavesdroppers, returned to the table; and making himself what he called a gey stiff cheerer, poked the fire, and began his story in an undertone of gravity and importance not very usual with him.
Ye see, Captain, I had been in Edinbro for twa or three days, looking after the burial of a friend that we hae lost, and maybe I suld hae had something for my ride; but theres disappointments in a things, and wha can help the like o that? And I had a wee bit law business besides, but thats neither here nor there. In short, I had got my matters settled, and hame I cam; and the morn awa to the muirs to see what the herds had been about, and I thought I might as weel gie a look to the Tout-hope head, where Jock o Dawston and me has the outcast about a march. Weel, just as I was coming upon the bit, I saw a man afore me that I kennd was nane o our herds, and its a wild bit to meet ony other body, so when I cam up to him, it was Tod Gabriel the fox-hunter. So I says to him, rather surprised like, What are ye doing up amang the craws here, without your hounds, man? are ye seeking the fox without the dogs? So he said, Na, gudeman, but I wanted to see yoursell.
And then, quo he, yell be ill-sorted to hear that hes like to be in the prison at Portanferry if he disna tak a the better care o himself, for theres been warrants out to tak him as soon as he comes ower the water frae Allonby. And now, gudeman, an ever ye wish him weel, ye maun ride down to Portanferry and let nae grass grow at the nags heels; and if ye find him in confinement, ye maun stay beside him night and day, for a day or twa, for hell want friends that hae baith heart and hand; and if ye neglect this, yell never rue but ance, for it will be for a your life.
Never ye mind that, quo he; them that brought us the news rade night and day, and ye maun be aff instantly if ye wad do ony gudeand sae I have naething mair to tell ye. Sae he sat himsell doun and hirselled doun into the glen, where it wad hae been ill following him wi the beast, and I cam back to Charlies-hope to tell the gudewife, for I was uncertain what to do. It wad look unco-like, I thought, just to be sent out on a hunt-the-gowk errand wi a land-louper like that. But, Lord! as the gudewife set up her throat about it, and said what a shame it wad be if ye was to come to ony wrang, an I could help ye;and then in cam your letter that confirmed it. So I took to the kist, and out wi the pickle notes in case they should be needed, and a the bairns ran to saddle Dumple. By great luck I had taen the other beast to Edinbro, sae Dumple was as fresh as a rose. Sae aff I set, and Wasp wi me, for ye wad really hae thought he kennd where I was gaun, puir beast; and here I am after a trot o sixty mile, or near by. But Wasp rade thirty o them afore me on the saddle, and the puir doggie balanced itsell as ane of the weans wad hae dune, whether I trotted or cantered.
In this strange story Bertram obviously saw, supposing the warning to be true, some intimation of danger more violent and imminent than could be likely to arise from a few days imprisonment. At the same time it was equally evident that some unknown friend was working in his behalf. Did you not say, he asked Dinmont, that this man Gabriel was of gipsy blood?
It was een judged sae, said Dinmont, and I think this maks it likely; for they ay ken where the gangs o ilk ither are to be found, and they can gar news flee like a footba through the country an they like. An I forgot to tell ye, theres been an unco inquiry after the auld wife that we saw in Bewcastle; the Sheriffs had folk ower the Limestane Edge after her and down the Hermitage and Liddel, and a gates, and a reward offered for her to appear, o fifty pound sterling, nae less; and Justice Forster, hes had out warrants, as I am telld, in Cumberland, and an unco ranging and riping they have had a gates seeking for herbut shell no be taen wi them unless she likes, for a that.
Ou, I dinna ken; I daur say its nonsense, but they say she has gathered the fern-seed, and can gang ony gate she likes, like Jock-the-Giant-killer in the ballant, wi his coat o darkness and his shoon o swiftness. Ony way shes a kind o queen amang the gipsies; she is mair than a hundred year auld, folk say, and minds the coming in o the mosstroopers in the troublesome times when the Stuarts were put awa. Sae, if she canna hide hersell, she kens them that can hide her weel eneugh, ye needna doubt that. Od, an I bad kennd it had been Meg Merrilies yon night at Tibb Mumpss, I wad taen care how I crossed her.
Bertram listened with great attention to this account, which tallied so well in many points with what he had himself seen of this gipsy sibyl. After a moments consideration, he concluded it would be no breach of faith to mention what he had seen at Derncleugh to a person who held Meg in such reverence as Dinmont obviously did. He told his story accordingly, often interrupted by ejaculations, such as, Weel, the like o that now! or, Na, deil an thats no something now!
When our Liddesdale friend had heard the whole to an end, he shook his great black headWeel, Ill uphaud theres baith gude and ill amang the gipsies, and if they deal wi the Enemy, its a their ain business, and no ours. I ken what the streeking the corpse wad be, weel eneugh. Thae smuggler deevils, when ony o them s killed in a fray, theyll send for a wife like Meg far eneugh to dress the corpseod, its a the burial they ever think o! and then to be put into the ground without ony decency, just like dogs. But they stick to it that theyll be streekit, and hae an auld wife when theyre dying to rhyme ower prayers, and ballants, and charms, as they ca them, rather than theyll hae a minister to come and pray wi themthats an auld threep o theirs; and I am thinking the man that died will hae been ane o the folk that was shot when they burnt Woodbourne.
Weel, the better for them that bides in tanswered the store-farmer. Od, we had it up the water wi us, that there wasna a stane on the tap o anither. But there was fighting, ony way; I daur to say, it would be fine fun! And, as I said, ye may take it on trust, that thats been ane o the men killed there, and that its been the gipsies that took your pockmanky when they fand the chaise stickin in the snawthey wadna pass the like o thatit wad just come to their hand like the bowl o a pint stoup.1
Ou, wha kens? she has muckle to say wi them, but whiles theyll tak their ain way for a that, when theyre under temptation. And then theres the smugglers that theyre ay leagued wi; she maybe couldna manage them sae weeltheyre ay banded thegither. Ive heard that the gipsies ken when the smugglers will come aff, and where theyre to land, better than the very merchants that deal wi them. And then, to the boot o that shes whiles crack-brained, and has a bee in her head; they say that whether her spaeings and fortune-tellings be true or no, for certain she believes in them a hersell, and is ay guiding hersell by some queer prophecy or anither. So she disna ay gang the straight road to the well.But deil o sic a story as yours, wi glamour and dead folk and losing anes gate, I ever heard out o the tale-books!But whisht, I hear the keeper coming.
Mac-Guffog accordingly interrupted their discourse by the harsh harmony of the bolts and bars, and showed his bloated visage at the opening door. Come, Mr. Dinmont, we have put off locking up for an hour to oblige ye; ye must go to your quarters.
Weel, if ye dinna ken that, said the resolute farmer, ye ken this;ye ken yere whiles obliged to be up our water in the way o your business; now, if ye let me stay quietly here the night wi the Captain, Ise pay ye double fees for the room; and if ye say no, ye shall hae the best sark-fu o sair banes that ever ye had in your life, the first time ye set a foot by Liddel-moat!
Aweel, aweel, gudeman, said Mac-Guffog, a wilfu man maun hae his way; but if I am challenged for it by the justices, I ken wha sall bear the wyte; and having sealed this observation with a deep oath or two, he retired to bed, after carefully securing all the doors of the Bridewell. The bell from the town steeple tolled nine just as the ceremony was concluded.
Although its but early hours, said the farmer, who had observed that his friend looked somewhat pale and fatigued, I think we had better lie down, Captain, if yere no agreeable to another cheerer. But troth, yere nae glass-breaker; and neither am I, unless it be a screed wi the neighbours, or when Im on a ramble.
Im muckle o your opinion, Captain, said Dandie. Od, this bed looks as if a the colliers in Sanquhar had been int thegither. But itll no win through my muckle coat. So saying, he flung himself upon the frail bed with a force that made all its timbers crack, and in a few moments gave audible signal that he was fast asleep. Bertram slipped off his coat and boots, and occupied the other dormitory. The strangeness of his destiny, and the mysteries which appeared to thicken around him, while he seemed alike to be persecuted and protected by secret enemies and friends, arising out of a class of people with whom he had no previous connexion, for some time occupied his thoughts. Fatigue, however, gradually composed his mind, and in a short time he was as fast asleep as his companion. And in this comfortable state of oblivion we must leave them, until we acquaint the reader with some other circumstances which occurred about the same period.