THE BLACK DWARF
COLLECTEDAND REPORTED BY JEDEDIAH CLEISHBOTHAMSCHOOLMASTERAND PARISH-CLERK OF GANDERCLEUGH.
As I maywithout vanitypresume that the name and officialdescriptionprefixed to this Proem will secure itfrom thesedate andreflecting part of mankindto whom only I would beunderstoodto address myselfsuch attention as is due to thesedulousinstructor of youthand the careful performer of mySabbathdutiesI will forbear to hold up a candle to thedaylightor to point out to the judicious those recommendationsof mylabours which they must necessarily anticipate from theperusal ofthe title-page. NeverthelessI am not unawarethatas Envyalways dogs Merit at the heelsthere may be those whowillwhisperthat albeit my learning and good principles cannot(lauded bethe heavens) be denied by any oneyet that mysituationat Gandercleugh hath been more favourable to myacquisitionsin learning than to the enlargement of my views ofthe waysand works of the present generation. To the whichobjectionifperadventureany such shall be startedmy answershall bethreefold:
FirstGandercleugh isas it werethe central part--the navel(SI FASSIT DICERE) of this our native realm of Scotland; so thatmenfromevery corner thereofwhen travelling on theirconcernmentsof businesseither towards our metropolis of lawby which Imean Edinburghor towards our metropolis and mart ofgainwhereby I insinuate Glasgoware frequently led to makeGandercleughtheir abiding stage and place of rest for the night.And itmust be acknowledged by the most scepticalthat Iwhohave satin the leathern armchairon the left-hand side of thefireinthe common room of the Wallace Innwinter and summerfor everyevening in my lifeduring forty years bypast (theChristianSabbaths only excepted)must have seen more of themannersand customs of various tribes and peoplethan if I hadsoughtthem out by my own painful travel and bodily labour. Evenso doththe tollman at the well-frequented turn-pike on theWellbraeheadsitting at his ease in his own dwellinggathermorereceipt of customthan ifmoving forth upon the roadhewere torequire a contribution from each person whom he chancedto meet inhis journeywhenaccording to the vulgar adagehemightpossibly be greeted with more kicks than halfpence.
Butsecondlysupposing it again urgedthat Ithacusthe mostwise ofthe Greeksacquired his renownas the Roman poet hathassuredusby visiting states and menI reply to the Zoilus whoshalladhere to this objectionthatDE FACTOI have seenstates andmen also; for I have visited the famous cities ofEdinburghand Glasgowthe former twiceand the latter threetimesinthe course of my earthly pilgrimage. AndmoreoverIhad thehonour to sit in the General Assembly (meaningas anauditorin the galleries thereof)and have heard as much goodlyspeakingon the law of patronageaswith the fructificationthereof inmine own understandinghath made me be considered asan oracleupon that doctrine ever since my safe and happy returntoGandercleugh.
Again--andthirdlyIf it be nevertheless pretended that myinformationand knowledge of mankindhowever extensiveandhoweverpainfully acquiredby constant domestic enquiryand byforeigntravelisnathelessincompetent to the task ofrecordingthe pleasant narratives of my LandlordI will letthesecritics knowto their own eternal shame and confusion aswell as tothe abashment and discomfiture of all who shall rashlytake up asong against methat I am NOT the writerredacterorcompilerof the Tales of my Landlord; nor am Iin one singleiotaanswerable for their contentsmore or less. And nowyegenerationof criticswho raise yourselves up as if it werebrazenserpentsto hiss with your tonguesand to smite withyourstingsbow yourselves down to your native dustandacknowledgethat yours have been the thoughts of ignoranceandthe wordsof vain foolishness. Lo! ye are caught in your ownsnareandyour own pit hath yawned for you. Turnthenasidefrom thetask that is too heavy for you; destroy not your teethby gnawinga file; waste not your strength by spurning against acastlewall; nor spend your breath in contending in swiftnesswith afleet steed; and let those weigh the Tales of my Landlordwho shallbring with them the scales of candour cleansed from therust ofprejudice by the hands of intelligent modesty. For thesealone theywere compiledas will appear from a brief narrativewhich myzeal for truth compelled me to make supplementary to thepresentProem.
It is wellknown that my Landlord was a pleasing and a facetiousmanacceptable unto all the parish of Gandercleughexceptingonly theLairdthe Excisemanand those for whom he refused todrawliquor upon trust. Their causes of dislike I will touchseparatelyadding my own refutation thereof.
Hishonourthe Lairdaccused our Landlorddeceasedof havingencouragedin various times and placesthe destruction ofharesrabbitsfowls black and greypartridgesmoor-poutsroe-deerand other birds and quadrupedsat unlawful seasonsandcontrary to the laws of this realmwhich have securedintheirwisdomthe slaughter of such animals for the great of theearthwhom I have remarked to take an uncommon (though to meanunintelligible)pleasure therein. Nowin humble deference tohishonourand in justifiable defence of my friend deceasedIreply tothis chargethat howsoever the form of such animalsmightappear to be similar to those so protected by the lawyetit was amere DECEPTIO VISUS; for what resembled hares wereinfactHILL-KIDSand those partaking of the appearance of moor-fowlweretruly WOOD PIGEONS and consumed and eaten EO NOMINEand nototherwise.
AgaintheExciseman pretendedthat my deceased Landlord didencouragethat species of manufacture called distillationwithouthaving an especial permission from the Greattechnicallycalled alicensefor doing so. NowI stand up to confront thisfalsehood;and in defiance of himhis gauging-stickand pen andinkhornItell himthat I never sawor tasteda glass ofunlawfulaqua vitae in the house of my Landlord; naythatonthecontrarywe needed not such devicesin respect of apleasingand somewhat seductive liquorwhich was vended andconsumedat the Wallace Innunder the name of MOUNTAIN DEW. Ifthere is apenalty against manufacturing such a liquorlet himshow methe statute; and when he doesI'll tell him if I willobey it orno.
Concerningthose who came to my Landlord for liquorand wentthirstyawayfor lack of present coinor future creditIcannot butsay it has grieved my bowels as if the case had beenmine own. Neverthelessmy Landlord considered the necessitiesof athirsty souland would permit themin extreme needandwhen theirsoul was impoverished for lack of moistureto drinkto thefull value of their watches and wearing apparelexclusivelyof their inferior habilimentswhich he was uniformlyinexorablein obliging them to retainfor the credit of thehouse. As to mine own partI may well saythat he neverrefused methat modicum of refreshment with which I am wont torecruitnature after the fatigues of my school. It is trueItaught hisfive sons English and Latinwritingbook-keepingwith atincture of mathematicsand that I instructed hisdaughterin psalmody. Nor do I remember me of any fee orHONORARIUMreceived from him on account of these my laboursexcept thecompotations aforesaid. Nevertheless thiscompensationsuited my humour wellsince it is a hard sentenceto bid adry throat wait till quarter-day.
Buttrulywere I to speak my simple conceit and beliefI thinkmyLandlord was chiefly moved to waive in my behalf the usualrequisitionof a symbolor reckoningfrom the pleasure he waswont totake in my conversationwhichthough solid and edifyingin themainwaslike a well-built palacedecorated withfacetiousnarratives and devicestending much to the enhancementandornament thereof. And so pleased was my Landlord of theWallace inhis replies during such colloquiesthat there was nodistrictin Scotlandyeaand no peculiarandas it weredistinctivecustom therein practisedbut was discussed betwixtus;insomuchthat those who stood by were wont to sayit wasworth abottle of ale to hear us communicate with each other.And not afew travellersfrom distant partsas well as from theremotedistricts of our kingdomwere wont to mingle in theconversationand to tell news that had been gathered in foreignlandsorpreserved from oblivion in this our own.
Now Ichanced to have contracted for teaching the lower classeswith ayoung person called Peteror PatrickPattiesonwho hadbeeneducated for our Holy Kirkyeahadby the license ofpresbyteryhis voice opened therein as a preacherwho delightedin thecollection of olden tales and legendsand in garnishingthem withthe flowers of poesywhereof he was a vain andfrivolousprofessor. For he followed not the example of thosestrongpoets whom I preposed to him as a patternbut formedversificationof a flimsy and modern textureto the compoundingwhereofwas necessary small pains and less thought. And hence Ihave chidhim as being one of those who bring forward the fatalrevolutionprophesied by Mr. Robert Careyin his Vaticination onthe Deathof the celebrated Dr. John Donne:
Nowthou art goneand thy strict laws will be Toohard for libertines in poetry; Tillverse (by thee refined) in this last age Turnballad rhyme.
I had alsodisputations with him touching his indulging rather aflowingand redundant than a concise and stately diction in hisproseexercitations. But notwithstanding these symptoms ofinferiortasteand a humour of contradicting his betters uponpassagesof dubious construction in Latin authorsI didgrievouslylament when Peter Pattieson was removed from me bydeatheven as if he had been the offspring of my own loins. Andin respecthis papers had been left in my care (to answer funeralanddeath-bed expenses)I conceived myself entitled to disposeof oneparcel thereofentitled"Tales of my Landlord" to onecunning inthe trade (as it is called) of bookselling. He was amirthfulmanof small staturecunning in counterfeiting ofvoicesand in making facetious tales and responsesand whom Ihave tolaud for the truth of his dealings towards me.
Nowthereforethe world may see the injustice that charges mewithincapacity to write these narrativesseeingthat though Ihaveproved that I could have written them if I wouldyetnothavingdone sothe censure will deservedly fallif at all dueupon thememory of Mr. Peter Pattieson; whereas I must be justlyentitledto the praisewhen any is dueseeing thatas the Deanof St.Patrick's wittily and logically expresseth it
Thatwithout which a thing is not IsCAUSA SINE QUA NON.
The workthereforeis unto me as a child is to a parent; in thewhichchildif it proveth worthythe parent hath honour andpraise;butif otherwisethe disgrace will deservedly attach toitselfalone.
I haveonly further to intimatethat Mr. Peter Pattiesoninarrangingthese Tales for the presshath more consulted his ownfancy thanthe accuracy of the narrative; naythat he hathsometimesblended two or three stories together for the meregrace ofhis plots. Of which infidelityalthough I disapproveand entermy testimony against ityet I have not taken upon meto correctthe samein respect it was the will of the deceasedthat hismanuscript should be submitted to the press withoutdiminutionor alteration. A fanciful nicety it was on the partof mydeceased friendwhoif thinking wiselyought rather tohaveconjured meby all the tender ties of our friendship andcommonpursuitsto have carefully revisedalteredandaugmentedat my judgment and discretion. But the will of thedead mustbe scrupulously obeyedeven when we weep over theirpertinacityand self-delusion. Sogentle readerI bid youfarewellrecommending you to such fare as the mountains of yourowncountry produce; and I will only farther premisethat eachTale ispreceded by a short introductionmentioning the personsby whomand the circumstances under whichthe materials thereofwerecollected.
The idealbeing who is here presented as residing in solitudeandhaunted by a consciousness of his own deformityand asuspicionof his being generally subjected to the scorn of hisfellow-menis not altogether imaginary. An individual existedmany yearssinceunder the author's observationwhich suggestedsuch acharacter. This poor unfortunate man's name was DavidRitchieanative of Tweeddale. He was the son of a labourer intheslate-quarries of Stoboand must have been born in themisshapenform which he exhibitedthough he sometimes imputed ittoill-usage when in infancy. He was bred a brush-maker atEdinburghand had wandered to several placesworking at histradefrom all which he was chased by the disagreeable attentionwhich hishideous singularity of form and face attracted whereverhe came. The author understood him to say he had even been inDublin.
Tired atlength of being the object of shoutslaughterandderisionDavid Ritchie resolvedlike a deer hunted from theherdtoretreat to some wildernesswhere he might have theleastpossible communication with the world which scoffed at him.He settledhimselfwith this viewupon a patch of wild moorlandat thebottom of a bank on the farm of Woodhousein thesequesteredvale of the small river Manorin Peeblesshire. Thefew peoplewho had occasion to pass that way were much surprisedand somesuperstitious persons a little alarmedto see sostrange afigure as Bow'd Davie (i.e. Crooked David) employed ina taskfor which he seemed so totally unfitas that of erectinga house. The cottage which he built was extremely smallbut thewallsaswell as those of a little garden that surrounded itwereconstructed with an ambitious degree of soliditybeingcomposedof layers of large stones and turf; and some of thecornerstones were so weightyas to puzzle the spectators howsuch aperson as the architect could possibly have raised them.In factDavid received from passengersor those who cameattractedby curiositya good deal of assistance; and as no oneknew howmuch aid had been given by othersthe wonder of eachindividualremained undiminished.
Theproprietor of the groundthe late Sir James Naesmithbaronetchanced to pass this singular dwellingwhichhavingbeenplaced there without right or leave asked or givenformedan exactparallel with Falstaff's simile of a "fair house builtonanother's ground;" so that poor David might have lost hisedifice bymistaking the property where he had erected it. Ofcoursethe proprietor entertained no idea of exacting such aforfeiturebut readily sanctioned the harmless encroachment.
Thepersonal description of Elshender of Mucklestane-Moor hasbeengenerally allowed to be a tolerably exact and unexaggeratedportraitof David of Manor Water. He was not quite three feetand a halfhighsince he could stand upright in the door of hismansionwhich was just that height. The following particularsconcerninghis figure and temper occur in the SCOTS MAGAZINE for1817andare now understood to have been communicated by theingeniousMr. Robert Chambers of Edinburghwho has recorded withmuchspirit the traditions of the Good Townandin otherpublicationslargely and agreeably added to the stock of ourpopularantiquities. He is the countryman of David Ritchieandhad thebest access to collect anecdotes of him.
"Hisskull" says this authority"which was of an oblong andratherunusual shapewas said to be of such strengththat hecouldstrike it with ease through the panel of a dooror the endof abarrel. His laugh is said to have been quite horrible; andhisscreech-owl voiceshrilluncouthand dissonantcorrespondedwell with his other peculiarities.
"Therewas nothing very uncommon about his dress. He usuallywore anold slouched hat when he went abroad; and when at homeasort ofcowl or night-cap. He never wore shoesbeing unable toadapt themto his mis-shapen finlike feetbut always had bothfeet andlegs quite concealedand wrapt up with pieces of cloth.He alwayswalked with a sort of pole or pike-staffconsiderablytallerthan himself. His habits werein many respectssingularand indicated a mind congenial to its uncouthtabernacle. A jealousmisanthropicaland irritable temperwashisprominent characteristic. The sense of his deformity hauntedhim like aphantom. And the insults and scorn to which thisexposedhimhad poisoned his heart with fierce and bitterfeelingswhichfrom other points in his characterdo notappear tohave been more largely infused into his originaltemperamentthan that of his fellow-men.
"Hedetested childrenon account of their propensity to insultandpersecute him. To strangers he was generally reservedcrabbedand surly; and though he by no means refused assistanceorcharityhe seldom either expressed or exhibited muchgratitude. Even towards persons who had been his greatestbenefactorsand who possessed the greatest share of his good-willhefrequently displayed much caprice and jealousy. A ladywho hadknown him from his infancyand who has furnished us inthe mostobliging manner with some particulars respecting himsaysthatalthough Davie showed as much respect and attachmentto herfather's familyas it was in his nature to show to anyyet theywere always obliged to be very cautious in theirdeportmenttowards him. One dayhaving gone to visit him withanotherladyhe took them through his gardenand was showingthemwithmuch pride and good-humourall his rich andtastefullyassorted borderswhen they happened to stop near aplot ofcabbages which had been somewhat injured by thecaterpillars. Davieobserving one of the ladies smileinstantlyassumed his savagescowling aspectrushed among thecabbagesand dashed them to pieces with his KENTexclaiming'Ihate thewormsfor they mock me!'
"Anotherladylikewise a friend and old acquaintance of hisveryunintentionally gave David mortal offence on a similaroccasion. Throwing back his jealous glance as he was usheringher intohis gardenhe fancied he observed her spitandexclaimedwith great ferocity'Am I a toadwoman! that ye spitatme--that ye spit at me?' and without listening to any answeror excusedrove her out of his garden with imprecations andinsult. When irritated by persons for whom he entertained littlerespecthis misanthropy displayed itself in wordsand sometimesinactionsof still greater rudeness; and he used on suchoccasionsthe most unusual and singularly savage imprecations andthreats."
Naturemaintains a certain balance of good and evil in all herworks; andthere is no state perhaps so utterly desolatewhichdoes notpossess some source of gratification peculiar to itselfThis poormanwhose misanthropy was founded in a sense on hisownpreternatural deformityhad yet his own particularenjoyments. Driven into solitudehe became an admirer of thebeautiesof nature. His gardenwhich he sedulously cultivatedand from apiece of wild moorland made a very productive spotwas hispride and his delight; but he was also an admirer of morenaturalbeauty: the soft sweep of the green hillthe bubblingof a clearfountainor the complexities of a wild thicketwerescenes onwhich he often gazed for hoursandas he saidwithinexpressibledelight. It was perhaps for this reason that hewas fondof Shenstone's pastoralsand some parts of PARADISELOST. The author has heard his most unmusical voice repeat thecelebrateddescription of Paradisewhich he seemed fully toappreciate. His other studies were of a different castchieflypolemical. He never went to the parish churchand was thereforesuspectedof entertaining heterodox opinionsthough hisobjectionwas probably to the concourse of spectatorsto whom hemust haveexposed his unseemly deformity. He spoke of a futurestate withintense feelingand even with tears. He expresseddisgust atthe ideaof his remains being mixed with the commonrubbishas he called itof the churchyardand selected withhis usualtaste a beautiful and wild spot in the glen where hehad hishermitagein which to take his last repose. He changedhis mindhoweverand was finally interred in the common burial-ground ofManor parish.
The authorhas invested Wise Elshie with some qualities whichmade himappearin the eyes of the vulgara man possessed ofsupernaturalpower. Common fame paid David Ritchie a similarcomplimentfor some of the poor and ignorantas well as all thechildrenin the neighbourhoodheld him to be what is calleduncanny. He himself did not altogether discourage the idea; itenlargedhis very limited circle of powerand in so fargratifiedhis conceit; and it soothed his misanthropybyincreasinghis means of giving terror or pain. But even in arudeScottish glen thirty years backthe fear of sorcery wasvery muchout of date.
DavidRitchie affected to frequent solitary scenesespeciallysuch aswere supposed to be hauntedand valued himself upon hiscourage indoing so. To be sure he had little chance of meetinganythingmore ugly than himself. At hearthe was superstitiousandplanted many rowans (mountain ashes) around his hutas acertaindefence against necromancy. For the same reasondoubtlesshe desired to have rowan-trees set above his grave.
We havestated that David Ritchie loved objects of naturalbeauty. His only living favourites were a dog and a cattowhich hewas particularly attachedand his beeswhich hetreatedwith great care. He took a sisterlatterlyto live ina hutadjacent to his ownbut he did not permit her to enter it.She wasweak in intellectbut not deformed in person; simpleorrathersillybut notlike her brothersullen or bizarre.David wasnever affectionate to her; it was not in his nature;but heendured her. He maintained himself and her by the sale oftheproduct of their garden and bee-hives; andlatterlytheyhad asmall allowance from the parish. Indeedin the simple andpatriarchalstate in which the country then waspersons in thesituationof David and his sister were sure to be supported.They hadonly to apply to the next gentleman or respectablefarmerand were sure to find them equally ready and willing tosupplytheir very moderate wants. David often receivedgratuitiesfrom strangerswhich he never askednever refusedand neverseemed to consider as an obligation. He had a rightindeedtoregard himself as one of Nature's paupersto whom shegave atitle to be maintained by his kindeven by that deformitywhichclosed against him all ordinary ways of supporting himselfby his ownlabour. Besidesa bag was suspended in the mill forDavidRitchie's benefit; and those who were carrying home amelder ofmealseldom failed to add a GOWPEN to thealms-bagof the deformed cripple. In shortDavid had nooccasionfor moneysave to purchase snuffhis only luxuryinwhich heindulged himself liberally. When he diedin thebeginningof the present centuryhe was found to have hoardedabouttwenty poundsa habit very consistent with hisdisposition;for wealth is powerand power was what DavidRitchiedesired to possessas a compensation for his exclusionfrom humansociety.
His sistersurvived till the publication of the tale to whichthis briefnotice forms the introduction; and the author is sorryto learnthat a sort of "local sympathy" and the curiosity thenexpressedconcerning the Author of WAVERLEY and the subjects ofhisNovelsexposed the poor woman to enquiries which gave herpain. When pressed about her brother's peculiaritiesshe askedin herturnwhy they would not permit the dead to rest? Tootherswho pressed for some account of her parentsshe answeredin thesame tone of feeling.
The authorsaw this poorandit may be saidunhappy maninautumn1797 being thenas he has the happiness still to remainconnectedby ties of intimate friendship with the family of thevenerableDr. Adam Fergussonthe philosopher and historianwhothenresided at the mansion-house of Halyardsin the vale ofManorabout a mile from Ritchie's hermitagethe author was upona visit atHalyardswhich lasted for several daysand was madeacquaintedwith this singular anchoritewhom Dr. Fergussonconsideredas an extraordinary characterand whom he assisted invariouswaysparticularly by the occasional loan of books.Though thetaste of the philosopher and the poor peasant did notit may besupposedalways correspondDr. Fergussonconsidered him as a man of apowerfulcapacity and original ideasbut whose mind was thrownoff itsjust bias by a predominant degree of self-love and self-opiniongalled by the sense of ridicule and contemptandavengingitself upon societyin idea at leastby a gloomymisanthropy.
DavidRitchiebesides the utter obscurity of his life while inexistencehad been dead for many yearswhen it occurred to theauthorthat such a character might be made a powerful agent infictitiousnarrative. Heaccordinglysketched that of Elshieof theMucklestane-Moor. The story was intended to be longerand thecatastrophe more artificially brought out; but a friendlycritictowhose opinion I subjected the work in its progresswas ofopinionthat the idea of the Solitary was of a kind toorevoltingand more likely to disgust than to interest thereader. As I had good right to consider my adviser as anexcellentjudge of public opinionI got off my subject byhasteningthe story to an endas fast as it was possible; andbyhuddling into one volumea tale which was designed to occupytwohaveperhaps produced a narrative as much disproportionedanddistortedas the Black Dwarf who is its subject.
Hastany philosophy in theeShepherd? AS YOU LIKE IT.
It was afine April morning (excepting that it had snowed hardthe nightbeforeand the ground remained covered with a dazzlingmantle ofsix inches in depth) when two horsemen rode up to theWallaceInn. The first was a strongtallpowerful manin agreyriding-coathaving a hat covered with waxclotha hugesilver-mountedhorsewhipbootsand dreadnought overalls. Hewasmounted on a large strong brown marerough in coatbut wellinconditionwith a saddle of the yeomanry cutand a double-bittedmilitary bridle. The man who accompanied him wasapparentlyhis servant; he rode a shaggy little grey ponyhad abluebonnet on his headand a large check napkin folded abouthis neckwore a pair of long blue worsted hose instead of bootshad hisgloveless hands much stained with tarand observed anair ofdeference and respect towards his companionbut withoutany ofthose indications of precedence and punctilio which arepreservedbetween the gentry and their domestics. On thecontrarythe two travellers entered the court-yard abreastandtheconcluding sentence of the conversation which had beencarryingon betwixt them was a joint ejaculation"Lord guide usan thisweather lastwhat will come o' the lambs!" The hint wassufficientfor my Landlordwhoadvancing to take the horse oftheprincipal personand holding him by the reins as hedismountedwhile his ostler rendered the same service to theattendantwelcomed the stranger to Gandercleughandin thesamebreathenquired"What news from the south hielands?"
"News?" said the farmer"bad eneugh newsI think;--an we cancarrythrough the yowesit will be a' we can do; we maun e'enleave thelambs to the Black Dwarfs care."
"Ayay" subjoined the old shepherd (for such he was)shakinghis head"he'll be unco busy amang the morts this season."
"TheBlack Dwarf!" said MY LEARNED FRIEND AND PATRONMr.JedediahCleishbotham"and what sort of a personage may he be?"
"Houtawaman" answered the farmer"ye'll hae heard o' CannyElshie theBlack Dwarfor I am muckle mistaen--A' the warldtellstales about himbut it's but daft nonsense after a'--Idinnabelieve a word o't frae beginning to end."
"Yourfather believed it unco stievelythough" said the oldmantowhom the scepticism of his master gave obviousdispleasure.
"Ayvery trueBauldiebut that was in the time o' theblackfaces--theybelieved a hantle queer things in thae daysthatnaebody heeds since the lang sheep cam in."
"Themair's the pitythe mair's the pity" said the old man."Yourfatherand sae I have aften tell'd yemaisterwad haebeen sairvexed to hae seen the auld peel-house wa's pu'd down tomake parkdykes; and the bonny broomy knowewhere he liked saeweel tosit at e'enwi' his plaid about himand look at the kyeas theycam down the loaningill wad he hae liked to hae seenthat brawsunny knowe a' riven out wi' the pleugh in the fashionit is atthis day."
"HoutBauldie" replied the principal"tak ye that dram thelandlord'soffering yeand never fash your head about thechanges o'the warldsae lang as ye're blithe and bienyoursell."
"Wussingyour healthsirs" said the shepherd; and having takenoff hisglassand observed the whisky was the right thinghecontinued"It's no for the like o' us to be judgingto be sure;but it wasa bonny knowe that broomy knoweand an unco brawshelterfor the lambs in a severe morning like this."
"Ay"said his patron"but ye ken we maun hae turnips for thelangsheepbillieand muckle hard wark to get thembaith wi'the pleughand the howe; and that wad sort ill wi' sitting on thebroomyknoweand cracking about Black Dwarfsand siccanclaversas was the gate lang synewhen the short sheep were inthefashion."
"Aweelaweelmaister" said the attendant"short sheep hadshortrentsI'm thinking."
Here myWORTHY AND LEARNED patron again interposedand observed"thathe could never perceive any material differencein pointoflongitudebetween one sheep and another."
Thisoccasioned a loud hoarse laugh on the part of the farmerand anastonished stare on the part of the shepherd.
"It'sthe woo'man--it's the woo'and no the beasts themsellsthat makesthem be ca'd lang or short. I believe if ye were tomeasuretheir backsthe short sheep wad be rather the langer-bodied o'the twa; but it's the woo' that pays the rent in thaedaysandit had muckle need."
"OddBauldie says very true--short sheep did make short rents--my fatherpaid for our steading just threescore pundsand itstands mein three hundredplack and bawbee.--And that's verytrue--Ihae nae time to be standing here clavering--Landlordget us ourbreakfastand see an' get the yauds fed--I am fordoun toChristy Wilson'sto see if him and me can gree about theluckpennyI am to gie him for his year-aulds. We had drank saxmutchkinsto the making the bargain at St. Boswell's fairandsome gatewe canna gree upon the particulars preceeselyfor asmuckletime as we took about it--I doubt we draw to a plea--Buthear yeneighbour" addressing my WORTHY AND LEARNED patron"ifye want tohear onything about lang or short sheepI will beback hereto my kail against ane o'clock; orif ye want onyauld-warldstories about the Black Dwarfand sic-likeif ye'llware ahalf mutchkin upon Bauldie therehe'll crack t'ye like apen-gun. And I'se gie ye a mutchkin mysellmanif I can settleweel wi'Christy Wilson."
The farmerreturned at the hour appointedand with him cameChristyWilsontheir difference having been fortunately settledwithout anappeal to the gentlemen of the long robe. My LEARNEDAND WORTHYpatron failed not to attendboth on account of therefreshmentpromised to the mind and to the bodyALTHOUGH HE ISKNOWN TOPARTAKE OF THE LATTER IN A VERY MODERATE DEGREE; and thepartywith which my Landlord was associatedcontinued to sitlate inthe eveningseasoning their liquor with many choicetales andsongs. The last incident which I recollectwas myLEARNEDAND WORTHY patron falling from his chairjust as heconcludeda long lecture upon temperanceby recitingfrom the"GentleShepherd" a coupletwhich he RIGHT HAPPILY transferredfrom thevice of avarice to that of ebriety:
Hethat has just eneugh may soundly sleep Theowercome only fashes folk to keep.
In thecourse of the evening the Black Dwarf had not beenforgottenand the old shepherdBauldietold so many stories ofhimthatthey excited a good deal of interest. It alsoappearedthough not till the third punch-bowl was emptiedthatmuch ofthe farmer's scepticism on the subject was affectedasevincing aliberality of thinkingand a freedom from ancientprejudicesbecoming a man who paid three hundred pounds a-yearof rentwhilein facthe had a lurking belief in thetraditionsof his forefathers. After my usual mannerI madefartherenquiries of other persons connected with the wild andpastoraldistrict in which the scene of the following narrativeis placedand I was fortunate enough to recover many links ofthe storynot generally knownand which accountat least insomedegreefor the circumstances of exaggerated marvel withwhichsuperstition has attired it in the more vulgar traditions.
Willnone but Hearne the Hunter serve your turn? MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.
In one ofthe most remote districts of the south of Scotlandwhere anideal linedrawn along the tops of lofty and bleakmountainsseparates that land from her sister kingdoma youngmancalled Halbertor Hobbie Elliota substantial farmerwhoboastedhis descent from old Martin Elliot of the Preakin-towernoted inBorder story and songwas on his return from deer-stalking. The deeronce so numerous among these solitarywasteswere now reduced to a very few herdswhichshelteringthemselvesin the most remote and inaccessible recessesrenderedthe taskof pursuing them equally toilsome and precarious. Therewerehoweverfound many youth of the country ardently attachedto thissportwith all its dangers and fatigues. The sword hadbeensheathed upon the Borders for more than a hundred yearsbythepeaceful union of the crowns in the reign of James the Firstof GreatBritain. Still the country retained traces of what ithad beenin former days; the inhabitantstheir more peacefulavocationshaving been repeatedly interrupted by the civil warsof thepreceding centurywere scarce yet broken in to the habitsof regularindustrysheep-farming had not been introduced uponanyconsiderable scaleand the feeding of black cattle was thechiefpurpose to which the hills and valleys were applied. Nearto thefarmer's housethe tenant usually contrived to raise sucha crop ofoats or barleyas afforded meal for his family; andthe wholeof this slovenly and imperfect mode of cultivation leftmuch timeupon his own handsand those of his domestics. Thiswasusually employed by the young men in hunting and fishing; andthe spiritof adventurewhich formerly led to raids and foraysin thesame districtswas still to be discovered in theeagernesswith which they pursued those rural sports.
The morehigh-spirited among the youth wereabout the time thatournarrative beginsexpectingrather with hope thanapprehensionan opportunity of emulating their fathers in theirmilitaryachievementsthe recital of which formed the chief partof theiramusement within doors. The passing of the Scottish actofsecurity had given the alarm of Englandas it seemed to pointat aseparation of the two British kingdomsafter the decease ofQueenAnnethe reigning sovereign. Godolphinthen at the headof theEnglish administrationforesaw that there was no othermode ofavoiding the probable extremity of a civil warbut bycarryingthrough an incorporating union. How that treaty wasmanagedand how little it seemed for some time to promise thebeneficialresults which have since taken place to such extentmay belearned from the history of the period. It is enough forourpurpose to saythat all Scotland was indignant at the termson whichtheir legislature had surrendered their nationalindependence. The general resentment led to the strangestleaguesand to the wildest plans. The Cameronians were about totake armsfor the restoration of the house of Stewartwhom theyregardedwith justiceas their oppressors; and the intrigues ofthe periodpresented the strange picture of papistsprelatistsandpresbyterianscaballing among themselves against the Englishgovernmentout of a common feeling that their country had beentreatedwith injustice. The fermentation was universal; andasthepopulation of Scotland had been generally trained to armsunder theact of securitythey were not indifferently preparedfor warand waited but the declaration of some of the nobilityto breakout into open hostility. It was at this period ofpublicconfusion that our story opens.
Thecleughor wild ravineinto which Hobbie Elliot had followedthe gamewas already far behind himand he was considerablyadvancedon his return homewardwhen the night began to closeupon him. This would have been a circumstance of greatindifferenceto the experienced sportsmanwho could have walkedblindfoldover every inch of his native heathshad it nothappenednear a spotwhichaccording to the traditions of thecountrywas in extremely bad fameas haunted by supernaturalappearances. To tales of this kind Hobbie hadfrom hischildhoodlent an attentive ear; and as no part of the countryaffordedsuch a variety of legendsso no man was more deeplyread intheir fearful lore than Hobbie of the Heugh-foot; for soourgallant was calledto distinguish him from a round dozen ofElliotswho bore the same Christian name. It cost him noeffortsthereforeto call to memory the terrific incidentsconnectedwith the extensive waste upon which he was nowentering. In factthey presented themselves with a readinesswhich hefelt to be somewhat dismaying.
Thisdreary common was called Mucklestane-Moorfrom a hugecolumn ofunhewn granitewhich raised its massy head on a knellnear thecentre of the heathperhaps to tell of the mighty deadwho sleptbeneathor to preserve the memory of some bloodyskirmish. The real cause of its existence hadhoweverpassedaway; andtraditionwhich is as frequently an inventor offiction asa preserver of truthhad supplied its place with asupplementarylegend of her ownwhich now came full uponHobbie'smemory. The ground about the pillar was strewedorratherencumberedwith many large fragments of stone of the sameconsistencewith the columnwhichfrom their appearance as theylayscattered on the wastewere popularly called the Grey GeeseofMucklestane-Moor. The legend accounted for this name andappearanceby the catastrophe of a noted and most formidablewitch whofrequented these hills in former dayscausing the ewesto KEBand the kine to cast their calvesand performing all thefeats ofmischief ascribed to these evil beings. On this moorshe usedto hold her revels with her sister hags; and rings werestillpointed out on which no grass nor heath ever grewthe turfbeingasit werecalcined by the scorching hoofs of theirdiabolicalpartners.
Once upona time this old hag is said to have crossed the moordrivingbefore her a flock of geesewhich she proposed to selltoadvantage at a neighbouring fair;--for it is well known thatthe fiendhowever liberal in imparting his powers of doingmischiefungenerously leaves his allies under the necessity ofperformingthe meanest rustic labours for subsistence. The daywas faradvancedand her chance of obtaining a good pricedependedon her being first at the market. But the geesewhichhadhitherto preceded her in a pretty orderly mannerwhen theycame tothis wide commoninterspersed with marshes and pools ofwaterscattered in every directionto plunge into the elementin whichthey delighted. Incensed at the obstinacy with whichtheydefied all her efforts to collect themand not rememberingtheprecise terms of the contract by which the fiend was bound toobey hercommands for a certain spacethe sorceress exclaimed"Deevilthat neither I nor they ever stir from this spot more!"The wordswere hardly utteredwhenby a metamorphosis as suddenas any inOvidthe hag and her refractory flock were convertedintostonethe angel whom she servedbeing a strict formalistgraspingeagerly at an opportunity of completing the ruin of herbody andsoul by a literal obedience to her orders. It is saidthat whenshe perceived and felt the transformation which wasabout totake placeshe exclaimed to the treacherous fiend"Ahthou falsethief! lang hast thou promised me a grey gownandnow I amgetting ane that will last for ever." The dimensions ofthepillarand of the stoneswere often appealed toas a proofof thesuperior stature and size of old women and geese in thedays ofother yearsby those praisers of the past who held thecomfortableopinion of the gradual degeneracy of mankind.
Allparticulars of this legend Hobbie called to mind as he passedalong themoor. He also rememberedthatsince the catastrophehad takenplacethe scene of it had been avoidedat least afternight-fallby all human beingsas being the ordinary resort ofkelpiesspunkiesand other demonsonce the companions of thewitch'sdiabolical revelsand now continuing to rendezvous uponthe samespotas if still in attendance on their transformedmistress. Hobbie's natural hardihoodhowevermanfully combatedwith theseintrusive sensations of awe. He summoned to his sidethe braceof large greyhoundswho were the companions of hissportsand who were wontin his own phraseto fear neither dognor devil;he looked at the priming of his pieceandlike theclown inHallowe'enwhistled up the warlike ditty of Jock of theSideas ageneral causes his drums be beat to inspirit thedoubtfulcourage of his soldiers.
In thisstate of mindhe was very glad to hear a friendly voiceshout inhis rearand propose to him a partner on the road. Heslackenedhis paceand was quickly joined by a youth well knownto himagentleman of some fortune in that remote countryandwho hadbeen abroad on the same errand with himself. YoungEarnscliff"of that ilk" had lately come of ageand succeededto amoderate fortunea good deal dilapidatedfrom the sharehis familyhad taken in the disturbances of the period. Theywere muchand generally respected in the country; a reputationwhich thisyoung gentleman seemed likely to sustainas he waswelleducatedand of excellent dispositions.
"NowEarnscliff;" exclaimed Hobbie"I am glad to meet yourhonour onygateand company's blithe on a bare moor like this--it's anunco bogilly bit--Where hae ye been sporting?"
"Upthe Carla CleughHobbie" answered Earnscliffreturning hisgreeting. "But will our dogs keep the peacethink you?"
"Deila fear o' mine" said Hobbie"they hae scarce a leg tostandon.--Odd! the deer's fled the countryI think! I havebeen asfar as Inger-fell-footand deil a horn has Hobbie seenexceptingthree red-wud raesthat never let me within shot ofthemthough I gaed a mile round to get up the wind to theman'a'. Deil o' me wad care muckleonly I wanted some venison toour auldgude-dame. The carlineshe sits in the neuk yonderupbyeandcracks about the grand shooters and hunters lang syne--OddIthink they hae killed a' the deer in the countryfor mypart."
"WellHobbieI have shot a fat buckand sent him to Earnscliffthismorning--you shall have half of him for your grandmother."
"Monythanks to yeMr. Patrickye're kend to a' the country fora kindheart. It will do the auld wife's heart gude--mair bytokenwhen she kens it comes frae you--and maist of a' gin ye'llcome upand take your sharefor I reckon ye are lonesome now inthe auldtowerand a' your folk at that weary Edinburgh. Iwonderwhat they can find to do amang a wheen ranks o' stane-houses wi'slate on the tap o' themthat might live on their ainbonnygreen hills."
"Myeducation and my sisters' has kept my mother much inEdinburghfor several years" said Earnscliff; "but I promise youI proposeto make up for lost time."
"Andye'll rig out the auld tower a bit" said Hobbie"and livehearty andneighbour-like wi' the auld family friendsas theLaird o'Earnscliff should? I can tell yemy mother--mygrandmotherI mean--butsince we lost our ain motherwe ca' hersometimesthe taneand sometimes the tother--butony gatesheconceitshersell no that distant connected wi' you."
"VerytrueHobbieand I will come to the Heugh-foot to dinnerto-morrowwith all my heart."
"Weelthat's kindly said! We are auld neighboursan we werenaekin--and my gude-dame's fain to see you--she clavers aboutyourfather that was killed lang syne."
"HushhushHobbie--not a word about that--it's a story betterforgotten."
"Idinna ken--if it had chanced amang our folkwe wad hae keepitit in mindmony a day till we got some mends for't--but ye kenyour ainways bestyou lairds--I have heard say that Ellieslaw'sfriendstickit your sire after the laird himsell had mastered hissword."
"FiefieHobbie; it was a foolish brawloccasioned by wine andpolitics--manyswords were drawn--it is impossible to say whostruck theblow."
"Atony rateauld Ellieslaw was aiding and abetting; and I amsure if yewere sae disposed as to take amends on himnaebodycould sayit was wrangfor your father's blood is beneath hisnails--andbesides there's naebody else left that was concernedto takeamends uponand he's a prelatist and a jacobite into thebargain--Ican tell ye the country folk look for something atweenye."
"Ofor shameHobbie!" replied the young Laird; "youthatprofessreligionto stir your friend up to break the lawandtakevengeance at his own handand in such a bogilly bit toowhere weknow not what beings may be listening to us!"
"Hushhush!" said Hobbiedrawing nearer to his companion"Iwas naethinking o' the like o' them--But I can guess a wee bitwhat keepsyour hand upMr. Patrick; we a' ken it's no lack o'couragebut the twa grey een of a bonny lassMiss Isabel Verethat keepsyou sae sober."
"Iassure youHobbie" said his companionrather angrily"Iassure youyou are mistaken; and it is extremely wrong of youeither tothink ofor to uttersuch an idea; I have no idea ofpermittingfreedoms to be carried so far as to connect my namewith thatof any young lady."
"Whythere now--there now!" retorted Elliot; "did I notsay itwas naewant o' spunk that made ye sae mim?--WeelweelI meantnaeoffence; but there's just ae thing ye may notice frae afriend. The auld Laird of Ellieslaw has the auld riding bloodfar hetterat his heart than ye hae--trothhe kens naethingabout thaenewfangled notions o' peace and quietness--he's a' fortheauld-warld doings o' lifting and laying onand he has awheenstout lads at his back tooand keeps them weel up inheartandas fu' o' mischief as young colts. Where he gets thegear todo't nane can say; he lives highand far abune his rentshere;howeverhe pays his way--Saeif there's ony out-break inthecountryhe's likely to break out wi' the first--and weeldoes hemind the auld quarrels between yeI'm surmizing he'll befor atouch at the auld tower at Earnscliff."
"WellHobbie" answered the young gentleman"if he should be soilladvisedI shall try to make the old tower good against himas it hasbeen made good by my betters against his betters many aday ago."
"Veryright--very right--that's speaking like a man now" saidthe stoutyeoman; "andif sae should be that this be saeifye'll justgar your servant jow out the great bell in the towerthere'smeand my twa brothersand little Davie of theStenhousewill be wi' youwi' a' the power we can makein thesnappingof a flint."
"ManythanksHobbie" answered Earnscliff; "but I hope we shallhave nowar of so unnatural and unchristian a kind in our time."
"Houtsirhout" replied Elliot; "it wad be but a wee bitneighbourwarand Heaven and earth would make allowances for itin thisuncuItivated place--it's just the nature o' the folk andtheland--we canna live quiet like Loudon folk--we haena saemuckle todo. It's impossible."
"WellHobbie" said the Laird"for one who believes so deeplyas you doin supernatural appearancesI must own you take Heavenin yourown hand rather audaciouslyconsidering where we arewalking."
"Whatneeds I care for the Mucklestane-Moor ony mair than ye doyoursellEarnscliff?" said Hobbiesomething offended; "to besuretheydo say there's a sort o' worricows and lang-nebbitthingsabout the landbut what need I care for them? I hae agoodconscienceand little to answer forunless it be about arant amangthe lassesor a splore at a fairand that's nomuckle tospeak of. Though I say it mysellI am as quiet a ladand aspeaceable--"
"AndDick Turnbull's head that you brokeand Willie of Wintonwhom youshot at?" said his travelling companion.
"HoutEarnscliffye keep a record of a' men's misdoings--Dick'shead's healed againand we're to fight out the quarrelatJeddarton the Rood-dayso that's like a thing settled in apeaceableway; and then I am friends wi' Willie againpuirchield--itwas but twa or three hail draps after a'. I wad letonybody dothe like o't to me for a pint o' brandy. But Willie'slowlandbredpoor fallowand soon frighted for himsell--Andfor theworricowswere we to meet ane on this very bit--"
"Asis not unlikely" said young Earnscliff"for there standsyour oldwitchHobbie."
"Isay" continued Elliotas if indignant at this hint--"Isayif theauld carline hersell was to get up out o' the grund justbefore ushereI would think nae mair--Butgude preserve usEarnscliff;what can yonbe!"
BrownDwarfthat o'er the moorland strays Thyname to Keeldar tell! "TheBrown Man of the Moorthat stays Beneaththe heather-bell." JOHN LEYDEN
The objectwhich alarmed the young farmer in the middle of hisvalorousprotestationsstartled for a moment even his lessprejudicedcompanion. The moonwhich had arisen during theirconversationwasin the phrase of that countrywading orstrugglingwith cloudsand shed only a doubtful and occasionallight. By one of her beamswhich streamed upon the greatgranitecolumn to which they now approachedthey discovered aformapparently humanbut of a size much less than ordinarywhichmoved slowly among the large grey stonesnot like a personintendingto journey onwardbut with the slowirregularflittingmovement of a being who hovers around some spot ofmelancholyrecollectionuttering alsofrom time to timea sortofindistinct muttering sound. This so much resembled his ideaof themotions of an apparitionthat Hobbie Elliotmaking adeadpausewhile his hair erected itself upon his scalpwhisperedto his companion"It's Auld Ailie hersell! Shall Igie her ashotin the name of God?"
"ForHeaven's sakeno" said his companionholding down theweaponwhich he was about to raise to the aim--"for Heaven'ssakeno;it's some poor distracted creature."
"Ye'redistracted yoursellfor thinking of going so near toher"said Elliotholding his companion in his turnas hepreparedto advance. "We'll aye hae time to pit ower a bitprayer (anI could but mind ane) afore she comes this length--God! she's in nae hurry" continued hegrowing bolder fromhiscompanion's confidenceand the little notice the apparitionseemed totake of them. "She hirples like a hen on a het girdle.I redd yeEarnscliff" (this he added in a gentle whisper)"letus take acast aboutas if to draw the wind on a buck--the bogis noabune knee-deepand better a saft road as badcompany."
Earnscliffhoweverin spite of his companion's resistance andremonstrancescontinued to advance on the path they hadoriginallypursuedand soon confronted the object of theirinvestigation.
The heightof the figurewhich appeared even to decrease as theyapproacheditseemed to be under four feetand its formas faras theimperfect light afforded them the means of discerningwasverynearly as broad as longor rather of a spherical shapewhichcould only be occasioned by some strange personaldeformity. The young sportsman hailed this extraordinaryappearancetwicewithout receiving any answeror attending tothepinches by which his companion endeavoured to intimate thattheir bestcourse was to walk onwithout giving fartherdisturbanceto a being of such singular and preternaturalexterior. To the third repeated demand of "Who are you? What doyou hereat this hour of night?"--a voice repliedwhose shrilluncouthand dissonant tones made Elliot step two paces backandstartledeven his companion"Pass on your wayand ask nought atthem thatask nought at you."
"Whatdo you do here so far from shelter? Are you benighted onyourjourney? Will you follow us home ('God forbid!' ejaculatedHobbieElliotinvoluntarily)and I will give you a lodging?"
"Iwould sooner lodge by mysell in the deepest of the Tarras-flow"again whispered Hobbie.
"Passon your way" rejoined the figurethe harsh tones of hisvoicestill more exalted by passion. "I want not your guidance--I wantnot your lodging--it is five years since my head wasunder ahuman roofand I trust it was for the last time."
"Heis mad" said Earnscliff.
"Hehas a look of auld Humphrey Ettercapthe tinklerthatperishedin this very moss about five years syne" answered hissuperstitiouscompanion; "but Humphrey wasna that awfu' big inthe bouk."
"Passon your way" reiterated the object of their curiosity"thebreath of your human bodies poisons the air around me--thesound ofpour human voices goes through my ears like sharpbodkins"
"Lordsafe us!" whispered Hobbie"that the dead shouldbear siefearfu'ill-will to the living!--his saul maun be in a puir wayI'mjealous."
"Comemy friend" said Earnscliff"you seem to suffer undersomestrong affliction; common humanity will not allow us toleave youhere."
"Commonhumanity!" exclaimed the beingwith a scornful laughthatsounded like a shriek"where got ye that catch-word--thatnoose forwoodcocks--that common disguise for man-traps--thatbait whichthe wretched idiot who swallowswill soon find coversa hookwith barbs ten times sharper than those you lay for theanimalswhich you murder for your luxury!"
"Itell youmy friend" again replied Earnscliff"you areincapableof judging of your own situation--you will perish inthiswildernessand we mustin compassionforce you along withus."
"I'llhae neither hand nor foot in't" said Hobbie; "let theghaisttake his ain wayfor God's sake!"
"Myblood be on my own headif I perish here" said the figure;andobserving Earnscliff meditating to lay hold on himheadded"And your blood be upon yoursif you touch but the skirtof mygarmentsto infect me with the taint of mortality!"
The moonshone more brightly as he spoke thusand Earnscliffobservedthat he held out his right hand armed with some weaponofoffencewhich glittered in the cold ray like the blade of alongknifeor the barrel of a pistol. It would have beenmadness topersevere in his attempt upon a being thus armedandholdingsuch desperate languageespecially as it was plain hewould havelittle aid from his companionwho had fairly left himto settlematters with the apparition as he couldand hadproceededa few paces on his way homeward. Earnscliffhoweverturned andfollowed Hobbieafter looking back towards thesupposedmaniacwhoas if raised to frenzy by the interviewroamedwildly around the great stoneexhausting his voice inshrieksand imprecationsthat thrilled wildly along the wasteheath.
The twosportsmen moved on some time in silenceuntil they wereout ofhearing of these uncouth soundswhich was not ere theyhad gaineda considerable distance from the pillar that gave nameto themoor. Each made his private comments on the scene theyhadwitnesseduntil Hobbie Elliot suddenly exclaimed"WeelI'lluphaud that yon ghaistif it be a ghaisthas baith doneandsuffered muckle evil in the fleshthat gars him rampauge inthat wayafter he is dead and gane."
"Itseems to me the very madness of misanthropy" saidEarnscliff;following his own current of thought.
"Andye didna think it was a spiritual creaturethen?" askedHobbie athis companion.
"WeelI am partly of the mind mysell that it may be a livething--andyet I dinna kenI wadna wish to see ony thing lookliker abogle."
"Atany rate" said Earnscliff"I will ride over to-morrow andsee whathas become of the unhappy being."
"Infair daylight?" queried the yeoman; "thengrace o'GodI'se bewi' ye. But here we are nearer to Heugh-foot than toyour houseby twa mile--hadna ye better e'en gae hame wi' meand we'llsend the callant on the powny to tell them that you arewi' usthough I believe there's naebody at hame to wait for youbut theservants and the cat."
"Havewith you thenfriend Hobbie" said the young hunter; "andas I wouldnot willingly have either the servants be anxiousorpussforfeit her supperin my absenceI'll be obliged to you tosend theboy as you propose."
"Aweelthat IS kindI must say. And ye'll gae hame to Heugh-foot? They'll be right blithe to see youthat will they."
Thisaffair settledthey walked briskly on a little fartherwhencoming to the ridge of a pretty steep hillHobbie Elliotexclaimed"NowEarnscliffI am aye glad when I come to thisverybit--Ye see the light belowthat's in the ha' windowwheregranniethe gash auld carlineis sitting birling at her wheel--and yesee yon other light that's gaun whiddin' back and forritthroughamang the windows? that's my cousinGrace Armstrong--she'stwice as clever about the house as my sistersand saethey saythemsellsfor they're good-natured lasses as ever trodeonheather; but they confess themsellsand sae does granniethat shehas far maist actionand is the best goer about thetounnowthat grannie is off the foot hersell.--My brothersaneo' them'saway to wait upon the chamberlainand ane's at Moss-phadraigthat's our led farm--he can see after the stock just asweel as Ican do."
"Youare luckymy good friendin having so many valuablerelations."
"Trotham I--Grace make me thankfulI'se never deny it.--Butwill yetell me nowEarnscliffyou that have been at collegeand thehigh-school of Edinburghand got a' sort o' lair whereit was tobe best gotten--will ye tell me--no that it's onyconcern ofmine in particular--but I heard the priest of St.John'sand our ministerbargaining about it at the Winter fairand troththey baith spak very weel--Nowthe priest says it'sunlawfulto marry ane's cousin; but I cannot say I thought hebroughtout the Gospel authorities half sae weel as our minister--ourminister is thought the best divine and the best preacheratweenthis and Edinburgh--Dinna ye think he was likely to beright?"
"Certainlymarriageby all protestant Christiansis held to beas free asGod made it by the Levitical law; soHobbietherecan be nobarlegal or religiousbetwixt you and MissArmstrong."
"Houtawa' wi' your jokingEarnscliff" replied his companion--"ye are angry aneugh yoursell if ane touches you a bitmanon thesooth side of the jest--No that I was asking the questionaboutGracefor ye maun ken she's no my cousin-germain out andoutbutthe daughter of my uncle;s wife by her first marriageso she'snae kith nor kin to me--only a connexion like. But nowwe're atthe Sheeling-hill--I'll fire off my gunto let them kenI'mcomingthat's aye my way; and if I hae a deer I gie them twashotsanefor the deer and ane for mysell."
He firedoff his piece accordinglyand the number of lights wereseen totraverse the houseand even to gleam before it. HobbieElliotpointed out one of these to Earnscliffwhich seemed toglide fromthe house towards some of the outhouses-"That's Gracehersell"said Hobbie. "She'll no meet me at the doorI'sewarranther--but she'll be awa'for a' thatto see if myhounds'supper be readypoor beasts."
"Lovemelove my dog" answered Earnscliff. "AhHobbieyouare alucky young fellow!"
Thisobservation was uttered with something like a sighwhichapparentlydid not escape the ear of his companion.
"Houtother folk may be as lucky as I am--O how I have seen MissIsabelVere's head turn after somebody when they passed aneanother atthe Carlisle races! Wha kens but things may comeround inthis world?"
Earnscliffmuttered something like an answer; but whether inassent ofthe propositionor rebuking the application of itcould noteasily be discovered; and it seems probable that thespeakerhimself was willing his meaning should rest in doubt andobscurity. They had now descended the broad loaningwhichwindinground the foot of the steep bankor heughbrought themin frontof the thatchedbut comfortablefarm-housewhich wasthedwelling of Hobbie Elliot and his family.
Thedoorway was thronged with joyful faces; but the appearance ofa strangerblunted many a gibe which had been prepared onHobbie'slack of success in the deer-stalking. There was alittlebustle among three handsome young womeneach endeavouringto devolveupon another the task of ushering the stranger intotheapartmentwhile probably all were anxious to escape for thepurpose ofmaking some little personal arrangementsbeforepresentingthemselves to a young gentleman in a dishabille onlyintendedfor their brother.
Hobbieinthe meanwhilebestowing some hearty and general abuseupon themall (for Grace was not of the party)snatched thecandlefrom the hand of one of the rustic coquettesas she stoodplayingpretty with it in her handand ushered his guest intothe familyparlouror rather hall; for the place having been ahouse ofdefence in former timesthe sitting apartment was avaultedand paved roomdamp and dismal enough compared with thelodgingsof the yeomanry of our daysbut whichwhen welllighted upwith a large sparkling fire of turf and bog-woodseemed toEarnscliff a most comfortable exchange for the darknessand bleakblast of the hill. Kindly and repeatedly was hewelcomedby the venerable old damethe mistress of the familywhodressed in her coif and pinnersher close and decent gownofhomespun woolbut with a large gold necklace and ear-ringslookedwhat she really wasthe lady as well as the farmer'swifewhileseated in her chair of wickerby the corner of thegreatchimneyshe directed the evening occupations of the youngwomenandof two or three stout serving wencheswho sate plyingtheirdistaffs behind the backs of their young mistresses.
As soon asEarnscliff had been duly welcomedand hasty ordersissued forsome addition to the evening mealhis grand-dame andsistersopened their battery upon Hobbie Elliot for his lack ofsuccessagainst the deer.
"Jennyneedna have kept up her kitchen-fire for a' that Hobbiehasbrought hame" said one sister.
"Trothnolass" said another; "the gathering peatif it wasweelblawnwad dress a' our Hobbie's venison."
"Ayor the low of the candleif the wind wad let it hidesteady"said a third; "if I were himI would bring hame a blackcrawrather than come back three times without a buck's horn toblaw on."
Hobbieturned from the one to the otherregarding themalternatelywith a frown on his browthe augury of which wasconfutedby the good-humoured laugh on the lower part of hiscountenance. He then strove to propitiate themby mentioningtheintended present of his companion.
"Inmy young days" said the old lady"a man wad hae beenashamed tocome back frae the hill without a buck hanging on eachside o'his horselike a cadger carrying calves."
"Iwish they had left some for us thengrannie" retortedHobbie;"they've cleared the country o' themthae auld friendso' yoursI'm thinking."
"Wesee other folk can find gamethough you cannotHobbie"said theeldest sisterglancing a look at young Earnscliff.
"Weelweelwomanhasna every dog his daybegging Earnscliff'spardon forthe auld saying--Mayna I hae his luckand he mineanothertime?--It's a braw thing for a man to be out a' dayandfrighted--naI winna say that neither but mistrysted wi' boglesin thehame-comingan' then to hae to flyte wi' a wheen womenthat haebeen doing naething a' the live-lang daybut whirling abit stickwi' a thread trailing at itor boring at a clout."
"Frightedwi' bogles!" exclaimed the femalesone and all--forgreat wasthe regard then paidand perhaps still paidin theseglenstoall such fantasies.
"Idid not say frightednow--I only said mis-set wi' the thing--Andthere was but ae bogleneither--Earnscliffye saw it; asweel as Idid?"
And heproceededwithout very much exaggerationto detailinhis ownwaythe meeting they had with the mysterious being atMucklestane-Moorconcludinghe could not conjecture what onearth itcould beunless it was either the Enemy himsellorsome ofthe auld Peghts that held the country lang syne.
"AuldPeght!" exclaimed the grand-dame; "nana--bless theefraescathemybairnit's been nae Peght that--it's been the BrownMan of theMoors! O weary fa' thae evil days!--what can evilbeings becoming for to distract a poor countrynow it'speacefullysettledand living in love and law--O weary on him!he ne'erbrought gude to these lands or the indwellers. Myfatheraften tauld me he was seen in the year o' the bloody fightatMarston-Moorand then again in Montrose's troublesand againbefore therout o' Dunbarandin my ain timehe was seen aboutthe timeo' Bothwell-Briggand they said the second-sightedLaird ofBenarbuck had a communing wi' him some time aforeArgyle'slandingbut that I cannot speak to sae preceesely--itwas far inthe west.--Obairnshe's never permitted but in anill timesae mind ilka ane o' ye to draw to Him that can help inthe day oftrouble."
Earnscliffnow interposedand expressed his firm conviction thatthe personthey had seen was some poor maniacand had nocommissionfrom the invisible world to announce either war orevil. But his opinion found a very cold audienceand all joinedtodeprecate his purpose of returning to the spot the next day.
"Omy bonny bairn" said the old dame (forin the kindness ofher heartshe extended her parental style to all in whom she wasinterested)---"Youshould beware mair than other folk--there'sbeen aheavy breach made in your house wi' your father'sbloodshedand wi' law-pleasand losses sinsyne;--and you arethe flowerof the flockand the lad that will build up the auldbiggingagain (if it be His will) to be an honour to the countryand asafeguard to those that dwell in it--youbefore othersare calledupon to put yoursell in no rash adventures--for yourswas ayeower venturesome a raceand muckle harm they have got byit."
"ButI am suremy good friendyou would not have me be afraidof goingto an open moor in broad daylight?"
"Idinna ken" said the good old dame; "I wad never bid son orfriend o'mine haud their hand back in a gude causewhether itwere afriend's or their ain--that should be by nae bidding ofmineorof ony body that's come of a gentle kindred--But itwinna gangout of a grey head like minethat to gang to seek forevilthat's no fashing wi' youis clean against law andScripture."
Earnscliffresigned an argument which he saw no prospect ofmaintainingwith good effectand the entrance of supper brokeoff theconversation. Miss Grace had by this time made herappearanceand Hobbienot without a conscious glance atEarnscliffplaced himself by her side. Mirth and livelyconversationin which the old lady of the house took the good-humouredshare which so well becomes old agerestored to thecheeks ofthe damsels the roses which their brother's tale of theapparitionhad chased awayand they danced and sung for an houraftersupper as if there were no such things as goblins in theworld.
Iam Misanthroposand hate mankind; Forthy partI do wish thou wert a dog ThatI might love thee something. TIMON OF ATHENS
On thefollowing morningafter breakfastEarnscliff took leaveof hishospitable friendspromising to return in time to partakeof thevenisonwhich had arrived from his house. Hobbiewhoapparentlytook leave of him at the door of his habitationslunkouthoweverand joined him at the top of the hill.
"Ye'llbe gaun yonderMr. Patrick; feind o' me will mistryst youfor a' mymother says. I thought it best to slip out quietlythoughincase she should mislippen something of what we're gaunto do--wemaunna vex her at nae rate--it was amaist the last wordmy fathersaid to me on his deathbed."
"Byno meansHobbie" said Earnscliff; "she well merits allyourattention."
"Trothfor that mattershe would be as sair vexed amaist foryou as forme. But d'ye really think there's nae presumption inventuringback yonder?--We hae nae special commissionye ken."
"If Ithought as you doHobbie" said the young gentleman"Iwould notperhaps enquire farther into this business; but as I amof opinionthat preternatural visitations are either ceasedaltogetheror become very rare in our daysI am unwilling toleave amatter uninvestigated which may concern the life of apoordistracted being."
"Aweelaweelif ye really think that" answered Hobbiedoubtfully--"Andit's for certain the very fairies--I mean thevery goodneighbours themsells (for they say folk suldna ca' themfairies)that used to be seen on every green knowe at e'enareno halfsae often visible in our days. I canna depone to havingever seenane mysellbutI ance heard ane whistle ahint me inthe mossas like a whaup as ae thing could be likeanither. And mony ane my father saw when he used to come hamefrae thefairs at e'enwi' a drap drink in his headhonestman."
Earnscliffwas somewhat entertained with the gradual declensionofsuperstition from one generation to another which was inferredIn thislast observation; and they continued to reason on suchsubjectsuntil they came in sight of the upright stone whichgave nameto the moor.
"As Ishall answer" says Hobbie"yonder's the creature creepingaboutyet!--But it's daylightand you have your gunand Ibroughtout my bit whinger--I think we may venture on him."
"Byall manner of means" said Earnscliff; "butin the name ofwonderwhat can he be doing there?"
"Biggina dry-stane dykeI thinkwi' the grey geeseas theyca' thaegreat loose stanes--Oddthat passes a' thing I e'erheard tellof!"
As theyapproached nearerEarnscliff could not help agreeingwith hiscompanion. The figure they had seen the night beforeseemedslowly and toilsomely labouring to pile the large stonesone uponanotheras if to form a small enclosure. Materials layaround himin great plentybut the labour of carrying on thework wasimmensefrom the size of most of the stones; and itseemedastonishing that he should have succeeded in movingseveralwhich he had already arranged for the foundation of hisedifice. He was struggling to move a fragment of great size whenthe twoyoung men came upand was so intent upon executing hispurposethat he did not perceive them till they were close uponhim. In straining and heaving at the stonein order to place itaccordingto his wishhe displayed a degree of strength whichseemedutterly inconsistent with his size and apparent deformity.Indeedtojudge from the difficulties he had already surmountedhe musthave been of Herculean powers; for some of the stones hehadsucceeded in raising apparently required two men's strengthto havemoved them. Hobbie's suspicions began to reviveonseeing thepreternatural strength he exerted.
"I amamaist persuaded it's the ghaist of a stane-mason--seesiccanband-statnes as he's laid i--An it be a manafter a'Iwonderwhat he wad take by the rood to build a march dyke.There'sane sair wanted between Cringlehope and the Shaws.--Honestman" (raising his voice)"ye make good firm wark there?"
The beingwhom he addressed raised his eyes with a ghastly stareandgetting up from his stooping posturestood before them inall hisnative and hideous deformity. His head was of uncommonsizecovered with a fell of shaggy hairpartly grizzled withage; hiseyebrowsshaggy and prominentoverhung a pair of smalldarkpiercing eyesset far back in their socketsthat rolledwith aportentous wildnessindicative of a partial insanity.The restof his features were of the coarserough-hewn stampwith whicha painter would equip a giant in romance; to which wasadded thewildirregularand peculiar expressionso often seenin thecountenances of those whose persons are deformed. Hisbodythick and squarelike that of a man of middle sizewasmountedupon two large feet; but nature seemed to have forgottenthe legsand the thighsor they were so very short as to behidden bythe dress which he wore. His arms were long andbrawnyfurnished with two muscular handsandwhere uncoveredin theeagerness of his labourwere shagged with coarse blackhair. It seemed as if nature had originally intended theseparateparts of his body to be the members of a giantbut hadafterwardscapriciously assigned them to the person of a dwarfso ill didthe length of his arms and the iron strength of hisframecorrespond with the shortness of his stature. His clothingwas a sortof coarse brown tuniclike a monk's frockgirt roundhim with abelt of seal-skin. On his head he had a cap made ofbadger'sskinor some other rough furwhich added considerablyto thegrotesque effect of his whole appearanceand overshadowedfeatureswhose habitual expression seemed that of sullenmalignantmisanthropy.
Thisremarkable Dwarf gazed on the two youths in silencewith adogged andirritated lookuntil Earnscliffwilling to soothehim intobetter temperobserved"You are hard taskedmyfriend;allow us to assist you."
Elliot andhe accordingly placed the stoneby their jointeffortsupon the rising wall. The Dwarf watched them with theeye of ataskmasterand testifiedby peevish gestureshisimpatienceat the time which they took in adjusting the stone.He pointedto another--they raised it also--to a thirdto afourth--theycontinued to humour himthough with some troublefor heassigned themas if intentionallythe heaviest fragmentswhich laynear.
"Andnowfriend" said Elliotas the unreasonable Dwarfindicatedanother stone larger than any they had moved"Earnscliffmay do as he likes; but be ye man or be ye waurdeilbe in myfingers if I break my back wi' heaving thae stanes onylangerlike a barrow-manwithout getting sae muckle as thanksfor mypains."
"Thanks!" exclaimed the Dwarfwith a motion expressive of theutmostcontempt--"There--take themand fatten upon them! Takethemandmay they thrive with you as they have done with me--asthey havedone with every mortal worm that ever heard the wordspoken byhis fellow reptile! Hence--either labour or begone!"
"Thisis a fine reward we haveEarnsclifffor building atabernaclefor the deviland prejudicing our ain souls into thebargainfor what we ken."
"Ourpresence" answered Earnscliff"seems only to irritate hisfrenzy; wehad better leave himand send some one to provide himwith foodand necessaries."
They didso. The servant dispatched for this purpose found theDwarfstill labouring at his wallbut could not extract a wordfrom him. The ladinfected with the superstitions of thecountrydid not long persist in an attempt to intrude questionsor adviceon so singular a figurebut having placed the articleswhich hehad brought for his use on a stone at some distanceheleft themat the misanthrope's disposal.
The Dwarfproceeded in his laboursday after daywith anassiduityso incredible as to appear almost supernatural. In oneday heoften seemed to have done the work of two menand hisbuildingsoon assumed the appearance of the walls of a hutwhichthough very smalland constructed only of stones andturfwithout any mortarexhibitedfrom the unusual size of thestonesemployedan appearance of solidity very uncommon for acottage ofsuch narrow dimensions and rude construction.Earnscliff;attentive to his motionsno sooner perceived to whattheytendedthan he sent down a number of spars of wood suitableforforming the roofwhich he caused to be left in theneighbourhoodof the spotresolving next day to send workmen toput themup. But his purpose was anticipatedfor in theeveningduring the nightand early in the morningthe Dwarfhadlaboured so hardand with such ingenuitythat he had nearlycompletedthe adjustment of the rafters. His next labour was tocut rushesand thatch his dwellinga task which he performedwithsingular dexterity.
As heseemed averse to receive any aid beyond the occasionalassistanceof a passengermaterials suitable to his purposeandtoolswere supplied to himin the use of which he proved to beskilful. He constructed the door and window of his cotheadjusted arude bedsteadand a few shelvesand appeared tobecomesomewhat soothed in his temper as his accommodationsincreased.
His nexttask was to form a strong enclosureand to cultivatethe landwithin it to the best of his power; untilbytransportingmouldand working up what was upon the spotheformed apatch of garden-ground. It must be naturally supposedthatasabove hintedthis solitary being received assistanceoccasionallyfrom such travellers as crossed the moor by chanceas well asfrom several who went from curiosity to visit hisworks. It wasindeedimpossible to see a human creaturesounfittedat first sightfor hard labourtoiling with suchunremittingassiduitywithout stopping a few minutes to aid himin histask; andas no one of his occasional assistants wasacquaintedwith the degree of help which the Dwarf had receivedfromothersthe celerity of his progress lost none of itsmarvels intheir eyes. The strong and compact appearance of thecottageformed in so very short a spaceand by such a beingand thesuperior skill which he displayed in mechanicsand inotherartsgave suspicion to the surrounding neighbours. Theyinsistedthatif he was not a phantom--an opinion which wasnowabandonedsince he plainly appeared a being of blood andbone withthemselves--yet he must be in close league with theinvisibleworldand have chosen that sequestered spot to carryon hiscommunication with them undisturbed. They insistedthough ina different sense from the philosopher's application ofthephrasethat he was never less alone than when alone; andthat fromthe heights which commanded the moor at a distancepassengersoften discovered a person at work along with thisdweller ofthe desertwho regularly disappeared as soon as theyapproachedcloser to the cottage. Such a figure was alsooccasionallyseen sitting beside him at the doorwalking withhim in themooror assisting him in fetching water from hisfountain. Earnscliff explained this phenomenon by supposing itto be theDwarf's shadow.
"Deila shadow has he" replied Hobbie Elliotwho was astrenuousdefender of the general opinion; "he's ower far in wi'the AuldAne to have a shadow. Besides" he argued morelogically"wha ever heard of a shadow that cam between a bodyand thesun? and this thingbe it what it willis thinnerand tallerthan the body himselland has been seen to comebetweenhim and the sun mair than anes or twice either."
Thesesuspicionswhichin any other part of the countrymighthave beenattended with investigations a little inconvenient tothesupposed wizardwere here only productive of respect andawe. The recluse being seemed somewhat gratified by the marks oftimidveneration with which an occasional passenger approachedhisdwellingthe look of startled surprise with which hesurveyedhis person and his premisesand the hurried step withwhich hepressed his retreat as he passed the awful spot. Theboldestonly stopped to gratify their curiosity by a hasty glanceat thewalls of his cottage and gardenand to apologize for itby acourteous salutationwhich the inmate sometimes deigned toreturn bya word or a nod. Earnscliff often passed that wayandseldomwithout enquiring after the solitary inmatewho seemednow tohave arranged his establishment for life.
It wasimpossible to engage him in any conversation on his ownpersonalaffairs; nor was he communicative or accessible intalking onany other subject whateveralthough he seemed to haveconsiderablyrelented in the extreme ferocity of his misanthropyor ratherto be less frequently visited with the fits ofderangementof which this was a symptom. No argument couldprevailupon him to accept anything beyond the simplestnecessariesalthough much more was offered by Earnscliff out ofcharityand by his more superstitious neighbours from othermotives. The benefits of these last he repaid by advicewhenconsulted(as at length he slowly was) on their diseasesorthose oftheir cattle. He often furnished them with medicinesalsoandseemed possessednot only of such as were the produceof thecountrybut of foreign drugs. He gave these persons tounderstandthat his name was Elshender the Recluse; but hispopularepithet soon came to be Canny Elshieor the Wise WightofMucklestane-Moor. Some extended their queries beyond theirbodilycomplaintsand requested advice upon other matterswhichhedelivered with an oracular shrewdness that greatly confirmedtheopinion of his possessing preternatural skill. The queristsusuallyleft some offering upon a stoneat a distance from hisdwelling;if it was moneyor any article which did not suit himto accepthe either threw it awayor suffered it to remainwhere itwas without making use of it. On all occasions hismannerswere rude and unsocial; and his wordsin numberjustsufficientto express his meaning as briefly as possibleand heshunnedall communication that went a syllable beyond the matterin hand. When winter had passed awayand his garden began toafford himherbs and vegetableshe confined himself almostentirelyto those articles of food. He acceptednotwithstandinga pair of she-goats from Earnscliffwhich fedon themoorand supplied him with milk.
WhenEarnscliff found his gift had been receivedhe soonafterwardspaid the hermit a visit. The old man was seated an abroad flatstone near his garden doorwhich was the seat ofscience heusually occupied when disposed to receive his patientsorclients. The inside of his hutand that of his gardenhekept assacred from human intrusion as the natives of Otaheite dotheirMorai;--apparently he would have deemed it polluted by thestep ofany human being. When he shut himself up in hishabitationno entreaty could prevail upon him to make himselfvisibleor to give audience to any one whomsoever.
Earnscliffhad been fishing in a small river at some distance.He had hisrod in his handand his basketfilled with troutathisshoulder. He sate down upon a stone nearly opposite to theDwarf whofamiliarized with his presencetook no farther noticeof himthan by elevating his huge mis-shapen head for the purposeof staringat himand then again sinking it upon his bosomasif inprofound meditation. Earnscliff looked around himandobservedthat the hermit had increased his accommodations by theconstructionof a shed for the reception of his goats.
You labourhardElshie" he saidwilling to lead this singularbeing intoconversation.
"Labour"re-echoed the Dwarf"is the mildest evil of a lot somiserableas that of mankind; better to labour like methansport likeyou."
"Icannot defend the humanity of our ordinary rural sportsElshieand yet--"
"Andyet" interrupted the Dwarf" they are better than yourordinarybusiness; better to exercise idle and wanton cruelty onmutefishes than on your fellow-creatures. Yet why should I sayso? Why should not the whole human herd buttgoreand gorgeupon eachothertill all are extirpated but one huge and over-fedBehemothand hewhen he had throttled and gnawed the bonesof all hisfellows--hewhen his prey failed himto be roaringwhole daysfor lack of foodandfinallyto dieinch by inchoffamine--it were a consummation worthy of the race!"
"Yourdeeds are betterElshiethan your words" answeredEarnscliff;"you labour to preserve the race whom yourmisanthropyslanders."
"Ido; but why?--Hearken. You are one on whom I look with theleastloathingand I care notifcontrary to my wontI wastea fewwords in compassion to your infatuated blindness. If Icannotsend disease into familiesand murrain among the herdscan Iattain the same end so well as by prolonging the lives ofthose whocan serve the purpose of destruction as effectually?--If Aliceof Bower had died in winterwould young Ruthwin havebeen slainfor her love the last spring?--Who thought of penningtheircattle beneath the tower when the Red Reiver ofWestburnflatwas deemed to be on his death-bed?--My draughtsmyskillrecovered him. Andnowwho dare leave his herd upon theleawithout a watchor go to bed without unchaining the sleuth-hound?"
"Iown" answered Earnscliff; "you did little good to societybythe lastof these cures. Butto balance the evilthere is myfriendHobbiehonest Hobbie of the Heugh-footyour skillrelievedhim last winter in a fever that might have cost him hislife."
"Thusthink the children of clay in their ignorance" said: theDwarfsmiling maliciously"and thus they speak in their folly.Have youmarked the young cub of a wild cat that has beendomesticatedhow sportivehow playfulhow gentle--but trusthim withyour gameyour lambsyour poultryhis inbred ferocitybreaksforth; he gripestearsravagesand devours."
"Suchis the animal's instinct" answered Earnscliff; "but whathas thatto do with Hobbie?"
"Itis his emblem--it is his picture" retorted the Recluse. "Heis atpresent tamequietand domesticatedfor lack ofopportunityto exercise his inborn propensities; but let thetrumpet ofwar sound--let the young blood-hound snuff bloodhewill be asferocious as the wildest of his Border ancestors thatever fireda helpless peasant's abode. Can you denythat evenat presenthe often urges you to take bloody revenge for aninjuryreceived when you were a boy?"--Earnscliff started; theRecluseappeared not to observe his surpriseand proceeded--"ThetrumpetWILL blowthe young blood-hound WILL lap bloodand Iwill laughand sayFor this I have preserved thee!" He pausedandcontinued--"Such are my cures;--their objecttheir purposeperpetuatingthe mass of miseryand playing even in this desertmy part inthe general tragedy. Were YOU on your sick bedImightincompassionsend you a cup of poison."
"I ammuch obliged to youElshieand certainly shall not failto consultyouwith so comfortable a hope from your assistance."
"Donot flatter yourself too far" replied the Hermit"withthehope thatI will positively yield to the frailty of pity. Whyshould Isnatch a dupeso well fitted to endure the miseries oflife asyou arefrom the wretchedness which his own visionsandthevillainy of the worldare preparing for him? Why should Iplay thecompassionate Indianandknocking out the brains ofthecaptive with my tomahawkat once spoil the three days'amusementof my kindred tribeat the very moment when the brandswerelightedthe pincers heatedthe cauldrons boilingtheknivessharpenedto tearscorchseetheand scarify theintendedvictim?"
"Adreadful picture you present to me of lifeElshie; but I amnotdaunted by it" returned Earnscliff. "We are senthereinone senseto bear and to suffer; butin anotherto do and toenjoy. The active day has its evening of repose; even patientsufferancehas its alleviationswhere there is a consolatorysense ofduty discharged."
"Ispurn at the slavish and bestial doctrine" said the Dwarfhis eyeskindling with insane fury--"I spurn at itas worthyonly ofthe beasts that perish; but I will waste no more wordswith you."
He rosehastily; butere he withdrew into the huthe addedwith greatvehemence"Yetlest you still think my apparentbenefitsto mankind flow from the stupid and servile sourcecalledlove of our fellow-creaturesknowthat were there a manwho hadannihilated my soul's dearest hope--who had torn my hearttomammocksand seared mp brain till it glowed like a volcanoand werethat man's fortune and life in my power as completely asthis frailpotsherd" (he snatched up an earthen cup which stoodbesidehim)"I would not dash him into atoms thus"--(he flungthe vesselwith fury against the wall)--"No!" (he spoke morecomposedlybut with the utmost bitterness)"I would pamper himwithwealth and power to inflame his evil passionsand to fulfilhis evildesigns; he should lack no means of vice and villainy;he shouldbe the centre of a whirlpool that itself should knowneitherrest nor peacebut boil with unceasing furywhile itwreckedevery goodly ship that approached its limits! he shouldbe anearthquake capable of shaking the very land in which hedweltandrendering all its inhabitants friendlessoutcastandmiserable--asI am!"
Thewretched being rushed into his hut as he uttered these lastwordsshutting the door with furious violenceand rapidlydrawingtwo boltsone after anotheras if to exclude theintrusionof any one of that hated racewho had thus lashed hissoul tofrenzy. Earnscliff left the moor with mingled sensationsof pityand horrorpondering what strange and melancholy causecould havereduced to so miserable a state of minda man whoselanguageargued him to be of rank and education much superior tothevulgar. He was also surprised to see how much particularinformationa person who had lived in that country so short atimeandin so recluse a mannerhad been able to collectrespectingthe dispositions and private affairs of theinhabitants.
"Itis no wonder" he said to himself"that with such extentofinformationsuch a mode of lifeso uncouth a figureandsentimentsso virulently misanthropicthis unfortunate should beregardedby the vulgar as in league with the Enemy of Mankind."
Thebleakest rock upon the loneliest heath Feelsin its barrennesssome touch of spring; Andin the April dewor beam of May Itsmoss and lichen freshen and revive; Andthus the heartmost sear'd to human pleasure Meltsat the tearjoys in the smileof woman. BEAUMONT
As theseason advancedthe weather became more genialand theReclusewas more frequently found occupying the broad flat stonein thefront of his mansion. As he sate there one dayabout thehour ofnoona party of gentlemen and ladieswell mountedandnumerouslyattendedswept across the heath at some distance fromhisdwelling. Dogshawksand led-horses swelled the retinueand theair resounded at intervals with the cheer of the huntersand thesound of horns blown by the attendants. The Recluse wasabout toretire into his mansion at the sight of a train sojoyouswhen three young ladieswith their attendantswho hadmade acircuitand detached themselves from their partyinorder togratify their curiosity by a sight of the Wise Wight ofMucklestane-Moorcame suddenly upere he could effect hispurpose. The first shriekedand put her hands before her eyesat sightof an object so unusually deformed. The secondwith ahystericalgigglewhich she intended should disguise herterrorsasked the Reclusewhether he could tell their fortune.The thirdwho was best mountedbest dressedand incomparablythebest-looking of the threeadvancedas if to cover theincivilityof her companions.
"Wehave lost the right path that leads through these morassesand ourparty have gone forward without us" said the young lady."Seeingyoufatherat the door of your housewe have turnedthis wayto--"
"Hush!" interrupted the Dwarf; "so youngand already so artful?Youcame--you know you cameto exult in the consciousness ofyour ownyouthwealthand beautyby contrasting them with agepovertyand deformity. It is a fit employment for the daughterof yourfather; but O how unlike the child of your mother!"
"Didyouthenknow my parentsand do you know me?"
"Yes;this is the first time you have crossed my waking eyesbutI haveseen you in my dreams."
"AyIsabel Vere. What hast thouor thineto do with my wakingthoughts?"
"Yourwaking thoughtssir" said the second of Miss Vere'scompanionswith a sort of mock gravity"are fixeddoubtlessuponwisdom; folly can only intrude on your sleeping moments."
"Overthine" retorted the Dwarfmore splenetically than becameaphilosopher or hermit"folly exercises an unlimited empireasleep orawake."
"Lordbless us!" said the lady"he's a prophetsureenough."
"Assurely" continued the Recluse" as thou art a woman.--Awoman!--Ishould have said a lady--a fine lady. You asked me totell yourfortune--it is a simple one; an endless chase throughlife afterfollies not worth catchingandwhen caughtsuccessivelythrown away--a chasepursued from the days oftotteringinfancy to those of old age upon his crutches. Toysandmerry-makings in childhood--love and its absurdities inyouth--spadilleand basto in ageshall succeed each other asobjects ofpursuit--flowers and butterflies in spring--butterfliesand thistle-down in summer--withered leaves in autumnandwinter--all pursuedall caughtall flung aside.--Standapart; your fortune is said."
"AllCAUGHThowever" retorted the laughing fair onewho was acousin ofMiss Vere's; "that's somethingNancy" she continuedturning tothe timid damsel who had first approached the Dwarf;"willyou ask your fortune?"
"Notfor worlds" said shedrawing back; "I have heard enoughofyours."
"Wellthen" said Miss Ildertonoffering money to the Dwarf"I'llpay for mineas if it were spoken by an oracle to aprincess."
"Truth"said the Soothsayer"can neither be bought nor sold;"and hepushed back her proffered offering with morose disdain.
"Wellthen" said the lady"I'll keep my moneyMr. Elshenderto assistme in the chase I am to pursue."
"Youwill need it" replied the cynic; "without itfew pursuesuccessfullyand fewer are themselves pursued.--Stop!" he saidto MissVereas her companions moved off"With you I have moreto say. You have what your companions would wish to haveor bethought tohave--beautywealthstationaccomplishments."
"Forgivemy following my companionsfather; I am proof both toflatteryand fortune-telling."
"Stay"continued the Dwarfwith his hand on her horse's rein"I amno common soothsayerand I am no flatterer. All theadvantagesI have detailedall and each of them have theircorrespondingevils--unsuccessful lovecrossed affectionsthegloom of aconventor an odious alliance. Iwho wish ill toallmankindcannot wish more evil to youso much is your courseof lifecrossed by it."
"Andif it befatherlet me enjoy the readiest solace ofadversitywhile prosperity is in my power. You are old; you arepoor; yourhabitation is far from human aidwere you illor inwant; yoursituationin many respectsexposes you to thesuspicionsof the vulgarwhich are too apt to break out intoactions ofbrutality. Let me think I have mended the lot of onehumanbeing! Accept of such assistance as I have power to offer;do thisfor my sakeif not for your ownthat when these evilsarisewhich you prophesy perhaps too trulyI may not have toreflectthat the hours of my happier time have been passedaltogetherin vain."
The oldman answered with a broken voiceand almost withoutaddressinghimself to the young lady--
"Yes'tis thus thou shouldst think--'tis thus thou shouldstspeakifever human speech and thought kept touch with eachother! They do not--they do not--Alas! they cannot. And yet--wait herean instant--stir not till my return." He went to hislittlegardenand returned with a half-blown rose. "Thou hastmade meshed a tearthe first which has wet my eyelids for manya year;for that good deed receive this token of gratitude. Itis but acommon rose; preserve ithoweverand do not part withit. Come to me in your hour of adversity. Show me that roseorbut oneleaf of itwere it withered as my heart is--if it shouldbe in myfiercest and wildest movements of rage against a hatefulworldstill it will recall gentler thoughts to my bosomandperhapsafford happier prospects to thine. But no message" heexclaimedrising into his usual mood of misanthropy--"nomessage--nogo-between! Come thyself; and the heart and thedoors thatare shut against every other earthly beingshall opento theeand to thy sorrows. And now pass on."
He let gothe bridle-reinand the young lady rode onafterexpressingher thanks to this singular beingas well as hersurpriseat the extraordinary nature of his address would permitoftenturning back to look at the Dwarfwho still remained atthe doorof his habitationand watched her progress over themoortowards her father's castle of Ellieslawuntil the brow ofthe hillhid the party from his sight.
Theladiesmeantimejested with Miss Vere on the strangeinterviewthey had just had with the far-famed wizard of theMoor. "Isabella has all the luck at home and abroad! Her hawkstrikesdown the black-cock; her eyes wound the gallant; nochance forher poor companions and kinswomen; even the conjurorcannotescape the force of her charms. You shouldincompassioncease to be such an engrossermy dear Isabelor atleast setup shopand sell off all the goods you do not mean tokeep foryour own use."
"Youshall have them all" replied Miss Vere"and the conjurorto bootat a very easy rate."
"No! Nancy shall have the conjuror" said Miss Ilderton"tosupplydeficiencies; she's not quite a witch herselfyou know."
"Lordsister" answered the younger Miss Ilderton"what could Ido with sofrightful a monster? I kept my eyes shutafter onceglancingat him; andI protestI thought I saw him stillthough Iwinked as close as ever I could."
"That'sa pity" said her sister; "ever while you liveNancychoose anadmirer whose faults can be hid by winking at them.--WellthenI must take him myselfI supposeand put him intomamma'sJapan cabinetin order to show that Scotland can producea specimenof mortal clay moulded into a form ten thousand timesuglierthan the imaginations of Canton and Pekinfertile as theyare inmonstershave immortalized in porcelain."
"Thereis something" said Miss Vere"so melancholy in thesituationof this poor manthat I cannot enter into your mirthLucysoreadily as usual. If he has no resourceshow is he toexist inthis waste countrylivingas he doesat such adistancefrom mankind? and if he has the means of securingoccasionalassistancewill not the very suspicion that he ispossessedof themexpose him to plunder and assassination bysome ofour unsettled neighbours?"
"Butyou forget that they say he is a warlock" said NancyIlderton.
"Andif his magic diabolical should fail him" rejoined hersister"Iwould have him trust to his magic naturaland thrusthisenormous headand most preternatural visageout at his dooror windowfull in view of the assailants. The boldest robberthat everrode would hardly bide a second glance of him. WellIwish I hadthe use of that Gorgon head of his for only one halfhour."
"Forwhat purposeLucy?" said Miss Vere.
"O! I would frighten out of the castle that darkstiffandstatelySir Frederick Langleythat is so great a favourite withyourfatherand so little a favourite of yours. I protest Ishall beobliged to the Wizard as long as I liveif it were onlyfor thehalf hour's relief from that man's company which we havegained bydeviating from the party to visit Elshie."
"Whatwould you saythen" said Miss Verein a low toneso asnot to beheard by the younger sisterwho rode before themthenarrowpath not admitting of their moving all three abreast--"What wouldyou saymy dearest Lucyif it were proposed to youto endurehis company for life?"
"Say? I would sayNONONOthree timeseach louder thananothertill they should hear me at Carlisle."
"AndSir Frederick would say thennineteen nay-says are half agrant."
"That"replied Miss Lucy"depends entirely on the manner inwhich thenay-says are said. Mine should have not one grain ofconcessionin themI promise you."
"Butif your father" said Miss Vere"were to say--Thus door--"
"Iwould stand to the consequences of his ORwere he the mostcruelfather that ever was recorded in romanceto fill up thealternative."
"Andwhat if he threatened you with a catholic auntan abbessand acloister?"
"Then"said Miss Ilderton"I would threaten him with aprotestantson-in-lawand be glad of an opportunity to disobeyhim forconscience' sake. And now that Nancy is out of hearinglet mereally sayI think you would be excusable before God andman forresisting this preposterous match by every means in yourpower. A prouddarkambitious man; a caballer against thestate;infamous for his avarice and severity; a bad sona badbrotherunkind and ungenerous to all his relatives--IsabelIwould dierather than have him."
"Don'tlet my father hear you give me such advice" said MissVere"oradieumy dear Lucyto Ellieslaw Castle."
"Andadieu to Ellieslaw Castlewith all my heart" said herfriend"if I once saw you fairly out of itand settled undersomekinder protector than he whom nature has given you. Oifmy poorfather had been in his former healthhow gladly would hehavereceived and sheltered youtill this ridiculous and cruelpersecutionwere blown over!"
"Wouldto God it had been somy dear Lucy!" answered Isabella;"butI fearthatin your father's weak state of healthhewould bealtogether unable to protect me against the means whichwould beimmediately used for reclaiming the poor fugitive."
"Ifear so indeed" replied Miss Ilderton; "but we willconsiderand devisesomething. Now that your father and his guests seemso deeplyengaged in some mysterious plotto judge from thepassingand returning of messagesfrom the strange faces whichappear anddisappear without being announced by their namesfromthecollecting and cleaning of armsand the anxious gloom andbustlewhich seem to agitate every male in the castleit may notbeimpossible for us (always in case matters be driven toextremity)to shape out some little supplemental conspiracy ofour own. I hope the gentlemen have not kept all the policy tothemselves;and there is one associate that I would gladly admitto ourcounsel."
"Ono!" said Miss Ilderton; "Nancythough an excellentgoodgirlandfondly attached to youwould make a dull conspirator--as dullas Renault and all the other subordinate plotters inVENICEPRESERVED. No; this is a Jaffieror Pierreif you likethecharacter better; and yet though I know I shall please youIam afraidto mention his name to youlest I vex you at the sametime. Can you not guess? Something about an eagle and a rock--it doesnot begin with eagle in Englishbut something very likeit inScotch."
"Youcannot mean young EarnscliffLucy?" said Miss Vereblushingdeeply.
"Andwhom else should I mean" said Lucy. "Jaffiers andPierresare veryscarce in this countryI take itthough one could findRenaultsand Bedamars enow."
"Howcall you talk so wildlyLucy? Your plays and romances havepositivelyturned your brain. You knowthatindependent of myfather'sconsentwithout which I never will marry any oneandwhichinthe case you point atwould never be granted;independenttooof our knowing nothing of young Earnscliff'sinclinationsbut by your own vivid conjectures and fancies--besidesall thisthere is the fatal brawl!"
"Whenhis father was killed?" said Lucy. "But thatwas verylong ago;and I hope we have outlived the time of bloody feudwhen aquarrel was carried down between two families from fatherto sonlike a Spanish game at chessand a murder or twocommittedin every generationjust to keep the matter from goingto sleep. We do with our quarrels nowadays as with our clothes;cut themout for ourselvesand wear them out in our own dayandshould nomore think of resenting our fathers' feudsthan ofwearingtheir slashed doublets and trunk-hose."
"Youtreat this far too lightlyLucy" answered Miss Vere.
"Nota bitmy dear Isabella" said Lucy. "Consideryourfatherthough present in the unhappy affrayis never supposedto havestruck the fatal blow; besidesin former timesin caseof mutualslaughter between clanssubsequent alliances were sofar frombeing excludedthat the hand of a daughter or a sisterwas themost frequent gage of reconciliation. You laugh at myskill inromance; butI assure youshould your history bewrittenlike that of many a less distressed and less deservingheroinethe well-judging reader would set you down for the ladyand thelove of Earnscliff; from the very obstacle which yousuppose soinsurmountable."
"Butthese are not the days of romancebut of sad realityfortherestands the castle of Ellieslaw."
"Andthere stands Sir Frederick Langley at the gatewaiting toassist theladies from their palfreys. I would as lief touch atoad; Iwill disappoint himand take old Horsington the groomfor mymaster of the horse."
So sayingthe lively young lady switched her palfrey forwardandpassing Sir Frederick with a familiar nod as he stood readyto takeher horse's reinshe cantered onand jumped into thearms ofthe old groom. Fain would Isabella have done the samehad shedared; but her father stood neardispleasure alreadydarkeningon a countenance peculiarly qualified to express theharsherpassionsand she was compelled to receive the unwelcomeassiduitiesof her detested suitor.
Letnot us that are squires of the night's body be called thievesof the day's booty; let us be Diana's foresters gentlemenof the shademinions of the moon. HENRY THE FOURTHPART I.
TheSolitary had consumed the remainder of that day in which hehad theinterview with the young ladieswithin the precincts ofhisgarden. Evening again found him seated on his favouritestone. The sun setting redand among seas of rolling cloudsthrew agloomy lustre over the moorand gave a deeper purple tothe broadoutline of heathy mountains which surrounded thisdesolatespot. The Dwarf sate watching the clouds as theyloweredabove each other in masses of conglomerated vapoursandas astrong lurid beam of the sinking luminary darted full on hissolitaryand uncouth figurehe might well have seemed the demonof thestorm which was gatheringor some gnome summoned forthfrom therecesses of the earth by the subterranean signals of itsapproach. As he sate thuswith his dark eye turned towards thescowlingand blackening heavena horseman rode rapidly up tohimandstoppingas if to let his horse breathe for an instantmade asort of obeisance to the anchoretwith an air betwixteffronteryand embarrassment.
The figureof the rider was thintalland slenderbutremarkablyathleticbonyand sinewy; like one who had all hislifefollowed those violent exercises which prevent the humanform fromincreasing in bulkwhile they harden and confirm byhabit itsmuscular powers. His facesharp-featuredsun-burntandfreckledhad a sinister expression of violenceimpudenceandcunningeach of which seemed alternately to predominate overtheothers. Sandy-coloured hairand reddish eyebrowsfromunderwhich looked forth his sharp grey eyescompleted theinauspiciousoutline of the horseman's physiognomy. He hadpistols inhis holstersand another pair peeped from his beltthough hehad taken some pains to conceal them by buttoning hisdoublet. He wore a rusted steel head piece; a buff jacket ofrather anantique cast; glovesof which that for the right handwascovered with small scales of ironlike an ancient gauntlet;and a longbroadsword completed his equipage.
"So"said the Dwarf" rapine and murder once more on horseback."
"Onhorseback?" said the bandit; "ayayElshieyourleech-craft hasset me on the bonny bay again."
"Andall those promises of amendment which you made during yourillnessforgotten?" continued Elshender.
"Allclear awaywith the water-saps and panada" returned theunabashedconvalescent. "Ye kenElshiefor they say ye areweelacquent wi' the gentleman
"Whenthe devil was sickthe devil a monk would be When the devil was wellthe devil a monk was he."
"Thousay'st true" said the Solitary; "as well divide a wolffrom hisappetite for carnageor a raven from her scent ofslaughteras thee from thy accursed propensities."
"Whywhat would you have me to do? It's born with me--lies inmy veryblude and bane. Whymanthe lads of Westburnflatforten langdescentshave been reivers and lifters. They have alldrunkhardlived hightaking deep revenge for light offenceand neverwanted gear for the winning."
"Right;and thou art as thorough-bred a wolf" said the Dwarf"asever leapt a lamb-fold at night. On what hell's errand artthou boundnow?"
"Canyour skill not guess?"
"Thusfar I know" said the Dwarf"that thy purpose is badthydeed willbe worseand the issue worst of all."
"Andyou like me the better for itFather Elshieeh?" saidWestburnflat;"you always said you did."
"Ihave cause to like all" answered the Solitary"that arescourgesto their fellow-creaturesand thou art a bloody one."
"No--Isay not guilty to that--lever bluidy unless there'sresistanceand that sets a man's bristles upye ken. And thisis naegreat matterafter a'; just to cut the comb of a youngcock thathas been crawing a little ower crousely."
"Notyoung Earnscliff?" said the Solitarywith some emotion.
"No;not young Earnscliff--not young Earnscliff YET; but his timemay comeif he will not take warningand get him back to theburrow-townthat he's fit forand no keep skelping about heredestroyingthe few deer that are left in the countryandpretendingto act as a magistrateand writing letters to thegreat folkat Auld Reekieabout the disturbed state of the land.Let himtake care o' himsell."
"Thenit must be Hobbie of the Heugh-foot" said Elshie."Whatharm has the lad done you?"
"Harm! nae great harm; but I hear he says I staid away from theBa'spielon Fastern's E'enfor fear of him; and it was only forfear ofthe Country Keeperfor there was a warrant against me.I'll standHobbie's feudand a' his clan's. But it's not somuch forthatas to gie him a lesson not to let his tonguegallopower freely about his betters. I trow he will hae lostthe bestpen-feather o' his wing before to-morrow morning.--FarewellElshie; there's some canny boys waiting for me downamang theshawsowerby; I will see you as I come backand bringye ablithe tale in return for your leech-craft."
Ere theDwarf could collect himself to replythe Reiver ofWestburnflatset spurs to his horse. The animalstarting at oneof thestones which lay scattered aboutflew from the path. Theriderexercised his spurs without moderation or mercy. The horsebecamefuriousrearedkickedplungedand bolted like a deerwith allhis four feet off the ground at once. It was in vain;theunrelenting rider sate as if he had been a part of the horsewhich hebestrode; andafter a short but furious contestcompelledthe subdued animal to proceed upon the path at a ratewhich sooncarried him out of sight of the Solitary.
"Thatvillain" exclaimed the Dwarf--"that cool-bloodedhardenedunrelenting ruffian--that wretchwhose every thoughtisinfected with crimes--has thewes and sinewslimbsstrengthandactivity enoughto compel a nobler animal than himself tocarry himto the place where he is to perpetrate his wickedness;while Ihad I the weakness to wish to put his wretched victim onhis guardand to save the helpless familywould see my goodintentionsfrustrated by the decrepitude which chains me to thespot.--Whyshould I wish it were otherwise? What have myscreech-owlvoicemy hideous formand my mis-shapen featuresto do withthe fairer workmanship of nature? Do not men receiveeven mybenefits with shrinking horror and ill-suppresseddisgust? And why should I interest myself in a race whichaccountsme a prodigy and an outcastand which has treated me assuch? No; by all the ingratitude which I have reaped--by all thewrongswhich I have sustained--by my imprisonmentmy stripesmychainsIwill wrestle down my feelings of rebellious humanity!I will notbe the fool I have beento swerve from my principleswheneverthere was an appealforsoothto my feelings; as if Itowardswhom none show sympathyought to have sympathy with anyone. Let Destiny drive forth her scythed car through theoverwhelmedand trembling mass of humanity! Shall I be the idiotto throwthis decrepit formthis mis-shapen lump of mortalityunder herwheelsthat the Dwarfthe Wizardthe Hunchbackmaysave fromdestruction some fair form or some active frameandall theworld clap their hands at the exchange? Nonever!--Andyet thisElliot--this Hobbieso young and gallantso frankso--I willthink of it no longer. I cannot aid him if I wouldandI amresolved--firmly resolvedthat I would not aid himif awish werethe pledge of his safety!"
Havingthus ended his soliloquyhe retreated into his hut forshelterfrom the storm which was fast approachingand now beganto burstin large and heavy drops of rain. The last rays of thesun nowdisappeared entirelyand two or three claps of distantthunderfollowed each other at brief intervalsechoing andre-echoingamong the range of heathy fells like the sound of adistantengagement.
Proudbird of the mountainthy plume shall be torn!-- . . . . Returnto thy dwelling; all lonelyreturn; Forthe blackness of ashes shall mark where it stood Anda wild mother scream o'er her famishing brood. CAMPBELL.
The nightcontinued sullen and stormy; but morning rose as ifrefreshedby the rains. Even the Mucklestane-Moorwith itsbroadbleak swells of barren groundsinterspersed with marshypools ofwaterseemed to smile under the serene influence of theskyjustas good-humour can spread a certain inexpressible charmover theplainest human countenance. The heath was in itsthickestand deepest bloom. The beeswhich the Solitary hadadded tohis rural establishmentwere abroad and on the wingand filledthe air with the murmurs of their industry. As theold mancrept out of his little huthis two she-goats came tomeet himand licked his hands in gratitude for the vegetableswith whichhe supplied them from his garden. "Youat least" hesaid--"youat leastsee no differences in form which can alteryourfeelings to a benefactor--to youthe finest shape that everstatuarymoulded would be an object of indifference or of alarmshould itpresent itself instead of the mis-shapen trunk to whoseservicesyou are accustomed. While I was in the worlddid Iever meetwith such a return of gratitude? No; the domestic whomI had bredfrom infancy made mouths at me as he stood behind mychair; thefriend whom I had supported with my fortuneand forwhose sakeI had even stained--(he stopped with a strongconvulsiveshudder)even he thought me more fit for the societyoflunatics--for their disgraceful restraints--for their cruelprivationsthan for communication with the rest of humanity.Hubertalone--and Hubert too will one day abandon me. All are ofa pieceone mass of wickednessselfishnessand ingratitude--wretcheswho sin even in their devotions; and of such hardnessof heartthat they do notwithout hypocrisyeven thank theDeityhimself for his warm sun and pure air."
As he wasplunged in these gloomy soliloquieshe heard the trampof a horseon the other side of his enclosureand a strong clearbass voicesinging with the liveliness inspired by a light heart
CannyHobbie Elliotcanny Hobbie now CannyHobbie ElliotI'se gang alang wi' you.
At thesame momenta large deer greyhound sprung over thehermit'sfence. It is well known to the sportsmen in thesewildsthat the appearance and scent of the goat so much resemblethose oftheir usual objects of chasethat the best-brokegreyhoundswill sometimes fly upon them. The dog in questioninstantlypulled down and throttled one of the hermit's she-goatswhile Hobbie Elliotwho came upand jumped from hishorse forthe purposewas unable to extricate the harmlessanimalfrom the fangs of his attendant until it was expiring.The Dwarfeyedfor a few momentsthe convulsive starts of hisdyingfavouriteuntil the poor goat stretched out her limbs withthetwitches and shivering fit of the last agony. He thenstartedinto an access of frenzyand unsheathing a long sharpknifeordaggerwhich he wore under his coathe was about tolaunch itat the dogwhen Hobbieperceiving his purposeinterposedand caught hold of his handexclaiming"Let a bethe houndman--let a be the hound!--NanaKillbuck maunna beguidedthat gateneither."
The Dwarfturned his rage on the young farmer; andby a suddeneffortfar more powerful than Hobbie expected from such apersonfreed his wrist from his graspand offered the dagger athisheart. All this was done in the twinkling of an eyeand theincensedRecluse might have completed his vengeance by plungingthe weaponin Elliot's bosomhad he not been checked by aninternalimpulse which made him hurl the knife to a distance.
"No"he exclaimedas he thus voluntarily deprived himself ofthe meansof gratifying his rage; "not again--not again!"
Hobbieretreated a step or two in great surprisediscomposureanddisdainat having been placed in such danger by an objectapparentlyso contemptible.
"Thedeil's in the body for strength and bitterness!" were thefirstwords that escaped himwhich he followed up with anapologyfor the accident that had given rise to theirdisagreement. "I am no justifying Killbuck a'thegither neitherand I amsure it is as vexing to me as to youElshiethat themischanceshould hae happened; but I'll send you twa goats andtwa fatgimmersmanto make a' straight again. A wise man likeyoushouldna bear malice against a poor dumb thing; ye see that agoat'slike first-cousin to a deersae he acted but according tohis natureafter a'. Had it been a pet-lambthere wad hae beenmair to besaid. Ye suld keep sheepElshieand no goatswherethere'ssae mony deerhounds about--but I'll send ye baith."
"Wretch!" said the Hermit"your cruelty has destroyed one ofthe onlycreatures in existence that would look on me withkindness!"
"DearElshie" answered Hobbie"I'm wae ye suld hae cause to saysae; I'msure it wasna wi' my will. And yetit's trueI shouldhae mindedyour goatsand coupled up the dogs. I'm sure I wouldratherthey had worried the primest wether in my faulds.--Comemanforget and forgie. I'm e'en as vexed as ye can be--But I amabridegroomye seeand that puts a' things out o' my headIthink. There's the marriage-dinneror gude part o'tthat mytwabrithers are bringing on a sled round by the Riders' Slackthreegoodly bucks as ever ran on Dallomleaas the sang says;theycouldna come the straight road for the saft grund. I wadsend ye abit venisonbut ye wadna take it weel maybeforKillbuckcatched it."
Duringthis long speechin which the good-natured Bordererendeavouredto propitiate the offended Dwarf by every argument hecouldthink ofhe heard him with his eyes bent on the groundasif in thedeepest meditationand at length broke forth--"Nature?--yes! it is indeed in the usual beaten path ofNature. The strong gripe and throttle the weak; the rich depressanddespoil the needy; the happy (those who are idiots enough tothinkthemselves happy) insult the misery and diminish theconsolationof the wretched.--Go hencethou who hast contrivedto give anadditional pang to the most miserable of human beings--thou whohast deprived me of what I half considered as a sourceofcomfort. Go henceand enjoy the happiness prepared for theeat home!"
"Neverstir" said Hobbie"if I wadna take you wi' memanifye wad butsay it wad divert ye to be at the bridal on Monday.There willbe a hundred strapping Elliots to ride the brouze--thelike's nobeen seen sin' the days of auld Martin of the Preakin-tower--Iwad send the sled for ye wi' a canny powny."
"Isit to me you propose once more to mix in the society of thecommonherd?" said the Reclusewith an air of deep disgust.
"Commons!" retorted Hobbie"nae siccan commons neither; theElliotshae been lang kend a gentle race."
"Hence! begone!" reiterated the Dwarf; "may the same evilluckattendthee that thou hast left behind with me! If I go not withyoumyselfsee if you can escape what my attendantsWrath andMiseryhave brought to thy threshold before thee."
"Iwish ye wadna speak that gate" said Hobbie. "Ye kenyoursellElshienaebody judges you to be ower canny; nowI'lltell yejust ae word for a'--ye hae spoken as muckle as wussingill to meand mine; nowif ony mischance happen to GracewhichGodforbidor to mysell; or to the poor dumb tyke; or if I beskaithedand injured in bodygudesor gearI'll no forget whait is thatit's owing to."
"Outhind!" exclaimed the Dwarf; "home! home to yourdwellingand thinkon me when you find what has befallen there."
"Aweelaweel" said Hobbiemounting his horse"it servesnaethingto strive wi' cripples--they are aye cankered; but I'lljust tellye ae thingneighbourthat if things be otherwisethan weelwi' Grace ArmstrongI'se gie you a scouther if therebe atar-barrel in the five parishes."
So sayinghe rode off; and Elshieafter looking at him with ascornfuland indignant laughtook spade and mattockandoccupiedhimself in digging a grave for his deceased favourite.
A lowwhistleand the words"HishtElshiehisht!" disturbedhim inthis melancholy occupation. He looked upand the RedReiver ofWestburnflat was before him. Like Banquo's murdererthere wasblood on his faceas well as upon the rowels of hisspurs andthe sides of his over-ridden horse.
"Hownowruffian!" demanded the Dwarf"is thy jobchared?"
"Ayaydoubt not thatElshie" answered the freebooter; "WhenI ridemyfoes may moan. They have had mair light than comfortat theHeugh-foot this morning; there's a toom byre and a wideand a wailand a cry for the bonny bride."
"Ay;Charlie Cheat-the-Woodieas we ca' himthat's CharlieFoster ofTinning Beckhas promised to keep her in Cumberlandtill theblast blaw by. She saw meand kend me in the splorefor themask fell frae my face for a blink. I am thinking it wadconcern mysafety if she were to come back herefor there's monyo' theElliotsand they band weel thegither for right or wrang.NowwhatI chiefly come to ask your rede inis how to make hersure?"
"Wouldstthou murder herthen?"
"Umph!nono; that I would not doif I could help it. But theysay theycan whiles get folk cannily away to the plantations fromsome ofthe outportsand something to boot for them that bringsa bonnywench. They're wanted beyond seas thae female cattleandthey're no that scarce here. But I think o' doing better forthislassie. There's a leddythatunless she be a' the betterbairnisto be sent to foreign parts whether she will or no;nowIthink of sending Grace to wait on her--she's a bonnylassie. Hobbie will hae a merry morning when he comes hameandmissesbaith bride and gear."
"Ay;and do you not pity him?" said the Recluse.
"Wadhe pity me were I gaeing up the Castle hill at Jeddart?And yet Irue something for the bit lassie; but he'll get anitherand littleskaith dune--ane is as gude as anither. And nowyou thatlike tohear o' sploresheard ye ever o' a better ane than I haehad thismorning?"
"Airoceanand fire" said the Dwarfspeaking to himself"theearthquakethe tempestthe volcanoare all mild and moderatecomparedto the wrath of man. And what is this fellowbut onemoreskilled than others in executing the end of his existence?--Hear mefelongo again where I before sent thee."
"Ay;and tell himElshender the Recluse commands him to givetheegold. Buthear melet the maiden be discharged free anduninjured;return her to her friendsand let her swear not todiscoverthy villainy."
"Swear"said Westburnflat; "but what if she break her aith? Womenare notfamous for keeping their plight. A wise man like youshould kenthat.--And uninjured--wha kens what may happen wereshe to beleft lang at Tinning-Beck? Charlie Cheat-the-Woodie isa roughcustomer. But if the gold could be made up to twentypiecesIthink I could ensure her being wi' her friends withinthetwenty-four hours."
The Dwarftook his tablets from his pocketmarked a line onthemandtore out the leaf. "There" he saidgiving therobbertheleaf--"Butmark me; thou knowest I am not to be fooled bythytreachery; if thou darest to disobey my directionsthywretchedlifebe sureshall answer it."
"Iknow" said the fellowlooking down"that you have poweronearthhowever you came by it; you can do what nae other man candobaithby physic and foresight; and the gold is shelled downwhen yecommandas fast as I have seen the ash-keys fall in afrostymorning in October. I will not disobey you."
"Begonethenand relieve me of thy hateful presence."
The robberset spurs to his horseand rode off without reply.
HobbieElliot hadin the meanwhilepursued his journey rapidlyharassedby those oppressive and indistinct fears that all wasnot rightwhich men usually term a presentiment of misfortune.Ere hereached the top of the bank from which he could look downon his ownhabitationhe was met by his nursea person then ofgreatconsequence in all families in Scotlandwhether of thehigher ormiddling classes. The connexion between them and theirfoster-childrenwas considered a tie far too dearly intimate tobe broken;and it usually happenedin the course of yearsthatthe nursebecame a resident in the family of her foster-sonassistingin the domestic dutiesand receiving all marks ofattentionand regard from the heads of the family. So soon asHobbierecognised the figure of Annaplein her red cloak andblackhoodhe could not help exclaiming to himself"What illluck canhae brought the auld nurse sae far frae hameher thatneverstirs a gun-shot frae the door-stane for ordinar?--Houtitwill justbe to get crane-berriesor whortle-berriesor somesuchstuffout of the mossto make the pies and tarts for thefeast onMonday.--I cannot get the words of that cankered auldcrippledeil's-buckie out o' my head--the least thing makes medread someill news.--OKillbuckman! were there nae deer andgoats inthe country besidesbut ye behoved to gang and worryhiscreatureby a' other folk's?"
By thistime Annaplewith a brow like a tragic volumehadhobbledtowards himand caught his horse by the bridle. Thedespair inher look was so evident as to deprive even him of thepower ofasking the cause. "O my bairn!" she cried"gang naforward--gangna forward--it's a sight to kill onybodylet alanethee."
"InGod's namewhat's the matter?" said the astonishedhorsemanendeavouring to extricate his bridle from the grasp ofthe oldwoman; "for Heaven's sakelet me go and see what's thematter."
"Ohon!that I should have lived to see the day!--The steading'sa' in alowand the bonny stack-yard lying in the red ashesandthe geara' driven away. But gang na forward ; it wad break youryounghearthinnyto see what my auld een hae seen thismorning."
"Andwho has dared to do this? let go my bridleAnnaple--whereis mygrandmother--my sisters?--Where is Grace Armstrong?--God!--the wordsof the warlock are knelling in my ears!"
He sprangfrom his horse to rid himself of Annaple'sinterruptionandascending the hill with great speedsoon camein view ofthe spectacle with which she had threatened him. Itwas indeeda heart-breaking sight. The habitation which he hadleft inits seclusionbeside the mountain-streamsurroundedwith everyevidence of rustic plentywas now a wasted andblackenedruin. From amongst the shattered and sable walls thesmokecontinued to rise. The turf-stackthe barn-yardtheofficesstocked with cattleall the wealth of an uplandcultivatorof the periodof which poor Elliot possessed nocommonsharehad been laid waste or carried off in a singlenight. He stood a moment motionlessand then exclaimed"I amruined--ruinedto the ground!--But curse on the warld's gear--Hadit notbeen the week before the bridal--But I am nae babeto sitdown andgreet about it. If I can but find Graceand mygrandmotherand my sisters weelI can go to the wars inFlandersas my gude-sire didunder the Bellenden bannerwi'auldBuccleuch. At ony rateI will keep up a heartor theywill losetheirs a'thegither."
Manfullystrode Hobbie down the hillresolved to suppress hisowndespairand administer consolation which he did not feel.Theneighbouring inhabitants of the dellparticularly those ofhis ownnamehad already assembled. The younger part were inarms andclamorous for revengealthough they knew not upon whom;the elderwere taking measures for the relief of the distressedfamily. Annaple's cottagewhich was situated down the brookatsomedistance from the scene of mischiefhad been hastilyadaptedfor the temporary accommodation of the old lady and herdaughterswith such articles as had been contributed by theneighboursfor very little was saved from the wreck.
"Arewe to stand here a' daysirs" exclaimed one tall youngman"andlook at the burnt wa's of our kinsman's house? Everywreath ofthe reek is a blast of shame upon us! Let us to horseand takethe chase.--Who has the nearest bloodhound?"
"It'syoung Earnscliff" answered another; "and he's been on andaway wi'six horse lang syneto see if he can track them."
"Letus follow him thenand raise the countryand mak mair helpas werideand then have at the Cumberland reivers! Takeburnandslay--they that lie nearest us shall smart first."
"Whisht!haud your tonguesdaft callants" said an old man"yedinna kenwhat ye speak about. What! wad ye raise war atween twopacificatedcountries?"
"Andwhat signifies deaving us wi' tales about our fathers"retortedthe young; man"if we're to sit and see our friends'housesburnt ower their headsand no put out hand to revengethem? Our fathers did not do thatI trow?"
"I amno saying onything against revenging Hobbie's wrangpuirchield;but we maun take the law wi' us in thae daysSimon"answeredthe more prudent elder.
"Andbesides" said another old man"I dinna believe there'sanenow livingthat kens the lawful mode of following a fray acrosstheBorder. Tam o' Whittram kend a' about it; but he died in thehardwinter."
"Ay"said a third"he was at the great gatheringwhen theychased asfar as Thirlwall; it was the year after the fight ofPhiliphaugh."
"Hout"exclaimed another of these discording counsellors"there'snae great skill needed; just put a lighted peat on theend of aspearor hayforkor siclikeand blaw a hornand crythegathering-wordand then it's lawful to follow gear intoEnglandand recover it by the strong handor to take gear fraesome otherEnglishmanproviding ye lift nae mair than's beenliftedfrae you. That's the auld Border lawmade at Dundrennanin thedays of the Black DouglasDeil ane need doubt it. It'sas clearas the sun."
"Comeawaythenlads" cried Simon"get to your geldingsandwe'll takeauld Cuddie the muckle tasker wi' us; he kens thevalue o'the stock and plenishing that's been lost. Hobbie'sstalls andstakes shall be fou again or night; and if we cannabig up theauld house sae soonwe'se lay an English ane as lowasHeugh-foot is--and that's fair playa' the warld ower."
Thisanimating proposal was received with great applause by theyoungerpart of the assemblagewhen a whisper ran among them"There'sHobbie himsellpuir fallow! we'll be guided by him."
Theprincipal suffererhaving now reached the bottom of thehillpushed on through the crowdunablefrom the tumultuousstate ofhis feelingsto do more than receive and return thegrasps ofthe friendly hands by which his neighbours and kinsmenmutelyexpressed their sympathy in his misfortune. While hepressedSimon of Hackburn's handhis anxiety at length foundwords. "Thank yeSimon--thank yeneighbours--I ken what ye wada' say. But where are they?--Where are--" He stoppedas ifafraideven to name the objects of his enquiry; and with asimilarfeelinghis kinsmenwithout replypointed to the hutinto whichHobbie precipitated himself with the desperate air ofone who isresolved to know the worst at once. A general andpowerfulexpression of sympathy accompanied him. "Ahpuirfallow--puirHobbie!"
"He'lllearn the warst o't now!"
"ButI trust Earnscliff will get some speerings o' the puirlassie."
Such werethe exclamations of the groupwhohaving noacknowledgedleader to direct their motionspassively awaitedthe returnof the suffererand determined to be guided by hisdirections.
Themeeting between Hobbie and his family was in the highestdegreeaffecting. His sisters threw themselves upon himandalmoststifled him with their caressesas if to prevent hislookinground to distinguish the absence of one yet more beloved.
"Godhelp theemy son! He can help when worldly trust is abrokenreed."--Such was the welcome of the matron to herunfortunategrandson. He looked eagerly roundholding two ofhissisters by the handwhile the third hung about his neck--"Isee you--Icount you--my grandmotherLiliasJeanand Annot;but whereis--" (he hesitatedand then continuedas if with aneffort)"Where is Grace? Surely this is not a time to hidehersellfrae me--there's nae time for daffing now."
"Obrother!" and "Our poor Grace!" was theonly answer hisquestionscould procuretill his grandmother rose upand gentlydisengagedhim from the weeping girlsled him to a seatandwith theaffecting serenity which sincere pietylike oilsprinkledon the wavescan throw over the most acute feelingsshe said"My bairnwhen thy grandfather was killed in the warsand leftme with six orphans around mewith scarce bread to eator a roofto cover usI had strength--not of mine own--but Ihadstrength given me to sayThe Lord's will be done!--My sonourpeaceful house was last night broken into by moss-troopersarmed andmasked; they have taken and destroyed alland carriedoff ourdear Grace. Pray for strength to sayHis will be done!"
"Mother! mother! urge me not--I cannot--not now I am a sinfulmanandof a hardened race. Masked armed--Grace carried off!Gie me myswordand my father's knapsack--I will have vengeanceif Ishould go to the pit of darkness to seek it!"
"O mybairnmy bairn! be patient under the rod. Who knows whenHe maylift His hand off from us? Young EarnscliffHeaven blesshimhastaen the chasewith Davie of Stenhouseand the firstcomers. I cried to let house and plenishing burnand follow thereivers torecover Graceand Earnscliff and his men were owerthe Fellwithin three hours after the deed. God bless him! he'sa realEarnscliff; he's his father's true son--a leal friend."
"Atrue friend indeed; God bless him!" exclaimed Hobbie;"let'son andawayand take the chase after him."
"Omy childbefore you run on dangerlet me hear you but sayHIS willbe done!"
"Urgeme notmother--not now." He was rushing outwhenlookingbackhe observed his grandmother make a mute attitude ofaffliction. He returned hastilythrew himself into her armsand said"YesmotherI CAN sayHIS will be donesince itwillcomfort you."
"MayHe go forth--may He go forth with youmy dear bairn; and Omay Hegive you cause to say on your returnHIS name bepraised!"
"Farewellmother!--farewellmy dear sisters!" exclaimedElliotand rushed out of the house.
Nowhorse and hattockcried the Laird-- Nowhorse and hattockspeedilie; Theythat winna ride for Telfer's kye Letthem never look in the face o' me. Border Ballad.
"Horse! horse! and spear!" exclaimed Hobbie to his kinsmen.Many aready foot was in the stirrup; andwhile Elliot hastilycollectedarms and accoutrementsno easy matter in such aconfusionthe glen resounded with the approbation of his youngerfriends.
"Ayay!" exclaimed Simon of Hackburn"that's the gate totakeitHobbie. Let women sit and greet at hamemen must do as theyhave beendone by; it's the Scripture says't."
"Haudyour tonguesir" said one of the seniorssternly; "dinnaabuse theWord that gateye dinna ken what ye speak about."
"Haeye ony tidings?--Hae ye ony speeringsHobbie?--Ocallantsdinna beower hasty" said old Dick of the Dingle.
"Whatsignifies preaching to use'enow?" said Simon; "ifyecanna makehelp yourselldinna keep back them that can."
"Whishtsir; wad ye take vengeance or ye ken wha has wrang'dye?"
"D'yethink we dinna ken the road to England as weel as ourfathersbefore us?--All evil comes out o' thereaway--it's an auldsaying anda true; and we'll e'en away thereas if the devil wasblawing ussouth."
"We'llfollow the track o' Earnscliff's horses ower the waste"cried oneElliot.
"I'llprick them out through the blindest moor in the Borderanthere hadbeen a fair held there the day before" said Hughtheblacksmithof Ringleburn"for I aye shoe his horse wi' my ainhand."
"Layon the deer-hounds" cried another "where are they?"
"Houtmanthe sun's been lang upand the dew is aff the grund--thescent will never lie."
Hobbieinstantly whistled on his houndswhich were roving aboutthe ruinsof their old habitationand filling the air with theirdolefulhowls.
"NowKillbuck" said Hobbie"try thy skill this day" andthenas if alight had suddenly broke on him--"that ill-faur'd goblinspaksomething o' this! He may ken mair o'teither by villainson earthor devils below--I'll hae it frae himif I should cutit out o'his mis-shapen bouk wi' my whinger." He then hastilygavedirections to his comrades: "Four o' yewi' Simonhaudrightforward to Graeme's-gap. If they're Englishthey'll befor beingback that way. The rest disperse by twasome andthreesomethrough the wasteand meet me at the Trysting-pool.Tell mybrotherswhen they come upto follow and meet us there.Poor ladsthey will hae hearts weelnigh as sair as mine; littlethink theywhat a sorrowful house they are bringing their venisonto! I'll ride ower Mucklestane-Moor mysell."
"Andif I were you" said Dick of the Dingle"I would speak toCannyElshie. He can tell you whatever betides in this landifhe's saeminded."
"HeSHALL tell me" said Hobbiewho was busy putting his arms inorder"what he kens o' this night's jobor I shall right weelkenwherefore he does not."
"Aybut speak him fairmy bonny man--speak him fair Hobbie; thelike o'him will no bear thrawing. They converse sae muckle wi'thaefractious ghaists and evil spiritsthat it clean spoilstheirtemper."
"Letme alane to guide him" answered Hobbie; "there's that inmybreastthis daythat would ower-maister a' the warlocks onearthanda' the devils in hell."
And beingnow fully equippedhe threw himself on his horseandspurredhim at a rapid pace against the steep ascent.
Elliotspeedily surmounted the hillrode down the other side atthe sameratecrossed a woodand traversed a long glenere heat lengthregained Mucklestane-Moor. As he was obligedin thecourse ofhis journeyto relax his speed in consideration of thelabourwhich his horse might still have to undergohe had timetoconsider maturely in what manner he should address the Dwarfin orderto extract from him the knowledge which he supposed himto be inpossession of concerning the authors of his misfortunes.Hobbiethough bluntplain of speechand hot of dispositionlike mostof his countrymenwas by no means deficient in theshrewdnesswhich is also their characteristic. He reflectedthat fromwhat he had observed on the memorable night when theDwarf wasfirst seenand from the conduct of that mysteriousbeing eversincehe was likely to be rendered even moreobstinatein his sullenness by threats and violence.
"I'llspeak him fair" he said"as auld Dickon advised me.Thoughfolk say he has a league wi' Satanhe canna be sic anincarnatedevil as no to take some pity in a case like mine; andfolkthreep he'll whiles do goodcharitable sort o' things.I'll keepmy heart doun as weel as I canand stroke him wi' thehair; andif the warst come to the warstit's but wringing thehead o'him about at last."
In thisdisposition of accommodation he approached the hut of theSolitary.
The oldman was not upon his seat of audiencenor could Hobbieperceivehim in his gardenor enclosures.
"He'sgotten into his very keep" said Hobbie"maybe to be outo' thegate; but I'se pu' it doun about his lugsif I canna winat himotherwise."
Havingthus communed with himselfhe raised his voiceandinvokedElshie in a tone as supplicating as his conflictingfeelingswould permit. "Elshiemy gude friend!" Noreply."Elshiecanny Father Elshie!" The Dwarf remained mute. "Sorrowbe in thecrooked carcass of thee!" said the Borderer betweenhis teeth;and then again attempting a soothing tone--"GoodFatherElshiea most miserable creature desires some counsel ofyourwisdom."
"Thebetter!" answered the shrill and discordant voice of theDwarfthrough a very small windowresembling an arrow slitwhich hehad constructed near the door of his dwellingandthroughwhich he could see any one who approached itwithout thepossibilityof their looking in upon him.
"Thebetter!" said Hobbie impatiently; "what is thebetterElshie? Do you not hear me tell you I am the most miserablewretchliving?"
"Anddo you not hear me tell you it is so much the better! anddid I nottell you this morningwhen you thought yourself sohappywhat an evening was coming upon you?"
"Thatye did e'en" replied Hobbie"and that gars me come to youfor advicenow; they that foresaw the trouble maun ken the cure."
"Iknow no cure for earthly trouble" returned the Dwarf "orifI didwhyshould I help otherswhen none hath aided me? Have Inot lostwealththat would have bought all thy barren hills ahundredtimes over? rankto which thine is as that of apeasant? societywhere there was an interchange of all that wasamiable--ofall that was intellectual? Have I not lost all this?Am I notresiding herethe veriest outcast on the face ofNatureinthe most hideous and most solitary of her retreatsmyselfmore hideous than all that is around me? And why shouldotherworms complain to me when they are trodden onsince I ammyselflying crushed and writhing under the chariot-wheel?"
"Yemay have lost all this" answered Hobbiein the bitternessofemotion; "land and friendsgoods and gear; ye may hae lostthema'--but ye ne'er can hae sae sair a heart as minefor yene'er lostnae Grace Armstrong. And now my last hopes are ganeand Ishall ne'er see her mair."
This hesaid in the tone of deepest emotion--and there followed alongpausefor the mention of his bride's name had overcome themore angryand irritable feelings of poor Hobbie. Ere he hadagainaddressed the Solitarythe bony hand and long fingers ofthelatterholding a large leathern bagwas thrust forth at thesmallwindowand as it unclutched the burdenand let it dropwith aclang upon the groundhis harsh voice again addressedElliot.
"There--therelies a salve for every human ill; soat leasteach humanwretch readily thinks.--Begone; return twice aswealthy asthou wert before yesterdayand torment me no morewithquestionscomplaintsor thanks; they are alike odious tome."
"Itis a' gowdby Heaven!" said Elliothaving glanced at thecontents;and then again addressing the Hermit"Muckle obligedfor yourgoodwill; and I wad blithely gie you a bond for some o'thesilleror a wadset ower the lands o' Wideopen. But I dinnakenElshie; to be free wi' youI dinna like to use sillerunless Ikend it was decently come by; and maybe it might turnintosclate-stanesand cheat some poor man."
"Ignorantidiot!" retorted the Dwarf; "the trash is as genuinepoison asever was dug out of the bowels of the earth. Take it--use itand may it thrive with you as it hath done with me!"
"ButI tell you" said Elliot"it wasna about the gear that Iwasconsulting you--it was a braw barn-yarddoubtlessandthirtyhead of finer cattle there werena on this side of theCatrail;but let the gear gang--if ye could but gie me speeringso' puirGraceI would be content to be your slave for lifeinonythingthat didna touch my salvation. OElshiespeakmanspeak!"
"Wellthen" answered the Dwarfas if worn out by hisimportunity"since thou hast not enough of woes of thine ownbut mustneeds seek to burden thyself with those of a partnerseek herwhom thou hast lost in the WEST."
"Inthe WEST? That's a wide word."
"Itis the last" said the Dwarfwhich I design to utter;" andhe drewthe shutters of his windowleaving Hobbie to make themost ofthe hint he had given.
The west! the west!--thought Elliot; the country is pretty quietdown thatwayunless it were Jock o' the Todholes; and he's owerauld nowfor the like o' thae jobs.--West!--By My lifeit mustbeWestburnflat. "Elshiejust tell me one word. Am Iright?Is itWestburnflat? If I am wrangsay sae. I wadna like towyte aninnocent neighbour wi' violence--No answer?--It must bethe RedReiver--I didna think he wad hae ventured on meneitherand saemony kin as there's o' us--I am thinking he'll hae somebetterbacking than his Cumberland friends.--Fareweel to youElshieand mony thanks--I downa be fashed wi' the siller e'ennowfor Imaun awa' to meet my friends at the Trysting-place--Saeif yecarena to open the windowye can fetch it in afterI'm awa'."
Stillthere was no reply.
"He'sdeafor he's daftor he's baith; but I hae nae time tostay toclaver wi' him."
And offrode Hobbie Elliot towards the place of rendezvous whichhe hadnamed to his friends.
Four orfive riders were already gathered at the Trysting pool.They stoodin close consultation togetherwhile their horseswerepermitted to graze among the poplars which overhung thebroadstill pool. A more numerous party were seen coming fromthesouthward. It proved to be Earnscliff and his partywho hadfollowedthe track of the cattle as far as the English borderbut hadhalted on the information that a considerable force wasdrawntogether under some of the Jacobite gentlemen in thatdistrictand there were tidings of insurrection in differentparts ofScotland. This took away from the act which had beenperpetratedthe appearance of private animosityor love ofplunder;and Earnscliff was now disposed to regard it as asymptom ofcivil war. The young gentleman greeted Hobbie withthe mostsincere sympathyand informed him of the news he hadreceived.
"Thenmay I never stir frae the bit" said Elliot"if auldEllieslawis not at the bottom o' the haill villainy! Ye seehe'sleagued wi' the Cumberland Catholics; and that agrees weelwi' whatElshie hinted about Westburnflatfor Ellieslaw ayeprotectedhimand he will want to harry and disarm the countryabout hisain hand before he breaks out."
Some nowremembered that the party of ruffians had been heard tosay theywere acting for James VIII.and were charged to disarmallrebels. Others had heard Westburnflat boastin drinkingpartiesthat Ellieslaw would soon be in arms for the Jacobitecauseandthat he himself was to hold a command under himandthat theywould be bad neighbours for young Earnscliff; and allthat stoodout for the established government. The result was astrongbelief that Westburnflat had headed the party underEllieslaw'sorders; and they resolved to proceed instantly to thehouse ofthe formerandif possibleto secure his person.They wereby this time joined by so many of their dispersedfriendsthat their number amounted to upwards of twentyhorsemenwell mountedand tolerablythough variouslyarmed.
A brookwhich issued from a narrow glen among the hillsenteredat Westburnflatupon the open marshy levelwhichexpandingabout half a mile in every directiongives name to thespot. In this place the character of the stream becomes changedandfrombeing a lively brisk-running mountain-torrentitstagnateslike a blue swollen snakein dull deep windingsthroughthe swampy level. On the side of the streamand nearlyabout thecentre of the plainarose the tower of Westburnflatone of thefew remaining strongholds formerly so numerous upontheBorders. The ground upon which it stood was gently elevatedabove themarsh for the space of about a hundred yardsaffordinganesplanade of dry turfwhich extended itself in the immediateneighbourhoodof the tower; butbeyond whichthe surfacepresentedto strangers was that of an impassable and dangerousbog. The owner of the tower and his inmates alone knew thewindingand intricate pathswhichleading over ground that wascomparativelysoundadmitted visitors to his residence. Butamong theparty which were assembled under Earnscliff'sdirectionsthere was more than one person qualified to act as aguide. For although the owner's character and habits of lifeweregenerally knownyet the laxity of feeling with respect topropertyprevented his being looked on with the abhorrence withwhich hemust have been regarded in a more civilized country. Hewasconsideredamong his more peaceable neighbourspretty muchas agamblercock-fighteror horse-jockey would be regarded atthepresent day; a personof coursewhose habits were to becondemnedand his societyin generalavoidedyet who couldnot beconsidered as marked with the indelible infamy attached tohisprofessionwhere laws have been habitually observed. Andtheirindignation was awakened against him upon this occasionnot somuch on account of the general nature of the transactionwhich wasjust such as was to be expected from this marauderasthat theviolence had been perpetrated upon a neighbour againstwhom hehad no cause of quarrel--against a friend of their own--aboveallagainst one of the name of Elliotto which clanmost ofthem belonged. It was notthereforewonderfulthatthereshould be several in the band pretty well acquainted withthelocality of his habitationand capable of giving suchdirectionsand guidance as soon placed the whole party on theopen spaceof firm ground in front of the Tower of Westburnflat.
Sospak the knicht; the geaunt sed Lendforth with thethe sely maid Andmak me quile of the and sche; Forglaunsing eeor brow so brent Orcheek with rose and lilye blent Melists not ficht with the. ROMANCE OF THE FALCON.
The towerbefore which the party now stoodwas a small squarebuildingof the most gloomy aspect. The walls were of greatthicknessand the windowsor slits which served the purpose ofwindowsseemed rather calculated to afford the defenders themeans ofemploying missile weaponsthan for admitting air orlight tothe apartments within. A small battlement projectedover thewalls on every sideand afforded farther advantage ofdefence byits niched parapetwithin which arose a steep roofflaggedwith grey stones. A single turret at one angledefendedby a doorstudded with huge iron nailsrose above thebattlementand gave access to the roof from withinby thespiralstaircase which it enclosed. It seemed to the party thattheirmotions were watched by some one concealed within thisturret;and they were confirmed in their belief whenthrough anarrowloopholea female hand was seen to wave a handkerchiefas if byway of signal to them. Hobbie was almost out of hissenseswith joy and eagerness.
"Itwas Grace's hand and arm" he said; "I can swear to itamangathousand. There is not the like of it on this side of theLowdens--We'llhave her outladsif we should carry off theTower ofWestburnflat stane by stane."
Earnscliffthough he doubted the possibility of recognising afairmaiden's hand at such a distance from the eye of the loverwould saynothing to damp his friend's animated hopesand it wasresolvedto summon the garrison.
The shoutsof the partyand the winding of one or two hornsatlengthbrought to a loopholewhich flanked the entrancethehaggardface of an old woman.
"That'sthe Reiver's mother" said one of the Elliots; "she's tentimes waurthan himselland is wyted for muckle of the ill hedoes aboutthe country."
"Whaare ye? what d'ye want here?" were the queries oftherespectableprogenitor.
"Weare seeking William Graeme of Westburnflat" said Earnscliff.
"He'sno at hame" returned the old dame.
"Whendid he leave home?" pursued Earnscliff.
"Icanna tell" said the portress.
"Whenwill he return?" said Hobbie Elliot.
"Idinna ken naething about it" replied the inexorable guardianof thekeep.
"Isthere anybody within the tower with you?" again demandedEarnscliff.
"Naebodybut mysell and baudrons" said the old woman.
"Thenopen the gate and admit us" said Earnscliff; "I am ajustice ofpeaceand in search of the evidence of a felony."
"Deilbe in their fingers that draws a bolt for ye" retorted theportress;"for mine shall never do it. Thinkna ye shame o'yoursellsto come here siccan a band o' yewi' your swordsandspearsand steel-capsto frighten a lone widow woman?"
"Ourinformation" said Earnscliff; "is positive; we are seekinggoodswhich have been forcibly carried offto a great amount."
"Anda young womanthat's been cruelly made prisonerthat'sworth mairthan a' the geartwice told" said Hobbie.
"AndI warn you." continued Earnscliff"that your onlyway toprove yourson's innocence is to give us quiet admittance tosearch thehouse."
"Andwhat will ye doif I carena to thraw the keysor draw theboltsoropen the grate to sic a clamjamfrie?" said the olddamescoffingly.
"Forceour way with the king's keysand break the neck of everylivingsoul we find in the houseif ye dinna gie it owerforthwith!" menaced the incensed Hobbie.
"Threatenedfolks live lang" said the hagin the same tone ofirony;"there's the iron grate--try your skeel on'tlads--it haskept outas gude men as you or now."
So sayingshe laughedand withdrew from the aperture throughwhich shehad held the parley.
Thebesiegers now opened a serious consultation. The immensethicknessof the wallsand the small size of the windowsmightfor atimehave even resisted cannon-shot. The entrance wassecuredfirstby a strong grated doorcomposed entirely ofhammeredironof such ponderous strength as seemed calculated toresist anyforce that could be brought against it. "Pinches orforehammerswill never pick upon't" said Hughthe blacksmith ofRingleburn;"ye might as weel batter at it wi' pipe-staples."
Within thedoorwayand at the distance of nine feetwhich wasthe solidthickness of the wallthere was a second door of oakcrossedboth breadth and lengthwayswith clenched bars of ironandstudded full of broad-headed nails. Besides all thesedefencesthey were by no means confident in the truth of the olddame'sassertionthat she alone composed the garrison. The moreknowing ofthe party had observed hoof-marks in the track bywhich theyapproached the towerwhich seemed to indicate thatseveralpersons had very lately passed in that direction.
To allthese difficulties was added their want of means forattackingthe place. There was no hope of procuring ladders longenough toreach the battlementsand the windowsbesides beingverynarrowwere secured with iron bars. Scaling was thereforeout of thequestion; mining was still more sofor want of toolsandgunpowder; neither were the besiegers provided with foodmeans ofshelteror other convenienceswhich might have enabledthem toconvert the siege into a blockade; and there wouldatany ratehave been a risk of relief from some of the marauder'scomrades. Hobbie grinded and gnashed his teethaswalkinground thefastnesshe could devise no means of making a forcibleentry. At length he suddenly exclaimed"And what for no do asourfathers did lang syne?--Put hand to the warklads. Let uscut upbushes and brierspile them before the door and set fireto themand smoke that auld devil's dam as if she were to bereestedfor bacon."
Allimmediately closed with this proposaland some went to workwithswords and knives to cut down the alder and hawthorn busheswhich grewby the side of the sluggish streammany of which weresufficientlydecayed and dried for their purposewhile othersbegan tocollect them in a large stackproperly disposed forburningas close to the iron-grate as they could be piled. Firewasspeedily obtained from one of their gunsand Hobbie wasalreadyadvancing to the pile with a kindled brandwhen thesurly faceof the robberand the muzzle of a musquetoonwerepartiallyshown at a shot-hole which flanked the entrance. "Monythanks toye" he saidscoffingly"for collecting sae mucklewintereilding for us; but if ye step a foot nearer it wi' thatluntit'sbe the dearest step ye ever made in your days."
"We'llsune see that" said Hobbieadvancing fearlessly with thetorch.
Themarauder snapped his piece at himwhichfortunately for ourhonestfrienddid not go off; while Earnsclifffiring at thesamemoment at the narrow aperture and slight mark afforded bytherobber's facegrazed the side of his head with a bullet. Hehadapparently calculated upon his post affording him moresecurityfor he no sooner felt the woundthough a very slightonethanhe requested a parleyand demanded to know what theymeant byattacking in this fashion a peaceable and honest manandshedding his blood in that lawless manner?
"Wewant your prisoner" said Earnscliff"to be delivered uptous insafety"
"Andwhat concern have you with her?" replied the marauder.
"That"retorted Earnscliff"youwho are detaining her byforcehave no right to enquire."
"AweelI think I can gie a guess" said the robber. "WeelsirsI amlaith to enter into deadly feud with you by spillingony ofyour bluidthough Earnscliff hasna stopped to shed mine--and hecan hit a mark to a groat's breadth--soto prevent mairskaithIam willing to deliver up the prisonersince nae lesswillplease you."
"AndHobbie's gear?" cried Simon of Hackburn. "D'yethinkyou're tobe free to plunder the faulds and byres of a gentleElliotasif they were an auld wife's hens'-cavey?"
"As Ilive by bread" replied Willie of Westburnflat "As I liveby breadI have not a single cloot o' them! They're a' ower themarch langsyne; there's no a horn o' them about the tower. ButI'll seewhat o' them can be gotten backand I'll take this daytwa daysto meet Hobbie at the Castleton wi' twa friends on ilkasideandsee to make an agreement about a' the wrang he can wyteme wi'."
"Ayay" said Elliot"that will do weel eneugh."--Andthenaside tohis kinsman"Murrain on the gear! Lordsakeman! saynoughtabout them. Let us but get puir Grace out o' that auldhellicat'sclutches."
"Willye gie me your wordEarnscliff" said the marauderwhostilllingered at the shot-hole"your faith and trothwith handand glovethat I am free to come and free to gaewith fiveminutes toopen the grateand five minutes to steek it and todraw thebolts? less winna dofor they want creishing sairly.Will ye dothis?"
"Youshall have full time" said Earnscliff; "I plight my faithand trothmy hand and my glove."
"Waitthere a momentthen" said Westburnflat; "or hear yeIwad ratherye wad fa' back a pistol-shot from the door. It's nothat Imistrust your wordEarnscliff; but it's best to be sure."
Ofriendthought Hobbie to himselfas he drew backan I hadyou but onTurner's-holmand naebody by buttwa honestlads to see fair playI wad make ye wish ye hadbrokenyour leg ere ye had touched beast or body that belanged tome!
"Hehas a white feather in his wing this same Westburnflataftera'"said Simon of Hackburnsomewhat scandalized by his readysurrender.--"He'llne'er fill his father's boots."
In themeanwhilethe inner door of the tower was openedand themother ofthe freebooter appeared in the space betwixt that andthe outergrate. Willie himself was next seenleading forth afemaleand the old womancarefully bolting the grate behindthemremained on the post as a sort of sentinel.
"Onyane or twa o' ye come forward" said the outlaw"and takeher fraemy hand haill and sound."
Hobbieadvanced eagerlyto meet his betrothed bride. Earnsclifffollowedmore slowlyto guard against treachery. SuddenlyHobbieslackened his pace in the deepest mortificationwhilethat ofEarnscliff was hastened by impatient surprise. It wasnot GraceArmstrongbut Miss Isabella Verewhose liberation hadbeeneffected by their appearance before the tower.
"Whereis Grace? where is Grace Armstrong?" exclaimedHobbiein theextremity of wrath and indignation.
"Notin my hands" answered Westburnflat; "ye may search thetowerifye misdoubt me."
"Youfalse villainyou shall account for heror die on thespot"said Elliotpresenting his gun.
But hiscompanionswho now came upinstantly disarmed him ofhisweaponexclaimingall at once"Hand and glove! faith andtroth! Haud a careHobbie we maun keep our faith wi'Westburnflatwere he the greatest rogue ever rode."
Thusprotectedthe outlaw recovered his audacitywhich had beensomewhatdaunted by the menacing gesture of Elliot.
"Ihave kept my wordsirs" he said"and I look to have naewrangamang ye. If this is no the prisoner ye sought" he saidaddressingEarnscliff"ye'll render her back to me again. I amanswerablefor her to those that aught her."
"ForGod's sakeMr. Earnscliffprotect me!" said Miss Vereclingingto her deliverer; "do not you abandon one whom the wholeworldseems to have abandoned."
"Fearnothing" whispered Earnscliff"I will protect you with mylife." Then turning to Westburnflat"Villain!" he said"howdared youto insult this lady?"
"Forthat matterEarnscliff" answered the freebooter"I cananswer tothem that has better right to ask me than you have; butif youcome with an armed forceand take her awa' from them thatherfriends lodged her wi'how will you answer THAT--But it'syour ainaffair--Nae single man can keep a tower against twenty--A' themen o' the Mearns downa do mair than they dow."
"Helies most falsely" said Isabella; "he carried me off byviolencefrom my father."
"Maybehe only wanted ye to think saehinny" replied therobber;"but it's nae business o' minelet it be as it may.--Soye winnaresign her back to me?"
"Backto youfellow? Surely no" answered Earnscliff; "IwillprotectMiss Vereand escort her safely wherever she is pleasedto beconveyed."
"Ayaymaybe you and her hae settled that already" said WillieofWestburnflat.
"AndGrace?" interrupted Hobbieshaking himself loose from thefriendswho had been preaching to him the sanctity of the safe-conductupon the faith of which the freebooter had ventured fromhistower--"Where's Grace" and he rushed on the marauderswordin hand.
Westburnflatthus pressedafter calling out"GodsakeHobbiehear me agliff!" fairly turned his back and fled. His motherstoodready to open and shut the grate; but Hobbie struck at thefreebooteras he entered with so much forcethat the sword madeaconsiderable cleft in the lintel of the vaulted doorwhich isstillshown as a memorial of the superior strength of those wholived inthe days of yore. Ere Hobbie could repeat the blowthedoor wasshut and securedand he was compelled to retreat to hiscompanionswho were now preparing to break up the siege ofWestburnflat. They insisted upon his accompanying them in theirreturn.
"Yehae broken truce already" said old Dick of the Dingle; "anwe takenathe better careye'll play mair gowk's tricksandmakeyoursell the laughing-stock of the haill countrybesideshavingyour friends charged with slaughter under trust. Bidetill themeeting at Castletonas ye hae greed; and if he disnamake yeamendsthen we'll hae it out o' his heart's blood. Butlet usgang reasonably to wark and keep our trystand I'sewarrant weget back Graceand the kye an' a'."
Thiscold-blooded reasoning went ill down with the unfortunatelover;butas he could only obtain the assistance of hisneighboursand kinsmen on their own termshe was compelled toacquiescein their notions of good faith and regular procedure.
Earnscliffnow requested the assistance of a few of the party toconveyMiss Vere to her father's castle of Ellieslawto whichshe wasperemptory in desiring to be conducted. This was readilygranted;and five or six young men agreed to attend him as anescort. Hobbie was not of the number. Almost heart-broken bythe eventsof the dayand his final disappointmenthe returnedmoodilyhome to take such measures as he could for the sustenanceandprotection of his familyand to arrange with his neighboursthefarther steps which should be adopted for the recovery ofGraceArmstrong. The rest of the party dispersed in differentdirectionsas soon as they had crossed the morass. The outlawand hismother watched them from the toweruntil they entirelydisappeared.
Ileft my ladye's bower last night-- Itwas clad in wreaths of snaw-- I'llseek it when the sun is bright Andsweet the roses blaw. OLD BALLAD.
Incensedat what he deemed the coldness of his friendsin acausewhich interested him so nearlyHobbie had shaken himselffree oftheir companyand was now on his solitary road homeward."Thefiend founder thee!" said heas he spurred impatientlyhisover-fatiguedand stumbling horse; "thou art like a' the rest o'them. Hae I not bred theeand fed theeand dressed thee wi'mine ainhandand wouldst thou snapper now and break my neck atmy utmostneed? But thou'rt e'en like the lave--the farthest offo' them a'is my cousin ten times removedand day or night I wadhae servedthem wi' my best blood; and nowI think they showmairregard to the common thief of Westburnflat than to their ainkinsman. But I should see the lights now in Heugh-foot--Wae'sme!" he continuedrecollecting himself"there will neithercoal norcandle-light shine in the Heugh-foot ony mair! An itwerena formy mother and sistersand poor GraceI could find inmy heartto put spurs to the beastand loup ower the scaur intothe waterto make an end o't a'."--In this disconsolate mood heturned hishorse's bridle towards the cottage in which his familyhad foundrefuge.
As heapproached the doorhe heard whispering and titteringamongsthis sisters. "The deevil's in the women" said poorHobbie;"they would nickerand laughand giggleif their bestfriend waslying a corp--and yet I am glad they can keep up theirhearts saeweelpoor silly things; but the dirdum fa's on metobe sureand no on them."
While hethus meditatedhe was engaged in fastening up his horsein ashed. "Thou maun do without horse-sheet and surcingle nowlad"he saidaddressing the animal; "you and me hae had adowncomealike; we had better hae fa'en ithe deepest pool o'Tarras."
He wasinterrupted by the youngest of his sisterswho camerunningoutandspeaking in a constrained voiceas if tostiflesome emotioncalled out to him"What are ye doing thereHobbiefiddling about the naigand there's ane frae Cumberlandbeenwaiting here for ye this hour and mair? Haste ye inman;I'll takeoff the saddle."
"Anefrae Cumberland!" exclaimed Elliot; and putting the bridleof hishorse into the hand of his sisterhe rushed into thecottage. "Where is he? where is he!" he exclaimedglancingeagerlyaroundand seeing only females; "Did he bring news ofGrace?"
"Hedoughtna bide an instant langer" said the elder sisterstill witha suppressed laugh.
"Houtfiebairns!" said the old ladywith something of a good-humouredreproof"ye shouldna vex your billy Hobbie that way.--Lookroundmy bairnand see if there isna ane here mair than yeleft thismorning."
Hobbielooked eagerly round. "There's youand the threetitties."
"There'sfour of us nowHobbielad" said the youngestwho atthismoment entered.
In aninstant Hobbie had in his arms Grace Armstrongwhowithone of hissister's plaids around herhad passed unnoticed athis firstentrance. "How dared you do this?" said Hobbie.
"Itwasna my fault" said Graceendeavouring to cover her facewith herhands to hide at once her blushesand escape the stormof heartykisses with which her bridegroom punished her simplestratagem--"Itwasna my faultHobbie; ye should kiss Jeanie andthe resto' themfor they hae the wyte o't."
"Andso I will" said Hobbieand embraced and kissed his sistersandgrandmother a hundred timeswhile the whole party half-laughedhalf-criedin the extremity of their joy. "I am thehappiestman" said Hobbiethrowing himself down on a seatalmostexhausted--"I am the happiest man in the world!"
"ThenO my dear bairn" said the good old damewho lost noopportunityof teaching her lesson of religion at those momentswhen theheart was best open to receive it--"ThenO my songivepraise to Him that brings smiles out o' tears and joy out o'griefasHe brought light out o' darkness and the world out o'naething. Was it not my wordthat if ye could say His will bedoneyemight hae cause to say His name be praised?"
"Itwas--it was your wordgrannie; and I do praise Him for Hismercyandfor leaving me a good parent when my ain were gane"saidhonest Hobbietaking her hand"that puts me in mind tothink ofHimbaith in happiness and distress."
There wasa solemn pause of one or two minutes employed in theexerciseof mental devotionwhich expressedin purity andsinceritythe gratitude of the affectionate family to thatProvidencewho had unexpectedly restored to their embraces thefriendwhom they had lost.
Hobbie'sfirst enquiries were concerning the adventures whichGrace hadundergone. They were told at lengthbut amounted insubstanceto this:--That she was awaked by the noise which theruffiansmade in breaking into the houseand by the resistancemade byone or two of the servantswhich was soon overpowered;thatdressing herself hastilyshe ran downstairsand havingseeninthe scuffleWestburnflat's vizard drop offimprudentlynamed himby his nameand besought him for mercy; that theruffianinstantly stopped her mouthdragged her from the houseand placedher on horsebackbehind one of his associates.
"I'llbreak the accursed neck of him" said Hobbie"if therewerenaanother Graeme in the land but himsell!"
Sheproceeded to saythat she was carried southward along withthe partyand the spoil which they drove before themuntil theyhadcrossed the Border. Suddenly a personknown to her as akinsman ofWestburnflatcame riding very fast after themaraudersand told their leaderthat his cousin had learnt froma surehand that no luck would come of itunless the lass wasrestoredto her friends. After some discussionthe chief of thepartyseemed to acquiesce. Grace was placed behind her newguardianwho pursued in silenceand with great speedtheleast-frequentedpath to the Heugh-footand ere evening closedset downthe fatigued and terrified damsel within a quarter of amile ofthe dwelling of her friends. Many and sincere were thecongratulationswhich passed on all sides.
As theseemotions subsidedless pleasing considerations began tointrudethemselves.
"Thisis a miserable place for ye a'" said Hobbielookingaroundhim; "I can sleep weel eneugh mysell outby beside thenaigas Ihae done mony a lang night on the hills; but how yeare to putyoursells upI canna see! And what's waurI cannamend it;and what's waur than a'the morn may comeand the dayafterthatwithout your being a bit better off."
"Itwas a cowardly cruel thing" said one of the sisterslookinground"toharry a puir family to the bare wa's this gate."
"Andleave us neither stirk nor stot" said the youngest brotherwho nowentered"nor sheep nor lambnor aught that eats grassand corn."
"Ifthey had ony quarrel wi' us" said Harrythe second brother"werewe na ready to have fought it out? And that we should havebeen a'frae hametoo--ane and a' upon the hill--Oddan we hadbeen athameWill Graeme's stamach shouldna hae wanted itsmorning;but it's biding himis it naHobbie?"
"Ourneighbours hae taen a day at the Castleton to gree wi' himat thesight o' men" said Hobbiemournfully; "they behoved tohave it a'their ain gateor there was nae help to be got attheirhands."
"Togree wi' him!" exclaimed both his brothers at once"aftersiccan anact of stouthrife as hasna been heard o' in the countrysince theauld riding days!"
"Verytruebilliesand my blood was e'en boiling at it; but thesight o'Grace Armstrong has settled it brawly."
"Butthe stockingHobbie'" said John Elliot; "we're utterlyruined. Harry and I hae been to gather what was on the outbylandandthere's scarce a cloot left. I kenna how we're tocarryon--We maun a' gang to the warsI think. Westburnflathasna themeanse'en if he had the willto make up our loss;there'snae mends to be got out o' himbut what ye take out o'hisbanes. He hasna a four-footed creature but the vicious bloodthing herides onand that's sair trash'd wi' his night wark.We areruined stoop and roop."
Hobbiecast a mournful glance on Grace Armstrongwho returned itwith adowncast look and a gentle sigh.
"Dinnabe cast downbairns" said the grandmother"we hae gudefriendsthat winna forsake us in adversity. There's Sir ThomasKittleloofis my third cousin by the mother's sideand he hascome by ahantle sillerand been made a knight-baronet into thebargainfor being ane o' the commissioners at the Union."
"Hewadna gie a bodle to save us frae famishing" said Hobbie;"andif he didthe bread that I bought wi't would stick in mythroatwhen I thought it was part of the price of puir auldScotland'scrown and independence."
"There'sthe Laird o' Dunderane o' the auldest families inTiviotdale."
"He'sin the tolboothmother--he's in the Heart of Mid-Loudenfor athousand merk he borrowed from Saunders Wyliecoat thewriter."
"Poorman!" exclaimed Mrs. Elliot"can we no send himsomethingHobbie?"
"Yeforgetgrannieye forget we want help oursells" saidHobbiesomewhat peevishly.
"Trothdid Ihinny" replied the good-natured lady"just at theinstant;it's sae natural to think on ane's blude relationsbeforethemsells;--But there's young Earnscliff."
"Hehas ower little o' his ain; and siccan a name to keep upitwad be ashame" said Hobbie"to burden him wi' our distress.And I'lltell yegrannieit's needless to sit rhyming ower thestyle ofa' your kithkinand alliesas if there was a charmin theirbraw names to do us good; the grandees hae forgotten usand thoseof our ain degree hae just little eneugh to gang on wi'themsells;ne'er a friend hae we that canor willhelp us tostock thefarm again."
"ThenHobbieme maun trust in Him that can raise up friends andfortuneout o' the bare mooras they say."
Hobbiesprung upon his feet. "Ye are rightgrannie!" heexclaimed;"ye are right. I do ken a friend on the bare moorthat baithcan and will help us--The turns o' this day hae dungmy headclean hirdie-girdie. I left as muckle gowd lying onMucklestane-Moorthis morning as would plenish the house andstock theHeugh-foot twice owerand I am certain sure Elshiewadnagrudge us the use of it."
"Elshie!" said his grandmother in astonishment; "what Elshie doyou mean?"
"WhatElshie should I meanbut Canny Elshiethe Wight o'Mucklestane"replied Hobbie.
"Godforfendmy bairnyou should gang to fetch water out o'brokencisternsor seek for relief frae them that deal wi' theEvil One! There was never luck in their giftsnor grace intheirpaths. And the haill country kens that body Elshie's anunco man. Oif there was the lawand the douce quietadministrationof justicethat makes a kingdom flourish inrighteousnessthe like o' them suldna be suffered to live! Thewizard andthe witch are the abomination and the evil thing inthe land."
"Trothmother" answered Hobbie"ye may say what ye likebut Iam in themind that witches and warlocks havena half the powerthey hadlang syne; at leastsure am Ithat ae ill-deviserlike auldEllieslawor ae ill-doerlike that d--d villainWestburnflatis a greater plague and abomination in a country-side thana haill curnie o' the warst witches that ever caperedon abroomstickor played cantrips on Fastern's E'en. It wadhae beenlang or Elshie had burnt down my house and barnsand Iamdetermined to try if he will do aught to build them up again.He's weelkend a skilfu' man ower a' the countryas far asBroughunder Stanmore."
"Bidea weemy bairn; mind his benefits havena thriven wi'a'body. Jock Howden died o' the very same disorder Elshiepretendedto cure him ofabout the fa' o' the leaf; and thoughhe helpedLambside's cow weel out o' the moor-illyet thelouping-ill'sbeen sairer amane; his sheep than ony seasonbefore. And then I have heard he uses sic words abusing humannaturethat's like a fleeing in the face of Providence; and yemind yesaid yoursellthe first time ye ever saw himthat hewas mairlike a bogle than a living thing."
"Houtmother" said Hobbie"Elshie's no that bad a chield; he'sa grewsomespectacle for a crooked discipleto be sureand aroughtalkerbut his bark is waur than his bite; saeif I hadanessomething to eatfor I havena had a morsel ower my throatthis dayI wad streek mysell down for twa or three hours asidethe beastand be on and awa' to Mucklestane wi' the firstskreigh o'morning."
"Andwhat for no the nightHobbie" said Harry"and I willridewi' ye?"
"Mynaig is tired" said Hobbie.
"Yemay take minethen" said John.
"ButI am a wee thing wearied mysell."
"Youwearied?" said Harry; "shame on ye! I have kendye keepthe saddlefour-and-twenty hours thegitherand ne'er sic a wordasweariness in your wame."
"Thenight's very dark" said Hobbierising and looking throughthecasement of the cottage; "andto speak truthand shame thedeilthough Elshie's a real honest fallowyet somegate I wouldrathertake daylight wi' me when I gang to visit him."
This frankavowal put a stop to further argument; and Hobbiehavingthus compromised matters between the rashness of hisbrother'scounseland the timid cautions which he received fromhisgrandmotherrefreshed himself with such food as the cottageafforded;andafter a cordial salutation all roundretired tothe shedand stretched himself beside his trusty palfrey. Hisbrothersshared between them some trusses of clean strawdisposedin the stall usually occupied by old Annaple's cow; andthefemales arranged themselves for repose as well as theaccommodationsof the cottage would permit.
With thefirst dawn of morningHobbie arose; andhaving rubbeddown andsaddled his horsehe set forth to Mucklestane-Moor. Heavoidedthe company of either of his brothersfrom an idea thatthe Dwarfwas most propitious to those who visited him alone.
"Thecreature" said he to himselfas he went along"is noneighbourly;ae body at a time is fully mair than he weel canabide. I wonder if he's looked out o' the crib o' him to gatherup the bago' siller. If he hasna done thatit will hae been abrawwindfa' for somebodyand I'll be finely flung.--ComeTarras"said he to his horsestriking him at the same time withhis spur"make mair fitman; we maun be first on the field ifwe can."
He was nowon the heathwhich began to be illuminated by thebeams ofthe rising sun; the gentle declivity which he wasdescendingpresented him a distinctthough distant viewof theDwarf'sdwelling. The door openedand Hobbie witnessed with hisown eyesthat phenomenon which he had frequently heard mentioned.Two humanfigures (if that of the Dwarf could be termed such)issuedfrom the solitary abode of the Recluseand stood as if inconversetogether in the open air. The taller form then stoopedas iftaking something up which lay beside the door of the hutthen bothmoved forward a little wayand again haltedas indeepconference. All Hobbie's superstitious terrors revived onwitnessingthis'spectacle. That the Dwarf would open hisdwellingto a mortal guestwas as improbable as that any onewouldchoose voluntarily to be his nocturnal visitor; andunderfullconviction that he beheld a wizard holding intercourse withhisfamiliar spiritHobbie pulled in at once his breath and hisbridleresolved not to incur the indignation of either by ahastyintrusion on their conference. They were probably aware ofhisapproachfor he had not halted for a moment before the Dwarfreturnedto his cottage; and the taller figure who hadaccompaniedhimglided round the enclosure of the gardenandseemed todisappear from the eyes of the admiring Hobbie.
"Sawever mortal the like o' that!" said Elliot; "but mycase isdesperatesaeif he were Beelzebub himsellI'se venture downthe braeon him."
Yetnotwithstanding his assumed couragehe slackened his pacewhennearly upon the very spot where he had last seen the tallfigurehediscernedas if lurking among the long heatherasmallblack rough-looking objectlike a terrier dog.
"Hehas nae dog that ever I heard of" said Hobbie"but mony adeil abouthis hand--lord forgie me for saying sic a word!--Itkeeps itsgrundbe what it like--I'm judging it's a badger; butwhae kenswhat shapes thae bogies will take to fright a body? itwill maybestart up like a lion or a crocodile when I comenearer. I'se e'en drive a stage at itfor if it change itsshape whenI'm ower nearTarras will never stand it; and it willbe owermuckle to hae him and the deil to fight wi' baith atance."
Hetherefore cautiously threw a stone at the objectwhichcontinuedmotionless. "It's nae living thingafter a'" saidHobbieapproaching"but the very bag o' siller he flung out o'the windowyesterday! and that other queer lang creature hasjustbrought it sae muckle farther on the way to me. He thenadvancedand lifted the heavy fur pouchwhich was quite full ofgold. "Mercy on us!" said Hobbiewhose heart flutteredbetweenglee atthe revival of his hopes and prospects in lifeandsuspicionof the purpose for which this assistance was affordedhim---"Mercyon us! it's an awfu' thing to touch what has beensae latelyin the claws of something no cannyI canna shakemysellloose o' the belief that there has been some jookery-paukery ofSatan's in a' this; but I am determined to conductmyselllike an honest man and a good Christiancome o't whatwill."
Headvanced accordingly to the cottage doorand having knockedrepeatedlywithout receiving any answerhe at length elevatedhis voiceand addressed the inmate of the hut. "Elshie! FatherElshie! I ken ye're within doorsand waukingfor I saw ye atthedoor-cheek as I cam ower the bent; will ye come out and speakjust agliff to ane that has mony thanks to gie ye?--It was a'true yetell'd me about Westburnflat; but he's sent back Gracesafe andskaithlesssae there's nae ill happened yet but whatmay besuffered or sustained;--Wad ye but come out a gliff; manor but sayye're listening?--Aweelsince ye winna answerI'see'enproceed wi' my tale. Ye see I hae been thinking it wad be asair thingon twa young folklike Grace and meto put aff ourmarriagefor mony years till I was abroad and came back again wi'some gear;and they say folk maunna take booty in the wars asthey didlang syneand the queen's pay is a sma' matter; there'snaegathering gear on that--and then my grandame's auld--and mysisterswad sit peengin' at the ingle-side for want o' me to dingthemabout--and Earnscliffor the neighbourhoodor maybe yourainsellElshiemight want some good turn that Hob Elliot coulddo ye--andit's a pity that the auld house o' the Heugh-footshould bewrecked a'thegither. Sae I was thinking--but deil haemethat Ishould say sae" continued hechecking himself"if Ican bringmysell to ask a favour of ane that winna sae muckle asware aword on meto tell me if he hears me speaking till him."
"Saywhat thou wilt--do what thou wilt" answered the Dwarf fromhis cabin"but begoneand leave me at peace."
"Weelweel" replied Elliot"since ye are willing to hear meI'se makemy tale short. Since ye are sae kind as to say ye arecontent tolend me as muckle siller as will stock and plenish theHeugh-footI am contenton my partto accept the courtesy wi'mony kindthanks; and trothI think it will be as safe in myhands asyoursif ye leave it flung about in that gate for thefirst loonbody to liftforbye the risk o' bad neighbours thatcan winthrough steekit doors and lockfast placesas I can tellto mycost. I saysince ye hae sae muckle consideration for meI'se beblithe to accept your kindness; and my mother and me(she's alife-renterand I am fiaro' the lands o' Wideopen)wouldgrant you a wadsetor an heritable bondfor the sillerand to paythe annual rent half-yearly; and Saunders Wyliecoat todraw thebondand you to be at nae charge wi' the writings."
"Cutshort thy jargonand begone" said the Dwarf; "thyloquaciousbull-headed honesty makes thee a more intolerableplaguethan the light-fingered courtier who would take a man'sallwithout troubling him with either thanksexplanationorapology. HenceI say! thou art one of those tame slaves whoseword is asgood as their bond. Keep the moneyprincipal andinterestuntil I demand it of thee."
"But"continued the pertinacious Borderer"we are a' life-likeanddeath-likeElshieand there really should be some black andwhite onthis transaction. Sae just make me a minuteormissivein ony form ye likeand I'se write it fair owerandsubscribeit before famous witnesses. OnlyElshieI wad wussye to pitnaething in't that may be prejudicial to my salvation;for I'llhae the minister to read it owerand it wad only beexposingyoursell to nae purpose. And now I'm ganging awa'forye'll bewearied o' my cracksand I am wearied wi' crackingwithout ananswer--and I'se bring ye a bit o' bride's-cake ane o'thae daysand maybe bring Grace to see you. Ye wad like to seeGracemanfor as dour as ye are--EhLord I I wish he may beweelthatwas a sair grane! ormaybehe thought I wasspeakingof heavenly graceand no of Grace Armstrong. Poor manI am verydoubtfu' o' his condition; but I am sure he is as kindto me asif I were his sonand a queer-looking father I wad haehadifthat had been e'en sae."
Hobbie nowrelieved his benefactor of his presenceand rodeblithelyhome to display his treasureand consult upon the meansofrepairing the damage which his fortune had sustained throughtheaggression of the Red Reiver of Westburnflat.
Threeruffians seized me yester morn Alas! a maiden most forlorn; Theychoked my cries with wicked might Andbound me on a palfrey white: Assure as Heaven shall pity me Icannot tell what men they be. CHRISTABELLE.
The courseof our story must here revert a littleto detail thecircumstanceswhich had placed Miss Vere in the unpleasantsituationfrom which she was unexpectedlyand indeedunintentionallyliberatedby the appearance of Earnscliff andElliotwith their friends and followersbefore the Tower ofWestburnflat.
On themorning preceding the night in which Hobbie's house wasplunderedand burntMiss Vere was requested by her father toaccompanyhim in a walk through a distant part of the romanticgroundswhich lay round his castle of Ellieslaw. "To hear was toobey"in the true style of Oriental despotism; but Isabellatrembledin silence while she followed her father through roughpathsnowwinding by the side of the rivernow ascending thecliffswhich serve for its banks. A single servantselectedperhapsfor his stupiditywas the only person who attended them.From herfather's silenceIsabella little doubted that he hadchosenthis distant and sequestered scene to resume the argumentwhich theyhad so frequently maintained upon the subject of SirFrederick'saddressesand that he was meditating in what mannerhe shouldmost effectually impress upon her the necessity ofreceivinghim as her suitor. But her fears seemed for some timeto beunfounded. The only sentences which her father from timeto timeaddressed to herrespected the beauties of the romanticlandscapethrough which they strolledand which varied itsfeaturesat every step. To these observationsalthough theyseemed tocome from a heart occupied by more gloomy as well asmoreimportant caresIsabella endeavoured to answer in a manneras freeand unconstrained as it was possible for her to assumeamid theinvoluntary apprehensions which crowded upon herimagination.
Sustainingwith mutual difficulty a desultory conversationtheyat lengthgained the centre of a small woodcomposed of largeoaksintermingled with birchesmountain-asheshazelhollyand avariety of underwood. The boughs of the tall trees metcloselyaboveand the underwood filled up each interval betweentheirtrunks below. The spot on which they stood was rather moreopen;stillhoweverembowered under the natural arcade of talltreesanddarkened on the sides for a space around by a greatand livelygrowth of copse-wood and bushes.
"AndhereIsabella" said Mr. Vereas he pursued theconversationso often resumedso often dropped"here I woulderect analtar to Friendship."
"ToFriendshipsir!" said Miss Vere; "and why on thisgloomyandsequestered spotrather than elsewhere?"
"Othe propriety of the LOCALE is easily vindicated" repliedherfatherwith a sneer. "You knowMiss Vere (for youI amwellawareare a learned young lady)you knowthat the Romanswere notsatisfied with embodyingfor the purpose of worshipeachuseful quality and moral virtue to which they could give aname; buttheymoreoverworshipped the same under each varietyof titlesand attributes which could give a distinct shadeorindividualcharacterto the virtue in question. Nowforexamplethe Friendship to whom a temple should be herededicatedis not Masculine Friendshipwhich abhors and despisesduplicityartand disguise; but Female Friendshipwhichconsistsin little else than a mutual disposition on the part ofthefriendsas they call themselvesto abet each other inobscurefraud and petty intrigue."
"Youare severesir" said Miss Vere.
"Onlyjust" said her father; "a humble copier I am from naturewith theadvantage of contemplating two such excellent studies asLucyIlderton and yourself."
"If Ihave been unfortunate enough to offendsirI canconscientiouslyexcuse Miss Ilderton from being either mycounselloror confidante."
"Indeed! how came youthen" said Mr. Vere"by the flippancyof speechand pertness of argumentby which you have disgustedSirFrederickand given me of late such deep offence?"
"Ifmy manner has been so unfortunate as to displease yousirit isimpossible for me to apologize too deeplyor toosincerely;but I cannot confess the same contrition for havingansweredSir Frederick flippantly when he pressed me rudely.Since heforgot I was a ladyit was time to show him that I amat least awoman."
"Reservethenyour pertness for those who press you on thetopicIsabella" said her father coldly; "for my partI amweary ofthe subjectand will never speak upon it again."
"Godbless youmy dear father" said Isabellaseizing hisreluctanthand "there is nothing you can impose on mesave thetask oflistening to this man's persecutionthat I will callorthinkahardship."
"Youare very obligingMiss Verewhen it happens to suit you tobedutiful" said her unrelenting fatherforcing himself at thesame timefrom the affectionate grasp of her hand; "buthenceforwardchildI shall save myself the trouble of offeringyouunpleasant advice on any topic. You must look to yourself."
At thismoment four ruffians rushed upon them. Mr. Vere and hisservantdrew their hangerswhich it was the fashion of the timeto wearand attempted to defend themselves and protect Isabella.But whileeach of them was engaged by an antagonistshe wasforcedinto the thicket by the two remaining villainswho placedher andthemselves on horses which stood ready behind the copse-wood. They mounted at the same timeandplacing her betweenthemsetof at a round gallopholding the reins of her horse oneachside. By many an obscure and winding pathover dale anddownthrough moss and moorshe was conveyed to the tower ofWestburnflatwhere she remained strictly watchedbut nototherwiseill-treatedunder the guardianship of the old womanto whoseson that retreat belonged. No entreaties could prevailupon thehag to give Miss Vere any information on the object ofher beingcarried forcibly offand confined in this secludedplace. The arrival of Earnscliffwith a strong party ofhorsemenbefore the toweralarmed the robber. As he hadalreadydirected Grace Armstrong to be restored to her friendsit did notoccur to him that this unwelcome visit was on heraccount;and seeing at the head of the partyEarnscliffwhoseattachmentto Miss Vere was whispered in the countryhe doubtednot thather liberation was the sole object of the attack uponhisfastness. The dread of personal consequences compelled himto deliverup his prisoner in the manner we have already related.
At themoment the tramp of horses was heard which carried off thedaughterof Ellieslawher father fell to the earthand hisservantastout young fellowwho was gaining ground on theruffianwith whom he had been engagedleft the combat to come tohismaster's assistancelittle doubting that he had received amortalwoundBoth the villains immediately desisted from farthercombatandretreating into the thicketmounted their horsesand wentoff at full speed after their companions. MeantimeDixon hadthe satisfaction to find Mr. Vere not only alivebutunwounded. He had overreached himselfand stumbledit seemedover theroot of a treein making too eager a blow at hisantagonist. The despair he felt at his daughter's disappearancewasinDixon's phrasesuch as would have melted the heart of awhinstaneand he was so much exhausted by his feelingsand thevainresearches which he made to discover the track of theravishersthat a considerable time elapsed ere he reached homeandcommunicated the alarm to his domestics.
All hisconduct and gestures were those of a desperate man.
"Speaknot to meSir Frederick" he said impatiently; "You arenofather--she was my childan ungrateful one! I fearbutstill mychild--my only child. Where is Miss Ilderton? she mustknowsomething of this. It corresponds with what I was informedof herschemes. GoDixoncall Ratcliffe here Let him comewithout aminute's delay." The person he had named at this momententeredthe room.
"IsayDixon" continued Mr. Verein an altered tone"letMr.RatcliffeknowI beg the favour of his company on particularbusiness.--Ah! my dear sir" he proceededas if noticing himfor thefirst time"you are the very man whose advice can be ofthe utmostservice to me in this cruel extremity."
"Whathas happenedMr. Vereto discompose you?" said MrRatcliffegravely; and while the Laird of Ellieslaw details tohimwiththe most animated gestures of grief and indignationthesingular adventure of the morningwe shall take theopportunityto inform our readers of the relative circumstancesin whichthese gentlemen stood to each other.
In earlyyouthMr. Vere of Ellieslaw had been remarkable for acareer ofdissipationwhichin advanced lifehe had exchangedfor the noless destructive career of dark and turbulentambition. In both caseshe had gratified the predominantpassionwithout respect to the diminution of his private fortunealthoughwhere such inducements were wantinghe was deemedcloseavariciousand grasping. His affairs being muchembarrassedby his earlier extravagancehe went to Englandwhere hewas understood to have formed a very advantageousmatrimonialconnexion. He was many years absent from his familyestate. Suddenly and unexpectedly he returned a widowerbringingwith him his daughterthen a girl of about ten yearsold. From this moment his expense seemed unboundedin the eyesof thesimple inhabitants of his native mountains. It wassupposedhe must necessarily have plunged himself deeply in debt.Yet hecontinued to live in the same lavish expenseuntil somemonthsbefore the commencement of our narrativewhen the publicopinion ofhis embarrassed circumstances was confirmedby theresidenceof Mr. Ratcliffe at Ellieslaw Castlewhoby the tacitconsentthough obviously to the great displeasureof the lordof themansionseemedfrom the moment of his arrivalto assumeandexercise a predominant and unaccountable influence in themanagementof his private affairs.
Mr.Ratcliffe was a gravesteadyreserved manin an advancedperiod oflife. To those with whom he had occasion to speak uponbusinesshe appeared uncommonly well versed in all its forms.Withothers he held little communication; but in any casualintercourseor conversationdisplayed the powers of an activeandwell-informed mind. For some time before taking up his finalresidenceat the castlehe had been an occasional visitor thereand was atsuch times treated by Mr. Vere (contrary to hisgeneralpractice towards those who were inferior to him in rank)withmarked attentionand even deference. Yet his arrivalalwaysappeared to be an embarrassment to his hostand hisdeparturea relief; so thatwhen he became a constant inmate ofthefamilyit was impossible not to observe indications of thedispleasurewith which Mr. Vere regarded his presence. Indeedtheirintercourse formed a singular mixture of confidence andconstraint. Mr. Vere's most important affairs were regulated byMr.Ratcliffe; and although he was none of those indulgent men offortunewhotoo indolent to manage their own businessare gladto devolveit upon anotheryetin many instanceshe wasobservedto give up his own judgmentand submit to the contraryopinionswhich Mr. Ratcliffe did not hesitate distinctly toexpress.
Nothingseemed to vex Mr. Vere more than when strangers indicatedanyobservation of the state of tutelage under which he appearedtolabour. When it was noticed by Sir Frederickor any of hisintimateshe sometimes repelled their remarks haughtily andindignantlyand sometimes endeavoured to evade themby sayingwith aforced laugh"That Ratcliffe knew his own importancebutthat hewas the most honest and skilful fellow in the world; andthat itwould be impossible for him to manage his English affairswithouthis advice and assistance." Such was the person whoenteredthe room at the moment Mr. Vere was summoning him to hispresenceand who now heard with surprisemingled with obviousincredulitythe hasty narrative of what had befallen Isabella.
Her fatherconcludedaddressing Sir Frederick and the othergentlemenwho stood around in astonishment"And nowmyfriendsyou see the most unhappy father in Scotland. Lend meyourassistancegentlemen--give me your adviceMr. Ratcliffe.I amincapable of actingor thinkingunder the unexpectedviolenceof such a blow."
"Letus take our horsescall our attendantsand scour thecountry inpursuit of the villains" said Sir Frederick.
"Isthere no one whom you can suspect" said Ratcliffegravely"ofhaving some motive for this strange crime? These are not thedays ofromancewhen ladies are carried off merely for theirbeauty."
"Ifear" said Mr. Vere"I can too well account for thisstrangeincident. Read this letterwhich Miss Lucy Ilderton thought fitto addressfrom my house of Ellieslaw to young Mr. Earnscliff;whomofall menI have a hereditary right to call my enemy.You seeshe writes to him as the confidant of a passion which hehas theassurance to entertain for my daughter; tells him sheserves hiscause with her friend very ardentlybut that he has afriend inthe garrison who serves him yet more effectually. Lookparticularlyat the pencilled passagesMr. Ratcliffewhere thismeddlinggirl recommends bold measureswith an assurance thathis suitwould be successful anywhere beyond the bounds of thebarony ofEllieslaw."
"Andyou arguefrom this romantic letter of a very romanticyoungladyMr. Vere" said Ratcliffe"that young Earnscliff hascarriedoff your daughterand committed a very great andcriminalact of violenceon no better advice and assurance thanthat ofMiss Lucy Ilderton?"
"Whatelse can I think?" said Ellieslaw.
"Whatelse CAN you think?" said Sir Frederick; "or who elsecould haveany motive for committing such a crime?"
"Werethat the best mode of fixing the guilt" said Mr.Ratcliffecalmly"there might easily be pointed out persons towhom suchactions are more congenialand who have alsosufficientmotives of instigation. Supposing it were judgedadvisableto remove Miss Vere to some place in which constraintmight beexercised upon her inclinations to a degree which cannotat presentbe attempted under the roof of Ellieslaw Castle--Whatsays SirFrederick Langley to that supposition?"
"Isay" returned Sir Frederick"that although Mr. Vere maychoose toendure in Mr. Ratcliffe freedoms totally inconsistentwith hissituation in lifeI will not permit such license ofinnuendoby word or lookto be extended to mewith impunity."
"AndI say" said young Mareschal of Mareschal-Wellswho wasalso aguest at the castle"that you are all stark mad to bestandingwrangling hereinstead of going in pursuit of theruffians."
"Ihave ordered off the domestics already in the track mostlikely toovertake them" said Mr. Vere "if you will favour mewith yourcompanywe will follow themand assist in thesearch."
Theefforts of the party were totally unsuccessfulprobablybecauseEllieslaw directed the pursuit to proceed in thedirectionof Earnscliff Towerunder the supposition that theownerwould prove to be the author of the violenceso that theyfollowed adirection diametrically opposite to that in which theruffianshad actually proceeded. In the evening they returnedharassedand out of spirits. But other guests hadin themeanwhilearrived at the castle; andafter the recent losssustainedby the owner had been relatedwondered atandlamentedthe recollection of it wasfor the presentdrowned inthediscussion of deep political intriguesof which the crisisandexplosion were momentarily looked for.
Several ofthe gentlemen who took part in this divan wereCatholicsand all of them stanch Jacobiteswhose hopes were atpresent atthe highest pitchas an invasionin favour of thePretenderwas daily expected from Francewhich Scotlandbetweenthe defenceless state of its garrisons and fortifiedplacesand the general disaffection of the inhabitantswasratherprepared to welcome than to resist. Ratcliffewhoneithersought to assist at their consultations on this subjectnor wasinvited to do sohadin the meanwhileretired to hisownapartment. Miss Ilderton was sequestered from society in asort ofhonourable confinement"until" said Mr. Vere"sheshould besafely conveyed home to her father's house" anopportunityfor which occurred on the following day.
Thedomestics could not help thinking it remarkable how soon theloss ofMiss Vereand the strange manner in which it hadhappenedseemed to be forgotten by the other guests at thecastle. They knew notthat those the most interested in herfate werewell acquainted with the cause of her being carriedoffandthe place of her retreat; and that the othersin theanxiousand doubtful moments which preceded the breaking forth ofaconspiracywere little accessible to any feelings but whataroseimmediately out of their own machinations.
Someone waysome another--Do you know Wherewe may apprehend her?
Theresearches after Miss Vere were (for the sake of appearancesperhaps)resumed on the succeeding daywith similar bad successand theparty were returning towards Ellieslaw in the evening.
"Itis singular" said Mareschal to Ratcliffe"that fourhorsemenand a female prisoner should have passed through thecountrywithout leaving the slightest trace of their passage.One wouldthink they had traversed the airor sunk through theground."
"Menmay often" answered Ratcliffe"arrive at the knowledge ofthat whichisfrom discovering that which is not. We have nowscouredevery roadpathand track leading from the castleinall thevarious points of the compasssaving only that intricateanddifficult pass which leads southward down the Westburnandthroughthe morasses."
"Andwhy have we not examined that?" said Mareschal.
"OMr. Vere can best answer that question" replied hiscompaniondryly.
"ThenI will ask it instantly" said Mareschal; andaddressingMr. Vere"I am informedsir" said he"there is a path wehavenotexaminedleading by Westburnflat."
"O"said Sir Fredericklaughing"we know the owner ofWestburnflatwell--a wild ladthat knows little differencebetweenhis neighbour's goods and his own; butwithalveryhonest tohis principles: he would disturb nothing belonging toEllieslaw."
"Besides"said Mr. Veresmiling mysteriously"he had other towon hisdistaff last night. Have you not heard young Elliot oftheHeugh-foot has had his house burntand his cattle drivenawaybecause he refused to give up his arms to some honest menthat thinkof starting for the king?"
Thecompany smiled upon each otheras at hearing of an exploitwhichfavoured their own views.
"Yetnevertheless" resumed Mareschal"I think we ought to ridein thisdirection alsootherwise we shall certainly be blamedfor ournegligence."
Noreasonable objection could be offered to this proposalandthe partyturned their horses' heads towards Westburnflat.
They hadnot proceeded very far in that direction when thetramplingof horses was heardand a small body of riders wereperceivedadvancing to meet them.
"Therecomes Earnscliff" said Mareschal; "I know his bright baywith thestar in his front."
"Andthere is my daughter along with him" exclaimed Verefuriously. "Who shall call my suspicions false or injurious now?Gentlemen--friends--lendme the assistance of your swords for therecoveryof my child."
Heunsheathed his weaponand was imitated by Sir Frederick andseveral ofthe partywho prepared to charge those that wereadvancingtowards them. But the greater part hesitated.
"Theycome to us in all peace and security" said Mareschal-Wells;"let us first hear what account they give us of thismysteriousaffair. If Miss Vere has sustained the slightestinsult orinjury from EarnscliffI will be first to revenge her;but let ushear what they say."
"Youdo me wrong by your suspicionsMareschal" continued Vere;"youare the last I would have expected to hear express them."
"Youinjure yourselfEllieslawby your violencethough thecause mayexcuse it."
He thenadvanced a little before the restand called outwith aloudvoice--"StandMr. Earnscliff; or do you and Miss Vereadvancealone to meet us. You are charged with having carriedthat ladyoff from her father's house; and we are here in arms toshed ourbest blood for her recoveryand for bringing to justicethose whohave injured her."
"Andwho would do that more willingly than IMr. Mareschal?"saidEarnscliffhaughtily--"than Iwho had the satisfactionthismorning to liberate her from the dungeon in which I foundherconfinedand who am now escorting her back to the Castle ofEllieslaw?"
"Isthis soMiss Vere?" said Mareschal.
"Itis" answered Isabellaeagerly--"it is so; for Heaven'ssakesheathe your swords. I will swear by all that is sacredthat I wascarried off by ruffianswhose persons and object werealikeunknown to meand am now restored to freedom by means ofthisgentleman's gallant interference."
"Bywhomand whereforecould this have been done?" pursuedMareschal.--"Hadyou no knowledge of the place to which you wereconveyed?--Earnscliffwhere did you find this lady?"
But ereeither question could be answeredEllieslaw advancedandreturning his sword to the scabbardcut short theconference.
"WhenI know" he said"exactly how much I owe to Mr.Earnscliffhe may rely on suitable acknowledgments; meantime"taking thebridle of Miss Vere's horse"thus far I thank him forreplacingmy daughter in the power of her natural guardian."
A sullenbend of the head was returned by Earnscliff with equalhaughtiness;and Ellieslawturning back with his daughter uponthe roadto his own houseappeared engaged with her in aconferenceso earnestthat the rest of the company judged itimproperto intrude by approaching them too nearly. In themeantimeEarnscliffas he took leave of the other gentlemenbelongingto Ellieslaw's partysaid aloud"Although I amunconsciousof any circumstance in my conduct that can authorizesuch asuspicionI cannot but observethat Mr. Vere seems tobelievethat I have had some hand in the atrocious violence whichhas beenoffered to his daughter. I request yougentlementotakenotice of my explicit denial of a charge so dishonourable;and thatalthough I can pardon the bewildering feelings of afather insuch a momentyetif any other gentleman" (he lookedhard atSir Frederick Langley) "thinks my word and that of MissVerewiththe evidence of my friends who accompany metooslight formy exculpationI will be happy--most happy--to repelthechargeas becomes a man who counts his honour dearer thanhis life."
"AndI'll be his second" said Simon of Hackburn"and take upony twa o'yegentle or semplelaird or loon; it's a' ane toSimon."
"Whois that rough-looking fellow?" said Sir Frederick Langley"andwhat has he to do with the quarrels of gentlemen?"
"I'sebe a lad frae the Hie Te'iot" said Simon"and I'sequarrelwi' ony body I likeexcept the kingor the laird I liveunder."
"Come"said; Mareschal"let us have no brawls.--Mr. Earnscliff;althoughwe do not think alike in some thingsI trust we may beopponentseven enemiesif fortune will have it sowithoutlosing ourrespect for birthfair-playand each other. Ibelieveyou as innocent of this matter as I am myself; and I willpledgemyself that my cousin Ellieslawas soon as the perplexityattendingthese sudden events has left his judgment to its freeexerciseshall handsomely acknowledge the very important serviceyou havethis day rendered him."
"Tohave served your cousin is a sufficient reward in itself--Goodeveninggentlemen" continued Earnscliff; "I see most ofyour partyare already on their way to Ellieslaw."
Thensaluting Mareschal with courtesyand the rest of the partywithindifferenceEarnscliff turned his horse and rode towardstheHeugh-footto concert measures with Hobbie Elliot forfartherresearches after his brideof whose restoration to herfriends hewas still ignorant.
"Therehe goes" said Mareschal; "he is a finegallant youngfellowupon my soul; and yet I should like well to have a thrustwith himon the green turf. I was reckoned at college nearly hisequal withthe foilsand I should like to try him at sharps."
"Inmy opinion" answered Sir Frederick Langley"we have donevery illin having suffered himand those men who are with himto go offwithout taking away their arms; for the Whigs are verylikely todraw to a head under such a sprightly young fellow asthat."
"ForshameSir Frederick!" exclaimed Mareschal; "do youthinkthatEllieslaw couldin honourconsent to any violence beingoffered toEarnscliff; when he entered his bounds only to bringback hisdaughter? orif he were to be of your opiniondo youthink thatIand the rest of these gentlemenwould disgraceourselvesby assisting in such a transaction? Nonofair playand auldScotland for ever! When the sword is drawnI will beas readyto use it as any man; but while it is in the sheathletus behavelike gentlemen and neighbours."
Soon afterthis colloquy they reached the castlewhen Ellieslawwho hadbeen arrived a few minutes beforemet them in the court-yard.
"Howis Miss Vere? and have you learned the cause of her beingcarriedoff?" asked Mareschal hastily.
"Sheis retired to her apartment greatly fatigued; and I cannotexpectmuch light upon her adventure till her spirits aresomewhatrecruited" replied her father. "She and I were notthelessobliged to youMareschaland to my other friendsfortheir kindenquiries. But I must suppress the father's feelingsfor awhile to give myself up to those of the patriot. You knowthis isthe day fixed for our final decision--time presses--ourfriendsare arrivingand I have opened housenot only for thegentrybut for the under spur-leathers whom we must necessarilyemploy. We havethereforelittle time to prepare to meetthem.--Lookover these listsMarchie (an abbreviation by whichMareschal-Wellswas known among his friends). Do youSirFrederickread these letters from Lothian and the west--all isripe forthe sickleand we have but to summon out the reapers."
"Withall my heart" said Mareschal; "the more mischief thebettersport."
SirFrederick looked grave and disconcerted.
"Walkaside with memy good friend" said Ellieslaw to thesombrebaronet; "I have something for your private earwithwhich Iknow you will be gratified."
Theywalked into the houseleaving Ratcliffe and Mareschalstandingtogether in the court.
"Andso" said Ratcliffe"the gentlemen of your politicalpersuasionthink the downfall of this government so certainthattheydisdain even to throw a decent disguise over themachinationsof their party?"
"FaithMr. Ratcliffe" answered Mareschal"the actions andsentimentsYOUR friends may require to be veiledbut I am betterpleasedthat ours can go barefaced."
"Andis it possible" continued Ratcliffe"that youwhonotwithstandingpour thoughtlessness and heat of temper (I begpardonMr. MareschalI am a plain man)--that youwhonotwithstandingthese constitutional defectspossess naturalgood senseand acquired informationshould be infatuated enoughto embroilyourself in such desperate proceedings? How does yourhead feelwhen you are engaged in these dangerous conferences?"
"Notquite so secure on my shoulders" answered Mareschal"asifI weretalking of hunting and hawking. I am not of soindifferenta mould as my cousin Ellieslawwho speaks treason asif it werea child's nursery rhymesand loses and recovers thatsweetgirlhis daughterwith a good deal less emotion on bothoccasionsthan would have affected me had I lost and recovered agreyhoundpuppy. My temper is not quite so inflexiblenor myhateagainst government so inveterateas to blind me to the fulldanger ofthe attempt."
"Thenwhy involve yourself in it?" said Ratcliffe.
"WhyI love this poor exiled king with all my heart; and myfather wasan old Killiecrankie manand I long to see someamends onthe Unionist courtiersthat have bought and sold oldScotlandwhose crown has been so long independent."
"Andfor the sake of these shadows" said his monitor"you aregoing toinvolve your country in war and yourself in trouble?"
"Iinvolve? No!--buttrouble for troubleI had rather it cameto-morrowthan a month hence. COMEI know it will; andas yourcountryfolks saybetter soon than syne--it will never find meyounger--andas for hangingas Sir John Falstaff saysI canbecome agallows as well as another. You know the end of the oldballad;
"Saedauntonlysae wantonly Sae rantingly gaed he He play'd a springand danced a round Beneath the gallows tree."
"Mr.MareschalI am sorry for you" said his grave adviser.
"I amobliged to youMr. Ratcliffe; but I would not have youjudge ofour enterprise by my way of vindicating it; there arewiserheads than mine at the work."
"Wiserheads than yours may lie as low" said Ratcliffein awarningtone.
"Perhapsso; but no lighter heart shall; andto prevent it beingmadeheavier by your remonstrancesI will bid you adieuMr.Ratcliffetill dinner-timewhen you shall see that myapprehensionshave not spoiled my appetite."
Toface the garment of rebellion Withsome fine colourthat may please the eye Offickle changelingsand poor discontents Whichgape and rub the elbow at the news Ofhurlyburly innovation. HENRYTHE FOURTHPART II.
There hadbeen great preparations made at Ellieslaw Castle fortheentertainment on this important daywhen not only thegentlemenof note in the neighbourhoodattached to the Jacobiteinterestwere expected to rendezvousbut also many subordinatemalecontentswhom difficulty of circumstanceslove of changeresentmentagainst Englandor any of the numerous causes whichinflamedmen's passions at the timerendered apt to join inperilousenterprise. The men of rank and substance were not manyin number;for almost all the large proprietors stood aloofandmost ofthe smaller gentry and yeomanry were of the Presbyterianpersuasionand thereforehowever displeased with the Unionunwillingto engage in a Jacobite conspiracy. But there weresomegentlemen of propertywhoeither from early principlefromreligious motivesor sharing the ambitious views ofEllieslawhad given countenance to his scheme; and there werealsosomefiery young menlike Mareschaldesirous ofsignalizingthemselves by engaging in a dangerous enterprisebywhich theyhoped to vindicate the independence of their country.The othermembers of the party were persons of inferior rank anddesperatefortuneswho were now ready to rise in that part ofthecountryas they did afterwards in the year 1715underForsterand Derwentwaterwhen a troopcommanded by a Bordergentlemannamed Douglasconsisted almost entirely offreebootersamong whom the notorious Luck-in-a-bagas he wascalledheld a distinguished command. We think it necessary tomentionthese particularsapplicable solely to the province inwhich ourscene lies; becauseunquestionablythe Jacobitepartyinthe other parts of the kingdomconsisted of much moreformidableas well as much more respectablematerials.
One longtable extended itself down the ample hall of EllieslawCastlewhich was still left much in the state in which it hadbeen onehundred years beforestretchingthat isin gloomylengthalong the whole side of the castlevaulted with ribbedarches offreestonethe groins of which sprung from projectingfiguresthatcarved into all the wild forms which the fantasticimaginationof a Gothic architect could devisegrinnedfrownedandgnashed their tusks at the assembly below. Long narrowwindowslighted the banqueting room on both sidesfilled up withstainedglassthrough which the sun emitted a dusky anddiscolouredlight. A bannerwhich tradition averred to have beentaken fromthe English at the battle of Sarkwaved over thechair inwhich Ellieslaw presidedas if to inflame the courageof theguestsby reminding them of ancient victories over theirneighbours.He himselfa portly figuredressed on this occasionwithuncommon careand with featureswhichthough of a sternandsinister expressionmight well be termed handsomelookedthe oldfeudal baron extremely well. Sir Frederick Langley wasplaced onhis right handand Mr. Mareschal of Mareschal-Wells onhis left. Some gentlemen of considerationwith their sonsbrothersand nephewswere seated at the upper end of the tableand amongthese Mr. Ratcliffe had his place. Beneath the salt-cellar (amassive piece of plate which occupied the midst of thetable)sate the SINE NOMINE TURBAmen whose vanity was gratifiedby holdingeven this subordinate space at the social boardwhilethedistinction observed in ranking them was a salve to the prideof theirsuperiors. That the lower house was not very selectmust beadmittedsince Willie of Westburnflat was one of theparty. Theunabashed audacity of this fellowin daring topresenthimself in the house of a gentlemanto whom he had justoffered soflagrant an insultcan only be accounted for bysupposinghim conscious that his share in carrying off Miss Verewas asecretsafe in her possession and that of her father.
Beforethis numerous and miscellaneous party was placed a dinnerconsistingnot indeed of the delicacies of the seasonas thenewspapersexpress itbut of viandsamplesolidandsumptuousunder which the very board groaned. But the mirth wasnot inproportion to the good cheer. The lower end of the tablewereforsome timechilled by constraint and respect on findingthemselvesmembers of so august an assembly; and those who wereplacedaround it had those feelings of awe with which P. P.clerk ofthe parishdescribes himself oppressedwhen he firstupliftedthe psalm in presence of those persons of high worshipthe wiseMr. Justice Freemanthe good Lady Jonesand the greatSir ThomasTruby. This ceremonious frosthoweversoon gave waybefore theincentives to merrimentwhich were liberallysuppliedand as liberally consumed by the guests of the lowerdescription. They became talkativeloudand even clamorous intheirmirth.
But it wasnot in the power of wine or brandy to elevate thespirits ofthose who held the higher places at the banquet. Theyexperiencedthe chilling revulsion of spirits which often takesplacewhen men are called upon to take a desperate resolutionafterhaving placed themselves in circumstances where it is alikedifficultto advance or to recede. The precipice looked deeperand moredangerous as they approached the brinkand each waitedwith aninward emotion of aweexpecting which of hisconfederateswould set the example by plunging himself down.Thisinward sensation of fear and reluctance acted differentlyaccordingto the various habits and characters of the company.One lookedgrave; another looked silly; a third gazed withapprehensionon the empty seats at the higher end of the tabledesignedfor members of the conspiracy whose prudence hadprevailedover their political zealand who had absentedthemselvesfrom their consultations at this critical period; andsomeseemed to be reckoning up in their minds the comparativerank andprospects of those who were present and absent. SirFrederickLangley was reservedmoodyand discontented.Ellieslawhimself made such forced efforts to raise the spiritsof thecompanyas plainly marked the flagging of his own.Ratcliffewatched the scene with the composure of a vigilant butuninterestedspectator. Mareschal alonetrue to the thoughtlessvivacityof his characterate and dranklaughed and jestedandseemedeven to find amusement in the embarrassment of thecompany.
"Whathas damped our noble courage this morning?" he exclaimed."Weseem to be met at a funeralwhere the chief mourners mustnot speakabove their breathwhile the mutes and the saulies(lookingto the lower end of the table) are carousing below.Ellieslawwhen will you LIFT? where sleeps your spiritman? and whathas quelled the high hope of the Knight of Langley-dale?"
"Youspeak like a madman" said Ellieslaw; "do you not see howmany areabsent?"
"Andwhat of that?" said Mareschal. "Did you notknow beforethatone-half of the world are better talkers than doers? For mypartI ammuch encouraged by seeing at least two-thirds of ourfriendstrue to the rendezvousthough I suspect one-half ofthese cameto secure the dinner in case of the worst."
"Thereis no news from the coast which can amount to certainty ofthe King'sarrival" said another of the companyin that tone ofsubduedand tremulous whisper which implies a failure ofresolution.
"Nota line from the Earl of D--nor a single gentleman from thesouthernside of the Border" said a third.
"Whois he that wishes for more men from England" exclaimedMareschalin a theatrical tone of affected heroism
"Mycousin Ellieslaw? Nomy fair cousin Ifwe are doom'd to die--"
"ForGod's sake" said Ellieslaw"spare us your folly atpresentMareschal."
"Wellthen" said his kinsman"I'll bestow my wisdom upon youinsteadsuch as it is. If we have gone forward like foolsdonot let usgo back like cowards. We have done enough to drawupon usboth the suspicion and vengeance of the government; donot let usgive up before we have done something to deserve it.--Whatwill no one speak? Then I'll leap the ditch the first."Andstarting uphe filled a beer-glass to the brim with claretand wavinghis handcommanded all to follow his exampleand torise upfrom their seats. All obeyed-the more qualified guestsas ifpassivelythe others with enthusiasm "Thenmy friendsIgive youthe pledge of the day--The independence of Scotlandandthe healthof our lawful sovereignKing James the Eighthnowlanded inLothianandas I trust and believein fullpossessionof his ancient capital!"
He quaffedoff the wineand threw the glass over his head.
"Itshould never" he said"be profaned by a meaner toast."
Allfollowed his exampleandamid the crash of glasses and theshouts ofthe companypledged themselves to stand or fall withtheprinciples and political interest which their toastexpressed.
"Youhave leaped the ditch with a witness" said EllieslawaparttoMareschal; "but I believe it is all for the best; at alleventswecannot now retreat from our undertaking. One manalone"(looking at Ratcliffe) "has refused the pledge; but ofthat byand by."
Thenrising uphe addressed the company in a style ofinflammatoryinvective against the government and its measuresbutespecially the Union; a treatyby means of whichheaffirmedScotland had been at once cheated of her independencehercommerceand her honourand laid as a fettered slave at thefoot ofthe rival against whomthrough such a length of agesthrough somany dangersand by so much bloodshe had honourablydefendedher rights. This was touching a theme which found aresponsivechord in the bosom of every man present.
"Ourcommerce is destroyed" hollowed old John RewcastleaJedburghsmugglerfrom the lower end of the table.
"Ouragriculture is ruined" said the Laird of Broken-girth-flowaterritory whichsince the days of Adamhad borne nothing butling andwhortle-berries.
"Ourreligion is cut uproot and branch" said the pimple-nosedpastor ofthe Episcopal meeting-house at Kirkwhistle.
"Weshall shortly neither dare shoot a deer nor kiss a wenchwithout acertificate from the presbytery and kirk-treasurer"saidMareschal-Wells.
"Ormake a brandy jeroboam in a frosty morningwithout licensefrom acommissioner of excise" said the smuggler.
"Orride over the fell in a moonless night" said Westburnflat"withoutasking leave of young Earnscliff; or some Englifiedjustice ofthe peace: thae were gude days on the Border whenthere wasneither peace nor justice heard of."
"Letus remember our wrongs at Darien and Glencoe" continuedEllieslaw"and take arms for the protection of our rightsourfortunesour livesand our families."
"Thinkupon genuine episcopal ordinationwithout which there canbe nolawful clergy" said the divine.
"Thinkof the piracies committed on our East-Indian trade byGreen andthe English thieves" said William Williesonhalf-owner andsole skipper of a brig that made four voyages annuallybetweenCockpool and Whitehaven.
"Rememberyour liberties" rejoined Mareschalwho seemed to takeamischievous delight in precipitating the movements of theenthusiasmwhich he had excitedlike a roguish boywhohavinglifted thesluice of a mill-damenjoys the clatter of the wheelswhich hehas put in motionwithout thinking of the mischief hemay haveoccasioned. "Remember your liberties" he exclaimed;"confoundcesspressand presbyteryand the memory of oldWilliethat first brought them upon us!"
"Damnthe gauger!" echoed old John Rewcastle; "I'll cleavehimwi' my ainhand."
"Andconfound the country-keeper and the constable!" re-echoedWestburnflat;"I'll weize a brace of balls through them beforemorning."
"Weare agreedthen" said Ellieslawwhen the shouts hadsomewhatsubsided"to bear this state of things no longer?"
"Weare agreed to a man" answered his guests.
"Notliterally so" said Mr. Ratcliffe; "for though I cannothopeto assuagethe violent symptoms which seem so suddenly to haveseizedupon the companyyet I beg to observethat so far as theopinion ofa single member goesI do not entirely coincide inthe listof grievances which has been announcedand that I doutterlyprotest against the frantic measures which you seemdisposedto adopt for removing them. I can easily suppose muchof whathas been spoken may have arisen out of the heat of themomentorhave been said perhaps in jest. But there are somejests of anature very apt to transpire; and you ought toremembergentlementhat stone-walls have ears."
"Stone-wallsmay have ears" returned Ellieslaweyeing him witha look oftriumphant malignity"but domestic spiesMr.Ratcliffewill soon find themselves without anyif any suchdares tocontinue his abode in a family where his coming was anunauthorizedintrusionwhere his conduct has been that of apresumptuousmeddlerand from which his exit shall be that of abaffledknaveif he does not know how to take a hint."
"Mr.Vere" returned Ratcliffewith calm contempt"I am fullyawarethat as soon as my presence becomes useless to youwhichit mustthrough the rash step you are about to adoptit willimmediatelybecome unsafe to myselfas it has always beenhateful toyou. But I have one protectionand it is a strongone; foryou would not willingly hear me detail before gentlemenand men ofhonourthe singular circumstances in which ourconnexiontook its rise. As to the restI rejoice at itsconclusion;and as I think that Mr. Mareschal and some othergentlemenwill guarantee the safety of my ears and of my throat(for whichlast I have more reason to be apprehensive) during thecourse ofthe nightI shall not leave your castle till to-morrowmorning."
"Beit sosir" replied Mr. Vere; "you are entirely safe frommyresentmentbecause you are beneath itand not because I amafraid ofyour disclosing my family secretsalthoughfor yourown sakeI warn you to beware how you do so. Your agency andintermediationcan be of little consequence to one who will winor loseallas lawful right or unjust usurpation shall succeedin thestruggle that is about to ensue. Farewellsir."
Ratcliffearoseand cast upon him a lookwhich Vere seemed tosustainwith difficultyandbowing to those around himleftthe room.
Thisconversation made an impression on many of the companywhichEllieslaw hastened to dispelby entering upon the businessof theday. Their hasty deliberations went to organize animmediateinsurrection. EllieslawMareschaland Sir FrederickLangleywere chosen leaderswith powers to direct their farthermeasures. A place of rendezvous was appointedat which allagreed tomeet early on the ensuing daywith such followers andfriends tothe cause as each could collect around him. Severalof theguests retired to make the necessary preparations; andEllieslawmade a formal apology to the otherswhowithWestburnflatand the old smugglercontinued to ply the bottlestanchlyfor leaving the head of the tableas he mustnecessarilyhold a separate and sober conference with thecoadjutorswhom they had associated with him in the command. Theapologywas the more readily acceptedas he prayed themat thesame timeto continue to amuse themselves with such refreshmentsas thecellars of the castle afforded. Shouts of applausefollowedtheir retreat; and the names of VereLangleyandabove allof Mareschalwere thundered forth in chorusandbathedwith copious bumpers repeatedlyduring the remainder oftheevening.
When theprincipal conspirators had retired into a separateapartmentthey gazed on each other for a minute with a sort ofembarrassmentwhichin Sir Frederick's dark featuresamountedto anexpression of discontented sullenness. Mareschal was thefirst tobreak the pausesayingwith a loud burst of laughter--"Well! we are fairly embarked nowgentlemen--VOGUE LAGALERE!"
"Wemay thank you for the plunge" said Ellieslaw.
"Yes;but I don't know how far you will thank me" answeredMareschal"when I show you this letter which I received justbefore wesat down. My servant told me it was delivered by a manhe hadnever seen beforewho went off at the gallopaftercharginghim to put it into my own hand."
Ellieslawimpatiently opened the letterand read aloud--
HOND. SIRHavingobligations to your familywhich shall be namelessandlearningthat you are one of the company ofadventurers doingbusinessfor the house of James and Companylate merchants inLondonnow in DunkirkI think it right to send you this earlyandprivate informationthat the vessels you expected have beendriven offthe coastwithout having been able to break bulkorto landany part of their cargo; and that the west-countrypartnershave resolved to withdraw their name from the firmasit mustprove a losing concern. Having good hope you will availyourselfof this early informationto do what is needful foryour ownsecurityI rest your humble servantNIHILNAMELESS.
FOR RALPHMARESCHALOF MARESCHAL-WELLS--THESEWITH CARE AND SPEED.
SirFrederick's jaw droppedand his countenance blackenedasthe letterwas readand Ellieslaw exclaimed--"Whythisaffectsthe very mainspring of our enterprise. If the Frenchfleetwith the king on boardhas been chased off by theEnglishas this d--d scrawl seems to intimatewhere are we?"
"Justwhere we were this morningI think" said Mareschalstilllaughing.
"Pardonmeand a truce to your ill-timed mirthMr. Mareschal;thismorning we were not committed publiclyas we now standcommittedby your own mad actwhen you had a letter in yourpocketapprizing you that our undertaking was desperate."
"AyayI expected you would say so. Butin the first placemy friendNihil Nameless and his letter may be all a flam; andmoreoverI would have you know that I am tired of a party thatdoesnothing but form bold resolutions overnightand sleep themaway withtheir wine before morning. The government are nowunprovidedof men and ammunition; in a few weeks they will haveenough ofboth: the country is now in a flame against them; in afew weeksbetwixt the effects of self-interestof fearand oflukewarmindifferencewhich are already so visiblethis firstfervourwill be as cold as Christmas. Soas I was determined togo thevoleI have taken care you shall dip as deep as I; itsignifiesnothing plunging. You are fairly in the bogand muststrugglethrough."
"Youare mistaken with respect to one of usMr. Mareschal" saidSirFrederick Langley; andapplying himself to the bellhedesiredthe person who entered to order his servants and horsesinstantly.
"Youmust not leave usSir Frederick" said Ellieslaw; it wehave ourmusters to go over."
"Iwill go to-nightMr. Vere" said Sir Frederick"and writeyou myintentions in this matter when I am at home."
"Ay"said Mareschal"and send them by a troop of horse fromCarlisleto make us prisoners? Look yeSir FrederickI for onewillneither be deserted nor betrayed; and if you leave EllieslawCastleto-nightit shall be by passing over my dead body."
"Forshame! Mareschal" said Mr. Vere"how can you sohastilymisinterpretour friend's intentions? I am sure Sir Frederickcan onlybe jesting with us; forwere he not too honourable todream ofdeserting the causehe cannot but remember the fullproofs wehave of his accession to itand his eager activity inadvancingit. He cannot but be consciousbesidesthat thefirstinformation will be readily received by governmentandthat ifthe question bewhich can first lodge intelligence oftheaffairwe can easily save a few hours on him."
"Youshould say youand not wewhen you talk of priorities insuch arace of treachery; for my partI won't enter my horse forsuch aplate" said Mareschal; and added betwixit his teeth"Aprettypair of fellows to trust a man's neck with!"
"I amnot to be intimidated from doing what I think proper" saidSirFrederick Langley; "and my first step shall be to leaveEllieslaw. I have no reason to keep faith with one" (looking atVere) "whohas kept none with me."
"Inwhat respect" said Ellieslawsilencingwith a motion ofhis handhis impetuous kinsman--"how have I disappointed youSirFrederick?"
"Inthe nearest and most tender point--you have trifled with meconcerningour proposed alliancewhich you well knew was thegage ofour political undertaking. This carrying off and thisbringingback of Miss Vere--the cold reception I have met withfrom herand the excuses with which you cover itI believe tobe mereevasionsthat you may yourself retain possession of theestateswhich are hers by rightand make mein the meanwhileatool inyour desperate enterpriseby holding out hopes andexpectationswhich you are resolved never to realize."
"SirFrederickI protestby all that is sacred--"
"Iwill listen to no protestations; I have been cheated with themtoo long"answered Sir Frederick.
"Ifyou leave us" said Ellieslaw"you cannot but know bothyourruin andours is certain; all depends on our adhering together."
"Leaveme to take care of myself" returned the knight; "but werewhat yousay trueI would rather perish than be fooled anyfarther."
"Cannothing--no surety convince you of my sincerity?" saidEllieslawanxiously; "this morning I should have repelled yourunjustsuspicions as an insult; but situated as we now are--"
"Youfeel yourself compelled to be sincere?" retorted SirFrederick. "If you would have me think sothere is but one waytoconvince me of it--let your daughter bestow her hand on methisevening."
"Sosoon?--impossible" answered Vere; "think of her latealarm--of ourpresent undertaking."
"Iwill listen to nothing but to her consentplighted at thealtar. You have a chapel in the castle--Doctor Hobbler ispresentamong the company-this proof of your good faith to-nightand we areagain joined in heart and hand. If you refuse me whenit is somuch for your advantage to consenthow shall I trustyouto-morrowwhen I shall stand committed in your undertakingand unableto retract?"
"AndI am to understandthatif you can be made my son-in-lawto-nightour friendship is renewed?" said Ellieslaw.
"Mostinfalliblyand most inviolably" replied Sir Frederick.
"Then"said Vere"though what you ask is prematureindelicateand unjusttowards my characteryetSir Frederickgive me yourhand--mydaughter shall be your wife."
"Thisvery night" replied Ellieslaw"before the clock strikestwelve."
"Withher own consentI trust" said Mareschal; "for I promiseyou bothgentlemenI will not stand tamely byand see anyviolenceput on the will of my pretty kinswoman."
"Anotherpest in this hot-headed fellow" muttered Ellieslaw;and thenaloud"With her own consent? For what do you take meMareschalthat you should suppose your interference necessary toprotect mydaughter against her father? Depend upon itshe hasnorepugnance to Sir Frederick Langley."
"Orrather to be called Lady Langley? faithlike enough--thereare manywomen might be of her mind; and I beg your pardonbutthesesudden demands and concessions alarmed me a little on heraccount."
"Itis only the suddenness of the proposal that embarrasses me"saidEllieslaw; "but perhaps if she is found intractableSirFrederickwill consider--"
"Iwill consider nothingMr. Vere--your daughter's hand to-nightorI departwere it at midnight--there is my ultimatum."
"Iembrace it" said Ellieslaw; "and I will leave you to talkupon ourmilitary preparationswhile I go to prepare my daughterfor sosudden a change of condition."
So sayinghe left the company.
Hebrings Earl Osmond to receive my vows. Odreadful change! for Tancredhaughty Osmond. TANCREDAND SIGISMUNDA.
Mr. Verewhom long practice of dissimulation had enabled tomodel hisvery gait and footsteps to aid the purposes ofdeceptionwalked along the stone passageand up the firstflight ofsteps towards Miss Vere's apartmentwith the alertfirmandsteady pace of one who is boundindeedupon importantbusinessbut who entertains no doubt he can terminate hisaffairssatisfactorily. But when out of hearing of the gentlemenwhom hehad lefthis step became so slow and irresoluteas tocorrespondwith his doubts and his fears. At length he paused inanantechamber to collect his ideasand form his plan ofargumentbefore approaching his daughter.
"Inwhat more hopeless and inextricable dilemma was ever anunfortunateman involved!" Such was the tenor of hisreflections.--"Ifwe now fall to pieces by disunionthere can belittledoubt that the government will take my life as the primeagitatorof the insurrection. Orgrant I could stoop to savemyself bya hasty submissionam I noteven in that caseutterlyruined? I have broken irreconcilably with Ratcliffeandcan havenothing to expect from that quarter but insult andpersecution. I must wander forth an impoverished and dishonouredmanwithout even the means of sustaining lifefar less wealthsufficientto counterbalance the infamy which my countrymenboththose whomI desert and those whom I joinwill attach to thename ofthe political renegade. It is not to be thought of. Andyetwhatchoice remains between this lot and the ignominiousscaffold? Nothing can save me but reconciliation with these men;andtoaccomplish thisI have promised to Langley that Isabellashallmarry him ere midnightand to Mareschalthat she shall doso withoutcompulsion. I have but one remedy betwixt me andruin--herconsent to take a suitor whom she dislikesupon suchshortnotice as would disgust hereven were he a favoured lover--But Imust trust to the romantic generosity of her disposition;and let mepaint the necessity of her obedience ever so stronglyI cannotovercharge its reality."
Havingfinished this sad chain of reflections upon his perilousconditionhe entered his daughter's apartment with every nervebent up tothe support of the argument which he was about tosustain. Though a deceitful and ambitious manhe was not sodevoid ofnatural affection but that he was shocked at the parthe wasabout to actin practising on the feelings of a dutifulandaffectionate child; but the recollectionsthatif hesucceededhis daughter would only be trepanned into anadvantageousmatchand thatif he failedhe himself was a lostmanwerequite sufficient to drown all scruples.
He foundMiss Vere seated by the window of her dressing-roomherheadreclining on her handand either sunk in slumberor sodeeplyengaged in meditationthat she did not hear the noise hemade athis entrance. He approached with his features composedto a deepexpression of sorrow and sympathyandsitting downbesidehersolicited her attention by quietly taking her handamotionwhich he did not fail to accompany with a deep sigh.
"Myfather!" said Isabellawith a sort of startwhichexpressedat least as much fearas joy or affection.
"YesIsabella" said Vere"your unhappy fatherwho comes nowas apenitent to crave forgiveness of his daughter for an injurydone toher in the excess of his affectionand then to takeleave ofher for ever."
"Sir? Offence to me take leave for ever? What does all thismean?" said Miss Vere.
"YesIsabellaI am serious. But first let me ask youhave younosuspicion that I may have been privy to the strange chancewhichbefell you yesterday morning?"
"Yousir?" answered Isabellastammering between aconsciousnessthat he had guessed her thoughts justlyand theshame aswell as fear which forbade her to acknowledge asuspicionso degrading and so unnatural.
"Yes!" he continued"your hesitation confesses that youentertainedsuch an opinionand I have now the painful task ofacknowledgingthat your suspicions have done me no injustice.But listento my motives. In an evil hour I countenanced theaddressesof Sir Frederick Langleyconceiving it impossible thatyou couldhave any permanent objections to a match where theadvantageswerein most respectson your side. In a worseIenteredwith him into measures calculated to restore our banishedmonarchand the independence of my country. He has takenadvantageof my unguarded confidenceand now has my life at hisdisposal."
"Yourlifesir?" said Isabellafaintly.
"YesIsabella" continued her father"the life of him who gavelife toyou. So soon as I foresaw the excesses into which hisheadlongpassion (forto do him justiceI believe hisunreasonableconduct arises from excess of attachment to you) waslikely tohurry himI endeavouredby finding a plausiblepretextfor your absence for some weeksto extricate myself fromthedilemma in which I am placed. For this purpose I wishedincase yourobjections to the match continued insurmountabletohave sentyou privately for a few months to the convent of yourmaternalaunt at Paris. By a series of mistakes you have beenbroughtfrom the place of secrecy and security which I haddestinedfor your temporary abode. Fate has baffled my lastchance ofescapeand I have only to give you my blessingandsend youfrom the castle with Mr. Ratcliffewho now leaves it;my ownfate will soon be decided."
"GoodHeavensir! can this be possible?" exclaimedIsabella."Owhy was I freed from the restraint in which you placed me?or why didyou not impart your pleasure to me?"
"Thinkan instantIsabella. Would you have had me prejudice inyouropinion the friend I was most desirous of servingbycommunicatingto you the injurious eagerness with which hepursuedhis object? Could I do so honourablyhaving promised toassist hissuit?--But it is all overI and Mareschal have madeup ourminds to die like men; it only remains to send you fromhenceunder a safe escort."
"Greatpowers! and is there no remedy?" said the terrifiedyoungwoman.
"Nonemy child" answered Veregently"unless one which youwould notadvise your father to adopt--to be the first to betrayhisfriends."
"Ono! no!" she answeredabhorrently yet hastilyasif toreject thetemptation which the alternative presented to her."Butis there no other hope--through flight--through mediation--throughsupplication?--I will bend my knee to Sir Frederick!"
"Itwould be a fruitless degradation; he is determined on hiscourseand I am equally resolved to stand the hazard of my fate.On onecondition only he will turn aside from his purposeandthatcondition my lips shall never utter to you."
"NameitI conjure youmy dear father!" exclaimed Isabella."WhatCAN he ask that we ought not to grantto prevent thehideouscatastrophe with which you are threatened?"
"ThatIsabella" said Veresolemnly"you shall never knowuntil yourfather's head has rolled on the bloody scaffold; thenindeedyou will learn there was one sacrifice by which he mighthave beensaved."
"Andwhy not speak it now?" said Isabella; "do you fear Iwouldflinchfrom the sacrifice of fortune for your preservation? orwould youbequeath me the bitter legacy of life-long remorsesooft as Ishall think that you perishedwhile there remained onemode ofpreventing the dreadful misfortune that overhangs you?"
"Thenmy child" said Vere"since you press me to name what Iwould athousand times rather leave in silenceI must inform youthat hewill accept for ransom nothing but your hand in marriageand thatconferred before midnight this very evening!"
"Thiseveningsir?" said the young ladystruck with horror attheproposal--"and to such a man!--A man?--a monsterwho couldwish towin the daughter by threatening the life of the father--it isimpossible!"
"Yousay rightmy child" answered her father"it is indeedimpossible;nor have I either the right or the wish to exact suchasacrifice--It is the course of nature that the old should dieand beforgotand the young should live and be happy."
"Myfather dieand his child can save him!--but no--no--my dearfatherpardon meit is impossible; you only wish to guide me toyourwishes. I know your object is what you think my happinessand thisdreadful tale is only told to influence my conduct andsubdue myscruples."
"Mydaughter" replied Ellieslawin a tone where offendedauthorityseemed to struggle with parental affection"my childsuspectsme of inventing a false tale to work upon her feelings!Even thisI must bearand even from this unworthy suspicion Imustdescend to vindicate myself. You know the stainless honourof yourcousin Mareschal--mark what I shall write to himandjudge fromhis answerif the danger in which we stand is notrealandwhether I have not used every means to avert it."
He satedownwrote a few lines hastilyand handed them toIsabellawhoafter repeated and painful effortscleared hereyes andhead sufficiently to discern their purport.
"Dearcousin" said the billet"I find my daughteras Iexpectedin despair at the untimely and premature urgency of SirFrederickLangley. She cannot even comprehend the peril in whichwe standor how much we are in his power-- Use your influencewith himfor Heaven's saketo modify proposalsto theacceptanceof which I cannotand will noturge my child againstall herown feelingsas well as those of delicacy and proprietyand obligeyour loving cousin--R. V."
In theagitation of the momentwhen her swimming eyes and dizzybraincould hardly comprehend the sense of what she looked uponit is notsurprising that Miss Vere should have omitted to remarkthat thisletter seemed to rest her scruples rather upon the formand timeof the proposed unionthan on a rooted dislike to thesuitorproposed to her. Mr. Vere rang the belland gave theletter toa servant to be delivered to Mr. Mareschalandrisingfrom hischaircontinued to traverse the apartment in silenceand ingreat agitation until the answer was returned. He glancedit overand wrung the hand of his daughter as he gave it to her.The tenorwas as follows:--
"Mydear kinsmanI have already urged the knight on the pointyoumentionand I find him as fixed as Cheviot. I am trulysorry myfair cousin should be pressed to give up any of hermaidenlyrights. Sir Frederick consentshoweverto leave thecastlewith me the instant the ceremony is performedand we willraise ourfollowers and begin the fray. Thus there is great hopethebridegroom may be knocked on the head before he and the bridecan meetagainso Bell has a fair chance to be Lady LangleyA TRES BONMARCHE. For the restI can only saythat if she canmake upher mind to the alliance at all--it is no time for meremaidenceremony--my pretty cousin must needs consent to marry inhasteorwe shall all repent at leisureor rather have verylittleleisure to repent; which is all at present from him whorests youraffectionate kinsman--R. M."
"P.S.--TellIsabella that I would rather cut the knight's throatafter alland end the dilemma that waythan see her constrainedto marryhim against her will."
WhenIsabella had read this letterit dropped from her handandshe wouldat the same timehave fallen from her chairhad shenot beensupported by her father.
"MyGodmy child will die!" exclaimed Verethe feelings ofnatureovercomingeven in HIS breastthe sentiments of selfishpolicy;"look upIsabella--look upmy child--come what willyou shallnot be the sacrifice--I will fall myself with theconsciousnessI leave you happy--My child may weep on my gravebut sheshall not--not in this instance--reproach my memory." Hecalled aservant.--"Gobid Ratcliffe come hither directly."
Duringthis intervalMiss Vere became deadly paleclenched herhandspressing the palms strongly togetherclosed her eyesanddrew herlips with strong compressionas if the severeconstraintwhich she put upon her internal feelings extended evento hermuscular organization. Then raising her headand drawingin herbreath strongly ere she spokeshe saidwith firmness--"FatherI consent to the marriage."
"Youshall not--you shall not--my child--my dear child--youshall notembrace certain misery to free me from uncertaindanger."
Soexclaimed Ellieslaw; andstrange and inconsistent beings thatwe are! he expressed the real though momentary feelings of hisheart.
"Father"repeated Isabella"I will consent to this marriage."
"Nomy childno--not now at least--we will humble ourselves toobtaindelay from him; and yetIsabellacould you overcome adislikewhich has no real foundationthinkin other respectswhat amatch!--wealth--rank--importance."
"Father!" reiterated Isabella"I have consented."
It seemedas if she had lost the power of saying anything elseor even ofvarying the phrase whichwith such effortshe hadcompelledherself to utter.
"Heavenbless theemy child!--Heaven bless thee!--And it WILLbless theewith richeswith pleasurewith power."
Miss Verefaintly entreated to be left by herself for the rest oftheevening.
"Butwill you not receive Sir Frederick?" said her fatheranxiously.
"Iwill meet him" she replied"I will meet him--when I mustand whereI must; but spare me now."
"Beit somy dearest; you shall know no restraint that I cansave youfrom. Do not think too hardly of Sir Frederick forthis--itis an excess of passion."
Isabellawaved her hand impatiently.
"Forgivememy child--I go--Heaven bless thee. At eleven--ifyou callme not before--at eleven I come to seek you."
"Whenhe left Isabella she dropped upon her knees--"Heaven aid meto supportthe resolution I have taken-- Heaven only can--OpoorEarnscliff! who shall comfort him? and with what contempt willhepronounce her namewho listened to him to-day and gaveherself toanother at night! But let him despise me--better sothan thathe should know the truth--let him despise me; if itwill butlessen his griefI should feel comfort in the loss ofhisesteem."
She weptbitterly; attempting in vainfrom time to timetocommencethe prayer for which she had sunk on her kneesbutunable tocalm her spirits sufficiently for the exercise ofdevotion. As she remained in this agony of mindthe door of herapartmentwas slowly opened.
Thedarksome cave they enterwhere they found Thewoful manlow sitting on the ground Musingfull sadly in his sullen mind. FAERYQUEEN.
Theintruder on Miss Vere's sorrows was Ratcliffe. Ellieslawhadinthe agitation of his mindforgotten to countermand theorder hehad given to call him thitherso that he opened thedoor withthe words"You sent for meMr. Vere." Then lookingaround--"MissVerealone! on the ground! and in tears!"
"Leaveme--leave meMr. Ratcliffe" said the unhappy young lady.
"Imust not leave you" said Ratcliffe; "I have beenrepeatedlyrequestingadmittance to take my leave of youand have beenrefuseduntil your father himself sent for me. Blame me notifI am boldand intrusive; I have a duty to discharge which makesme so."
"Icannot listen to you--I cannot speak to youMr. Ratcliffe;take mybest wishesand for God's sake leave me."
"Tellme only" said Ratcliffe"is it true that this monstrousmatch isto go forwardand this very night? I heard theservantsproclaim it as I was on the great staircase--I heard thedirectionsgiven to clear out the chapel."
"SparemeMr. Ratcliffe" replied the luckless bride; "and fromthe statein which you see mejudge of the cruelty of thesequestions."
"Married? to Sir Frederick Langley? and this night? It must notcannot--shallnot be."
"ItMUST beMr. Ratcliffor my father is ruined."
"Ah! I understand" answered Ratcliffe; "and you have sacrificedyourselfto save him who--But let the virtue of the child atonefor thefaults of the father it is no time to rake them up.--WhatCAN bedone? Time presses--I know but one remedy--with four-and-twentyhours I might find many--Miss Vereyou must implore theprotectionof the only human being who has it in his power tocontrolthe course of events which threatens to hurry you beforeit."
"Andwhat human being" answered Miss Vere"has such power?"
"Startnot when I name him" said Ratcliffecoming near herandspeakingin a low but distinct voice. "It is he who is calledElshenderthe Recluse of Mucklestane-Moor."
"Youare madMr. Ratcliffeor you mean to insult my misery byanill-timed jest!"
"I amas much in my sensesyoung lady" answered her adviser"asyou are; and I am no idle jesterfar less with miseryleastof allwith your misery. I swear to you that this being (who isother farthan what he seems) actually possesses the means ofredeemingyou from this hateful union."
"Andof insuring my father's safety?"
"Yes! even that" said Ratcliffe"if you plead his cause withhim--yethow to obtain admittance to the Recluse!"
"Fearnot that" said Miss Veresuddenly recollecting theincidentof the rose; "I remember he desired me to call upon himfor aid inmy extremityand gave me this flower as a token. Ereit fadedaway entirelyI would needhe saidhis assistance:is itpossible his words can have been aught but the ravings ofinsanity?"
"Doubtit not fear it not--but above all" said Ratcliffe"letus lose notime--are you at libertyand unwatched?"
"Ibelieve so" said Isabella: "but what would you haveme todo?"
"Leavethe castle instantly" said Ratcliffe"and throw yourselfat thefeet of this extraordinary manwho in circumstances thatseem toargue the extremity of the most contemptible povertypossessesyet an almost absolute influence over your fate.--Guests andservants are deep in their carouse--the leaderssitting inconclave on their treasonable schemes--my horse standsready inthe stable--I will saddle one for youand meet you atthe littlegarden-gate--Olet no doubt of my prudence orfidelityprevent your taking the only step in your power toescape thedreadful fate which must attend the wife of SirFrederickLangley!"
"Mr.Ratcliffe" said Miss Vere"you have always been esteemedaman ofhonour and probityand a drowning wretch will alwayscatch atthe feeblest twig--I will trust you--I will follow youradvice--Iwill meet you at the garden-gate."
She boltedthe outer-door of her apartment as soon as Mr.Ratcliffeleft herand descended to the garden by a separatestair ofcommunication which opened to her dressing-room. On theway shefelt inclined to retract the consent she had so hastilygiven to aplan so hopeless and extravagant. But as she passedin herdescent a private door which entered into the chapel fromtheback-stairshe heard the voice of the female-servants asthey wereemployed in the task of cleaning it.
"Married! and to sae bad a man--Ewhowsirs! onything ratherthanthat."
"Theyare right--they are right" said Miss Vere"anythingratherthan that!"
Shehurried to the garden. Mr. Ratcliffe was true to hisappointment--thehorses stood saddled at the garden-gateand ina fewminutes they were advancing rapidly towards the hut of theSolitary.
While theground was favourablethe speed of their journey wassuch as toprevent much communication; but when a steep ascentcompelledthem to slacken their pacea new cause of apprehensionoccurredto Miss Vere's mind.
"Mr.Ratcliffe" she saidpulling up her horse's bridle"letusprosecuteno farther a journeywhich nothing but the extremeagitationof my mind can vindicate my having undertaken--I amwell awarethat this man passes among the vulgar as beingpossessedof supernatural powersand carrying on an intercoursewithbeings of another world; but I would have you aware I amneither tobe imposed on by such folliesnorwere I to believein theirexistencedurst Iwith my feelings of religionapplyto thisbeing in my distress."
"Ishould have thoughtMiss Vere" replied Ratcliffe"mycharacterand habits of thinking were so well known to youthatyou mighthave held me exculpated from crediting in suchabsurdity."
"Butin what other mode" said Isabella"can a beingsomiserablehimself in appearancepossess the power of assistingme?"
"MissVere." said Ratcliffeafter a momentary pause"I ambound by asolemn oath of secrecy--You mustwithout fartherexplanationbe satisfied with my pledged assurancethat he doespossessthe powerif you can inspire him with the will; andthatIdoubt notyou will be able to do."
"Mr.Ratcliffe" said Miss Vere"you may yourself be mistaken;you ask anunlimited degree of confidence from me."
"RecollectMiss Vere" he replied"that whenin your humanityyou askedme to interfere with your father in favour of Haswelland hisruined family--when you requested me to prevail on him todo a thingmost abhorrent to his nature--to forgive an injury andremit apenalty--I stipulated that you should ask me no questionsconcerningthe sources of my influence--You found no reason todistrustme thendo not distrust me now."
"Butthe extraordinary mode of life of this man" said Miss Vere;"hisseclusion--his figure--the deepness of mis-anthropy which heis said toexpress in his language--Mr. Ratcliffewhat can Ithink ofhim if he really possesses the powers you ascribe tohim?"
"Thismanyoung ladywas bred a Catholica sect which affordsa thousandinstances of those who have retired from power andaffluenceto voluntary privations more strict even than his."
"Buthe avows no religious motive" replied Miss Vere.
"No"replied Ratcliffe; "disgust with the world has operated hisretreatfrom it without assuming the veil of superstition. Thusfar I maytell you--he was born to great wealthwhich hisparentsdesigned should become greater by his union with akinswomanwhom for that purpose they bred up in their own house.You haveseen his figure; judge what the young lady must havethought ofthe lot to which she was destined--Yethabituated tohisappearanceshe showed no reluctanceand the friends of--ofthe personwhom I speak ofdoubted not that the excess of hisattachmentthe various acquisitions of his mindhis many andamiablequalitieshad overcome the natural horror which hisdestinedbride must have entertained at an exterior so dreadfullyinauspicious."
"Anddid they judge truly?" said Isabella.
"Youshall hear. Heat leastwas fully aware of his owndeficiency;the sense of it haunted him like a phantom. 'I am'was hisown expression to me--I mean to a man whom he trusted--'I aminspite of what you would saya poor miserable outcastfitter tohave been smothered in the cradle than to have beenbrought upto scare the world in which I crawl.' The person whomheaddressed in vain endeavoured to impress him with theindifferenceto external form which is the natural result ofphilosophyor entreat him to recall the superiority of mentaltalents tothe more attractive attributes that are merelypersonal. 'I hear you' he would reply; 'but you speak the voiceofcold-blooded stoicismorat leastof friendly partiality.But lookat every book which we have readthose excepted of thatabstractphilosophy which feels no responsive voice in ournaturalfeelings. Is not personal formsuch as at least can betoleratedwithout horror and disgustalways represented asessentialto our ideas of a friendfar more a lover? Is notsuch amis-shapen monster as I amexcludedby the very fiat ofNaturefrom her fairest enjoyments? What but my wealth preventsall--perhapseven Letitiaor you--from shunning me as somethingforeign toyour natureand more odiousby bearing thatdistortedresemblance to humanity which we observe in the animaltribesthat are more hateful to man because they seem hiscaricature?'"
"Yourepeat the sentiments of a madman" said Miss Vere.
"No"replied her conductor"unless a morbid and excessivesensibilityon such a subject can be termed insanity. "Yet Iwill notdeny that this governing feeling and apprehensioncarriedthe person who entertained itto lengths which indicateda derangedimagination. He appeared to think that it wasnecessaryfor himby exuberantand not always well-choseninstancesof liberalityand even profusionto unite himself tothe humanracefrom which he conceived himself naturallydissevered. The benefits which he bestowedfrom a dispositionnaturallyphilanthropical in an uncommon degreewere exaggeratedby theinfluence of the goading reflectionthat more wasnecessaryfrom him than from others--lavishing his treasures asif tobribe mankind to receive him into their class. It isscarcelynecessary to saythat the bounty which flowed from asource socapricious was often abusedand his confidencefrequentlybetrayed. These disappointmentswhich occur to allmore orlessand most to such as confer benefits without justdiscriminationhis diseased fancy set down to the hatred andcontemptexcited by his personal deformity.-- But I fatigue youMissVere?"
"Noby no means; I--I could not prevent my attention fromwanderingan instant; pray proceed."
"Hebecame at length" continued Ratcliffe"the most ingeniousself-tormentorof whom I have ever heard; the scoff of therabbleand the sneer of the yet more brutal vulgar of his ownrankwasto him agony and breaking on the wheel. He regardedthe laughof the common people whom he passed on the streetandthesuppressed titteror yet more offensive terrorof the younggirls towhom he was introduced in companyas proofs of the truesensewhich the world entertained of himas a prodigy unfit tobereceived among them on the usual terms of societyand asvindicatingthe wisdom of his purpose in withdrawing himself fromamongthem. On the faith and sincerity of two persons aloneheseemed torely implicitly--on that of his betrothed brideand ofa friendeminently gifted in personal accomplishmentswhoseemedand indeed probably wassincerely attached to him. Heought tohave been so at leastfor he was literally loaded withbenefitsby him whom you are now about to see. The parents ofthesubject of my story died within a short space of each other.Theirdeath postponed the marriagefor which the day had beenfixed. The lady did not seem greatly to mourn this delay--perhapsthat was not to have been expected; but she intimated nochange ofintentionwhenafter a decent intervala second daywas namedfor their union. The friend of whom I spoke was then aconstantresident at the Hall. In an evil hourat the earnestrequestand entreaty of this friendthey joined a general partywhere menof different political opinions were mingledand wherethey drankdeep. A quarrel ensued; the friend of the Reclusedrew hissword with othersand was thrown down and disarmed by amorepowerful antagonist. They fell in the struggle at the feetof theReclusewhomaimed and truncated as his form appearspossessesneverthelessgreat strengthas well as violentpassions. He caught up a swordpierced the heart of hisfriend'santagonistwas triedand his lifewith difficultyredeemedfrom justice at the expense of a year's closeimprisonmentthe punishment of manslaughter. The incidentaffectedhim most deeplythe more that the deceased was a man ofexcellentcharacterand had sustained gross insult and injuryere hedrew his sword. I thinkfrom that momentI observed--Ibegpardon--The fits of morbid sensibility which had tormentedthisunfortunate gentlemanwere rendered henceforth more acutebyremorsewhich heof all menwas least capable of havingincurredor of sustaining when it became his unhappy lot. Hisparoxysmsof agony could not be concealed from the lady to whomhe wasbetrothed; and it must be confessed they were of analarmingand fearful nature. He comforted himselfthatat theexpiry ofhis imprisonmenthe could form with his wife andfriend asocietyencircled by which he might dispense with moreextensivecommunication with the world. He was deceived; beforethat termelapsedhis friend and his betrothed bride were manand wife. The effects of a shock so dreadful on an ardenttemperamenta disposition already soured by bitter remorseandloosenedby the indulgence of a gloomy imagination from the restofmankindI cannot describe to you; it was as if the last cableat whichthe vessel rode had suddenly partedand left herabandonedto all the wild fury of the tempest. He was placedundermedical restraint. As a temporary measure this might havebeenjustifiable; but his hard-hearted friendwhoinconsequenceof his marriagewas now his nearest allyprolongedhisconfinementin order to enjoy the management of his immenseestates. There was one who owed his all to the suffereranhumblefriendbut grateful and faithful. By unceasing exertionandrepeated invocation of justicehe at length succeeded inobtaininghis patron's freedomand reinstatement in themanagementof his own propertyto which was soon added that ofhisintended bridewho having died without male issueherestatesreverted to himas heir of entail. But freedom andwealthwere unable to restore the equipoise of his mind; to theformer hisgrief made him indifferent--the latter only served himas far asit afforded him the means of indulging his strange andwaywardfancy. He had renounced the Catholic religionbutperhapssome of its doctrines continued to influence a mindoverwhichremorse and misanthropy now assumedin appearanceanunboundedauthority. His life has since been that alternately ofa pilgrimand a hermitsuffering the most severe privationsnotindeed inascetic devotionbut in abhorrence of mankind. Yet noman'swords and actions have been at such a wide differencenorhas anyhypocritical wretch ever been more ingenious in assigninggoodmotives for his vile actionsthan this unfortunate inreconcilingto his abstract principles of misanthropya conductwhichflows from his natural generosity and kindness of feeling."
"StillMr. Ratcliffe--still you describe the inconsistencies ofa madman."
"Byno means" replied Ratcliffe. "That the imaginationof thisgentlemanis disorderedI will not pretend to dispute; I havealreadytold you that it has sometimes broken out into paroxysmsapproachingto real mental alienation. But it is of his commonstate ofmind that I speak; it is irregularbut not deranged;the shadesare as gradual as those that divide the light ofnoondayfrom midnight. The courtier who ruins his fortune fortheattainment of a title which can do him no goodor power ofwhich hecan make no suitable or creditable usethe miser whohoards hisuseless wealthand the prodigal who squanders itareall markedwith a certain shade of insanity. To criminals whoare guiltyof enormitieswhen the temptationto a sober mindbears noproportion to the horror of the actor the probabilityofdetection and punishmentthe same observation applies; andeveryviolent passionas well as angermay be termed a shortmadness."
"Thismay be all good philosophyMr. Ratcliffe" answered MissVere;"butexcuse meit by no means emboldens me to visitatthis latehoura person whose extravagance of imagination youyourselfcan only palliate."
"Ratherthen" said Ratcliffe"receive my solemn assurancesthat youdo not incur the slightest danger. But what I have beenhithertoafraid to mention for fear of alarming you isthat nowwhen weare within sight of his retreatfor I can discover itthroughthe twilightI must go no farther with you; you mustproceedalone."
"Youmust" continued Ratcliffe; "I will remain here and waitforyou."
"Youwill notthenstir from this place" said Miss Vere "yetthedistance is so greatyou could not hear me were I to cry forassistance."
"Fearnothing" said her guide; "or observeat leastthe utmostcaution instifling every expression of timidity. Remember thathispredominant and most harassing apprehension arises from aconsciousnessof the hideousness of his appearance. Your pathliesstraight beside yon half-fallen willow; keep the left sideof it; themarsh lies on the right. Farewell for a time.Rememberthe evil you are threatened withand let it overcome atonce yourfears and scruples."
"Mr.Ratcliffe" said Isabella"farewell; if you have deceivedone sounfortunate as myselfyou have for ever forfeited thefaircharacter for probity and honour to which I have trusted."
"Onmy life--on my soul" continued Ratclifferaising his voiceas thedistance between them increased"you are safe--perfectlysafe."
--'Twastime and griefs Thatframed him thus: Timewith his fairer hand Offeringthe fortunes of his former days Theformer man may make him.--Bring us to him Andchance it as it may. OLD PLAY.
The soundsof Ratcliffe's voice had died on Isabella's ear; butas shefrequently looked backit was some encouragement to herto discernhis form now darkening in the gloom. Erehowevershe wentmuch farthershe lost the object in the increasingshade. The last glimmer of the twilight placed her before thehut of theSolitary. She twice extended her hand to the doorand twiceshe withdrew it; and when she did at length make theeffortthe knock did not equal in violence the throb of her ownbosom. Her next effort was louder; her third was reiteratedforthe fearof not obtaining the protection from which Ratcliffepromisedso muchbegan to overpower the terrors of his presencefrom whomshe was to request it. At lengthas she stillreceivedno answershe repeatedly called upon the Dwarf by hisassumednameand requested him to answer and open to her.
"Whatmiserable being is reduced" said the appalling voice oftheSolitary"to seek refuge here? Go hence; when the heath-fowl needshelterthey seek it not in the nest of the night-raven."
"Icome to youfather" said Isabella"in my hour ofadversityeven asyou yourself commandedwhen you promised your heart andyour doorshould be open to my distress; but I fear--"
"Ha!" said the Solitary"then thou art Isabella Vere? Give me atoken thatthou art she."
"Ihave brought you back the rose which you gave me; it has nothad timeto fade ere the hard fate you foretold has come uponme!"
"Andif thou hast thus redeemed thy pledge" said the Dwarf"Iwill notforfeit mine. The heart and the door that are shutagainstevery other earthly beingshall be open to thee and tothysorrows."
She heardhim move in his hutand presently afterwards strike alight. One by onebolt and bar were then withdrawnthe heartofIsabella throbbing higher as these obstacles to their meetingweresuccessively removed. The door openedand the Solitarystoodbefore herhis uncouth form and features illuminated bythe ironlamp which he held in his hand.
"Enterdaughter of affliction" he said--"enter the house ofmisery."
Sheenteredand observedwith a precaution which increased hertrepidationthat the Recluse's first actafter setting the lampupon thetablewas to replace the numerous bolts which securedthe doorof his hut. She shrunk as she heard the noise whichaccompaniedthis ominous operationyet remembered Ratcliffe'scautionand endeavoured to suppress all appearance ofapprehension. The light of the lamp was weak and uncertain; buttheSolitarywithout taking immediate notice of Isabellaotherwisethan by motioning her to sit down on a small settlebeside thefireplacemade haste to kindle some dry furzewhichpresentlycast a blaze through the cottage. Wooden shelveswhich borea few bookssome bundles of dried herbsand one ortwo woodencups and platterswere on one side of the fire; onthe otherwere placed some ordinary tools of field-labourmingledwith those used by mechanics. Where the bed should havebeenthere was a wooden framestrewed with withered moss andrushesthe couch of the ascetic. The whole space of the cottagedid notexceed ten feet by six within the walls; and its onlyfurniturebesides what we have mentionedwas a table and twostoolsformed of rough deals.
Withinthese narrow precincts Isabella now found herself enclosedwith abeingwhose history had nothing to reassure herand thefearfulconformation of whose hideous countenance inspired analmostsuperstitious terror. He occupied the seat opposite toheranddropping his huge and shaggy eyebrows over his piercingblackeyesgazed at her in silenceas if agitated by a varietyofcontending feelings. On the other side sate Isabellapale asdeathherlong hair uncurled by the evening dampsand fallingover hershoulders and breastas the wet streamers droop fromthe mastwhen the storm has passed awayand left the vesselstrandedon the beach. The Dwarf first broke the silence withthesuddenabruptand alarming question--"Womanwhat evilfate hasbrought thee hither?"
"Myfather's dangerand your own command" she replied faintlybutfirmly.
"Andyou hope for aid from me?"
"Ifyou can bestow it" she repliedstill in the same tone ofmildsubmission.
"Andhow should I possess that power?" continued the Dwarfwitha bittersneer; "Is mine the form of a redresser of wrongs? Isthis thecastle in which one powerful enough to be sued to by afairsuppliant is likely to hold his residence? I but mockedtheegirlwhen I said I would relieve thee."
"Thenmust I departand face my fate as I best may!"
"No!" said the Dwarfrising and interposing between her and thedoorandmotioning to her sternly to resume her seat--"No! youleave menot in this way; we must have farther conference. Whyshould onebeing desire aid of another? Why should not each besufficientto itself? Look round you--Ithe most despised andmostdecrepit on Nature's commonhave required sympathy and helpfrom noone. These stones are of my own piling; these utensils Iframedwith my own hands; and with this"--and he laid his handwith afierce smile on the long dagger which he always worebeneathhis garmentand unsheathed it so far that the bladeglimmeredclear in the fire-light--"with this" he pursuedas hethrust theweapon back into the scabbard"I canif necessarydefend thevital spark enclosed in this poor trunkagainst thefairestand strongest that shall threaten me with injury."
It waswith difficulty Isabella refrained from screaming outaloud; butshe DID refrain.
"This"continued the Recluse"is the life of naturesolitaryself-sufficingand independent. The wolf calls not the wolf toaid him informing his den; and the vulture invites not anotherto assisther in striking down her prey."
"Andwhen they are unable to procure themselves support" saidIsabellajudiciously thinking that he would be most accessibletoargument couched in his own metaphorical style"what then isto befallthem?"
"Letthem starvedieand be forgotten; it is the common lot ofhumanity."
"Itis the lot of the wild tribes of nature" said Isabella"butchiefly ofthose who are destined to support themselves byrapinewhich brooks no partner; but it is not the law of natureingeneral; even the lower orders have confederacies for mutualdefence. But mankind--the race would perish did they cease toaid eachother.--From the time that the mother binds the child'sheadtillthe moment that some kind assistant wipes the death-damp fromthe brow of the dyingwe cannot exist without mutualhelp. Allthereforethat need aidhave right to ask it oftheirfellow-mortals; no one who has the power of granting canrefuse itwithout guilt."
"Andin this simple hopepoor maiden" said the Solitary"thouhast comeinto the desertto seek one whose wish it were thatthe leaguethou hast spoken of were broken for everand thatinverytruththe whole race should perish? Wert thou notfrightened?"
"Misery"said Isabellafirmly"is superior to fear."
"Hastthou not heard it said in thy mortal worldthat I haveleaguedmyself with other powersdeformed to the eye andmalevolentto the human race as myself? Hast thou not heardthis--Anddost thou seek my cell at midnight?"
"TheBeing I worship supports me against such idle fears" saidIsabella;but the increasing agitation of her bosom belied theaffectedcourage which her words expressed.
"Ho! ho!" said the Dwarf"thou vauntest thyself aphilosopher?Yetshouldst thou not have thought of the danger of intrustingthyselfyoung and beautifulin the power of one so spitedagainsthumanityas to place his chief pleasure in defacingdestroyingand degrading her fairest works?"
Isabellamuch alarmedcontinued to answer with firmness"Whateverinjuries you may have sustained in the worldyou areincapableof revenging them on one who never wronged younorwilfullyany other."
"Aybutmaiden" he continuedhis dark eyes flashing with anexpressionof malignity which communicated itself to his wild anddistortedfeatures"revenge is the hungry wolfwhich asks onlyto tearflesh and lap blood. Think you the lamb's plea ofinnocencewould be listened to by him?"
"Man!" said Isabellarisingand expressing herself with muchdignity"I fear not the horrible ideas with which you wouldimpressme. I cast them from me with disdain. Be you mortal orfiendyouwould not offer injury to one who sought you as asuppliantin her utmost need. You would not--you durst not."
"Thousay'st trulymaiden" rejoined the Solitary; "I dare not--I wouldnot. Begone to thy dwelling. Fear nothing with whichtheythreaten thee. Thou hast asked my protection--thou shaltfind iteffectual."
"Butfatherthis very night I have consented to wed the manthat Iabhoror I must put the seal to my father's ruin."
"Thisnight?--at what hour?"
"Andtwilight" said the Dwarf"has already passed away. Butfearnothingthere is ample time to protect thee."
"Andmy father?" continued Isabellain a suppliant tone.
"Thyfather" replied the Dwarf"has beenand ismy mostbitterenemy. But fear not; thy virtue shall save him. And nowbegone;were I to keep thee longer by meI might again fall intothe stupiddreams concerning human worth from which I have beensofearfully awakened. But fear nothing--at the very foot of thealtar Iwill redeem thee. Adieutime pressesand I must act!"
He led herto the door of the hutwhich he opened for herdeparture. She remounted her horsewhich had been feeding inthe outerenclosureand pressed him forward by the light of themoonwhich was now risingto the spot where she had leftRatcliffe.
"Haveyou succeeded?" was his first eager question.
"Ihave obtained promises from him to whom you sent me; but howcan hepossibly accomplish them?"
"ThankGod!" said Ratcliffe; "doubt not his power to fulfilhispromise."
At thismoment a shrill whistle was heard to resound along theheath.
"Hark!" said Ratcliffe"he calls me--Miss Verereturn homeand leaveunbolted the postern-door of the garden; to that whichopens onthe back-stairs I have a private key."
A secondwhistle was heardyet more shrill and prolonged thanthe first.
"IcomeI come" said Ratcliffe; and setting spurs to his horserode overthe heath in the direction of the Recluse's hut. MissVerereturned to the castlethe mettle of the animal on whichshe rodeand her own anxiety of mindcombining to accelerateherjourney.
She obeyedRatcliffe's directionsthough without wellapprehendingtheir purposeand leaving her horse at large in apaddocknear the gardenhurried to her own apartmentwhich shereachedwithout observation. She now unbolted her doorand rangher bellfor lights. Her father appeared along with the servantwhoanswered her summons.
"Hehad been twice" he said"listening at her door during thetwo hoursthat had elapsed since he left herandnot hearingher speakhad become apprehensive that she was taken ill."
"Andnowmy dear father" she said"permit me to claim thepromiseyou so kindly gave; let the last moments of freedom whichI am toenjoy be mine without interruption; and protract to thelastmoment the respite which is allowed me."
"Iwill" said her father; "nor shall you be againinterrupted.But thisdisordered dress--this dishevelled hair--do not let mefind youthus when I call on you again; the sacrificeto bebeneficialmust be voluntary."
"Mustit be so?" she replied; "then fear notmy father! thevictimshall be adorned."
Thislooks not like a nuptial. MUCH ADO ABOUTNOTHING.
The chapelin the castle of Ellieslawdestined to be the sceneof thisill-omened unionwas a building of much older date thanthe castleitselfthough that claimed considerable antiquity.Before thewars between England and Scotland had become so commonand ofsuch long durationthat the buildings along both sides ofthe Borderwere chiefly dedicated to warlike purposesthere hadbeen asmall settlement of monks at Ellieslawa dependencyitisbelieved by antiquarieson the rich Abbey of Jedburgh. Theirpossessionshad long passed away under the changes introduced bywar andmutual ravage. A feudal castle had arisen on the ruin oftheircellsand their chapel was included in its precincts.
Theedificein its round arches and massive pillarsthesimplicityof which referred their date to what has been calledthe Saxonarchitecturepresented at all times a dark and sombreappearanceand had been frequently used as the cemetery of thefamily ofthe feudal lordsas well as formerly of the monasticbrethren. But it looked doubly gloomy by the effect of the fewand smokytorches which were used to enlighten it on the presentoccasionand whichspreading a glare of yellow light in theirimmediatevicinitywere surrounded beyond by a red and purplehaloreflected from their own smokeand beyond that again by azone ofdarkness which magnified the extent of the chapelwhileitrendered it impossible for the eye to ascertain its limits.Someinjudicious ornamentsadopted in haste for the occasionratheradded to the dreariness of the scene. Old fragments oftapestrytorn from the walls of other apartmentshad beenhastilyand partially disposed around those of the chapelandmingledinconsistently with scutcheons and funeral emblems of thedeadwhich they elsewhere exhibited. On each side of the stonealtar wasa monumentthe appearance of which formed an equallystrangecontrast. On the one was the figurein stoneof somegrimhermitor monkwho had died in the odour of sanctity; hewasrepresented as recumbentin his cowl and scapulairewithhis faceturned upward as in the act of devotionand his handsfoldedfrom which his string of beads was dependent. On theother sidewas a tombin the Italian tastecomposed of the mostbeautifulstatuary marbleand accounted a model of modern art.It waserected to the memory of Isabella's motherthe late Mrs.Vere ofEllieslawwho was represented as in a dying posturewhile aweeping cherubwith eyes avertedseemed in the act ofextinguishinga dying lamp as emblematic of her speedydissolution. It wasindeeda masterpiece of artbut misplacedin therude vault to which it had been consigned. Many weresurprisedand even scandalizedthat Ellieslawnot remarkableforattention to his lady while aliveshould erect after herdeath sucha costly mausoleum in affected sorrow; others clearedhim fromthe imputation of hypocrisyand averred that themonumenthad been constructed under the direction and at the soleexpense ofMr. Ratcliffe.
Beforethese monuments the wedding guests were assembled. Theywere fewin number; for many had left the castle to prepare fortheensuing political explosionand Ellieslaw wasin thecircumstancesof the casefar from being desirous to extendinvitationsfarther than to those near relations whose presencethe customof the country rendered indispensable. Next to thealtarstood Sir Frederick Langleydarkmoodyand thoughtfulevenbeyond his wontand near himMareschalwho was to playthe partof bridesmanas it was called. The thoughtless humourof thisyoung gentlemanon which he never deigned to place theleastrestraintadded to the cloud which overhung the brow ofthebridegroom
"Thebride is not yet come out of her chamber" he whispered toSirFrederick; "I trust that we must not have recourse to theviolentexpedients of the Romans which I read of at College. Itwould behard upon my pretty cousin to be run away with twice intwo daysthough I know none better worth such a violentcompliment."
SirFrederick attempted to turn a deaf ear to this discoursehumming atuneand looking another maybut Mareschal proceededin thesame wild manner.
"Thisdelay is hard upon Dr. Hobblerwho was disturbed toacceleratepreparations for this joyful event when he hadsuccessfullyextracted the cork of his third bottle. I hope youwill keephim free of the censure of his superiorsfor I take itthis isbeyond canonical hours.--But here come Ellieslaw and myprettycousin--prettier than everI thinkwere it not she seemsso faintand so deadly pale--Hark yeSir Knightif she says notYES withright good-willit shall be no weddingfor all thathas comeand gone yet."
"Noweddingsir?" returned Sir Frederickin a loud whisperthe toneof which indicated that his angry feelings weresuppressedwith difficulty.
"No--nomarriage" replied Mareschal"there's my hand and gloveon't."
SirFrederick Langley took his handand as he wrung it hardsaid in alower whisper"Mareschalyou shall answer this" andthen flunghis hand from him.
"ThatI will readily do" said Mareschal"for never word escapedmy lipsthat my hand was not ready to guarantee.- Sospeak upmy prettycousinand tell me if it be your free will andunbiassedresolution to accept of this gallant knight for yourlord andhusband; for if you have the tenth part of a scrupleupon thesubjectfall backfall edgehe shall not have you."
"Areyou madMr. Mareschal?" said Ellieslawwhohaving beenthis youngman's guardian during his minorityoften employed atone ofauthority to him. "Do you suppose I would drag mydaughterto the foot of the altarwere it not her own choice?"
"TutEllieslaw" retorted the young gentleman"never tell me ofthecontrary; her eyes are full of tearsand her cheeks arewhiterthan her white dress. I must insistin the name ofcommonhumanitythat the ceremony be adjourned till to-morrow."
"Sheshall tell you herselfthou incorrigible intermeddler inwhatconcerns thee notthat it is her wish the ceremony shouldgo on--Isit notIsabellamy dear?"
"Itis" said Isabellahalf fainting--"since there is no helpeither inGod or man."
The firstword alone was distinctly audible. Mareschal shruggedup hisshoulders and stepped back. Ellieslaw ledor rathersupportedhis daughter to the altar. Sir Frederick movedforwardand placed himself by her side. The clergyman opened hisprayer-bookand looked to Mr. Vere for the signal to commencetheservice.
"Proceed"said the latter.
But avoiceas if issuing from the tomb of his deceased wifecalledinsuch loud and harsh accents as awakened every echo inthevaulted chapel"Forbear!"
All weremute and motionlesstill a distant rustleand theclash ofswordsor something resembling itwas heard from theremoteapartments. It ceased almost instantly.
"Whatnew device is this?" said Sir FrederickfiercelyeyeingEllieslawand Mareschal with a glance of malignant suspicion.
"Itcan be but the frolic of some intemperate guest" saidEllieslawthough greatly confounded; "we must make largeallowancesfor the excess of this evening's festivity. Proceedwith theservice."
Before theclergyman could obeythe same prohibition which theyhad beforeheardwas repeated from the same spot. The femaleattendantsscreamedand fled from the chapel; the gentlemen laidtheirhands on their swords. Ere the first moment of surprisehad passedbythe Dwarf stepped from behind the monumentandplacedhimself full in front of Mr. Vere. The effect of sostrangeand hideous an apparition in such a place and in suchcircumstancesappalled all presentbut seemed to annihilate theLaird ofEllieslawwhodropping his daughter's armstaggeredagainstthe nearest pillarandclasping it with his hands as ifforsupportlaid his brow against the column.
"Whois this fellow?" said Sir Frederick; "and what doeshe meanby thisintrusion?"
"Itis one who comes to tell you" said the Dwarfwith thepeculiaracrimony which usually marked his manner"thatinmarryingthat young ladyyou wed neither the heiress ofEllieslawnor of Mauley Hallnor of Polvertonnor of onefurrow oflandunless she marries with MY consent; and to theethatconsent shall never be given. Down--down on thy kneesandthankHeaven that thou art prevented from wedding qualities withwhich thouhast no concern--portionless truthvirtueandinnocence--thoubase ingrate" he continuedaddressing himselftoEllieslaw"what is thy wretched subterfuge now? Thouwhowouldstsell thy daughter to relieve thee from dangeras infaminethou wouldst have slain and devoured her to preserve thyown vilelife!--Ayhide thy face with thy hands; well mayst thoublush tolook on him whose body thou didst consign to chainshishand toguiltand his soul to misery. Saved once more by thevirtue ofher who calls thee fathergo henceand may the pardonandbenefits I confer on thee prove literal coals of firetillthy brainis seared and scorched like mine!"
Ellieslawleft the chapel with a gesture of mute despair.
"FollowhimHubert Ratcliffe" said the Dwarf"and inform himof hisdestiny. He will rejoice--for to breathe air and tohandlegold is to him happiness"
"Iunderstand nothing of all this" said Sir Frederick Langley;"butwe are here a body of gentlemen in arms and authority forKingJames; and whether you reallysirbe that Sir EdwardMauleywho has been so long supposed dead in confinementorwhetheryou be an impostor assuming his name and titlewe willuse thefreedom of detaining youtill your appearance hereatthismomentis better accounted for; we will have no spies amongus--Seizeon himmy friends."
But thedomestics shrunk back in doubt and alarm. Sir Frederickhimselfstepped forward towards the Recluseas if to lay handson hispersonwhen his progress was suddenly stopped by theglitteringpoint of a partisanwhich the sturdy hand of HobbieElliotpresented against his bosom.
"I'llgar daylight shine through yeif ye offer to steer him!"said thestout Borderer; "stand backor I'll strike ye through!Naebodyshall lay a finger on Elshie; he's a canny neighbourlymanayeready to make a friend help; andthough ye may thinkhim alamiteryetgrippie for grippiefriendI'll wad awetherhe'll make the bluid spin frae under your nails. He's ateughcarle Elshie! he grips like a smith's vice."
"Whathas brought you hereElliot?" said Mareschal; "whocalledon you forinterference?"
"TrothMareschal-Wells" answered Hobbie"I am just come herewi' twentyor thretty mair o' usin my ain name and the King's--orQueen'sca' they her? and Canny Elshie's into the bargainto keepthe peaceand pay back some ill usage Ellieslaw has gienme. A bonny breakfast the loons gae me the ither morningandhim at thebottom on't; and trow ye I wasna ready to supper himup?--Yeneedna lay your hands on your swordsgentlementhehouse isours wi' little din; for the doors were openand therehad beenower muckle punch amang your folk; we took their swordsandpistols as easily as ye wad shiel pea-cods."
Mareschalrushed outand immediately re-entered the chapel.
"ByHeaven! it is trueSir Frederick; the house is filled witharmed menand our drunken beasts are all disarmed. Drawandlet usfight our way."
"Binnarash--binna rash" exclaimed Hobbie; "hear me a bithearme a bit. We mean ye nae harm; butas ye are in arms for KingJamesasye ca' himand the prelateswe thought it right tokeep upthe auld neighbour warand stand up for the t'other aneand theKirk; but we'll no hurt a hair o' your headsif ye liketo ganghame quietly. And it will be your best wayfor there'ssure newscome frae Loudounthat him they ca' Bangor Byngorwhat is'thas bang'd the French ships and the new king aff thecoasthowever; sae ye had best bide content wi' auld Nanse forwant of abetter Queen."
Ratcliffewho at this moment enteredconfirmed these accountssounfavourable to the Jacobite interest. Sir Frederickalmostinstantlyand without taking leave of any oneleft the castlewith suchof his attendants as were able to follow him.
"Andwhat will you doMr. Mareschal?" said Ratcliffe.
"Whyfaith" answered hesmiling"I hardly know; my spirit istoo greatand my fortune too smallfor me to follow the exampleof thedoughty bridegroom. It is not in my natureand it ishardlyworth my while."
"Wellthendisperse your menand remain quietand this willbeoverlookedas there has been no overt act."
"Houtay" said Elliot"just let byganes be byganesand a'friendsagain; deil ane I bear malice at but Westburnflatand Ihae gienhim baith a het skin and a cauld ane. I hadna changedthreeblows of the broadsword wi' him before he lap the windowinto thecastle-moatand swattered through it like a wild-duck.He's aclever fallowindeed! maun kilt awa wi' ae bonny lass inthemorningand another at nightless wadna serve him! but ifhe disnakilt himsell out o' the countryI'se kilt him wi' atowforthe Castleton meeting's clean blawn ower; his friendswill nocountenance him."
During thegeneral confusionIsabella had thrown herself at thefeet ofher kinsmanSir Edward Mauleyfor so we must now calltheSolitaryto express at once her gratitudeand to beseechforgivenessfor her father. The eyes of all began to be fixed onthemassoon as their own agitation and the bustle of theattendantshad somewhat abated. Miss Vere kneeled beside thetomb ofher motherto whose statue her features exhibited amarkedresemblance. She held the hand of the Dwarfwhich shekissedrepeatedly and bathed with tears. He stood fixed andmotionlessexcepting that his eyes glanced alternately on themarblefigure and the living suppliant. At lengththe largedropswhich gathered on his eye-lashes compelled him to draw hishandacross them.
"Ithought" he said"that tears and I had done; but we shedthem atour birthand their spring dries not until we are in ourgraves. But no melting of the heart shall dissolve myresolution. I part hereat onceand for everwith all ofwhich thememory" (looking to the tomb)"or the presence" (hepressedIsabella's hand)"is dear to me.--Speak not to me!attemptnot to thwart my determination! it will avail nothing;you willhear of and see this lump of deformity no more. To youI shall bedead ere I am actually in my graveand you will thinkof me asof a friend disencumbered from the toils and crimes ofexistence."
He kissedIsabella on the foreheadimpressed another kiss on thebrow ofthe statue by which she kneltand left the chapelfollowedby Ratcliffe. Isabellaalmost exhausted by theemotionsof the daywas carried to her apartment by her women.Most ofthe other guests dispersedafter having separatelyendeavouredto impress on all who would listen to them theirdisapprobationof the plots formed against the governmentortheirregret for having engaged in them. Hobbie Elliot assumedthecommand of the castle for the nightand mounted a regularguard. He boasted not a little of the alacrity with which hisfriendsand he had obeyed a hasty summons received from Elshiethroughthe faithful Ratcliffe. And it was a lucky chancehesaidthaton that very day they had got notice that Westburnflatdid notintend to keep his tryste at Castletonbut to hold thematdefiance; so that a considerable party had assembled at theHeugh-footwith the intention of paying a visit to the robber'stower onthe ensuing morningand their course was easilydirectedto Ellieslaw Castle.
--Lastscene of allToclose this strange eventful history. AS YOU LIKE IT.
On thenext morningMr. Ratcliffe presented Miss Vere with aletterfrom her fatherof which the following is the tenor:--
"MYDEAREST CHILDThe maliceof a persecuting government will compel mefor my ownsafetytoretreat abroadand to remain for some time in foreignparts. I do not ask you to accompanyor follow me; you willattend tomy interest and your own more effectually by remainingwhere youare. It is unnecessary to enter into a minute detailconcerningthe causes of the strange events which yesterday tookplace. I think I have reason to complain of the usage I havereceivedfrom Sir Edward Mauleywho is your nearest kinsman bythemother's side; but as he has declared you his heirand is toput you inimmediate possession of a large part of his fortuneIaccount ita full atonement. I am aware he has never forgiventhepreference which your mother gave to my addressesinstead ofcomplyingwith the terms of a sort of family compactwhichabsurdlyand tyrannically destined her to wed her deformedrelative. The shock was even sufficient to unsettle his wits(whichindeedwere never over-well arranged)and I hadas thehusband ofhis nearest kinswoman and heirthe delicate task oftakingcare of his person and propertyuntil he was reinstatedin themanagement of the latter by those whono doubtthoughtthey weredoing him justice; althoughif some parts of hissubsequentconduct be examinedit will appear that he oughtforhis ownsaketo have been left under the influence of a mild andsalutaryrestraint.
"Inone particularhoweverhe showed a sense of the ties ofbloodaswell as of his own frailty; for while he sequesteredhimselfclosely from the worldunder various names anddisguisesand insisted on spreading a report of his own death(in whichto gratify him I willingly acquiesced)he left at mydisposalthe rents of a great proportion of his estatesandespeciallyall thosewhichhaving belonged to your motherrevertedto him as a male fief. In this he may have thought thathe wasacting with extreme generositywhilein the opinion ofallimpartial menhe will only be considered as having fulfilleda naturalobligationseeing thatin justiceif not in strictlawyoumust be considered as the heir of your motherand I asyour legaladministrator. Insteadthereforeof consideringmyself asloaded with obligations to Sir Edward on this accountI think Ihad reason to complain that these remittances were onlydoled outto me at the pleasure of Mr. Ratcliffewhomoreoverexactedfrom me mortgages over my paternal estate of Ellieslawfor anysums which I required as an extra advance; and thus maybe said tohave insinuated himself into the absolute managementandcontrol of my property. Orif all this seeming friendshipwasemployed by Sir Edward for the purpose of obtaining acompletecommand of my affairsand acquiring the power ofruining meat his pleasureI feel myselfI must repeatstillless boundby the alleged obligation.
"Aboutthe autumn of last yearas I understandeither his owncrazedimaginationor the accomplishment of some such scheme asI havehintedbrought him down to this country. His allegedmotiveitseemswas a desire of seeing a monument which he haddirectedto be raised in the chapel over the tomb of your mother.Mr.Ratcliffewho at this time had done me the honour to make myhouse hisownhad the complaisance to introduce him secretlyinto thechapel. The consequenceas he informs mewas a frenzyof severalhoursduring which he fled into the neighbouringmoorsinone of the wildest spots of which he chosewhen he wassomewhatrecoveredto fix his mansionand set up for a sort ofcountryempirica character whicheven in his best dayshe wasfond ofassuming. It is remarkablethatinstead of informingme ofthese circumstancesthat I might have had the relative ofmy latewife taken such care of as his calamitous conditionrequiredMr. Ratcliffe seems to have had such culpableindulgencefor his irregular plans as to promise and even swearsecrecyconcerning them. He visited Sir Edward oftenandassistedin the fantastic task he had taken upon him ofconstructinga hermitage. Nothing they appear to have dreadedmore thana discovery of their intercourse.
"Theground was open in every direction aroundand a smallsubterraneancaveprobably sepulchralwhich their researcheshaddetected near the great granite pillarserved to concealRatcliffewhen any one approached his master. I think you willbe ofopinionmy lovethat this secrecy must have had somestrongmotive. It is also remarkablethat while I thought myunhappyfriend was residing among the Monks of La Trappeheshouldhave been actually livingfor many monthsin thisbizarredisguisewithin five miles of my houseand obtainingregularinformation of my most private movementseither byRatcliffeor through Westburnflat or otherswhom he had themeans tobribe to any extent. He makes it a crime against methat Iendeavoured to establish your marriage with Sir Frederick.I actedfor the best; but if Sir Edward Mauley thought otherwisewhy did henot step manfully forwardexpress his own purpose ofbecoming aparty to the settlementsand take that interest whichhe isentitled to claim in you as heir to his great property?
"Evennowthough your rash and eccentric relation is somewhattardy inannouncing his purposeI am far from opposing myauthorityagainst his wishesalthough the person he desires youto regardas your future husband be young Earnscliff; the verylast whomI should have thought likely to be acceptable to himconsideringa certain fatal event. But I give my free and heartyconsentproviding the settlements are drawn in such anirrevocableform as may secure my child from suffering by thatstate ofdependenceand that sudden and causeless revocation ofallowancesof which I have so much reason to complain. Of SirFrederickLangleyI auguryou will hear no more. He is notlikely toclaim the hand of a dowerless maiden. I thereforecommityoumy dear Isabellato the wisdom of Providence and toyour ownprudencebegging you to lose no time in securing thoseadvantageswhich the fickleness of your kinsman has withdrawnfrom me toshower upon you.
"Mr.Ratcliffe mentioned Sir Edward's intention to settle aconsiderablesum upon me yearlyfor my maintenance in foreignparts; butthis my heart is too proud to accept from him. I toldhim I hada dear childwhowhile in affluence herselfwouldneversuffer me to be in poverty. I thought it right to intimatethis tohim pretty roundlythat whatever increase be settledupon youit may be calculated so as to cover this necessary andnaturalencumbrance. I shall willingly settle upon you thecastle andmanor of Ellieslawto show my parental affection anddisinterestedzeal for promoting your settlement in life. Theannualinterest of debts charged on the estate somewhat exceedstheincomeeven after a reasonable rent has been put upon themansionand mains. But as all the debts are in the person of Mr.Ratcliffeas your kinsman's trusteehe will not be atroublesomecreditor. And here I must make you awarethatthough Ihave to complain of Mr. Ratcliffe's conduct to mepersonallyIneverthelessbelieve him a just and upright manwith whomyou may safely consult on your affairsnot to mentionthat tocherish his good opinion will be the best way to retainthat ofyour kinsman. Remember me to Marchie--I hope he will notbetroubled on account of late matters. I will write more fullyfrom theContinent. MeanwhileI rest your loving fatherRICHARDVERE."
The aboveletter throws the only additional light which we havebeen ableto procure upon the earlier part of our story. It wasHobbie'sopinionand may be that of most of our readersthat theRecluse ofMucklestane-Moor had but a kind of a gleamingortwilightunderstanding; and that he had neither very clear viewsas to whathe himself wantednor was apt to pursue his ends bytheclearest and most direct means; so that to seek the clew ofhisconductwas likenedby Hobbieto looking for a straightpaththrough a commonover which are a hundred devious tracksbut notone distinct line of road.
WhenIsabella had perused the letterher first enquiry was afterherfather. He had left the castleshe was informedearly inthemorningafter a long interview with Mr. Ratcliffeand wasalreadyfar on his way to the next portwhere he might expect tofindshipping for the Continent.
"Wherewas Sir Edward Mauley?"
No one hadseen the Dwarf since the eventful scene of theprecedingevening.
"Oddif onything has befa'en puir Elshie" said Hobbie Elliot"Iwad rather I were harried ower again."
Heimmediately rode to his dwellingand the remaining she-goatcamebleating to meet himfor her milking time was long past.TheSolitary was nowhere to be seen; his doorcontrary to wontwas openhis fire extinguishedand the whole hut was left inthe statewhich it exhibited on Isabella's visit to him. It wasprettyclear that the means of conveyance which had brought theDwarf toEllieslaw on the preceding eveninghad removed him fromit to someother place of abode. Hobbie returned disconsolate tothecastle.
"I amdoubting we hae lost Canny Elshie for gude an' a'."
"Youhave indeed" said Ratcliffeproducing a paperwhich heput intoHobbie's hands; "but read thatand you will perceiveyou havebeen no loser by having known him."
It was ashort deed of giftby which "Sir Edward Mauleyotherwisecalled Elshender the Recluseendowed Halbert or HobbieElliotand Grace Armstrongin full propertywith aconsiderablesum borrowed by Elliot from him."
Hobbie'sjoy was mingled with feelings which brought tears downhis roughcheeks.
"It'sa queer thing" he said; "but I canna joy in the gearunless Ikend the puir body was happy that gave it me."
"Nextto enjoying happiness ourselves" said Ratcliffe"is theconsciousnessof having bestowed it on others. Had all mymaster'sbenefits been conferred like the presentwhat adifferentreturn would they have produced! But theindiscriminateprofusion that would glut avariceor supplyprodigalityneither does goodnor is rewarded by gratitude. Itis sowingthe wind to reap the whirlwind."
"Andthat wad be a light har'st" said Hobbie; "butwi' myyoungleddie'sleaveI wad fain take down Eishie's skeps o' beesandset themin Grace's bit flower yard at the Heugh-foot--they shallne'er besmeekit by ony o' huz. And the puir goatshe would benegleckitabout a great toun like this; and she could feedbonnily onour lily lea by the burn sideand the hounds wad kenher in aday's timeand never fash herand Grace wad milk herilkamorning wi' her ain handfor Elshie's sake; for though hewas thrawnand cankered in his conversehe likeit dumb creaturesweel."
Hobbie'srequests were readily grantednot without some wonderat thenatural delicacy of feeling which pointed out to him thismode ofdisplaying his gratitude. He was delighted whenRatcliffeinformed him that his benefactor should not remainignorantof the care which he took of his favourite.
"Andmind be sure and tell him that grannie and the tittiesandabune a'Grace and mysellare weel and thrivingand that it'sa' hisdoing--that canna but please himane wad think."
And Elliotand the family at Heugh-foot wereand continued tobeasfortunate and happy as his undaunted honestytendernessandgallantry so well merited.
All barbetween the marriage of Earnscliff and Isabella was nowremovedand the settlements which Ratcliffe produced on the partof SirEdward Mauleymight have satisfied the cupidity ofEllieslawhimself. But Miss Vere and Ratcliffe thought itunnecessaryto mention to Earnscliff that one great motive of SirEdwardinthus loading the young pair with benefitswas toexpiatehis havingmany years beforeshed the blood of hisfather ina hasty brawl. If it be trueas Ratcliffe assertedthat theDwarf's extreme misanthropy seemed to relax somewhatunder theconsciousness of having diffused happiness among somanytherecollection of this circumstance might probably be oneof hischief motives for refusing obstinately ever to witnesstheirstate of contentment.
Mareschalhuntedshotand drank claret--tired of the countrywentabroadserved three campaignscame homeand married LucyIlderton.
Years fledover the heads of Earnscliff and his wifeand foundand leftthem contented and happy. The scheming ambition of SirFrederickLangley engaged him in the unfortunate insurrection of1715. He was made prisoner at Prestonin Lancashirewith theEarl ofDerwentwaterand others. His defenceand the dyingspeechwhich he made at his executionmay be found in the StateTrials. Mr. Veresupplied by his daughter with an ample incomecontinuedto reside abroadengaged deeply in the affair of Law'sbankduring the regency of the Duke of Orleansand was at onetimesupposed to be immensely rich. Buton the bursting of thatfamousbubblehe was so much chagrined at being again reduced toa moderateannuity (although he saw thousands of his companionsinmisfortune absolutely starving)that vexation of mind broughton aparalytic strokeof which he diedafter lingering underitseffects a few weeks.
Willie ofWestburnflat fled from the wrath of Hobbie Elliotashisbetters did from the pursuit of the law. His patriotismurged himto serve his country abroadwhile his reluctance toleave hisnative soil pressed him rather to remain in the belovedislandand collect purseswatchesand rings on the highroadsat home. Fortunately for himthe first impulse prevailedandhe joinedthe army under Marlborough; obtained a commission towhich hewas recommended by his services in collecting cattle forthecommissariat; returned home after many yearswith some money(how comeby Heaven only knows)--demolished the peel-house atWestburnflatand builtin its steada high narrow ONSTEADofthreestorieswith a chimney at each end--drank brandy with theneighbourswhomin his younger dayshe had plundered--died inhis bedand is recorded upon his tombstone at Kirkwhistle (stillextant)as having played all the parts of a brave soldieradiscreetneighbourand a sincere Christian.
Mr.Ratcliffe resided usually with the family at Ellieslawbutregularlyevery spring and autumn he absented himself for about amonth. On the direction and purpose of his periodical journey heremainedsteadily silent; but it was well understood that he wasthen inattendance on his unfortunate patron. At lengthon hisreturnfrom one of these visitshis grave countenanceand deepmourningdressannounced to the Ellieslaw family that theirbenefactorwas no more. Sir Edward's death made no addition totheirfortunefor he had divested himself of his property duringhislifetimeand chiefly in their favour. Ratcliffehis soleconfidantdied at a good old agebut without ever naming theplace towhich his master had finally retiredor the manner ofhis deathor the place of his burial. It was supposed that onall theseparticulars his patron had enjoined him strict secrecy.
The suddendisappearance of Elshie from his extraordinaryhermitagecorroborated the reports which the common people hadspreadconcerning him. Many believed thathaving ventured toenter aconsecrated buildingcontrary to his paction with theEvil Onehe had been bodily carried off while on his return tohiscottage; but most are of opinion that he only disappeared fora seasonand continues to be seen from time to time among thehills. And retainingaccording to customa more vividrecollectionof his wild and desperate languagethan of thebenevolenttendency of most of his actionshe is usuallyidentifiedwith the malignant demon called the Man of the Moorswhosefeats were quoted by Mrs. Elliot to her grandsons; andaccordinglyis generally represented as bewitching the sheepcausingthe ewes to KEBthat isto cast their lambsor seenlooseningthe impending wreath of snow to precipitate its weighton such astake shelterduring the stormbeneath the bank of atorrentor under the shelter of a deep glen. In shorttheevils mostdreaded and deprecated by the inhabitants of thatpastoralcountryare ascribed to the agency of the BLACK DWARF.
Accordingto this well-attested legendtwo young Northumbrianswere outon a shooting partyand had plunged deep among themountainousmoorlands which border on Cumberland. They stoppedforrefreshment in a little secluded dell by the side of arivulet. Thereafter they had partaken of such food as theybroughtwith themone of the party fell asleep; the otherunwillingto disturb his friend's reposestole silently out ofthe dellwith the purpose of looking around himwhen he wasastonishedto find himself close to a being who seemed not tobelong tothis worldas he was the most hideous dwarf that thesun hadever shone on. His head was of full human sizeformingafrightful contrast with his heightwhich was considerablyunder fourfeet. It was thatched with no other covering thanlongmatted red hairlike that of the felt of a badger inconsistenceand in colour a reddish brownlike the hue of theheather-blossom. His limbs seemed of great strength; nor was heotherwisedeformed than from their undue proportion in thicknessto hisdiminutive height. The terrified sportsman stood gazingon thishorrible apparitionuntilwith an angry countenancethe beingdemanded by what right he intruded himself on thosehillsanddestroyed their harmless inhabitants. The perplexedstrangerendeavoured to propitiate the incensed dwarfbyofferingto surrender his gameas he would to an earthly Lord oftheManor. The proposal only redoubled the offence already takenby thedwarfwho alleged that he was the lord of thosemountainsand the protector of the wild creatures who found aretreat intheir solitary recesses; and that all spoils derivedfrom theirdeathor miserywere abhorrent to him. The hunterhumbledhimself before the angry goblinand by protestations ofhisignoranceand of his resolution to abstain from suchintrusionin futureat last succeeded in pacifying him. Thegnome nowbecame more communicativeand spoke of himself asbelongingto a species of beings something between the angelicrace andhumanity. He addedmoreoverwhich could hardly havebeenanticipatedthat he had hopes of sharing in the redemptionof therace of Adam. He pressed the sportsman to visit hisdwellingwhich he said was hard byand plighted his faith forhis safereturn. But at this momentthe shout of thesportsman'scompanion was heard calling for his friendand thedwarfasif unwilling that more than one person should becognisantof his presencedisappeared as the young man emergedfrom thedell to join his comrade.
It was theuniversal opinion of those most experienced in suchmattersthat if the shooter had accompanied the spirithewouldnotwithstanding the dwarf's fair pretenceshave beeneithertorn to piecesor immured for years in the recesses ofsome fairyhill.
Such isthe last and most authentic account of the apparition ofthe BlackDwarf.