Part 4 out of 10
V. Brown,--I will not give at full length his thrice unhappy
name--had been from infancy a ball for fortune to spurn at; but
nature had given him that elasticity of mind which rises higher
from the rebound. His form was tall, manly, and active, and his
features corresponded with his person; for, although far from
regular, they had an expression of intelligence and good humour,
and when he spoke, or was particularly animated, might be decidedly
pronounced interesting. His manner indicated the military
profession, which had been his choice, and in which he had now
attained the rank of captain, the person who succeeded Colonel
Mannering in his command having laboured to repair the injustice
which Brown had sustained by that gentleman's prejudice against
him. But this, as well as his liberation from captivity, had taken
place after Mannering left India. Brown followed at no distant
period, his regiment being recalled home. His first inquiry was
after the family of Mannering, and, easily learning their route
northward, he followed it with the purpose of, resuming his
addresses to Julia. With her father he deemed he had no measures
to keep; for, ignorant of the more venomous belief which had been
instilled into the Colonel's mind, he regarded him as an oppressive
aristocrat, who had used his power as a commanding officer to
deprive him of the preferment due to his behaviour, and who had
forced upon him a personal quarrel without any better reason than
his attentions to a pretty young woman, agreeable to herself, and
permitted and countenanced by her mother. He was determined,
therefore, to take no rejection unless from the young lady herself,
believing that the heavy misfortunes of his painful wound and
imprisonment were direct injuries received from the father, which
might dispense with his using much ceremony towards him. How far
his scheme had succeeded when his nocturnal visit was discovered by
Mr. Mervyn, our readers are already informed.
Upon this unpleasant occurrence, Captain Brown absented himself
from the inn in which he had resided under the name of Dawson, so
that Colonel Mannering's attempts to discover and trace him were
unavailing. He resolved, however, that no difficulties should
prevent his continuing his enterprise, while Julia left him a ray
of hope. The interest he had secured in her bosom was such as she
had been unable to conceal from him, and with all the courage of
romantic gallantry he determined upon perseverance. But we believe
the reader will be as well pleased to learn his mode of thinking
and intentions from his own communication to his special friend and
confidant, Captain Delaserre, a Swiss gentleman, who had a company
in his regiment.
"Let me bear from you soon, dear Delaserre.--Remember, I can learn
nothing about regimental affairs but through your friendly medium,
and I long to know what has become of Ayre's court-martial, and
whether Elliot gets the majority; also how recruiting comes on, and
how the young officers like the mess. Of our kind friend, the
Lieutenant-Colonel, I need ask nothing; I saw him as I passed
through Nottingham, happy in the bosom of his family. What a
happiness it is, Philip, for us poor devils, that we have a little
resting-place between the camp and the grave, if we can manage to
escape disease, and steel, and lead, and the effects of hard
living. A retires old soldier is always a graceful and respected
character. He grumbles a little now and then, but then his is
licensed murmuring-were a lawyer, or a physician, or a clergyman,
to breathe a complaint of hard luck or want of preferment, a
hundred tongues would blame his own incapacity as the cause. But
the most stupid veteran that ever faltered out the thrice-told tale
of a siege and a battle, and a cock and a bottle, is listened to
with sympathy and reverence, when he shakes his thin locks, and
talks with indignation of the boys that are put over his head. And
you and I, Delaserre, foreigners both,--for what am I the better
that I was originally a Scotchman, since, could I prove my descent,
the English would hardly acknowledge me a countryman?-we may boast
that we have fought out our preferment, and gained that by the
sword which we had not money to compass otherwise. The English are
a wise people. While they praise themselves, and affect to
undervalue all other nations, they leave us, luckily, trap-doors
and back-doors open, by which we strangers, less favoured by
nature, may arrive at a share of their advantages. And thus they
are, in some respects like a boastful landlord, who exalts the
value and flavour of his six-years'-old mutton, while he is
delighted to dispense a share of it to all the company. In short,
you, whose proud family, and I, whose hard fate, made us soldiers
of fortune, have the pleasant recollection, that in the British
service, stop where we may upon our career, it is only for want of
money to pay the turnpike, and not from our being prohibited to
travel the road. If, therefore, we can persuade little Weischel to
come into ours, for God's sake let him buy the ensigncy, live
prudently, mind his duty, and trust to the fates for promotion.
"And now, I hope you are expiring with curiosity to learn the end
of my romance. I told you I had deemed it convenient to make a few
days' tour on foot among the mountains of Westmoreland, with
Dudley, a young English artist, with whom I have formed some
acquaintance. A fine fellow this, you must know, Delaserre--he
paints tolerably, draws beautifully, converses well, and plays
charmingly on the flute; and, though thus well entitled to be a
coxcomb of talent, is, in fact, a modest unpretending young man. On
our return from our little tour, I learned that the enemy had been
reconnoitring. Mr. Mervyn's barge had crossed the lake, I was
informed by my landlord, with the squire himself and a visitor.
"'What sort of person, landlord?'
"'Why, he was a dark officer-looking mon, at they called
Colonel--Squoire Mervyn questioned me as close as I had been at
sizes--I had guess, Mr. Dawson' (I told you that was my feigned
name)--I but I tould him nought of your vagaries, and going out
a-laking in the mere a-noights--not I--an I can make no sport.
I'se spoil none--and Squoire Mervyn's as cross as poy-crust too,
mon--he's aye maundering an my guests but land beneath his house,
though it be marked for the fourth station in the Survey. Noa,
noa, e'en let un smell things out o' themselves for Joe Hodges--'
"You will allow there was nothing for it after this, but paying
honest Joe Hodges's bill, and departing, unless I had preferred
making him my confidant, for which I felt in no way inclined.
Besides, I learned that our ci-devant Colonel was on full retreat
for Scotland, carrying off poor Julia along with him. I understand
from those who conduct the heavy baggage, that he takes his winter'
quarters at a place called Woodbourne, in--shire in Scotland. He
will be all on the alert just now, so I must let him enter his
entrenchments without any new alarm. And then, my good Colonel, to
whom I owe so many grateful thanks, pray look to your defence.
"I protest to you, Delaserre, I often think there is a little
contradiction enters into the ardour of my pursuit. I think I would
rather bring this haughty insulting man to the necessity of calling
his daughter Mrs. Brown, than I would wed her with his full
consent, and with the king's permission to change my name for the
style and arms of Mannering, though his whole fortune went with
them. There is only one circumstance that chills me a little-Julia
is young and romantic. I would not willingly hurry her into a step
which her riper years might disapprove--no;--nor would I like to
have her upbraid me, were it but with a glance of her eye, with
having ruined her fortunes--far less give her reason to say, as
some have not been slow to tell their lords, that, had I left her
time for consideration, she would have been wiser and done better.
No, Delaserre--this must not be. The picture presses close upon
me, because I am aware a girl in Julia's situation has no distinct
and precise idea of the value of the sacrifice she makes. She
knows difficulties only by name; and, if she thinks of love and a
farm, it is a ferme ornee, such as is only to be found in poetic
description, or in the park of a gentleman of twelve thousand a
year. She would be ill prepared for the privations of that real
Swiss cottage we have so often talked of, and for the difficulties
which must necessarily surround us even before we attained that
haven. This must be a point clearly ascertained. Although Julia's
beauty and playful tenderness have made an impression on my heart
never to be erased, I must be satisfied that she perfectly
understands the advantages she foregoes, before she sacrifices them
for my sake.
"Am I too proud, Delaserre, when I trust that even this trial may
terminate favourably to my wishes?-Am I too vain when I suppose,
that the few personal qualities--which I possess, with means of
competence however moderate, and the determination of consecrating
my life to her happiness, may make amends for all I must call upon
her to forego? Or will a difference of dress, of attendance, of
style, as it is called, of the power of shifting at pleasure the
scenes in which she seeks amusement,--will these outweigh, in her
estimation, the prospect of domestic happiness, and the interchange
of unabating affection? I say nothing of her father;--his good and
evil qualities are so strangely mingled, that the former are
neutralised by the latter; and that which she must regret as a
daughter is so much blended with what she would gladly escape from,
that I place the separation of the father and child as a
circumstance which weighs little in her remarkable case. Meantime
I keep up my spirits as I may. I have incurred too many hardships
and difficulties to be presumptuous or confident in success, and I
have been too often and too wonderfully extricated from them to be
"I wish you saw this country. I think the scenery would delight
you. At least it often brings to my recollection your glowing
descriptions of your native country. To me it has in a great
measure the charm of novelty. Of the Scottish hills, though born
among them, as I have always been assured, I have but an indistinct
recollection. Indeed, my memory rather dwells upon the blank which
my youthful mind experienced in gazing on the levels of the isle of
Zealand, than on anything which preceded that feeling; but I am
confident, from that sensation, as well as from the recollections
which preceded it, that hills and rocks have been familiar to me at
an early period, and that though now only remembered by contrast,
And by the blank which I felt while gazing around for them in vain,
they must have made an indelible impression on my infant
imagination. I remember when we first mounted that celebrated pass
in the Mysore country, while most of the others felt only awe and
astonishment at the height and grandeur of the scenery, I rather
shared your feelings and those of Cameron, whose admiration of such
wild rocks was blended with familiar love, derived from early
association. Despite my Dutch education, a blue hill to me is as a
friend, and a roaring torrent like the sound of a domestic song
that hath soothed my infancy. I never felt the impulse so strongly
as in this land of lakes and mountains, and nothing grieves me so
much as that duty prevents your being with me in my numerous
excursions among its recesses. Some drawings I have attempted, but
I succeed vilely-Dudley, on the contrary, draws delightfully, with
that rapid touch which seems like magic, while I labour and blotch,
and make this too heavy, and that too light, and produce at last a
base caricature. I must stick to the flageolet, for music is the
only one of the fine arts which deigns to acknowledge me.
"Did you know that Colonel Mannering was a draughtsman?--I believe
not, for he scorned to display his accomplishments to the view of a
subaltern. He draws beautifully, however. Since he and Julia left
Mervyn Hall, Dudley was sent for there. The squire, it seems,
wanted a set of drawings made up, of which Mannering had done the
first four, but was interrupted, by his hasty departure, in his
purpose of completing them. Dudley says he has seldom seen
anything so masterly, though slight; and each had attached to it a
short poetical description. Is Saul, you will say, among the
prophets?--Colonel Mannering write poetry!--Why surely this man
must have taken all the pains to conceal his accomplishments that
others do to display theirs. How reserved and unsociable he
appeared among us!--how little disposed to enter into any
conversation which could become generally interesting! And then
his attachment to that unworthy Archer, so much below him in every
respect; and all this, because he was the brother of Viscount
Archerfield, a poor Scottish peer! I think if Archer had longer
survived the wounds in the affair of Cuddyboram, he would have told
something that might have thrown light upon the inconsistencies of
this singular man's character. He repeated to me more than once,
'I have that to say, which will alter your hard opinion of our late
Colonel.' But death pressed him too hard; and if he owed me any
atonement, which some of his expressions seemed to imply, he died
before it could be made.
"I propose to make a further excursion through this country while
this fine frosty weather serves, and Dudley, almost as good a
walker as myself, goes with me for some part of the way. We part
on the borders of Cumberland, where he must return to his lodgings
in Marybone, up three pair of stairs, and labour at what he calls
the commercial part of his profession. There cannot, he says, be
such a difference betwixt any two portions of existence, as between
that in which the artist, if an enthusiast, collects the subjects
of his drawings, and that which must necessarily he dedicated to
turning over his portfolio, and exhibiting them to the provoking
indifference, or more provoking criticism, of fashionable amateurs.
'During the summer of my year,' says Dudley, 'I am as free as a
wild Indian, enjoying myself at liberty amid the grandest scenes of
nature; while, during my winters and springs, I am not only
cabined, cribbed, and confined in a miserable garret, but condemned
to as intolerable subservience to the humour of others, and to as
indifferent company, as if I were a literal galley-slave. 'I have
promised him your acquaintance, Delaserre; you will be delighted
with his specimens of art, and he with your Swiss fanaticism for
mountains and torrents.
"When I lose Dudley's company, I am informed--that I can easily
enter Scotland by stretching across a wild country in the upper
part of Cumberland; and that route I shall follow, to give the
Colonel time to pitch his camp ere I reconnoitre his
position.--Adieu! Delaserre--I shall hardly find another
opportunity of writing till I reach Scotland."
Jog on, jog on, the footpath way,
And merrily hent the stile-a:
A merry heart goes all the day,
A sad one tires in a mile-a.
LET the reader conceive to himself a clear frosty November morning,
the scene an open heath,--having for the background that huge chain
of mountains in which Skiddaw and Saddleback are pre-eminent; let
him look along that blind road, by which I mean the track so
slightly marked by the passengers' footsteps that it can but be
traced by a slight shade of verdure from the darker heath around it
and, being only visible to the eye when at some distance, ceases to
be distinguished while the foot is actually treading it--along
this faintly-traced path advances the object of our present
narrative. His firm step, his erect and free carriage, have a
military air, which corresponds well with his well-proportioned
limbs, and stature of six feet high. His dress is so plain and
simple that it indicates nothing as to rank--it may be that of a
gentleman who travels in this manner for his pleasure, or of an
inferior person of whom it is the proper and usual garb. Nothing
can be on a more reduced scale than his travelling equipment. A
volume of Shakespeare in each pocket, a small bundle with a change
of linen slung across his shoulders, an oaken cudgel in his hand,
complete our pedestrian's accommodations, and in this equipage we
present him to our readers.
Brown had parted that morning from his friend Dudley, and began his
solitary walk towards Scotland.
The first two or three miles were rather melancholy, from want of
the society to which he had of late been accustomed. But this
unusual mood of mind soon gave way to the influence of his natural
good spirits, excited by the exercise and the bracing effects of
the frosty air. He whistled as he went along, not "from want of
thought," but to give vent to those buoyant feelings which he had
no other mode of expressing. For each peasant whom he chanced to
meet, he had a kind greeting or a good-humoured jest; the hardy
Cumbrians grinned as they passed, and said, "that's a kind heart,
God bless un!" and the market-girl looked more than once over her
shoulder at the athletic form, which corresponded so well with the
frank and blithe address of the stranger. A rough terrier dog, his
constant companion, who rivalled his master in glee, scampered at
large in a thousand wheels round the heath, and came back to jump
up on him, and assure him that he participated in the pleasure of
the journey. Dr. Johnson thought life had few things better than
the excitation produced by being whirled rapidly along in a
post-chaise; but he who has in youth experienced the confident and
independent feeling of a stout pedestrian in an interesting
country, and during fine weather, will hold the taste of the great
moralist cheap in comparison.
Part of Brown's view in choosing that unusual tract which leads
through the eastern wilds of Cumberland into Scotland, had been a
desire to view the remains of the celebrated Roman Wall, which are
more visible in that direction than in any other part of its
extent. His education had been imperfect and desultory; but
neither the busy scenes in which he had been engaged, nor the
pleasures of youth, nor the precarious state of his own
circumstances, had diverted him from the task of mental
improvement.--"And this then is the Roman Wall," he said,
scrambling up to a height which commanded the course of that
celebrated work of antiquity. "What a people! whose labours, even
at this extremity of their empire, comprehended such space, and
were executed upon a scale of such grandeur! In future ages, when
the science of war shall have changed, how few traces will exist of
the labours of Vauban and Coehorn, while this wonderful people's
remains will even then continue to interest and astonish
posterity! Their fortifications, their aqueducts, their theatres,
their fountains, all their public works, bear the grave, solid, and
majestic character of their language; while our modern labours,
like our modern tongues, seem but constructed out of their
fragments." Having thus moralised, he remembered that he was
hungry, and pursued his walk to a small public-house at which he
proposed to get some refreshment.
The alehouse, for it was no better, was situated in the bottom of a
little dell, through which trilled a small rivulet. It was shaded
by a large ash tree, against which the clay-built shed, that served
the purpose of a stable, was erected, and upon which it seemed
partly to recline. In this shed stood a saddled horse, employed in
eating his corn. The cottages in this part of Cumberland partake
of the rudeness which characterises those of Scotland. The outside
of the house promised little for the interior, notwithstanding the
vaunt of a sign, where a tankard of ale voluntarily decanted itself
into a tumbler, and a hieroglyphical scrawl below attempted to
express a promise of "good entertainment for man and horse." Brown
was no fastidious traveller--he stopped and entered the cabaret [*
See Note 1. Mumps's Ha'.]
The first object which caught. his eye in the kitchen was a tall,
stout, country-looking man, in a large jockey great-coat, the owner
of the horse which stood in the shed, who was busy discussing huge
slices of cold boiled beef, and casting from time to time an eye
through the window, to see how his steed sped with his provender. A
large tankard of ale flanked his plate of victuals, to which he
applied himself by intervals. The good woman of the house was
employed in baking. The fire, as is usual in that country, was on
a stone hearth, in the midst of an immensely large chimney, which
had two seats extended beneath the vent. On one of these sat a
remarkably tall woman, in a red cloak and slouched bonnet, having
the appearance of a tinker or beggar. She was busily engaged with
a short black tobacco-pipe.
At the request of Brown for some food, the landlady wiped with her
mealy apron one corner of the deal table, placed a wooden trencher
and knife and fork before the traveller, pointed to the round of
beef, recommended Mr. Dinmont's good example, and, finally, filled
a brown pitcher with her home-brewed. Brown lost no time in doing
ample credit to both. For a while, his opposite neighbour and he
were too busy to take much notice of each other, except by a
good-humoured nod as each in turn raised the tankard to his head.
At length, when our pedestrian began to supply the wants of little
Wasp, the Scotch storefarmer, for such was Mr. Dinmont, found
himself at leisure to enter into conversation.
"A bonny terrier that, sir--and a fell [*Fiery] chield at the
vermin, I warrant him--that is, if he's been weel entered, for it
a' lies in that."
"Really, sir," said Brown, "his education has been somewhat
neglected, and his chief property is being pleasant companion."
"Ay, sir? that's a pity, begging your pardon--it's great pity
that--beast or body, education should aye be minded. I have six
terriers at hame, forbye twa couple of slow-hunds, five grews,
[*Greyhounds] and a wheen [*Few] other dogs. There's auld Pepper
and auld Mustard, and young Pepper and young Mustard, and little
Pepper and little Mustard--I had them a' regularly entered, first
wi' rottens [*Rats]--then wi' stots or weasels--and then wi' the
tods and brocks [*Badgers]--and now they fear naething that ever
cam wi' a hairy skin on't."
"I have no doubt, sir, they are thoroughbred--but, to have so many
dogs, you seem to have a very limited variety of names for them?"
"Oh, that's a fancy o' my ain to mark the breed sir; the Deuke
himself has sent as far as Charlies hope to get ane o' Dandie
Dinmont's Pepper and Mustard terriers--Lord, man, he sent Tam
Hudson [* The real name of this veteran sportsman is now
restored] the keeper, and sicken a day as we had wi' the foumarts
[*Polecats] and the tods, and sicken a blythe gaedown as we had
again e'en! Faith, that was a night!
"I suppose game is very plenty with you?"
"Plenty, man!--I believe there's mair hares than sheep on my farm;
and for the moor-fawl, or the gray-fowl, they lie as thick as doos
in a dooket--Did ye ever shoot a black-cock, man?"
"Really I had never even the pleasure to see one, except in the
museum at Keswick."
"There now--I could guess that by your Southland tongue--It's
very odd of these English folk that come here, how few of them has
seen a black-cock! I'll tell you what--ye seem to be an honest lad,
and if you'll call on me--on Dandie Dinmont--at Charlies-hope--ye
shall see a black-cock, and shoot a black-cock, and eat a
black-cock too, man."
"Why, the proof of the matter is the eating, to be sure, sir; and I
shall be happy if I can find time to accept your invitation."
"Time, man? what ails ye to gae hame wi' me the now? How d'ye
"On foot, sir; and if that handsome pony be yours, I should find it
impossible to keep up with you."
"No unless ye can walk up to fourteen mile an hour. But ye can
come ower the night as far as Riccarton, where there is a
public--or if ye like to stop at jockey Grieve's at the Heuch, they
would be blythe to see ye, and I am just gaun to stop and drink a
dram at the door wi' him, and I would tell him you're coming up--or
stay--gudewife, could ye lend this gentleman the gudeman's
galloway, and I'll send it ower the Waste in the morning wi' the
The galloway was turned out upon the fell, and was swear to
catch--"Aweel, aweel, there's nae help for't, but come up the morn
at ony rate.--And now, gudewife, I maun ride, to get to the Liddel
or it be dark, for your Waste has but a kittle [*Ticklish]
character, ye ken yourself."
"Hout fie, Mr. Dinmont, that's no like you, to gie the country an
ill name--I wot, there has been nane stirred in the Waste since
Sawney Culloch, the travelling-merchant, that Rowley Overdees and
Jock Penny suffered for at Carlisle twa years since. There's no
ane in Bewcastle would do the like o' that now--we be a' true folk
"Ay, Tib, that will be when the deil's blind,--and his een's no
sair yet. But hear ye, gudewife, I have been through maist feck
[*Part] o' Galloway and Dumfriesshire, and I have been round by
Carlisle, and I was at the Staneshiebank fair the day, and I would
like ill to be rubbit sae near hame, so I'll take the gate."
"Hae ye been in Dumfries and Galloway?" said the old dame, who sat
smoking by the fireside, and who had not yet spoken a word.
"Troth have I, gudewife, and a weary round I've had o't."
"Then ye'll maybe ken a place they ca' Ellangowan?
"Ellangowan, that was Mr. Bertram's--I ken the place weel eneugh.
The Laird died about a fortnight since, as I heard."
"Died!"--said the old woman, dropping her pipe, and rising and
coming forward upon the floor--died?--are you sure of that?"
"Troth, am I," said Dinmont, "for it made nae sma' noise in the
countryside. He died just at the roup of the stocking and
furniture; it stoppit the roup, and mony folk were disappointed.
They said he was the last of an auld family too, and mony were
sorry--for gude blude's scarcer in Scotland than it has been."
"Dead!" replied the old woman, whom our readers have already
recognised as their acquaintance Meg Merrilies--"dead! that quits
a' scores. And did ye say he died without an heir?"
"Ay did he, gudewife, and the estate's sell'd by the same token;
for they said, they couldna have sell'd it, if there had been an
"Sell'd!" echoed the gipsy, with something like a scream; "and wha
durst buy Ellangowan that was not of Bertram's blude?--and wha
could tell whether the bonny knave-bairn may not come back to claim
his ain!--wha durst buy the estate and the castle of Ellangowan?"
"Troth, gudewife, just ane o' thae writer chields that buys a'
thing--they ca' him Glossin, I think."
"Glossin!--Gibbie Glossin!--that I have carried in my creels a
hundred times, for his mother wasna muckle better than mysell--he
to presume to buy the barony of Ellangowan!--Gude be wi' us--it is
an awfu' warld!--I wished him ill--but no sic a downfa' as a' that
neither--wae's me! wae's me to think o't!"--She remained a moment
silent, but still opposing with her hand the farmer's retreat, who,
betwixt every question, was about to turn his back, but
good-humouredly stopped on observing the deep interest his answers
appeared to excite.
"It will be seen and heard of--earth and sea will not hold their
peace langer!--Can ye say if the same man be now the Sheriff of the
county that has been sae for some years past?"
"Na, he's got some other berth in Edinburgh, they say--but gude
day, gudewife, I maun ride." She followed him to his horse, and,
while he drew the births of his saddle, adjusted the walise, and
put on the bridle, still plied him with questions concerning Mr.
Bertram's death, and the fate of his daughter; on which, however,
she could obtain little information from the honest farmer.
"Did ye ever see a place they ca' Derncleugh, about a mile frae the
Place of Ellangowan?"
"I wot weel have I, gudewife,--a wild-looking den it is, wi' a
wheen auld wa's o' shealins sonder--I saw it when I gaed ower the
ground wi' ane that wanted to take the farm."
It was a blythe bit ance said Meg, speaking to herself,--"Did ye
notice if there was an auld saugh [*Willow] tree that's maist
blawn down, but yet its roots are in the earth, and it hangs ower
the bit burn--mony a day hae I wrought my stocking, and sat on my
sunkie [*a Stool.] under that saugh."
"Hout, deills i' the wife, wi' her saughs, and her sunkies, and
Ellangowans--Godsake, woman, let me away--there's saxpence t'ye to
buy half a mutchkin, instead o' clavering about thae auld-warld
"Thanks to ye, gudeman--and now ye hae answered a' my questions,
and never speired wherefore I asked thein, I'll gie you a bit
canny [*Prudent] advice, and ye maunna speir what for neither.
Tib Mumps will be out wi' the stirrup-dram in a gliffing
[*Twinkling]--he'll ask ye whether ye gang ower Willie's brae, or
through Conscowthart moss--tell her ony ane ye like, but be sure
(speaking low and emphatically) to tak the ane ye dinna tell her."
The farmer laughed and promised, and the Gipsy retreated.
"Will you take her advice?" said Brown, who had been an attentive
listener to this conversation.
"That will I no--the randy quean!--Na, I had far rather Tib Mumps
kenn'd which way I was gaun than her--though Tib's no muckle to
lippen [*Trust] to neither, and I would advise ye on no account
to stay in the house a' night."
In a moment after, Tib, the landlady, appeared with her
stirrup-cup, which was taken off. She then, as Meg had predicted,
inquired whether he went the hill or the moss road. He answered,
the latter; and, having bid Brown good-bye, and again told him, "he
depended on seeing him at Charlies-hope, the morn at latest," he
rode off at a round pace.
Gallows and knock are too powerful on the highway.
The hint of the hospitable farmer was not lost on Brown. But, while
he paid his reckoning, he could not avoid repeatedly fixing Iris
eyes on Meg Merrilies. She was, in all respects, the same
witch-like figure as when we first introduced her at Ellangowan
Place. Time had grizzled her raven locks, and added wrinkles to
her wild features, but her height remained erect, and her activity
was unimpaired. It was remarked of this woman, as of others of the
same description, that a life of action, though not of labour, gave
her the perfect command of her limbs and figure, so that the
attitudes into which she most naturally threw herself, were free,
unconstrained, and picturesque. At present, she stood by the
window of the cottage, her person drawn up so as to show to full
advantage her masculine stature, and her head somewhat thrown back,
that the large bonnet, with which her face was shrouded, might not
interrupt her steady gaze at Brown. At every gesture he made, and
every tone he uttered, she seemed to give an almost imperceptible
start. On his part, he was surprised to find that he could not
look upon this singular figure without some emotion. "Have I
dreamed of such a figure?" he said to himself, "or does this wild
and singular-looking woman recall to my recollection some of the
strange figures I have seen in our Indian pagodas?"
While he embarrassed himself with these discussions, and the
hostess was engaged in rummaging out silver in change of half a
guinea, the gipsy suddenly made two strides, and seized Brown's
hand. He expected, of course, a display of her skill in palmistry,
but she seemed agitated by other feelings.
"Tell me," she said, 'I tell me, in the name of God, young man,
what is your name, and whence you came?"
"My name is Brown, mother, and I come from the East Indies."
"From the East Indies!" dropping his hand with a sigh; "it cannot
be then--I am such an auld fool, that everything I look on seems
the thing I want maist to see. But the East Indies! that cannot
be--Weel, be what ye will, ye hae a face and a tongue that puts me
in mind of auld times. Good-day--make haste on your road, and if ye
see ony of our folk, meddle not and make not, and they'll do you
Brown, who had by this time received his change, put a shilling
into her hand, bade his hostess farewell, and, taking the route
which the farmer had gone before, walked briskly on, with the
advantage of being guided by the fresh hoof-prints of his horse.
Meg Merrilies looked after him for some time, and then muttered to
herself, "I maun see that lad again--and I maun gang back to
Ellangowan too.--The Laird's dead--aweel, death pays a'
scores--he was a kind man ance.--The Sheriffs flitted, and I can
keep canny in the bush--so there's no muckle hazard o' scouring the
cramp-ring. [*To scour the cramp-ring, is said metaphorically for
being thrown into fetters, or, generally, into prison.]--I would
like to see bonny Ellangowan again or I die."
Brown, meanwhile, proceeded northward at a round pace along the
moorish tract called the Waste of Cumberland. He passed a solitary
house, towards which the horseman who preceded him had apparently
turned up, for his horse's tread was. evident in that direction. A
little farther, he seemed to have returned again into the road. Mr.
Dinmont had probably made a visit there either of business or
pleasure--I wish, thought Brown, the good farmer had staid till I
came up; I should not have been sorry to ask him a few questions
about the road, which seems to grow wilder and wilder.
In truth, nature, as if she had designed this tract of country to
be the barrier between two hostile nations, has stamped upon it n
character of wildness and desolation. The hills are neither high
nor rocky, but the land is all heath and morass; the huts poor and
mean, and at a great distance front each o,. her. Immediately
around, them there is generally some little attempt at cultivation;
but a half-bred foal or two, straggling about with shackles on
their hind legs, to save the trouble of enclosures, intimate the
farmer's chief resource to be the breeding of horses. The people,
too, are of a ruder and more inhospitable class than are elsewhere
to be found in Cumberland arising partly from their own habits,
partly from their intermixture with vagrants and criminals, who
make this wild country a refuge from justice.
So much were the men of these districts in early times the objects
of suspicion and dislike to their more polished neighbours, that
there was, and perhaps still exists, a by-law of the corporation of
Newcastle, prohibiting any freeman of that city to take for
apprentice a native of certain of these dales. It is pithily said,
"Give a dog an ill name and hang him;" and it may be added, if you
give a man, or race of men, an ill name, they are. very likely to
do something that deserves hanging. Of this Brown had heard
something, and suspected more, from the discourse between the
landlady, Dinmont, and the gipsy; but he was naturally of a
fearless disposition, had nothing about him that could tempt the
spoiler, and trusted to get through the Waste with daylight. In
this, last particular, however, he was likely to be disappointed.
The way proved longer than he had anticipated, and the horizon
began to grow gloomy, just as he entered upon an extensive morass.
Choosing his steps with care and deliberation, the young officer
proceeded along a path that sometimes sunk between two broken black
banks of moss earth, sometimes crossed narrow but deep ravines
filled with a consistence between mud and water, and sometimes
along heaps of gravel and stones, which had been swept together
when some torrent or water-spout from the neighbouring hills
overflowed the marshy ground below. He began to ponder how a
horseman could make his way through such broken ground; the traces
of hoofs, however, were still visible; he even thought he heard
their sound at some distance, and, convinced that Mr. Dinmont's
progress through the morass must be still slower than his own, he
resolved to push on, in hopes to overtake him, and have the benefit
of his knowledge of the country. At this moment his little terrier
sprung forward, barking most furiously.
Brown quickened his pace, and, attaining the summit of a small
rising ground, saw the subject of the dog's alarm. In a hollow
about a gunshot below him, a man, whom he easily recognised to be
Dinmont, was engaged with two others in a desperate struggle. He
was dismounted, and defending himself as he best could with the
butt of his heavy whip. Our traveller hastened on to his
assistance; but, ere he could get up, a stroke had levelled the
farmer with the earth, and one of the robbers, improving his
victory, struck him some merciless blows on the head. The other
villain, hastening to meet Brown, called to his companion to come
along, "for that one's content," meaning, probably, past
resistance or complaint. One ruffian was armed with a cutlass, the
other with a bludgeon; but as the road was pretty narrow, "bar
firearms," thought Brown, "and I may manage them well enough." They
met accordingly, with the most murderous threats on the part of the
ruffians. They soon found, however, that their near opponent was
equally stout and resolute; and, after exchanging two or three
blows, one of them told him to "follow his nose over the heath, in
the devil's name, for they had nothing to say to him."
Brown rejected this composition, as leaving to their mercy the
unfortunate man whom they were about to pillage, if not to murder
outright; and the skirmish had just recommenced, when Dinmont
unexpectedly recovered his senses, his feet, and his weapon, and
hasted to the scene of action. As he had been no easy antagonist,
even when surprised and alone, the villains did not choose to wait
his joining forces with a man who had singly proved a match for
them both, but fled across the bog as fast as their feet could
earn, them, pursued by Wasp, who had acted gloriously during the
skirmish, annoying the heels of the enemy, and repeatedly effecting
a moment's diversion in his master's favour.
"Deil, but your dog's weel entered wi' the vermin now, sir!" were
the first words uttered by the jolly farmer, as he came up, his
head streaming with blood, and recognised his deliverer and his
"I hope, sir, you are not hurt dangerously?"
"Oh, deil a bit-my head can stand a gey clour--nae thanks to them,
though, and mony to you. But now, hinney, ye maun help me to catch
the beast, and ye maun get on behind me, for we maun off like
whittrets [*Weasels] before the whole clanjamfray [*Rabble] be
doun upon us-the rest o' them will be no far off." The galloway
was, by good fortune, easily caught, and Brown made some apology
for overloading the animal.
"' Deil a fear, man," answered the proprietor, "Dumple could carry
six folk if his back was lang eneugh--but God's sake, haste ye, get
on, for I see some folk coming through the slack yonder, that it
may be just as weel no to wait for."
Brown was of opinion that this apparition of five or six men, with
whom the other villains seemed to join company, coming across the
moss towards them, should abridge ceremony; he therefore mounted
Dumple en croupe, and the little spirited nag cantered away with
two men of great size and strength, as if they had been children of
six years old. The rider, to whom the paths of these wilds seemed
intimately known, pushed on at a rapid pace, managing, with much
dexterity, to choose the safest route, in which he was aided by the
sagacity of the galloway, who never failed to take the difficult
passes exactly at the particular spot, and in the special manner,
by which they could be most safely crossed. Yet, even with these
advantages, the road was so broken, and they were so often thrown
out of the direct course by various impediments, that they did not
gain much on their pursuers. "Nevermind," said the undaunted
Scotchman to his companion, "if we were ance by Withershin's Latch,
the road's no near sae saft, and we'll show them fair play for't."
They soon came to the place he named, a narrow channel, through
which soaked, rather than flowed, a small stagnant stream, mantled
over with bright green mosses. Dinmont directed his steed towards
a pass where the water appeared-to flow with more freedom over a
harder bottom; but Dumple backed from the proposed crossing-place,
put his head down as if to reconnoitre the swamp more nearly,
stretching forward his fore-feet, and stood as fast as if he had
been cut out of stone.
"Had we not better," said Brown, "dismount, and leave him to his
fate--or can you, not urge him through the swamp?"
"Na, na," said his pilot, "we maun cross Dumple at no rate--he
has mair sense than mony a Christian." So saying, he relaxed the
reins, and shook them loosely. "Come now, lad, take your ain way
o't--let's see where ye'll take us through."
Dumple, left to the freedom of his own will, trotted briskly to
another part of the latch, less promising, as Brown thought, in
appearance, but which the animal's sagacity or experience
recommended as the safer of the two, and where, plunging in, he
attained the other side with. little difficulty.
"I'm glad we're out o' that moss," said Dinmont, "where there's
mair stables for horses than change-houses for men--we have the
Maiden-way to help us now, at ony rate." Accordingly, they speedily
gained a sort of rugged causeway so called, being the remains of an
old Roman road which traverses these wild regions in a due
northerly direction. Here they got on at the rate o nine or ten
miles an hour, Dumple seeking no other respite than what arose from
changing his pace from canter to trot. "I could gar him show mair
action," said his master, "but we are twa lang-legged chields after
a' and it would be a pity to stress Dumple--there wasna the like o'
him at Staneshiebank fair the day."
Brown readily assented to the propriety of sparing the horse, and
added, that as they were now far out of the reach of the rogues he
thought Mr. Dinmont had better tie a handkerchief round his head,
for fear of the cold frosty air aggravating the wound.
"What would I do that for?" answered the hardy farmer; "the best
way's to let the blood barken [*Encrust] upon the cut--that
saves plasters, hinney."
Brown, who in his military profession had seen a great many hard
blows pass, could not help remarking, "he had never known such
severe strokes received with so much apparent indifference."
"Hout tout, man--I would never be making a humdudgeon [*Fuss] about
a scart on the pow-but we'll be in Scotland in five minutes now,
and ye maun gang up to Charlies-hope wi' me, that's a clear case."
Brown readily accepted the offered hospitality. Night was now
falling, when they came in sight of a pretty river winding its way
through a pastoral country. The hills were greener and more abrupt
than those which Brown had lately passed, sinking their grassy
sides, at once upon the river. They had no pretensions to
magnificence of height, or to romantic shapes, nor did their smooth
swelling slopes exhibit either rocks or woods. Yet the view was
wild, solitary, and pleasingly rural. No enclosures, no roads,
almost no tillage--it seemed a land which a patriarch would have
chosen to feed his flocks and herds. The remains of here and there
a dismantled and ruined tower, showed that it had once harboured
beings of a very different description from its present
inhabitants; those free-booters, namely, to whose exploits the wars
between England and Scotland bear witness. Descending by. a path
towards a well-known ford, Dumple crossed the small river, and then
quickening his pace, trotted about a mile briskly up its banks, and
approached two or three low thatched, houses, placed with their
angles to each other, with a great contempt of regularity. This
was the farm-steading of Charlies-hope, or, in the language of the
country, "the Town." A most furious barking was set up at their
approach, by the whole three generations of Mustard and Pepper, and
a number of allies, names unknown. The farmer made his well-known
voice lustily heard to restore order--the door opened, and a
half-dressed ewe-milker, who had done that good office, shut it in
their faces, in order that she might run ben the house, to cry,
"Mistress, mistress, it's the master, and another man wi' him."
Dumple, turned loose, walked to his own stable-door, and there
pawed and whinnied for admission, in strains which were answered by
his acquaintances from the interior. Amid this bustle, Brown was
fain to secure Wasp from the other dogs, who, with ardour
corresponding more to their own names than to the hospitable temper
of their owner, were much disposed to use the intruder roughly.
In about a minute a stout labourer was patting Dumple, and
introducing him into the stable, while Mrs. Dinmont, a
well-favoured buxom dame, welcomed her husband [*See Note II.
Dandie Dinmont] with unfeigned rapture. "Eh, sirs! gudeman, ye
hae been a weary while away!"
Liddell till now, except in Doric lays,
Tuned to her murmurs by her love-sick swains,
Unknown in song--though not a purer stream
Rolls towards the western main.
Art of Preserving Health.
The present store-farmers of the south of Scotland are a much more
refined race than their fathers, and the manners I am now to
describe have either altogether disappeared, or are greatly
modified. Without losing the rural simplicity of manners, they now
cultivate arts unknown to the former generation, not only in the
progressive improvement of their possessions, but in all the
comforts of life. Their houses are more commodious, their habits
of life regulated so as better to keep pace with those of the
civilised world, and the best of luxuries, the luxury of knowledge,
has gained much ground among their hills during the last thirty
years. Deep drinking, formerly their greatest failing, is now fast
losing ground; and, while the frankness of their extensive
hospitality continues the same, it is, generally speaking, refined
in its character, and restrained in its excesses.
"Deil's in the wife," said Dandie Dinmont, shaking off his spouse's
embrace, but gently and with a look of great affection;--"deil's in
ye, Ailie--d'ye no see the stranger gentleman?"
Ailie turned to make her apology--"Troth, I was sae weel pleased to
see the gudeman, that--But, gude gracious! what's the matter wi'
ye baith?"--for they were now in her little parlour, and the candle
showed the streaks of blood which Dinmont's wounded head had
plentifully imparted to the clothes of his companion as well as to
his own. "Ye've been fighting again, Dandie, wi' some o' the
Bewcastle horse-coupers! Wow, man, a married man, a bonny family
like yours, should ken better what a father's life's worth in the
warld."--The tears stood in the good woman's eyes as she spoke.
"Whisht! whisht! gudewife," said her husband, with a smack that had
much more affection than ceremony in it; "never mind--never
mind--there's a gentleman that will tell you, that just when I had
ga'en up to Lourie Lowther's, and had bidden the drinking of twa
cheerers, and gotten just in again upon the moss, and was whigging
cannily [*Cautiously] awa hame, twa land-loupers jumpit out of a
peat-bog on me as I was thinking, and got me down, and knevelled
[*Beat] me sair aneuch, or I could gar my whip walk about their
lugs--and troth, gudewife, if this honest gentleman hadna come
up, I would have gotten mair licks than I like, and lost mair
siller than I could weel spare; so ye maun be thankful to him for
it, under God." With that he drew from his side-pocket a large
greasy leather pocket-book, and bade the gudewife lock it up in her
"God bless the gentleman, and e'en God bless him wi' a' my
heart--but what can we do for him, but to gie him the meat and
quarters we wadna refuse to the poorest body on earth--unless
(her eye directed to the pocket-book, but with a feeling of natural
propriety which made the inference the most delicate possible),
unless there was ony other way--" Brown saw, and estimated at its
due rate, the mixture of simplicity and grateful generosity which
took the downright way of expressing itself, yet qualified with so
much delicacy; he was aware his own appearance, plain at best, and
now torn and spattered with blood, made him an object of pity at
least, and perhaps of charity. He hastened to say his name was
Brown, a captain in the--regiment of cavalry, travelling for
pleasure, and on foot, both from motives of independence and
economy and he begged his kind landlady would look at her husband's
wounds, the state of which he had refused to permit him to
examine. Mrs. Dinmont was used to her husband's broken beads more
than to the presence of a captain of dragoons. She therefore
glanced at a tablecloth not quite clean, and conned over her
proposed supper a minute or two, before, patting her husband on the
shoulder, she bade him sit down for "a hard-headed loon, that was
aye bringing himself and other folk into collie-shangies."
When Dandie Dinmont, after executing two or three caprioles, and
cutting the Highland fling, by way of ridicule of his wife's
anxiety, at last deigned to sit down, and commit his round, black,
shaggy bullet of a head to her inspection, Brown thought he had
seen the regimental surgeon look grave upon a more trifling case.
The gudewife, however, showed some knowledge of chirurgery--she cut
away with her scissors the gory locks, whose stiffened and
coagulated clusters interfered with her operations, and clapped on
the wound some lint besmeared with a vulnerary salve, esteemed
sovereign by the whole dale (which afforded upon Fair nights
considerable experience of such cases)--she then fixed her plaster
with a bandage, and, spite of her patient's resistance, pulled over
all a nightcap, to keep everything in its right place. Some
contusions on the brow and shoulders she fomented with brandy,
which the patient did not permit till the medicine had paid a heavy
toll to his mouth. Mrs. Dinmont then simply, but kindly, offered
her assistance to Brown.
He assured her he had no occasion for anything but the
accommodation of a basin and towel.
"And that's what I should have thought of sooner," she said; "and I
did think o't, but I durst na open the door, for there's a' the
bairns, poor things, sae keen to see their father."
This explained a great drumming and whining at the door of the
little parlour, which had somewhat surprised Brown, though his kind
landlady had only noticed it by fastening the bolt as soon as she
heard it begin. But on her opening the door to seek the basin and
towel (for she never thought of showing the guest to a separate
room), a whole tide of white-headed urchins streamed in, some from
the stable, where they had been seeing Dumple, and giving him a
welcome home with part of their four-hours scones; others from the
kitchen, where they had been listening to auld Elspeth's tales and
ballads; and the youngest half naked, out of bed, all roaring to
see daddy, and to inquire what he had brought home for them from
the various fairs he had visited in his peregrinations. Our knight
of the broken head first kissed and hugged them all round, then
distributed whistles, penny-trumpets, and Gingerbread, and, lastly,
when the tumult of their joy and welcome got beyond bearing,
exclaimed to his guest--"This is a' the gudewife's fault,
Captain--she will gie the bairns a' their ain way."
"Me! Lord help me," said Ailie, who at that instant entered with
the basin and ewer, "how can I help it?--I have naething else to
gie them, poor things!"
Dinmont then exerted himself, and, between coaxing, threats, and
shoving, cleared the room of all the intruders, excepting a boy and
girl, the two eldest of the family, who could, as he observed,
behave themselves "distinctly." For the same reason, but with less
ceremony, all the dogs were kicked out, excepting the venerable
patriarchs, old Pepper and Mustard, whom frequent castigation and
the advance of years had inspired with such a share of passive
hospitality, that, after mutual explanation and remonstrance in the
shape of some growling, they admitted Wasp, who had hitherto judged
it safe to keep beneath his master's chair, to a share of a dried
wedder's skin, which, with the wool uppermost and unshorn, served
all the purposes of a Bristol hearth-rug.
The active bustle of the mistress (so she was called in the
kitchen, and the gudewife in the parlour) had already signed the
fate of a couple of fowls, which, for want of time to dress them
otherwise, soon appeared reeking from the gridiron-or brander, as
Mrs. Dinmont denominated it. A huge piece of cold beef-ham, eggs,
butter, cakes, and barley-meal bannocks in plenty, made up the
entertainment, which was to be diluted with home-brewed ale of
excellent quality, and a case-bottle of brandy. Few soldiers would
find fault with such cheer after a day's hard exercise, and a
skirmish to boot; accordingly Brown did. great honour to the
eatables. While the gudewife partly aided, partly instructed, a
great stout servant girl, with cheeks as red as her top-knot, to
remove the supper matters, and supply sugar and hot water (which,
in the damsel's anxiety to gaze upon an actual live captain, she
was in some danger of forgetting), Brown took an opportunity to ask
his host whether he did not repent of having neglected the gipsy's
"Wha kens?" answered he;" they're queer deevils;--maybe I might
just have 'scaped ae gang to' meet the other. And yet I'll no say
that neither; for if that randy wife was coming to Charlies-hope,
she should have a pint bottle o' brandy and a pound o' tobacco to
wear her through the winter. They're queer deevils, as my auld
father used to say-they're warst where they're warst guided. After
a', there's baith guid and ill about the gipsies."
This, and some other desultory conversation, served as a "I
shoeing-horn" to draw on another cup of ale and another cheerer, as
Dinmont termed it in his country phrase, of brandy-and-water. Brown
then resolutely declined all further conviviality for that evening,
pleading his own weariness and the effects of time skirmish--being
well aware that it would have availed nothing to have remonstrated
with his host on the danger that excess might have occasioned to
his own raw wound and bloody coxcomb. A very small bedroom, but a
very clean bed, received the traveller, and the sheets made good
the courteous vaunt of the hostess, "that they would be as pleasant
as he could find ony gate, for they were washed wi' the fairy-well
water, and bleached on the bonny white gowans, and bittled [*Beaten
with wooden pestle.] by Nelly and herself, and what could woman,
if she was a queen, do mair for them?"
They indeed rivalled snow in whiteness, and had, besides, a
pleasant fragrance from the manner in which they had been
bleached. Little Wasp, after licking his master's hand to ask
leave, couched himself on the coverlet at his feet; and the
traveller's senses were soon lost in grateful oblivion.
--Give ye, Britons then Your sportive fury, pitiless to
pour Loose on the nightly robber of the fold. Him from
his craggy winding haunts unearth'd, Let all the thunder of
the chase pursue.
Brown rose early in the morning, and walked out to look at the
establishment of his new friend. All was rough and neglected in
the neighbourhood of the house;--a paltry garden, no pains taken to
make the vicinity dry or comfortable, and a total absence of all
those little neatnesses which give the eye so much pleasure in
looking at an English farm-house. There were, notwithstanding,
evident signs that this arose only from want of taste, or
ignorance, not from poverty, or the negligence which attends it. On
the contrary, a noble cow-house, well filled with good milk-cows, a
feeding-house, with ten bullocks of the most approved breed, a
stable, with two good teams of horses, the appearance of domestics,
active, industrious, and apparently contented with their lot; in a
word, an air of liberal though sluttish plenty indicated the
wealthy farmer. The situation of the house above the river formed
a gentle declivity, which relieved the inhabitants of the nuisances
that might otherwise have stagnated around it. At a little
distance was the whole band of children, playing and building
houses with peats around a huge doddered oak-tree, which was called
Charlie's Bush, from some tradition respecting an old freebooter
who had once inhabited the spot. Between the farm-house and the
hill-pasture was a deep morass, termed in that country a slack--it
had once been the defence of a fortalice, of which no vestiges now
remained, but which was said to have been inhabited by the same
doughty hero we have now alluded to. Brown endeavoured to make
some acquaintance with the children, but "the rogues fled from him
like quicksilver"--though the two eldest stood peeping when they
had got to some distance. The traveller then turned his course
towards the hill, crossing the foresaid swamp by a range of
stepping-stones, neither the broadest nor steadiest that could be
imagined. He had not climbed far up the hill when he met a man
He soon recognised his worthy host, though a maud, as it is called,
or a gray shepherd's-plaid, supplied his travelling jockey-coat,
and a cap, faced with wild-cat's fur, more commodiously covered his
bandaged head than a hat would have done. As he appeared through
the morning mist, Brown, accustomed to judge of men by their thews
and sinews, could not help admiring his height, the breadth of his
shoulders, and the steady firmness of his step. Dinmont internally
paid the same compliment to Brown, whose athletic form he now
perused somewhat more at leisure than he had done formerly. After
the usual greetings of the morning, the guest inquired whether his
host found any inconvenient consequences from the last night's
"I had maist forgotten't," said the hardy Borderer but I think this
morning, now that I am fresh and sober, if you and I were at the
Withershin's Latch, wi' ilka ane a gude oak souple in his hand, we
wadna turn back, no for half a dizzen o' yon scaff-raff."
"But are you prudent, my good sir," said Brown, "not to take an
hour or two's repose after receiving such severe contusions?"
"Confusions!" replied the farmer, laughing in derision; "Lord,
Captain, naething confuses my head--I ance jumped up and laid the
dogs on the fox after I had tumbled from the tap o' Christenbury
Craig, and that might have confused me to purpose. Na, naething
confuses me, unless it be a screed o' drink at an orra
[*Occasional] time. Besides, I behooved to be round the hirsel
this morning, and see how the herds were coming on--they're apt to
be negligent wi' their footballs, and fairs, and trysts, when ane's
away. And there I met wi' Tam o' Todshaw, and a wheen o' the rest
o' the billies on the water side; they're a' for a fox-hunt this
morning,--ye'll gang? I'll gie ye Dumple, and take the brood mare
"But I fear I must leave you this morning, Mr. Dinmont," replied
"The fient a bit o' that," exclaimed the Borderer--"I'll no part wi'
ye at ony rate for a fortnight mair--Na, na; we dinna meet sic
friends as you on a Bewcastle moss every night."
Brown had not designed his journey should be a speedy one; he
therefore readily compounded with this hearty invitation, by
agreeing to pass a week at Charlies-hope.
On their return to the house, where the gudewife presided over an
ample breakfast, she heard news of the proposed fox-hunt, not
indeed with approbation, but without alarm or surprise. "Dand!
ye're the auld man yet--naething will make ye take warning till
ye're brought hame some day wi' your feet foremost."
"Tut, lass" answered Dandie, "ye ken yourself I am never a prin
the waur [*a pin the worse.] o' my rambles."
So saying, he exhorted Brown to be hasty in despatching his
breakfast, as, "the frost having given way, the scent would lie
this morning primely."
Out they sallied accordingly for Otterscopescaurs, the farmer
leading the way. They soon quitted the little valley, and involved
themselves among hills as steep as they could be without being
precipitous. The sides often presented gullies, down which, in the
winter season, or after heavy rain, the torrents descended with
great fury. Some dappled mists still floated along the peaks of the
hills, the remains of the morning clouds, for the frost had broken
up with a smart shower. Through these fleecy screens Were seen a
hundred little temporary streamlets, or rills, descending the sides
of the mountains like silver threads. By small sheep-tracks along
these steeps, over which Dinmont trotted with the most fearless
confidence, they at length drew near the scene of sport, and began
to see other men, both on horse and foot, making toward the place
of rendezvous. Brown was puzzling himself to conceive how a
fox-chase could take place among hills, where it was barely
possible for a pony, accustomed to the ground, to trot along, but
where, quitting the track for half a yard's breadth, the rider
might be either bogged, or precipitated down the bank This wonder
was not diminished when he came to the place of action.
They had gradually ascended very high, and now found themselves on
a mountain ridge, overhanging a glen of great depth, but extremely
narrow. Here the sportsmen had collected, with an apparatus which
would have shocked a member of the Pychely Hunt; for, the object
being the removal of a noxious and destructive animal, as well as
the pleasures of the chase, poor Reynard was allowed much less fair
play than when pursued in form through an open country. The
strength of his habitation, however, and the nature of the ground
by which it was surrounded on all sides, supplied what was wanting
in the courtesy of his pursuers. The sides of the glen were broken
banks of earth, and rocks of rotten stone, which sunk sheer down to
the little winding stream below, affording here and there a tuft
of scathed brushwood, or a patch of furze. Along the edges of this
ravine, which, as we have said, was very narrow, but of profound
depth, the hunters on horse and foot ranged themselves; almost
every farmer had with him; it least a, brace of large and fierce
greyhounds, of the race of those deer-dogs which were formerly used
in that country, but greatly lessened in size from being crossed
with the common breed. The huntsman, a sort of provincial officer
of the district, who receives a certain supply of meal, and a
reward for every fox he destroys, was already at the bottom of the
dell, whose echoes thundered to the chiding of two or three brace
of fox-hounds. Terriers, including the whole generation of Pepper
and Mustard, were also in attendance, having been sent forward
under the care of a shepherd. Mongrel, whelp, and cur of low
degree, filled up the burden of the chorus. The spectators on the
brink of the ravine, or glen, held their greyhounds in leash in
readiness to slip them at the fox, as soon as the activity of the
party below should force him to abandon his cover.
The scene, though uncouth to the eye of a professed sportsman, had
something in it wildly captivating. The shifting figures on the
mountain ridge, having the sky for their background, appeared to
move in the air. The dogs, impatient of their restraint, and
maddened with the baying beneath, sprung here and there, and
strained at the slips, which prevented them from joining their
companions. Looking down, the view was equally striking. The thin
mists were not totally dispersed in the glen, so that it was often
through their gauzy medium that the eye strove to discover the
motions of the hunters below. Sometimes a breath of wind made the
scene visible, the blue rill glittering as it twined itself through
its rude and solitary dell. They then could see the shepherds
springing with fearless activity from one dangerous point to
another, and cheering the dogs on the scent, the whole so
diminished by depth and distance that they looked like pigmies.
Again the mists close over them, and the only signs of their
continued exertions are the halloos of the men, and the clamours of
the hounds, ascending as it were out of the bowels of the earth.
When the fox, thus persecuted from one stronghold to another, was
at length obliged to abandon his valley, and to break away for a
more distant retreat, those who watched his motions' from the top
slipped their greyhounds, which, excelling the fox in swiftness,
and equalling him in ferocity and spirit, soon brought the
plunderer to his life's end.
In this way, without any attention to the ordinary rules and
decorums of sport, but apparently as much to the gratification bath
of bipeds and quadrupeds as if all due ritual had been followed,
four foxes were killed on this active morning; and even Brown
himself, though he had seen the princely reports of India, and
ridden a-tiger-hunting upon an elephant with the Nabob of Arcot,
professed to have received an excellent morning's amusement. When
the sport was given up for the day, most of the sportsmen,
according to the established hospitality of the country, went to
dine at Charlies-hope.
During their return homeward, Brown rode for a short time beside
the Huntsman, and asked him some questions concerning the mode in
which he exercised his profession. The man showed an unwillingness
to meet his eye, and a disposition to be rid of his company and
conversation, for which Brown could not easily account. He was a
thin, dark, active fellow, well framed for the hardy profession
which he exercised. But his face had not the frankness of the
jolly hunter; he was down-looked, embarrassed, and avoided the eyes
of those who looked hard at him. After some unimportant
observations on the success of the day, Brown gave him a trifling
gratuity, and rode on with his landlord. They found the gudewife
prepared for their reception--the fold and the poultry-yard
furnished the entertainment, and the kind and hearty welcome made
amends for all deficiencies in elegance and fashion.
The Elliots and Armstrongs did convene,
They were a gallant company.
Ballad of Johnnie Armstrong.
WITHOUT noticing the occupations of an intervening day or two,
which, as they consisted of the ordinary silvan amusements of
shooting and coursing, have nothing sufficiently interesting to
detain the reader, we pass to one in some degree peculiar to
Scotland, which may be called a sort of salmon-hunting. This
long-shafted trident called a waster, [*Or leister. The long spear
is used for striking; but there is a shorter, which is cast from
the hand, and with which an experienced sportsman hits the fish
with singular dexterity.] is much practised at the mouth of the
Esk, and in the other salmon rivers of Scotland. The sport is
followed by day and night, but most commonly in the latter, when
the fish are discovered by means of torches, or fire-grates, filled
with blazing fragments of tar-barrels, which shed a strong though
partial light upon the water. On the present occasion, the
principal party were embarked in a crazy boat upon a part of the
river which was enlarged and deepened by the restraint of a
mill-wear, while others, like the ancient Bacchanals in their
gambols, ran along the banks, brandishing their torches and spears,
and pursuing the salmon, some of which endeavoured to escape up the
stream, while others, shrouding themselves under roots of trees,
fragments of stones, and large rocks, attempted to conceal
themselves from the researches of the fishermen. These the party in
the boat detected by the slightest indications; the twinkling of a
fin, the rising of an air-bell, was sufficient to point out to
these adroit sportsmen in what direction to use their weapon.
The scene was inexpressibly animating to those accustomed to it;
but as Brown was not practised to use the spear, he soon tired of
making efforts, which were attended with no other consequences than
jarring his arms against the rocks at the bottom of the river, upon
which, instead of the devoted salmon, he often bestowed his blow.
Nor did he relish, though he concealed feelings which would not
have been understood, being quite so near the agonies of the
expiring salmon, as they lay flapping about in the boat, which they
moistened with their blood. He therefore requested to be put
ashore, and, from the top of a heugh or broken bank, enjoyed the
scene much more to his satisfaction. Often he thought of his
friend Dudley the artist, when he observed the effect produced by
the strong red glare on the romantic banks under which the boat
glided. Now the light diminished to a distant star that seemed to
twinkle on the waters, like those which, according to the legends
of the country, the water-kelpy sends for the purpose of indicating
the watery grave of his victims. Then it advanced nearer,
brightening and enlarging as it again approached, till the broad
flickering flame rendered bank, and rock, and tree, visible as it
passed, tinging them with its own red glare of dusky light, and
resigning them gradually to darkness, or to pale moonlight, as it
receded. By this light also were seen the figures in the boat, now
holding high their weapons, now stooping to strike, now standing
upright, bronzed, by the same red glare, into a colour which might
have befitted the regions of Pandemonium.
Having amused himself for some time with these effects of light and
shadow, Brown strolled homewards towards the farmhouse, gazing in
his way at the persons engaged in the sport, two or three of whom
are generally kept together, one holding the torch, the others with
their spears, ready to avail themselves of the light it affords to
strike their prey. As he observed one man struggling with a very
weighty salmon which he had speared, but was unable completely to
raise from the water, Brown advanced close to the bank to see the
issue of his exertions. The man who held the torch in this
instance was the huntsman, whose sulky demeanour Brown had already
noticed with surprise.--"Come here, sir! come here, sir! look at
this ane! He turns up a side like a sow."--Such was the cry from
the assistants when some of them observed Brown advancing.
"Ground the waster weel, man! ground the waster weel!--haud him
down--ye haena the pith o' a cat"--were the cries of advice,
encouragement, and expostulation, from those who were on the bank,
to the sportsman engaged with the salmon, who stood up to his
middle in water, jingling among broken ice, struggling against the
force of the fish and the strength of the current, and dubious in
what manner he should attempt to secure his booty. As Brown came
to the edge of the bank, he called out--"Hold up your torch, friend
huntsman!" for he had already distinguished his dusky features by
the strong light cast upon them by the blaze. But the fellow no
sooner heard his voice, and saw, or rather concluded, it was Brown
who approached him, than, instead of advancing his light, he let it
drop, as if accidentally, into the water.
"The deil's in Gabriel said the spearman, as the fragments of
glowing wood floated half blazing, half sparkling, but soon
extinguished, down the stream--the deil's in the man! --I'll
never master him without the light--and a braver kipper, could I
but land him, never reisted abune a pair o' cleeks." [*See Note
III. Lum Cleeks.]--Some dashed into the water to lend their
assistance, and the fish, which was afterwards found to weigh
nearly thirty pounds, was landed in safety.
The behaviour of the huntsman struck Brown, although he had no
recollection of his face, nor could conceive why he should, as it
appeared he evidently did, shun his observation.--Could he be one
of the footpads he had encountered a few days before?--The
supposition was not altogether improbable, although unwarranted by
any observation he was able to make upon the man's figure and
face. To be sure the villains wore their hats much slouched, and
had loose coats, and their size was not in any way so peculiarly
discriminated as to enable him to resort to that criterion. He
resolved to speak to his host Dinmont on the subject, but for
obvious reasons concluded it were best to defer the explanation
until a cool hour in the morning.
The sportsmen returned loaded with fish, upwards of one hundred
salmon having been killed within the range of their sport. The
best were selected for the use of the principal farmers, the others
divided among their shepherds, cottars, dependants, and others of
inferior rank who attended. These fish, dried in the turf smoke of
their cabins, or shealings, formed a savoury addition to the mess
of potatoes, mixed with onions, which was the principal part of
their winter food. In the meanwhile a liberal distribution of ale
and whisky was made among them, besides what was called a kettle of
fish,--two or three salmon, namely, plunged into a cauldron, and
boiled for their supper. Brown accompanied his jolly landlord and
the rest of his friends into the large and smoky kitchen, where
this savoury mess reeked on an oaken table, massive enough to have
dined Johnnie Armstrong and his merry men. All was hearty cheer
and huzza, and jest and clamorous laughter, and bragging
alternately, and raillery between whiles. Our traveller looked
earnestly around for the dark countenance of the fox-hunter; but it
was nowhere to be seen.
At length he hazarded a question concerning him. "That was an
awkward accident, my lads, of one of you, who dropped his torch in
the water when his companion was struggling with the large fish."
"Awkward!" returned a shepherd, looking up (the same stout young
fellow who had speared the salmon), "he deserved his paikes
[*Punishment] for't--to put out the light when the fish was on
ane's witters! [*The barbs of the spear]--I'm well convinced
Gabriel drapped the roughies [*When dry splinters, or branches, are
used as fuel to supply the light for burning the water, as it is
called, they are termed, as in the text, Roughies. When rags,
dipped in tar, are employed, they are called Hards, probably from
the French.] in the water on purpose-he doesna like to see onybody
do a thing better than himself."
"Ay," said another, "he's sair shamed o' himself, else he would
have been up here the night--Gabriel likes a little o' the gude
thing as weel as ony o' us."
"Is he of this country?" said Brown.
"Na, na, he's been but shortly in office, but he's a fell
hunter-he's frae down the country, some gate on the Dumfries side."
"And what's his name, pray?"
"But Gabriel what?"
"Oh, Lord kens that; we dinna mind folk's after-names muckle here,
they run sae muckle into clans."
"Ye see, sir," said an old shepherd, rising, and speaking very
slow, "the folks hereabout are a' Armstrongs and Elliats, [* See
Note IV. Clan Surnames.] and sic like--twa or three given
names--and so, for distinction's sake, the lairds and farmers have
the names of their places that they live at--as for example, Tam o'
Todshaw, Will o' the Flat, Hobbie o' Sorbietrees, and our good
master here, o' the Charlies-hope.--Aweel, sir, and then the
inferior sort o' people, ye'll observe, are kend by sorts o'
by-names some o' them, as Glaiket Christie, and the Deuke's Davie,
or maybe, like this lad Gabriel, by his employment; as for example,
Tod Gabble, or Hunter Gabble. He's no been lang here, sir, and I
dinna think onybody kens him by ony other name. But it's no right
to rin him doun ahint his back, for he's a fell fox-hunter, though
he's maybe no just sae clever as some o' the folk hereawa wi' the
After some further desultory conversation, the superior sportsmen
retired to conclude the evening after their own manner, leaving the
others to enjoy themselves, unawed by their presence. That
evening, like all those which Brown had passed at Charlies-hope,
was spent in much innocent mirth and conviviality. The latter
might have approached to the verge of riot but for the good women;
for several of the neighbouring mistresses (a phrase of a
signification how different from what it bears in more fashionable
life!) had assembled at Charliesl hope to witness the event of this
memorable evening. Finding the punch-bowl was so often
replenished, that there was some danger of their gracious presence
being forgotten, they rushed in valorously upon the recreant
revellers, headed by our good Mistress Ailie, so that Venus
speedily routed Bacchus. The fiddler and piper next made their
appearance, and the best part of the night was gallantly consumed
in dancing to their music.
An otter-hunt the next day, and a badger-baiting the day after,
consumed the time merrily.--I hope our traveller will not sink in
the reader's estimation, sportsman though he may be, when I inform
him, that on this last occasion, after young Pepper had lost a
fore-foot, and Mustard the second had been nearly throttled, he
begged, as a particular and personal favour of Mr. Dinmont, that
the poor badger, who had made so gallant a defence, should he
permitted to retire to his earth without further molestation.
The farmer, who would probably have treated this request with
supreme contempt had it come from any other person, was contented,
in Brown's case, to express the utter extremity of his wonder.
"Weel," he said, "that's queer aneugh!--But since ye take his
part, deil a tyke shall meddle wi' him mair in my day--we'll e'en
mark him, and ca' him the Captain's brock-and I'm sure I'm glad I
can do onything to oblige you--but, Lord save us, to care about a
brock!" [*Badger] After a week spent in rural sport, and
distinguished by the most frank attentions on the part of his
honest landlord, Brown bade adieu to the banks of the Liddel, and
the hospitality of Charlies-hope. The children, with all of whom
he had now become an intimate and a favourite, roared manfully in
full chorus at his departure, and he was obliged to promise twenty
times, that he would soon return and play over all their favourite
tunes upon the flageolet till they had got them by heart.--"Come
back again, Captain," said one little sturdy fellow, "and Jenny
will be your wife." Jenny was about eleven years old--she ran and
hid herself behind her mammy.
"Captain, come back," said a little fat roll-about girl of six,
holding her mouth up to be kissed, "and I'll be your wife my
"They must be of harder mould than I," thought Brown, "who could
part from so many kind hearts with indifference. "The good dame
too, with matron modesty, and an affectionate simplicity that
marked the olden time, offered her cheek to the departing
guest--"It's little the like of us can do," she said, "little
indeed--but yet--if there were but anything--"
"Now, my dear Mrs. Dinmont, you embolden me to make a
request--would you but have the kindness to weave me, or work me,
just such a gray plaid as the goodman wears?" He had learned the
language and feelings of the country even during the short time of
his residence, and was aware of the pleasure the request would
"A tait o' woo' [*Tuft of wool] would be scarce amang us," said
the gudewife, brightening, "if ye shouldna hae that, and as gude a
tweel as ever cam aff a pirn. I'll speak to Johnnie Goodsire, the
weaver at the Castletown, the morn. Fare ye wee], sir!--and may ye
be just as happy yourself as ye like to see a' body else--and that
would be a sair wish to some folk." I must not omit to mention,
that our traveller left his trusty attendant Wasp to be a guest at
Charlies-hope for a season. He foresaw that he might prove a
troublesome attendant in the event of his being in any situation
where secrecy and concealment might he necessary. He, was therefore
consigned to the care of the eldest boy, who promised, in the words
of the old song, that he should have A bit of his supper, a bit of
his bed, and that he should be engaged in none of those perilous
pastimes in which the race of Mustard and Pepper had suffered
frequent mutilation. Brown now prepared for his journey, having
taken a temporary farewell of his trusty little companion.
There is an old prejudice in these hills in favour of riding. Every
farmer rides well, and rides the whole day. Probably the extent of
their large pasture farms, and the necessity of surveying them
rapidly, first introduced this custom; or a very zealous antiquary
might derive it from the times of the Lay o the Last Minstrel, when
twenty thousand horsemen assembled at the light of the
beacon-fires. [*It would be affectation to alter this reference.
But the reader will understand it was inserted to keep up the
author's incognito, as he was not likely to be suspected of quoting
his own works. This explanation is also applicable to one or two
similar passages, in this and the other novels, introduced for the
same reason.] But the truth is undeniable; they like to be on
horseback, and can be with difficulty convinced that any one
chooses walking from other motives than those of convenience or
necessity. Accordingly, Dinmont insisted upon mounting his guest,
and accompanying him on horseback as far as the nearest town in
Dumfriesshire, where he had directed his baggage to be sent, and
from which he proposed to pursue his intended journey towards
Woodbourne, the residence of Julia Mannering.
Upon the way he questioned his companion concerning the character
of the fox-hunter; but gained little information, as he had been
called to that office while Dinmont was making the round of the
Highland fairs. "He was a shake-rag like fellow," he said, "and,
he dared to say, had gipsy blood in his veins--but at ony rate he
was nane o' the smacks [*Rogues] that had been on their quarters
in the moss--he would ken them weel if he saw them again. There
are some no bad folk amang the gipsies too, to be sic a gang,"
added Dandie; "if ever I see that auld randle-tree of a wife again,
I'll gie her something to buy tobacco--I have a great notion she
meant me very fair after a'."
When they were about finally to part, the good farmer held Brown
long by the hand, and at length said, "Captain, the woo's sae weel
up the year that it's paid a' the rent, and we have naething to do
wi' the rest o' the siller when Ailie has had her new gown, and the
bairns their bits o' duds [*Clothes]--now I was thinking of some
safe hand to put it into, for it's ower muckle to ware on brandy
and sugar--now I have heard that you army gentlemen can sometimes
buy yoursells up a step; and if a hundred or twa would help ye on
such an occasion, the bit scrape o' your pen would be as good to me
as the siller, and ye might just take yere ane time o' settling
it--it wad be a great convenience to me." Brown, who felt the full
delicacy that wished to disguise the conferring an obligation under
the show of asking a favour, thanked his grateful friend most
heartily, and assured him he would have recourse to his purse,
without scruple, should circumstances ever render it convenient for
him. And thus they parted with many expressions of mutual regard.
If thou hast any love of mercy in thee,
Turn me upon my face that I may die.
Our traveller hired a post-chaise at the place where he separated
from Dinmont, with the purpose of proceeding to Kippletringan,
there to inquire into the state of the family at Woodbourne, before
he should venture to make his presence in the country known to Miss
Mannering. The stage was a long one of eighteen or twenty miles,
and the road lay across the country. To add to the inconveniences
of the journey, the snow began to fall pretty quickly. The
postilion, however, proceeded on his journey for a good many miles,
without expressing doubt or hesitation. It was not until the night
was completely set in that he intimated his apprehensions whether
he was in the right road. The increasing snow rendered this
intimation rather alarming, for as it drove full in the lad's face,
and lay whitening all around him, it served in two different ways
to confuse his knowledge of the count and to diminish the chance
of his recovering the right track. Brown then himself got out and
looked round, not, it may be well imagined, from any better hope
than that of seeing some house at which he might make inquiry. But
none appeared--he could therefore only tell the lad to drive
steadily on. The road on which they were, ran through plantations
of considerable extent and depth, and the traveller therefore
conjectured that there must be a gentleman's house at no great
distance. At length, after struggling wearily on for about a mile,
the post-boy stopped, and protested his horses would not budge a
foot farther "but he saw," he said, "a light among the trees, which
must proceed from a house; the only way was to inquire the road
there." Accordingly, he dismounted, heavily encumbered with a long
greatcoat, and a pair of boots which might have rivalled in
thickness the sevenfold shield of Ajax. As in this guise he was
plodding forth upon his voyage of discovery, Brown's impatience
prevailed, and, jumping out of the carriage, he desired the lad to
stop where he was, by the horses, and he would himself go to the
house--a command which the driver most joyfully obeyed.
Our traveller groped along the side of the enclosure from which the
light glimmered, in order to find some mode of approaching in that
direction, and after proceeding for some space, at length found a
stile in the hedge, and a pathway leading into the plantation,
which in that place was of great extent. This promised to lead to
the light which was the object of his search, and accordingly Brown
proceeded in that direction, but soon totally lost sight, of it
among the trees. The path, which at first seemed broad and well
marked by the opening of the wood through which it winded, was now
less easily distinguishable, although the whiteness of the snow
afforded some reflected light to assist his search. Directing
himself as much as possible through the more open parts of the
wood, he proceeded almost a mile without either recovering a view
of the light, or seeing anything resembling a habitation. Still,
however, he thought it best to persevere in that direction. It
must surely have been a light in the hut of a forester, for it
shone too steadily to be the glimmer of an ignis fatuus. The ground
at length became broken, and declined rapidly, and although Brown
conceived he still moved along what had once at least been a
pathway, it was now very unequal, and the snow concealing those
breaches and inequalities, the traveller had one or two falls in
consequence. He began now to think of turning back, especially as
the falling snow, which his impatience had hitherto prevented his
attending to, was coming on thicker and faster.
Willing, however, to make, a last. effort, he still advanced a
little way, when, to his great delight, he beheld the light
opposite at no great distance, and apparently upon a level with
him. He quickly found that this last appearance was deception, for
the ground continued so rapidly to sink, as made it obvious there
was a deep dell or ravine of some kind, between him and the object
of his search. Taking every precaution to preserve his footing, he
continued to, descend, until he reached the bottom of a very steep
and narrow glen, through which winded a small rivulet, whose course
was then almost choked with snow. He now found himself embarrassed
among the ruins of cottages, whose black gables, rendered more
distinguishable by the contrast with the whitened surface from
which they rose, were still standing; the sidewalls had long since
given way to time, and, piled in shapeless heaps, and covered with
snow offered frequent and embarrassing obstacles to--our
traveller's progress. Still, however, he persevered, crossed the
rivulet, not without some trouble, and at length, by exertions
which became both painful and perilous, ascended its opposite and
very rugged bank, until he came on a level with the building from'
which the gleam proceeded.
It was difficult, especially by so imperfect a light, to discover
the nature of this edifice; but it seemed a square building of
small size, the upper part of which was totally ruinous. It had,
perhaps, been the abode, in former. times, of some lesser
proprietor, or a place of strength and concealment, in case of
need, for one of greater importance. But only the lower vault
remained, the arch of which formed the roof in the present state of
the building. Brown first approached the place from whence the
light proceeded, which was a long narrow slit or loophole, such as
usually are to be found in old castles. Impelled by curiosity to
reconnoitre the interior of this strange place before he entered,
Brown gazed in at this aperture. A scene of greater desolation
could not well be imagined. There was a fire upon the floor, the
smoke of which, after circling through the apartment, escaped by a
hole broken in the arch above. The walls, seen by this smoky
light, had the rude and waste appearance of a ruin of three
centuries old at least. A cask or two, with some broken boxes and
packages, lay about the place in confusion. But the inmates
chiefly occupied Brown's attention. Upon a lair composed of straw
with a blanket stretched over it, lay a figure, so stilly that,
except that it was not dressed in the ordinary habiliments of the
grave, Brown would have concluded it to be a corpse. On a steadier
view he perceived it was only on the point of becoming so, for he
heard one or two of these low, deep, and hard-drawn sighs, that
precede dissolution when the frame is tenacious of life. A female
figure, dressed in a long cloak, sat on a stone by this miserable
couch; her elbows rested upon her knees, and her face, averted from
the light of an iron lamp beside her, was bent upon that of the
dying person. She moistened his mouth from time to time with some
liquid, and between whiles sung, in a low monotonous cadence, one
of those prayers, or rather spells, which, in some parts of
Scotland and the north of England, are used by the vulgar and
ignorant to speed the passage of a parting spirit, like the
tolling, of the bell in catholic days. She accompanied this dismal
sound with a slow rocking motion of her body to and fro, as if to
keep time with her song. The words ran nearly thus--
Wasted, weary, wherefore stay,
Wrestling thus with earth and clay?
From the body pass away;--
Hark! the mass is singing,
From thee doff thy mortal weed,
Mary Mother be thy speed,
Saints to help thee at thy need;--
Hark! the knell is ringing.
Fear not snow-drift driving fast
Sleet, or hail, or levin blast;
Soon the shroud shall lap thee fast,
And the sleep be on thee cast
That shall ne'er know waking.
Haste thee, haste thee, to be gone,
Earth flits fast, and time draws on,--
Gasp thy gasp, and groan thy groan,
Day is near the breaking.
The songstress paused, and was answered by one or two deep and
hollow groans, that seemed to proceed from the very agony of the
mortal strife. "It will not be," she muttered to herself--"He
cannot pass away with that on his mind--it tethers him here--
"Heaven cannot abide it,
Earth refuses to hide it."
[*See Note V. Gipsy Superstitions.]
I must open the door;" and, rising, she faced towards the door of
the apartment, observing heedfully not to turn back her head, and,
withdrawing a bolt or two (for, notwithstanding the miserable
appearance of the place, the door was cautiously secured), she
lifted the latch, saying,
"Open lock end strife, Come death, and pass life." Brown, who had
by this time moved from his post, stood before her as she opened
the door. She stepped back a pace, and he entered, instantly
recognising, but with no comfortable sensation, the same gipsy
woman whom he had met in Bewcastle. She also knew him at once, and
her attitude, figure, and the anxiety of her countenance assumed
the appearance of the well-disposed ogress of a fairy tale, warning
a stranger not to enter the dangerous castle of her husband. The
first words she spoke (holding up her hands in a reproving manner)
were, "Said I not to ye, Make not, meddle not?--Beware of the
redding straik! [*The redding straik, namely, a blow received by a
peacemaker who interfere betwixt two combatants, to red or separate
them, is proverbially said to be the most dangerous blow a man can
receive.] you are come to no house o' fairstrae [*Natural]
death." So saying, she raised the lamp, and turned its light on the
dying man, whose rude and harsh features were now convulsed with
the last agony. A roll of linen about his head was stained with
blood, which had soaked also through the blankets and the straw. It
was, indeed, under no natural disease that the wretch was
suffering. Brown started back from this horrible object, and,
turning to the gipsy, exclaimed, "Wretched woman, who has done
"They that were permitted," answered Meg Merrilies, while she
scanned with a close and keen glance the features of the expiring
man.--"He has had a sair struggle--but it's passing--I kenn'd he
would pass when you came in.--That was the death-ruckle--he's
Sounds were now heard at a distance, as of voices. "They are
coming," said she to Brown; "you are a dead man if ye had as mony
lives as hairs." Brown eagerly looked round for some weapon of
defence. There was none near. He then rushed to the door, with
the intention of plunging among the trees, and making his escape by
flight, from what he now esteemed a den of murderers, but Merrilies
held him with a masculine grasp. "Here," she said, "here be still
and you are safe--stir not, whatever you see or hear, and nothing
shall befall you."
Brown, in these desperate circumstances, remembered this woman's
intimation formerly, and thought he had no chance of safety but in
obeying her. She caused him to couch down among a parcel of straw
on the opposite side of the apartment from the corpse, covered him
carefully, and flung over him two or three old sacks which lay
about the place. Anxious to observe what was to happen, Brown
arranged, as softly as he could, the means of peeping from under
the coverings by which he was hidden, and awaited with a throbbing
heart the issue of this strange and most unpleasant adventure. The
old gipsy, in the meantime, set about arranging the dead body,
composing its limbs, and straightening the arms by its side. "Best
to do this," she muttered, "ere he stiffen." She placed on the dead
man's breast a trencher, with salt sprinkled upon it, set one
candle at the head, and another at the feet of the body, and
lighted both. Then she resumed her song, and awaited the approach
of those whose voices had been heard without.
Brown was a soldier, and a brave one; but he was also a man, and at
this moment his fears mastered his courage so completely that the
cold drops burst out from every pore. The idea of being dragged out
of his miserable concealment by wretches, whose trade was that of
midnight murder, without weapons or the slightest means of defence,
except entreaties, which would be only their sport, and cries for
help, which could never reach other ear than their own--his
safety entrusted to the precarious compassion of a being associated
with these felons, and whose trade of rapine and imposture must
have hardened her against every human feeling--the bitterness of
his emotions almost choked him. He endeavoured to read in her
withered and dark countenance, as the lamp threw its light upon her
features, something that promised those feelings of compassion,
which, females, even in their most degraded state, can seldom
altogether smother. There was no such touch of humanity about this
woman. The interest, whatever it was, that determined her in his
favour, arose not from the impulse of compassion, but from some
internal, and probably capricious, association of feelings, to
which he had no clew. It rested, perhaps, on a fancied likeness,
such as Lady Macbeth found to her father in the sleeping monarch.
Such were the reflections that passed in rapid succession through
Brown's mind, as he gazed from his hiding-place upon this
extraordinary personage. Meantime the gang did not yet approach,
and he was almost prompted to resume his original intention of
attempting an escape from the hut, and cursed internally his own
irresolution, which had consented to his being cooped up where he
had neither room for resistance nor flight.
Meg Merrilies seemed equally on the watch. She bent her ear to
every sound that whistled round the old walls. Then she turned
again to the dead body, and found something new to arrange or alter
in its position. "He's a bonny corpse, she muttered to herself,
"and weel worth the streaking."--And in this dismal occupation she
appeared to feel a sort of professional pleasure, entering slowly
into all the minutiae, as if with the skill and feelings of a
connoisseur. A long dark-coloured sea-cloak,--Which she dragged
out of a corner, was disposed for a pall. The face she left bare,
after closing the mouth and eyes, and arranged the capes of the
cloak so as to hide the bloody bandages, and give the body, as she
muttered, a mair decent appearance."
At once three or four men, equally ruffians in appearance and dress
rushed into the hut. "Meg, ye limb of Satan, how dare you leave
the door open?" was the first salutation of the party.
"And wha ever heard of a door being barred when a man was in the
dead-thraw?--how d'ye think the spirit was to get awa through bolts
and bars like thae?
"Is he dead, then?" said one who went to the side of the couch to
look at the body.
"Ay, ay--dead enough," said another--"but here's what shall give
him a rousing lykewake." So saying, he fetched a keg of spirits
from a corner, while Meg hastened to display pipes and tobacco.
From the activity with which she undertook the task, Brown
conceived good hope of her fidelity towards her guest. It was
obvious that she wished to engage the ruffians in their debauch, to
prevent the discovery which might take place if, by accident, any
of their should approach too nearly the place of Brown's
Nor board nor garner own we now,
Nor roof nor latched door,
Nor kind mate, bound by holy vows
To bless a good man's store.
Noon lulls us in a gloomy den,
And night is grown our day;
Uprouse ye, then, my merry men!
And use it as ye may.
Brown could now reckon his foes--they were five in number; two of
them were very powerful men, who appeared to be either real seamen,
or strollers who assumed that character; the other three, an old
man and two lads, were slighter made, and, from their black hair
and dark complexion, seemed to belong to Meg's tribe. They passed
from one to another the cup out of which they drank their spirits.
"Here's to his good voyage!" said one of the seamen, drinking; "a
squally night he's got, however, to drift through the sky in."
We omit here various execrations with which these honest gentlemen
garnished their discourse, retaining only such of their expletives
as are least offensive.
"'A does not mind wind and weather--'A has had many a north-easter
in his day."
"He had his last yesterday," said another gruffly; "and now old Meg
may pray for his last fair wind, as she's often done before."
"I'll pray for nane o' him," said Meg, "nor for you neither, you
randy dog. The times are sair altered since I was a kinchin-mort.
[*Girl.] Men were men then, and fought other in the open field,
and there was nae milling in the darkmans. [*Murder by night.]
And the gentry had kind hearts, and would have given baith lap and
pannel [*Liquor and food] to ony puir gipsy; and there was not
one, from Johnnie Faa the upright man, [*The leader (and greatest
rogue) of the gang.] to little Christie that was in the panniers,
would cloyed a dud [*Stolen a rag] from them. But ye are a'
altered from the gude auld rules, and no wonder that you scour the
cramp-ring, and trine to the cheat [*Get imprisoned and hanged.]
sae often. Yes, ye are a' altered-you'll cat the gudeman's meat,
drink his drink, sleep on the strammel [*Straw] in his barn, and
break his house and cut his throat for his pains! There's blood on
your hands, too, ye dogs--mair than ever came there by fair
fighting. See how ye'll die then--lang it was ere he died--he
strove, and strove sair, and could neither die nor live;--but
you--half the country will see how ye'll grace the woodie."
The party set up a hoarse laugh at Meg's prophecy. "What made you
come back here, ye auld beldame?" said one of the gipsies; "could
ye not have staid where you were, and spaed fortunes to the
Cumberland flats?--Bing out and tour, [*Go out and watch] ye auld
devil, and see that nobody has scented; that's a' you're good for
"Is that a' I am good for now?" said the indignant matron. "I was
good for mair than that in the great fight between our folk and
Patrico Salmon's; if I had not helped you with these very fambles
(holding up her hands), Jean Baillie would have frummagem'd you,
[*Throttled you] ye feckless do-little!"
There was here another laugh at the expense of the hero who had
received this amazon's assistance.
"Here, mother," said one of the sailors, "here's a cup of the right
for you, and never mind that bully-huff."
Meg drank the spirits, and, withdrawing herself from further
conversation, sat down before the spot where Brown lay bid, in such
a posture that it would have been difficult for any one to have
approached it without her rising. The men, however, showed no
disposition to disturb her.
They closed around the fire, and held deep consultation together;
but the low tone in which they spoke, and the cant language which
they used, prevented Brown from understanding much of their
conversation. He gathered in general, that they expressed great
indignation against some individual. "He shall have his
gruel,"--said one, and then whispered something very low into the
ear of his comrade.
"I'll have nothing to do with that," said the other
"Are you turned hen-hearted, Jack?"
"No, by G-d, no more than yourself,--but I won't--it was something
like that stopped all the trade fifteen or twenty years ago you
have heard of the 'Loup'?"
"I have heard him (indicating the corpse by a jerk of his head)
tell about that job. G-d, how he used to laugh when he showed us
how he fetched him off the perch!"
"Well, but it did up the trade for one while," said Jack.
"How should that be?" asked the surly villain.
"Why," replied Jack, "the people got rusty about it, and would not
deal, and they had bought so many brooms [*Got so many warrants
"Well for all that," said the other. "I think we should be down
upon the fellow one of these darkmans, and let him get it well."
"But old Meg's asleep now," said another; "she grows a driveller,
and is afraid of her shadow. She'll sing out, [*To sing out or
whistle in the cage, is when a rogue, being apprehended, peaches
against his comrades.] some of these odd-come-shortlies, if you
,don't look sharp."
"Never fear," said the old gipsy man Meg's true-bred; she's the
last in the gang that will start--but she has some queer ways, and
often cuts queer words."
With more of this gibberish, they continued the conversation,
rendering it thus, even to each other, a dark obscure dialect, eked
out by significant nods and signs, but never expressing distinctly,
or in plain language, the subject on which it turned. At length
one of them, observing Meg was still fast asleep, or appeared to be
so, desired one of the lads "to hand in the black Peter, that they
might flick it open." The boy stepped to the door, and brought in
a portmanteau, which Brown instantly recognised for his own. His
thoughts immediately turned to the unfortunate lad he had left with
the carriage. Had the ruffians murdered him? was the horrible
doubt that crossed his mind. The agony of his attention grew yet
keener, and while the villains pulled out and admired the different
articles of his clothes and linen, he eagerly listened for some
indication that might intimate the fate of the postilion. But the
ruffians were too much delighted with their prize, and too much
busied in examining its contents, to enter into any detail
concerning the manner in which they had acquired it. The
portmanteau contained various articles of apparel, a pair of
pistols, a leathern cast with a few papers, and some money, etc.
etc. At any other time it would have provoked Brown excessively to
see the unceremonious manner in which the thieves shared his
property, and made themselves merry at the expense or the owner.
But the moment was too perilous to admit any thoughts but what had
immediate reference to self-preservation.
After a sufficient scrutiny into the portmanteau, and an equitable
division of its contents, the ruffians applied themselves more
closely to the serious occupation of drinking, in which they spent
the greater part of the night. Brown was for some time in great
hopes that they would drink so deep as to render themselves
insensible, when his escape would have been an easy matter. But
their dangerous trade required precautions inconsistent with such
unlimited indulgence, and they stopped short on this side of
absolute intoxication. Three of them at length composed themselves
to rest, while the fourth watched. He was relieved in--this
duty by one of the others, after a vigil of two hours. When the
second watch had elapsed, the sentinel awakened the whole, who, to
Brown's inexpressible relief, began to make some preparations as if
for departure, bundling up the various articles which each had
appropriated. Still, however, there remained something to be
done. Two of them, after some rummaging, which not a little
alarmed Brown, produced a mattock and shovel, another took a
pickaxe from behind the straw on which the dead body was extended.
With these implements two of them left the hut, and the remaining
three, two of whom were the seamen, very strong men, still remained
After the space of about half an hour, one of those who had
departed again returned, and whispered the others. They wrapped up
the dead body in the sea-cloak which had served as a pall, and went
out, bearing it along with them. The aged sibyl then arose from
her real or feigned slumbers. She first went to the door, as if for
the purpose of watching the departure of her late inmates, then
returned, and commanded Brown, in a low and stifled voice, to
follow her instantly. He obeyed; but, on leaving the hut, he would
willingly have repossessed himself of his money, or papers at
least, but this she prohibited in the most peremptory manner. It
immediately occurred to him that the suspicion of having removed
anything, of which he might repossess himself, would fall upon this
woman, by whom, in all probability, his life had been saved. He
therefore immediately desisted from his attempt, contenting himself
with seizing a cutlass, which one of the ruffians had flung aside
among the straw. On his feet, and possessed of this weapon, he
already found himself half delivered from the dangers which beset
him. Still, however, he felt stiffened and cramped, both with the
cold, and by the constrained and unaltered position which he had
occupied all night. But as he followed the gipsy from the door of
the hut, the fresh air of the morning, and the action of walking,
restored circulation and activity to his benumbed limbs.
The pale light of a winter's morning was rendered more clear by the
snow, which was lying all around, crisped by the influence of a
severe frost. Brown cast a hasty glance at the landscape around
him, that he might be able again to know the spot. The little
tower, of which only a single vault remained, forming the dismal
apartment in which he had spent this remarkable night, was perched
on the very point of a projecting rock overhanging the rivulet. It
was accessible only on one side, and that from the ravine or glen
below. On the other three sides the bank was precipitous, so that
Brown had on the preceding evening escaped more dangers than one;
for, if he had attempted to go round the building, which was once
his purpose, he must have been dashed to pieces. The dell was so
narrow that the trees met in some places from the opposite sides.
They were now loaded with snow instead of leaves, and thus formed a