Home  »  Guy Mannering, or the Astrologer  »  Chapter IX

Sir Walter Scott. (1771–1832). Guy Mannering.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.

Chapter IX

  • Paint Scotland greeting ower her thrissle,
  • Her mutchkin stoup as toom’s a whistle,
  • And d—néd excisemen in a bustle,
  • Seizing a stell;
  • Triumphant crushin’t like a mussell,
  • Or lampit shell.
  • BURNS.

  • DURING the period of Mr. Bertram’s active magistracy, he did not forget the affairs of the revenue. Smuggling, for which the Isle of Man then afforded peculiar facilities, was general or rather universal, all along the south-western coast of Scotland. Almost all the common people were engaged in these practices; the gentry connived at them, and the officers of the revenue were frequently discountenanced in the exercise of their duty by those who should have protected them.

    There was at this period, employed as a riding officer or supervisor in that part of the country, a certain Francis Kennedy, already named in our narrative; a stout, resolute, and active man, who had made seizures to a great amount, and was proportionally hated by those who had an interest in the fair trade, as they called the pursuit of these contraband adventurers. This person was natural son to a gentleman of good family, owing to which circumstance, and to his being of a jolly convivial disposition and singing a good song, he was admitted to the occasional society of the gentlemen of the country, and was a member of several of their clubs for practising athletic games, at which he was particularly expert.

    At Ellangowan, Kennedy was a frequent and always an acceptable guest. His vivacity relieved Mr. Bertram of the trouble of thought, and the labour which it cost him to support a detailed communication of ideas; while the daring and dangerous exploits which he had undertaken in the discharge of his office, formed excellent conversation. To all these revenue adventures did the Laird of Ellangowan seriously incline, and the amusement which he derived from Kennedy’s society formed an excellent reason for countenancing and assisting the narrator in the execution of his invidious and hazardous duty.

    ‘Frank Kennedy,’ he said, ‘was a gentleman, though on the wrang side of the blanket—he was connected with the family of Ellangowan through the house of Glengubble. The last Laird of Glengubble would have brought the estate into the Ellangowan line; but happening to go to Harrigate, he there met with Miss Jean Hadaway—by the by, the Green Dragon at Harrigate is the best house of the twa;—but for Frank Kennedy, he’s in one sense a gentleman born, and it’s a shame not to support him against these blackguard smugglers.’

    After this league had taken place between judgement and execution, it chanced that Captain Dirk Hatteraick had landed a cargo of spirits and other contraband goods, upon the beach not far from Ellangowan, and, confiding in the indifference with which the Laird had formerly regarded similar infractions of the law, he was neither very anxious to conceal nor to expedite the transaction. The consequence was that Mr. Frank Kennedy, armed with a warrant from Ellangowan and supported by some of the Laird’s people who knew the country and by a party of military, poured down upon the kegs, bales, and bags, and after a desperate affray, in which severe wounds were given and received, succeeded in clapping the broad arrow upon the articles, and bearing them off in triumph to the next custom-house.

    Dirk Hatteraick vowed, in Dutch, German, and English, a deep and full revenge, both against the gauger and his abettors; and all who knew him thought it likely he would keep his word.

    A few days after the departure of the gipsy tribe, Mr. Bertram asked his lady one morning at breakfast, whether this was not little Harry’s birthday?’

    ‘Five years auld, exactly, this blessed day,’ answered the lady; ‘so we may look into the English gentleman’s paper.’

    Mr. Bertram liked to show his authority in trifles. ‘No my dear, not till to-morrow. The last time I was at quarter-sessions, the sheriff told us that dies—that dies inceptus—in short—you don’t understand Latin—but it means that a term-day is not begun till it’s ended.’

    ‘That sounds like nonsense, my dear.’

    ‘May be so, my dear; but it may be very good law for all that. I am sure, speaking of term-days, I wish, as Frank Kennedy says, that Whitsunday would kill Martinmas, and be hanged for the murder—for there I have got a letter about that interest of Jenny Cairns’s, and deil a tenant’s been at the Place yet wi’ a boddle of rent,—nor will not till Candlemas—but, speaking of Frank Kennedy, I dare say he’ll be here the day, for he was away round to Wigton to warn a king’s ship that’s lying in the bay about Dirk Hatteraick’s lugger being on the coast again, and he’ll be back this day; so we’ll have a bottle of claret and drink little Harry’s health.’

    ‘I wish,’ replied the lady, ‘Frank Kennedy would let Dirk Hatteraick alane. What needs he make himself mair busy than other folk? Cannot he sing his sang, and take his drink, and draw his salary, like Collector Snail, honest man, that never fashes onybody? And I wonder at you, Laird, for meddling and making—Did we ever want to send for tea or brandy frae the Borough-town, when Dirk Hatteraick used to come quietly into the bay?’

    ‘Mrs. Bertram, you know nothing of these matters. Do you think it becomes a magistrate to let his own house be made a receptacle for smuggled goods? Frank Kennedy will show you the penalties in the act, and ye ken yoursell they used to put their run goods into the Auld Place of Ellangowan, up by there.’

    ‘Oh, dear, Mr. Bertram, and what the waur were the wa’s and the vault o’ the auld castle for having a whin kegs o’ brandy in them at an orra time? I am sure ye were not obliged to ken onything about it;—and what the waur was the King that the lairds here got a soup o’ drink, and the ladies their drap o’ tea, at a reasonable rate?—it’s a shame to them to pit such taxes on them!—and was na I much the better of these Flanders head and pinners, that Dirk Hatteraick sent me á the way from Antwerp? It will be lang or the King sends me onything, or Frank Kennedy either.—And then ye would quarrel with these gipsies too! I expect every day to hear the barnyard’s in a low.’

    ‘I tell you once more, my dear, you don’t understand these things—and there’s Frank Kennedy coming galloping up the avenue.’

    ‘Aweel, aweel, Ellangowan,’ said the lady, raising her voice as the Laird left the room, ‘I wish ye may understand them yoursell, that’s á!’

    From this nuptial dialogue the Laird joyfully escaped to meet his faithful friend, Mr. Kennedy, who arrived in high spirits. ‘For the love of life, Ellangowan,’ he said, ‘get up to the castle! you’ll see that old fox Dirk Hatteraick, and his Majesty’s hounds in full cry after him.’ So saying, he flung his horse’s bridle to a boy, and ran up the ascent to the old castle, followed by the Laird, and indeed by several others of the family, alarmed by the sound of guns from the sea, now distinctly heard.

    On gaining that part of the ruins which commanded the most extensive outlook, they saw a lugger, with all her canvas crowded, standing across the bay, closely pursued by a sloop of war that kept firing upon the chase from her bows, which the lugger returned with her stern-chasers. ‘They’re but at long bowls yet,’ cried Kennedy, in great exultation, ‘but they will be closer by and by.——D—n him, he’s starting his cargo! I see the good Nantz pitching overboard, keg after keg!—that’s a d——d ungenteel thing of Mr. Hatteraick, as I shall let him know by and by.—Now, now! they’ve got the wind of him!—that’s it, that’s it!—Hark to him! hark to him! Now, my dogs! now, my dogs!—hark to Ranger, hark!’

    ‘I think,’ said the old gardener to one of the maids, ‘the gauger’s fie;’ by which word the common people express those violent spirits which they think a presage of death.

    Meantime the chase continued. The lugger, being piloted with great ability and using every nautical shift to make her escape, had now reached, and was about to double the headland which formed the extreme point of land on the left side of the bay, when a ball having hit the yard in the slings, the mainsail fell upon the deck. The consequence of this accident appeared inevitable, but could not be seen by the spectators; for the vessel, which had just doubled the headland, lost steerage and fell out of their sight behind the promontory. The sloop of war crowded all sail to pursue, but she had stood too close upon the cape, so that they were obliged to wear the vessel for fear of going ashore, and to make a large tack back into the bay, in order to recover sea-room enough to double the headland.

    ‘They’ll lose her, by ——!—cargo and lugger, one or both,’ said Kennedy. ‘I must gallop away to the Point of Warroch’ (this was the headland so often mentioned), ‘and make them a signal where she has drifted to on the other side. Good-bye for an hour, Ellangowan—get out the gallon punch-bowl and plenty of lemons. I’ll stand for the French article by the time I come back, and we’ll drink the young Laird’s health in a bowl that would swim the Collector’s yawl.’ So saying, he mounted his horse and galloped off.

    About a mile from the house, and upon the verge of the woods, which, as we have said, covered a promontory terminating in the cape called the Point of Warroch, Kennedy met young Harry Bertram, attended by his tutor, Dominie Sampson. He had often promised the child a ride upon his galloway; and, from singing, dancing, and playing Punch for his amusement, was a particular favourite. He no sooner came scampering up the path, than the boy loudly claimed his promise; and Kennedy, who saw no risk in indulging him, and wished to tease the Dominie in whose visage he read a remonstrance, caught up Harry from the ground, placed him before him, and continued his route; Sampson’s ‘Peradventure, Master Kennedy’——being lost in the clatter of his horse’s feet. The pedagogue hesitated a moment whether he should go after them; but Kennedy being a person in full confidence of the family, and with whom he himself had no delight in associating, ‘being that he was addicted unto profane and scurrilous jests,’ he continued his own walk at his own pace, till he reached the Place of Ellangowan.

    The spectators from the ruined walls of the castle were still watching the sloop of war, which at length, but not without the loss of considerable time, recovered sea-room enough to weather the Point of Warroch, and was lost to their sight behind that wooded promontory. Some time afterwards the discharges of several cannon were heard at a distance, and, after an interval, a still louder explosion as of a vessel blown up, and a cloud of smoke rose above the trees, and mingled with the blue sky. All then separated on their different occasions, auguring variously upon the fate of the smuggler, but the majority insisting that her capture was inevitable, if she had not already gone to the bottom.

    ‘It is near our dinner-time, my dear,’ said Mrs. Bertram to her husband; ‘will it be lang before Mr. Kennedy comes back?’

    ‘I expect him every moment, my dear,’ said the Laird; ‘perhaps he is bringing some of the officers of the sloop with him.’

    ‘My stars, Mr. Bertram! why did not ye tell me this before, that we might have had the large round table? and then, they’re á tired o’ saut meat, and, to tell you the plain truth, a rump o’ beef is the best part of your dinner—and then I wad have put on another gown, and ye wadna have been the waur o’ a clean neckcloth yoursell—But ye delight in surprising and hurrying one—I am sure I am no to haud out for ever against this sort of going on.—But when folk’s missed, then they are moaned.’

    ‘Pshaw! pshaw! deuce take the beef, and the gown, and table, and the neckcloth!—we shall do all very well.—Where’s the Dominie, John?—(to a servant who was busy about the table)—where’s the Dominie and little Harry?’

    ‘Mr. Sampson’s been at hame these twa hours and mair, but I dinna think Mr. Harry came hame wi’ him.’

    ‘Not come hame wi’ him?’ said the lady; ‘desire Mr. Sampson to step this way directly.’

    ‘Mr. Sampson,’ said she, upon his entrance, ‘is it not the most extraordinary thing in this world wide, that you, that have free up-putting—bed, board, and washing—and twelve pounds sterling a year just to look after that boy, should left him out of your sight for twa or three hours?’

    Sampson made a bow of humble acknowledgement at each pause which the angry lady made in her enumeration of the advantages of his situation, in order to give more weight to her remonstrance, and then, in words which we will not do him the injustice to imitate, told how Mr. Francis Kennedy ‘had assumed spontaneously the charge of Master Harry, in despite of his remonstrances in the contrary.’

    ‘I am very little obliged to Mr. Francis Kennedy for his pains,’ said the lady peevishly. ‘Suppose he lets the boy drop from his horse and lames him? or suppose one of the cannons comes ashore and kills him?—or suppose——’

    ‘Or suppose, my dear,’ said Ellangowan, ‘what is much more likely than anything else, that they have gone aboard the sloop or the prize, and are to come round the Point with the tide?’

    ‘And then they may be drowned,’ said the lady.

    ‘Verily,’ said Sampson, ‘I thought Mr. Kennedy had returned an hour since—Of a surety, I deemed I heard his horse’s feet.’

    ‘That,’ said John, with a broad grin, ‘was Gizzel chasing the humble-cow out of the close.’

    Sampson coloured up to the eyes—not at the implied taunt, which he would never have discovered, or resented if he had, but at some idea which crossed his own mind. ‘I have been in an error,’ he said, ‘of a surety I should have tarried for the babe.’ So saying, he snatched his boneheaded cane and hat, and hurried away towards Warroch wood, faster than he was ever known to walk before, or after.

    The Laird lingered some time, debating the point with the lady. At length he saw the sloop of war again make her appearance; but, without approaching the shore, she stood away to the westward, with all her sails set, and was soon out of sight. The lady’s state of timorous and fretful apprehension was so habitual, that her fears went for nothing with her lord and master; but an appearance of disturbance and anxiety among the servants now excited his alarm, especially when he was called out of the room, and told in private that Mr. Kennedy’s horse had come to the stable-door alone, with the saddle turned round below its belly and the reins of the bridle broken; and that a farmer had informed them in passing, that there was a smuggling lugger burning like a furnace on the other side of the point of Warroch, and that, though he had come through the wood, he had seen or heard nothing of Kennedy or the young Laird, ‘only there was Dominie Sampson, gaun rampauging about, like mad, seeking for them.’

    All was now bustle at Ellangowan. The Laird and his servants, male and female, hastened to the wood of Warroch. The tenants and cottagers in the neighbourhood lent their assistance, partly out of zeal, partly from curiosity. Boats were manned to search the sea-shore, which, on the other side of the Point, rose into high and indented rocks. A vague suspicion was entertained, though too horrible to be expressed, that the child might have fallen from one of these cliffs.

    The evening had begun to close when the parties entered the wood, and dispersed different ways in quest of the boy and his companion. The darkening of the atmosphere and the hoarse sighs of the November wind through the naked trees, the rustling of the withered leaves which stewed the glades, the repeated halloos of the different parties, which often drew them together in expectation of meeting the objects of their search, gave a cast of dismal sublimity to the scene.

    At length, after a minute and fruitless investigation through the wood, the searchers began to draw together into one body and to compare notes. The agony of the father grew beyond concealment, yet it scarcely equalled the anguish of the tutor. ‘Would to God I had died for him!’ the affectionate creature repeated in tones of the deepest distress. Those who were less interested, rushed into a tumultuary discussion of chances and possibilities. Each gave his opinion, and each was alternately swayed by that of the others. Some thought the objects of their search had gone aboard the sloop; some, that they had gone to a village at three miles distance; some whispered they might have been on board the lugger, a few planks and beams of which the tide now drifted ashore.

    At this instant, a shout was heard from the beach, so loud, so shrill, so piercing, so different from every sound which the woods that day had rung to, that nobody hesitated a moment to believe that it conveyed tidings, and tidings of dreadful import. All hurried to the place, and, venturing without scruple upon paths which at another time they would have shuddered to look at, descended towards a cleft of the rock, where one boat’s crew was already landed. ‘Here, sirs!—here!—this way, for God’s sake!—this way! this way!’ was the reiterated cry.—Ellangowan broke through the throng which had already assembled at the fatal spot, and beheld the object of their terror. It was the dead body of Kennedy. At first sight he seemed to have perished by a fall from the rocks, which rose above the spot on which he lay, in a perpendicular precipice of a hundred feet above the beach. The corpse was lying half in, half out of the water; the advancing tide, raising the arm and stirring the clothes, had given it at some distance the appearance of motion, so that those who first discovered the body thought that life remained. But every spark had been long extinguished.

    ‘My bairn! my bairn!’ cried the distracted father, ‘where can he be?’—A dozen mouths were open to communicate hopes which no one felt. Some one at length mentioned—the gipsies! In a moment Ellangowan had reascended the cliffs, flung himself upon the first horse he met, and rode furiously to the huts at Derncleugh. All was there dark and desolate; and, as he dismounted to make more minute search, he stumbled over fragments of furniture which had been thrown out of the cottages, and the broken wood and thatch which had been pulled down by his orders. At that moment the prophecy or anathema of Meg Merrilies fell heavy on his mind. ‘You have stripped the thatch from seven cottages,—see that the roof-tree of your own house stand the surer!’

    ‘Restore,’ he cried, ‘restore my bairn! bring me back my son, and all shall be forgot and forgiven!’ As he uttered these words in a sort of frenzy, his eye caught a glimmering of light in one of the dismantled cottages—it was that in which Meg Merrilies formerly resided. The light, which seemed to proceed from fire, glimmered not only through the window, but also through the rafters of the hut where the roofing had been torn off.

    He flew to the place; the entrance was bolted: despair gave the miserable father the strength of ten men: he rushed against the door with such violence, that it gave way before the momentum of his weight and force. The cottage was empty, but bore marks of recent habitation: there was fire on the hearth, a kettle, and some preparation for food. As he eagerly gazed round for something that might confirm his hope that his child yet lived, although in the power of those strange people, a man entered the hut.

    It was his old gardener. ‘Oh sir!’ said the old man, ‘such a night as this I trusted never to live to see!—ye maun come to the Place directly!’

    ‘Is my boy found?—is he alive?—have ye found Harry Bertram?—Andrew, have ye found Harry Bertram?’

    ‘No, sir; but——’

    ‘Then he is kidnapped! I am sure of it, Andrew—as sure as that I tread upon earth! She has stolen him—and I will never stir from this place till I have tidings of my bairn!’

    ‘Oh, but ye maun come hame, sir! ye maun come hame! we have sent for the Sheriff, and we’ll set a watch here á night, in case the gipsies return; but you—ye maun come hame, sir,——for my lady’s in the dead-thraw.’

    Bertram turned a stupefied and unmeaning eye on the messenger who uttered this calamitous news; and, repeating the words ‘in the dead-thraw!’ as if he could not comprehend their meaning, suffered the old man to drag him towards his horse. During the ride home, he only said. ‘Wife and bairn, baith—mother and son, baith—Sair, sair to abide!’

    It is needless to dwell upon the new scene of agony which awaited him. The news of Kennedy’s fate had been eagerly and incautiously communicated at Ellangowan, with the gratuitous addition, that doubtless, ‘he had drawn the young Laird over the craig with him, though the tide had swept away the child’s body—he was light, puir thing! and would flee further into the surf.’

    Mrs. Bertram heard the tidings; she was far advanced in her pregnancy; she fell into the pains of premature labour, and ere Ellangowan had recovered his agitated faculties, so as to comprehend the full distress of his situation, he was the father of a female infant, and a widower.