Home  »  Guy Mannering, or the Astrologer  »  Chapter V

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

Chapter V

  • ————You have fed upon my seignories,
  • Disparked my parks, and felled my forest woods,
  • From mine own windows torn my household coat,
  • Razed out my impress, leaving me no sign,
  • Save men’s opinions and my living blood,
  • To show the world I am a gentleman.
  • Richard II.

  • WHEN the boat which carried the worthy captain on board his vessel had accomplished that task, the sails began to ascend, and the ship was got under way. She fired three guns as a salute to the house of Ellangowan, and then shot away rapidly before the wind, which blew off shore, under all the sail she could crowd.

    ‘Aye, aye,’ said the Laird, who had sought Mannering for some time, and now joined him, ‘there they go—there go the free-traders—there go Captain Dirk Hatteraick and the Yungfrauw Hagenslaapen, half Manks, half Dutchman, half devil! run out the boltsprit, up mainsail, top and top gallant sails, royals, and skyscrapers, and away—follow who can! That fellow, Mr. Mannering, is the terror of all the excise and custom-house cruisers; they can make nothing of him; he drubs them, or he distances them;—and speaking of excise, I come to bring you to breakfast; and you shall have some tea, that——’

    Mannering, by this time, was aware that one thought linked strangely on to another in the concatenation of worthy Mr. Bertram’s ideas,

  • Like orient pearls at random strung;
  • and, therefore, before the current of his associations had drifted further from the point he had left, he brought him back by some inquiry about Dirk Hatteraick.

    ‘Oh, he’s a—a—gude sort of blackguard fellow eneugh—maebody cares to trouble him—smuggler, when his guns are in ballast—privateer, or pirate, faith, when he gets them mounted. He has done more mischief to the revenue folk than ony rogue that ever came out of Ramsay.’

    ‘But, my good sir, such being his character, I wonder he has any protection and encouragement on this coast.’

    ‘Why, Mr. Mannering, people must have brandy and tea, and there’s none in the country but what comes this way—and then there’s short accounts, and maybe a keg or two, or a dozen pounds left at your stable door, instead of a d—d lang account at Christmas from Duncan Robb the grocer at Kippletringan, who has ay a sum to make up, and either wants ready money or a short-dated bill. Now, Hatteraick will take wood, or he’ll take bark, or he’ll take barley, or he’ll take just what’s convenient at the time. I’ll tell you a gude story about that. There was ance a Laird—that’s Macfie of Gudgeonford,—he had a great number of kain hens—that’s hens that the tenant pays to the landlord, like a sort of rent in kind—they ay feed mine very ill; Luckie Finniston sent up three that were a shame to be seen only last week, and yet she has twelve bows sowing of victual; indeed her good man, Duncan Finniston—that’s him that’s gone—(for we must all die, Mr. Mannering; that’s ower true)—and speaking of that, let us live in the meanwhile, for here’s breakfast on the table and the Dominie ready to say the grace.’

    The Dominie did accordingly pronounce a benediction, that exceeded in length any speech which Mannering had yet heard him utter. The tea, which of course belonged to the noble Captain Hatteraick’s trade, was pronounced excellent. Still Mannering hinted, though with due delicacy, at the risk of encouraging such desperate characters: ‘Were it but in justice to the revenue, I should have supposed——’

    ‘Ah, the revenue-lads’—for Mr. Bertram never embraced a general or abstract idea, and his notion of the revenue was personified in the commissioners, surveyors, comptrollers, and riding officers, whom he happened to know—‘the revenuelads can look sharp eneugh out for themselves—no ane needs to help them—and they have a’ the soldiers to assist them besides;—and as to justice—you’ll be surprised to hear it, Mr. Mannering,—but I am not a justice of peace.’

    Mannering assumed the expected look of surprise, but thought within himself that the worshipful bench suffered no great deprivation from wanting the assistance of his good-humoured landlord. Mr. Bertram had now hit upon one of the few subjects on which he felt sore, and went on with some energy.

    ‘No, sir,—the name of Godfrey Bertram of Ellangowan is not in the last commission, though there’s scarce a carle in the country that has a ploughgate of land, but what he must ride to quarter-sessions and write J.P. after his name. I ken fu’ weel whom I am obliged to—Sir Thomas Kittlecourt as good as tell’d me he would sit in my skirts if he had not my interest at the last election; and because I chose to go with my own blood and third cousin, the Laird of Balruddery, they keepit me off the roll of freeholders; and now there comes a new nomination of justices, and I am left out! And whereas they pretend it was because I let David Mac-Guffog, the constable, draw the warrants, and manage the business his ain gate, as if I had been a nose o’ wax, it’s a main untruth; for I granted but seven warrants in my life, and the Dominie wrote every one of them—and if it had not been that unlucky business of Sandy Mac Gruthar’s, that the constables should have keepit twa or three days up yonder at the auld castle, just till they could get conveniency to send him to the county jail—and that cost me eneugh o’ siller—But I ken what Sir Thomas wants very weel—it was just sic and siclike about the seat in the kirk o’ Kilmagirdle—was I not entitled to have the front gallery facing the minister, rather than Mac-Crosskie of Creochstone, the son of Deacon Mac-Crosskie, the Dumfries weaver?’

    Mannering expressed his acquiescence in the justice of these various complaints.

    ‘And then, Mr. Mannering, there was the story about the road, and the fauld-dike—I ken Sir Thomas was behind there, and I said plainly to the clerk to the trustees that I saw the cloven foot, let them take that as they like.—Would any gentleman, or set of gentlemen, go and drive a road right through the corner of a fauld-dike, and take away, as my agent observed to them, like twa roods of gude moorland pasture?—And there was the story about choosing the collector of the cess——’

    ‘Certainly, sir, it is hard you should meet with any neglect in a country, where, to judge from the extent of their residence, your ancestors must have made a very important figure.’

    ‘Very true, Mr. Mannering—I am a plain man and do not dwell on these things: and I must needs say I have little memory for them; but I wish ye could have heard my father’s stories about the auld fights of the Mac-Dingawaies—that’s the Bertrams that now is—wi’ the Irish, and wi’ the Highlanders, that came here in their berlings from Ilay and Cantire—and how they went to the Holy Land—that is, to Jerusalem and Jericho, wi’ a’ their clan at their heels—they had better have gaen to Jamaica like Sir Thomas Kittlecourt’s uncle—and how they brought hame relics like those that Catholics have, and a flag that’s up yonder in the garret—if they had been casks of Muscavado and puncheons of rum, it would have been better for the estate at this day—but there’s little comparison between the auld keep at Kittlecourt and the castle o’ Ellangowan—I doubt if the keep’s forty feet of front.—But ye make no breakfast, Mr. Mannering; ye’re no eating your meat;—allow me to recommend some of the kipper—It was John Hay that catcht it, Saturday was three weeks, down at the stream below Hempseed ford,’ &c. &c. &c.

    The Laird, whose indignation had for some time kept him pretty steady to one topic, now launched forth into his usual roving style of conversation, which gave Mannering ample time to reflect upon the disadvantages attending the situation, which, an hour before, he had thought worthy of so much envy. Here was a country gentleman, whose most estimable quality seemed his perfect good nature, secretly fretting himself and murmuring against others, for causes which, compared with any real evil in life, must weigh like dust in the balance. But such is the equal distribution of Providence. To those who lie out of the road of great afflictions, are assigned petty vexations which answer all the purpose of disturbing their serenity; and every reader must have observed that neither natural apathy nor acquired philosophy can render country gentlemen insensible to the grievances which occur at elections, quartersessions, and meetings of trustees.

    Curious to investigate the manners of the country, Mannering took the advantage of a pause in good Mr. Bertram’s string of stories, to inquire what Captain Hatteraick so earnestly wanted with the gipsy woman.

    ‘Oh, to bless his ship, I suppose. You must know, Mr. Mannering, that these free-traders, whom the law calls smugglers, having no religion, make it all up in superstition: and they have as many spells, and charms, and nonsense——’

    ‘Vanity and waur!’ said the Dominie: it is a trafficking with the Evil One. Spells, periapts, and charms, are of his device—choice arrows out of Apollyon’s quiver.’

    ‘Hold your peace, Dominie—ye’re speaking for ever’—(by the way, they were the first words the poor man had uttered that morning, excepting that he said grace, and returned thanks)—‘Mr. Mannering cannot get in a word for ye!—And so, Mr. Mannering, talking of astronomy, and spells, and these matters, have ye been so kind as to consider what we were speaking about last night?’

    ‘I begin to think, Mr. Bertram, with your worthy friend here, that I have been rather jesting with edge-tools; and although neither you nor I, nor any sensible man, can put faith in the predictions of astrology, yet as it has sometimes happened that inquiries into futurity, undertaken in jest, have in their results produced serious and unpleasant effects both upon actions and characters, I really wish you would dispense with my replying to your question.’

    It was easy to see that this evasive answer only rendered the Laird’s curiosity more uncontrollable. Mannering, however, was determined in his own mind, not to expose the infant to the inconveniences which might have arisen from his being supposed the object of evil prediction. He therefore delivered the paper into Mr. Bertram’s hand, and requested him to keep it for five years with the seal unbroken, until the month of November was expired. After that date had intervened, he left him at liberty to examine the writing, trusting that the first fatal period being then safely over passed, no credit would be paid to its further contents.—This Mr. Bertram was content to promise, and Mannering, to in sure his fidelity, hinted at misfortunes which would certainly take place if his injunctions were neglected. The rest of the day, which Mannering by Mr. Bertram’s invitation spent at Ellangowan, passed over without anything remarkable; and on the morning of that which followed, the traveller mounted his palfrey, bade a courteous adieu to his hospitable landlord and to his clerical attendant, repeated his good wishes for the prosperity of the family, and then turning his horse’s head towards England, disappeared from the sight of the inmates of Ellangowan. He must also disappear from that of our readers, for it is to another and later period of his life that the present narrative relates.