Home  »  Guy Mannering, or the Astrologer  »  Chapter XL

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

Chapter XL

  • Can no rest find me, no private place secure me,
  • But still my miseries like bloodhounds haunt me?
  • Unfortunate young man, which way now guides thee,
  • Guides thee from death? The country’s laid around for thee.
  • Women Pleased.

  • OUR narrative now recalls us for a moment to the period when young Hazlewood received his wound. That accident had no sooner happened, than the consequences to Miss Mannering and to himself rushed upon Brown’s mind. From the manner in which the muzzle of the piece was pointed when it went off, he had no great fear that the consequences would be fatal. But an arrest in a strange country, and while he was unprovided with any means of establishing his rank and character, was at least to be avoided. He therefore resolved to escape for the present to the neighboring coast of England, and to remain concealed there, if possible, until he should receive letters from his regimental friends, and remittances from his agent; and then to resume his own character, and offer to young Hazlewood and his friends any explanation or satisfaction they might desire. With this purpose he walked stoutly forward, after leaving the spot where the accident had happened, and reached without adventure the village which we have called Portanferry (but which the reader will in vain seek for under that name in the county map). A large open boat was just about to leave the quay, bound for the little seaport of Allonby, in Cumberland. In this vessel Brown embarked, and resolved to make that place his temporary abode, until he should receive letters and money from England.

    In the course of their short voyage he entered into some conversation with the steersman, who was also owner of the boat,—a jolly old man, who had occasionally been engaged in the smuggling trade, like most fishers on the coast. After talking about objects of less interest, Brown endeavoured to turn the discourse towards the Mannering family. The sailor had heard of the attack upon the house at Woodbourne, but disapproved of the smugglers’ proceedings.

    ‘Hands off is fair play. Zounds! they’ll bring the whole country down upon them. Na, na! when I was in that way, I played at giff-gaff with the officers: here a cargo taen—vera weel, that was their luck;—there another carried clean through, that was mine. Na, na! hawks shouldna pike out hawks’ een.’

    ‘And this Colonel Mannering?’ said Brown.

    ‘Troth, he ’s nae wise man neither, to interfere. No that I blame him for saving the gaugers’ lives—that was very right; but it wasna like a gentleman to be fighting about the poor folk’s pocks o’ tea and brandy kegs; however, he ’s a grand man and an officer man, and they do what they like wi’ the like o’ us.’

    ‘And his daughter,’ said Brown, with a throbbing heart, ‘is going to be married into a great family too, as I have heard?’

    ‘What, into the Hazlewood’s?’ said the pilot. ‘Na, na, that’s but idle clashes—every Sabbath day, as regularly as it came round, did the young man ride hame wi’ the daughter of the late Ellangowan;—and my daughter Peggy’s in the service up at Woodbourne, and she says she’s sure young Hazlewood thinks nae mair of Miss Mannering than you do.’

    Bitterly censuring his own precipitate adoption of a contrary belief, Brown yet heard with delight that the suspicions of Julia’s fidelity, upon which he had so rashly acted, were probably void of foundation. How must he in the meantime be suffering in her opinion? or what could she suppose of conduct, which must have made him appear to her regardless alike of her peace of mind, and of the interests of their affection? The old man’s connexion with the family at Woodbourne seemed to offer a safe mode of communication, of which he determined to avail himself.

    ‘Your daughter is a maid-servant at Woodbourne?—I knew Miss Mannering in India, and though I am at present in an inferior rank of life. I have great reason to hope she would interest herself in my favour. I had a quarrel unfortunately with her father, who was my commanding-officer, and I am sure the young lady would endeavor to reconcile him to me. Perhaps your daughter could deliver a letter to her upon the subject, without making mischief between her father and her?’

    The old man, a friend to smuggling of every kind, readily answered for the letter’s being faithfully and secretly delivered; and, accordingly, as soon as they arrived at Allonby, Brown wrote to Miss Mannering, stating the utmost contrition for what had happened through his rashness, and conjuring her to let him have an opportunity of pleading his own cause, and obtaining forgiveness for his indiscretion. He did not judge it safe to go into any detail concerning the circumstances by which he had been misled, and upon the whole endeavoured to express himself with such ambiguity, that if the letter should fall into wrong hands, it would be difficult either to understand its real purport, or to trace the writer. This letter the old man undertook faithfully to deliver to his daughter at Woodbourne; and, as his trade would speedily again bring him or his boat to Allonby, he promised further to take charge of any answer with which the young lady might entrust him.

    And now our persecuted traveller landed at Allonby, and sought for such accommodations as might at once suit his temporary poverty, and his desire of remaining as much unobserved as possible. With this view he assumed the name and profession of his friend Dudley, having command enough of the pencil to verify his pretended character to his host of Allonby. His baggage he pretended to expect from Wigton; and keeping himself as much within doors as possible, awaited the return of the letters which he had sent to his agent, to Delaserre, and to his Lieutenant-Colonel. From the first he requested a supply of money; he conjured Delaserre, if possible, to join him in Scotland; and from the Lieutenant-Colonel he required such testimony of his rank and conduct in the regiment, as should place his character as a gentleman and officer beyond the power of question. The inconvenience of being run short in his finances struck him so strongly, that he wrote to Dinmont on that subject, requesting a small temporary loan, having no doubt that, being within sixty or seventy miles of his residence, he should receive a speedy as well as favourable answer to his request of pecuniary accommodation, which was owing, as he stated, to his having been robbed after their parting. And then, with impatience enough, though without any serious apprehension, he waited the answers of these various letters.

    It must be observed, in excuse of his correspondents, that the post was then much more tardy than since Mr. Palmer’s ingenious invention has taken place; and with respect to honest Dinmont in particular, as he rarely received above one letter a quarter (unless during the time of his being engaged in a lawsuit, when he regularly sent to the post-town), his correspondence usually remained for a month or two sticking in the postmaster’s window, among pamphlets, gingerbread, rolls, or ballads, according to the trade which the said postmaster exercised. Besides, there was then a custom, not yet wholly obsolete, of causing a letter, from one town to another, perhaps within the distance of thirty miles, perform a circuit of two hundred miles before delivery; which had the combined advantage of airing the epistle thoroughly, of adding some pence to the revenue of the post-office, and of exercising the patience of the correspondents. Owing to these circumstances, Brown remained several days in Allonby without any answers whatever; and his stock of money, though husbanded with the utmost economy, began to wear very low, when he received, by the hands of a young fisherman, the following letter:—

  • ‘You have acted with the most cruel indiscretion; you have shown how little I can trust to your declarations that my peace and happiness are dear to you; and your rashness has nearly occasioned the death of a young man of the highest worth and honour. Must I say more?—must I add, that I have been myself very ill in consequence of your violence and its effects? And, alas! need I say still further, that I have thought anxiously upon them as they are to do so? The C. is gone from home for several days; Mr. H. is almost quite recovered; and I have reason to think that the blame is laid in a quarter different from that where it is deserved. Yet do not think of venturing here. Our fate has been crossed by accidents of a nature too violent and terrible to permit me to think of renewing a correspondence which has so often threatened the most dreadful catastrophe. Farewell, therefore, and believe that no one can wish your happiness more sincerely than
  • ‘J. M.’
  • This letter contained that species of advice, which is frequently given for the precise purpose that it may lead to a directly opposite conduct from that which it recommends. At least so thought Brown, who immediately asked the young fisherman if he came from Portanferry.

    ‘Aye,’ said the lad; ‘I am auld Willie Johnstone’s son, and I got that letter frae my sister Peggy, that’s laundry-maid at Woodbourne.’

    ‘My good friend, when do you sail?’

    ‘With the tide this evening.’

    ‘I’ll return with you;—but as I do not desire to go to Portanferry, I wish you could put me on shore somewhere on the coast.’

    ‘We can easily do that,’ said the lad.

    Although the price of provisions, &c. was then very moderate, the discharging his lodgings, and the expense of his living, together with that of a change of dress, which safety, as well as a proper regard to his external appearance, rendered necessary, brought Brown’s purse to a very low ebb. He left directions at the post-office that his letters should be forwarded to Kippletringan, whither he resolved to proceed, and reclaim the treasure which he had deposited in the hands of Mrs. Mac-Candlish. He also felt it would be his duty to assume his proper character as soon as he should receive the necessary evidence for supporting it, and, as an officer in the king’s service, give and receive every explanation which might be necessary with young Hazlewood. ‘If he is not very wrong-headed indeed,’ he thought, ‘he must allow not manner in which I acted to have been the necessary consequence of his own overbearing conduct.’

    And now we must suppose him once more embarked on the Solway frith. The wild was adverse, attended by some rain, and they struggled against it without much assistance from the tide. The boat was heavily laden with goods (part of which were probably contraband) and laboured deep in the sea. Brown, who had been bred a sailor, and was indeed skilled in most athletic exercises, gave his powerful and effectual assistance in rowing, or occasionally in steering the boat, and his advice in the management, which became the more delicate as the wind increased, and, being opposed to the very rapid tides of that coast, made the voyage perilous. At length, after spending the whole night upon the frith, they were at morning within sight of a beautiful bay upon the Scottish coast. The weather was now more mild. The snow, which had been for some time waning, had given way entirely under the fresh gale of the preceding night. The more distant hills, indeed, retained their snowy mantle, but all the open country was cleared, unless where a few white patches indicated that it had been drifted to an uncommon depth. Even under its wintry appearance, the shore was highly interesting. The line of sea-coast, with all its varied curves, indentures, and embayments, swept away from the sight on either hand, in that varied, intricate, yet graceful and easy line, which the eye loves so well to pursue. And it was no less relieved and varied in elevation than in outline, by the different forms of the shore; the beach in some places being edged by steep rocks, and in others rising smoothly from the sands in easy and swelling slopes.—Buildings of different kinds caught and reflected the wintry sunbeams of a December morning, and the woods, though now leafless, gave relief and variety to the landscape. Brown felt that lively and awakening interest which taste and sensibility always derive from the beauties of nature, when opening suddenly to the eye after the dullness and gloom of a night voyage. Perhaps—for who can presume to analyse that inexplicable feeling which binds the person born in a mountainous country to his native hills?—perhaps some early associations, retaining their effect long after the cause was forgotten, mingled in the feelings of pleasure with which he regarded the scene before him.

    ‘And what,’ said Brown to the boatman, ‘is the name of that fine cape, that stretches into the sea, with its sloping banks and hillocks of wood, and forms the right side of the bay?’

    ‘Warroch Point,’ answered the lad.

    ‘And that old castle, my friend, with the modern house situated just beneath it? It seems at this distance a very large building.’

    ‘That’s the Auld Place, sir; and that’s the New Place below it. We’ll land you there, if you like.’

    ‘I should like it of all things. I must visit that ruin before I continue my journey.’

    ‘Aye, it’s a queer old bit,’ said the fisherman; ‘and that highest tower is a gude landmark as far as Ramsay in Man, and the Point of Ayr;—there was muckle fighting about the place lang syne.’

    Brown would have inquired into further particulars, but a fisherman is seldom an antiquary. His boatman’s local knowledge was summed up in the information already given, ‘that it was a grand landmark, and that there had been muckle fighting about the bit lang syne.’

    ‘I shall learn more of it,’ said Brown to himself, ‘when I get ashore.’

    The boat continued its course close under the point upon which the castle was situated, which frowned from the summit of its rocky site upon the still agitated waves of the bay beneath. ‘I believe,’ said the steersman, ‘ye’ll get ashore here as dry as ony gate. There’s a place where their berlins and galleys, as they ca’d them, used to lie in lang syne, but it’s no used now, because it’s ill carrying gudes up the narrow stairs, or ower the rocks. Whiles of a moonlight night I have landed articles there, though.’

    While he thus spoke, they pulled round a point of rock, and found a very small harbour, partly formed by nature, partly by the indefatigable labour of the ancient inhabitants of the castle, who, as the fisherman observed, had found it essential for the protection of their boats and small craft, though it could not receive vessels of any burden. The two points of rock which formed the access approached each other so nearly, that only one boat could enter at a time. On each side were still remaining two immense iron rings, deeply morticed into the solid rock. Through these, according to tradition, there was nightly drawn a huge chain, secured by an immense padlock, for the protection of the haven, and the armada which it contained. A ledge of rock had, by the assistance of the chisel and pickaxe, been formed into a sort of quay. The rock was of extremely hard consistence, and the task so difficult, that, according to the fisherman, a labourer who wrought at the work might in the evening have carried home in his bonnet all the shivers which he had struck from the mass in the course of the day. This little quay communicated with a rude staircase, already repeatedly mentioned, which descended from the old castle. There was also a communication between the beach and the quay, by scrambling over the rocks.

    ‘Ye had better land here,’ said the lad, ‘for the surf’s running high at the Shellicoat-stane, and there will no be a dry thread amang us or we get the cargo out.—Na! na!’ (in answer to an offer of money) ‘ye have wrought for your passage, and wrought far better than ony o’ us. Gude day to ye: I wuss ye weel.’

    So saying, he pushed off in order to land his cargo on the opposite side of the bay; and Brown, with a small bundle in his hand, containing the trifling stock of necessaries which he had been obliged to purchase at Allonby, was left on the rocks beneath the ruin.

    And thus, unconscious as the most absolute stranger, and in circumstances which, if not destitute, were for the present highly embarrassing; without the countenance of a friend within the circle of several hundred miles; accused of a heavy crime, and, what was as bad as all the rest, being nearly penniless, did the harassed wanderer, for the first time after the interval of so many years, approach the remains of the castle where his ancestors had exercised all but regal dominion.