Home  »  Guy Mannering, or the Astrologer  »  Chapter XXXV

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

Chapter XXXV

  • You are one of those that will not serve God if the devil bids you.—Because we come to do you service, you think we are ruffians.
  • Othello.

  • WHEN Glossin returned home, he found, among other letters and papers sent to him, one of considerable importance. It was signed by Mr. Protocol, an attorney in Edinburgh, and, addressing him as the agent for Godfrey Bertram, Esq., late of Ellangowan, and his representatives, acquainted him with the sudden death of Mrs. Margaret Bertram of Singleside, requesting him to inform his clients thereof, in case they should judge it proper to have any person present for their interest at opening the repositories of the deceased. Mr. Glossin perceived at once that the letter-writer was unacquainted with the breach which had taken place between him and his late patron. The estate of the deceased lady should by rights, as he well knew, descend to Lucy Bertram; but it was a thousand to one that the caprice of the old lady might have altered its destination. After running over contingencies and probabilities in his fertile mind, to ascertain what sort of personal advantage might accrue to him from this incident, he could not perceive any mode of availing himself of it, except in so far as it might go to assist his plan of recovering, or rather creating, a character, the want of which he had already experienced, and was likely to feel yet more deeply. ‘I must place myself,’ he thought, ‘on strong ground, that if anything goes wrong with Dirk Hatteraick’s project, I may have prepossessions in my favour at least.’—Besides, to do Glossin justice, bad as he was, he might feel some desire to compensate to Miss Bertram in a small degree, and in a case in which his own interest did not interfere with hers, the infinite mischief which he had occasioned to her family. He therefore resolved early the next morning to ride over to Woodbourne.

    It was not without hesitation that he took this step, having the natural reluctance to face Colonel Mannering, which fraud and villany have to encounter honour and probity. But he had great confidence in his own savoir faire. His talents were naturally acute, and by no means confined to the line of his profession. He had at different times resided a good deal in England, and his address was free both from country rusticity and professional pedantry; so that he had considerable powers both of address and persuasion, joined to an unshaken effrontery which he affected to disguise under plainness of manner. Confident, therefore, in himself, he appeared at Woodbourne, about ten in the morning, and was admitted as a gentleman come to wait upon Miss Bertram.

    He did not announce himself until he was at the door of the breakfast-parlour, when the servant, by his desire, said aloud—‘Mr. Glossin, to wait upon Miss Bertram.’ Lucy, remembering the last scene of her father’s existence, turned as pale as death, and had wellnigh fallen from her chair.

    Julia Mannering flew to her assistance, and they left the room together. There remained Colonel Mannering, Charles Hazlewood with his arm in a sling, and the Dominie, whose gaunt visage and wall-eyes assumed a most hostile aspect on recognizing Glossin.

    That honest gentleman, though somewhat abashed by the effect of his first introduction, advanced with confidence, and hoped he did not intrude upon the ladies. Colonel Mannering, in a very upright and stately manner, observed, that he did not know to what he was to impute the honour of a visit from Mr. Glossin.

    ‘Hem! hem!—I took the liberty to wait upon Miss Bertram, Colonel Mannering, on account of a matter of business.’

    ‘If it can be communicated to Mr. Mac-Morlan, her agent, sir, I believe it will be more agreeable to Miss Bertram.’

    ‘I beg pardon, Colonel Mannering,’ said Glossin, making a wretched attempt at an easy demeanour; ‘you are a man of the world—there are some cases in which it is most prudent for all parties to treat with principals.’

    ‘Then,’ replied Mannering, with a repulsive air, ‘if Mr. Glossin will take the trouble to state his object in a letter, I will answer that Miss Bertram pays proper attention to it.’

    ‘Certainly,’ stammered Glossin;—‘but there are cases in which a viva voce conference—Hem! I perceive—I know—that Colonel Mannering has adopted some prejudices which may make my visit appear intrusive; but I submit to his good sense, whether he ought to exclude me from a hearing without knowing the purpose of my visit, or of how much consequence it may be to the young lady whom he honours with his protection.’

    ‘Certainly, sir, I have not the least intention to do so,’ replied the Colonel. ‘I will learn Miss Bertram’s pleasure on the subject, and acquaint Mr. Glossin, if he can spare time to wait for her answer.’ So saying, he left the room.

    Glossin had still remained standing in the midst of the apartment. Colonel Mannering had made not the slightest motion to invite him to sit, and indeed had remained standing himself during their short interview. When he left the room, however, Glossin seized upon a chair, and threw himself into it with an air between embarrassment and effrontery. He felt the silence of his companions disconcerting and oppressive, and resolved to interrupt it.

    ‘A fine day, Mr. Sampson.’

    The Dominie answered with something between an acquiescent grunt and an indignant groan.

    ‘You never come down to see your old acquaintance on the Ellangowan property, Mr. Sampson—You would find most of the old stagers still stationary there. I have too much respect for the late family to disturb old residenters. even under pretence of improvement. Besides, it’s not my way—I don’t like it—I believe, Mr. Sampson, Scripture particularly condemns those who oppress the poor, and remove landmarks.’

    ‘Or who devour the substance of orphans,’ subjoined the Dominie. ‘Anathema! Maranatha!’ So saying, he rose, shouldered the folio which he had been perusing, faced to the right about, and marched out of the room with the strides of a grenadier.

    Mr. Glossin, no way disconcerted, at least feeling it necessary not to appear so, turned to young Hazlewood, who was apparently busy with the newspaper. ‘Any news, sir?’ Hazlewood raised his eyes, looked at him, and pushed the paper towards him as if to a stranger in a coffee-house, then rose, and was about to leave the room. ‘I beg pardon, Mr. Hazlewood, but I can’t help wishing you joy of getting so easily over that infernal accident.’ This was answered by a sort of inclination of the head, as slight and stiff as could well be imagined. Yet it encouraged our man of law to proceed. ‘I can promise you, Mr. Hazlewood, few people have taken the interest in that matter which I have done, both for the sake of the country, and on account of my particular respect for your family which has so high a stake in it; indeed, so very high a stake, that, as Mr. Featherhead is turning old now, and as there’s a talk, since his last stroke, of his taking the Chiltern Hundreds, it might be worth your while to look about you. I speak as a friend, Mr. Hazlewood, and as one who understands the roll; and if in going over it together——’

    ‘I beg pardon, sir, but I have no views in which your assistance could be useful.’

    ‘Oh, very well—perhaps you are right—it’s quite time enough, and I love to see a young gentleman cautious. But I was talking of your wound—I think I have got a clue to that business—I think I have—and if I don’t bring the fellow to condign punishment!——’

    ‘I beg your pardon, sir, once more; but your zeal outruns my wishes. I have every reason to think the wound was accidental—certainly it was not premeditated. Against ingratitude and premeditated treachery, should you find any one guilty of them, my resentment will be as warm as your own.’ This was Hazlewood’s answer.

    ‘Another rebuff,’ thought Glossin; ‘I must try him upon the other tack.——Right, sir; very nobly said! I would have no more mercy on an ungrateful man than I would on a woodcock.—And now we talk of sport’ (this was a sort of diverting of the conversation which Glossin had learned from his former patron), ‘I see you often carry a gun, and I hope you will be soon able to take the field again. I observe you confine yourself always to your own side of the Hazleshaws-burn. I hope, my dear sir, you will make no scruple of following your game to the Ellangowan bank: I believe it is rather the best exposure of the two for woodcocks, although both are capital.’

    As this offer only excited a cold and constrained bow, Glossin was obliged to remain silent, and was presently afterwards somewhat relieved by the entrance of Colonel Mannering.

    ‘I have detained you some time, I fear, sir,’ said he, addressing Glossin: ‘I wished to prevail upon Miss Bertram to see you, as, in my opinion, her objections ought to give way to the necessity of hearing in her own person what is stated to be of importance that she should know. But I find that circumstances of recent occurrence, and not easily to be forgotten, have rendered her so utterly repugnant to a personal interview with Mr. Glossin, that it would be cruelty to insist upon it: and she has deputed me to receive his commands, or proposal—or, in short, whatever he may with to say to her.’

    ‘Hem, hem! I am sorry, sir—I am very sorry, Colonel Mannering, that Miss Bertram should suppose—that any prejudice, in short—or idea that anything on my part——’

    ‘Sir,’ said the inflexible Colonel, ‘were no accusation is made, excuses or explanations are unnecessary. Have you any objection to communicate to me, as Miss Bertram’s temporary guardian, the circumstances which you conceive to interest her?’

    ‘None, Colonel Mannering; she could not choose a more respectable friend, or one with whom I, in particular, would more anxiously wish to communicate frankly.’

    ‘Have the goodness to speak to the point, sir, if you please.’

    ‘Why, sir, it is not so easy all at once—but Mr. Hazlewood need not leave the room,—I mean so well to Miss Bertram, that I could wish the whole world to hear my part of the conference.’

    ‘My friend Mr. Charles Hazlewood will not probably be anxious, Mr. Glossin, to listen to what cannot concern him—and now, when he has left us alone, let me pray you to be short and explicit in what you have to say. I am a soldier, sir, somewhat impatient of forms and introductions.’ So saying, he drew himself up in his chair, and waited for Mr. Glossin’s communication.

    ‘Be pleased to look at that letter,’ said Glossin, putting Protocol’s epistle into Mannering’s hand as the shortest way of stating his business.

    The Colonel read it, and returned it, after pencilling the name of the writer in his memorandum-book. ‘This, sir, does not seem to require much discussion—I will see that Miss Bertram’s interest is attended to.’

    ‘But, sir,—but, Colonel Mannering,’ added Glossin, ‘there is another matter which no one can explain but myself. This lady—this Mrs. Margaret Bertram, to my certain knowledge, made a general settlement of her affairs in Miss Lucy Bertram’s favour while she lived with my old friend, Mr. Bertram, at Ellangowan. The Dominie—that was the name by which my deceased friend always called that very respectable man Mr. Sampson—he and I witnessed the deed. And she had full power at that time to make such a settlement, for she was in fee of the estate of Singleside even then, although it was life-rented by an elder sister. It was a whimsical settlement of old Singleside’s, sir; he pitted the two cats his daughters against each other,—ha! ha! ha!’

    ‘Well, sir,’ said Mannering, without the slightest smile of sympathy—‘but to the purpose. You say that this lady had power to settle her estate on Miss Bertram, and that she did so?’

    ‘Even so, Colonel,’ replied Glossin. ‘I think I should understand the law—I have followed it for many years, and though I have given it up to retire upon a handsome competence, I did not throw away that knowledge which is pronounced better than house and land, and which I take to be the knowledge of the law, since, as our common rhyme has it,

  • ’Tis most excellent,
  • To win the land that’s gone and spent
  • No, no,—I love the smack of the whip—I have a little, a very little law yet, at the service of my friends.’

    Glossin ran on in this manner, thinking he had made a favourable impression on Mannering. The Colonel indeed reflected that this might be a most important crisis for Miss Bertram’s interest, and resolved that his strong inclination to throw Glossin out at window, or at door, should not interfere with it. He put a strong curb on his temper, and resolved to listen with patience at least, if without complacency. He therefore let Mr. Glossin get to the end of his self-congratulations, and then asked him if he knew where the deed was?

    ‘I know—that is, I think—I believe I can recover it. In such cases custodiers have sometimes made a charge.’

    ‘We won’t differ as to that, sir,’ said the Colonel, taking out his pocket-book.

    ‘But, my dear sir, you take me so very short—I said some persons might make such a claim—I mean for payment of the expenses of the deed, trouble in the affair, &c. But I, for my own part, only wish Miss Bertram and her friends to be satisfied that I am acting towards her with honour. There’s the paper, sir! It would have been a satisfaction to me to have delivered it into Miss Bertram’s own hands, and to have wished her joy of the prospects which it opens. But since her prejudices on the subject are invincible, it only remains for me to transmit her my best wishes through you, Colonel Mannering, and to express that I shall willingly give my testimony in support of that deed when I shall be called upon. I have the honour to wish you a good morning, sir.’

    This parting speech was so well got up, and had so much the tone of conscious integrity unjustly suspected, that even Colonel Mannering was staggered in his bad opinion. He followed him two or three steps, and took leave of him with more politeness (though still cold and formal) than he had paid during his visit. Glossin left the house, half pleased with the impression he had made, half mortified by the stern caution and proud reluctance with which he had been received. ‘Colonel Mannering might have had more politeness,’ he said to himself—‘it is not every man that can bring a good chance of £400 a year to a penniless girl. Singleside must be up to £400 a year now—there’s Reilageganbeg, Gillifidget, Loverless, Liealone, and the Spinister’s Knowe—good £400 a year. Some people might have made their own of it in my place—and yet, to own the truth, after much consideration, I don’t see how that is possible.’

    Glossin was no sooner mounted and gone, than the Colonel dispatched a groom for Mr. Mac-Morlan, and putting the deed into his hand, requested to know if it was likely to be available to his friend Lucy Bertram. Mr. Mac-Morlan perused it with eyes that sparkled with delight, snapped his fingers repeatedly, and at length exclaimed, ‘Available!—it’s as tight as a glove—naebody could make better wark than Glossin, when he didna let down a steek on purpose. But’ (his countenance falling) ‘the auld b——, that I should say so, might alter at pleasure!’

    ‘Ah! And how shall we know whether she has done so?’

    ‘Somebody must attend on Miss Bertram’s part, when the repositories of the deceased are opened.’

    ‘Can you go?’ said the Colonel.

    ‘I fear I cannot,’ replied Mac-Morlan; ‘I must attend a jury trial before our court.’

    ‘Then I will go myself,’ said the Colonel; ‘I’ll set out to-morrow. Sampson shall go with me—he is witness to this settlement. But I shall want a legal adviser?’

    ‘The gentleman that was lately sheriff of this county is high in reputation as a barrister; I will give you a card of introduction to him.’

    ‘What I like about you, Mr. Mac-Morlan,’ said the Colonel, ‘is that you always come straight to the point;—let me have it instantly. Shall we tell Miss Lucy her chance of becoming an heiress?’

    ‘Surely, because you must have some powers from her, which I will instantly drew out. Besides, I will be caution for her prudence, and that she will consider it only in the light of a chance.’

    ‘Mr. Mac-Morlan judged well. It could not be discerned from Miss Bertram’s manner, that she founded exulting hopes upon the prospect thus unexpectedly opening before her. She did, indeed, in the course of the evening, ask Mr. Mac-Morlan, as if by accident, what might be the annual income of the Hazlewood property; but shall we therefore aver for certain that she was considering whether an heiress of four hundred a year might be a suitable match for the young Laird?