A man that apprehends death to be no more dreadful but as a drunken sleep, careless, reckless, and fearless of what’s past, present, or to come; insensible of mortality, and desperately mortal.
—Measure for Measure.
Glossin rode slowly back to Ellangowan, pondering on what he had heard, and more and more convinced that the active and successful prosecution of this mysterious business was an opportunity of ingratiating himself with Hazlewood and Mannering to be on no account neglected. Perhaps, also, he felt his professional acuteness interested in bringing it to a successful close. It was, therefore, with great pleasure that, on his return to his house from Kippletringan, he heard his servants announce hastily, ‘that Mac-Guffog, the thief-taker, and twa or three concurrents, had a man in hands in the kitchen waiting for his honour.’
He instantly jumped from horseback, and hastened into the house. ‘Send my clerk here directly, ye’ll find him copying the survey of the estate in the little green parlour. Set things to rights in my study, and wheel the great leathern chair up to the writing-table; set a stool for Mr. Scrow. Scrow (to the clerk, as he entered the presence-chamber), hand down Sir George Mackenzie “On Crimes”; open it at the section “Vis Publica et Privata,” and fold down a leaf at the passage “anent the bearing of unlawful weapons.” Now lend me a hand off with my muckle-coat, and hang it up in the lobby, and bid them bring up the prisoner; I trow I’ll sort him; but stay, first send up Mac-Guffog. Now, Mac-Guffog, where did ye find this chield?’
Mac-Guffog, a stout, bandy-legged fellow, with a neck like a bull, a face like a firebrand, and a most portentous squint of the left eye, began, after various contortions by way of courtesy to the Justice, to tell his story, eking it out by sundry sly nods and knowing winks, which appeared to bespeak an intimate correspondence of ideas between the narrator and his principal auditor. ‘Your honour sees I went down to yon place that your honour spoke o’, that’s kept by her that your honour kens o’, by the sea-side. So says she, “What are you wanting here? ye’ll be come wi’ a broom in your pocket frae Ellangowan?”—So says I, “Deil a broom will come frae there awa, for ye ken,” says I, “his honour Ellangowan himsell in former times—”’
‘Well, well,’ said Glossin, ‘no occasion to be particular, tell the essentials.’
‘Weel, so we sat niffering about some brandy that I said I wanted, till he came in.’
‘He!’ pointing with his thumb inverted to the kitchen, where the prisoner was in custody. ‘So he had his griego wrapped close round him, and I judged he was not dry-handed; so I thought it was best to speak proper, and so he believed I was a Manks man, and I kept ay between him and her, for fear she had whistled. And then we began to drink about, and then I betted he would not drink out a quartern of Hollands without drawing breath, and then he tried it, and just then Slounging Jock and Dick Spur’em came in, and we clinked the darbies on him, took him as quiet as a lamb; and now he’s had his bit sleep out, and is as fresh as a May gowan, to answer what your honour likes to speir.’ This narrative, delivered with a wonderful quantity of gesture and grimace, received at the conclusion the thanks and praises which the narrator expected.
‘Had he no arms?’ asked the Justice.
‘Ay, ay, they are never without barkers and slashers.’
‘This bundle,’ delivering a dirty pocket-book.
‘Go downstairs then, Mac-Guffog, and be in waiting.’ The officer left the room.
The clink of irons was immediately afterwards heard upon the stair, and in two or three minutes a man was introduced, handcuffed and fettered. He was thick, brawny, and muscular, and although his shagged and grizzled hair marked an age somewhat advanced, and his stature was rather low, he appeared, nevertheless, a person whom few would have chosen to cope with in personal conflict. His coarse and savage features were still flushed, and his eye still reeled under the influence of the strong potation which had proved the immediate cause of his seizure. But the sleep, though short, which Mac-Guffog had allowed him, and still more a sense of the peril of his situation, had restored to him the full use of his faculties. The worthy judge and the no less estimable captive looked at each other steadily for a long time without speaking. Glossin apparently recognised his prisoner, but seemed at a loss how to proceed with his investigation. At length he broke silence.—‘Soh, Captain, this is you? you have been a stranger on this coast for some years.’
‘Stranger?’ replied the other. ‘Strange enough, I think; for hold me der deyvil, if I been ever here before.’
‘That won’t pass, Mr. Captain.’
‘That must pass, Mr. Justice, sapperment!’
‘And who will you be pleased to call yourself, then, for the present,’ said Glossin, ‘just until I shall bring some other folks to refresh your memory concerning who you are, or at least who you have been?’
‘What bin I? donner and blitzen! I bin Jans Jansen, from Cuxhaven; what sall Ich bin?’
Glossin took from a case which was in the apartment a pair of small pocket pistols, which he loaded with ostentatious care. ‘You may retire,’ said he to his clerk, ’and carry the people with you, Scrow; but wait in the lobby within call.’
The clerk would have offered some remonstrances to his patron on the danger of remaining alone with such a desperate character, although ironed beyond the possibility of active exertion, but Glossin waved him off impatiently. When he had left the room the Justice took two short turns through the apartment, then drew his chair opposite to the prisoner, so as to confront him fully, placed the pistols before him in readiness, and said in a steady voice, ‘You are Dirk Hatteraick of Flushing, are you not?’
The prisoner turned his eye instinctively to the door, as if he apprehended some one was listening. Glossin rose, opened the door, so that from the chair in which his prisoner sate he might satisfy himself there was no eavesdropper within hearing, then shut it, resumed his seat, and repeated his question, ‘You are Dirk Hatteraick, formerly of the Yungfrauw Haagenslaapen, are you not?’
‘Tousand deyvils! and if you know that, why ask me?’ said the prisoner.
‘Because I am surprised to see you in the very last place where you ought to be, if you regard your safety,’ observed Glossin, coolly.
‘Der deyvil! no man regards his own safety that speaks so to me!’
‘What? unarmed, and in irons! well said, Captain!’ replied Glossin, ironically. ‘But, Captain, bullying won’t do; you’ll hardly get out of this country without accounting for a little accident that happened at Warroch Point a few years ago.’
Hatteraick’s looks grew black as midnight.
‘For my part,’ continued Glossin, ‘I have no particular wish to be hard upon an old acquaintance; but I must do my duty. I shall send you off to Edinburgh in a post-chaise and four this very day.’
‘Poz donner! you would not do that?’ said Hatteraick, in a lower and more humbled tone; ‘why, you had the matter of half a cargo in bills on Vanbeest and Vanbruggen.’
‘It is so long since, Captain Hatteraick,’ answered Glossin, superciliously, ‘that I really forget how I was recompensed for my trouble.’
‘Your trouble? your silence, you mean.’
‘It was an affair in the course of business,’ said Glossin, ‘and I have retired from business for some time.’
‘Ay, but I have a notion that I could make you go steady about and try the old course again,’ answered Dirk Hatteraick. ‘Why, man, hold me der deyvil, but I meant to visit you and tell you something that concerns you.’
‘Of the boy?’ said Glossin, eagerly.
‘Yaw, Mynheer,’ replied the Captain, coolly.
‘He does not live, does he?’
‘As lifelich as you or I,’ said Hatteraick.
‘Good God! But in India?’ exclaimed Glossin.
‘No, tousand deyvils, here! on this dirty coast of yours,’ rejoined the prisoner.
‘But, Hatteraick, this,—that is, if it be true, which I do not believe,—this will ruin us both, for he cannot but remember your neat job; and for me, it will be productive of the worst consequences! It will ruin us both, I tell you.’
‘I tell you,’ said the seaman, ‘it will ruin none but you; for I am done up already, and if I must strap for it, all shall out.’
‘Zounds,’ said the Justice impatiently, ‘what brought you back to this coast like a madman?’
‘Why, all the gelt was gone, and the house was shaking, and I thought the job was clayed over and forgotten,’ answered the worthy skipper.
‘Stay; what can be done?’ said Glossin, anxiously. ‘I dare not discharge you; but might you not be rescued in the way? Ay sure! a word to Lieutenant Brown, and I would send the people with you by the coast-road.’
‘No, no! that won’t do. Brown’s dead, shot, laid in the locker, man; the devil has the picking of him.
‘Dead? shot? At Woodbourne, I suppose?’ replied Glossin.
Glossin paused; the sweat broke upon his brow with the agony of his feelings, while the hard-featured miscreant who sat opposite coolly rolled his tobacco in his cheek and squirted the juice into the fire-grate. ‘It would be ruin,’ said Glossin to himself, ‘absolute ruin, if the heir should reappear; and then what might be the consequence of conniving with these men? Yet there is so little time to take measures. Hark you, Hatteraick; I can’t set you at liberty; but I can put you where you may set yourself at liberty, I always like to assist an old friend. I shall confine you in the old castle for to-night, and give these people double allowance of grog. Mac-Guffog will fall in the trap in which he caught you. The stancheons on the window of the strong room, as they call it, are wasted to pieces, and it is not above twelve feet from the level of the ground without, and the snow lies thick.’
‘But the darbies,’ said Hatteraick, looking upon his fetters.
‘Hark ye,’ said Glossin, going to a tool chest, and taking out a small file, ‘there’s a friend for you, and you know the road to the sea by the stairs.’ Hatteraick shook his chains in ecstasy, as if he were already at liberty, and strove to extend his fettered hand towards his protector. Glossin laid his finger upon his lips with a cautious glance at the door, and then proceeded in his instructions. ‘When you escape, you had better go to the Kaim of Derncleugh.’
‘Donner! that howff is blown.’
‘The devil! well, then, you may steal my skiff that lies on the beach there, and away. But you must remain snug at the Point of Warroch till I come to see you.’
‘The Point of Warroch?’ said Hatteraick, his countenance again falling; ‘what, in the cave, I suppose? I would rather it were anywhere else; es spuckt da: they say for certain that he walks. But, donner and blitzen! I never shunned him alive, and I won’t shun him dead. Strafe mich helle! it shall never be said Dirk Hatteraick feared either dog or devil! So I am to wait there till I see you?’
‘Ay, ay,’ answered Glossin, ‘and now I must call in the men.’ He did so accordingly.
‘I can make nothing of Captain Jansen, as he calls himself, Mac-Guffog, and it’s now too late to bundle him off to the county jail. Is there not a strong room up yonder in the old castle?’
‘Ay is there, sir; my uncle the constable ance kept a man there for three days in auld Ellangowan’s time. But there was an unco dust about it; it was tried in the Inner House afore the Feifteen.’
‘I know all that, but this person will not stay there very long; it’s only a makeshift for a night, a mere lock-up house till farther examination. There is a small room through which it opens; you may light a fire for yourselves there, and I ’ll send you plenty of stuff to make you comfortable. But be sure you lock the door upon the prisoner; and, hark ye, let him have a fire in the strong room too, the season requires it. Perhaps he’ll make a clean breast to-morrow.’
With these instructions, and with a large allowance of food and liquor, the Justice dismissed his party to keep guard for the night in the old castle, under the full hope and belief that they would neither spend the night in watching nor prayer.
There was little fear that Glossin himself should that night sleep over-sound. His situation was perilous in the extreme, for the schemes of a life of villainy seemed at once to be crumbling around and above him. He laid himself to rest, and tossed upon his pillow for a long time in vain. At length he fell asleep, but it was only to dream of his patron, now as he had last seen him, with the paleness of death upon his features, then again transformed into all the vigour and comeliness of youth, approaching to expel him from the mansion-house of his fathers. Then he dreamed that, after wandering long over a wild heath, he came at length to an inn, from which sounded the voice of revelry; and that when he entered the first person he met was Frank Kennedy, all smashed and gory, as he had lain on the beach at Warroch Point, but with a reeking punch-bowl in his hand. Then the scene changed to a dungeon, where he heard Dirk Hatteraick, whom he imagined to be under sentence of death, confessing his crimes to a clergyman. ‘After the bloody deed was done,’ said the penitent, ‘we retreated into a cave close beside, the secret of which was known but to one man in the country; we were debating what to do with the child, and we thought of giving it up to the gipsies, when we heard the cries of the pursuers hallooing to each other. One man alone came straight to our cave, and it was that man who knew the secret; but we made him our friend at the expense of half the value of the goods saved. By his advice we carried off the child to Holland in our consort, which came the following night to take us from the coast. That man was —’
‘No, I deny it! it was not I!’ said Glossin, in half-uttered accents; and, struggling in his agony to express his denial more distinctly, he awoke.
It was, however, conscience that had prepared this mental phantasmagoria. The truth was that, knowing much better than any other person the haunts of the smugglers, he had, while the others were searching in different directions, gone straight to the cave, even before he had learned the murder of Kennedy, whom he expected to find their prisoner. He came upon them with some idea of mediation, but found them in the midst of their guilty terrors, while the rage which had hurried them on to murder began, with all but Hatteraick, to sink into remorse and fear. Glossin was then indigent and greatly in debt, but he was already possessed of Mr. Bertram’s ear, and, aware of the facility of his disposition, he saw no difficulty in enriching himself at his expense, provided the heir-male were removed, in which case the estate became the unlimited property of the weak and prodigal father. Stimulated by present gain and the prospect of contingent advantage, he accepted the bribe which the smugglers offered in their terror, and connived at, or rather encouraged, their intention of carrying away the child of his benefactor who, if left behind, was old enough to have described the scene of blood which he had witnessed. The only palliative which the ingenuity of Glossin could offer to his conscience was, that the temptation was great, and came suddenly upon him, embracing as it were the very advantages on which his mind had so long rested, and promising to relieve him from distresses which must have otherwise speedily overwhelmed him. Besides, he endeavoured to think that self-preservation rendered his conduct necessary. He was, in some degree, in the power of the robbers, and pleaded hard with his conscience that, had he declined their offers, the assistance which he could have called for, though not distant, might not have arrived in time to save him from men who, on less provocation, had just committed murder.
Galled with the anxious forebodings of a guilty conscience, Glossin now arose and looked out upon the night. The scene which we have already described in the third chapter of this story, was now covered with snow, and the brilliant, though waste, whiteness of the land gave to the sea by contrast a dark and livid tinge. A landscape covered with snow, though abstractedly it may be called beautiful, has, both from the association of cold and barrenness and from its comparative infrequency, a wild, strange, and desolate appearance. Objects well known to us in their common state have either disappeared, or are so strangely varied and disguised that we seem gazing on an unknown world. But it was not with such reflections that the mind of this bad man was occupied. His eye was upon the gigantic and gloomy outlines of the old castle, where, in a flanking tower of enormous size and thickness, glimmered two lights, one from the window of the strong room, where Hatteraick was confined, the other from that of the adjacent apartment, occupied by his keepers. ‘Has he made his escape, or will he be able to do so? Have these men watched, who never watched before, in order to complete my ruin? If morning finds him there, he must be committed to prison; Mac-Morlan or some other person will take the matter up; he will be detected, convicted, and will tell all in revenge!’
While these racking thoughts glided rapidly through Glossin’s mind, he observed one of the lights obscured, as by an opaque body placed at the window. What a moment of interest! ‘He has got clear of his irons! he is working at the stancheons of the window! they are surely quite decayed, they must give way. O God! they have fallen outward, I heard them clink among the stones! the noise cannot fail to wake them. Furies seize his Dutch awkwardness! The light burns free again; they have torn him from the window, and are binding him in the room! No! he had only retired an instant on the alarm of the falling bars; he is at the window again, and the light is quite obscured now; he is getting out!’
A heavy sound, as of a body dropped from a height among the snow, announced that Hatteraick had completed his escape, and shortly after Glossin beheld a dark figure, like a shadow, steal along the whitened beach and reach the spot where the skiff lay. New cause for fear! ‘His single strength will be unable to float her,’ said Glossin to himself; ‘I must go to the rascal’s assistance. But no! he has got her off, and now, thank God, her sail is spreading itself against the moon; ay, he has got the breeze now; would to heaven it were a tempest, to sink him to the bottom!’
After this last cordial wish, he continued watching the progress of the boat as it stood away towards the Point of Warroch, until he could no longer distinguish the dusky sail from the gloomy waves over which it glided. Satisfied then that the immediate danger was averted, he retired with somewhat more composure to his guilty pillow.