Why dost not comfort me, and help me out|
From this unhallowed and blood-stained hole?
With manœuvres like those of a fox when he doubles to avoid the pack, Glossin strove to approach the place of appointment in a manner which should leave no distinct track of his course. ‘Would to Heaven it would snow,’ he said, looking upward, ‘and hide these foot-prints. Should one of the officers light upon them, he would run the scent up like a bloodhound and surprise us. I must get down upon the sea-beach, and contrive to creep along beneath the rocks.’
And accordingly he descended from the cliffs with some difficulty, and scrambled along between the rocks and the advancing tide; now looking up to see if his motions were watched from the rocks above him, now casting a jealous glance to mark if any boat appeared upon the sea, from which his course might be discovered.
But even the feelings of selfish apprehension were for a time superseded, as Glossin passed the spot where Kennedy’s body had been found. It was marked by the fragment of rock which had been precipitated from the cliff above, either with the body or after it. The mass was now encrusted with small shell-fish, and tasselled with tangle and seaweed; but still its shape and substance were different from those of the other rocks which lay scattered around. His voluntary walks, it will readily be believed, had never led to this spot; so that, finding himself now there for the first time after the terrible catastrophe, the scene at once recurred to his mind with all its accompaniments of horror. He remembered how, like a guilty thing, gliding from the neighbouring place of concealment, he had mingled with eagerness, yet with caution, among the terrified group who surrounded the corpse, dreading lest any one should ask from whence he came. He remembered, too, with what conscious fear he had avoided gazing upon that ghastly spectacle. The wild scream of his patron, ‘My bairn! my bairn!’ again rang in his ears. ‘Good God!’ he exclaimed, ‘and is all I have gained worth the agony of that moment, and the thousand anxious fears and horrors which have since embittered my life! O how I wish that I lay where that wretched man lies, and that he stood here in life and health! But these regrets are all too late.’
Stifling, therefore, his feelings, he crept forward to the cave, which was so near the spot where the body was found that the smugglers might have heard from their hiding-place the various conjectures of the bystanders concerning the fate of their victim. But nothing could be more completely concealed than the entrance to their asylum. The opening, not larger than that of a fox-earth, lay in the face of the cliff directly behind a large black rock, or rather upright stone, which served at once to conceal it from strangers and as a mark to point out its situation to those who used it as a place of retreat. The space between the stone and the cliff was exceedingly narrow, and, being heaped with sand and other rubbish, the most minute search would not have discovered the mouth of the cavern without removing those substances which the tide had drifted before it. For the purpose of further concealment, it was usual with the contraband traders who frequented this haunt, after they had entered, to stuff the mouth with withered seaweed, loosely piled together as if carried there by the waves. Dirk Hatteraick had not forgotten this precaution.
Glossin, though a bold and hardy man, felt his heart throb and his knees knock together when he prepared to enter this den of secret iniquity, in order to hold conference with a felon, whom he justly accounted one of the most desperate and depraved of men. ‘But he has no interest to injure me,’ was his consolatory reflection. He examined his pocket-pistols, however, before removing the weeds and entering the cavern, which he did upon hands and knees. The passage, which at first was low and narrow, just admitting entrance to a man in a creeping posture, expanded after a few yards into a high arched vault of considerable width. The bottom, ascending gradually, was covered with the purest sand. Ere Glossin had got upon his feet, the hoarse yet suppressed voice of Hatteraick growled through the recesses of the cave:—
‘Hagel and donner! be’st du?’
‘Are you in the dark?’
‘Dark? der deyvil! ay,’ said Dirk Hatteraick; ‘where should I have a glim?’
‘I have brought light’; and Glossin accordingly produced a tinder-box and lighted a small lantern.
‘You must kindle some fire too, for hold mich der deyvil, Ich bin ganz gefrorne!’
‘It is a cold place, to be sure,’ said Glossin, gathering together some decayed staves of barrels and pieces of wood, which had perhaps lain in the cavern since Hatteraick was there last.
‘Cold? Snow-wasser and hagel! it’s perdition; I could only keep myself alive by rambling up and down this d—d vault, and thinking about the merry rouses we have had in it.’
The flame then began to blaze brightly, and Hatteraick hung his bronzed visage and expanded his hard and sinewy hands over it, with an avidity resembling that of a famished wretch to whom food is exposed. The light showed his savage and stern features, and the smoke, which in his agony of cold he seemed to endure almost to suffocation, after circling round his head, rose to the dim and rugged roof of the cave, through which it escaped by some secret rents or clefts in the rock; the same doubtless that afforded air to the cavern when the tide was in, at which time the aperture to the sea was filled with water.
‘And now I have brought you some breakfast,’ said Glossin, producing some cold meat and a flask of spirits. The latter Hatteraick eagerly seized upon and applied to his mouth; and, after a hearty draught, he exclaimed with great rapture, ‘Das schmeckt! That is good, that warms the liver!’ Then broke into the fragment of a High-Dutch song,—
Saufen Bier und Brantewein,|
Schmeissen alle die Fenstern ein;
Ich bin liederlich,
Du bist liederlich;
Sind wir nicht liederlich Leute a?
‘Well said, my hearty Captain!’ cried Glossin, endeavouring to catch the tone of revelry,—
Gin by pailfuls, wine in rivers,|
Dash the window-glass to shivers!
For three wild lads were we, brave boys,
And three wild lads were we;
Thou on the land, and I on the sand,
And Jack on the gallows-tree!
That’s it, my bully-boy! Why, you’re alive again now! And now let us talk about our business.’
‘Your business, if you please,’ said Hatteraick. ‘Hagel and donner! mine was done when I got out of the bilboes.’
‘Have patience, my good friend; I’ll convince you our interests are just the same.’
Hatteraick gave a short dry cough, and Glossin, after a pause, proceeded.
‘How came you to let the boy escape?’
‘Why, fluch and blitzen! he was no charge of mine. Lieutenant Brown gave him to his cousin that’s in the Middleburgh house of Vanbeest and Vanbruggen, and told him some goose’s gazette about his being taken in a skirmish with the land-sharks; he gave him for a footboy. Me let him escape! the bastard kinchin should have walked the plank ere I troubled myself about him.’
‘Well, and was he bred a foot-boy then?’
‘Nein, nein; the kinchin got about the old man’s heart, and he gave him his own name, and bred him up in the office, and then sent him to India; I believe he would have packed him back here, but his nephew told him it would do up the free trade for many a day if the youngster got back to Scotland.’
‘Do you think the younker knows much of his own origin now?’
‘Deyvil!’ replied Hatteraick, ‘how should I tell what he knows now? But he remembered something of it long. When he was but ten years old he persuaded another Satan’s limb of an English bastard like himself to steal my lugger’s khan—boat—what do you call it? to return to his country, as he called it; fire him! Before we could overtake them they had the skiff out of channel as far as the Deurloo; the boat might have been lost.’
‘I wish to Heaven she had, with him in her!’ ejaculated Glossin.
‘Why, I was so angry myself that, sapperment! I did give him a tip over the side; but split him! the comical little devil swam like a duck; so I made him swim astern for a mile to teach him manners, and then took him in when he was sinking. By the knocking Nicholas! he’ll plague you, now he’s come over the herring-pond! When he was so high he had the spirit of thunder and lightning.’
‘How did he get back from India?’
‘Why, how should I know? The house there was done up; and that gave us a shake at Middleburgh, I think; so they sent me again to see what could be done among my old acquaintances here, for we held old stories were done away and forgotten. So I had got a pretty trade on foot within the last two trips; but that stupid hounds-foot schelm, Brown, has knocked it on the head again, I suppose, with getting himself shot by the colonel-man.’
‘Why were not you with them?’
‘Why, you see, sapperment! I fear nothing; but it was too far within land, and I might have been scented.’
‘True. But to return to this youngster—’
‘Ay, ay, donner and blitzen! He’s your affair,’ said the Captain.
‘How do you really know that he is in this country?’
‘Why, Gabriel saw him up among the hills.’
‘Gabriel! who is he?’
‘A fellow from the gipsies, that, about eighteen years since, was pressed on board that d—d fellow Pritchard’s sloop-of-war. It was he came off and gave us warning that the Shark was coming round upon us the day Kennedy was done; and he told us how Kennedy had given the information. The gipsies and Kennedy had some quarrel besides. This Gab went to the East Indies in the same ship with your younker, and, sapperment! knew him well, though the other did not remember him. Gab kept out of his eye though, as he had served the States against England, and was a deserter to boot; and he sent us word directly, that we might know of his being here, though it does not concern us a rope’s end.’
‘So, then, really, and in sober earnest, he is actually in this country, Hatteraick, between friend and friend?’ asked Glossin, seriously.
‘Wetter and donner, yaw! What do you take me for?’
‘For a bloodthirsty, fearless miscreant!’ thought Glossin internally; but said aloud, ‘And which of your people was it that shot young Hazlewood?’
‘Sturmwetter!’ said the Captain, ‘do ye think we were mad? none of us, man. Gott! the country was too hot for the trade already with that d-d frolic of Brown’s, attacking what you call Woodbourne House.’
‘Why, I am told,’ said Glossin, ‘it was Brown who shot Hazlewood?’
‘Not our lieutenant, I promise you; for he was laid six feet deep at Derncleugh the day before the thing happened. Tausend deyvils, man! do ye think that he could rise out of the earth to shoot another man?’
A light here began to break upon Glossin’s confusion of ideas. ‘Did you not say that the younker, as you call him, goes by the name of Brown?’
‘Of Brown? yaw; Vanbeest Brown. Old Vanbeest Brown, of our Vanbeest and Vanbruggen, gave him his own name, he did.’
‘Then,’ said Glossin, rubbing his hands, ‘it is he, by Heaven, who has committed this crime!’
‘And what have we to do with that?’ demanded Hatteraick.
Glossin paused, and, fertile in expedients, hastily ran over his project in his own mind, and then drew near the smuggler with a confidential air. ‘You know, my dear Hatteraick, it is our principal business to get rid of this young man?’
‘Umph!’ answered Dirk Hatteraick.
‘Not,’ continued Glossin—‘not that I would wish any personal harm to him—if—if—if we can do without. Now, he is liable to be seized upon by justice, both as bearing the same name with your lieutenant, who was engaged in that affair at Woodbourne, and for firing at young Hazlewood with intent to kill or wound.’
‘Ay, ay,’ said Dirk Hatteraick; ‘but what good will that do you? He’ll be loose again as soon as he shows himself to carry other colours.’
‘True, my dear Dirk; well noticed, my friend Hatteraick! But there is ground enough for a temporary imprisonment till he fetch his proofs from England or elsewhere, my good friend. I understand the law, Captain Hatteraick, and I’ll take it upon me, simple Gilbert Glossin of Ellangowan, justice of peace for the county of ——, to refuse his bail, if he should offer the best in the country, until he is brought up for a second examination; now where d’ye think I’ll incarcerate him?’
‘Hagel and wetter! what do I care?’
‘Stay, my friend; you do care a great deal. Do you know your goods that were seized and carried to Woodbourne are now lying in the custom-house at Portanferry? (a small fishing-town). Now I will commit this younker—’
‘When you have caught him.’
‘Ay, ay, when I have caught him; I shall not be long about that. I will commit him to the workhouse, or bridewell, which you know is beside the custom-house.’
‘Yaw, the rasp-house; I know it very well.’
‘I will take care that the redcoats are dispersed through the country; you land at night with the crew of your lugger, receive your own goods, and carry the younker Brown with you back to Flushing. Won’t that do?’
‘Ay, carry him to Flushing,’ said the Captain, ‘or—to America?’
‘Ay, ay, my friend.’
‘Psha! Wherever you have a mind.’
‘Ay, or—pitch him overboard?’
‘Nay, I advise no violence.’
‘Nein, nein; you leave that to me. Sturmwetter! I know you of old. But, hark ye, what am I, Dirk Hatteraick, to be the better of this?’
‘Why, is it not your interest as well as mine?’ said Glossin; ‘besides, I set you free this morning.’
‘You set me free! Donner and deyvil! I set myself free. Besides, it was all in the way of your profession, and happened a long time ago, ha, ha, ha!’
‘Pshaw! pshaw! don’t let us jest; I am not against making a handsome compliment; but it’s your affair as well as mine.’
‘What do you talk of my affair? is it not you that keep the younker’s whole estate from him? Dirk Hatteraick never touched a stiver of his rents.’
‘Hush! hush! I tell you it shall be a joint business.’
‘Why, will ye give me half the kitt?’
‘What, half the estate? D’ye mean we should set up house together at Ellangowan, and take the barony ridge about?’
‘Sturmwetter, no! but you might give me half the value—half the gelt. Live with you? nein. I would have a lusthaus of mine own on the Middleburgh dyke, and a blumengarten like a burgomaster’s.’
‘Ay, and a wooden lion at the door, and a painted sentinel in the garden, with a pipe in his mouth! But, hark ye, Hatteraick, what will all the tulips and flower-gardens and pleasure-houses in the Netherlands do for you if you are hanged here in Scotland?’
Hatteraick’s countenance fell. ‘Der deyvil! hanged!’
‘Ay, hanged, mein Herr Captain. The devil can scarce save Dirk Hatteraick from being hanged for a murderer and kidnapper if the younker of Ellangowan should settle in this country, and if the gallant Captain chances to be caught here re-establishing his fair trade! And I won’t say but, as peace is now so much talked of, their High Mightinesses may not hand him over to oblige their new allies, even if he remained in faderland.’
‘Poz hagel, blitzen, and donner! I—I doubt you say true.’
‘Not,’ said Glossin, perceiving he had made the desired impression, ‘not that I am against being civil’; and he slid into Hatteraick’s passive hand a bank-note of some value.
‘Is this all?’ said the smuggler. ‘You had the price of half a cargo for winking at our job, and made us do your business too.’
‘But, my good friend, you forget: In this case you will recover all your own goods.’
‘Ay, at the risk of all our own necks; we could do that without you.’
‘I doubt that, Captain Hatteraick,’ said Glossin, drily; ‘because you would probably find a dozen redcoats at the custom-house, whom it must be my business, if we agree about this matter, to have removed. Come, come, I will be as liberal as I can, but you should have a conscience.’
‘Now strafe mich der deyfel! this provokes me more than all the rest! You rob and you murder, and you want me to rob and murder, and play the silver-cooper, or kidnapper, as you call it, a dozen times over, and then, hagel and windsturm! you speak to me of conscience! Can you think of no fairer way of getting rid of this unlucky lad?’
‘No, mein Herr; but as I commit him to your charge-’
‘To my charge! to the charge of steel and gunpowder! and—well, if it must be, it must; but you have a tolerably good guess what’s like to come of it.’
‘O, my dear friend, I trust no degree of severity will be necessary,’ replied Glossin.
‘Severity!’ said the fellow, with a kind of groan, ‘I wish you had had my dreams when I first came to this dog-hole, and tried to sleep among the dry seaweed. First, there was that d—d fellow there, with his broken back, sprawling as he did when I hurled the rock over a-top on him, ha, ha! You would have sworn he was lying on the floor where you stand, wriggling like a crushed frog, and then—’
‘Nay, my friend,’ said Glossin, interrupting him, ‘what signifies going over this nonsense? If you are turned chicken-hearted, why, the game’s up, that’s all; the game’s up with us both.’
‘Chicken-hearted? no. I have not lived so long upon the account to start at last, neither for devil nor Dutchman.’
‘Well, then, take another schnaps; the cold’s at your heart still. And now tell me, are any of your old crew with you?’
‘Nein; all dead, shot, hanged, drowned, and damned. Brown was the last. All dead but Gipsy Gab, and he would go off the country for a spill of money; or he’ll be quiet for his own sake; or old Meg, his aunt, will keep him quiet for hers.’
‘Meg Merrilies, the old devil’s limb of a gipsy witch.’
‘Is she still alive?’
‘And in this country?’
‘And in this country. She was at the Kaim of Derncleugh, at Vanbeest Brown’s last wake, as they call it, the other night, with two of my people, and some of her own blasted gipsies.’
‘That’s another breaker ahead, Captain! Will she not squeak, think ye?’
‘Not she! she won’t start; she swore by the salmon,1 if we did the kinchin no harm, she would never tell how the gauger got it. Why, man, though I gave her a wipe with my hanger in the heat of the matter, and cut her arm, and though she was so long after in trouble about it up at your borough-town there, der deyvil! old Meg was as true as steel.’
‘Why, that’s true, as you say,’ replied Glossin. ‘And yet if she could be carried over to Zealand, or Hamburgh, or—or—anywhere else, you know, it were as well.’
Hatteraick jumped upright upon his feet, and looked at Glossin from head to heel. ‘I don’t see the goat’s foot,’ he said, ‘and yet he must be the very deyvil! But Meg Merrilies is closer yet with the kobold than you are; ay, and I had never such weather as after having drawn her blood. Nein, nein, I’ll meddle with her no more; she’s a witch of the fiend, a real deyvil’s kind,—but that’s her affair. Donner and wetter! I’ll neither make nor meddle; that’s her work. But for the rest—why, if I thought the trade would not suffer, I would soon rid you of the younker, if you send me word when he’s under embargo.’
In brief and under tones the two worthy associates concerted their enterprise, and agreed at which of his haunts Hatteraick should be heard of. The stay of his lugger on the coast was not difficult, as there were no king’s vessels there at the time.
1. The great and invoidable oath of the strolling tribes. [back]