For though, seduced and led astray,|
Thoust travell’d far and wander’d long,
Thy God hath seen thee all the way,
And all the turns that led thee wrong
The Hall of Justice.
‘Come in then,’ answered Bertram, not a little pleased to find his guard relieved. Hazlewood then entered, followed by two or three countrymen, one of whom acted as a peace-officer. They lifted Hatteraick up and carried him in their arms as far as the entrance of the vault was high enough to permit them; then laid him on his back and dragged him along as well as they could, for no persuasion would induce him to assist the transportation by any exertion of his own. He lay as silent and inactive in their hands as a dead corpse, incapable of opposing, but in no way aiding, their operations. When he was dragged into daylight and placed erect upon his feet among three or four assistants who had remained without the cave, he seemed stupefied and dazzled by the sudden change from the darkness of his cavern. While others were superintending the removal of Meg Merrilies, those who remained with Hatteraick attempted to make him sit down upon a fragment of rock which lay close upon the high-water mark. A strong shuddering convulsed his iron frame for an instant as he resisted their purpose. ‘Not there! Hagel! you would not make me sit there?’
These were the only words he spoke; but their import, and the deep tone of horror in which they were uttered, served to show what was passing in his mind.
When Meg Merrilies had also been removed from the cavern, with all the care for her safety that circumstances admitted, they consulted where she should be carried. Hazlewood had sent for a surgeon, and proposed that she should be lifted in the meantime to the nearest cottage. But the patient exclaimed with great earnestness, ‘Na, na, na! to the Kaim o’ Derncleugh—the Kaim o’ Derncleugh; the spirit will not free itself o’ the flesh but there.’
‘You must indulge her, I believe,’ said Bertram; ‘her troubled imagination will otherwise aggravate the fever of the wound.’
They bore her accordingly to the vault. On the way her mind seemed to run more upon the scene which had just passed than on her own approaching death. ‘There were three of them set upon him: I brought the twasome, but wha was the third? It would be himsell, returned to work his ain vengeance!’
It was evident that the unexpected appearance of Hazlewood, whose person the outrage of Hatteraick left her no time to recognise, had produced a strong effect on her imagination. She often recurred to it. Hazlewood accounted for his unexpected arrival to Bertram by saying that he had kept them in view for some time by the direction of Mannering; that, observing them disappear into the cave, he had crept after them, meaning to announce himself and his errand, when his hand in the darkness encountering the leg of Dinmont had nearly produced a catastrophe, which, indeed, nothing but the presence of mind and fortitude of the bold yeoman could have averted.
When the gipsy arrived at the hut she produced the key; and when they entered, and were about to deposit her upon the bed, she said, in an anxious tone, ‘Na, na! not that way—the feet to the east’; and appeared gratified when they reversed her posture accordingly, and placed her in that appropriate to a dead body.
‘Is there no clergyman near,’ said Bertram, ‘to assist this unhappy woman’s devotions?’
A gentleman, the minister of the parish, who had been Charles Hazlewood’s tutor, had, with many others, caught the alarm that the murderer of Kennedy was taken on the spot where the deed had been done so many years before, and that a woman was mortally wounded. From curiosity, or rather from the feeling that his duty called him to scenes of distress, this gentleman had come to the Kaim of Derncleugh, and now presented himself. The surgeon arrived at the same time, and was about to probe the wound; but Meg resisted the assistance of either. ‘It’s no what man can do that will heal my body or save my spirit. Let me speak what I have to say, and then ye may work your will; I’se be nae hindrance. But where’s Henry Bertram?’ The assistants, to whom this name had been long a stranger, gazed upon each other. ‘Yes!’ she said, in a stronger and harsher tone, ‘I said Henry Bertram oF Ellangowan. Stand from the light and let me see him.’
All eyes were turned towards Bertram, who approached the wretched couch. The wounded woman took hold of his hand. ‘Look at him,’ she said, ‘all that ever saw his father or his grandfather, and bear witness if he is not their living image?’ A murmur went through the crowd; the resemblance was too striking to be denied. ‘And now hear me; and let that man,’ pointing to Hatteraick, who was seated with his keepers on a sea-chest at some distance—‘let him deny what I say if he can. That is Henry Bertram, son to Godfrey Bertram, umquhile of Ellangowan; that young man is the very lad-bairn that Dirk Hatteraick carried off from Warroch wood the day that he murdered the gauger. I was there like a wandering spirit, for I longed to see that wood or we left the country. I saved the bairn’s life, and sair, sair I prigged and prayed they would leave him wi’ me. But they bore him away, and he’s been lang ower the sea, and now he’s come for his ain, and what should withstand him? I swore to keep the secret till he was ane-an’-twenty; I kenn’d he behoved to dree his weird till that day cam. I keepit that oath which I took to them; but I made another vow to mysell, that if I lived to see the day of his return I would set him in his father’s seat, if every step was on a dead man. I have keepit that oath too. I will be ae step mysell, he (pointing to Hatteraick) will soon be another, and there will be ane mair yet.’
The clergyman, now interposing, remarked it was a pity this deposition was not regularly taken and written down, and the surgeon urged the necessity of examining the wound, previously to exhausting her by questions. When she saw them removing Hatteraick, in order to clear the room and leave the surgeon to his operations, she called out aloud, raising herself at the same time upon the couch, ‘Dirk Hatteraick, you and I will never meet again until we are before the judgment-seat; will ye own to what I have said, or will you dare deny it?’ He turned his hardened brow upon her, with a look of dumb and inflexible defiance. ‘Dirk Hatteraick, dare ye deny, with my blood upon your hands, one word of what my dying breath is uttering?’ He looked at her with the same expression of hardihood and dogged stubbornness, and moved his lips, but uttered no sound. ‘Then fareweel!’ she said, ‘and God forgive you! your hand has sealed my evidence. When I was in life I was the mad randy gipsy, that had been scourged and banished and branded; that had begged from door to door, and been hounded like a stray tyke from parish to parish; wha would hae minded her tale? But now I am a dying woman, and my words will not fall to the ground, any more than the earth will cover my blood!’
She here paused, and all left the hut except the surgeon and two or three women. After a very short examination he shook his head and resigned his post by the dying woman’s side to the clergyman.
A chaise returning empty to Kippletringan had been stopped on the highroad by a constable, who foresaw it would be necessary to convey Hatteraick to jail. The driver, understanding what was going on at Derncleugh, left his horses to the care of a blackguard boy, confiding, it is to be supposed, rather in the years and discretion of the cattle than in those of their keeper, and set off full speed to see, as he expressed himself, ‘whaten a sort o’ fun was gaun on.’ He arrived just as the group of tenants and peasants, whose numbers increased every moment, satiated with gazing upon the rugged features of Hatteraick, had turned their attention towards Bertram. Almost all of them, especially the aged men who had seen Ellangowan in his better days, felt and acknowledged the justice of Meg Merrilies’s appeal. But the Scotch are a cautious people: they remembered there was another in possession of the estate, and they as yet only expressed their feelings in low whispers to each other. Our friend Jock Jabos, the postilion, forced his way into the middle of the circle; but no sooner cast his eyes upon Bertram than he started back in amazement, with a solemn exclamation, ‘As sure as there’s breath in man, it’s auld Ellangowan arisen from the dead!’
This public declaration of an unprejudiced witness was just the spark wanted to give fire to the popular feeling, which burst forth in three distinct shouts: ‘Bertram for ever!’ ‘Long life to the heir of Ellangowan!’ ‘God send him his ain, and to live among us as his forebears did of yore!’
‘I hae been seventy years on the land,’ said one person.
‘I and mine hae been seventy and seventy to that,’ said another; ‘I have a right to ken the glance of a Bertram.’
‘I and mine hae been three hundred years here,’ said another old man, ‘and I sail sell my last cow, but I’ll see the young Laird placed in his right.’
The women, ever delighted with the marvellous, and not less so when a handsome young man is the subject of the tale, added their shrill acclamations to the general all-hail. ‘Blessings on him; he’s the very picture o’ his father! The Bertrams were aye the wale o’ the country side!’
‘Eh! that his puir mother, that died in grief and in doubt about him, had but lived to see this day!’ exclaimed some female voices.
‘But we’ll help him to his ain, kimmers,’ cried others; ‘and before Glossin sall keep the Place of Ellangowan we’ll howk him out o’t wi’ our nails!’
Others crowded around Dinmont, who was nothing both to tell what he knew of his friend, and to boast the honour which he had in contributing to the discovery. As he was known to several of the principal farmers present, his testimony afforded an additional motive to the general enthusiasm. In short, it was one of those moments of intense feeling when the frost of the Scottish people melts like a snow-wreath, and the dissolving torrent carries dam and dyke before it.
The sudden shouts interrupted the devotions of the clergyman; and Meg, who was in one of those dozing fits of stupefaction that precede the close of existence, suddenly started—‘Dinna ye hear? dinna ye hear? He’s owned! he’s owned! I lived but for this. I am a sinfu’ woman; but if my curse brought it down, my blessing has taen it off! And now I wad hae liked to hae said mair. But it canna be. Stay’—she continued, stretching her head towards the gleam of light that shot through the narrow slit which served for a window—‘is he not there? Stand out o’ the light, and let me look upon him ance mair. But the darkness is in my ain een,’ she said, sinking back, after an earnest gaze upon vacuity; ‘it’s a’ ended now,
And, sinking back upon her couch of straw, she expired without a groan. The clergyman and the surgeon carefully noted down all that she had said, now deeply regretting they had not examined her more minutely, but both remaining morally convinced of the truth of her disclosure.
Hazlewood was the first to compliment Bertram upon the near prospect of his being restored to his name and rank in society. The people around, who now learned from Jabos that Bertram was the person who had wounded him, were struck with his generosity, and added his name to Bertram’s in their exulting acclamations.
Some, however, demanded of the postilion how he had not recognised Bertram when he saw him some time before at Kippletringan. To which he gave the very natural answer—‘Hout, what was I thinking about Ellangowan then? It was the cry that was rising e’en now that the young Laird was found, that put me on finding out the likeness. There was nae missing it ance ane was set to look for’t.’
The obduracy of Hatteraick during the latter part of this scene was in some slight degree shaken. He was observed to twinkle with his eyelids; to attempt to raise his bound hands for the purpose of pulling his hat over his brow; to look angrily and impatiently to the road, as if anxious for the vehicle which was to remove him from the spot. At length Mr. Hazlewood, apprehensive that the popular ferment might take a direction towards the prisoner, directed he should be taken to the post-chaise, and so removed to the town of Kippletringan, to be at Mr. Mac-Morlan’s disposal; at the same time he sent an express to warn that gentleman of what had happened. ‘And now,’ he said to Bertram, ‘I should be happy if you would accompany me to Hazlewood House; but as that might not be so agreeable just now as I trust it will be in a day or two, you must allow me to return with you to Woodbourne. But you are on foot.’—‘O, if the young Laird would take my horse!’—‘Or mine’—‘Or mine,’ said half-a-dozen voices.—‘Or mine; he can trot ten mile an hour without whip or spur, and he’s the young Laird’s frae this moment, if he likes to take him for a herezeld,1 as they ca’d it lang syne.’ Bertram readily accepted the horse as a loan, and poured forth his thanks to the assembled crowd for their good wishes, which they repaid with shouts and vows of attachment.
While the happy owner was directing one lad to ‘gae doun for the new saddle’; another,’ just to rin the beast ower wi’ a dry wisp o’ strae’; a third, ‘to hie doun and borrow Dan Dunkieson’s plated stirrups,’ and expressing his regret ‘that there was nae time to gie the nag a feed, that the young Laird might ken his mettle,’ Bertram, taking the clergyman by the arm, walked into the vault and shut the door immediately after them. He gazed in silence for some minutes upon the body of Meg Merrilies, as it lay before him, with the features sharpened by death, yet still retaining the stern and energetic character which had maintained in life her superiority as the wild chieftainess of the lawless people amongst whom she was born. The young soldier dried the tears which involuntarily rose on viewing this wreck of one who might be said to have died a victim to her fidelity to his person and family. He then took the clergyman’s hand and asked solemnly if she appeared able to give that attention to his devotions which befitted a departing person.
‘My dear sir,’ said the good minister, ‘I trust this poor woman had remaining sense to feel and join in the import of my prayers. But let us humbly hope we are judged of by our opportunities of religious and moral instruction. In some degree she might be considered as an uninstructed heathen, even in the bosom of a Christian country; and let us remember that the errors and vices of an ignorant life were balanced by instances of disinterested attachment, amounting almost to heroism. To HIM who can alone weigh our crimes and errors against our efforts towards virtue we consign her with awe, but not without hope.’
‘May I request,’ said Bertram, ‘that you will see every decent solemnity attended to in behalf of this poor woman? I have some property belonging to her in my hands; at all events I will be answerable for the expense. You will hear of me at Woodbourne.’
Dinmont, who had been furnished with a horse by one of his acquaintance, now loudly called out that all was ready for their return; and Bertram and Hazlewood, after a strict exhortation to the crowd, which was now increased to several hundreds, to preserve good order in their rejoicing, as the least ungoverned zeal might be turned to the disadvantage of the young Laird, as they termed him, took their leave amid the shouts of the multitude.
As they rode past the ruined cottages at Derncleugh, Dinmont said, ‘I’m sure when ye come to your ain, Captain, ye’ll no forget to bigg a bit cot-house there? Deil be in me but I wad do’t mysell, an it werena in better hands. I wadna like to live in’t, though, after what she said. Od, I wad put in auld Elspeth, the bedral’s widow; the like o’ them’s used wi’ graves and ghaists and thae things.’
A short but brisk ride brought them to Woodbourne. The news of their exploit had already flown far and wide, and the whole inhabitants of the vicinity met them on the lawn with shouts of congratulation. ‘That you have seen me alive,’ said Bertram to Lucy, who first ran up to him, though Julia’s eyes even anticipated hers, ‘you must thank these kind friends.’
With a blush expressing at once pleasure, gratitude, and bashfulness, Lucy curtsied to Hazlewood, but to Dinmont she frankly extended her hand. The honest farmer, in the extravagance of his joy, carried his freedom farther than the hint warranted, for he imprinted his thanks on the lady’s lips, and was instantly shocked at the rudeness of his own conduct. ‘Lord sake, madam, I ask your pardon,’ he said. ‘I forgot but ye had been a bairn o’my ain; the Captain’s sae namely, he gars ane forget himsell.’
Old Pleydell now advanced. ‘Nay, if fees like these are going,’ he said—
‘Stop, stop, Mr. Pleydell,’ said Julia, ‘you had your fees beforehand; remember last night.’
‘Why, I do confess a retainer,’ said the Barrister; ‘but if I don’t deserve double fees from both Miss Bertram and you when I conclude my examination of Dirk Hatteraick to-morrow—Gad, I will so supple him! You shall see, Colonel; and you, my saucy misses, though you may not see, shall hear.’
‘Ay, that’s if we choose to listen, Counsellor,’ replied Julia.
‘And you think,’ said Pleydell, ‘it’s two to one you won’t choose that? But you have curiosity that teaches you the use of your ears now and then.’
‘I declare, Counsellor,’ answered the lively damsel, ‘that such saucy bachelors as you would teach us the use of our fingers now and then.’
‘Reserve them for the harpsichord, my love,’ said the Counsellor. ‘Better for all parties.’
While this idle chat ran on, Colonel Mannering introduced to Bertram a plain good-looking man, in a grey coat and waistcoat, buckskin breeches, and boots. ‘This, my dear sir, is Mr. Mac-Morlan.’
‘To whom,’ said Bertram, embracing him cordially, ‘my sister was indebted for a home, when deserted by all her natural friends and relations.’
The Dominie then pressed forward, grinned, chuckled, made a diabolical sound in attempting to whistle, and finally, unable to stifle his emotions, ran away to empty the feelings of his heart at his eyes.
We shall not attempt to describe the expansion of heart and glee of this happy evening.
1. This hard word is placed in the mouth of one of the aged tenants. In the old feudal tenures the herezeld constituted the best horse or other animal on the vassals’ lands, become the right of the superior. The only remnant of this custom is what is called the sasine, or a fee of certain estimated value, paid to the sheriff of the county, who gives possession to the vassals of the crown. [back]