Narrative of Alan Fairford, Continued
FAIRFORD followed his gruff guide among a labyrinth of barrels and puncheons, on which he had more than once like to have broken his nose, and from thence into what, by the glimpse of the passing lantern upon a desk and writing materials, seemed to be a small office for the dispatch of business. Here there appeared no exit; but the smuggler, or smuggler’s ally, availing himself of a ladder, removed an old picture, which showed a door about seven feet from the ground, and Fairford, still following Job, was involved in another tortuous and dark passage, which involuntarily reminded him of Peter Peebles’s lawsuit. At the end of this labyrinth, when he had little guess where he had been conducted, and was, according to the French phrase, totally désorienté, Job suddenly set down the lantern, and availing himself of the flame to light two candles which stood on the table, asked if Alan would choose anything to eat, recommending, at all events, a slug of brandy to keep out the night air. Fairford declined both, but inquired after his baggage.
“The old master will take care of that himself,” said Job Rutledge; and drawing back in the direction in which he had entered, he vanished from the farther end of the apartment, by a mode which the candles, still shedding an imperfect light, gave Alan no means of ascertaining. Thus the adventurous young lawyer was left alone in the apartment to which he had been conducted by so singular a passage.
In this condition, it was Alan’s first employment to survey, with some accuracy, the place where he was; and accordingly, having trimmed the lights, he walked slowly round the apartment, examining its appearance and dimensions. It seemed to be such a small dining-parlour as is usually found in the house of the better class of artisans, shopkeepers, and such persons, having a recess at the upper end, and the usual furniture of an ordinary description. He found a door, which he endeavoured to open, but it was locked on the outside. A corresponding door on the same side of the apartment admitted him into a closet, upon the front shelves of which were punch-bowls, glasses, tea-cups, and the like, while on one side was hung a horseman’s greatcoat of the coarsest materials, with two great horse-pistols peeping out of the pocket, and on the floor stood a pair of well-spattered jack-boots, the usual equipment of the time, at least for long journeys.
Not greatly liking the contents of the closet, Alan Fairford shut the door, and resumed his scrutiny round the walls of the apartment, in order to discover the mode of Job Rutledge’s retreat. The secret passage was, however, too artificially concealed, and the young lawyer had nothing better to do than to meditate on the singularity of his present situation. He had long known that the excise laws had occasioned an active contraband trade betwixt Scotland and England, which then, as now, existed, and will continue to exist until the utter abolition of the wretched system which establishes an inequality of duties betwixt the different parts of the same kingdom; a system, be it said in passing, mightily resembling the conduct of a pugilist, who should tie up one arm that he might fight the better with the other. But Fairford was unprepared for the expensive and regular establishments by which the illicit traffic was carried on, and could not have conceived that the capital employed in it should have been adequate to the erection of these extensive buildings, with all their contrivances for secrecy of communication. He was musing on these circumstances, not without some anxiety for the progress of his own journey, when suddenly, as he lifted his eyes, he discovered old Mr. Trumbull at the upper end of the apartment, bearing in one hand a small bundle, in the other his dark lantern, the light of which, as he advanced, he directed full upon Fairford’s countenance.
Though such an apparition was exactly what he expected, yet he did not see the grim, stern old man present himself thus suddenly without emotion; especially when he recollected, what to a youth of his pious education was peculiarly shocking, that the grizzled hypocrite was probably that instant arisen from his knees to Heaven, for the purpose of engaging in the mysterious transactions of a desperate and illegal trade.
The old man, accustomed to judge with ready sharpness of the physiognomy of those with whom he had business, did not fail to remark something like agitation in Fairford’s demeanour. “Have ye taken the rue?” said he. “Will ye take the sheaf from the mare, and give up the venture?”
“Never!” said Fairford, firmly, stimulated at once by his natural spirit, and the recollection of his friend; “never, while I have life and strength to follow it out!”
“I have brought you,” said Trumbull, “a clean shirt, and some stockings, which is all the baggage you can conveniently carry, and I will cause one of the lads lend you a horseman’s coat, for it is ill sailing or riding without one; and, touching your valise, it will be as safe in my poor house, were it full of the gold of Ophir, as if it were in the depth of the mine.”
“I have no doubt of it,” said Fairford.
“And now,” said Trumbull, again, “I pray you to tell me by what name I am to name you to Nanty (which is Antony) Ewart?”
“By the name of Alan Fairford,” answered the young lawyer.
“But that,” said Mr. Trumbull, in reply, “is your own proper name and surname.”
“And what other should I give?” said the young man; “do you think I have any occasion for an alias? And, besides, Mr. Trumbull,” added Alan, thinking a little raillery might intimate confidence of spirit, “you blessed yourself, but a little while since, that you had no acquaintance with those who defiled their names so far as to be obliged to change them.”
“True, very true,” said Mr. Trumbull; “nevertheless, young man, my grey hairs stand unreproved in this matter; for, in my line of business, when I sit under my vine and my fig-tree, exchanging the strong waters of the north for the gold which is the price thereof, I have, I thank Heaven, no disguises to keep with any man, and wear my own name of Thomas Trumbull, without any chance that the same may be polluted. Whereas, thou, who art to journey in miry ways, and amongst a strange people, mayst do well to have two names, as thou hast two shirts, the one to keep the other clean.”
Here he emitted a chuckling grunt, which lasted for two vibrations of the pendulum exactly, and was the only approach towards laughter in which old Turnpenny, as he was nicknamed, was ever known to indulge.
“You are witty, Mr. Trumbull,” said Fairford; “but jests are no arguments—I shall keep my own name.”
“At your own pleasure,” said the merchant; “there is but one name which,” &c. &c. &c.
We will not follow the hypocrite through the impious cant which he added, in order to close the subject.
Alan followed him, in silent abhorrence, to the recess in which the beaufet was placed, and which was so artificially made as to conceal another of those traps with which the whole building abounded. This concealment admitted them to the same winding passage by which the young lawyer had been brought thither. The path which they now took amid these mazes, differed from the direction in which he had been guided by Rutledge. It led upwards, and terminated beneath a garret window. Trumbull opened it, and with more agility than his age promised, clambered out upon the leads. If Fairford’s journey had been hitherto in a stifled and subterranean atmosphere, it was now open, lofty, and airy enough; for he had to follow his guide over leads and slates, which the old smuggler traversed with the dexterity of a cat. It is true, his course was facilitated by knowing exactly where certain stepping-places and holdfasts were placed, of which Fairford could not so readily avail himself; but, after a difficult and somewhat perilous progress along the roofs of two or three houses, they at length descended by a skylight into a garret room, and from thence by the stairs into a public-house; for such it appeared, by the ringing of bells, whistling for waiters and attendance, bawling of “House, house, here!” chorus of sea songs, and the like noises.
Having descended to the second story, and entered a room there in which there was a light, old Mr. Trumbull rang the bell of the apartment thrice, with an interval betwixt each, during which he told deliberately the number twenty. Immediately after the third ringing the landlord appeared, with stealthy step, and an appearance of mystery on his buxom visage. He greeted Mr. Trumbull, who was his landlord as it proved, with great respect, and expressed some surprise at seeing him so late, as he termed it, “on Saturday e’en.”
“And I, Robin Hastie,” said the landlord to the tenant, am more surprised than pleased, to hear sae muckle din in your house, Robie, so near the honourable Sabbath; and I must mind you that it is contravening the terms of your tack, whilk stipulates that you should shut your public on Saturday at nine o’clock, at latest.”
“Yes, sir,” said Robin Hastie, no way alarmed at the gravity of the rebuke, “but you must take tent that I have admitted naebody but you, Mr. Trumbull (who by the way admitted yoursell), since nine o’clock for the most of the folk have been here for several hours about the lading, and so on, of the brig. It is not full tide yet, and I cannot put the men out into the street. If I did, they would go to some other public, and their souls would be nane the better, and my purse muckle the waur; for how am I to pay the rent if I do not sell the liquor?”
“Nay, then,” said Thomas Trumbull, “if it is a work of necessity, and in the honest independent way of business, no doubt there is balm in Gilead. But prithee, Robin, wilt thou see if Nanty Ewart be, as is most likely, amongst these unhappy topers; and if so, let him step this way cannily, and speak to me and this young gentleman. And it’s dry talking, Robin—you must minister to us a bowl of punch—ye ken my gage.”
“From a mutchkin to a gallon, I ken your honour’s taste, Mr. Thomas Trumbull,” said mine host; “and ye shall hang me over the signpost if there be a drap mair lemon or a curn less sugar than just suits you. There are three of you—you will be for the auld Scots peremptory pint-stoup for the success of the voyage?”1
“Better pray for it than drink for it, Robin,” said Mr. Trumbull. “Yours is a dangerous trade, Robin; it hurts mony a ane—baith host and guest. But ye will get the blue bowl, Robin—the blue bowl—that will sloken all their drouth, and prevent the sinful repetition of whipping for an eke of a Saturday at e’en. Aye, Robin, it is a pity of Nanty Ewart—Nanty likes the turning up of his little finger unco weel, and we maunna stint him, Robin, so as we leave him sense to steer by.”
“Nanty Ewart could steer through the Pentland Firth though he were as drunk as the Baltic Ocean,” said Robin Hastie; and instantly tripping downstairs, he speedily returned with the materials for what he called his browst, which consisted of two English quarts of spirits, in a huge blue bowl, with all the ingredients for punch in the same formidable proportion. At the same time he introduced Mr. Antony or Nanty Ewart, whose person, although he was a good deal flustered with liquor, was different from what Fairford expected. His dress was what is emphatically termed the shabby genteel—a frock with tarnished lace—a small cocked hat, ornamented in a similar way—a scarlet waistcoat, with faded embroidery, breeches of the same, with silver knee-bands, and he wore a smart hanger and a pair of pistols in a sullied swordbelt.
“Here I come, patron,” he said, shaking hands with Mr. Trumbull. “Well, I see you have got some grog aboard.”
“It is not my custom, Mr. Ewart,” said the old gentleman, “as you well know, to become a chamberer or carouser thus late on Saturday at e’en; but I wanted to recommend to your attention a young friend of ours, that is going upon a something particular journey, with a letter to our friend the Laird from Pate-in-Peril, as they call him.”
“Aye—indeed?—he must be in high trust for so young a gentleman. I wish you joy, sir,” bowing to Fairford. “By’r lady, as Shakespeare says, you are bringing up a neck for a fair end. Come, patron, we will drink to Mr. What-shall-call-um. What is his name? Did you tell me? And have I forgot it already.”
“Mr. Alan Fairford,” said Trumbull.
“Aye, Mr. Alan Fairford—a good name for a fair trader—Mr. Alan Fairford; and may he be long withheld from the topmost round of ambition, which I take to be the highest round of a certain ladder.”
While he spoke, he seized the punch-ladle, and began to fill the glasses. But Mr. Trumbull arrested his hand, until he had, as he expressed himself, sanctified the liquor by a long grace; during the pronunciation of which he shut indeed his eyes, but his nostrils became dilated, as if he were snuffing up the fragrant beverage with peculiar complacency.
When the grace was at length over, the three friends sat down to their beverage, and invited Alan Fairford to partake. Anxious about his situation, and disgusted as he was with his company, he craved, and with difficulty obtained permission, under the allegation of being fatigued, heated, and the like, to stretch himself on a couch which was in the apartment, and attempted at least to procure some rest before high-water, when the vessel was to sail.
He was at length permitted to use his freedom, and stretched himself on the couch, having his eyes for some time fixed on the jovial party he had left, and straining his ears to catch if possible a little of their conversation. This he soon found was to no purpose for what did actually reach his ears was disguised so completely by the use of cant words and the thieves-latin called slang, that even when he caught the words, he found himself as far as ever from the sense of their conversation. At length he fell asleep.
It was after Alan had slumbered for three or four hours, that he was wakened by voices bidding him rise up and prepare to be jogging. He started up accordingly, and found himself in presence of the same party of boon companions; who had just dispatched their huge bowl of punch. To Alan’s surprise, the liquor had made but little innovation on the brains of men who were accustomed to drink at all hours, and in the most inordinate quantities. The landlord indeed spoke a little thick, and the texts of Mr. Thomas Trumbull stumbled on his tongue; but Nanty was one of those topers, who, becoming early what bon vivants term flustered, remain whole nights and days at the same point of intoxication; and, in fact, as they are seldom entirely sober, can be as rarely seen absolutely drunk. Indeed, Fairford, had he not known how Ewart had been engaged whilst he himself was asleep, would almost have sworn when he awoke, that the man was more sober than when he first entered the room.
He was confirmed in this opinion when they descended below, where two or three sailors and ruffian-looking fellows awaited their commands. Ewart took the whole direction upon himself, gave his orders with briefness and precision, and looked to their being executed with the silence and celerity which that peculiar crisis required. All were now dismissed for the brig, which lay, as Fairford was given to understand, a little farther down the river, which is navigable for vessels of light burden till almost within a mile of the town.
When they issued from the inn, the landlord bid them goodbye. Old Trumbull walked a little way with them, but the air had probably considerable effect on the state of his brain; for after reminding Alan Fairford that the next day was the honourable Sabbath, he became extremely excursive in an attempt to exhort him to keep it holy. At length, being perhaps sensible that he was becoming unintelligible, he thrust a volume into Fairford’s hand—hiccuping at the same time—“Good book—good book—fine hymn-book—fit for the honourable Sabbath, whilk awaits us to-morrow morning.” Here the iron tongue of time told five from the town steeple of Annan, to the further confusion of Mr. Trumbull’s already disordered ideas. “Aye? Is Sunday come and gone already? Heaven be praised! Only it is a marvel the afternoon is sae dark for the time of the year—Sabbath has slipped ower quietly, but we have reason to bless oursells it has not been altogether misemployed. I heard little of the preaching—a cauld moralist, I doubt, served that out—but, eh—the prayer—I mind it as if I had said the words mysell.” Here he repeated one or two petitions, which were probably a part of his family devotions, before he was summoned forth to what he called the way of business. “I never remember a Sabbath pass so cannily off in my life.” Then he recollected himself a little, and said to Alan, “You may read that book, Mr. Fairford, to-morrow, all the same, though it be Monday; for, you see, it was Saturday when we were thegither, and now it’s Sunday and it’s dark night—so the Sabbath has slipped clean away through our fingers like water through a sieve, which abideth not; and we have to begin again to-morrow morning, in the weariful, base, mean, earthly employments, whilk are unworthy of an immortal spirit—always excepting the way of business.”
Three of the fellows were now returning to the town, and, at Ewart’s command, they cut short the patriarch’s exhortation, by leading him back to his own residence. The rest of the party then proceeded to the brig, which only waited their arrival to get under weigh and drop down the river. Nanty Ewart betook himself to steering the brig, and the very touch of the helm seemed to dispel the remaining influence of the liquor which he had drunk, since, through a troublesome and intricate channel, he was able to direct the course of his little vessel with the most perfect accuracy and safety.
Alan Fairford, for some time, availed himself of the clearness of the summer morning to gaze on the dimly seen shores betwixt which they glided, becoming less and less distinct as they receded from each other, until at length, having adjusted his little bundle by way of pillow, and wrapped around him the greatcoat with which old Trumbull had equipped him, he stretched himself on the deck, to try to recover the slumber out of which he had been awakened. Sleep had scarce begun to settle on his eyes, ere he found something stirring about his person. With ready presence of mind he recollected his situation, and resolved to show no alarm until the purpose of this became obvious; but he was soon relieved from his anxiety, by finding it was only the result of Nanty’s attention to his comfort, who was wrapping around him, as softly as he could, a great boatcloak, in order to defend him from the morning air.
“Thou art but a cockerel,” he muttered, “but ’twere pity thou wert knocked off the perch before seeing a little more of the sweet and sour of this world—though, faith, if thou hast the usual luck of it, the best way were to leave thee to the chance of a seasoning fever.”
These words, and the awkward courtesy with which the skipper of the little brig tucked the sea-coat round Fairford, gave him a confidence of safety which he had not yet thoroughly possessed. He stretched himself in more security on the hard planks, and was speedily asleep, though his slumbers were feverish and unrefreshing.
It has been elsewhere intimated that Alan Fairford inherited from his mother a delicate constitution, with a tendency to consumption; and, being an only child, with such a cause for apprehension, care, to the verge of effeminacy, was taken to preserve him from damp beds, wet feet, and those various emergencies to which the Caledonian boys of much higher birth, but more active habits, are generally accustomed. In man, the spirit sustains the constitutional weakness, as in the winged tribes the feathers bear aloft the body. But there is a bound to these supporting qualities; and as the pinions of the bird must at length grow weary, so the vis animi of the human struggler becomes broken down by continued fatigue.
When the voyager was awakened by the light of the sun now riding high in heaven, he found himself under the influence of an almost intolerable headache, with heat, thirst, shooting across the back and loins, and other symptoms intimating violent cold, accompanied with fever. The manner in which he had passed the preceding day and night, though perhaps it might have been of little consequence to most young men, was to him, delicate in constitution and nurture, attended with bad and even perilous consequences. He felt this was the case, yet would fain have combated the symptoms of indisposition, which, indeed, he imputed chiefly to sea-sickness. He sat up on deck, and looked on the scene around, as the little vessel, having borne down the Solway Firth, was beginning, with a favourable northerly breeze, to bear away to the southward, crossing the entrance of the Wampool river, and preparing to double the most northerly point of Cumberland.
But Fairford felt annoyed with deadly sickness, as well as by pain of a distressing and oppressive character; and neither Criffel, rising in majesty on the one hand, nor the distant yet more picturesque outline of Skiddaw and Glaramara upon the other, could attract his attention in the manner in which it was usually fixed by beautiful scenery, and especially that which had in it something new as well as striking. Yet it was not in Alan Fairford’s nature to give way to despondence, even when seconded by pain. He had recourse, in the first place, to his pocket; but instead of the little Sallust he had brought with him, that the perusal of a classical author might help to pass away a heavy hour, he pulled out the supposed hymn-book with which he had been presented a few hours before, by that temperate and scrupulous person, Mr. Thomas Trumbull, alias Turnpenny. The volume was bound in sable, and its exterior might have become a psalter. But what was Alan’s astonishment to read on the title page the following words:—“Merry Thoughts for Merry Men; or Mother Midnight’s Miscellany for the Small Hours;” and turning over the leaves, he was disgusted with profligate tales, and more profligate songs, ornamented with figures corresponding in infamy with the letterpress.
“Good God!” he thought, “and did this hoary reprobate summon his family together, and, with such a disgraceful pledge of infamy in his bosom, venture to approach the throne of his Creator? It must be so; the book is bound after the manner of those dedicated to devotional subjects, and doubtless the wretch, in his intoxication, confounded the books he carried with him, as he did the days of the week.” Seized with the disgust with which the young and generous usually regard the vices of advanced life, Alan, having turned the leaves of the book over in hasty disdain, flung it from him, as far as he could, into the sea. He then had recourse to the Sallust, which he had at first sought for in vain. As he opened the book, Nanty Ewart, who had been looking over his shoulder, made his own opinion heard.
“I think now, brother, if you are so much scandalized at a little piece of sculduddery, which, after all, does nobody any harm, you had better have given it to me than have flung it into the Solway.”
“I hope, sir,” answered Fairford, civilly, “you are in the habit of reading better books.”
“Faith,” answered Nanty, “with help of a little Geneva text, I could read my Sallust as well as you can;” and snatching the book from Alan’s hand, he began to read, in the Scottish accent:— ‘Igitur ex divitiis juventutem luxuria atque avaritia cum superbiâ invasere: rapere, consumere; sua parvi pendere, aliena cupere; pudorem, amicitiam, pudicitiam, divina atque humana promiscua, nihil pensi neque moderati habere.’2—There is a slap in the face now, for an honest fellow that has been buccaneering! Never could keep a groat of what he got, or hold his fingers from what belonged to another, said you? Fie, fie, friend Crispus, thy morals are as crabbed and austere as thy style—the one has as little mercy as the other has grace. By my soul, it is unhandsome to make personal reflections on an old acquaintance, who seeks a little civil intercourse with you after nigh twenty years’ separation. On my soul, Master Sallust deserves to float on the Solway better than Mother Midnight herself.”
“Perhaps, in some respects, he may merit better usage at our hands,” said Alan; “for if he has described vice plainly, it seems to have been for the purpose of rendering it generally abhorred.”
“Well,” said the seaman, “I have heard of the Sortes Virgilianæ, and I dare say the Sortes Sallustianæ are as true every tittle. I have consulted honest Crispus on my own account, and have had a cuff for my pains. But now see, I open the book on your behalf, and behold what occurs first to my eye!—Lo you there— “Catilina . . . omnium flagitiosorum atque facinorosorum circum se habebat.” And then again— “Etiam si quis a culpa vacuus in amicitiam ejus incididerat quotidiano usu par similisque caeteris efficiebatur.”3 That is what I call plain speaking on the part of the old Roman, Mr. Fairford. By the way, that is a capital name for a lawyer.
“Lawyer as I am,” said Fairford, “I do not understand your innuendo.”
“Nay, then,” said Ewart, “I can try it another way, as well as the hypocritical old rascal Turnpenny himself could do. I would have you to know that I am well acquainted with my Bible-book, as well as with my friend Sallust.” He then, in a snuffling and canting tone, began to repeat the Scriptural text—“‘David therefore departed thence, and went to the cave of adullam. And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves together unto him, and he became a captain over them.’ What think you of that?” he said, suddenly changing his manner. “Have I touched you now, sir?”
“You are as far off as ever,” replied Fairford.
“What the devil! and you a repeating frigate between Summertrees and the laird! Tell that to the marines—the sailors won’t believe it. But you are right to be cautious, since you can’t say who are right, who not. But you look ill; it’s but the cold morning air. Will you have a can of flip, or a jorum of hot rumbo? or will you splice the mainbrace” (showing a spirit-flask). “Will you have a quid—or a pipe—or a cigar?—a pinch of snuff, at least, to clear your brains and sharpen your apprehension?”
Fairford rejected all these friendly propositions.
“Why, then,” continued Ewart, “if you will do nothing for the free trade, I must patronize it myself.”
So saying, he took a large glass of brandy.
“A hair of the dog that bit me,” he continued,—“of the dog that will worry me one day soon; and yet, and be d—d to me for an idiot, I must always have hint at my throat. But, says the old catch——” Here he sang, and sang well—
“Let’s drink—let’s drink—while life we have;
“All this,” he continued, “is no charm against the headache. I wish I had anything that could do you good. Faith, and we have tea and coffee aboard! I’ll open a chest or a bag, and let you have some in an instant. You are at the age to like such catlap better than better stuff.”
Fairford thanked him, and accepted his offer of tea.
Nanty Ewart was soon heard calling about, “Break open yon chest—take out your capful, you bastard of a powder-monkey; we may want it again. No sugar? all used up for grog, say you? knock another loaf to pieces, can’t ye? and get the kettle boiling, ye hell’s baby, in no time at all!”
By dint of these energetic proceedings he was in a short time able to return to the place where his passenger lay sick and exhausted, with a cup, or rather a canful, of tea; for everything was on a large scale on board of the Jumping Jenny. Alan drank it eagerly, and with so much appearance of being refreshed that Nanty Ewart swore he would have some too, and only laced it, as his phrase went, with a single glass of brandy.4
1. The Scottish pint of liquid measure comprehends four English measures of the same denomination. The jest is well known of my poor countryman, who, driven to extremity by the raillery of the Southern, on the small denomination of the Scottish coin, at length answered, “Aye, aye! But the deil tak them that has the LEAST PINT-STOUP.” [back]
2. The translation of the passage is thus given by Sir Henry Steuart of Allanton:—“The youth, taught to look up to riches as the sovereign good, became apt pupils in the school of Luxury. Rapacity and profusion went hand in hand. Careless of their own fortunes, and eager to possess those of others, shame and remorse, modesty and moderation, every principle gave way.”—WORKS OF SALLUST, WITH ORIGINAL ESSAYS, vol. ii. p.17. [back]
3. After enumerating the evil qualities of Catiline’s associates, the author adds, “If it happened that any as yet uncontaminated by vice were fatally drawn into his friendship, the effects of intercourse and snares artfully spread, subdued every scruple, and early assimilated them to their conductors.”—Ibidem, p. 19. [back]
4. NOTE 8.—CONCEALMENTS FOR THEFT AND SMUGGLING
I am sorry to say that the modes of concealment described in the imaginary premises of Mr. Trumbull, are of a kind which have been common on the frontiers of late years. The neighbourhood of two nations having different laws, though united in government, still leads to a multitude of transgressions on the Border, and extreme difficulty in apprehending delinquents. About twenty years since, as far as my recollection serves, there was along the frontier an organized gang of coiners, forgers, smugglers, and other malefactors, whose operations were conducted on a scale not inferior to what is here described. The chief of the party was one Richard Mendham a carpenter, who rose to opulence, although ignorant even of the arts of reading and writing. But he had found a short road to wealth, and had taken singular measures for conducting his operations. Amongst these, he found means to build, in a suburb of Berwick called Spittal, a street of small houses, as if for the investment of property. He himself inhabited one of these; another, a species of public-house, was open to his confederates, who held secret and unsuspected communication with him by crossing the roofs of the intervening houses, and descending by a trap-stair, which admitted them into the alcove of the dining-room of Dick Mendham’s private mansion. A vault, too, beneath Mendham’s stable, was accessible in the manner mentioned in the novel. The post of one of the stalls turned round on a bolt being withdrawn, and gave admittance to a subterranean place of concealment for contraband and stolen goods, to a great extent. Richard Mendham, the head of this very formidable conspiracy, which involved malefactors of every kind, was tried and executed at Jedburgh, where the author was present as Sheriff of Selkirkshire. Mendham had previously been tried, but escaped by want of proof and the ingenuity of his counsel. [back]