Page images

her shotted guns were discharging, one after another, by the heat. The captain had no doubt whatever that the crew had set the vessel on fire, and escaped in their boats. After watching the conflagration till the ship blew up, his majesty's sloop, the Shark, stood towards the Isle of Man, with the purpose of intercepting the retreat of the smugglers, who, though they might conceal themselves in the woods for a day or two, would probably take the first opportunity of endeavouring to make for this asylum. But they never saw more of them than is above narrated...

Such was the account given by William Pritchard, master and commander of his inajesty's sloop of war, Shark, who concluded by regretting deeply, that he had not had the happiness to fall in with the scoundrels who had had the impudence to fire on his majesty's flag, and with an assu.

tance, that, should he meet Mr Dirk Hat· teraick in any future cruise, he would not

fail to bring him into port under his stern, 163 to answer whatever might be alleged against him. · As, therefore, it seemed tolerably certain that the men on board the lugger had' escaped, the death of Kennedy, if he fell in with them in the woods, when irritated by the loss of their vessel, and by the share he had in it, was' easily to be accounted for. And it was not improbable, that to such brutal tempers, rendered desperate by their own circumstances, even the murder of the child, against whose + father Hatteraick was known to have uttered deep threats, would not appear a' very heinous crime. .- Against this hypothesis it was urged, that a crew of fifteen or twenty men could not have lain hidden upon the coast, when so close a search took place imme. diately after the destruction of their vessel; or, at least, that if they had hid themselves in the woods their boats must have been seen on the beach ;--that in such precarious circumstances, and when all retreat must have seemed diffi. cult, if not impossible, it was not to be thought that they would have all united to commit an useless murder, for the mere sake of revenge. Those who held this opinion, supposed, either that the boats of the lugger had stood out to sea without being observed by those who were intent upon gazing at the burning vessel, and so gained safe distance be. fore the sloop got round the headland, or else, that the boats being staved' or destroyed by the fire of the Shark during the chase, the crew had obstinately determined to perish with the vessel. What gave some countenance to this supe posed act of desperation was, that neither Dirk Hatteraick nor any of his sailors, all well-known men in the fair-trade, were again seen upon that coast, or heard of in the Isle of Man, where strict enquiry was made. On the other hand, only one dead body, apparently that of a seaman killed by a cannon shot, drifted ashore. So all that could be done was, to register. the names, description, and appearance of the individuals belonging to the ship’s company, and offer a reward for the ap. prehension of them, or any one of them; extending also to any person, not the actual murderer, who should give evidence tending to convict those who had murthered Francis Kennedy. · Another opinion, which was also plausibly supported, went to charge this horrid crime upon the late tenants of Dern. cleugh. They were known to have resented highly the conduct of the Laird of Ellangowan towards them, and to have used threatening expressions, which every one, supposed them capable of carrying into effect. The kidnapping the child was a crime much more consistent with their habits than with those of smugglers, and his temporary guardian might have fallen in an attempt to protect him. Besides it was remembered, that Kennedy had been an active agent, two or three days before, in the forcible expulsion of

these people from Derncleugh, and that harsh and menacing language had been exchanged between him and some of the Egyptian patriarchs upon that memorable occasion. at

The Sheriff received also the depositions of the unfortunate father and his servant, concerning what had passed at their meeting the caravan of gypsies as they left the estate of Ellangowan. The speech of Meg Merrilies seemed particularly suspicious. There was, as the magistrate obo served in his law language, damnum minatum, a damage, or evil turn threatened, and malum secutum an evil of the very kind predicted shortly afterwards following. A young woman, who had been gathering nuts in Warroch wood upon the fatal day, was also strongly of opinion, though she declined to make positive oath, that she had seen Meg Merrilies, at least a woman of her remarkable size and appearance, start suddenly out of a thicket --she said she had called to her by name,

« PreviousContinue »