Page images
PDF
EPUB

was unnecessary, for the purpose of diverting the attention of Sir Robert Hazlewood, who was speechless and motionless with indignation at the presumptuous comparison implied in Bertram's last speech. In fact, the veins of his throat and of his temples swelled almost to bursting, and he sat with the indignant and disconcerted air of one who has received a mortal insult from a quarter to which he holds it unmeet and indecorous to make any reply. While with a bent brow and an angry eye he was drawing in his breath slowly and majestically, and puffing it forth again with deep and solemn exertion, Glossin stepped in to his assistance. “I should think now, Sir Robert, with great submission, that this matter may be closed. One of the constables, besides the pregnant proof already produced, offers to make oath, that the sword of which the prisoner was this morning deprived (while using it, by the way, in resistance to a legal warrant) was a cutlass taken from him in a fray between the officers and smugglers, just previous to their attack upon Woodbourne. And yet," he added, “I would not have you form any rash construction upon that subject; perhaps the young man can explain how he came by that weapon."

“That question, sir," said Bertram, “I shall also leave unanswered.”

“There is yet another circumstance to be inquired into, always under Sir Robert's leave,” insinuated Glossin. “This prisoner put into the hands of Mrs. Mac-Candlish of Kippleiringan a parcel containing a variety of gold coins and valuable articles of different kinds. Perhaps, Sir Robert, you might think it right to ask, how he came by property of a description which seldom occurs ?"

“You, sir, Mr. Vanbeest Brown, sir, you hear the question, sir, which the gentleman asks you ?”

"I have particular reasons for declining to answer that question," answered Bertram.

“ Then I am afraid, sir," said Glossin, who had brought matters to the point he desired to reach, “our duty must lay us under the necessity to sign a warrant of committal.”

“As you please, sir," answered Bertram; “take care, however, what you do. Observe that I inform you that I am a captain in his Majesty's — regiment, and that I am just returned from India, and therefore cannot possibly be connected with any of those contraband traders you talk of; that my Lieutenant-Colonel is now at Nottingham, the Major, with

the officers of my corps, at Kingston-upon-Thames. I offer before you both to submit to any degree of ignominy, if, within the return of the Kingston and Nottingham posts, I am not able to establish these points. Or you may write to the agent for the regiment, if you please, and

“This is all very well, sir,” said Glossin, beginning to fear lest the firm expostulation of Bertram should make some impression on Sir Robert, who would almost have died of shame at committing such a solecism as sending a captain of horse to jail-“This is all very well, sir ; but is there no person nearer whom you could refer to ?”.

“There are only two persons in this country who know anything of me," replied the prisoner. “One is a plain Liddesdale sheep-farmer, called Dinmont of Charlies-hope ; but he knows nothing more of me than what I told him, and what I now tell you."

“Why, this is well enough, Sir Robert !” said Glossin, “I suppose he would bring forward this thick-skulled fellow to give his oath of credulity, Sir Robert, ha, ha, ha!”

“And what is your other witness, friend ? ” said the Baronet.

“A gentleman whom I have some reluctance to mention, because of certain private reasons; but under whose command I served some time in India, and who is too much a man of honour to refuse his testimony to my character as a soldier and gentleman."

“And who is this doughty witness, pray, sir?” said Sir Robert,—"some half-pay quarter-master or sergeant, I suppose?”

"Colonel Guy Mannering, late of the regiment, in which, as I told you, I have a troop."

“Colonel Guy Mannering!” thought Glossin, "who the devil could have guessed this?”

“ Colonel Guy Mannering !” echoed the Baronet, considerably shaken in his opinion,—“My good sir,”—apart to Glossin, “the young man with a dreadfully plebeian name, and a good deal of modest assurance, has nevertheless something of the tone, and manners, and feeling of a gentleman, of one at least who has lived in good society-they do give commissions very loosely, and carelessly, and inaccurately, in India-I think we had better pause till Colonel Mannering shall return; he is now, I believe, at Edinburgh.”.

“You are in every respect the best judge, Sir Robert,” answered Glossin, “ in every possible respect. I would only submit to you, that we are certainly hardly entitled to dismiss

this man upon an assertion which cannot be satisfied by proof, and that we shall incur a heavy responsibility by detaining him in private custody, without committing him to a public jail. Undoubtedly, however, you are the best judge, Sir Robert ;—and I would only say, for my own part, that I very lately incurred severe censure by detaining a person in a place which I thought perfectly secure, and under the custody of the proper officers. The man made his escape, and I have no doubt my own character for attention and circumspection as a magistrate has in some degree suffered-I only hint thisI will join in any step you, Sir Robert, think most advisable.” But Mr. Glossin was well aware that such a hint was of power sufficient to decide the motions of his self-important, but not self-relying colleague. So that Sir Robert Hazlewood summed up the business in the following speech, which proceeded partly upon the supposition of the prisoner being really a gentleman, and partly upon the opposite belief that he was a villain and an assassin.

“Sir, Mr. Vanbeest Brown, I would call you Captain Brown if there was the least reason, or cause, or grounds to suppose that you are a captain, or had a troop in the very respectable corps you mention, or indeed in any other corps in his Majesty's service, as to which circumstance I beg to be understood to give no positive, settled, or unalterable judgment, declaration, or opinion. I say therefore, sir, Mr. Brown, we have determined, considering the unpleasant predicament in which you now stand, having been robbed, as you say, an assertion as to which I suspend my opinion, and being possessed of much and valuable treasure, and of a brasshandled cutlass besides, as to your obtaining which you will favour us with no explanation-I say, sir, we have determined and resolved, and made up our minds, to commit you to jail, or rather to assign you an apartment therein, in order that you may be forthcoming upon Colonel Mannering's return from Edinburgh.”

“With humble submission, Sir Robert,” said Glossin, “may I inquire if it is your purpose to send this young gentleman to the county jail ?—for if that were not your settled intention, I would take the liberty to hint, that there would be less hardship in sending him to the Bridewell at Portanferry, where he can be secured without public exposure; a circumstance which, on the mere chance of his story being really true, is much to be avoided.”

“Why, there is a guard of soldiers at Portanferry, to be sure, for protection of the goods in the Custom-house; and upon the whole, considering everything, and that the place is comfortable for such a place, I say all things considered, we will commit this person, I would rather say authorise him to be detained, in the workhouse at Portanferry."

The warrant was made out accordingly, and Bertram was informed he was next morning to be removed to his place of confinement, as Sir Robert had determined he should not be taken there under cloud of night, for fear of rescue. He was, during the interval, to be detained at Hazlewood House. - “ It cannot be so hard as my imprisonment by the Looties in India,” he thought; “nor can it last so long. But the deuce take the old formal dunderhead, and his more sly associate, who speaks always under his breath,—they cannot understand a plain man's story when it is told them.”

In the meanwhile Glossin took leave of the Baronet, with a thousand respectful bows and cringing apologies for not accepting his invitation to dinner, and venturing to hope he might be pardoned in paying his respects to him, Lady Hazlewood, and young Mr. Hazlewood, on some future occasion.

“Certainly, sir," said the Baronet, very graciously. “I hope our family was never at any time deficient in civility to our neighbours; and when I ride that way, good Mr. Glossin, I will convince you of this by calling at your house as familiarly as is consistent — that is, as can be hoped or expected.”

“And now,” said Glossin to himself, “to find Dirk Hatteraick and his people,—to get the guard sent off from the Custom-house,—and then for the grand cast of the dice. Everything must depend upon speed. How lucky that Mannering has betaken himself to Edinburgh! His knowledge of this young fellow is a most perilous addition to my dangers,”-here he suffered his horse to slacken his pace“What if I should try to compound with the heir ?- It's likely he might be brought to pay a round sum for restitution, and I could give up Hatteraick—But no, no, no! there were too many eyes on me, Hatteraick himself, and the gipsy sailor, and that old hag—No, no! I must stick to my original plan.” And with that he struck his spurs against his horse's flanks, and rode forward at a hard trot to put his machines in motion.

CHAPTER XLIV

A prison is a house of care,
A place where none can thrive,
A touchstone true to try a friend,
A grave for one alive.
Sometiines a place of right,
Sometimes a place of wrong,
Sometimes a place of rogues and thieves,
And honest men among.

Inscription on Edinburgh Tolboots EARLY on the following morning, the carriage which had brought Bertram to Hazlewood House, was, with his two silent and surly attendants, appointed to convey him to his place of confinement at Portanferry. This building adjoined to the Custom-house established at that little seaport, and both were situated so close to the sea-beach that it was necessary to defend the back part with a large and strong rampart or bulwark of huge stones, disposed in a slope towards the surf, which often reached and broke upon them. The front was surrounded by a high wall, enclosing a small courtyard, within which the miserable inmates of the mansion were occasionally permitted to take exercise and air. The prison was used as a House of Correction, and sometimes as a chapel of ease to the county jail, which was old, and far from being conveniently situated with reference to the Kippletringan district of the county. Mac-Guffog, the officer by whom Bertram had at first been apprehended, and who was now in attendance upon him, was keeper of this palace of little-ease. He caused the carriage to be drawn close up to the outer gate, and got out himself to summon the warders. The noise of his rap alarmed some twenty or thirty ragged boys, who left off sailing their mimic sloops and frigates in the little pools of salt water left by the receding tide, and hastily crowded round the vehicle to see what luckless being was to be delivered to the prison-house out of “Glossin's braw new carriage.” The door of the courtyard, after the heavy clanking of many chains and bars, was opened by Mrs. Mac-Guffog, an awful spectacle, being a woman for strength and resolution capable of maintaining order among her riotous inmates, and of administering the discipline of the house, as it was called, during the absence of her husband, or when he chanced to have taken an overdose of the creature. The growling voice of this Amazon,

« PreviousContinue »