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which inferred in its consequences, which of the litter should be drowned, which saved. Besides, the Laird himself delayed our young lover's departure for a considerable time, endeavouring, with long and superfluous rhetoric, to insinuate to Sir Robert Hazlewood, through the medium of his son, his own particular ideas respecting the line of a meditated turnpike road. It is greatly to the shame of our young lover's apprehension, that after the tenth reiterated account of the matter, he could not see the advantage to be obtained by the proposed road passing over the Lang-hirst, Windyknowe, the Goodhouse-park, Hailziecroft, and then crossing the river at Simon's Pool, and so by the road to Kippletringan; and the less eligible line pointed out by the English surveyor, which would go clear through the main enclosures at Hazlewood, and cut within a mile, or nearly so, of the house itself, destroy. ing the privacy and pleasure, as his informer contended, of the grounds.
In short, the adviser (whose actual interest was to have the bridge built as near as possible to a farm of his own) failed in every effort to attract young Hazlewood's attention, until he mentioned by chance that the proposed line was favoured by " that fellow Glossin,” who pretended to take a lead in the county. On a sudden young Hazlewood became attentive and interested ; and having satisfied himself which was the line that Glossin patronised, assured his friend it should not be his fault if his father did not countenance any other instead of that. But these various interruptions consumed the morning. Hazlewood got on horseback at least three hours later than he intended, and, cursing fine ladies, pointers, puppies, and turnpike acts of parliament, saw himself detained beyond the time when he could, with propriety, intrude upon the family at Woodbourne.
He had passed, therefore, the turn of the road which led to that mansion, only edified by the distant appearance of the blue smoke, curling against the pale sky of the winter evening, when he thought he beheld the Dominie taking a footpath for the house through the woods. He called after him, but in vain; for that honest gentleman, never the most susceptible of extraneous impressions, had just that moment parted from Meg Merrilies, and was too deeply wrapt up in pondering upon her vaticinations, to make any answer to Hazlewood's call. He was, therefore, obliged to let him proceed without inquiry after the health of the young ladies, or any other fishing
question, to which he might, by good chance, have had an answer returned wherein Miss Bertram's name might have been mentioned. All cause for haste was now over, and, slackening the reins upon his horse's neck, he permitted the animal to ascend at his own leisure the steep sandy track between two high banks, which, rising to a considerable height, commanded, at length, an extensive view of the neighbouring country.
Hazlewood was, however, so far from eagerly looking forward to this prospect, though it had the recommendation, that great part of the land was his father's, and must necessarily be his own, that his head still turned backward towards the chimneys of Woodbourne, although at every step his horse made the difficulty of employing his eyes in that direction become greater. From the reverie in which he was sunk, he was suddenly roused by a voice too harsh to be called female, yet too shrill for a man :-“What's kept you on the road sae lang ?-maun ither folk do your wark ?"
He looked up; the spokeswoman was very tall, had a voluminous handkerchief rolled round her head, grizzled hair flowing in elf-locks from beneath it, a long red cloak, and a staff in her hand, headed with a sort of spear-point-it was, in short, Meg Merrilies. Hazlewood had never seen this remarkable figure before ; he drew up his reins in astonishment at her appearance, and made a full stop. “I think,” continued she, “they that hae taen interest in the house of Ellangowan suld sleep nane this night; three men hae been seeking ye, and you are gaun hame to sleep in your bed—d'ye think if the lad-bairn fa's, the sister will do weel? na, na!”
"I don't understand you, good woman," said Hazlewood : “If you speak of Miss I mean of any of the late Ellangowan family, tell me what I can do for them.”
“Of the late Ellangowan family?” she answered with great vehemence; “ of the late Ellangowan family! and when was there ever, or when will there ever be, a family of Ellangowan, but bearing the gallant name of the bauld Bertrams?”
“But what do you mean, good woman?"
“I am nae good woman-a' the country kens I am.bad eneugh, and baith they and I may be sorry eneugh that I am nae better. But I can do what good women canna, and daurna do. I can do what would freeze the blood o' them that is bred in biggit wa’s for naething but to bind bairns' heads, and to hap them in the cradle. Hear me—the guard's drawn off at the Custom-house at Portanferry, and it's brought up to Hazlewood House by your father's orders, because he thinks his house is to be attacked this night by the smugglers ;-there's naebody means to touch his house; he has gude blood and gentle blood-I say little o' him for himsell, but there's naebody thinks him worth meddling wi'. Send the horsemen back to their post, cannily and quietly-see an they winna hae wark the night-ay will they—the guns will flash and the swords will glitter in the braw moon."
“Good God! what do you mean?” said young Hazlewood; “your words and manner would persuade me you are mad, and yet there is a strange combination in what you say."
“I am not mad !” exclaimed the gipsy; “I have been imprisoned for mad-scourged for mad—banished for mad—but mad I am not. Hear ye, Charles Hazlewood of Hazlewood : d'ye bear malice against him that wounded you ?"
“No, dame, God forbid; my arm is quite well, and I have always said the shot was discharged by accident. I should be glad to tell the young man so himself.”
“ Then do what I bid ye,” answered Meg Merrilies, " and ye'll do him mair gude than ever he did you ill; for if he was left to his ill-wishers he would be a bloody corpse ere morn, or a banished man-but there's ane abune a'.-Do as I bid you; send back the soldiers to Portanferry. There's nae mair fear O' Hazlewood House than there's o' Cruffelfell.” And she vanished with her usual celerity of pace.
It would seem that the appearance of this female, and the mixture of frenzy and enthusiasm in her manner, seldom failed to produce the strongest impression upon those whom she addressed. Her words, though wild, were too plain and intelligible for actual madness, and yet too vehement and extravagant for sober-minded communication. She seemed acting under the influence of an imagination rather strongly excited than deranged; and it is wonderful how palpably the difference, in such cases, is impressed upon the mind of the auditor. This may account for the attention with which her strange and mysterious hints were heard and acted upon. It is certain, at least, that young Hazlewood was strongly impressed by her sudden appearance and imperative tone. He rode to Hazlewood at a brisk pace. It had been dark for some time before he reached the house, and on his arrival there, he saw a confirmation of what the sibyl had hinted.
Thirty dragoon horses stood under a shed near the offices, with their bridles linked together. Three or four soldiers attended as a guard, while others stamped up and down with their long broadswords and heavy boots in front of the house. Hazlewood asked a non-commissioned officer from whence they came ?
“No, they had been drawn off by order of Sir Robert Hazlewood for defence of his house, against an attack which was threatened by the smugglers."
Charles Hazlewood instantly went in quest of his father, and, having paid his respects to him upon his return, requested to know upon what account he had thought it necessary to send for a military escort. Sir Robert assured his son in reply, that from the information, intelligence, and tidings, which had been communicated to, and laid before him, he had the deepest reason to believe, credit, and be convinced, that a riotous assault would that night be attempted and perpetrated against Hazlewood House, by a set of smugglers, gipsies, and other desperadoes.
"And what, my dear sir,” said his son, "should direct the fury of such persons against ours rather than any other house in the country?”.
“I should rather think, suppose, and be of opinion, sir," answered Sir Robert, “with deference to your wisdom and experience, that on these occasions and times, the vengeance of such persons is directed or levelled against the most important and distinguished in point of rank, talent, birth, and situation, who have checked, interfered with, and discountenanced their unlawful and illegal and criminal actions or deeds."
Young Hazlewood, who knew his father's foible, answered, that the cause of his surprise did not lie where Sir Robert apprehended, but that he only wondered they should think of attacking a house where there were so many servants, and where a signal to the neighbouring tenants could call in such strong assistance; and added, that he doubted much whether the reputation of the family would not in some degree suffer from calling soldiers from their duty at the Custom-house, to protect them, as if they were not sufficiently strong to defend themselves upon any ordinary occasion. He even hinted, that in case their house's enemies should observe that this precaution had been taken unnecessarily, there would be no end of their sarcasms.
Sir Robert Hazlewood was rather puzzled at this intimation, for, like most dull men, he heartily hated and feared ridicule. He gathered himself up, and looked with a sort of pompous embarrassment, as if he wished to be thought to despise the opinion of the public, which in reality he dreaded.
“I really should have thought,” he said, “that the injury which had already been aimed at my house in your person, being the next heir and representative of the Hazlewood family, failing me—I should have thought and believed, I say, that this would have justified me sufficiently in the eyes of the most respectable and the greater part of the people, for taking such precautions as are calculated to prevent and impede a repetition of outrage.”
“Really, sir,” said Charles, “I must remind you of what I have often said before, that I am positive the discharge of the piece was accidental.”
“Sir, it was not accidental,” said his father angrily; "but you will be wiser than your elders.”
“ Really, sir," replied Hazlewood, “in what so intimately concerns myself- ”
“Sir, it does not concern you but in a very secondary degree—that is, it does not concern you, as a giddy young fellow, who takes pleasure in contradicting his father; but it concerns the country, sir ; and the county, sir; and the public, sir; and the kingdom of Scotland, in so far as the interest of the Hazlewood family, sir, is committed, and interested, and put in peril, in, by, and through you, sir. And the fellow is in safe custody, and Mr. Glossin thinks- "
“Mr. Glossin, sir ?”
“Yes, sir, the gentleman who has purchased Ellangowanyou know who I mean, I suppose ?”
“Yes, sir,” answered the young man,“ but I should hardly have expected to hear you quote such authority. Why, this fellow—all the world knows him to be sordid, mean, tricking ; and I suspect him to be worse. And you yourself, my dear sir, when did you call such a person a gentleman in your life before ?"
“Why, Charles, I did not mean gentleman in the precise sense and meaning, and restricted and proper use, to which, no doubt, the phrase ought legitimately to be confined; but I meant to use it relatively, as marking something of that state to which he has elevated and raised himself—as designing, in short, a decent and wealthy and estimable sort of a person."