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And, Sheriff, I will engage my word to you,
First Part of Henry IV.
WHEN the several by-plays, as they may be termed, had taken place among the individuals of the Woodbourne family, as we have intimated in the preceding chapter, the breakfast party at length assembled, Dandie excepted, who had consulted his taste in viands, and perhaps in society, by partaking of a cup of tea with Mrs. Allan, just laced with two teaspoonfuls of Cogniac, and reinforced with various slices from a huge round of beef. He had a kind of feeling that he could eat twice as much, and speak twice as much, with this good dame and Barnes, as with the grand folk in the parlour. Indeed, the meal of this less distinguished party was much more mirthful than that in the higher circle, where there was an obvious air of constraint on the greater part of the assistants. Julia dared not raise her voice in asking Bertram if he chose another cup of tea. Bertram felt embarrassed while eating his toast and butter under the eye of Mannering. Lucy, while she indulged to the uttermost her affection for her recovered brother, began to think of the quarrel betwixt him and Hazlewood. The Colonel felt the painful anxiety natural to a proud mind, when it deems its slightest action subject for a moment to the watchful construction of others. The lawyer, while sedulously buttering his roll, had an aspect of unwonted gravity, arising, perhaps, from the severity of his morning studies. As for the Dominie, his state of mind was ecstatic !-He looked at Bertram-he looked at Lucy-he whimpered-he sniggled-he grinned-he committed all manner of solecisms in point of form-poured the whole cream (no unlucky mistake) upon the plate of porridge, which was his own usual breakfast—threw the slops of what he called his “crowning dish of tea” into the sugar-dish instead of the slop-basin, and concluded with spilling the scalding liquor upon old Plato, the Colonel's favourite spaniel who received the libation with a howl that did little honour to his philosophy.
The Colonel's equanimity was rather shaken by this last
blunder. “Upon my word, my good friend, Mr. Sampson, you forget the difference between Plato and Zenocrates."
“The former was chief of the Academics, the latter of the Stoics,” said the Dominie, with some scorn of the supposition.
“Yes, my dear sir, but it was Zenocrates, not Plato, who denied that pain was an evil.”
"I should have thought,” said Pleydell, “ that very respectable quadruped, which is just now.limping out of the room upon three of his four legs, was rather of the Cynic school."
“Very well hit off- But here comes an answer from Mac-Morlan.”
It was unfavourable. Mrs. Mac-Morlan sent her respectful compliments, and her husband had been, and was, detained, by some alarming disturbances which had taken place the preceding night at Portanferry, and the necessary investigation which they had occasioned.
“What's to be done now, counsellor ?” said the Colonel to Pleydell.
"Why, I wish we could have seen Mac-Morlan,” said the counsellor, “who is a sensible fellow himself, and would besides have acted under my advice. But there is little harm. Our friend here must be made sui juris-he is at present an escaped prisoner; the law has an awkward claim upon him ; he must be placed rectus in curia, that is the first object. For which purpose, Colonel, I will accompany you in your carriage down to Hazlewood House. The distance is not great; we will offer our bail ; and I am confident I can easily show Mr.- I beg his pardon-Sir Robert Hazlewood, the necessity of receiving it.”
“With all my heart,” said the Colonel; and, ringing the bell, gave the necessary orders. “And what is next to be done?”
“We must get hold of Mac-Morlan, and look out for more proof."
“Proof!" said the Colonel, “ the thing is as clear as daylight; here are Mr. Sampson and Miss Bertram, and you yourself, at once recognise the young gentleman as his father's image ; and he himself recollects all the very peculiar circumstances preceding his leaving this country-What else is necessary to conviction?”
“To moral conviction nothing more, perhaps," said the experienced lawyer, “ but for legal proof a great deal. Mr. Bertram's recollections are his own recollections merely, and therefore are not evidence in his own favour; Miss Bertram, the learned Mr. Sampson, and I, can only say, what every one who knew the late Ellangowan will readily agree in, that this gentleman is his very picture-But that will not make him Ellangowan's son, and give him the estate."
"And what will do so ?” said the Colonel.
“Why, we must have a distinct probation.-There are these gipsies-but then, alas! they are almost infamous in the eye of law-scarce capable of bearing evidence, and Meg Merrilies utterly so, by the various accounts which she formerly gave of the matter, and her impudent denial of all knowledge of the fact when I myself examined her respecting it."
“What must be done then ? " asked Mannering.
“We must try," answered the legal sage, “what proof can be got at in Holland, among the persons by whom our young friend was educated.-But then the fear of being called in question for the murder of the gauger may make them silent, or if they speak, they are either foreigners, or outlawed smugglers. In short, I see doubts.”
“ Under favour, most learned and honoured sir," said the Dominie, “I trust He, who hath restored little Harry Bertram to his friends, will not leave His own work imperfect.”
"I trust so too, Mr. Sampson,” said Pleydell; “but we must use the means; and I am afraid we shall have more difficulty in procuring them than I at first thought.—But a faint heart never won a fair lady—and, by the way (apart to Miss Mannering, while Bertram was engaged with his sister), there's a vindication of Holland for you! what smart fellows do you think Leyden and Utrecht must send forth, when such a very genteel and handsome young man comes from the paltry schools of Middleburgh ?”
"Of a verity," said the Dominie, jealous of the reputation of the Dutch seminary,-" of a verity, Mr. Pleydell, but I make it known to you that I myself laid the foundation of his education."
“True, my dear Dominie," answered the advocate, “that accounts for his proficiency in the graces, without questionbut here comes your carriage, Colonel. Adieu, young folks : Miss Julia, keep your heart till I come back again-let there be nothing done to prejudice my right, whilst I am non valens agere."
Their reception at Hazlewood House was more cold and formal than usual; for in general the Baronet expressed great respect for Colonel Mannering, and Mr. Pleydell, besides being a man of good family and of high general estimation, was Sir Robert's old friend. But now he seemed dry and embarrassed in his manner. “He would willingly," he said, “receive bail, notwithstanding that the offence had been directly perpetrated, committed, and done, against young Hazlewood of Hazlewood; but the young man had given himself a fictitious description, and was altogether that sort of person, who should not be liberated, discharged, or let loose upon society; and therefore " : "I hope, Sir Robert Hazlewood," said the Colonel, "you do not mean to doubt my word, when I assure you that he served under me as a cadet in India ?”
“By no means or account whatsoever. But you call him a cadet; now he says, avers, and upholds, that he was a captain, or held a troop in your regiment.”
“He was promoted since I gave up the command.” “But you must have heard of it?"
“No. I returned on account of family circumstances from India, and have not since been solicitous to hear particular news from the regiment; the name of Brown, too, is SO common, that I might have seen his promotion in the Gazette without noticing it. But a day or two will bring letters from his commanding officer."
“But I am told and informed, Mr. Pleydell," answered Sir Robert, still hesitating," that he does not mean to abide by this name of Brown, but is to set up a claim to the estate of Ellangowan, under the name of Bertram."
“Ay, who says that?" said the counsellor.
“Or," demanded the soldier, “whoever says so, does that give a right to keep him in prison ?"
“Hush, Colonel,” said the lawyer; “I am sure you would not, any more than I, countenance him, if he prove an impostor. -And, among friends, who informed you of this, Sir Robert?"
“Why, a person, Mr. Pleydell," answered the Baronet, “who is peculiarly interested in investigating, sifting, and clearing out this business to the bottom-you will excuse my being more particular.”
“Oh, certainly," replied Pleydell—"well, and he says "
“He says that it is whispered about among tinkers, gipsies, and other idle persons, that there is such a plan as I mentioned
to you, and that this young man, who is a bastard or natural son of the late Ellangowan, is pitched upon as the impostor, from his strong family likeness.”
“And was there such a natural son, Sir Robert ?" demanded the counsellor.
“Oh, certainly, to my own positive knowledge. Ellangowan had him placed as cabin-boy or powder-monkey on board an armed sloop or yacht belonging to the revenue, through the interest of the late Commissioner Bertram, a kinsman of his own.”
“Well, Sir Robert,” said the lawyer, taking the word out of the mouth of the impatient soldier-"you have told me news; I shall investigate them, and if I find them true, certainly Colonel Mannering and I will not countenance this young man. In the meanwhile, as we are all willing to make him forthcoming, to answer all complaints against him, I do assure you, you will act most illegally, and incur heavy responsibility, if you refuse our bail.”
“Why, Mr. Pleydell,” said Sir Robert, who knew the high authority of the counsellor's opinion, “as you must know best, and as you promise to give up this young man- "
“If he proves an impostor,” replied the lawyer, with some emphasis.
“Ay, certainly—under that condition I will take your bail ; though I must say, an obliging, well-disposed, and civil neighbour of mine, who was hi.nself bred to the law, gave me a hint or caution this morning against doing so. It was from him I learned that this youth was liberated and had come abroad, or rather had broken prison.-But where shall we find one to draw the bail-bond ?"
“Here,” said the counsellor, applying himself to the bell, “send up my clerk, Mr. Driver-it will not do my character harm if I dictate the needful myself.” It was written accordingly and signed, and, the Justice having subscribed a regular warrant for Bertram alias Brown's discharge, the visitors took their leave.
Each threw himself into his own corner of the post-chariot, and said nothing for some time. The Colonel first broke silence: “So you intend to give up this poor young fellow at the first brush?”
“Who, I?” replied the counsellor ; “I will not give up one hair of his head, though I should follow them to the court of last resort in his behalf-but what signified mooting points