Page images
PDF
EPUB

and resolution, for which reason he was chosen by the western counties one of the committee of noblemen and gentlemen, to report their griefs to the privy council of Charles II. anent the coming in of the Highland host in 1678.” For undertaking this patriotic task he underwent a fine, to pay which he was obliged to mortgage half of the remaining moiety of his paternal property. This loss he might have recovered by dint of severe economy, but on the breaking out of Argyle's rebellion, Dennis Bertram was again suspected by Government, apprehended, sent to Dunnottar Castle, on the coast of the Mearns, and there broke his neck in an attempt to escape from a subterranean habitation called the Whig's Vault, in which he was confined with some eighty of the same persuasion. The apprizer therefore (as the holder of a mortgage was then called) entered upon possession, and, in the language of Hotspur, “came me cranking in," and cut the family out of another monstrous cantle of their remaining property.

Donohoe Bertram, with somewhat of an Irish name, and somewhat of an Irish temper, succeeded to the diminished property of Ellangowan. He turned out of doors the Rev. Aaron Macbriar, his mother's chaplain (it is said they quarrelled about the good graces of a milkmaid), drank himself daily drunk with brimming healths to the king, council, and bishops; held orgies with the Laird of Lagg, Theophilus Oglethorpe, and Sir James Turner; and lastly, took his grey gelding, and joined Clavers at Killiecrankie. At the skirmish of Dunkeld, 1689, he was shot dead by a Cameronian with a silver button (being supposed to have proof from the Evil One against lead and steel), and his grave is still called the “ Wicked Laird's Lair.”

His son, Lewis, had more prudence than seems usually to have belonged to the family. He nursed what property was yet left to him; for Donohoe's excesses, as well as fines and forfeitures, had made another inroad upon the estate. And although even he did not escape the fatality which induced the Lairds of Ellangowan to interfere with politics,

Charles II., king of England, proclaimed king of Scotland by the Scottish parliament on condition of his good behaviour.” Anent, about. Gelding, horse.

66

he had yet the prudence, ere he went out with Lord Ken more in 1715, to convey his estate to trustees, in order to parry pains and penalties, in case the Earl of Mar could not put down the Protestant succession. But Scylla and Charybdis - a word to the wise — he only saved his estate at the expense of a lawsuit, which again subdivided the family property. He was, however, a man of resolution. He sold part of the lands, evacuated the old castle, where the family lived in their decadence, as a mouse (said an old farmer) lives under a firlot.

Pulling down part of these venerable ruins, he built with the stones a narrow house of three storeys high, with a front like a grenadier's cap, having in the very centre a round window, like the single eye of a Cyclops, two windows on each side, and a door in the middle, leading to a parlour and withdrawing room, full of all manner of cross lights.

This was the New Place of Ellangowan, in which we left our hero, better amused perhaps than our readers, and to this Lewis Bertram retreated, full of projects for reestablishing the prosperity of his family. He took some land into his own hand, rented some from neighbouring proprietors, bought and sold Highland cattle and Cheviot sheep, rode to fairs and trysts, fought hard bargains, and held necessity at the staff's end as well as he might. But what he gained in purse he lost in honour, for such agricultural and commercial negotiations were very ill looked upon by his brother lairds, who minded nothing but cockfighting, hunting, coursing, and horse-racing, with now and then the alternation of a desperate duel. The occupations which he followed encroached, in their opinion, upon the article of Ellangowan's gentry; and he found it necessary gradually to estrange himself from their society, and sink into what was then a very ambiguous character, a gentleman farmer. In the midst of his schemes, death claimed

Scylla and Charybdis, of classic mythology, were represented as two monsters which infested the strait between Italy and Sicily, and rendered the navi. gation of that passage very dangerous. They were so located on each side of the passage that the mariner who avoided one was danger of becoming the victim of the other. Scylla is perhaps the personification of a rock, and Charybdis of a whirlpool. Firlot, à measuring vessel. Cyclops, a fabulous race of giants, having one eye in the middle of the forehead. Withdrawing room, or drawing room, a room behind another, for retirement. Trysts, meetings.

his tribute; and the scanty remains of a large property descended upon Godfrey Bertram, the present possessor, his only son.

The danger of the father's speculations was soon seen. Deprived of Laird Lewis's personal and active superintendence, all his undertakings miscarried, and became either abortive or perilous. Without a single spark of energy to meet or repel these misfortunes, Godfrey put his faith in the activity of another. He kept neither hunters, nor hounds, nor any other southern preliminaries to ruin; but, as has been observed of his countrymen, he kept a man of business, who answered the purpose equally well. Under this gentleman's supervision small debts grew into large, interests were accumulated upon capitals, moveable bonds became heritable, and law charges were heaped upon all; though Ellangowan possessed so little the spirit of a litigant, that he was on two occasions charged to make payment of the expenses of a long lawsuit, although he had never before heard that he had such cases in court. Meanwhile his neighbours predicted his final ruin. Those of the higher rank, with some malignity, accounted him already a degraded brother. The lower classes, seeing nothing enviable in his situation, marked his embarrassments with more compassion. He was even a kind of favourite with them, and upon the division of a common, or the holding of a black-fishing or poaching-court, or any similar occasion, when they conceived themselves oppressed by the gentry, they were in the habit of saying to each other, “Ah, if Ellangowan, honest man, had his ain that his forebears had afore him, he wadna see the puir folk trodden down this gait.” Meanwhile this general good opinion never prevented their taking advantage of him on all possible occasions — turning their cattle into his parks, stealing his wood, shooting his game, and so forth, " for the Laird, honest man, he'll never find it, - he never minds what a puir body does.” — Pedlars, gipsies, tinkers, vagrants of all descriptions, roosted about his out

Poaching, trespass in pursuit of fish or game. Ain, own. Forebears, forefathers. Wadna, would not. Puir, poor. Gait, way. Gipsies, a vagabond race coming originally from India, who entered Europe in the fourteenth or fifteenth century.

houses, or harboured in his kitchen; and the Laird, who was “nae nice body," but a thorough gossip, like most weak men, found recompense for his hospitality in the pleasure of questioning them on the news of the country side.

A circumstance arrested Ellangowan's progress on the high road to ruin. This was his marriage with a lady who had a portion of about four thousand pounds. Nobody in the neighbourhood could conceive why she married him, and endowed him with her wealth, unless because he had a tall, handsome figure, a good set of features, a genteel address, and a most perfect good humour. It might be some additional consideration, that she was herself at the reflecting age of twenty-eight, and had no near relations to control her actions or choice.

It was in this lady's behalf (confined for the first time after her marriage) that the speedy and active express, mentioned by the old dame of the cottage, had been despatched to Kippletringan on the night of Mannering's arrival.

Though we have said so much of the Laird himself, it still remains that we make the reader in some degree acquainted with his companion. This was Abel Sampson, commonly called, from his occupation as a pedagogue, Dominie Sampson. He was of low birth, but having evinced, even from his cradle, an uncommon seriousness of disposition, the poor parents were encouraged to hope that their bairn, as they expressed it, "might wag his pow in a pulpit yet.” With an ambitious view to such a consummation, they pinched and pared, rose early and lay down late, ate dry bread and drank cold water, to secure to Abel the means of learning. Meantime, his tall ungainly figure, his taciturn and grave manners, and some grotesque habits of swinging his limbs, and screwing his visage while reciting his task, made poor Sampson the ridicule of all his school-companions. The same qualities secured him at Glasgow college a plentiful share of the same sort of notice. Half the youthful mob of “the

Nae, no. Nice, particular. Bairn, child. Pow, head.

yards

"* used to assemble regularly to see Dominie Sampson (for he had already attained that honourable title) descend the stairs from the Greek class, with his Lexicon under his arm, his long misshapen legs sprawling abroad, and keeping awkward time to the play of his immense shoulder blades, as they raised and depressed the loose and threadbare black coat which was his constant and only wear. When he spoke, the efforts of the professor (professor of divinity though he was) were totally inadequate to restrain the inextinguishable laughter of the students, and sometimes even to repress his own. The long, sallow visage, the goggle eyes, the huge under-jaw, which appeared not to open and shut by an act of volition, but to be dropped and hoisted up again by some complicated machinery within the inner man, — the harsh and dissonant voice, and the screech-owl notes to which it was exalted when he was exhorted to pronounce more distinctly, — all added fresh subject for mirth to the torn cloak and shattered shoe, which have afforded legitimate subjects of raillery against the poor scholar, from Juvenal's time downward. It was never known that Sampson either exhibited irritability at this ill usage, or made the least attempt to retort upon his tormenters. He slunk from college by the most secret paths he could discover, and plunged himself into his miserable lodging, where, for eighteen-pence a-week, he was allowed the benefit of a straw mattress, and, if his landlady was in good humour, permission to study his task by her fire. Under all these disadvantages, he obtained a competent knowledge of Greek and Latin, and some acquaintance with the sci

ences.

In progress of time, Abel Sampson, probationer of divinity, was admitted to the privileges of a preacher. But alas! partly from his own bashfulness, partly owing to a strong and obvious disposition to risibility, which pervaded the congregation upon his first attempt, he became totally incapable of proceeding in his intended discourse - gasped,

*“ The yards” refer to the open space or area used as a playing ground at the High School or college.

Juvenal, a celebrated satirist born A.D. 40.

« PreviousContinue »