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The Dominie groaned deeply, and ejaculated, “Enormous !”
“ Yet there was mention of gipsies in the business too, counsellor,” said Mannering, “and from what that vulgar-looking fellow said after the funeral”
“Mrs. Margaret Bertram’s idea that the child was alive was founded upon the report of a gipsy,” said Pleydell, catching at the half-spoken hint-“I envy you the concatenation, Colonel—it is a shame to me not to have drawn the same conclusion. We'll follow this business up instantly–Here, hark ye, waiter, go down to Luckie Wood's in the Cowgate ; ye'll find my clerk Driver; he'll be set down to High-Jinks by this time (for we and our retainers, Colonel, are exceedingly regular in our irregularities); tell him to come here instantly, and I will pay his forfeits.”
“He won't appear in character, will he?” said Mannering.
“Ah! no more of that, Hal, an thou lovest me," said Pleydell. “But we must have some news from the land of Egypt, if possible. O, if I had but hold of the slightest thread of this complicated skein, you should see how I would unravel it !—I would work the truth out of your Bohemian, as the French call them, better than a Monitoire, or a Plainte de Tournelle ; I know how to manage a refractory witness.”
While Mr. Pleydell was thus vaunting his knowledge of his profession, the waiter re-entered with Mr. Driver, his mouth still greasy with mutton pies, and the froth of the last draught of twopenny yet unsub
sided on his upper lip, with such speed had he obeyed the commands of his principal. “Driver, you must go instantly and find out the woman who was old Mrs. Margaret Bertram's maid. Inquire for her everywhere ; but if
you find it necessary to have recourse to Protocol, Quid the tobacconist, or any other of these folks, you will take care not to appear yourself, but send some woman of your acquaintance—I dare say you know enough that may be so condescending as to oblige you. When
you have found her out, engage her to come to my chambers to-morrow at eight o'clock precisely.”
“What shall I say to make her forthcoming ?” asked the aide-de-camp.
“Any thing you choose," replied the lawyer. “Is it my business to make lies for you, do you think? But let her be in præsentia by eight o'clock, as I have said before.” The clerk grinned, made his reverence, and exit.
“That's a useful fellow," said the counsellor ; "I don't believe his match ever carried a process. He'll write to my dictating three nights in the week without sleep, or, what's the same thing, he writes as well and correctly when he's asleep as when he's awake. Then he's such a steady fellow—some of them are always changing their alehouses, so that they have twenty cadies sweating after them, like the bare-headed captains traversing the taverns of East-Cheap in search of Sir John Falstaff. But this is a complete fixture ;-he has his winter seat by the fire, and his summer seat by the window, in Luckie Wood's, betwixt which seats are his
only migrations — there he's to be found at all times when he is off duty. It is my opinion he never puts off his clothes or goes to sleep ;-sheer ale supports him under everything ; it is meat, drink, and clothing, bed, board, and washing."
“And is he always fit for duty upon a sudden turnout ? I should distrust it, considering his quarters.”
“O, drink never disturbs him, Colonel ; he can write for hours after he cannot speak. I remember being called suddenly to draw an appeal case. I had been dining, and it was Saturday night, and I had ill will to begin to it; however, they got me down to Clerihugh's, and there we sat birling till I had a fair tappit hen* under my belt, and then they persuaded me to draw the paper. Then we had to seek Driver, and it was all that two men could do to bear him in, for, when found, he was, as it happened, both motionless and speechless. But no sooner was his pen put between his fingers, his paper stretched before him, and he heard my voice, than he began to write like a scrivener—and, excepting that we were obliged to have somebody to dip his pen in the ink, for he could not see the standish, I never saw a thing scrolled more handsomely."
“But how did your joint production look the next morning ?" said the Colonel.
Wheugh! capital—not three words required to be altered it it was sent off by that day's post. But you'll
* Note A. Tappit Hen.
come and breakfast with me to-morrow, and hear this woman's examination ?”
Why, your hour is rather early."
“ Can't make it later. If I were not on the boards of the outer-house precisely as the nine-hours' bell rings, there would be a report that I had got an apoplexy, and I should feel the effects of it all the rest of the session.”
“Well, I will make an exertion to wait upon you." Here the company broke up for the evening.
In the morning Colonel Mannering appeared at the counsellor's chambers, although cursing the raw air of a Scottish morning in December. Mr. Pleydell had got Mrs. Rebecca installed on one side of his fire, accommodated her with a cup of chocolate, and was already deeply engaged in conversation with her. “O, no, I assure you, Mrs. Rebecca, there is no intention to challenge your mistress's will; and I give you my word of honour that your legacy is quite safe. You have deserved it by your conduct to your mistress, and I wish it had been twice as much.”
Why, to be sure, sir, it's no right to mention what is said before ane -ye heard how that dirty body Quid cast up to me the bits o' compliments he gied me, and tellid ower again ony loose cracks I might hae had wi’ him ;—now if ane was talking loosely to your honour, there's nae saying what might come o't.”
“I assure you, my good Rebecca, my character and your own age and appearance are your security, if you should talk as loosely as an amatory poet."
“Aweel, if your honour thinks I am safe—the story is just this.—Ye see, about a year ago, or no just sae lang, my leddy was advised to go to Gilsland for a while, for her spirits were distressing her sair. Ellangowan's troubles began to be spoken o' publicly, and sair vexed she was ; for she was proud o' her family. For Ellangowan himsell and her, they sometimes 'greed, and sometimes no; but at last they didna 'gree at a' for twa or three year-for he was aye wanting to borrow siller, and that was what she couldna bide at no hand, and she was aye wanting it paid back again, and that the Laird he liked as little. So, at last, they were clean aff thegither. And then some of the company at Gilsland tells her that the estate was to be sell’d; and ye wad hae thought she had taen an ill-will at Miss Lucy Bertram frae that moment, for mony a time she cried to me, 'O Becky, O Becky, if that useless peenging thing o' a lassie there, at Ellangowan, that canna keep her ne'er-do-weel father within bounds - if she had been but a lad-bairn, they couldna hae sell’d the auld inheritance for that fool-body's debts ;'-and she would rin on that way till I was just wearied and sick to hear her ban the puir lassie, as if she wadna hae been a ladbairn, and keepit the land, if it had been in her will to change her sect. And ae day at the spaw-well below the craig at Gilsland, she was seeing a very bonny family o bairns—they belanged to ane Mac-Croskyand she broke out—'Is not it an odd like thing that ilka waf carle* in the country has a son and heir, and
Every insignificant churl.