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CHAPTER THE FORTY-EIGHTH.
Wi' coulters and wi' forehammers
We garred the bars bang merrily,
OLD BORDER BALLAD.
WE return to Portanferry, and to Bertram and his honest-hearted friend, whom we left most innocent inhabitants of a place built for the guilty. The slumbers of the farmer were as sound as it was possible.
But Bertram's first heavy sleep passed away long before midnight, nor could he again recover that state of oblivion. Added to the uncertain and uncomfortable state of his mind, his body felt feverish and oppressed. This was chiefly owing to the close and confined air of the small apartment in which they slept. After enduring for some time the broiling and suffocating feeling attendant upon such an atmosphere, he rose to endeavour to open the window of the apartment, and thus to procure a change of air. Alas! the first trial reminded him that he was in jail, and that the building being contrived for security, not comfort, the means of procuring fresh air were not left at the disposal of the wretched inhabitants.
Disappointed in this attempt, he stood by the unmanageable window for some time.
Little Wasp, though oppressed with the fatigue of his journey on the preceding day, crept out of bed after his master, and stood by him rubbing his shaggy coat against his legs, and expressing, by a murmuring sound, the delight which he felt at being restored to him. Thus accompanied, and waiting until the feverish feeling which at present agitated his blood should subside into a desire for warmth and slumber, Bertram remained for some time looking out upon
The tide was now nearly full, and dashed hoarse and near below the base of the building. Now and then a large wave reached even the barrier or bulwark which defended the foundation of the house, and was flung upon it with greater force and noise than those which only broke upon the sand. Far in the distance, under the indistinct light of a hazy and often overclouded moon, the ocean rolled its multitudinous complication of waves, crossing, bursting, and mingling with each other.
“A wild and dim spectacle,” said Bertram to himself, “like those crossing tides of fate which have tossed me about the world from my infancy upwards! When will this uncertainty cease, and how soon shall I be permitted to look out for a tranquil home, where I may cultivate in quiet, and without dread and perplexity, those arts of peace from which my cares have been hitherto so forcibly diverted ? The ear of Fancy, it is said, can discover the voice of sea-nymphs
and tritons amid the bursting murmurs of the ocean ; would that I could do so, and that some siren or Proteus would arise from these billows, to unriddle for me the strange maze of fate in which I am so deeply entangled ! -Happy friend !” he said, looking at the bed where Dinmont had deposited his bulky person, “thy cares are confined to the narrow round of a healthy and thriving occupation !--Thou canst lay them aside at pleasure, and enjoy the deep repose of body and mind which wholesome labour has prepared for thee !”
At this moment his reflections were broken by little Wasp, who, attempting to spring up against the window, began to yelp and bark most furiously. The sounds reached Dinmont's ears, but without dissipating the illusion which had transported him from this wretched apartment to the free air of his own green hills. “Hoy, Yarrow,
-far yaud-far yaud !” he muttered between his teeth, imagining, doubtless, that he was calling to his sheep-dog, and hounding him, in shepherd's phrase, against some intruders on the grazing. The continued barking of the terrier within was answered by the angry challenge of the mastiff in the court-yard, which had for a long time been silent, excepting only an occasional short and deep note, uttered when the moon shone suddenly from among the clouds. Now, his clamour was continued and furious, and seemed to be excited by some disturbance distinct from the barking of Wasp, which had first given him the alarm, and which, with much trouble, his master had contrived to still into an angry note of low growling.
At last Bertram, whose attention was now fully awakened, conceived that he saw a boat upon the sea, and heard in good earnest the sound of oars and of human voices, mingling with the dash of the billows. Some benighted fishermen, he thought, or perhaps some of the desperate traders from the Isle of Man. They are very hardy, however, to approach so near to the Custom-house, where there must be sentinels. It is a large boat, like a long-boat, and full of people; perhaps it belongs to the revenue service. Bertram was confirmed in this last opinion, by observing that the boat made for a little quay which ran into the sea behind the Custom-house, and, jumping ashore one after another, the crew, to the number of twenty hands, glided secretly up a small lane which divided the Custom - house from the Bridewell, and disappeared from his sight, leaving only two persons to take care of the boat.
The dash of these men's oars at first, and latterly the suppressed sounds of their voices, had excited the wrath of the wakeful sentinel in the court-yard, who now exalted his deep voice into such a horrid and continuous din, that it awakened his brute master, as savage a band-dog as himself. His cry from a window, of “How now, Tearum, what's the matter, sir ?—down, d-n ye, down !” produced no abatement of Tearum's vociferation, which in part prevented his master from hearing the sounds of alarm which his ferocious vigilance was in the act of challenging. But the mate of the two-legged Cerberus was gifted with sharper ears
than her husband. She also was now at the window ; “Bết ye, gae down and let loose the dog,” she said, “they're sporting the door of the Custom-house, and the auld sap at Hazlewood-House has ordered off the guard. But ye hae nae mair heart than a cat.” And down the Amazon sallied to perform the task herself, while her helpmate, more jealous of insurrection within doors, than of storm from without, went from cell to cell to see that the inhabitants of each were carefully secured.
These latter sounds, with which we have made the reader acquainted, had their origin in front of the house, and were consequently imperfectly heard by Bertram, whose apartment, as we have already noticed, looked from the back part of the building upon the sea. He heard, however, a stir and tumult in the house, which did not seem to accord with the stern seclusion of a prison at the hour of midnight, and, connecting them with the arrival of an armed boat at that dead hour, could not but suppose that something extraordinary was about to take place. In this belief he shook Dinmont by the shoulder-"Eh !- Ay !-Oh!Ailie, woman, it's no time to get up yet," groaned the sleeping man of the mountains. More roughly shaken, however, he gathered himself up, shook his ears, and asked, “In the name of Providence, what's the matter ?"
“That I can't tell you," replied Bertram ; either the place is on fire, or some extraordinary thing is about to happen. Are you not sensible of a smell of