Page images
PDF
EPUB

HO

ur.

the names, description, and appearance of the individuals belonging to the ship’s company, and offer a reward for the apprehension of them, or any one of them; extending also to any person, not the actual murderer, who should give evidence tending to convict those who had murthered Francis Kennedy · Another opinion, which was also plausibly supported, went to charge this hor=; rid crime upon the late tenants of Derncleugh. They were known to have resented highly the conduct of the Laird of Ellangowan towards them, and to have used threatening expressions, which every one supposed them capable of carrying into effect. The kidnapping the child was a crime much more consistent with their habits than with those of smugglers, and his temporary guardian might have fallen in an attempt to protect him. Besides it was remembered, that Kennedy had been an active agent, two or three days before, in the forcible expulsion of

these people from Derncleugh, and that harsh and menacing language had been exchanged between him and some of the Egyptian patriarchs upon that memorable occasion. · The Sheriff received also the depositions of the unfortunate father and his servant, concerning what had passed at their meets ing the caravan of gypsies as they left the estate of Ellangowan. The speech of Meg Merrilies seemed particularly suspicious. There was, as the magistrate observed in his law language, damnum minatum, a damage, or evil turn threatened, and malum secutum--an evil of the very kind predicted shortly afterwards follow, ing: A young woman, who had been gathering nuts in Warroch wood upon the fatal day, was also strongly of opinion, though she declined to make positive oath, that she had seen Meg Merrilies, at least a woman of her' remarkable size and apa pearance, start suddenly out of a thicket -she said she had called to her by name,

but, as the figure turned from her, and made no answer, she was uncertain if it were the gypsey, or her. wraith, and was afraid to go nearer to one who was reckoned, in the vulgar phrase, no canny. This vague story received some corroboration from the circumstance of a fire being that evening found in the gypsey's deserted cottage. To this fact Ellangowan and his gardener bore evidence. Yet it seemed extravagant to suppose, that, had this woman been accessory to such a dreadful crime, she would have returned that very evening on which it was committed, to the place, of all others, where she was most likely to be sought after. · Meg Merrilies was, however, apprehended and examined. She denied strongly having been either at Derncleugh or in the wood of Warroch upon the day of Kennedy's death; and several of her tribe made oath in her behalf, that she had never quitted their encampment, which was in a glen about ten miles distant from

Ellangowan. Their oaths were indeed little to be trusted to; but what other evidence could be had in the circumstances ? There was one remarkable fact, and only one, which arose from her examination. Her arm appeared to be slightly wounded by the cut of a sharp weapon, and was tied up with a handkerchief of Harry Bertram’s. But the chief of the horde acknowledged he had “ corrected her" that day with his whinger-she herself, and others, gave the same account of her hurt; and, for the handkerchief, the quantity of linen stolen from Ellangowan during the last months of their residence on the estate, easily accounted for it, without charging Meg with a more heinous crime. · It was observed upon her examination, that she treated the questions respecting the death of Kennedy, or “ the gauger," as she called him, with indifference; but expressed great and emphatic scorn and indignation at being supposed capable of injuring little Harry Bertram. She was

long confined in jail, under the hope that something might yet be discovered to throw light upon this dark and bloody transaction. . Nothing, however, occur. red; and Meg was at length liberated, but under sentence of banishment from the county, as a vagrant, common thief, and disorderly person. No traces of the boy.could ever be discovered; and, at length, the story, after making much noise, was gradually given up as altogether inexplicable, and only perpetuated by the name of “ The Gauger's Loup," which was generally bestowed on the cliff from which the unfortunate man had fallen or been precipitated.,

· VOL. I

« PreviousContinue »