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Auld Place; there's a hantle bogles about it — but ye needna be feared - I never saw ony mysell, and we 're just at the door o' the New Place.”
Accordingly, leaving the ruins on the right, a few steps brought the traveller in front of a modern house of moderate size, at which his guide rapped with great importance. Mannering told his circumstances the servant; and the gentleman of the house, who heard his tale from the parlour, stepped forward, and welcomed the stranger hospitably to Ellangowan. The boy, made happy with half-a-crown, was dismissed to his cottage, the weary horse was conducted to a stall, and Mannering found himself in a few minutes seated by a comfortable supper, for which his cold ride gave him a hearty appetite.
Henry IV. Part I. The company in the parlour at Ellangowan consisted of the Laird, and a sort of person who might be the village schoolmaster, or perhaps the minister's assistant; his appearance was too shabby to indicate the minister, considering he was on a visit to the Laird.
The Laird himself was one of those second-rate sort of persons, that are to be found frequently in rural situations. Fielding has described one class as feras consumere nati; but the love of field-sports indicates a certain activity of mind, which had forsaken Mr. Bertram, if ever he possessed it. A good-humoured listlessness of countenance formed the only remarkable expresa sion of his features, although they were rather handsome than otherwise. In fact, his physiognomy indicated the inanity of character which pervaded his life. I will give the reader some insight into his state and conversation, before he has finished a long lecture to Mannering, upon the propriety and comfort of wrapping his stirrup-irons round with a wisp of straw when be had occasion to ride in a chill evening.
Godfrey Bertram, of Ellangowan, succeeded to a long pedigree and a short rent-roll, like many lairds of that period. His list of forefathers ascended so high, that they were lost in the barbarous ages of Galwegian independence; so that his genealogical tree, besides the Christian and crusading names of Godfreys, and Gilberts, and Dennises, and Rolands, without end, bore heathen fruit of yet darker ages, Arths, and Knarths, and Dopagilds, and Hanlons. In truth, they had been formerly the stormy chiefs of a desert, but extensive domain, and the heads of a numerous tribe, called Mac-Dingawaie, though they afterwards adopted the Norman surname of Bertram. They had made war, raised rebellions, been defeated, beheaded, and hanged, as became a family of importance, for many centuries. But they had gra-. dually lost ground in the world, and, from being themselves the heads of treason and traitorous conspiracies, the Bertrams, or Mac-Dingawaies, of Ellangowan, had sunk into subordinate accomplices. Their most fatal exhibitions in this capacity took place in the seventeenth century, when the foul fiend possessed them with a spirit of contradiction, which uniformly involved them in controversy with the ruling powers. They reversed the conduct of the celebrated Vicar of Bray, and adhered as tenaciously to the weaker side, as that worthy divine to the stronger. And truly, like him, they had their reward.
Allan Bertram of Ellangowan, who flourished tempore Caroli primi, was, says my authority, Sir Robert Douglas, in his Scottish Baronage, (see the title Ellangowan,) “a steady loyalist, and full of zeal for the cause of his sacred majesty, in which he united with the great Marquis of Montrose, and other truly zealous and honourable patriots, and sustained great losses in that behalf. He had the honour of knighthood conferred upon him by his most sacred majesty, and was sequestrated as a malignant by the parliament, 1642, and afterwards as a resolutioner, in the year 1648.” These two cross-grained epithets of malignant and resolutioner cost poor Sir Allan one half of the family estate. His son Dennis Bertram married a daughter of an eminent fanatic, who had a seat in the council of state, and saved by that union the remainder of the family property. But, as ill chance
would have it, he became enamoured of the lady's principles as well as of her charms, and my author gives him this character: “He was a man of eminent parts 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 Dunpotar Castle on the coast of the Mearns, and there broke his neck in an attempt to escape from a subterranean habitation, called the Whigs' 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 milk-maid,) drank himself daily drunk with brimming healths to the king, council, and bishops; held orgies with the Laird of Lage, Theophilus Oglethorpe, and Sir James Turner; and lastly, took his grey gelding, and joined Clavers at Killiecrapkie. 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, he had yet the prudence,
ere he went out with Lord Kenmore 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 expense of a lawsuit, which again subdivided the family property.
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 stories 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 re-establishing 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 cock-fighting, 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 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 Jarge, 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 outhouses, or harboured in his kitchen; and the laird, who was “pae 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 the most perfect good-humour. It might be some additional consideration, that