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to touch the roof of the room, concluded, “And now, Laird, will ye no order me a tass o' brandy?”
“That you shall have, Meg - Sit down yont there at the door, and tell us what news ye have heard at the fair o' Drumshourloch."
“Troth Laird, and there was muckle want o' you, and the like o'y you;
for there was a wheen bonnie lasses there, forbye, mysell, and deil ane to gie them hansels.”
“Weel, Meg, and how mony gipsies were sent to the tolbooth?”
“Troth, but three, Laird, for there were nae mair in the fair, bye mysell, as I said before, and I e'en gae them leg-bail, for there's dae ease in dealing wi' quarrelsome fowk. And there's Dunbog has warned the Red Rotten and John Young aff his grunds
black be his cast! he's nae gentleman, nor drap's bluid o’ gentleman, wad grudge twa gangrel puir bodies the shelter o’a waste house, and the thristles by the road-side for a bit cuddy, and the bits o' rotten birk to boil their drap parritch wi'. Weel, there's ane abune a' but we 'll see if the red cock craw not in his bonnie barnyard ae morning before day-dawing.”
“Hush! Meg, hush! hush! that's not safe talk."
“What does she mean?" said Mannering to Sampson, in an under tone.
“Fire-raising,” answered the laconic Dominie.
“Otroth, Laird,” continued Meg, during this by-talk, “it's but to the like o'you ane can open their heart: ye see, they say Dupbog is nae mair a gentleman than the blunker that 's biggit the bounie house down in the howm. But the like o' you, Laird, that's a real gentleman for sae mony hundred years, and never hunds puir fowk aff your grund as if they were mad tykes, nane o' our fowk wad stir your gear if ye had as mony capons as there's leaves on the trysting-tree. And now some o' ye maun lay down your watch, and tell me the very minute o' the hour the wean 's born, and I'll spae its fortune.”
“Ay, but, Meg, we shall not want your assistance, for here's
a student from Oxford that kens much better than you how to spae its fortune - he does it by the stars.”
“Certainly, Sir," said Mannering, entering into the simple humour of his landlord, “I will calculate his nativity according to the rule of the Triplicities, as recommended by Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Diocles, and Avicenna. Or I will begin ab hora questionis, as Haly, Messahala, Ganwehis, and Guido Bonatus, have recommended.”
One of Sampson's great recommendations to the favour of Mr. Bertram was, that he never detected the most gross attempt at imposition, so that the Laird, whose humble efforts at jocularity were chiefly confined to what were then called bites and bams, since denominated hoaxes and quizzes, had the fairest possible subject of wit in the unsuspecting Dominie. It is true, he never laughed, or joined in the laugh which his own simplicity afforded
nay, it is said, he never laughed but once in his life; and on that memorable occasion his landlady miscarried, partly through surprise at the event itself, and partly from terror at the hideous grimaces which attended this unusual cachinnation. The only effect which the discovery of such impositions produced upon this saturnine personage was, to extort an ejaculation of “Prodigious!” or “Very facetious!” pronounced syllabically, but without moving a muscle of his own countenance.
On the present occasion, he turned a gaunt and ghastly stare upon the youthful astrologer, and seemed to doubt if he had rightly understood his answer to his patron.
“I am afraid, Sir," said Mannering turning towards him,“you may be one of those unhappy persons, who, their dim eyes being unable to penetrate the starry spheres, and to discern therein the decrees of Heaven at a distance, have their hearts barred against conviction by prejudice and misprision."
“Truly,” said Sampson, “I opine with Sir Isaac Newton, Knight, and umwhile master of his majesty's mint, that the (pretended) science of astrology is altogether vain, frivolous, and unsatisfactory.” And here he reposed his oracular jaws.
“Really,” resumed the traveller, “I am sorry to see a gentleman of your learning and gravity labouring under such strange Guy Mannering.
blindness and delusion. Will you place the brief, the modern, and, as I may say, the vernacular name of Isaac Newton, in opposition to the grave and sonorous authorities of Dariot, Bonatus, Ptolemy, Haly, Etzler, Dieterick, Naibob, Harfurt, Zael, Taustettor, Agrippa, Duretus, Maginus, Origen, and Argol? Do not Christians and Heathens, and Jews and Gentiles, and poets and philosophers, unite in allowing the starry influences?"
" Communis error it is a general mistake,” answered the inflexible Dominie Sampson.
“Not so,” replied the young Englishman; “it is a general and well-grounded belief.”
“It is the resource of cheaters, knaves, and cozeners,” said Sampson.
“ Abusus non tollit usun. The abuse of any thing doth not abrogate the lawful use thereof."
During this discussion, Ellangowan was somewhat like a woodcock caught in his own springe. He turned his face alternately from the one spokesman to the other, and began, from the gravity with which Mannering plied his adversary, and the learning which he displayed in the controversy, to give him credit for being half serious. As for Meg, she fixed her bewildered eyes upon the astrologer, overpowered by a jargon more mysterious than her own.
Mannering pressed his advantage, and ran over all the hard terms of art which a tenacious memory supplied, and which, from circumstances hereafter to be noticed, had been familiar to him in early youth.
Signs and planets, in aspects sextile, quartile, trine, conjoined or opposite; houses of heaven, with their cusps, hours, and minutes; Almuten, Almochoden, Anahibazon, Catahibazon; a thousand terms of equal sound and significance, poured thick and threefold upon the unshrinking Dominie, whose stubborn incredulity bore him out against the pelting of this pitiless storm.
At length, the joyful annunciation that the lady had presented her husband with a fine boy, and was (of course) as well as could be expected, broke off this intercourse. Mr. Bertram hastened to the lady's apartment, Meg Merrilies descended to the kitchen
to secure her share of the groaning malt,* and the “ken-no," and Mannering, after looking at his watch, and noting with great exactness, the hour and minute of the birth, requested, with becoming gravity, that the Dominie would conduct him to some place where he might have a view of the heavenly bodies.
The schoolmaster, without farther answer, rose and threw open a door half sashed with glass, which led to an old-fashioned terrace-walk, behind the modern house, communicating with the platform on which the ruins of the ancient castle were situated. The wind had arisen, and swept before it the clouds which had formerly obscured the sky. The moon was high, and at the full, and all the lesser satellites of Heaven shone forth in cloudless effulgence. The scene which their light presented to Mannering, was in the highest degree unexpected and striking.
We have observed, that in the latter part of his journey our traveller approached the sea-shore, without being aware how nearly. He now perceived that the ruins of Ellangowan castle were situated upon a promontory, or projection of rock, which formed one side of a small and placid bay on the sea-shore. The modern mansion was placed lower, though closely adjoining, and the ground behind it descended to the sea by a small swelling green bank, divided into levels by natural terraces, on which grew some old trees, and terminating upon the white sand. The other side of the bay, opposite to the old castle, was a sloping and varied promontory, covered chiefly with copsewood, which on that favoured coast grows almost within water-mark. A fisherman's cottage peeped from among the trees. Even at this dead hour of night there were lights moving upon the shore, probably occasioned by the unloading a smuggling lugger from the Isle of Man, which was lying in the bay. On the light from the sashed door of the house being observed, a halloo from the vessel, of “Ware hawk! Douse the glim!” alarmed those who were on shore, and the lights instantly disappeared.
It was one hour after midnight, and the prospect around was lovely. The grey old towers of the ruin, partly entire, partly broken, here bearing the rusty weather-stains of ages, and there See Note A. The Groaning Malt.
partially mantled with ivy, stretched along the verge of the dark rock which rose on Mannering's right hand. In his front was the quiet bay, whose little waves, crisping and sparkling to the moonbeams, rolled successively along its surface, and dashed with a soft and murmuring ripple against the silvery beach. To the left the woods advanced far into the ocean, waving in the moonlight along ground of an undulating and varied form, and presenting those varieties of light and shade, and that interesting combination of glade and thicket, upon which the eye delights to rest, charmed with what it sees, yet curious to pierce still deeper into the intricacies of the woodland scenery. Above rolled the planets, each, by its own liquid orbit of light, distinguished from the inferior or more distant stars. So strangely can imagination deceive even those by whose volition it has been excited, that Mannering, while gazing upon these brilliant bodies, was half inclined to believe in the influence ascribed to them by superstition over human events. But Mannering was a youthful lover, and might perhaps be influenced by the feelings so exquisitely expressed by a modern poet:
“For fable is Love's world, his home, his birth-place:
And Venus who brings every thing that's fair." Such musings soon gave way to others. “Alas!” he muttered, “my good old tutor, who used to enter so deep into the contro