« PreviousContinue »
which he never conversed upon, is indeed his mode of speech could be called conversation at any time,
but it was often present to his imagination. The sort of hope so strongly affirmed and asserted in Mrs. Bertram's last settlement, had excited a corresponding feeling in the Dominie's bosom, which was erasperated into a sort of sickening anxiety, by the discredit with which Pleydell had treated it. Assuredly, thought Sampson to himself, he is a man of erudition, and well skilled in the weighty matters of the law; but he is also a man of humorous levity and inconsistency of speech; and wherefore should he pronounce ex cathedra, as it were, on the hope expressed by worthy Madam Margaret Bertram of Singleside?
All this, I say, the Dominie thought to himself; for had he uttered half the sentence, his jaws would have ached for a month under the unusual fatigue of such a continued exertion. The result of these cogitations was a resolution to go and visit the scene of the tragedy at Warroch Point, where he had not been for many years not, indeed, since the fatal accident had happened. The walk was a long one, for the Point of Warroch lay on the farther side of the Ellangowan property, which was interposed between it and Woodbourne. Besides, the Dominie went astray more than once, and met with brooks swoln into torrents by the melting of the snow, where he, honest man, had only the summer-recollection of little trickling rills.
At length, however, he reached the woods which he had made the object of his excursion, and traversed them with care, muddling his disturbed brains with vague efforts to recall every circumstance of the catastrophe. It will readily be supposed that the influence of local situation and association was inadequate to produce conclusions different from those which he had formed under the immediate pressure of the occurrences themselves. “With many a wcary sigh, therefore, and many a groan," the poor Dominie returned from his hopeless pilgrimage, and weariedly plodded his way towards Woodbourne, debating at times in his altered mind a question which was forced upon him by the cravings of an appetite rather of the keenest, namely, whether he had breakfasted that morning or no? — It was in this
twilight humour, now thinking of the loss of the child, then involuntarily compelled to meditate upon the somewhat incongruous subject of hung-beef, rolls, and butter, that his route, which was different from that which he had taken in the morning, conducted him past the small ruined tower, or rather vestige of a tower, called by the country people the Kaim of Derncleugh.
The reader may recollect the description of this ruin in the twenty-seventh chapter of this narrative, as the vault in which young Bertram, under the auspices of Meg Merrilies, witnessed the death of Hatteraick's lieutenant. The tradition of the country added ghostly terrors to the natural awe inspired by the situation of this place, which terrors the gipsies, who so long inhabited the vicinity, had probably invented, or at least propagated for their own advantage. It was said that, during the times of the Galwegian independence, one Hanlon Mac-Dingawaie, brother to the reigning chief, Knarth Mac-Dingawaie, murdered his brother and sovereign, in order to usurp the principality from his infant nephew, and that being pursued for vengeance by the faithful allies and retainers of the house, who espoused the cause of the lawful heir, he was compelled to retreat, with a few followers whom he had involved in his crime, to this impregnable tower called the Kaim of Derncleugh, where he defended himself until nearly reduced by famine, when, setting fire to the place, be and the small remaining garrison desperately perished by their own swords, rather than fall into the hands of their exasperated enemies. This tragedy, which, considering the wild times wherein it was placed, might have some foundation in truth, was larded with many legends of superstition and diablerie, so that most of the peasants of the neighbourhood, if benighted, would rather have chosen to make a considerable circuit, than pass these haunted walls. The lights often seen around the tower when used as the rendezvous of the lawless characters by whom it was occasionally frequented, were accounted for, underauthority of these tales of witchery, in a manner at once convenient for the private parties concerned, and satisfactory to the public.
Now it must be confessed, that our friend Sampson, although a profound scholar and mathematician, had not travelled so far in Guy Mannering.
philosophy as to doubt the reality of witchcraft or apparitions. Born indeed at a time when a doubt in the existence of witches was interpreted as equivalent to a justification of their infernal practices, a belief of such legends had been impressed upon the Dominie as an article indivisible from his religious faith, and perhaps it would have been equally difficult to have induced him to doubt the one as the other. With these feelings, and in a thick misty day, which was already drawing to its close, Dominie Sampson did not pass the Kaim of Derncleugh without some feelings of tacit horror.
What then was his astonishment, when, on passing the door that door which was supposed to have been placed there by one of the latter Lairds of Ellangowan to prevent presumptuous strangers from incurring the dangers of the haunted vault — that door, supposed to be always locked, and the key of which was popularly said to be deposited with the presbytery — that door, that very door, opened suddenly, and the figure of Meg Merrilies, well known, though not seen for many a revolving year, was placed at once before the eyes of the startled Dominie! She stood immediately before him in the foot-path, confronting him so absolutely, that he could not avoid her except by fairly turning back, which his manhood prevented him from thinking of. “I kenn'd
ye wad be here,” she said with her harsh and hollow voice: “I ken wha ye seek; but ye maun do my bidding.” "Get thee behind me!” said the alarmed Dominie-“Avoid
Conjuro te, scelestissima nequissima – spurcissima iniquissima atque miserrima - conjuro te!!!"
Meg stood her ground against this tremendous volley of superlatives, which Sampson hawked up from the pit of his stomach, and hurled at her in thunder. “Is the carl daft,” she said, “wi' his glamour?”
“Conjuro," continued the Dominie, “abjuro, contestor, atque viriliter impero tibi!”
“What, in the name of Sathan, are ye feared for, wi' your French gibberish, that would make a dog sick? Listen, ye stickit stibbler, to what I tell ye, or ye sall rue it while there 's a limb o'ye hings to anither! - Tell Colonel Mannering that I ken
he's seeking me. He kens, and I keu, that the blood will be wiped out, and the lost will be found,
And Bertram's right and Bertram's might
Shall meet on Ellangowan height. Hae, there's a letter to him; I was gaun to send it in another way. I canna write mysell; but I hae them that will baith write and read, and ride and rin for me. Tell him the time's coming now, and the weird 's dreed, and the wheel 's turning. Bid him look at the stars as he has looked at them before. Will ye mind a' this?"
“Assuredly,” said the Dominie, “I am dubious — for, woman, I am perturbed at thy words, and my flesh quakes to hear thee.”
“They'll do you nae ill though, and maybe muckle gude.” “Avoid ye! I desire no good that comes by unlawful means.”
“Fule-body that thou art,” said Meg, stepping up to him with a frown of indignation that made her dark eyes flash like lamps from under her bent brows, — “Fule-body! if I meant ye wrang, couldna I clod ye ower that craig, and wad man ken how ye cam by your end mair than Frank Kennedy? Hear ye that, ye worricow ?”
“In the name of all that is good,” said the Dominie, recoiling, and pointing his long pewter-headed walking cane like a javelin at the supposed sorceress, “in the name of all that is good, bide off hands! I will not be handled — woman, stand off, upon thine own proper peril! desist, I say - I am strong-lo, I will resist!” Here his speech was cut short; for Meg, armed with supernatural strength (as the Dominie asserted,) broke in upon his guard, put by a thrust which he made at her with his cane, and lifted him into the vault, “as easily,” said he, “as I could sway a Kitchen's Atlas.”
“Sit down there," she said, pushing the half-throttled preacher with some violence against a broken chair, “sit down there, and gather your wind and your senses, ye black barrow-tram o' the kirk that ye are Are ye fou or fasting?"
“Fasting from all but sin," answered the Dominie, who, recovering his voice, and finding his exorcisms only served to
exasperate the intractable sorceress, thought it best to affect complaisance and submission, inwardly conning over, however, the wholesome conjurations which he durst no longer utter aloud. But as the Dominie's brain was by no means equal to carry on two trains of ideas at the same time, a word or two of his mental exercise sometimes escaped, and mingled with his uttered speech in a manner ludicrous enough, especially as the poor man shrunk himself together after every escape of the kind, from terror of the effect it might produce upon the irritable feelings of the witch.
Meg, in the meanwhile, went to a great black cauldron that was boiling on a fire on the floor, and, lifting the lid, an odour was diffused through the vault, which, if the vapours of a witch's cauldron could in aught be trusted, promised better things than the hell-broth which such vessels are usually supposed to contain. It was in fact the savour of a goodly stew, composed of fowls, hares, partridges, and moorgame, boiled in a large mess with potatoes, onions, and leeks, and from the size of the cauldron, appeared to be prepared for half a dozen of people at least. “So ye hae eat naething a' day?” said Meg, heaving a large portion of this mess into a brown dish, and strewing it savourily with salt and pepper. *
“Nothing,” answered the Dominie “ scelestissima! that is — gudewife.
“Hae then,” said she, placing the dish before him, “there's what will warm your heart.”
“I do not hunger -- malefica — that is to say – Mrs. Merrilies !” for he said unto himself, “the savour is sweet, but it hath been cooked by a Canidia or an Ericthoe.”
“If ye dinna eat instantly, and put some saul in ye, by the bread and the salt, I'll put it down your throat wi'the cutty spoon, scaulding as it is, and whether ye will or no. Gape, sinner, and swallow !”
Sampson, afraid of eye of newt, and toe of frog, tigers' chaudrons, and so forth, had determined not to venture; but the smell of the stew was fast melting his obstinacy, which flowed from his chops as it were in streams of water, and the witch's
See Note K. Gipsy Cookery.