Page images

threats decided him to feed. Hunger and fear are excellent casuists.

“Saul,” said Hunger, “feasted with the witch of Endor.”. “And," quoth Fear, “the salt which she sprinkled upon the food showeth plainly it is not a necromantic banquet, in which that seasoning never occurs.” -“And, besides,” says Hunger, after the first spoonful, “it is savoury and refreshing viands."

“So ye like the meat?" said the hostess.

“Yea," answered the Dominie, “and I give thee thanks sceleratissima! - which means — Mrs. Margaret."

“Aweel, eat your fill; but an ye kenn'd how it was gotten, ye maybe wadna like it sae weel.” Sampson's spoon dropped, in the act of conveying its load to his mouth. “There 's been mony a moonlight watch to bring a' thai trade thegither,” continued Meg, “the folk that are to eat that dinner thought little o’ your game-laws." Is that all? thought Sampson, resuming his spoon,

and shovelling away manfully; I will not lack my food upon that argument.

“Now, ye maun tak a dram?"

“I will," quoth Sampson—"conjuro te- that is, I thank you heartily,” for he thought to himself, in for a penny, in for a pound; and he fairly drank the witch's health', in a cupful of brandy. When he had put this cope-stone upon Meg's good cheer, he felt, as he said, “mightily elevated, and afraid of no evil which could befall unto him.'

Will ye remember my errand now?” said Meg Merrilies; I ken by the cast o' your ee that ye 're anither man than when you cam in."

I will, Mrs. Margaret,” repeated Sampson stoutly; “I will deliver unto him the sealed yepistle, and will add what you please to send by word of mouth.”

“Then I'll make it short,” says Meg. “Tell him to look at the stars without fail this night, and to do what I desire him in that letter, as he would wish

That Bertram's right and Bertram's might
Shall meet on Ellangowan height.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

I have seen him twice when he saw na me; I ken when he was in this country first, and I ken what 's brought him back again. Up, an' to the gate! ye 're ower lang here follow me.”

Sampson followed the sibyl accordingly, who guided him about a quarter of a mile through the woods, by a shorter cut than he could have found for himself; they then entered upon the common, Meg still marching before him at a great pace, until she gained the top of a small hillock which overhung the road.

“Here,” she said, “stand still here. Look how the setting sun breaks through yon cloud that 's been darkening the lift a' day. See where the first stream o' light fa's — it's upon Donagild's round tower— the auldest tower in the Castle o’Ellangowan

that 's no for naething! See as it ’s glooming to seaward abune yon sloop in the bay - that's no for naething neither. Here I stood on this very spot,” said she, drawing herself up so as not to lose one hair-breadth of her uncommon height, and stretching out her long sinewy arm, and clenched hand, “Here I stood, when I tauld the last Laird o’Ellangowan at was coming on his house — and did that fa' to the ground! -na- jt hit even ower sair! And here, where I brake the wand of peace ower him - here I stand again — to bid God bless and prosper the just heir of Ellangowan that will supe be brought to his ain; and the best laird he shall be that Ellangowan has seen for three hundred years.

- I'll no live to see it, maybe; but there will be mony a blithe ee see it though mine be closed. And now, Abel Sampson, as ever ye lo’ed the house of Ellangowan, away wi' my message to the English Colonel, as if life and death were upon

your haste!”

So saying, she turned suddenly from the amazed Dominie, and regained with swift and long strides the shelter of the wood from which she had issued, at the point where it most encroached upon the common. Sampson gazed after her for a moment in utter astonishment, and then obeyed her directions, hurrying to Woodbourne at a pace very unusual for him, exclaiming three times, “Prodigious! prodigious! pro-di-gi-ous!"

[ocr errors]


It is not madness
That I have utter'd; bring me to the test,
And I the matter will re-word; which madness
Would gambol from.

Hamlet. As Mr. Sampson crossed the ball with a bewildered look, Mrs. Allan, the good housekecper, who, with the reverent attention which is usually rendered to the clergy in Scotland, was on the watch for his return, sallied forth to meet him • What's this o't now, Mr. Sampson, this is waur than ever! - ye'll really do yoursell some injury wi' these lang fasts naething's sae hurtful to the stamach, Mr. Sampson; if ye would but put some peppermint draps in your pocket, or let Barnes cut ye a sandwich.

“Avoid thee!” quoth the Dominie, his mind running still upon his interview with Meg Merrilies, and making for the dining parlour.

Na, ye needna gang in there, the cloth 's been removed an hour syne,

and the Colonel's at his wine; but just step into my room, I have a nice steak that the cook will do in a moment.”

Exorciso te!said Sampson, “that is, I have dined."

“Dined ! it's impossible--wha can ye hae dined wi', you that gangs out nae gate?

“With Beelzebub, I believe,” said the minister.

“Na, then he's bewitched for certain,” said the housekeeper, letting go her hold; “he's bewitched, or he 's daft, and ony way the Colonel maun just guide him his ain gate. Wae's me! Hech, Sirs! It's a sair thing to see learning bring folk to this!” And with this compassionate ejaculation, she retreated into her own premises.

The object of her commiseration had by this time entered the dining parlour, where his appearance gave great surprise. He was mud up to the shoulders, and the natural paleness of his hue was twice as cadaverous as usual, through terror, fatigue, and perturbation of mind. “What on earth is the meaning of this, Mr. Sampson?" said Mannering, who observed Miss Bertram looking much alarmed for her simple but attached friend.

Exorciso," said the Dominie.
“How, Sir?” replied the astonished Colonel.
“ I crave pardon, honourable Sir! but my wits”

“Are gone a wool-gathering, I think Pray, Mr. Sampson, collect yourself, and let me know the meaning of all this.”

Sampson was about to reply, but finding his Latin formula of exorcism still came most readily to his tongue, he prudently desisted from the attempt, and put the scrap of paper which he had received from the gipsy into Mannering's hand, who broke the seal and read it with surprise. “This seems to be some jest," he said, “and a very dull one."

“It came from no jesting person,” said Mr. Sampson.
“From whom then did it come?” demanded Mannering.

The Dominie, who often displayed some delicacy of recollection in cases where Miss Bertram had an interest, remembered the painful circumstances connected with Meg Merrilies, looked at the young ladies, and remained silent. “We will join you at the tea-table in an instant, Julia,” said the Colonel; “I see that Mr. Sampson wishes to speak to me alone. And now they are gone, what, in Heaven's name, Mr. Sampson, is the meaning of all this?

“ It may be a message from Heaven," said the Dominie, “but it came by Beelzebub's postmistress. It was that witch, Meg Merrilies, who should have been burned with a tar-barrel twenty years since for a harlot, thief, witch, and gipsy."

Are you sure it was she?” said the Colonel with great interest.

“Sure, honoured Sir? Of a truth she is one not to be forgotten the like o' Meg Merrilies is not to be seen in any land.”

The Colonel paced the room rapidly, cogitating with himself. “To send out to apprehend her but it is too distant to send to Mac-Morlan, and Sir Robert Hazlewood is a pompous coxcomb; besides the chance of not finding her upon the spot, or that the humour of silence that seized her before may again return; - no, I will not, to save being thought a fool, neglect the course she points out. Many of her class set out by being impostors, and

[ocr errors]

end by becoming enthusiasts, or hold a kind of darkling conduct between both lines, unconscious almost when they are cheating themselves, or when imposing on others. Well, my course is a plain one at any rate; and if my efforts are fruitless, it shall not be owing to over-jealousy of my own character for wisdoın.”

With this he rang the bell, and ordering Barnes into his private sitting-room, gave him some orders, with the result of which the reader may be made hereafter acquainted. We must now take up another adventure, which is also to be woven into the story of this remarkable day.

Charles Hazlewood had not ventured to make a visit at Woodbourne during the absence of the Colonel. Indeed Mannering's whole behaviour had impressed upon him an opinion that this would be disagreeable; and such was the ascendency which the successful soldier and accomplished gentleman had attained over the young man's conduct, that in no respect would he have ventured to offend him. He saw, or thought he saw, in Colonel Mannering's general conduct, an approbation of his attachment to Miss Bertram. But then he saw still more plainly the impropriety of any attempt at a private correspondence, of which his parents could not be supposed to approve, and he respected this barrier interposed betwixt them, both on Mannering's account, and as he was the liberal and zealous protector of Miss Bertram. “No,” said he to himself, “I will not endanger the comfort of my Lucy's present retreat, until I can offer her a home of her own.”

With this valorus resolution, which he maintained, although his horse, from constant habit, turned his head down the avenue of Woodbourne, and although he himself passed the lodge twice every day, Charles Hazlewood withstood a strong inclination to ride down, just to ask how the young ladies were, and whether he could be of any service to them during Colonel Mannering's absence. But on the second occasion he felt the temptation so severe, that he resolved not to expose himself to it a third time; and, contenting himself with sending hopes and inquiries, and so forth, to Woodbourne, he resolved to make a visit long promised to a family at some distance, and to return in such time as to be

« PreviousContinue »