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and imitating, as near as he could, the eloquence which weekly thundered over his head from the pulpit.
“What we are now to deliver, my brethren, — hem — hem, - I mean, my good friends, was not done in a corner, and may serve as an answer to witch-advocates, atheists, and misbelievers of all kinds. You must know that the worshipful Laird of Ellangowan was not so preceese as he might have been in clearing his land of witches, (concerning whom it is said, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,') nor of those who had familiar spirits, and consulted with divination, and sorcery, and lots, which is the fashion with the Egyptians, as they ca’ themsells, and other unhappy bodies, in this our country. And the Laird was three years married without having a family and he was sae left to himsell, that it was thought he held ower muckle troking and communing with that Meg Merrilies, wha was the maist notorious witch in a' Galloway and Dumfries-shire baith.”
“Aweel I wot there 's something in that,” said Mrs. MacCandlish; “I've kenn'd him order her twa glasses o' brandy in this very house.”
“Aweel, gudewife, then the less I lee. Sae the lady was wi' bairn at last, and in the night when she should have been delivered, there comes to the door of the ha' house the Place of Ellangowan as they ca'd - an ancient man, strangely habited, and asked for quarters. His head, and his legs, and his arms were bare, although it was winter time o' the year, and he had a grey beard three quarters lang. Weel, he was admitted; and when the lady was delivered, he craved to know the very moment of the hour of the birth, and he went out and consulted the stars. And when he came back, he tellid the Laird, that the Evil One wad have power over the knave-bairn, that was that night born, and he charged him that the babe should be bred up in the ways of piety, and that he should aye hae a godly minister at his elbow, to pray wi the bairn and for him. And the aged man vanished away, and no man of this country ever saw mair o' him.”
“No, that will not pass,” said the postilion, who, at a respectful distance, was listening to the conversation, “begging Mr. Skreigh's and the company's pardon, there was no sae mony
hairs on the warlock's face as there's on Letter-Gae's* ain at this moment; and he had as gude a pair o' boots as a man need streik on his legs, and gloves too and I should understand boots by this time, I think.”
“Whisht, Jock,” said the landlady.
“Ay? and what do ye ken o’the matter, friend Jabos?” said the precentor, contemptuously.
“No muckle, to be sure, Mr. Skreigh only that I lived within a penny-stane cast o' the head o' the avenue at Ellangowan, when a man came jingling to our door that night the young Laird was born, and my mother sent me, that was a hafflin callant, to show the stranger the gate to the Place, which, if he had been sic a warlock, he might bae kenn'd himsell, ane wad think and he was a young, weel-faured, weel-dressed lad, like an Englishman. And I tell ye he had as gude a hat, and boots, and gloves, as ony gentleman need to have. To be sure he did gie an awesome glance up at the auld castle--and there was some spaewark gaed on - I aye heard that; but as for his vanishing, I held the stirrup mysell when he gaed away, and he gied me a round half-crown he was riding on a haick they ca'd Souple Sam it belanged to the George at Dumfries — it was a blood-bay beast, very ill o' the spavin I hae seen the beast baith before and since.”
“Aweel, aweel, Jock," answered Mr. Skreigh, with a tone of mild solemnity, “our accounts differ in no material particu
but I had no knowledge that ye had seen the man. see, my friends, that this soothsayer having prognosticated evil to the boy, his father engaged a godly minister to be with him. morn and night.”
“Ay, that was him they ca'd Dominie Sampson," said the postilion.
“He's but a dumb dog that,” observed the Deacon; “I have heard that he never could preach five words of a sermon endlang, for as lang as he has been licensed.”
“Weel, but,” said the precentor, waving his hand as if * The precentor is called by Allan Ramsay,
The Letter-Gae of haly rbyme.
eager to retrieve the command of the discourse, “he waited on the young Laird by night and day. Now, it chanced, when the bairn was near five years auld, that the Laird had a sight of his errors, and determined to put these Egyptians aff his ground; and he caused them to remove; and that Frank Kennedy, that was a rough swearing fellow, he was sent to turn them off. And he cursed and damned at them, and they swure at him; and that Meg Merrilies, that was the maist powerfu' with the Enemy of mankind, she as gude as said she would have him, body and soul, before three days were ower his head. And I have it from a sure hand, and that's ane wha saw it, and that's John Wilson, that was the Laird's groom, that Meg appeared to the Laird as he was riding hame from Singleside, over Gibbie's-know, and threatened him wi' what she wad do to his family; but whether it was Meg, or something waur in her likeness, for it seemed bigger than ony mortal creature, John could not say.” ‘Aweel," said the postilion, “it might be sae
I canna say against it, for I was not in the country at the time; but John Wilson was a blustering kind of chield, without the heart of a sprug.”
“And what was the end of all this?” said the stranger, with some impatience.
“Ou, the event and upshot of it was, Sir,” said the precentor, “that while they were all looking on, beholding a king's ship chase a smuggler, this Kennedy suddenly brake away frae them without ony reason that could be descried
- ropes nor tows wad not hae held him and made for the wood of Warroch as fast as his beast could carry him; and by the way he met the young Laird and his governor, and he snatched up the bairn, and swure, if he was bewitched, the bairn should have the same luck as him; and the minister followed as fast as he could, and almaist as fast as them, for he was wonderfully swift of foot -- and he saw Meg the witch, or her master in her similitude, rise suddenly out of the ground, and claught the bairn suddenly out of the gauger's
and then he rampauged and drew his sword — for ye ken a fie man and a cusser fearsna the deil.”
“I believe that's very true," said the postilion.
“So, Sir, she grippit him, and clodded him like a stane from the sling ower the craigs of Warroch-head, where he was found that evening but what became of the babe, frankly I cannot say. But he that was minister here then, that's now in a better place, had an opinion, that the bairn was only conveyed to Fairy-land for a season.”
The stranger had smiled slightly at some parts of this recital, but ere he could answer, the clatter of a horse's hoofs was heard, and a smart servant, handsomely dressed, with a cockade in his hat, bustled into the kitchen, with “Make a little room, good people;" when, observing the stranger, he descended at once into the modest and civil domestic, his hat sunk down by his side, and he put a letter into his master's hands. “The family at Ellangowan, Sir, are in great distress, and unable to receive
“I know it,” replied his master: - “And now, Madam, if you will have the goodness to allow me to occupy the parlour you mentioned, as you are nted of your guests”.
“Certainly, Sir,” said Mrs. Mac-Candlish, and hastened to light the way with all the imperative bustle which an active landlady loves to display on such occasions.
“Young man,” said the Deacon to the servant, filling a glass, “ye'll no be the waur o'this, after
ride." “Not a feather, Sir,-thank ye-your very good health, Sir." “And wha may your master be, friend?”
“What, the gentleman that was here? that's the famous Colonel Mannering, Sir, from the East Indies.”
What, him we read of in the newspapers?”
“Ay, ay, just the same. It was he relieved Cuddieburn, and defended Chingalore, and defeated the great Mahratta chief, Ram Jolli Bundleman - I was with him in most of his campaigns."
“Lord safe us,” said the landlady, “I must go see what he would have for supper
that I should set him down here!” “0, he likes that all the better, mother; you never saw a plainer creature in your life than our old Colonel; and yet he has a spice of the devil in him too.”
The rest of the evening's conversation below stairs tending little to edification, we shall, with the reader's leave, step up to the parlour.
BEN Jonson. The Colonel was walking pensively up and down the parlour, when the officious landlady re-entered to take his commands. Having given them in the manner he thought would be most acceptable “for the good of the house,” he begged to detain her a moment.
“I think,” he said, “Madam, if I understood the good people right, Mr. Bertram lost his son in his fifth year?”
“O ay, Sir, there's nae doubt o’that, though there are mony idle clashes about the way and manner, for it's an auld story now, and every body tells it, as we were doing, their ain way by the ingle-side. But lost the bairn was in his fifth year, as your honour says, Colonel; and the news being rashly tell’d to the leddy, then great with child, cost her her life that samyn night. and the Laird never throve after that day, but was just careless of every thing - though, when his daughter Miss Lucy grew up, she tried to keep order within doors but what could she do, poor thing? so now they're out of house and hauld.”
“Can you recollect, Madam, about what time of the year the child was lost?” The landlady, after a pause, and some recollection, answered, “she was positive it was about this season:" and added some local recollections that fixed the date in her memory, as occurring about the beginning of November, 17-.
The stranger took two or three turns round the room in silence, but signed to Mrs. Mac-Candlish not to leave it.