Page images

more frequently, by infesting and plundering the lands of those neighbouring barons with whom he chanced to be at feud. Late terly, their services were of a more pacific nature. The women spun mittens for the lady, and knitted boot-hose for the laird, which were annually presented at Christmas with great form. The aged sybils blessed the bridal bed of the laird when he married, and the cradle of the heir when born. The men repaired her ladyship's cracked china, and assisted the laird in his sporting parties, wormed his dogs, and cut the ears of his terrier puppies. The children gathered nuts in the woods, and crane-berries in the moss, and mushrooms upon the pastures, for tribute to the Place. These acts of voluntary service, and acknowledgments of dependence, were rewarded by protection on some occasions, connivance upon others, and broken victuals, ale, and brandy, when circumstances called for a display of gene

rosity; and this mutual intercourse of good offices, which had taken place for at least two centuries, rendered the inhabitants of Derncleugh a kind of privileged retainers upon

the estate of Ellangowan. " The knaves" were the Laird's "exceed. ing good friends ;" and he would have deemed himself very ill used, if his countenancecould not now and then have borne them out against the law of the country - and the local magistrate. But this friendly union was soon to be dissolved.

The community of Derncleugh, who cared for no rogues but their own, were wholly without alarm at the severity of the justice's proceedings towards other itinerants. They had no doubt that he determined to suffer no mendicants or strollers in the country, but what resided on his own property, and practised their trade by his immediate permission, implied or expressed. Nor was Mr Bertram in a - hurry to exert his newly-acquired autho

rity at the expence of these old settlers. But he was driven on by circumstances.

At the quarter sessions, our new justice was publicly upbraided by a gentleman of the opposite party in county politics, that, while he affected a great zeal for the public police, and seemed ambitious of the fame of an active magistrate, he fostered a tribe of the greatest rogues in the country, and permitted them to harbour within a mile of the house of Ellangowan. To this there was no reply, for the fact was too evident and well known. The Laird digested the taunt as he best could, and in his way honie amused himself with speculations on the easiest method of ridding himself of these vagrants, who brought a stain upon his fair fame as a magistrate. Just as he had resolved to take the first opportunity of quarrelling with the Parias of Derncleugh, a cause of provocation presented itself.

Since our friend's advancement to be a conservator of the peace, he had caused the gate at the head of his avenue, which formerly, having only one hinge, remained at all times hospitably open-he had caused this gate, I say, to be newly hung and handsomely painted. He had also shut up with paling, curiously twisted with furze, certain holes in the fences adjoining, through which the gypsey boys used to scramble into the plantations to gather birds' nests, the seniors of the village to make a short cut from one point to another, and the lads and lasses for evening rendezvous--all without offence taken, or leave asked. But these halcyon days were now to have end, and a minatory inscription upon one side of the gate intimated “prosecution according to law" (the painter had spelt it persecution-lun vaut bien l'autre) to all who should be found trespassing on these enclosures. Upon the other side, for uniformity's sake, was a precautionary annunciation of spring-guns, stamps, and man-traps of such formidable powers, that, said the

rubrick, with an emphatic nota bene—“ If a man goes in, they will break a horse's leg."

In defiance of these threats, six well. grown gypsey boys and girls were riding cock-horse upon the new gate, and plaiting may-flower, which it was but too evident had been gathered within the forbidden precincts. With as much anger as he was capable of feeling, or perhaps of assuming, the Laird commanded them to descend;--they paid no attention to his mandate: he then began to pull them down one after another ;-they resisted, passively at least, each sturdy bronzed varlet making himself as heavy as he could, or climbing up as fast as he was dismounted.

The Laird then called in the assistance of his servant, a surly fellow, who had im. mediate recourse to his horse-whip. A few lashes sent the party a-scampering ; and thus commenced the first breach of peace between the house of Ellangowan and the gypsies of Derncleugh.

« PreviousContinue »