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Then, without answering his questions, she armed Dinmont also with a large pistol, and desired them to choose sticks for themselves out of a parcel of very suspicious-looking bludgeons, which she brought from
Bertram took a stout sapling, and Dandie selected a club which might have served Hercules himself. They then left the hut together, and, in doing so, Bertram took an opportunity to whisper to Dinmont, “There's something inexplicable in all this --But we need not use these arms unless we necessity and lawful occasion—take care to do as you . see me do.”
Dinmont gave a sagacious nod; and they continued to follow, over wet and over dry, through bog and through fallow, the footsteps of their conductress. She guided them to the wood of Warroch by the same track which the late Ellangowan had used when riding to Dercleugh in quest of his child, on the miserable evening of Kennedy's murder.
When Meg Merrilies had attained these groves, through which the wintry sea-wind was now whistling hoarse and shrill, she seemed to pause a moment as if to recollect the
way. “We maun go the precise track,” she said, and continued to go forward, but rather in a zigzag and involved course than according to her former steady and direct line of motion. At length she guided them through the mazes of the wood to a little open glade of about a quarter of an acre, surrounded by trees and bushes, which made a wild and irregular boundary. Even in winter it was a sheltered
and snugly sequestered spot; but when arrayed in the verdure of spring, the earth sending forth all its wild flowers, the shrubs spreading their waste of blossom around it, and the weeping birches, which towered over the underwood, drooping their long and leafy fibres to intercept the sun, it must have seemed a place for a youthful poet to study his earliest sonnet, or a pair of lovers to exchange their first mutual avowal of affection. Apparently it now awakened very different recollections. Bertram’s brow, when he had looked round the spot, became gloomy and embarrassed. Meg, after uttering to herself, “This is the very spot !” looked at him with a ghastly side-glance,"D'ye mind it?"
“Yes!” answered Bertram, "imperfectly I do."
“Ay!” pursued his guide, "on this very spot the man fell from his horse-I was behind that bourtreebush at the very moment. Sair, sair he strove, and sair he cried for mercy—but he was in the hands of them that never kenn'd the word !-Now will I show you the further track—the last time ye travelled it was in these arms."
She led them accordingly by a long and winding passage almost overgrown with brushwood, until, without any very perceptible descent, they suddenly found themselves by the sea-side. Meg then walked very fast on between the surf and the rocks, until she came to a remarkable fragment of rock detached from the rest. “Here,” she said in a low and scarcely audible whisper, “here the corpse was found.”
“And the cave,” said Bertram, in the same tone, “is close beside it—are you guiding us there?”
“Yes," said the gipsy in a decided tone. "Bend up both your
hearts—follow me as I creep in—I have placed the fire-wood so as to screen you. Bide behind it for a gliff till I say, The hour and the man are baith come! then rin in on him, take his arms, and bind him till the blood burst frae his finger nails.”
“I will, by my soul !" said Henry—“if he is the man I suppose—Jansen ?”
“Ay, Jansen, Hatteraiek, and twenty mair names
“Dinmont, you must stand by me now,” said Bertram, "for this fellow is a devil.”
“Ye needna doubt that,” said the stout yeoman“ but I wish I could mind a bit
prayer or I
after the witch into that hole that she's opening-It wad be a sair thing to leave the blessed sun, and the free air, and gang and be killed, like a tod that's run to earth, in a dungeon like that. But, my sooth, they will be hard-bitten terriers will worry Dandie ; so, as I said, deil hae me if I baulk you.” This was uttered in the lowest tone of voice possible. The entrance was now open. Meg crept in upon her hands and knees, Bertram followed, and Dinmont, after giving a rueful glance toward the daylight, whose blessings he was abandoning, brought up the rear.
Die, prophet, in thy speech!
HENRY VI. Part III.
The progress of the Borderer, who, as we have said, was the last of the party, was fearfully arrested by a hand, which caught hold of his leg as he dragged his long limbs after him in silence and perturbation through the low and narrow entrance of the subterranean passage. The steel heart of the bold yeoman had wellnigh given way, and he suppressed with difficulty a shout, which, in the defenceless posture and situation which they
then occupied, might have cost all their lives. He contented himself, however, with extricating his foot from the grasp of this unexpected follower. "Be still," said a voice behind him, releasing him; “I am a friend-Charles Hazlewood.”
These words were uttered in a very low voice, but they produced sound enough to startle Meg Merrilies, who led the van, and who, having already gained the place where the cavern expanded, had risen upon her feet. She began, as if to confound any listening ear, to growl, to mutter, and to sing aloud, and at the same time to make a bustle among some brushwood which was now heaped in the cave.
“Here-beldam-Deyvil's kind," growled the harsh voice of Dirk Hatteraick from the inside of his den, " what makest thou there?”
“Laying the roughies* to keep the cauld wind frae you, ye desperate do-nae-good— Ye’re e'en ower weel off, and wotsna ;-it will be otherwise soon.”
“Have you brought me the brandy, and any news of
my people ?” said Dirk Hatteraick.
" There's the flask for ye. Your people—dispersed -broken-gone-or cut to ribbands by the red coats.”
“Der Deyvil !—this coast is fatal to me.”
While this dialogue went forward, Bertram and Dinmont had both gained the interior of the cave,
and assumed an erect position. The only light which illuminated its rugged and sable precincts was a quantity
* Withered boughs.