Guy Mannering, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 32

A man may see how this world goes with no eyes. Look with

thine ears. See how yon justice rails upon yon simple thief.

Hark in thine ear: Change places; and, handy-dandy, which

is the justice, which is the thief?

King Lear.

Among those who took the most lively interest in endeavouring to discover the person by whom young Charles Hazlewood had been waylaid and wounded was Gilbert Glossin, Esquire, late writer in — — now Laird of Ellangowan, and one of the worshipful commission of justices of the peace for the county of ——. His motives for exertion on this occasion were manifold; but we presume that our readers, from what they already know of this gentleman, will acquit him of being actuated by any zealous or intemperate love of abstract justice.

The truth was, that this respectable personage felt himself less at ease than he had expected, after his machinations put him in possession of his benefactor’s estate. His reflections within doors, where so much occurred to remind him of former times, were not always the self-congratulations of successful stratagem. And when he looked abroad he could not but be sensible that he was excluded from the society of the gentry of the county, to whose rank he conceived he had raised himself. He was not admitted to their clubs, and at meetings of a public nature, from which he could not be altogether excluded, he found himself thwarted and looked upon with coldness and contempt. Both principle and prejudice cooperated in creating this dislike; for the gentlemen of the county despised him for the lowness of his birth, while they hated him for the means by which he had raised his fortune. With the common people his reputation stood still worse. They would neither yield him the territorial appellation of Ellangowan nor the usual compliment of Mr. Glossin: with them he was bare Glossin; and so incredibly was his vanity interested by this trifling circumstance, that he was known to give half-a-crown to a beggar because he had thrice called him Ellangowan in beseeching him for a penny. He therefore felt acutely the general want of respect, and particularly when he contrasted his own character and reception in society with those of Mr. Mac-Morlan, who, in far inferior worldly circumstances, was beloved and respected both by rich and poor, and was slowly but securely laying the foundation of a moderate fortune, with the general good-will and esteem of all who knew him.

Glossin, while he repined internally at what he would fain have called the prejudices and prepossessions of the country, was too wise to make any open complaint. He was sensible his elevation was too recent to be immediately forgotten, and the means by which he had attained it too odious to be soon forgiven. But time, thought he, diminishes wonder and palliates misconduct. With the dexterity, therefore, of one who made his fortune by studying the weak points of human nature, he determined to lie by for opportunities to make himself useful even to those who most disliked him; trusting that his own abilities, the disposition of country gentlemen to get into quarrels, when a lawyer’s advice becomes precious, and a thousand other contingencies, of which, with patience and address, he doubted not to be able to avail himself, would soon place him in a more important and respectable light to his neighbours, and perhaps raise him to the eminence sometimes attained by a shrewd, worldly, bustling man of business, when, settled among a generation of country gentlemen, he becomes, in Burns’s language,

The tongue of the trump to them a’.

The attack on Colonel Mannering’s house, followed by the accident of Hazlewood’s wound, appeared to Glossin a proper opportunity to impress upon the country at large the service which could be rendered by an active magistrate (for he had been in the commission for some time), well acquainted with the law, and no less so with the haunts and habits of the illicit traders. He had acquired the latter kind of experience by a former close alliance with some of the most desperate smugglers, in consequence of which he had occasionally acted, sometimes as a partner, sometimes as legal adviser, with these persons, But the connexion had been dropped many years; nor, considering how short the race of eminent characters of this description, and the frequent circumstances occur to make them retire from particular scenes of action, had he the least reason to think that his present researches could possibly compromise any old friend who might possess means of retaliation. The having been concerned in these practices abstractedly was a circumstance which, according to his opinion, ought in no respect to interfere with his now using his experience in behalf of the public, or rather to further his own private views. To acquire the good opinion and countenance of Colonel Mannering would be no small object to a gentleman who was much disposed to escape from Coventry, and to gain the favour of old Hazlewood, who was a leading man in the county, was of more importance still. Lastly, if he should succeed in discovering, apprehending, and convicting the culprits, he would have the satisfaction of mortifying, and in some degree disparaging, Mac — Morlan, to whom, as sheriff-substitute of the county, this sort of investigation properly belonged, and who would certainly suffer in public opinion should the voluntary exertions of Glossin be more successful than his own.

Actuated by motives so stimulating, and well acquainted with the lower retainers of the law, Glossin set every spring in motion to detect and apprehend, if possible, some of the gang who had attacked Woodbourne, and more particularly the individual who had wounded Charles Hazlewood. He promised high rewards, he suggested various schemes, and used his personal interest among his old acquaintances who favoured the trade, urging that they had better make sacrifice of an understrapper or two than incur the odium of having favoured such atrocious proceedings. But for some time all these exertions were in vain. The common people of the country either favoured or feared the smugglers too much to afford any evidence against them. At length this busy magistrate obtained information that a man, having the dress and appearance of the person who had wounded Hazlewood, had lodged on the evening before the rencontre at the Gordon Arms in Kippletringan. Thither Mr. Glossin immediately went, for the purpose of interrogating our old acquaintance Mrs. Mac-Candlish.

The reader may remember that Mr. Glossin did not, according to this good woman’s phrase, stand high in her books. She therefore attended his summons to the parlour slowly and reluctantly, and, on entering the room, paid her respects in the coldest possible manner. The dialogue then proceeded as follows:—

‘A fine frosty morning, Mrs. Mac-Candlish.’

‘Ay, sir; the morning’s weel eneugh,’ answered the landlady, drily.

‘Mrs. Mac-Candlish, I wish to know if the justices are to dine here as usual after the business of the court on Tuesday?’

‘I believe — I fancy sae, sir — as usual’ (about to leave the room).

‘Stay a moment, Mrs. Mac-Candlish; why, you are in a prodigious hurry, my good friend! I have been thinking a club dining here once a month would be a very pleasant thing.’

‘Certainly, sir; a club of respectable gentlemen.’

‘True, true,’ said Glossin, ‘I mean landed proprietors and gentlemen of weight in the county; and I should like to set such a thing a-going.’

The short dry cough with which Mrs. Mac-Candlish received this proposal by no means indicated any dislike to the overture abstractedly considered, but inferred much doubt how far it would succeed under the auspices of the gentleman by whom it was proposed. It was not a cough negative, but a cough dubious, and as such Glossin felt it; but it was not his cue to take offence.

‘Have there been brisk doings on the road, Mrs. Mac-Candlish? Plenty of company, I suppose?’

‘Pretty weel, sir, — but I believe I am wanted at the bar.’

‘No, no; stop one moment, cannot you, to oblige an old customer? Pray, do you remember a remarkably tall young man who lodged one night in your house last week?’

‘Troth, sir, I canna weel say; I never take heed whether my company be lang or short, if they make a lang bill.’

‘And if they do not, you can do that for them, eh, Mrs. Mac — Candlish? ha, ha, ha! But this young man that I inquire after was upwards of six feet high, had a dark frock, with metal buttons, light-brown hair unpowdered, blue eyes, and a straight nose, travelled on foot, had no servant or baggage; you surely can remember having seen such a traveller?’

‘Indeed, sir,’ answered Mrs. Mac-Candlish, bent on baffling his inquiries, ‘I canna charge my memory about the matter; there’s mair to do in a house like this, I trow, than to look after passengers’ hair, or their een, or noses either.’

‘Then, Mrs. Mac-Candlish, I must tell you in plain terms that this person is suspected of having been guilty of a crime; and it is in consequence of these suspicions that I, as a magistrate, require this information from you; and if you refuse to answer my questions, I must put you upon your oath.’

‘Troth, sir, I am no free to swear;18 we ay gaed to the Antiburgher meeting. It’s very true, in Bailie Mac-Candlish’s time (honest man) we keepit the kirk, whilk was most seemly in his station, as having office; but after his being called to a better place than Kippletringan I hae gaen back to worthy Maister Mac-Grainer. And so ye see, sir, I am no clear to swear without speaking to the minister, especially against ony sackless puir young thing that’s gaun through the country, stranger and freendless like.’

‘I shall relieve your scruples, perhaps, without troubling Mr. Mac-Grainer, when I tell you that this fellow whom I inquire after is the man who shot your young friend Charles Hazlewood.’

‘Gudeness! wha could hae thought the like o’ that o’ him? Na, if it had been for debt, or e’en for a bit tuilzie wi’ the gauger, the deil o’ Nelly Mac-Candlish’s tongue should ever hae wranged him. But if he really shot young Hazlewood — but I canna think it, Mr. Glossin; this will be some o’ your skits now. I canna think it o’ sae douce a lad; na, na, this is just some o’ your auld skits. Ye’ll be for having a horning or a caption after him.’

‘I see you have no confidence in me, Mrs. Mac-Candlish; but look at these declarations, signed by the persons who saw the crime committed, and judge yourself if the description of the ruffian be not that of your guest.’

He put the papers into her hand, which she perused very carefully, often taking off her spectacles to cast her eyes up to heaven, or perhaps to wipe a tear from them, for young Hazlewood was an especial favourite with the good dame. ‘Aweel, aweel,’ she said, when she had concluded her examination, ‘since it’s e’en sae, I gie him up, the villain. But O, we are erring mortals! I never saw a face I liked better, or a lad that was mair douce and canny: I thought he had been some gentleman under trouble. But I gie him up, the villain! To shoot Charles Hazlewood, and before the young ladies, poor innocent things! I gie him up.’

‘So you admit, then, that such a person lodged here the night before this vile business?’

‘Troth did he, sir, and a’ the house were taen wi’ him, he was sic a frank, pleasant young man. It wasna for his spending, I’m sure, for he just had a mutton-chop and a mug of ale, and maybe a glass or twa o’ wine; and I asked him to drink tea wi’ mysell, and didna put that into the bill; and he took nae supper, for he said he was defeat wi’ travel a’ the night afore. I daresay now it had been on some hellicat errand or other.’

‘Did you by any chance learn his name?’

‘I wot weel did I,’ said the landlady, now as eager to communicate her evidence as formerly desirous to suppress it. ‘He tell’d me his name was Brown, and he said it was likely that an auld woman like a gipsy wife might be asking for him. Ay, ay! tell me your company, and I’ll tell you wha ye are! O the villain! Aweel, sir, when he gaed away in the morning he paid his bill very honestly, and gae something to the chambermaid nae doubt; for Grizzy has naething frae me, by twa pair o’ new shoo ilka year, and maybe a bit compliment at Hansel Monanday — ’ Here Glossin found it necessary to interfere and bring the good woman back to the point.

‘Ou then, he just said, “If there comes such a person to inquire after Mr. Brown, you will say I am gone to look at the skaters on Loch Creeran, as you call it, and I will be back here to dinner.” But he never came back, though I expected him sae faithfully that I gae a look to making the friar’s chicken mysell, and to the crappitheads too, and that’s what I dinna do for ordinary, Mr. Glossin. But little did I think what skating wark he was gaun about — to shoot Mr. Charles, the innocent lamb!’

Mr. Glossin having, like a prudent examinator, suffered his witness to give vent to all her surprise and indignation, now began to inquire whether the suspected person had left any property or papers about the inn.

‘Troth, he put a parcel — a sma’ parcel — under my charge, and he gave me some siller, and desired me to get him half-a-dozen ruffled sarks, and Peg Pasley’s in hands wi’ them e’en now; they may serve him to gang up the Lawnmarket19 in, the scoundrel!’ Mr. Glossin then demanded to see the packet, but here mine hostess demurred.

‘She didna ken — she wad not say but justice should take its course — but when a thing was trusted to ane in her way, doubtless they were responsible; but she suld cry in Deacon Bearcliff, and if Mr. Glossin liked to tak an inventar o’ the property, and gie her a receipt before the Deacon — or, what she wad like muckle better, an it could be sealed up and left in Deacon Bearcliff’s hands — it wad mak her mind easy. She was for naething but justice on a’ sides.’

Mrs. Mac-Candlish’s natural sagacity and acquired suspicion being inflexible, Glossin sent for Deacon Bearcliff, to speak ‘anent the villain that had shot Mr. Charles Hazlewood.’ The Deacon accordingly made his appearance with his wig awry, owing to the hurry with which, at this summons of the Justice, he had exchanged it for the Kilmarnock cap in which he usually attended his customers. Mrs. Mac-Candlish then produced the parcel deposited with her by Brown, in which was found the gipsy’s purse. On perceiving the value of the miscellaneous contents, Mrs. Mac — Candlish internally congratulated herself upon the precautions she had taken before delivering them up to Glossin, while he, with an appearance of disinterested candour, was the first to propose they should be properly inventoried, and deposited with Deacon Bearcliff, until they should be sent to the Crown-office. ‘He did not,’ he observed, ‘like to be personally responsible for articles which seemed of considerable value, and had doubtless been acquired by the most nefarious practices.’

He then examined the paper in which the purse had been wrapt up. It was the back of a letter addressed to V. Brown, Esquire, but the rest of the address was torn away. The landlady, now as eager to throw light upon the criminal’s escape as she had formerly been desirous of withholding it, for the miscellaneous contents of the purse argued strongly to her mind that all was not right, — Mrs. Mac-Candlish, I say, now gave Glossin to understand that her position and hostler had both seen the stranger upon the ice that day when young Hazlewood was wounded.

Our readers’ old acquaintance Jock Jabos was first summoned, and admitted frankly that he had seen and conversed upon the ice that morning with a stranger, who, he understood, had lodged at the Gordon Arms the night before.

‘What turn did your conversation take?’ said Glossin.

‘Turn? ou, we turned nae gate at a’, but just keep it straight forward upon the ice like.’

‘Well, but what did ye speak about?’

‘Ou, he just asked questions like ony ither stranger,’ answered the postilion, possessed, as it seemed, with the refractory and uncommunicative spirit which had left his mistress.

‘But about what?’ said Glossin.

‘Ou, just about the folk that was playing at the curling, and about auld Jock Stevenson that was at the cock, and about the leddies, and sic like.’

‘What ladies? and what did he ask about them, Jock?’ said the interrogator.

‘What leddies? Ou, it was Miss Jowlia Mannering and Miss Lucy Bertram, that ye ken fu’ weel yoursell, Mr. Glossin; they were walking wi’ the young Laird of Hazlewood upon the ice.’

‘And what did you tell him about them?’ demanded Glossin.

‘Tut, we just said that was Miss Lucy Bertram of Ellangowan, that should ance have had a great estate in the country; and that was Miss Jowlia Mannering, that was to be married to young Hazlewood, see as she was hinging on his arm. We just spoke about our country clashes like; he was a very frank man.’

‘Well, and what did he say in answer?’

‘Ou, he just stared at the young leddies very keen-like, and asked if it was for certain that the marriage was to be between Miss Mannering and young Hazlewood; and I answered him that it was for positive and absolute certain, as I had an undoubted right to say sae; for my third cousin Jean Clavers (she’s a relation o’ your ain, Mr. Glossin, ye wad ken Jean lang syne?), she’s sib to the houskeeper at Woodbourne, and she’s tell’d me mair than ance that there was naething could be mair likely.’

‘And what did the stranger say when you told him all this?’ said Glossin.

‘Say?’ echoed the postilion, ‘he said naething at a’; he just stared at them as they walked round the loch upon the ice, as if he could have eaten them, and he never took his ee aff them, or said another word, or gave another glance at the bonspiel, though there was the finest fun amang the curlers ever was seen; and he turned round and gaed aff the loch by the kirkstile through Woodbourne fir-plantings, and we saw nae mair o’ him.’

‘Only think,’ said Mrs. Mac-Candlish, ‘what a hard heart he maun hae had, to think o’ hurting the poor young gentleman in the very presence of the leddy he was to be married to!’

‘O, Mrs. Mac-Candlish,’ said Glossin, ‘there’s been many cases such as that on the record; doubtless he was seeking revenge where it would be deepest and sweetest.’

‘God pity us!’ said Deacon Bearcliff, ‘we’re puir frail creatures when left to oursells! Ay, he forgot wha said, “Vengeance is mine, and I will repay it.”’

‘Weel, aweel, sirs,’ said Jabos, whose hard-headed and uncultivated shrewdness seemed sometimes to start the game when others beat the bush — ‘weel, weel, ye may be a’ mista’en yet; I’ll never believe that a man would lay a plan to shoot another wi’ his ain gun. Lord help ye, I was the keeper’s assistant down at the Isle mysell, and I’ll uphaud it the biggest man in Scotland shouldna take a gun frae me or I had weized the slugs through him, though I’m but sic a little feckless body, fit for naething but the outside o’ a saddle and the fore-end o’ a poschay; na, na, nae living man wad venture on that. I’ll wad my best buckskins, and they were new coft at Kirkcudbright Fair, it’s been a chance job after a’. But if ye hae naething mair to say to me, I am thinking I maun gang and see my beasts fed’; and he departed accordingly.

The hostler, who had accompanied him, gave evidence to the same purpose. He and Mrs. Mac-Candlish were then reinterrogated whether Brown had no arms with him on that unhappy morning. ‘None,’ they said, ‘but an ordinary bit cutlass or hanger by his side.’

‘Now,’ said the Deacon, taking Glossin by the button (for, in considering this intricate subject, he had forgot Glossin’s new accession of rank),‘this is but doubtfu’ after a’, Maister Gilbert; for it was not sae dooms likely that he would go down into battle wi’ sic sma’ means.’

Glossin extricated himself from the Deacon’s grasp and from the discussion, though not with rudeness; for it was his present interest to buy golden opinions from all sorts of people. He inquired the price of tea and sugar, and spoke of providing himself for the year; he gave Mrs. Mac-Candlish directions to have a handsome entertainment in readiness for a party of five friends whom he intended to invite to dine with him at the Gordon Arms next Saturday week; and, lastly, he gave a half-crown to Jock Jabos, whom the hostler had deputed to hold his steed.

‘Weel,’ said the Deacon to Mrs. Mac-Candlish, as he accepted her offer of a glass of bitters at the bar, ‘the deil’s no sae ill as he’s ca’d. It’s pleasant to see a gentleman pay the regard to the business o’ the county that Mr. Glossin does.’

‘Ay, ‘deed is’t, Deacon,’ answered the landlady; ‘and yet I wonder our gentry leave their ain wark to the like o’ him. But as lang as siller’s current, Deacon, folk maunna look ower nicely at what king’s head’s on’t.’

‘I doubt Glossin will prove but shand after a’, mistress,’ said Jabos, as he passed through the little lobby beside the bar; ‘but this is a gude half-crown ony way.’

18 Some of the strict dissenters decline taking an oath before a civil magistrate.

19 The procession of the criminals to the gallows of old took that direction, moving, as the school-boy rhyme had it, Up the Lawnmarket, Down the West Bow, Up the lang ladder, And down the little tow.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29