Guy Mannering, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 42

Bring in the evidence.

Thou robed man of justice, take thy place,

And thou, his yoke-fellow of equity,

Bench by his side; you are of the commission,

Sit you too.

King Lear.

While the carriage was getting ready, Glossin had a letter to compose, about which he wasted no small time. It was to his neighbour, as he was fond of calling him, Sir Robert Hazlewood of Hazlewood, the head of an ancient and powerful interest in the county, which had in the decadence of the Ellangowan family gradually succeeded to much of their authority and influence. The present representative of the family was an elderly man, dotingly fond of his own family, which was limited to an only son and daughter, and stoically indifferent to the fate of all mankind besides. For the rest, he was honourable in his general dealings because he was afraid to suffer the censure of the world, and just from a better motive. He was presumptuously over-conceited on the score of family pride and importance, a feeling considerably enhanced by his late succession to the title of a Nova Scotia baronet; and he hated the memory of the Ellangowan family, though now a memory only, because a certain baron of that house was traditionally reported to have caused the founder of the Hazlewood family hold his stirrup until he mounted into his saddle. In his general deportment he was pompous and important, affecting a species of florid elocution, which often became ridiculous from his misarranging the triads and quaternions with which he loaded his sentences.

To this personage Glossin was now to write in such a conciliatory style as might be most acceptable to his vanity and family pride, and the following was the form of his note:—

‘Mr. Gilbert Glossin’ (he longed to add of Ellangowan, but prudence prevailed, and he suppressed that territorial designation) — ‘Mr. Gilbert Glossin has the honour to offer his most respectful compliments to Sir Robert Hazlewood, and to inform him that he has this morning been fortunate enough to secure the person who wounded Mr. C. Hazlewood. As Sir Robert Hazlewood may probably choose to conduct the examination of this criminal himself, Mr. G. Glossin will cause the man to be carried to the inn at Kippletringan or to Hazlewood House, as Sir Robert Hazlewood may be pleased to direct. And, with Sir Robert Hazlewood’s permission, Mr. G. Glossin will attend him at either of these places with the proofs and declarations which he has been so fortunate as to collect respecting this atrocious business.’

Addressed,

‘Sir Robert Hazlewood of Hazlewood, Bart. ‘Hazlewood House, etc. etc.

Elln Gn.

‘Tuesday.’

This note he despatched by a servant on horseback, and having given the man some time to get ahead, and desired him to ride fast, he ordered two officers of justice to get into the carriage with Bertram; and he himself, mounting his horse, accompanied them at a slow pace to the point where the roads to Kippletringan and Hazlewood House separated, and there awaited the return of his messenger, in order that his farther route might be determined by the answer he should receive from the Baronet. In about half an hour, his servant returned with the following answer, handsomely folded, and sealed with the Hazlewood arms, having the Nova Scotia badge depending from the shield:—

‘Sir Robert Hazlewood of Hazlewood returns Mr. G. Glossin’s compliments, and thanks him for the trouble he has taken in a matter affecting the safety of Sir Robert’s family. Sir R.H. requests Mr, G.G. will have the goodness to bring the prisoner to Hazlewood House for examination, with the other proofs or declarations which he mentions. And after the business is over, in case Mr. G.G. is not otherwise engaged, Sir R. and Lady Hazlewood request his company to dinner.’

Addressed,

‘Mr. Gilbert Glossin, etc. ‘Hazlewood House, Tuesday.’

‘Soh!’ thought Mr. Glossin, ‘here is one finger in at least, and that I will make the means of introducing my whole hand. But I must first get clear of this wretched young fellow. I think I can manage Sir Robert. He is dull and pompous, and will be alike disposed to listen to my suggestions upon the law of the case and to assume the credit of acting upon them as his own proper motion. So I shall have the advantage of being the real magistrate, without the odium of responsibility.’

As he cherished these hopes and expectations, the carriage approached Hazlewood House through a noble avenue of old oaks, which shrouded the ancient abbey-resembling building so called. It was a large edifice, built at different periods, part having actually been a priory, upon the suppression of which, in the time of Queen Mary, the first of the family had obtained a gift of the house and surrounding lands from the crown. It was pleasantly situated in a large deer-park, on the banks of the river we have before mentioned. The scenery around was of a dark, solemn, and somewhat melancholy cast, according well with the architecture of the house. Everything appeared to be kept in the highest possible order, and announced the opulence and rank of the proprietor.

As Mr. Glossin’s carriage stopped at the door of the hall, Sir Robert reconnoitred the new vehicle from the windows. According to his aristocratic feelings, there was a degree of presumption in this novus homo, this Mr. Gilbert Glossin, late writer in — — presuming to set up such an accommodation at all; but his wrath was mitigated when he observed that the mantle upon the panels only bore a plain cipher of G.G. This apparent modesty was indeed solely owing to the delay of Mr. Gumming of the Lyon Office, who, being at that time engaged in discovering and matriculating the arms of two commissaries from North America, three English-Irish peers, and two great Jamaica traders, had been more slow than usual in finding an escutcheon for the new Laird of Ellangowan. But his delay told to the advantage of Glossin in the opinion of the proud Baronet.

While the officers of justice detained their prisoner in a sort of steward’s room, Mr. Glossin was ushered into what was called the great oak-parlour, a long room, panelled with well-varnished wainscot, and adorned with the grim portraits of Sir Robert Hazlewood’s ancestry. The visitor, who had no internal consciousness of worth to balance that of meanness of birth, felt his inferiority, and by the depth of his bow and the obsequiousness of his demeanour showed that the Laird of Ellangowan was sunk for the time in the old and submissive habits of the quondam retainer of the law. He would have persuaded himself, indeed, that he was only humouring the pride of the old Baronet for the purpose of turning it to his own advantage, but his feelings were of a mingled nature, and he felt the influence of those very prejudices which he pretended to flatter.

The Baronet received his visitor with that condescending parade which was meant at once to assert his own vast superiority, and to show the generosity and courtesy with which he could waive it, and descend to the level of ordinary conversation with ordinary men. He thanked Glossin for his attention to a matter in which ‘young Hazlewood’ was so intimately concerned, and, pointing to his family pictures, observed, with a gracious smile, ‘Indeed, these venerable gentlemen, Mr. Glossin, are as much obliged as I am in this case for the labour, pains, care, and trouble which you have taken in their behalf; and I have no doubt, were they capable of expressing themselves, would join me, sir, in thanking you for the favour you have conferred upon the house of Hazlewood by taking care, and trouble, sir, and interest in behalf of the young gentleman who is to continue their name and family.’

Thrice bowed Glossin, and each time more profoundly than before; once in honour of the knight who stood upright before him, once in respect to the quiet personages who patiently hung upon the wainscot, and a third time in deference to the young gentleman who was to carry on the name and family. Roturier as he was, Sir Robert was gratified by the homage which he rendered, and proceeded in a tone of gracious familiarity: ‘And now, Mr. Glossin, my exceeding good friend, you must allow me to avail myself of your knowledge of law in our proceedings in this matter. I am not much in the habit of acting as a justice of the peace; it suits better with other gentlemen, whose domestic and family affairs require less constant superintendence, attention, and management than mine.’

Of course, whatever small assistance Mr. Glossin could render was entirely at Sir Robert Hazlewood’s service; but, as Sir Robert Hazlewood’s name stood high in the list of the faculty, the said Mr. Glossin could not presume to hope it could be either necessary or useful.

‘Why, my good sir, you will understand me only to mean that I am something deficient in the practical knowledge of the ordinary details of justice business. I was indeed educated to the bar, and might boast perhaps at one time that I had made some progress in the speculative and abstract and abstruse doctrines of our municipal code; but there is in the present day so little opportunity of a man of family and fortune rising to that eminence at the bar which is attained by adventurers who are as willing to plead for John a’ Nokes as for the first noble of the land, that I was really early disgusted with practice. The first case, indeed, which was laid on my table quite sickened me: it respected a bargain, sir, of tallow between a butcher and a candlemaker; and I found it was expected that I should grease my mouth not only with their vulgar names, but with all the technical terms and phrases and peculiar language of their dirty arts. Upon my honour, my good sir, I have never been able to bear the smell of a tallow-candle since.’

Pitying, as seemed to be expected, the mean use to which the Baronet’s faculties had been degraded on this melancholy occasion, Mr. Glossin offered to officiate as clerk or assessor, or in any way in which he could be most useful. ‘And with a view to possessing you of the whole business, and in the first place, there will, I believe, be no difficulty in proving the main fact, that this was the person who fired the unhappy piece. Should he deny it, it can be proved by Mr. Hazlewood, I presume?’

‘Young Hazlewood is not at home to-day, Mr. Glossin.’

‘But we can have the oath of the servant who attended him,’ said the ready Mr. Glossin; ‘indeed, I hardly think the fact will be disputed. I am more apprehensive that, from the too favourable and indulgent manner in which I have understood that Mr. Hazlewood has been pleased to represent the business, the assault may be considered as accidental, and the injury as unintentional, so that the fellow may be immediately set at liberty to do more mischief.’

‘I have not the honour to know the gentleman who now holds the office of king’s advocate,’ replied Sir Robert, gravely; ‘but I presume, sir — nay, I am confident, that he will consider the mere fact of having wounded young Hazlewood of Hazlewood, even by inadvertency, to take the matter in its mildest and gentlest, and in its most favourable and improbable, light, as a crime which will be too easily atoned by imprisonment, and as more deserving of deportation.’

‘Indeed, Sir Robert,’ said his assenting brother in justice, ‘I am entirely of your opinion; but, I don’t know how it is, I have observed the Edinburgh gentlemen of the bar, and even the officers of the crown, pique themselves upon an indifferent administration of justice, without respect to rank and family; and I should fear — ’

‘How, sir, without respect to rank and family? Will you tell me that doctrine can be held by men of birth and legal education? No, sir; if a trifle stolen in the street is termed mere pickery, but is elevated into sacrilege if the crime be committed in a church, so, according to the just gradations of society, the guilt of an injury is enhanced by the rank of the person to whom it is offered, done, or perpetrated, sir.’

Glossin bowed low to this declaration ex cathedra, but observed, that in the case of the very worst, and of such unnatural doctrines being actually held as he had already hinted, ‘the law had another hold on Mr. Vanbeest Brown.’

‘Vanbeest Brown! is that the fellow’s name? Good God! that young Hazlewood of Hazlewood should have had his life endangered, the clavicle of his right shoulder considerably lacerated and dislodged, several large drops or slugs deposited in the acromion process, as the account of the family surgeon expressly bears, and all by an obscure wretch named Vanbeest Brown!’

‘Why, really, Sir Robert, it is a thing which one can hardly bear to think of; but, begging ten thousand pardons for resuming what I was about to say, a person of the same name is, as appears from these papers (producing Dirk Hatteraick’s pocket-book), mate to the smuggling vessel who offered such violence at Woodbourne, and I have no doubt that this is the same individual; which, however, your acute discrimination will easily be able to ascertain.’

‘The same, my good sir, he must assuredly be; it would be injustice even to the meanest of the people to suppose there could be found among them two persons doomed to bear a name so shocking to one’s ears as this of Vanbeest Brown.’ ‘True, Sir Robert; most unquestionably; there cannot be a shadow of doubt of it. But you see farther, that this circumstance accounts for the man’s desperate conduct. You, Sir Robert, will discover the motive for his crime — you, I say, will discover it without difficulty on your giving your mind to the examination; for my part, I cannot help suspecting the moving spring to have been revenge for the gallantry with which Mr. Hazlewood, with all the spirit of his renowned forefathers, defended the house at Woodbourne against this villain and his lawless companions.’

‘I will inquire into it, my good sir,’ said the learned Baronet. ‘Yet even now I venture to conjecture that I shall adopt the solution or explanation of this riddle, enigma, or mystery which you have in some degree thus started. Yes! revenge it must be; and, good Heaven! entertained by and against whom? entertained, fostered, cherished against young Hazlewood of Hazlewood, and in part carried into effect, executed, and implemented by the hand of Vanbeest Brown! These are dreadful days indeed, my worthy neighbour (this epithet indicated a rapid advance in the Baronet’s good graces) — days when the bulwarks of society are shaken to their mighty base, and that rank which forms, as it were, its highest grace and ornament is mingled and confused with the viler parts of the architecture. O, my good Mr. Gilbert Glossin, in my time, sir, the use of swords and pistols, and such honourable arms, was reserved by the nobility and gentry to themselves, and the disputes of the vulgar were decided by the weapons which nature had given them, or by cudgels cut, broken, or hewed out of the next wood. But now, sir, the clouted shoe of the peasant galls the kibe of the courtier. The lower ranks have their quarrels, sir, and their points of honour, and their revenges, which they must bring, forsooth, to fatal arbitrament. But well, well! it will last my time. Let us have in this fellow, this Vanbeest Brown, and make an end of him, at least for the present.’

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