Guy Mannering, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 43

’Twas he

Gave heat unto the injury, which returned,

Like a petard ill lighted, into the bosom

Of him gave fire to’t. Yet I hope his hurt

Is not so dangerous but he may recover

Fair Maid of the Inn.

The prisoner was now presented before the two worshipful magistrates. Glossin, partly from some compunctious visitings, and partly out of his cautious resolution to suffer Sir Robert Hazlewood to be the ostensible manager of the whole examination, looked down upon the table, and busied himself with reading and arranging the papers respecting the business, only now and then throwing in a skilful catchword as prompter, when he saw the principal, and apparently most active, magistrate stand in need of a hint. As for Sir Robert Hazlewood, he assumed on his part a happy mixture of the austerity of the justice combined with the display of personal dignity appertaining to the baronet of ancient family.

‘There, constables, let him stand there at the bottom of the table. Be so good as look me in the face, sir, and raise your voice as you answer the questions which I am going to put to you.’

‘May I beg, in the first place, to know, sir, who it is that takes the trouble to interrogate me?’ said the prisoner; ‘for the honest gentlemen who have brought me here have not been pleased to furnish any information upon that point.’

‘And pray, sir,’ answered Sir Robert, ‘what has my name and quality to do with the questions I am about to ask you?’

‘Nothing, perhaps, sir,’ replied Bertram; ‘but it may considerably influence my disposition to answer them.’

‘Why, then, sir, you will please to be informed that you are in presence of Sir Robert Hazlewood of Hazlewood, and another justice of peace for this county — that’s all.’

As this intimation produced a less stunning effect upon the prisoner than he had anticipated, Sir Robert proceeded in his investigation with an increasing dislike to the object of it.

‘Is your name Vanbeest Brown, sir?’

‘It is,’ answered the prisoner.

‘So far well; and how are we to design you farther, sir?’ demanded the Justice.

‘Captain in his Majesty’s —— regiment of horse,’ answered Bertram.

The Baronet’s ears received this intimation with astonishment; but he was refreshed in courage by an incredulous look from Glossin, and by hearing him gently utter a sort of interjectional whistle, in a note of surprise and contempt. ‘I believe, my friend,’ said Sir Robert, ‘we shall find for you, before we part, a more humble title.’

‘If you do, sir,’ replied his prisoner, ‘I shall willingly submit to any punishment which such an imposture shall be thought to deserve.’

‘Well, sir, we shall see,’ continued Sir Robert. ‘Do you know young Hazlewood of Hazlewood?’

‘I never saw the gentleman who I am informed bears that name excepting once, and I regret that it was under very unpleasant circumstances.’

‘You mean to acknowledge, then,’ said the Baronet, ‘that you inflicted upon young Hazlewood of Hazlewood that wound which endangered his life, considerably lacerated the clavicle of his right shoulder, and deposited, as the family surgeon declares, several large drops or slugs in the acromion process?’

‘Why, sir,’ replied Bertram, ‘I can only say I am equally ignorant of and sorry for the extent of the damage which the young gentleman has sustained. I met him in a narrow path, walking with two ladies and a servant, and before I could either pass them or address them, this young Hazlewood took his gun from his servant, presented it against my body, and commanded me in the most haughty tone to stand back. I was neither inclined to submit to his authority nor to leave him in possession of the means to injure me, which he seemed disposed to use with such rashness. I therefore closed with him for the purpose of disarming him; and, just as I had nearly effected my purpose, the piece went off accidentally, and, to my regret then and since, inflicted upon the young gentleman a severer chastisement than I desired, though I am glad to understand it is like to prove no more than his unprovoked folly deserved.’

‘And so, sir,’ said the Baronet, every feature swoln with offended dignity, ‘you, sir, admit, sir, that it was your purpose, sir, and your intention, sir, and the real jet and object of your assault, sir, to disarm young Hazlewood of Hazlewood of his gun, sir, or his fowling-piece, or his fuzee, or whatever you please to call it, sir, upon the king’s highway, sir? I think this will do, my worthy neighbour! I think he should stand committed?’

‘You are by far the best judge, Sir Robert,’ said Glossin, in his most insinuating tone; ‘but if I might presume to hint, there was something about these smugglers.’

‘Very true, good sir. And besides, sir, you, Vanbeest Brown, who call yourself a captain in his Majesty’s service, are no better or worse than a rascally mate of a smuggler!’

‘Really, sir,’ said Bertram, ‘you are an old gentleman, and acting under some strange delusion, otherwise I should be very angry with you.’

‘Old gentleman, sir! strange delusion, sir!’ said Sir Robert, colouring with indignation. ‘I protest and declare — Why, sir, have you any papers or letters that can establish your pretended rank and estate and commission?’

‘None at present, sir,’ answered Bertram; ‘but in the return of a post or two —— ’

‘And how do you, sir,’ continued the Baronet, ‘if you are a captain in his Majesty’s service — how do you chance to be travelling in Scotland without letters of introduction, credentials, baggage, or anything belonging to your pretended rank, estate, and condition, as I said before?’

‘Sir,’ replied the prisoner, ‘I had the misfortune to be robbed of my clothes and baggage.’

‘Oho! then you are the gentleman who took a post-chaise from —— to Kippletringan, gave the boy the slip on the road, and sent two of your accomplices to beat the boy and bring away the baggage?’

‘I was, sir, in a carriage, as you describe, was obliged to alight in the snow, and lost my way endeavouring to find the road to Kippletringan. The landlady of the inn will inform you that on my arrival there the next day, my first inquiries were after the boy.’

‘Then give me leave to ask where you spent the night, not in the snow, I presume? You do not suppose that will pass, or be taken, credited, and received?’

‘I beg leave,’ said Bertram, his recollection turning to the gipsy female and to the promise he had given her — ‘I beg leave to decline answering that question.’

‘I thought as much,’ said Sir Robert. ‘Were you not during that night in the ruins of Derncleugh? — in the ruins of Derncleugh, sir?’

‘I have told you that I do not intend answering that question,’ replied Bertram.

‘Well, sir, then you will stand committed, sir,’ said Sir Robert, ‘and be sent to prison, sir, that’s all, sir. Have the goodness to look at these papers; are you the Vanbeest Brown who is there mentioned?’

It must be remarked that Glossin had shuffled among the papers some writings which really did belong to Bertram, and which had been found by the officers in the old vault where his portmanteau was ransacked.

‘Some of these papers,’ said Bertram, looking over them, ‘are mine, and were in my portfolio when it was stolen from the post-chaise. They are memoranda of little value, and, I see, have been carefully selected as affording no evidence of my rank or character, which many of the other papers would have established fully. They are mingled with ship-accounts and other papers, belonging apparently to a person of the same name.’

‘And wilt thou attempt to persuade me, friend,’ demanded Sir Robert, ‘that there are two persons in this country at the same time of thy very uncommon and awkwardly sounding name?’

‘I really do not see, sir, as there is an old Hazlewood and a young Hazlewood, why there should not be an old and a young Vanbeest Brown. And, to speak seriously, I was educated in Holland, and I know that this name, however uncouth it may sound in British ears —— ’

Glossin, conscious that the prisoner was now about to enter upon dangerous ground, interfered, though the interruption was unnecessary, for the purpose of diverting the attention of Sir Robert Hazlewood, who was speechless and motionless with indignation at the presumptuous comparison implied in Bertram’s last speech. In fact, the veins of his throat and of his temples swelled almost to bursting, and he sat with the indignant and disconcerted air of one who has received a mortal insult from a quarter to which he holds it unmeet and indecorous to make any reply. While, with a bent brow and an angry eye, he was drawing in his breath slowly and majestically, and puffing it forth again with deep and solemn exertion, Glossin stepped in to his assistance. ‘I should think now, Sir Robert, with great submission, that this matter may be closed. One of the constables, besides the pregnant proof already produced, offers to make oath that the sword of which the prisoner was this morning deprived (while using it, by the way, in resistance to a legal warrant) was a cutlass taken from him in a fray between the officers and smugglers just previous to their attack upon Woodbourne. And yet,’ he added, ‘I would not have you form any rash construction upon that subject; perhaps the young man can explain how he came by that weapon.’

‘That question, sir,’ said Bertram, ‘I shall also leave unanswered.’

‘There is yet another circumstance to be inquired into, always under Sir Robert’s leave,’ insinuated Glossin. ‘This prisoner put into the hands of Mrs. MacCandlish of Kippletringan a parcel containing a variety of gold coins and valuable articles of different kinds. Perhaps, Sir Robert, you might think it right to ask how he came by property of a description which seldom occurs?’

‘You, sir, Mr. Vanbeest Brown, sir, you hear the question, sir, which the gentleman asks you?’

‘I have particular reasons for declining to answer that question,’ answered Bertram.

‘Then I am afraid, sir,’ said Glossin, who had brought matters to the point he desired to reach, ‘our duty must lay us under the necessity to sign a warrant of committal.’

‘As you please, sir,’ answered Bertram; ‘take care, however, what you do. Observe that I inform you that I am a captain in his Majesty’s —— regiment, and that I am just returned from India, and therefore cannot possibly be connected with any of those contraband traders you talk of; that my lieutenant-colonel is now at Nottingham, the major, with the officers of my corps, at Kingston-upon-Thames. I offer before you both to submit to any degree of ignominy if, within the return of the Kingston and Nottingham posts, I am not able to establish these points. Or you may write to the agent for the regiment if you please, and —— ’

‘This is all very well, sir,’ said Glossin, beginning to fear lest the firm expostulation of Bertram should make some impression on Sir Robert, who would almost have died of shame at committing such a solecism as sending a captain of horse to jail — ‘this is all very well, sir; but is there no person nearer whom you could refer to?’

‘There are only two persons in this country who know anything of me,’ replied the prisoner. ‘One is a plain Liddesdale sheep-farmer, called Dinmont of Charlie’s Hope; but he knows nothing more of me than what I told him, and what I now tell you.’

‘Why, this is well enough, Sir Robert!’ said Glossin. ‘I suppose he would bring forward this thick-skulled fellow to give his oath of credulity, Sir Robert, ha, ha, ha!’

‘And what is your other witness, friend?’ said the Baronet.

‘A gentleman whom I have some reluctance to mention because of certain private reasons, but under whose command I served some time in India, and who is too much a man of honour to refuse his testimony to my character as a soldier and gentleman.’

‘And who is this doughty witness, pray, sir?’ said Sir Robert,’ some half-pay quartermaster or sergeant, I suppose?’

‘Colonel Guy Mannering, late of the —— regiment, in which, as I told you, I have a troop.’

‘Colonel Guy Mannering!’ thought Glossin, ‘who the devil could have guessed this?’

‘Colonel Guy Mannering?’ echoed the Baronet, considerably shaken in his opinion. ‘My good sir,’ apart to Glossin, ‘the young man with a dreadfully plebeian name and a good deal of modest assurance has nevertheless something of the tone and manners and feeling of a gentleman, of one at least who has lived in good society; they do give commissions very loosely and carelessly and inaccurately in India. I think we had better pause till Colonel Mannering shall return; he is now, I believe, at Edinburgh.’

‘You are in every respect the best judge, Sir Robert,’ answered Glossin — ‘in every possible respect. I would only submit to you that we are certainly hardly entitled to dismiss this man upon an assertion which cannot be satisfied by proof, and that we shall incur a heavy responsibility by detaining him in private custody, without committing him to a public jail. Undoubtedly, however, you are the best judge, Sir Robert; and I would only say, for my own part, that I very lately incurred severe censure by detaining a person in a place which I thought perfectly secure, and under the custody of the proper officers. The man made his escape, and I have no doubt my own character for attention and circumspection as a magistrate has in some degree suffered. I only hint this: I will join in any step you, Sir Robert, think most advisable.’ But Mr. Glossin was well aware that such a hint was of power sufficient to decide the motions of his self-important but not self-relying colleague. So that Sir Robert Hazlewood summed up the business in the following speech, which proceeded partly upon the supposition of the prisoner being really a gentleman, and partly upon the opposite belief that he was a villain and an assassin:—

‘Sir, Mr. Vanbeest Brown — I would call you Captain Brown if there was the least reason or cause or grounds to suppose that you are a captain, or had a troop in the very respectable corps you mention, or indeed in any other corps in his Majesty’s service, as to which circumstance I beg to be understood to give no positive, settled, or unalterable judgment, declaration, or opinion, — I say, therefore, sir, Mr. Brown, we have determined, considering the unpleasant predicament in which you now stand, having been robbed, as you say, an assertion as to which I suspend my opinion, and being possessed of much and valuable treasure, and of a brass-handled cutlass besides, as to your obtaining which you will favour us with no explanation, — I say, sir, we have determined and resolved and made up our minds to commit you to jail, or rather to assign you an apartment therein, in order that you may be forthcoming upon Colonel Mannering’s return from Edinburgh.’

‘With humble submission, Sir Robert,’ said Glossin, ‘may I inquire if it is your purpose to send this young gentleman to the county jail? For if that were not your settled intention, I would take the liberty to hint that there would be less hardship in sending him to the bridewell at Portanferry, where he can be secured without public exposure, a circumstance which, on the mere chance of his story being really true, is much to be avoided.’

‘Why, there is a guard of soldiers at Portanferry, to be sure, for protection of the goods in the custom-house; and upon the whole, considering everything, and that the place is comfortable for such a place, I say, all things considered, we will commit this person, I would rather say authorise him to be detained, in the workhouse at Portanferry.’

The warrant was made out accordingly, and Bertram was informed he was next morning to be removed to his place of confinement, as Sir Robert had determined he should not be taken there under cloud of night, for fear of rescue. He was during the interval to be detained at Hazlewood House.

‘It cannot be so hard as my imprisonment by the looties in India,’ he thought; ‘nor can it last so long. But the deuce take the old formal dunderhead, and his more sly associate, who speaks always under his breath; they cannot understand a plain man’s story when it is told them.’

In the meanwhile Glossin took leave of the Baronet with a thousand respectful bows and cringing apologies for not accepting his invitation to dinner, and venturing to hope he might be pardoned in paying his respects to him, Lady Hazlewood, and young Mr. Hazlewood on some future occasion.

‘Certainly, sir,’ said the Baronet, very graciously. ‘I hope our family was never at any time deficient in civility to our neighbours; and when I ride that way, good Mr. Glossin, I will convince you of this by calling at your house as familiarly as is consistent — that is, as can be hoped or expected.’

‘And now,’ said Glossin to himself, ‘to find Dirk Hatteraick and his people, to get the guard sent off from the custom-house; and then for the grand cast of the dice. Everything must depend upon speed. How lucky that Mannering has betaken himself to Edinburgh! His knowledge of this young fellow is a most perilous addition to my dangers.’ Here he suffered his horse to slacken his pace. ‘What if I should try to compound with the heir? It’s likely he might be brought to pay a round sum for restitution, and I could give up Hatteraick. But no, no, no! there were too many eyes on me — Hatteraick himself, and the gipsy sailor, and that old hag. No, no! I must stick to my original plan.’ And with that he struck his spurs against his horse’s flanks, and rode forward at a hard trot to put his machines in motion.

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