Guy Mannering, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 50

Justice This does indeed confirm each circumstance

The gipsy told!

No orphan, nor without a friend art thou.

I am thy father, here’s thy mother, there

Thy uncle, this thy first cousin, and these

Are all thy near relations!

The Critic.

As Mannering replaced his watch, he heard a distant and hollow sound. ‘It is a carriage for certain; no, it is but the sound of the wind among the leafless trees. Do come to the window, Mr. Pleydell.’ The Counsellor, who, with his large silk handkerchief in his hand, was expatiating away to Julia upon some subject which he thought was interesting, obeyed the summons, first, however, wrapping the handkerchief round his neck by way of precaution against the cold air. The sound of wheels became now very perceptible, and Pleydell, as if he had reserved all his curiosity till that moment, ran out to the hall. The Colonel rung for Barnes to desire that the persons who came in the carriage might be shown into a separate room, being altogether uncertain whom it might contain. It stopped, however, at the door before his purpose could be fully explained. A moment after Mr. Pleydell called out, ‘Here’s our Liddesdale friend, I protest, with a strapping young fellow of the same calibre.’ His voice arrested Dinmont, who recognised him with equal surprise and pleasure. ‘Od, if it’s your honour we’ll a’ be as right and tight as thack and rape can make us.’

But while the farmer stopped to make his bow, Bertram, dizzied with the sudden glare of light, and bewildered with the circumstances of his situation, almost unconsciously entered the open door of the parlour, and confronted the Colonel, who was just advancing towards it. The strong light of the apartment left no doubt of his identity, and he himself was as much confounded with the appearance of those to whom he so unexpectedly presented himself as they were by the sight of so utterly unlooked-for an object. It must be remembered that each individual present had their own peculiar reasons for looking with terror upon what seemed at first sight a spectral apparition. Mannering saw before him the man whom he supposed he had killed in India; Julia beheld her lover in a most peculiar and hazardous situation; and Lucy Bertram at once knew the person who had fired upon young Hazlewood. Bertram, who interpreted the fixed and motionless astonishment of the Colonel into displeasure at his intrusion, hastened to say that it was involuntary, since he had been hurried hither without even knowing whither he was to be transported.

‘Mr. Brown, I believe!’ said Colonel Mannering.

‘Yes, sir,’ replied the young man, modestly, but with firmness, ‘the same you knew in India; and who ventures to hope, that what you did then know of him is not such as should prevent his requesting you would favour him with your attestation to his character as a gentleman and man of honour.’

‘Mr. Brown, I have been seldom — never — so much surprised; certainly, sir, in whatever passed between us you have a right to command my favourable testimony.’

At this critical moment entered the Counsellor and Dinmont. The former beheld to his astonishment the Colonel but just recovering from his first surprise, Lucy Bertram ready to faint with terror, and Miss Mannering in an agony of doubt and apprehension, which she in vain endeavoured to disguise or suppress. ‘What is the meaning of all this?’ said he; ‘has this young fellow brought the Gorgon’s head in his hand? let me look at him. By Heaven!’ he muttered to himself, ‘the very image of old Ellangowan! Yes, the same manly form and handsome features, but with a world of more intelligence in the face. Yes! the witch has kept her word.’ Then instantly passing to Lucy, ‘Look at that man, Miss Bertram, my dear; have you never seen any one like him?’

Lucy had only ventured one glance at this object of terror, by which, however, from his remarkable height and appearance, she at once recognised the supposed assassin of young Hazlewood, a conviction which excluded, of course, the more favourable association of ideas which might have occurred on a closer view. ‘Don’t ask me about him, sir,’ said she, turning away her eyes; ‘send him away, for Heaven’s sake! we shall all be murdered!’

‘Murdered! where’s the poker?’ said the Advocate in some alarm; ‘but nonsense! we are three men besides the servants, and there is honest Liddesdale, worth half-a-dozen, to boot; we have the major vis upon our side. However, here, my friend Dandie — Davie — what do they call you? keep between that fellow and us for the protection of the ladies.’

‘Lord! Mr. Pleydell,’ said the astonished farmer, ‘that’s Captain Brown; d ‘ye no ken the Captain?’

‘Nay, if he’s a friend of yours we may be safe enough,’ answered Pleydell; ‘but keep near him.’

All this passed with such rapidity that it was over before the Dominie had recovered himself from a fit of absence, shut the book which he had been studying in a corner, and, advancing to obtain a sight of the strangers, exclaimed at once upon beholding Bertram, ‘If the grave can give up the dead, that is my dear and honoured master!’

‘We’re right after all, by Heaven! I was sure I was right,’ said the Lawyer; ‘he is the very image of his father. Come, Colonel, what do you think of, that you do not bid your guest welcome? I think — I believe — I trust we’re right; never saw such a likeness! But patience; Dominie, say not a word. Sit down, young gentleman.’

‘I beg pardon, sir; if I am, as I understand, in Colonel Mannering’s house, I should wish first to know if my accidental appearance here gives offence, or if I am welcome?’

Mannering instantly made an effort. ‘Welcome? most certainly, especially if you can point out how I can serve you. I believe I may have some wrongs to repair towards you, I have often suspected so; but your sudden and unexpected appearance, connected with painful recollections, prevented my saying at first, as I now say, that whatever has procured me the honour of this visit, it is an acceptable one.’

Bertram bowed with an air of distant yet civil acknowledgment to the grave courtesy of Mannering.

‘Julia, my love, you had better retire. Mr. Brown, you will excuse my daughter; there are circumstances which I perceive rush upon her recollection.’

Miss Mannering rose and retired accordingly; yet, as she passed Bertram, could not suppress the words, ‘Infatuated! a second time!’ but so pronounced as to be heard by him alone. Miss Bertram accompanied her friend, much surprised, but without venturing a second glance at the object of her terror. Some mistake she saw there was, and was unwilling to increase it by denouncing the stranger as an assassin. He was known, she saw, to the Colonel, and received as a gentleman; certainly he either was not the person she suspected or Hazlewood was right in supposing the shot accidental.

The remaining part of the company would have formed no bad group for a skilful painter. Each was too much embarrassed with his own sensations to observe those of the others. Bertram most unexpectedly found himself in the house of one whom he was alternately disposed to dislike as his personal enemy and to respect as the father of Julia. Mannering was struggling between his high sense of courtesy and hospitality, his joy at finding himself relieved from the guilt of having shed life in a private quarrel, and the former feelings of dislike and prejudice, which revived in his haughty mind at the sight of the object against whom he had entertained them. Sampson, supporting his shaking limbs by leaning on the back of a chair, fixed his eyes upon Bertram with a staring expression of nervous anxiety which convulsed his whole visage. Dinmont, enveloped in his loose shaggy great-coat, and resembling a huge bear erect upon his hinder legs, stared on the whole scene with great round eyes that witnessed his amazement.

The Counsellor alone was in his element: shrewd, prompt, and active, he already calculated the prospect of brilliant success in a strange, eventful, and mysterious lawsuit, and no young monarch, flushed with hopes, and at the head of a gallant army, could experience more glee when taking the field on his first campaign. He bustled about with great energy, and took the arrangement of the whole explanation upon himself.

‘Come, come, gentlemen, sit down; this is all in my province; you must let me arrange it for you. Sit down, my dear Colonel, and let me manage; sit down, Mr. Brown, aut quocunque alio nomine vocaris; Dominie, take your seat; draw in your chair, honest Liddesdale.’

‘I dinna ken, Mr. Pleydell,’ said Dinmont, looking at his dreadnought coat, then at the handsome furniture of the room; ‘I had maybe better gang some gate else, and leave ye till your cracks, I’m no just that weel put on.’

The Colonel, who by this time recognised Dandie, immediately went up and bid him heartily welcome; assuring him that, from what he had seen of him in Edinburgh, he was sure his rough coat and thick-soled boots would honour a royal drawing-room.

‘Na, na, Colonel, we’re just plain up-the-country folk; but nae doubt I would fain hear o’ ony pleasure that was gaun to happen the Captain, and I’m sure a’ will gae right if Mr. Pleydell will take his bit job in hand.’

‘You’re right, Dandie; spoke like a Hieland 29 oracle; and now be silent. Well, you are all seated at last; take a glass of wine till I begin my catechism methodically. And now,’ turning to Bertram, ‘my dear boy, do you know who or what you are?’

In spite of his perplexity the catechumen could not help laughing at this commencement, and answered, ‘Indeed, sir, I formerly thought I did; but I own late circumstances have made me somewhat uncertain.’

‘Then tell us what you formerly thought yourself.’

‘Why, I was in the habit of thinking and calling myself Vanbeest Brown, who served as a cadet or volunteer under Colonel Mannering, when he commanded the — regiment, in which capacity I was not unknown to him.’

‘There,’ said the Colonel, ‘I can assure Mr. Brown of his identity; and add, what his modesty may have forgotten, that he was distinguished as a young man of talent and spirit.’

‘So much the better, my dear sir,’ said Mr. Pleydell; ‘but that is to general character. Mr. Brown must tell us where he was born.’

‘In Scotland, I believe, but the place uncertain.’

‘Where educated?’

‘In Holland, certainly.’

‘Do you remember nothing of your early life before you left Scotland?’

‘Very imperfectly; yet I have a strong idea, perhaps more deeply impressed upon me by subsequent hard usage, that I was during my childhood the object of much solicitude and affection. I have an indistinct remembrance of a good-looking man whom I used to call papa, and of a lady who was infirm in health, and who, I think, must have been my mother; but it is an imperfect and confused recollection. I remember too a tall, thin, kind-tempered man in black, who used to teach me my letters and walk out with me; and I think the very last time — ’

Here the Dominie could contain no longer. While every succeeding word served to prove that the child of his benefactor stood before him, he had struggled with the utmost difficulty to suppress his emotions; but when the juvenile recollections of Bertram turned towards his tutor and his precepts he was compelled to give way to his feelings. He rose hastily from his chair, and with clasped hands, trembling limbs, and streaming eyes, called out aloud, ‘Harry Bertram! look at me; was I not the man?’

‘Yes!’ said Bertram, starting from his seat as if a sudden light had burst in upon his mind; ‘yes; that was my name! And that is the voice and the figure of my kind old master!’

The Dominie threw himself into his arms, pressed him a thousand times to his bosom in convulsions of transport which shook his whole frame, sobbed hysterically, and at length, in the emphatic language of Scripture, lifted up his voice and wept aloud. Colonel Mannering had recourse to his handkerchief; Pleydell made wry faces, and wiped the glasses of his spectacles; and honest Dinmont, after two loud blubbering explosions, exclaimed, ‘Deil’s in the man! he’s garr’d me do that I haena done since my auld mither died.’

‘Come, come,’ said the Counsellor at last, ‘silence in the court. We have a clever party to contend with; we must lose no time in gathering our information; for anything I know there may be something to be done before daybreak.’

‘I will order a horse to be saddled if you please,’ said the Colonel.

‘No, no, time enough, time enough. But come, Dominie, I have allowed you a competent space to express your feelings. I must circumduce the term; you must let me proceed in my examination.’

The Dominie was habitually obedient to any one who chose to impose commands upon him: he sunk back into his chair, spread his chequered handkerchief over his face, to serve, as I suppose, for the Grecian painter’s veil, and, from the action of his folded hands, appeared for a time engaged in the act of mental thanksgiving. He then raised his eyes over the screen, as if to be assured that the pleasing apparition had not melted into air; then again sunk them to resume his internal act of devotion, until he felt himself compelled to give attention to the Counsellor, from the interest which his questions excited.

‘And now,’ said Mr. Pleydell, after several minute inquiries concerning his recollection of early events — ‘and now, Mr. Bertram, — for I think we ought in future to call you by your own proper name — will you have the goodness to let us know every particular which you can recollect concerning the mode of your leaving Scotland?’

‘Indeed, sir, to say the truth, though the terrible outlines of that day are strongly impressed upon my memory, yet somehow the very terror which fixed them there has in a great measure confounded and confused the details. I recollect, however, that I was walking somewhere or other, in a wood, I think — ’

‘O yes, it was in Warroch wood, my dear,’ said the Dominie.

‘Hush, Mr. Sampson,’ said the Lawyer.

‘Yes, it was in a wood,’ continued Bertram, as long past and confused ideas arranged themselves in his reviving recollection; ‘and some one was with me; this worthy and affectionate gentleman, I think.’

‘O, ay, ay, Harry, Lord bless thee; it was even I myself.’

‘Be silent, Dominie, and don’t interrupt the evidence,’ said Pleydell. ‘And so, sir?’ to Bertram.

‘And so, sir,’ continued Bertram, ‘like one of the changes of a dream, I thought I was on horseback before my guide.’

‘No, no,’ exclaimed Sampson, ‘never did I put my own limbs, not to say thine, into such peril.’

‘On my word, this is intolerable! Look ye, Dominie, if you speak another word till I give you leave, I will read three sentences out of the Black Acts, whisk my cane round my head three times, undo all the magic of this night’s work, and conjure Harry Bertram back again into Vanbeest Brown.’

‘Honoured and worthy sir,’ groaned out the Dominie, ‘I humbly crave pardon; it was but verbum volans.’

‘Well, nolens volens, you must hold your tongue,’ said Pleydell.

‘Pray, be silent, Mr. Sampson,’ said the Colonel; ‘it is of great consequence to your recovered friend that you permit Mr. Pleydell to proceed in his inquiries.’

‘I am mute,’ said the rebuked Dominie.

‘On a sudden,’ continued Bertram, ‘two or three men sprung out upon us, and we were pulled from horseback. I have little recollection of anything else, but that I tried to escape in the midst of a desperate scuffle, and fell into the arms of a very tall woman who started from the bushes and protected me for some time; the rest is all confusion and dread, a dim recollection of a sea-beach and a cave, and of some strong potion which lulled me to sleep for a length of time. In short, it is all a blank in my memory until I recollect myself first an ill-used and half-starved cabin-boy aboard a sloop, and then a schoolboy in Holland, under the protection of an old merchant, who had taken some fancy for me.’

‘And what account,’ said Mr. Pleydell, ‘did your guardian give of your parentage?’

‘A very brief one,’ answered Bertram, ‘and a charge to inquire no farther. I was given to understand that my father was concerned in the smuggling trade carried on on the eastern coast of Scotland, and was killed in a skirmish with the revenue officers; that his correspondents in Holland had a vessel on the coast at the time, part of the crew of which were engaged in the affair, and that they brought me off after it was over, from a motive of compassion, as I was left destitute by my father’s death. As I grew older there was much of this story seemed inconsistent with my own recollections, but what could I do? I had no means of ascertaining my doubts, nor a single friend with whom I could communicate or canvass them. The rest of my story is known to Colonel Mannering: I went out to India to be a clerk in a Dutch house; their affairs fell into confusion; I betook myself to the military profession, and, I trust, as yet I have not disgraced it.’

‘Thou art a fine young fellow, I’ll be bound for thee,’ said Pleydell, ‘and since you have wanted a father so long, I wish from my heart I could claim the paternity myself. But this affair of young Hazlewood — ’

‘Was merely accidental,’ said Bertram. ‘I was travelling in Scotland for pleasure, and, after a week’s residence with my friend Mr. Dinmont, with whom I had the good fortune to form an accidental acquaintance — ’

“It was my gude fortune that,” said Dinmont. “Odd, my brains wad hae been knockit out by twa black-guards if it hadna been for his four quarters.”

“Shortly after we parted at the town of —— I lost my baggage by thieves, and it was while residing at Kippletringan I accidentally met the young gentleman. As I was approaching to pay my respects to Miss Mannering, whom I had known in India, Mr. Hazlewood, conceiving my appearance none of the most respectable, commanded me rather haughtily to stand back, and so gave occasion to the fray, in which I had the misfortune to be the accidental means of wounding him. And now, sir, that I have answered all your questions — ”

“No, no, not quite all,” said Pleydell, winking sagaciously; “there are some interrogatories which I shall delay till to — morrow, for it is time, I believe, to close the sederunt for this night, or rather morning.”

“Well, then, sir,” said the young man, “to vary the phrase, since I have answered all the questions which you have chosen to ask to-night, will you be so good as to tell me who you are that take such interest in my affairs, and whom you take me to be, since my arrival has occasioned such commotion?”

“Why, sir, for myself,” replied the Counsellor, “I am Paulus Pleydell, an advocate at the Scottish bar; and for you, it is not easy to say distinctly who you are at present, but I trust in a short time to hail you by the title of Henry Bertram, Esq., representative of one of the oldest families in Scotland, and heir of Tailzie and provision to the estate of Ellangowan. Ay,” continued he, shutting his eyes and speaking to himself, “we must pass over his father, and serve him heir to his grandfather Lewis, the entailer; the only wise man of his family, that I ever heard of.”

They had now risen to retire to their apartments for the night, when Colonel Mannering walked up to Bertram, as he stood astonished at the Counsellor’s words. “I give you joy,” he said, “of the prospects which fate has opened before you. I was an early friend of your father, and chanced to be in the house of Ellangowan, as unexpectedly as you are now in mine, upon the very night in which you were born. I little knew this circumstance when — but I trust unkindness will be forgotten between us. Believe me, your appearance here as Mr. Brown, alive and well, has relieved me from most painful sensations; and your right to the name of an old friend renders your presence as Mr. Bertram doubly welcome.”

“And my parents?” said Bertram.

“Are both no more; and the family property has been sold, but I trust may be recovered. Whatever is wanted to make your right effectual I shall be most happy to supply.”

“Nay, you may leave all that to me,” said the Counsellor; “‘t is my vocation, Hal; I shall make money of it.”

“I’m sure it’s no for the like o’me,” observed Dinmont, “to speak to you gentlefolks; but if siller would help on the Captain’s plea, and they say nae plea gangs ain weel without it — ”

“Except on Saturday night,” said Pleydell.

“Ay, but when your honour wadna take your fee ye wadna hae the cause neither, sae I’ll ne’er fash you on a Saturday at e’en again. But I was saying, there’s some siller in the spleuchan that’s like the Captain’s ain, for we’ve aye counted it such, baith Ailie and me.”

‘No, no, Liddesdale; no occasion, no occasion whatever. Keep thy cash to stock thy farm.’

‘To stock my farm? Mr. Pleydell, your honour kens mony things, but ye dinna ken the farm o’ Charlie’s Hope; it’s sae weel stockit already that we sell maybe sax hundred pounds off it ilka year, flesh and fell the gither; na, na.’

‘Can’t you take another then?’

‘I dinna ken; the Deuke’s no that fond o’ led farms, and he canna bide to put away the auld tenantry; and then I wadna like mysell to gang about whistling30 and raising the rent on my neighbours.’

‘What, not upon thy neighbour at Dawston — Devilstone — how d ‘ye call the place?’

‘What, on Jock o’ Dawston? hout na. He’s a camsteary chield, and fasheous about marches, and we’ve had some bits o’ splores thegither; but deil o’meif I wad wrang Jock o’ Dawston neither.’

‘Thou’rt an honest fellow,’ said the Lawyer; ‘get thee to bed. Thou wilt sleep sounder, I warrant thee, than many a man that throws off an embroidered coat and puts on a laced nightcap. Colonel, I see you are busy with our enfant trouve. But Barnes must give me a summons of wakening at seven to-morrow morning, for my servant’s a sleepy-headed fellow; and I daresay my clerk Driver has had Clarence’s fate, and is drowned by this time in a butt of your ale; for Mrs. Allan promised to make him comfortable, and she’ll soon discover what he expects from that engagement. Good — night, Colonel; good-night, Dominie Sampson; good-night, Dinmont the Downright; good-night, last of all, to the new-found representative of the Bertrams, and the Mac-Dingawaies, the Knarths, the Arths, the Godfreys, the Dennises, and the Rolands, and, last and dearest title, heir of tailzie and provision of the lands and barony of Ellangowan, under the settlement of Lewis Bertram, Esq., whose representative you are.’

And so saying, the old gentleman took his candle and left the room; and the company dispersed, after the Dominie had once more hugged and embraced his ‘little Harry Bertram,’ as he continued to call the young soldier of six feet high.

29 It may not be unnecessary to tell southern readers that the mountainous country in the south western borders of Scotland is called Hieland, though totally different from the much more mountainous and more extensive districts of the north, usually called Hielands.

30 Whistling, among the tenantry of a large estate, is when an individual gives such information to the proprietor or his managers as to occasion the rent of his neighbour’s farms being raised, which, for obvious reasons, is held a very unpopular practice.

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