Guy Mannering, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 51

My imagination

Carries no favour in it but Bertram’s;

I am undone, there is no living, none,

If Bertram be away.

All’s Well that Ends Well.

At the hour which he had appointed the preceding evening the indefatigable lawyer was seated by a good fire and a pair of wax candles, with a velvet cap on his head and a quilted silk nightgown on his person, busy arranging his memoranda of proofs and indications concerning the murder of Frank Kennedy. An express had also been despatched to Mr. Mac-Morlan, requesting his attendance at Woodbourne as soon as possible on business of importance. Dinmont, fatigued with the events of the evening before, and finding the accommodations of Woodbourne much preferable to those of Mac-Guffog, was in no hurry to rise. The impatience of Bertram might have put him earlier in motion, but Colonel Mannering had intimated an intention to visit him in his apartment in the morning, and he did not choose to leave it. Before this interview he had dressed himself, Barnes having, by his master’s orders, supplied him with every accommodation of linen, etc., and now anxiously waited the promised visit of his landlord.

In a short time a gentle tap announced the Colonel, with whom Bertram held a long and satisfactory conversation. Each, however, concealed from the other one circumstance. Mannering could not bring himself to acknowledge the astrological prediction; and Bertram was, from motives which may be easily conceived, silent respecting his love for Julia. In other respects their intercourse was frank and grateful to both, and had latterly, upon the Colonel’s part, even an approach to cordiality. Bertram carefully measured his own conduct by that of his host, and seemed rather to receive his offered kindness with gratitude and pleasure than to press for it with solicitation.

Miss Bertram was in the breakfast-parlour when Sampson shuffled in, his face all radiant with smiles — a circumstance so uncommon that Lucy’s first idea was that somebody had been bantering him with an imposition, which had thrown him into this ecstasy. Having sate for some time rolling his eyes and gaping with his mouth like the great wooden head at Merlin’s exhibition, he at length began — ‘And what do you think of him, Miss Lucy?’

‘Think of whom, Mr. Sampson?’ asked the young lady.

‘Of Har — no — of him that you know about?’ again demanded the Dominie.

‘That I know about?’ replied Lucy, totally at a loss to comprehend his meaning.

‘Yes, the stranger, you know, that came last evening, in the post vehicle; he who shot young Hazelwood, ha, ha, ha!’ burst forth the Dominie, with a laugh that sounded like neighing.

‘Indeed, Mr. Sampson,’ said his pupil, ‘you have chosen a strange subject for mirth; I think nothing about the man, only I hope the outrage was accidental, and that we need not fear a repetition of it.’

‘Accidental! ha, ha, ha!’ again whinnied Sampson.

‘Really, Mr. Sampson,’ said Lucy, somewhat piqued, ‘you are unusually gay this morning.’

‘Yes, of a surety I am! ha, ha, ho! face-ti-ous, ho, ho, ha!’

‘So unusually facetious, my dear sir,’ pursued the young lady, ‘that I would wish rather to know the meaning of your mirth than to be amused with its effects only.’

‘You shall know it, Miss Lucy,’ replied poor Abel. ‘Do you remember your brother?’

‘Good God, how can you ask me? No one knows better than you he was lost the very day I was born.’

‘Very true, very true,’ answered the Dominie, saddening at the recollection; ‘I was strangely oblivious; ay, ay! too true. But you remember your worthy father?’

‘How should you doubt it, Mr. Sampson? it is not so many weeks since — ’

‘True, true; ay, too true,’ replied the Dominie, his Houyhnhnm laugh sinking into a hysterical giggle. ‘I will be facetious no more under these remembrances; but look at that young man!’

Bertram at this instant entered the room. ‘Yes, look at him well, he is your father’s living image; and as God has deprived you of your dear parents — O, my children, love one another!’

‘It is indeed my father’s face and form,’ said Lucy, turning very pale. Bertram ran to support her, the Dominie to fetch water to throw upon her face (which in his haste he took from the boiling tea-urn), when fortunately her colour, returning rapidly, saved her from the application of this ill-judged remedy. ‘I conjure you to tell me, Mr. Sampson,’ she said, in an interrupted yet solemn voice, ‘is this my brother?’

‘It is, it is! Miss Lucy, it is little Harry Bertram, as sure as God’s sun is in that heaven!’

‘And this is my sister?’ said Bertram, giving way to all that family affection which had so long slumbered in his bosom for want of an object to expand itself upon.

‘It is, it is! — it is Miss Lucy Bertram,’ ejaculated Sampson, ‘whom by my poor aid you will find perfect in the tongues of France and Italy, and even of Spain, in reading and writing her vernacular tongue, and in arithmetic and book-keeping by double and single entry. I say nothing of her talents of shaping and hemming and governing a household, which, to give every one their due, she acquired not from me but from the housekeeper; nor do I take merit for her performance upon stringed instruments, whereunto the instructions of an honourable young lady of virtue and modesty, and very facetious withal — Miss Julia Mannering — hath not meanly contributed. Suum cuique tribuito.’

‘You, then,’ said Bertram to his sister, ‘are all that remains to me! Last night, but more fully this morning, Colonel Mannering gave me an account of our family misfortunes, though without saying I should find my sister here.’

‘That,’ said Lucy, ‘he left to this gentleman to tell you — one of the kindest and most faithful of friends, who soothed my father’s long sickness, witnessed his dying moments, and amid the heaviest clouds of fortune would not desert his orphan.’

‘God bless him for it!’ said Bertram, shaking the Dominie’s hand;’ he deserves the love with which I have always regarded even that dim and imperfect shadow of his memory which my childhood retained.’

‘And God bless you both, my dear children!’ said Sampson; ‘if it had not been for your sake I would have been contented — had Heaven’s pleasure so been — to lay my head upon the turf beside my patron.’

‘But I trust,’ said Bertram — ‘I am encouraged to hope, we shall all see better days. All our wrongs shall be redressed, since Heaven has sent me means and friends to assert my right.’

‘Friends indeed!’ echoed the Dominie, ‘and sent, as you truly say, by Him to whom I early taught you to look up as the source of all that is good. There is the great Colonel Mannering from the Eastern Indies, a man of war from his birth upwards, but who is not the less a man of great erudition, considering his imperfect opportunities; and there is, moreover, the great advocate Mr. Pleydell, who is also a man of great erudition, but who descendeth to trifles unbeseeming thereof; and there is Mr. Andrew Dinmont, whom I do not understand to have possession of much erudition, but who, like the patriarchs of old, is cunning in that which belongeth to flocks and herds; lastly, there is even I myself, whose opportunities of collecting erudition, as they have been greater than those of the aforesaid valuable persons, have not, if it becomes me to speak, been pretermitted by me, in so far as my poor faculties have enabled me to profit by them. Of a surety, little Harry, we must speedily resume our studies. I will begin from the foundation. Yes, I will reform your education upward from the true knowledge of English grammar even to that of the Hebrew or Chaldaic tongue.’

The reader may observe that upon this occasion Sampson was infinitely more profuse of words than he had hitherto exhibited himself. The reason was that, in recovering his pupil, his mind went instantly back to their original connexion, and he had, in his confusion of ideas, the strongest desire in the world to resume spelling lessons and half-text with young Bertram. This was the more ridiculous, as towards Lucy he assumed no such powers of tuition. But she had grown up under his eye, and had been gradually emancipated from his government by increase in years and knowledge, and a latent sense of his own inferior tact in manners, whereas his first ideas went to take up Harry pretty nearly where he had left him. From the same feelings of reviving authority he indulged himself in what was to him a profusion of language; and as people seldom speak more than usual without exposing themselves, he gave those whom he addressed plainly to understand that, while he deferred implicitly to the opinions and commands, if they chose to impose them, of almost every one whom he met with, it was under an internal conviction that in the article of eru-di-ti-on, as he usually pronounced the word, he was infinitely superior to them all put together. At present, however, this intimation fell upon heedless ears, for the brother and sister were too deeply engaged in asking and receiving intelligence concerning their former fortunes to attend much to the worthy Dominie. When Colonel Mannering left Bertram he went to Julia’s dressing-room and dismissed her attendant. ‘My dear sir,’ she said as he entered, ‘you have forgot our vigils last night, and have hardly allowed me time to comb my hair, although you must be sensible how it stood on end at the various wonders which took place.’

‘It is with the inside of your head that I have some business at present, Julia; I will return the outside to the care of your Mrs. Mincing in a few minutes.’

‘Lord, papa,’ replied Miss Mannering, ‘think how entangled all my ideas are, and you to propose to comb them out in a few minutes! If Mincing were to do so in her department she would tear half the hair out of my head.’

‘Well then, tell me,’ said the Colonel, ‘where the entanglement lies, which I will try to extricate with due gentleness?’

‘O, everywhere,’ said the young lady; ‘the whole is a wild dream.’

‘Well then, I will try to unriddle it.’ He gave a brief sketch of the fate and prospects of Bertram, to which Julia listened with an interest which she in vain endeavoured to disguise. ‘Well,’ concluded her father, ‘are your ideas on the subject more luminous?’

‘More confused than ever, my dear sir,’ said Julia. ‘Here is this young man come from India, after he had been supposed dead, like Aboulfouaris the great voyager to his sister Canzade and his provident brother Hour. I am wrong in the story, I believe — Canzade was his wife; but Lucy may represent the one and the Dominie the other. And then this lively crack-brained Scotch lawyer appears like a pantomime at the end of a tragedy. And then how delightful it will be if Lucy gets back her fortune.’

‘Now I think,’ said the Colonel, ‘that the most mysterious part of the business is, that Miss Julia Mannering, who must have known her father’s anxiety about the fate of this young man Brown, or Bertram, as we must now call him, should have met him when Hazlewood’s accident took place, and never once mentioned to her father a word of the matter, but suffered the search to proceed against this young gentleman as a suspicious character and assassin.’

Julia, much of whose courage had been hastily assumed to meet the interview with her father, was now unable to rally herself; she hung down her head in silence, after in vain attempting to utter a denial that she recollected Brown when she met him.

‘No answer! Well, Julia,’ continued her father, gravely but kindly, ‘allow me to ask you, Is this the only time you have seen Brown since his return from India? Still no answer. I must then naturally suppose that it is not the first time. Still no reply. Julia Mannering, will you have the kindness to answer me? Was it this young man who came under your window and conversed with you during your residence at Mervyn Hall? Julia, I command — I entreat you to be candid.’

Miss Mannering raised her head. ‘I have been, sir — I believe I am still — very foolish; and it is perhaps more hard upon me that I must meet this gentleman, who has been, though not the cause entirely, yet the accomplice, of my folly, in your presence.’ Here she made a full stop.

‘I am to understand, then,’ said Mannering, ‘that this was the author of the serenade at Mervyn Hall?’

There was something in this allusive change of epithet that gave Julia a little more courage. ‘He was indeed, sir; and if I am very wrong, as I have often thought, I have some apology.’

‘And what is that?’ answered the Colonel, speaking quick, and with something of harshness.

‘I will not venture to name it, sir; but (she opened a small cabinet, and put some letters into his hands) I will give you these, that you may see how this intimacy began, and by whom it was encouraged.’

Mannering took the packet to the window — his pride forbade a more distant retreat. He glanced at some passages of the letters with an unsteady eye and an agitated mind; his stoicism, however, came in time to his aid — that philosophy which, rooted in pride, yet frequently bears the fruits of virtue. He returned towards his daughter with as firm an air as his feelings permitted him to assume.

‘There is great apology for you, Julia, as far as I can judge from a glance at these letters; you have obeyed at least one parent. Let us adopt a Scotch proverb the Dominie quoted the other day — “Let bygones be bygones, and fair play for the future.” I will never upbraid you with your past want of confidence; do you judge of my future intentions by my actions, of which hitherto you have surely had no reason to complain. Keep these letters; they were never intended for my eye, and I would not willingly read more of them than I have done, at your desire and for your exculpation. And now, are we friends? Or rather, do you understand me?’

‘O, my dear, generous father,’ said Julia, throwing herself into his arms, ‘why have I ever for an instant misunderstood you?’

‘No more of that, Julia,’ said the Colonel; ‘we have both been to blame. He that is too proud to vindicate the affection and confidence which he conceives should be given without solicitation, must meet much, and perhaps deserved, disappointment. It is enough that one dearest and most regretted member of my family has gone to the grave without knowing me; let me not lose the confidence of a child who ought to love me if she really loves herself.’

‘O, no danger, no fear!’ answered Julia; ‘let me but have your approbation and my own, and there is no rule you can prescribe so severe that I will not follow.’

‘Well, my love,’ kissing her forehead, ‘I trust we shall not call upon you for anything too heroic. With respect to this young gentleman’s addresses, I expect in the first place that all clandestine correspondence, which no young woman can entertain for a moment without lessening herself in her own eyes and in those of her lover — I request, I say, that clandestine correspondence of every kind may be given up, and that you will refer Mr. Bertram to me for the reason. You will naturally wish to know what is to be the issue of such a reference. In the first place, I desire to observe this young gentleman’s character more closely than circumstances, and perhaps my own prejudices, have permitted formerly. I should also be glad to see his birth established. Not that I am anxious about his getting the estate of Ellangowan, though such a subject is held in absolute indifference nowhere except in a novel; but certainly Henry Bertram, heir of Ellangowan, whether possessed of the property of his ancestors or not, is a very different person from Vanbeest Brown, the son of nobody at all. His fathers, Mr. Pleydell tells me, are distinguished in history as following the banners of their native princes, while our own fought at Cressy and Poirtiers. In short, I neither give nor withhold my approbation, but I expect you will redeem past errors; and, as you can now unfortunately only have recourse to one parent, that you will show the duty of a child by reposing that confidence in me which I will say my inclination to make you happy renders a filial debt upon your part.’

The first part of this speech affected Julia a good deal, the comparative merit of the ancestors of the Bertrams and Mannerings excited a secret smile, but the conclusion was such as to soften a heart peculiarly open to the feelings of generosity. ‘No, my dear sir,’ she said, extending her hand,’ receive my faith, that from this moment you shall be the first person consulted respecting what shall pass in future between Brown — I mean Bertram — and me; and that no engagement shall be undertaken by me excepting what you shall immediately know and approve of. May I ask if Mr. Bertram is to continue a guest at Woodbourne?’

‘Certainly,’ said the Colonel, ‘while his affairs render it advisable.’

‘Then, sir, you must be sensible, considering what is already past, that he will expect some reason for my withdrawing, I believe I must say the encouragement, which he may think I have given.’

‘I expect, Julia,’ answered Mannering, ‘that he will respect my roof, and entertain some sense perhaps of the services I am desirous to render him, and so will not insist upon any course of conduct of which I might have reason to complain; and I expect of you that you will make him sensible of what is due to both.’

‘Then, sir, I understand you, and you shall be implicitly obeyed.’

‘Thank you, my love; my anxiety (kissing her) is on your account. Now wipe these witnesses from your eyes, and so to breakfast.’

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