The Pirate, by Walter Scott

Chapter 37.

Over the mountains and under the waves,

Over the fountains and under the graves,

Over floods that are deepest,

Which Neptune obey,

Over rocks that are steepest,

Love will find out the way.

Old Song.

The parting of Fletcher from Claud Halcro and the sisters of Burgh-Westra, on the spot where it took place, was partly occasioned by a small party of armed men being seen at a distance in the act of advancing from Kirkwall, an apparition hidden from the Udaller’s spy-glass by the swell of the ground, but quite visible to the pirate, whom it determined to consult his own safety by a speedy return to his boat. He was just turning away, when Minna occasioned the short delay which her father had observed.

“Stop,” she said; “I command you! — Tell your leader from me, that whatever the answer may be from Kirkwall, he shall carry his vessel, nevertheless, round to Stromness; and, being anchored there, let him send a boat ashore for Captain Cleveland when he shall see a smoke on the Bridge of Broisgar.”

Fletcher had thought, like his messmate Bunce of asking a kiss, at least, for the trouble of escorting these beautiful young women; and perhaps, neither the terror of the approaching Kirkwall men, nor of Minna’s weapon, might have prevented his being insolent. But the name of his Captain, and, still more, the unappalled, dignified, and commanding manner of Minna Troil, overawed him. He made a sea bow — promised to keep a sharp look-out, and, returning to his boat, went on board with his message.

As Halcro and the sisters advanced towards the party whom they saw on the Kirkwall road, and who, on their part, had halted as if to observe them, Brenda, relieved from the fears of Fletcher’s presence, which had hitherto kept her silent, exclaimed, “Merciful Heaven! — Minna, in what hands have we left our dear father?”

“In the hands of brave men,” said Minna, steadily —“I fear not for him.”

“As brave as you please,” said Claud Halcro, “but very dangerous rogues for all that. — I know that fellow Altamont, as he calls himself, though that is not his right name neither, as deboshed a dog as ever made a barn ring with blood and blank verse. He began with Barnwell, and every body thought he would end with the gallows, like the last scene in Venice Preserved.”

“It matters not,” said Minna —“the wilder the waves, the more powerful is the voice that rules them. The name alone of Cleveland ruled the mood of the fiercest amongst them.”

“I am sorry for Cleveland,” said Brenda, “if such are his companions — but I care little for him in comparison to my father.”

“Reserve your compassion for those who need it,” said Minna, “and fear nothing for our father. — God knows, every silver hair on his head is to me worth the treasure of an unsummed mine; but I know that he is safe while in yonder vessel, and I know that he will be soon safe on shore.”

“I would I could see it,” said Claud Halcro; “but I fear the Kirkwall people, supposing Cleveland to be such as I dread, will not dare to exchange him against the Udaller. The Scots have very severe laws against theft-boot, as they call it.”

“But who are those on the road before us?” said Brenda; “and why do they halt there so jealously?”

“They are a patrol of the militia,” answered Halcro. “Glorious John touches them off a little sharply — but then John was a Jacobite — (e)

‘Mouths without hands, maintain’d at vast expense,

In peace a charge, in war a weak defence;

Stout once a-month, they march, a blustering band,

And ever, but in time of need, at hand.’

I fancy they halted just now, taking us, as they saw us on the brow of the hill, for a party of the sloop’s men, and now they can distinguish that you wear petticoats, they are moving on again.”

They came on accordingly, and proved to be, as Claud Halcro had suggested, a patrol sent out to watch the motions of the pirates, and to prevent their attempting descents to damage the country.

They heartily congratulated Claud Halcro, who was well known to more than one of them, upon his escape from captivity; and the commander of the party, while offering every assistance to the ladies, could not help condoling with them on the circumstances in which their father stood, hinting, though in a delicate and doubtful manner, the difficulties which might be in the way of his liberation.

When they arrived at Kirkwall, and obtained an audience of the Provost, and one or two of the Magistrates, these difficulties were more plainly insisted upon. —“The Halcyon frigate is upon the coast,” said the Provost; “she was seen off Duncansbay-head; and, though I have the deepest respect for Mr. Troil of Burgh-Westra, yet I shall be answerable to law if I release from prison the Captain of this suspicious vessel, on account of the safety of any individual who may be unhappily endangered by his detention. This man is now known to be the heart and soul of these buccaniers, and am I at liberty to send him aboard, that he may plunder the country, or perhaps go fight the King’s ship? — for he has impudence enough for any thing.”

Courage enough for any thing, you mean, Mr. Provost,” said Minna, unable to restrain her displeasure.

“Why, you may call it as you please, Miss Troil,” said the worthy Magistrate; “but, in my opinion, that sort of courage which proposes to fight singly against two, is little better than a kind of practical impudence.”

“But our father?” said Brenda, in a tone of the most earnest entreaty —“our father — the friend, I may say the father, of his country — to whom so many look for kindness, and so many for actual support — whose loss would be the extinction of a beacon in a storm — will you indeed weigh the risk which he runs, against such a trifling thing as letting an unfortunate man from prison, to seek his unhappy fate elsewhere?”

“Miss Brenda is right,” said Claud Halcro; “I am for let-a-be for let-a-be, as the boys say; and never fash about a warrant of liberation, Provost, but just take a fool’s counsel, and let the goodman of the jail forget to draw his bolt on the wicket, or leave a chink of a window open, or the like, and we shall be rid of the rover, and have the one best honest fellow in Orkney or Zetland on the lee-side of a bowl of punch with us in five hours.”

The Provost replied in nearly the same terms as before, that he had the highest respect for Mr. Magnus Troil of Burgh-Westra, but that he could not suffer his consideration for any individual, however respectable, to interfere with the discharge of his duty.

Minna then addressed her sister in a tone of calm and sarcastic displeasure. —“You forget,” she said, “Brenda, that you are talking of the safety of a poor insignificant Udaller of Zetland, to no less a person than the Chief Magistrate of the metropolis of Orkney — can you expect so great a person to condescend to such a trifling subject of consideration? It will be time enough for the Provost to think of complying with the terms sent to him — for comply with them at length he both must and will — when the Church of Saint Magnus is beat down about his ears.”

“You may be angry with me, my pretty young lady,” said the good-humoured Provost Torfe, “but I cannot be offended with you. The Church of Saint Magnus has stood many a day, and, I think, will outlive both you and me, much more yonder pack of unhanged dogs. And besides that your father is half an Orkneyman, and has both estate and friends among us, I would, I give you my word, do as much for a Zetlander in distress as I would for any one, excepting one of our own native Kirkwallers, who are doubtless to be preferred. And if you will take up your lodgings here with my wife and myself, we will endeavour to show you,” continued he, “that you are as welcome in Kirkwall, as ever you could be in Lerwick or Scalloway.”

Minna deigned no reply to this good-humoured invitation, but Brenda declined it in civil terms, pleading the necessity of taking up their abode with a wealthy widow of Kirkwall, a relation, who already expected them.

Halcro made another attempt to move the Provost, but found him inexorable. —“The Collector of the Customs had already threatened,” he said, “to inform against him for entering into treaty, or, as he called it, packing and peeling with those strangers, even when it seemed the only means of preventing a bloody affray in the town; and, should he now forego the advantage afforded by the imprisonment of Cleveland and the escape of the Factor, he might incur something worse than censure.” The burden of the whole was, “that he was sorry for the Udaller, he was sorry even for the lad Cleveland, who had some sparks of honour about him; but his duty was imperious, and must be obeyed.” The Provost then precluded farther argument, by observing, that another affair from Zetland called for his immediate attention. A gentleman named Mertoun, residing at Jarlshof, had made complaint against Snailsfoot the Jagger, for having assisted a domestic of his in embezzling some valuable articles which had been deposited in his custody, and he was about to take examinations on the subject, and cause them to be restored to Mr. Mertoun, who was accountable for them to the right owner.

In all this information, there was nothing which seemed interesting to the sisters excepting the word Mertoun, which went like a dagger to the heart of Minna, when she recollected the circumstances under which Mordaunt Mertoun had disappeared, and which, with an emotion less painful, though still of a melancholy nature, called a faint blush into Brenda’s cheek, and a slight degree of moisture into her eye. But it was soon evident that the Magistrate spoke not of Mordaunt, but of his father; and the daughters of Magnus, little interested in his detail, took leave of the Provost to go to their own lodgings.

When they arrived at their relation’s, Minna made it her business to learn, by such enquiries as she could make without exciting suspicion, what was the situation of the unfortunate Cleveland, which she soon discovered to be exceedingly precarious. The Provost had not, indeed, committed him to close custody, as Claud Halcro had anticipated, recollecting, perhaps, the favourable circumstances under which he had surrendered himself, and loath, till the moment of the last necessity, altogether to break faith with him. But although left apparently at large, he was strictly watched by persons well armed and appointed for the purpose, who had directions to detain him by force, if he attempted to pass certain narrow precincts which were allotted to him. He was quartered in a strong room within what is called the King’s Castle, and at night his chamber door was locked on the outside, and a sufficient guard mounted to prevent his escape. He therefore enjoyed only the degree of liberty which the cat, in her cruel sport, is sometimes pleased to permit to the mouse which she has clutched; and yet, such was the terror of the resources, the courage, and ferocity of the pirate Captain, that the Provost was blamed by the Collector, and many other sage citizens of Kirkwall, for permitting him to be at large upon any conditions.

It may be well believed, that, under such circumstances, Cleveland had no desire to seek any place of public resort, conscious that he was the object of a mixed feeling of curiosity and terror. His favourite place of exercise, therefore, was the external aisles of the Cathedral of Saint Magnus, of which the eastern end alone is fitted up for public worship. This solemn old edifice, having escaped the ravage which attended the first convulsions of the Reformation, still retains some appearance of episcopal dignity. This place of worship is separated by a screen from the nave and western limb of the cross, and the whole is preserved in a state of cleanliness and decency, which might be well proposed as an example to the proud piles of Westminster and St. Paul’s.

It was in this exterior part of the Cathedral that Cleveland was permitted to walk, the rather that his guards, by watching the single open entrance, had the means, with very little inconvenience to themselves, of preventing any possible attempt at escape. The place itself was well suited to his melancholy circumstances. The lofty and vaulted roof rises upon ranges of Saxon pillars, of massive size, four of which, still larger than the rest, once supported the lofty spire, which, long since destroyed by accident, has been rebuilt upon a disproportioned and truncated plan. The light is admitted at the eastern end through a lofty, well-proportioned, and richly-ornamented Gothic window; and the pavement is covered with inscriptions, in different languages, distinguishing the graves of noble Orcadians, who have at different times been deposited within the sacred precincts.

Here walked Cleveland, musing over the events of a misspent life, which, it seemed probable, might be brought to a violent and shameful close, while he was yet in the prime of youth. —“With these dead,” he said, looking on the pavement, “shall I soon be numbered — but no holy man will speak a blessing; no friendly hand register an inscription; no proud descendant sculpture armorial bearings over the grave of the pirate Cleveland. My whitening bones will swing in the gibbet-irons, on some wild beach or lonely cape, that will be esteemed fatal and accursed for my sake. The old mariner, as he passes the Sound, will shake his head, and tell of my name and actions, as a warning to his younger comrades. — But, Minna! Minna! — what will be thy thoughts when the news reaches thee? — Would to God the tidings were drowned in the deepest whirlpool betwixt Kirkwall and Burgh-Westra, ere they came to her ear! — and O! would to Heaven that we had never met, since we never can meet again!”

He lifted up his eyes as he spoke, and Minna Troil stood before him. Her face was pale, and her hair dishevelled; but her look was composed and firm, with its usual expression of high-minded melancholy. She was still shrouded in the large mantle which she had assumed on leaving the vessel. Cleveland’s first emotion was astonishment; his next was joy, not unmixed with awe. He would have exclaimed — he would have thrown himself at her feet — but she imposed at once silence and composure on him, by raising her finger, and saying, in a low but commanding accent — “Be cautious — we are observed — there are men without — they let me enter with difficulty. I dare not remain long — they would think — they might believe — O, Cleveland! I have hazarded every thing to save you!”

“To save me? — Alas! poor Minna!” answered Cleveland, “to save me is impossible. — Enough that I have seen you once more, were it but to say, for ever farewell!”

“We must indeed say farewell,” said Minna; “for fate, and your guilt, have divided us for ever. — Cleveland, I have seen your associates — need I tell you more — need I say, that I know now what a pirate is?”

“You have been in the ruffians’ power!” said Cleveland, with a start of agony —“Did they presume”——

“Cleveland,” replied Minna, “they presumed nothing — your name was a spell over them. By the power of that spell over these ferocious banditti, and by that alone, I was reminded of the qualities I once thought my Cleveland’s!”

“Yes,” said Cleveland, proudly, “my name has and shall have power over them, when they are at the wildest; and, had they harmed you by one rude word, they should have found — Yet what do I rave about — I am a prisoner!”

“You shall be so no longer,” said Minna —“Your safety — the safety of my dear father — all demand your instant freedom. I have formed a scheme for your liberty, which, boldly executed, cannot fail. The light is fading without — muffle yourself in my cloak, and you will easily pass the guards — I have given them the means of carousing, and they are deeply engaged. Haste to the Loch of Stennis, and hide yourself till day dawns; then make a smoke on the point, where the land, stretching into the lake on each side, divides it nearly in two at the Bridge of Broisgar. Your vessel, which lies not far distant, will send a boat ashore. — Do not hesitate an instant!”

“But you, Minna! — Should this wild scheme succeed,” said Cleveland, “what is to become of you?”

“For my share in your escape,” answered the maiden, “the honesty of my own intention will vindicate me in the sight of Heaven; and the safety of my father, whose fate depends on yours, will be my excuse to man.”

In a few words, she gave him the history of their capture, and its consequences. Cleveland cast up his eyes and raised his hands to Heaven, in thankfulness for the escape of the sisters from his evil companions, and then hastily added — “But you are right, Minna; I must fly at all rates — for your father’s sake I must fly. — Here, then, we part — yet not, I trust, for ever.”

“For ever!” answered a voice, that sounded as from a sepulchral vault.

They started, looked around them, and then gazed on each other. It seemed as if the echoes of the building had returned Cleveland’s last words, but the pronunciation was too emphatically accented.

“Yes, for ever!” said Norna of the Fitful-head, stepping forward from behind one of the massive Saxon pillars which support the roof of the Cathedral. “Here meet the crimson foot and the crimson hand. Well for both that the wound is healed whence that crimson was derived — well for both, but best, for him who shed it. — Here, then, you meet — and meet for the last time!”

“Not so,” said Cleveland, as if about to take Minna’s hand; “to separate me from Minna, while I have life, must be the work of herself alone.”

“Away!” said Norna, stepping betwixt them — “away with such idle folly! — Nourish no vain dreams of future meetings — you part here, and you part for ever. The hawk pairs not with the dove; guilt matches not with innocence. — Minna Troil, you look for the last time on this bold and criminal man — Cleveland, you behold Minna for the last time!”

“And dream you,” said Cleveland, indignantly, “that your mummery imposes on me, and that I am among the fools who see more than trick in your pretended art?”

“Forbear, Cleveland, forbear!” said Minna, her hereditary awe of Norna augmented by the circumstance of her sudden appearance. “O, forbear! — she is powerful — she is but too powerful. — And do you, O Norna, remember my father’s safety is linked with Cleveland’s.”

“And it is well for Cleveland that I do remember it,” replied the Pythoness —“and that, for the sake of one, I am here to aid both. You, with your childish purpose, of passing one of his bulk and stature under the disguise of a few paltry folds of wadmaal — what would your device have procured him but instant restraint with bolt and shackle? — I will save him — I will place him in security on board his bark. But let him renounce these shores for ever, and carry elsewhere the terrors of his sable flag, and his yet blacker name; for if the sun rises twice, and finds him still at anchor, his blood be on his own head. — Ay, look to each other — look the last look that I permit to frail affection — and say, if ye can say it, Farewell for ever!”

“Obey her,” stammered Minna; “remonstrate not, but obey her.”

Cleveland, grasping her hand, and kissing it ardently, said, but so low that she only could hear it, “Farewell, Minna, but not for ever.”

“And now, maiden, begone,” said Norna, “and leave the rest to the Reimkennar.”

“One word more,” said Minna, “and I obey you. Tell me but if I have caught aright your meaning — Is Mordaunt Mertoun safe and recovered?”

“Recovered, and safe,” said Norna; “else woe to the hand that shed his blood!”

Minna slowly sought the door of the Cathedral, and turned back from time to time to look at the shadowy form of Norna, and the stately and military figure of Cleveland, as they stood together in the deepening gloom of the ancient Cathedral. When she looked back a second time they were in motion, and Cleveland followed the matron, as, with a slow and solemn step, she glided towards one of the side aisles. When Minna looked back a third time, their figures were no longer visible. She collected herself, and walked on to the eastern door by which she had entered, and listened for an instant to the guard, who talked together on the outside.

“The Zetland girl stays a long time with this pirate fellow,” said one. “I wish they have not more to speak about than the ransom of her father.”

“Ay, truly,” answered another, “the wenches will have more sympathy with a handsome young pirate, than an old bed-ridden burgher.”

Their discourse was here interrupted by her of whom they were speaking; and, as if taken in the manner, they pulled off their hats, made their awkward obeisances, and looked not a little embarrassed and confused.

Minna returned to the house where she lodged, much affected, yet, on the whole, pleased with the result of her expedition, which seemed to put her father out of danger, and assured her at once of the escape of Cleveland, and of the safety of young Mordaunt. She hastened to communicate both pieces of intelligence to Brenda, who joined her in thankfulness to Heaven, and was herself wellnigh persuaded to believe in Norna’s supernatural pretensions, so much was she pleased with the manner in which they had been employed. Some time was spent in exchanging their mutual congratulations, and mingling tears of hope, mixed with apprehension; when, at a late hour in the evening, they were interrupted by Claud Halcro, who, full of a fidgeting sort of importance, not unmingled with fear, came to acquaint them, that the prisoner, Cleveland, had disappeared from the Cathedral, in which he had been permitted to walk, and that the Provost, having been informed that Minna was accessary to his flight, was coming, in a mighty quandary, to make enquiry into the circumstances.

When the worthy Magistrate arrived, Minna did not conceal from him her own wish that Cleveland should make his escape, as the only means which she saw of redeeming her father from imminent danger. But that she had any actual accession to his flight, she positively denied; and stated, “that she had parted from Cleveland in the Cathedral, more than two hours since, and then left him in company with a third person, whose name she did not conceive herself obliged to communicate.”

“It is not needful, Miss Minna Troil,” answered Provost Torfe; “for, although no person but this Captain Cleveland and yourself was seen to enter the Kirk of St. Magnus this day, we know well enough that your cousin, old Ulla Troil, whom you Zetlanders call Norna of Fitful-head, has been cruising up and down, upon sea and land, and air, for what I know, in boats and on ponies, and it may be on broomsticks; and here has been her dumb Drow, too, coming and going, and playing the spy on every one — and a good spy he is, for he can hear every thing, and tells nothing again, unless to his mistress. And we know, besides, that she can enter the Kirk when all the doors are fast, and has been seen there more than once, God save us from the Evil One! — and so, without farther questions asked, I conclude it was old Norna whom you left in the Kirk with this slashing blade — and, if so, they may catch them again that can. — I cannot but say, however, pretty Mistress Minna, that you Zetland folks seem to forget both law and gospel, when you use the help of witchcraft to fetch delinquents out of a legal prison; and the least that you, or your cousin, or your father, can do, is to use influence with this wild fellow to go away as soon as possible, without hurting the town or trade, and then there will be little harm in what has chanced; for, Heaven knows, I did not seek the poor lad’s life, so I could get my hands free of him without blame; and far less did I wish, that, through his imprisonment, any harm should come to worthy Magnus Troil of Burgh-Westra.”

“I see where the shoe pinches you, Mr. Provost,” said Claud Halcro, “and I am sure I can answer for my friend Mr. Troil, as well as for myself, that we will say and do all in our power with this man, Captain Cleveland, to make him leave the coast directly.”

“And I,” said Minna, “am so convinced that what you recommend is best for all parties, that my sister and I will set off early to-morrow morning to the House of Stennis, if Mr. Halcro will give us his escort, to receive my father when he comes ashore, that we may acquaint him with your wish, and to use every influence to induce this unhappy man to leave the country.”

Provost Torfe looked upon her with some surprise. “It is not every young woman,” he said, “would wish to move eight miles nearer to a band of pirates.”

“We run no risk,” said Claud Halcro, interfering. “The House of Stennis is strong; and my cousin, whom it belongs to, has men and arms within it. The young ladies are as safe there as in Kirkwall; and much good may arise from an early communication between Magnus Troil and his daughters. And happy am I to see, that in your case, my good old friend — as glorious John says —

——‘After much debate,

The man prevails above the magistrate.’”

The Provost smiled, nodded his head, and indicated, as far as he thought he could do so with decency, how happy he should be if the Fortune’s Favourite, and her disorderly crew, would leave Orkney without further interference, or violence on either side. He could not authorize their being supplied from the shore, he said; but, either for fear or favour, they were certain to get provisions at Stromness. This pacific magistrate then took leave of Halcro and the two ladies, who proposed the next morning, to transfer their residence to the House of Stennis, situated upon the banks of the salt-water lake of the same name, and about four miles by water from the Road of Stromness, where the Rover’s vessel was lying.

(e) p. 255. “John was a Jacobite.” In the library of a country house in the south of England is a copy of Dryden’s Miscellany Poems, with a laudatory autograph envoy to Judge Jeffreys, a sufficiently thoroughgoing King’s man. — A.L.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00