The Pirate, by Walter Scott

Chapter 40.

Of an outlawe, this is the lawe —

That men him take and bind,

Without pitie hang’d to be,

And waive with the wind.

The Ballad of the Nut Brown Maid.

Mordaunt had caused the sentinels who had been on duty since midnight to be relieved ere the peep of day, and having given directions that the guard should be again changed at sunrise, he had retired to a small parlour, and, placing his arms beside him, was slumbering in an easy-chair, when he felt himself pulled by the watch-cloak in which he was enveloped.

“Is it sunrise,” said he, “already?” as, starting up, he discovered the first beams lying level upon the horizon.

“Mordaunt!” said a voice, every note of which thrilled to his heart.

He turned his eyes on the speaker, and Brenda Troil, to his joyful astonishment, stood before him. As he was about to address her eagerly, he was checked by observing the signs of sorrow and discomposure in her pale cheeks, trembling lips, and brimful eyes.

“Mordaunt,” she said, “you must do Minna and me a favour — you must allow us to leave the house quietly, and without alarming any one, in order to go as far as the Standing Stones of Stennis.”

“What freak can this be, dearest Brenda?” said Mordaunt, much amazed at the request —“some Orcadian observance of superstition, perhaps; but the time is too dangerous, and my charge from your father too strict, that I should permit you to pass without his consent. Consider, dearest Brenda, I am a soldier on duty, and must obey orders.”

“Mordaunt,” said Brenda, “this is no jesting matter — Minna’s reason, nay, Minna’s life, depends on your giving us this permission.”

“And for what purpose?” said Mordaunt; “let me at least know that.”

“For a wild and a desperate purpose,” replied Brenda —“It is that she may meet Cleveland.”

“Cleveland!” said Mordaunt —“Should the villain come ashore, he shall be welcomed with a shower of rifle-balls. Let me within a hundred yards of him,” he added, grasping his piece, “and all the mischief he has done me shall be balanced with an ounce bullet!”

“His death will drive Minna frantic,” said Brenda; “and him who injures Minna, Brenda will never again look upon.”

“This is madness — raving madness!” said Mordaunt —“Consider your honour — consider your duty.”

“I can consider nothing but Minna’s danger,” said Brenda, breaking into a flood of tears; “her former illness was nothing to the state she has been in all night. She holds in her hand his letter, written in characters of fire, rather than of ink, imploring her to see him, for a last farewell, as she would save a mortal body, and an immortal soul; pledging himself for her safety; and declaring no power shall force him from the coast till he has seen her. — You must let us pass.”

“It is impossible!” replied Mordaunt, in great perplexity —“This ruffian has imprecations enough, doubtless, at his fingers’ ends — but what better pledge has he to offer? — I cannot permit Minna to go.”

“I suppose,” said Brenda, somewhat reproachfully, while she dried her tears, yet still continued sobbing, “that there is something in what Norna spoke of betwixt Minna and you; and that you are too jealous of this poor wretch, to allow him even to speak with her an instant before his departure.”

“You are unjust,” said Mordaunt, hurt, and yet somewhat flattered by her suspicions — “you are as unjust as you are imprudent. You know — you cannot but know — that Minna is chiefly dear to me as your sister. Tell me, Brenda — and tell me truly — if I aid you in this folly, have you no suspicion of the Pirate’s faith!”

“No, none,” said Brenda; “if I had any, do you think I would urge you thus? He is wild and unhappy, but I think we may in this trust him.”

“Is the appointed place the Standing Stones, and the time daybreak?” again demanded Mordaunt.

“It is, and the time is come,” said Brenda — “for Heaven’s sake let us depart!”

“I will myself,” said Mordaunt, “relieve the sentinel at the front door for a few minutes, and suffer you to pass. — You will not protract this interview, so full of danger?”

“We will not,” said Brenda; “and you, on your part, will not avail yourself of this unhappy man’s venturing hither, to harm or to seize him?”

“Rely on my honour,” said Mordaunt —“He shall have no harm, unless he offers any.”

“Then I go to call my sister,” said Brenda, and quickly left the apartment.

Mordaunt considered the matter for an instant, and then going to the sentinel at the front door, he desired him to run instantly to the main-guard, and order the whole to turn out with their arms — to see the order obeyed, and to return when they were in readiness. Meantime, he himself, he said, would remain upon the post.

During the interval of the sentinel’s absence, the front door was slowly opened, and Minna and Brenda appeared, muffled in their mantles. The former leaned on her sister, and kept her face bent on the ground, as one who felt ashamed of the step she was about to take. Brenda also passed her lover in silence, but threw back upon him a look of gratitude and affection, which doubled, if possible, his anxiety for their safety.

The sisters, in the meanwhile, passed out of sight of the house; when Minna, whose step, till that time, had been faint and feeble, began to erect her person, and to walk with a pace so firm and so swift, that Brenda, who had some difficulty to keep up with her, could not forbear remonstrating on the imprudence of hurrying her spirits, and exhausting her force, by such unnecessary haste.

“Fear not, my dearest sister,” said Minna; “the spirit which I now feel will, and must, sustain me through the dreadful interview. I could not but move with a drooping head, and dejected pace, while I was in view of one who must necessarily deem me deserving of his pity, or his scorn. But you know, my dearest Brenda, and Mordaunt shall also know, that the love I bore to that unhappy man, was as pure as the rays of that sun, that is now reflected on the waves. And I dare attest that glorious sun, and yonder blue heaven, to bear me witness, that, but to urge him to change his unhappy course of life, I had not, for all the temptations this round world holds, ever consented to see him more.”

As she spoke thus, in a tone which afforded much confidence to Brenda, the sisters attained the summit of a rising ground, whence they commanded a full view of the Orcadian Stonehenge, consisting of a huge circle and semicircle of the Standing Stones, as they are called, which already glimmered a greyish white in the rising sun, and projected far to the westward their long gigantic shadows. At another time, the scene would have operated powerfully on the imaginative mind of Minna, and interested the curiosity at least of her less sensitive sister. But, at this moment, neither was at leisure to receive the impressions which this stupendous monument of antiquity is so well calculated to impress on the feelings of those who behold it; for they saw, in the lower lake, beneath what is termed the Bridge of Broisgar, a boat well manned and armed, which had disembarked one of its crew, who advanced alone, and wrapped in a naval cloak, towards that monumental circle which they themselves were about to reach from another quarter.

“They are many, and they are armed,” said the startled Brenda, in a whisper to her sister.

“It is for precaution’s sake,” answered Minna, “which, alas, their condition renders but too necessary. Fear no treachery from him — that, at least, is not his vice.”

As she spoke, or shortly afterwards, she attained the centre of the circle, on which, in the midst of the tall erect pillars of rude stone that are raised around, lies one flat and prostrate, supported by short stone pillars, of which some relics are still visible, that had once served, perhaps, the purpose of an altar.

“Here,” she said, “in heathen times (if we may believe legends, which have cost me but too dear) our ancestors offered sacrifices to heathen deities — and here will I, from my soul, renounce, abjure, and offer up to a better and a more merciful God than was known to them, the vain ideas with which my youthful imagination has been seduced.”

She stood by the prostrate table of stone, and saw Cleveland advance towards her, with a timid pace, and a downcast look, as different from his usual character and bearing, as Minna’s high air and lofty demeanour, and calm contemplative posture, were distant from those of the love-lorn and broken-hearted maiden, whose weight had almost borne down the support of her sister as she left the House of Stennis. If the belief of those is true, who assign these singular monuments exclusively to the Druids, Minna might have seemed the Haxa, or high priestess of the order, from whom some champion of the tribe expected inauguration. Or, if we hold the circles of Gothic and Scandinavian origin, she might have seemed a descended Vision of Freya, the spouse of the Thundering Deity, before whom some bold Sea-King or champion bent with an awe, which no mere mortal terror could have inflicted upon him. Brenda, overwhelmed with inexpressible fear and doubt, remained a pace or two behind, anxiously observing the motions of Cleveland, and attending to nothing around, save to him and to her sister.

Cleveland approached within two yards of Minna, and bent his head to the ground. There was a dead pause, until Minna said, in a firm but melancholy tone, “Unhappy man, why didst thou seek this aggravation of our woe? Depart in peace, and may Heaven direct thee to a better course than that which thy life has yet held!”

“Heaven will not aid me,” said Cleveland, “excepting by your voice. I came hither rude and wild, scarce knowing that my trade, my desperate trade, was more criminal in the sight of man or of Heaven, than that of those privateers whom your law acknowledges. I was bred in it, and, but for the wishes you have encouraged me to form, I should have perhaps died in it, desperate and impenitent. O, do not throw me from you! let me do something to redeem what I have done amiss, and do not leave your own work half-finished!”

“Cleveland,” said Minna, “I will not reproach you with abusing my inexperience, or with availing yourself of those delusions which the credulity of early youth had flung around me, and which led me to confound your fatal course of life with the deeds of our ancient heroes. Alas, when I saw your followers, that illusion was no more! — but I do not upbraid you with its having existed. Go, Cleveland; detach yourself from those miserable wretches with whom you are associated, and believe me, that if Heaven yet grants you the means of distinguishing your name by one good or glorious action, there are eyes left in those lonely islands, that will weep as much for joy, as — as — they must now do for sorrow.”

“And is this all?” said Cleveland; “and may I not hope, that if I extricate myself from my present associates — if I can gain my pardon by being as bold in the right, as I have been too often in the wrong cause — if, after a term, I care not how long — but still a term which may have an end, I can boast of having redeemed my fame — may I not — may I not hope that Minna may forgive what my God and my country shall have pardoned?”

“Never, Cleveland, never!” said Minna, with the utmost firmness; “on this spot we part, and part for ever, and part without longer indulgence. Think of me as of one dead, if you continue as you now are; but if, which may Heaven grant, you change your fatal course, think of me then as one, whose morning and evening prayers will be for your happiness, though she has lost her own. — Farewell, Cleveland!”

He kneeled, overpowered by his own bitter feelings, to take the hand which she held out to him, and in that instant, his confidant Bunce, starting from behind one of the large upright pillars, his eyes wet with tears, exclaimed —

“Never saw such a parting scene on any stage! But I’ll be d — d if you make your exit as you expect!”

And so saying, ere Cleveland could employ either remonstrance or resistance, and indeed before he could get upon his feet, he easily secured him by pulling him down on his back, so that two or three of the boat’s crew seized him by the arms and legs, and began to hurry him towards the lake. Minna and Brenda shrieked, and attempted to fly; but Derrick snatched up the former with as much ease as a falcon pounces on a pigeon, while Bunce, with an oath or two which were intended to be of a consolatory nature, seized on Brenda; and the whole party, with two or three of the other pirates, who, stealing from the water-side, had accompanied them on the ambuscade, began hastily to run towards the boat, which was left in charge of two of their number. Their course, however, was unexpectedly interrupted, and their criminal purpose entirely frustrated.

When Mordaunt Mertoun had turned out his guard in arms, it was with the natural purpose of watching over the safety of the two sisters. They had accordingly closely observed the motions of the pirates, and when they saw so many of them leave the boat and steal towards the place of rendezvous assigned to Cleveland, they naturally suspected treachery, and by cover of an old hollow way or trench, which perhaps had anciently been connected with the monumental circle, they had thrown themselves unperceived between the pirates and their boat. At the cries of the sisters, they started up and placed themselves in the way of the ruffians, presenting their pieces, which, notwithstanding, they dared not fire, for fear of hurting the young ladies, secured as they were in the rude grasp of the marauders. Mordaunt, however, advanced with the speed of a wild deer on Bunce, who, loath to quit his prey, yet unable to defend himself otherwise, turned to this side and that alternately, exposing Brenda to the blows which Mordaunt offered at him. This defence, however, proved in vain against a youth, possessed of the lightest foot and most active hand ever known in Zetland, and after a feint or two, Mordaunt brought the pirate to the ground with a stroke from the but of the carabine, which he dared not use otherwise. At the same time fire-arms were discharged on either side by those who were liable to no such cause of forbearance, and the pirates who had hold of Cleveland, dropped him, naturally enough, to provide for their own defence or retreat. But they only added to the numbers of their enemies; for Cleveland, perceiving Minna in the arms of Derrick, snatched her from the ruffian with one hand, and with the other shot him dead on the spot. Two or three more of the pirates fell or were taken, the rest fled to their boat, pushed off, then turned their broadside to the shore, and fired repeatedly on the Orcadian party, which they returned, with little injury on either side. Meanwhile Mordaunt, having first seen that the sisters were at liberty and in full flight towards the house, advanced on Cleveland with his cutlass drawn. The pirate presented a pistol, and calling out at the same time — “Mordaunt, I never missed my aim,” he fired into the air, and threw it into the lake; then drew his cutlass, brandished it round his head, and flung that also as far as his arm could send it, in the same direction. Yet such was the universal belief of his personal strength and resources, that Mordaunt still used precaution, as, advancing on Cleveland, he asked if he surrendered.

“I surrender to no man,” said the Pirate-captain; “but you may see I have thrown away my weapons.”

He was immediately seized by some of the Orcadians without his offering any resistance; but the instant interference of Mordaunt prevented his being roughly treated, or bound. The victors conducted him to a well-secured upper apartment in the House of Stennis, and placed a sentinel at the door. Bunce and Fletcher, both of whom had been stretched on the field during the skirmish, were lodged in the same chamber; and two prisoners, who appeared of lower rank, were confined in a vault belonging to the mansion.

Without pretending to describe the joy of Magnus Troil, who, when awakened by the noise and firing, found his daughters safe, and his enemy a prisoner, we shall only say, it was so great, that he forgot, for the time at least, to enquire what circumstances were those which had placed them in danger; that he hugged Mordaunt to his breast a thousand times, as their preserver; and swore as often by the bones of his sainted namesake, that if he had a thousand daughters, so tight a lad, and so true a friend, should have the choice of them, let Lady Glowrowrum say what she would.

A very different scene was passing in the prison-chamber of the unfortunate Cleveland and his associates. The Captain sat by the window, his eyes bent on the prospect of the sea which it presented, and was seemingly so intent on it, as to be insensible of the presence of the others. Jack Bunce stood meditating some ends of verse, in order to make his advances towards a reconciliation with Cleveland; for he began to be sensible, from the consequences, that the part he had played towards his Captain, however well intended, was neither lucky in its issue, nor likely to be well taken. His admirer and adherent Fletcher lay half asleep, as it seemed, on a truckle-bed in the room, without the least attempt to interfere in the conversation which ensued.

“Nay, but speak to me, Clement,” said the penitent Lieutenant, “if it be but to swear at me for my stupidity!

‘What! not an oath? — Nay, then the world goes hard,

If Clifford cannot spare his friends an oath.’”

“I prithee peace, and be gone!” said Cleveland; “I have one bosom friend left yet, and you will make me bestow its contents on you, or on myself.”

“I have it!” said Bunce, “I have it!” and on he went in the vein of Jaffier —

“‘Then, by the hell I merit, I’ll not leave thee,

Till to thyself at least thou’rt reconciled,

However thy resentment deal with me!’”

“I pray you once more to be silent,” said Cleveland —“Is it not enough that you have undone me with your treachery, but you must stun me with your silly buffoonery? — I would not have believed you would have lifted a finger against me, Jack, of any man or devil in yonder unhappy ship.”

“Who, I?” exclaimed Bunce, “I lift a finger against you! — and if I did, it was in pure love, and to make you the happiest fellow that ever trode a deck, with your mistress beside you, and fifty fine fellows at your command. Here is Dick Fletcher can bear witness I did all for the best, if he would but speak, instead of lolloping there like a Dutch dogger laid up to be careened. — Get up, Dick, and speak for me, won’t you?”

“Why, yes, Jack Bunce,” answered Fletcher, raising himself with difficulty, and speaking feebly, “I will if I can — and I always knew you spoke and did for the best — but howsomdever, d’ye see, it has turned out for the worst for me this time, for I am bleeding to death, I think.”

“You cannot be such an ass!” said Jack Bunce, springing to his assistance, as did Cleveland. But human aid came too late — he sunk back on the bed, and, turning on his face, expired without a groan.

“I always thought him a d — d fool,” said Bunce, as he wiped a tear from his eye, “but never such a consummate idiot as to hop the perch so sillily. I have lost the best follower”— and he again wiped his eye.

Cleveland looked on the dead body, the rugged features of which had remained unaltered by the death-pang —“A bull-dog,” he said, “of the true British breed, and, with a better counsellor, would have been a better man.”

“You may say that of some other folks, too, Captain, if you are minded to do them justice,” said Bunce.

“I may indeed, and especially of yourself,” said Cleveland, in reply.

“Why then, say, Jack, I forgive you,” said Bunce; “it’s but a short word, and soon spoken.”

“I forgive you from all my soul, Jack,” said Cleveland, who had resumed his situation at the window; “and the rather that your folly is of little consequence — the morning is come that must bring ruin on us all.”

“What! you are thinking of the old woman’s prophecy you spoke of?” said Bunce.

“It will soon be accomplished,” answered Cleveland. “Come hither; what do you take yon large square-rigged vessel for, that you see doubling the headland on the east, and opening the Bay of Stromness?”

“Why, I can’t make her well out,” said Bunce, “but yonder is old Goffe, takes her for a West Indiaman loaded with rum and sugar, I suppose, for d — n me if he does not slip cable, and stand out to her!”

“Instead of running into the shoal-water, which was his only safety,” said Cleveland —“The fool! the dotard! the drivelling, drunken idiot! — he will get his flip hot enough; for yon is the Halcyon — See, she hoists her colours and fires a broadside! and there will soon be an end of the Fortune’s Favourite! I only hope they will fight her to the last plank. The Boatswain used to be stanch enough, and so is Goffe, though an incarnate demon. — Now she shoots away, with all the sail she can spread, and that shows some sense.”

“Up goes the Jolly Hodge, the old black flag, with the death’s head and hour-glass, and that shows some spunk,” added his comrade.

“The hour-glass is turned for us, Jack, for this bout — our sand is running fast. — Fire away yet, my roving lads! The deep sea or the blue sky, rather than a rope and a yard-arm!”

There was a moment of anxious and dead silence; the sloop, though hard pressed, maintaining still a running fight, and the frigate continuing in full chase, but scarce returning a shot. At length the vessels neared each other, so as to show that the man-of-war intended to board the sloop, instead of sinking her, probably to secure the plunder which might be in the pirate vessel.

“Now, Goffe — now, Boatswain!” exclaimed Cleveland, in an ecstasy of impatience, and as if they could have heard his commands, “stand by sheets and tacks — rake her with a broadside, when you are under her bows, then about ship, and go off on the other tack like a wild-goose. The sails shiver — the helm’s a-lee — Ah! — deep-sea sink the lubbers! — they miss stays, and the frigate runs them aboard!”

Accordingly, the various manœuvres of the chase had brought them so near, that Cleveland, with his spy-glass, could see the man-of-war’s-men boarding by the yards and bowsprit, in irresistible numbers, their naked cutlasses flashing in the sun, when, at that critical moment, both ships were enveloped in a cloud of thick black smoke, which suddenly arose on board the captured pirate.

“Exeunt omnes!” said Bunce, with clasped hands.

“There went the Fortune’s Favourite, ship and crew!” said Cleveland, at the same instant.

But the smoke immediately clearing away, showed that the damage had only been partial, and that, from want of a sufficient quantity of powder, the pirates had failed in their desperate attempt to blow up their vessel with the Halcyon.

Shortly after the action was over, Captain Weatherport of the Halcyon sent an officer and a party of marines to the House of Stennis, to demand from the little garrison the pirate seamen who were their prisoners, and, in particular, Cleveland and Bunce, who acted as Captain and Lieutenant of the gang.

This was a demand which was not to be resisted, though Magnus Troil could have wished sincerely that the roof under which he lived had been allowed as an asylum at least to Cleveland. But the officer’s orders were peremptory; and he added, it was Captain Weatherport’s intention to land the other prisoners, and send the whole, with a sufficient escort, across the island to Kirkwall, in order to undergo an examination there before the civil authorities, previous to their being sent off to London for trial at the High Court of Admiralty. Magnus could therefore only intercede for good usage to Cleveland, and that he might not be stripped or plundered, which the officer, struck by his good mien, and compassionating his situation, readily promised. The honest Udaller would have said something in the way of comfort to Cleveland himself, but he could not find words to express it, and only shook his head.

“Old friend,” said Cleveland, “you may have much to complain of — yet you pity instead of exulting over me — for the sake of you and yours, I will never harm human being more. Take this from me — my last hope, but my last temptation also”— he drew from his bosom a pocket-pistol, and gave it to Magnus Troil. “Remember me to — But no — let every one forget me. — I am your prisoner, sir,” said he to the officer.

“And I also,” said poor Bunce; and putting on a theatrical countenance, he ranted, with no very perceptible faltering in his tone, the words of Pierre:

“‘Captain, you should be a gentleman of honour:

Keep off the rabble, that I may have room

To entertain my fate, and die with decency.’”

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