Guy Mannering. or The Astrologer - Walter Scott - ebook
Opis

The young educated gentleman Guy Mannering, after leaving Oxford, is travelling alone through some of the wilder parts of Scotland. After losing his way at nightfall, he is directed to Ellangowan, the home of Mr Godfrey Bertram at the time of the birth of Henry Bertram. By request of the father of a newborn baby, Guy made a horoscope in which the child was predetermined the ordeals from the fifth to the twenty-first years of life. The most incredible adventures are waiting for Henry and his family – adventure, in which not only money is at stake but life and honor of all old family. Everything that makes a story good is included in this one: mystery, romance, adventure, danger, conspiracy, pirates, mad old gypsy women, dashing heroes, misunderstandings, murders, kidnapping, mistaken identity, good-hearted country folk, heroines both persecuted and steadfast, and crowning it all that inimitable humor that colors all of Scott’s writing.

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Contents

VOLUME I

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER XXVIII

CHAPTER XXIX

VOLUME II

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER XXVIII

CHAPTER XXIX

VOLUME I

‘Tis said that words and signs have power O’er sprites in planetary hour; But scarce I praise their venturous part Who tamper with such dangerous art. Lay of the Last Minstrel.

INTRODUCTION

The Novel or Romance of Waverley made its way to the public slowly, of course, at first, but afterwards with such accumulating popularity as to encourage the Author to a second attempt. He looked about for a name and a subject; and the manner in which the novels were composed cannot be better illustrated than by reciting the simple narrative on which Guy Mannering was originally founded; but to which, in the progress of the work, the production ceased to bear any, even the most distant resemblance. The tale was originally told me by an old servant of my father’s, an excellent old Highlander, without a fault, unless a preference to mountain dew over less potent liquors be accounted one. He believed as firmly in the story as in any part of his creed.

A grave and elderly person, according to old John MacKinlay’s account, while travelling in the wilder parts of Galloway, was benighted. With difficulty he found his way to a country seat, where, with the hospitality of the time and country, he was readily admitted. The owner of the house, a gentleman of good fortune, was much struck by the reverend appearance of his guest, and apologised to him for a certain degree of confusion which must unavoidably attend his reception, and could not escape his eye. The lady of the house was, he said, confined to her apartment, and on the point of making her husband a father for the first time, though they had been ten years married. At such an emergency, the laird said, he feared his guest might meet with some apparent neglect.

‘Not so, sir,’ said the stranger; ‘my wants are few, and easily supplied, and I trust the present circumstances may even afford an opportunity of showing my gratitude for your hospitality. Let me only request that I may be informed of the exact minute of the birth; and I hope to be able to put you in possession of some particulars which may influence in an important manner the future prospects of the child now about to come into this busy and changeful world. I will not conceal from you that I am skilful in understanding and interpreting the movements of those planetary bodies which exert their influences on the destiny of mortals. It is a science which I do not practise, like others who call themselves astrologers, for hire or reward; for I have a competent estate, and only use the knowledge I possess for the benefit of those in whom I feel an interest.’ The laird bowed in respect and gratitude, and the stranger was accommodated with an apartment which commanded an ample view of the astral regions.

The guest spent a part of the night in ascertaining the position of the heavenly bodies, and calculating their probable influence; until at length the result of his observations induced him to send for the father and conjure him in the most solemn manner to cause the assistants to retard the birth if practicable, were it but for five minutes. The answer declared this to be impossible; and almost in the instant that the message was returned the father and his guest were made acquainted with the birth of a boy.

The Astrologer on the morrow met the party who gathered around the breakfast table with looks so grave and ominous as to alarm the fears of the father, who had hitherto exulted in the prospects held out by the birth of an heir to his ancient property, failing which event it must have passed to a distant branch of the family. He hastened to draw the stranger into a private room.

‘I fear from your looks,’ said the father, ‘that you have bad tidings to tell me of my young stranger; perhaps God will resume the blessing He has bestowed ere he attains the age of manhood, or perhaps he is destined to be unworthy of the affection which we are naturally disposed to devote to our offspring?’

‘Neither the one nor the other,’ answered the stranger; ‘unless my judgment greatly err, the infant will survive the years of minority, and in temper and disposition will prove all that his parents can wish. But with much in his horoscope which promises many blessings, there is one evil influence strongly predominant, which threatens to subject him to an unhallowed and unhappy temptation about the time when he shall attain the age of twenty-one, which period, the constellations intimate, will be the crisis of his fate. In what shape, or with what peculiar urgency, this temptation may beset him, my art cannot discover.’

‘Your knowledge, then, can afford us no defence,’ said the anxious father, ‘against the threatened evil?’

‘Pardon me,’ answered the stranger, ‘it can. The influence of the constellations is powerful; but He who made the heavens is more powerful than all, if His aid be invoked in sincerity and truth. You ought to dedicate this boy to the immediate service of his Maker, with as much sincerity as Samuel was devoted to the worship in the Temple by his parents. You must regard him as a being separated from the rest of the world. In childhood, in boyhood, you must surround him with the pious and virtuous, and protect him to the utmost of your power from the sight or hearing of any crime, in word or action. He must be educated in religious and moral principles of the strictest description. Let him not enter the world, lest he learn to partake of its follies, or perhaps of its vices. In short, preserve him as far as possible from all sin, save that of which too great a portion belongs to all the fallen race of Adam. With the approach of his twenty-first birthday comes the crisis of his fate. If he survive it, he will be happy and prosperous on earth, and a chosen vessel among those elected for heaven. But if it be otherwise–’ The Astrologer stopped, and sighed deeply.

‘Sir,’ replied the parent, still more alarmed than before, ‘your words are so kind, your advice so serious, that I will pay the deepest attention to your behests; but can you not aid me farther in this most important concern? Believe me, I will not be ungrateful.’

‘I require and deserve no gratitude for doing a good action,’ said the stranger, ‘in especial for contributing all that lies in my power to save from an abhorred fate the harmless infant to whom, under a singular conjunction of planets, last night gave life. There is my address; you may write to me from time to time concerning the progress of the boy in religious knowledge. If he be bred up as I advise, I think it will be best that he come to my house at the time when the fatal and decisive period approaches, that is, before he has attained his twenty-first year complete. If you send him such as I desire, I humbly trust that God will protect His own through whatever strong temptation his fate may subject him to.’ He then gave his host his address, which was a country seat near a post town in the south of England, and bid him an affectionate farewell.

The mysterious stranger departed, but his words remained impressed upon the mind of the anxious parent. He lost his lady while his boy was still in infancy. This calamity, I think, had been predicted by the Astrologer; and thus his confidence, which, like most people of the period, he had freely given to the science, was riveted and confirmed. The utmost care, therefore, was taken to carry into effect the severe and almost ascetic plan of education which the sage had enjoined. A tutor of the strictest principles was employed to superintend the youth’s education; he was surrounded by domestics of the most established character, and closely watched and looked after by the anxious father himself.

The years of infancy, childhood, and boyhood passed as the father could have wished. A young Nazarene could not have been bred up with more rigour. All that was evil was withheld from his observation: he only heard what was pure in precept, he only witnessed what was worthy in practice.

But when the boy began to be lost in the youth, the attentive father saw cause for alarm. Shades of sadness, which gradually assumed a darker character, began to over-cloud the young man’s temper. Tears, which seemed involuntary, broken sleep, moonlight wanderings, and a melancholy for which he could assign no reason, seemed to threaten at once his bodily health and the stability of his mind. The Astrologer was consulted by letter, and returned for answer that this fitful state of mind was but the commencement of his trial, and that the poor youth must undergo more and more desperate struggles with the evil that assailed him. There was no hope of remedy, save that he showed steadiness of mind in the study of the Scriptures. ‘He suffers, continued the letter of the sage,’ from the awakening of those harpies the passions, which have slept with him, as with others, till the period of life which he has now attained. Better, far better, that they torment him by ungrateful cravings than that he should have to repent having satiated them by criminal indulgence.’

The dispositions of the young man were so excellent that he combated, by reason and religion, the fits of gloom which at times overcast his mind, and it was not till he attained the commencement of his twenty-first year that they assumed a character which made his father tremble for the consequences. It seemed as if the gloomiest and most hideous of mental maladies was taking the form of religious despair. Still the youth was gentle, courteous, affectionate, and submissive to his father’s will, and resisted with all his power the dark suggestions which were breathed into his mind, as it seemed by some emanation of the Evil Principle, exhorting him, like the wicked wife of Job, to curse God and die.

The time at length arrived when he was to perform what was then thought a long and somewhat perilous journey, to the mansion of the early friend who had calculated his nativity. His road lay through several places of interest, and he enjoyed the amusement of travelling more than he himself thought would have been possible. Thus he did not reach the place of his destination till noon on the day preceding his birthday. It seemed as if he had been carried away with an unwonted tide of pleasurable sensation, so as to forget in some degree what his father had communicated concerning the purpose of his journey. He halted at length before a respectable but solitary old mansion, to which he was directed as the abode of his father’s friend.

The servants who came to take his horse told him he had been expected for two days. He was led into a study, where the stranger, now a venerable old man, who had been his father’s guest, met him with a shade of displeasure, as well as gravity, on his brow. ‘Young man,’ he said, ‘wherefore so slow on a journey of such importance?’ ‘I thought,’ replied the guest, blushing and looking downward,’ that there was no harm in travelling slowly and satisfying my curiosity, providing I could reach your residence by this day; for such was my father’s charge.’ ‘You were to blame,’ replied the sage, ‘in lingering, considering that the avenger of blood was pressing on your footsteps. But you are come at last, and we will hope for the best, though the conflict in which you are to be engaged will be found more dreadful the longer it is postponed. But first accept of such refreshments as nature requires to satisfy, but not to pamper, the appetite.’

The old man led the way into a summer parlour, where a frugal meal was placed on the table. As they sat down to the board they were joined by a young lady about eighteen years of age, and so lovely that the sight of her carried off the feelings of the young stranger from the peculiarity and mystery of his own lot, and riveted his attention to everything she did or said. She spoke little and it was on the most serious subjects. She played on the harpsichord at her father’s command, but it was hymns with which she accompanied the instrument. At length, on a sign from the sage, she left the room, turning on the young stranger as she departed a look of inexpressible anxiety and interest.

The old man then conducted the youth to his study, and conversed with him upon the most important points of religion, to satisfy himself that he could render a reason for the faith that was in him. During the examination the youth, in spite of himself, felt his mind occasionally wander, and his recollections go in quest of the beautiful vision who had shared their meal at noon. On such occasions the Astrologer looked grave, and shook his head at this relaxation of attention; yet, on the whole, he was pleased with the youth’s replies.

At sunset the young man was made to take the bath; and, having done so, he was directed to attire himself in a robe somewhat like that worn by Armenians, having his long hair combed down on his shoulders, and his neck, hands, and feet bare. In this guise he was conducted into a remote chamber totally devoid of furniture, excepting a lamp, a chair, and a table, on which lay a Bible. ‘Here,’ said the Astrologer, ‘I must leave you alone to pass the most critical period of your life. If you can, by recollection of the great truths of which we have spoken, repel the attacks which will be made on your courage and your principles, you have nothing to apprehend. But the trial will be severe and arduous.’ His features then assumed a pathetic solemnity, the tears stood in his eyes, and his voice faltered with emotion as he said, ‘Dear child, at whose coming into the world I foresaw this fatal trial, may God give thee grace to support it with firmness!’

The young man was left alone; and hardly did he find himself so, when, like a swarm of demons, the recollection of all his sins of omission and commission, rendered even more terrible by the scrupulousness with which he had been educated, rushed on his mind, and, like furies armed with fiery scourges, seemed determined to drive him to despair. As he combated these horrible recollections with distracted feelings, but with a resolved mind, he became aware that his arguments were answered by the sophistry of another, and that the dispute was no longer confined to his own thoughts. The Author of Evil was present in the room with him in bodily shape, and, potent with spirits of a melancholy cast, was impressing upon him the desperation of his state, and urging suicide as the readiest mode to put an end to his sinful career. Amid his errors, the pleasure he had taken in prolonging his journey unnecessarily, and the attention which he had bestowed on the beauty of the fair female when his thoughts ought to have been dedicated to the religious discourse of her father, were set before him in the darkest colours; and he was treated as one who, having sinned against light, was therefore deservedly left a prey to the Prince of Darkness.

As the fated and influential hour rolled on, the terrors of the hateful Presence grew more confounding to the mortal senses of the victim, and the knot of the accursed sophistry became more inextricable in appearance, at least to the prey whom its meshes surrounded. He had not power to explain the assurance of pardon which he continued to assert, or to name the victorious name in which he trusted. But his faith did not abandon him, though he lacked for a time the power of expressing it. ‘Say what you will,’ was his answer to the Tempter; ‘I know there is as much betwixt the two boards of this Book as can ensure me forgiveness for my transgressions and safety for my soul.’ As he spoke, the clock, which announced the lapse of the fatal hour, was heard to strike. The speech and intellectual powers of the youth were instantly and fully restored; he burst forth into prayer, and expressed in the most glowing terms his reliance on the truth and on the Author of the Gospel. The Demon retired, yelling and discomfited, and the old man, entering the apartment, with tears congratulated his guest on his victory in the fated struggle.

The young man was afterwards married to the beautiful maiden, the first sight of whom had made such an impression on him, and they were consigned over at the close of the story to domestic happiness. So ended John MacKinlay’s legend.

The Author of Waverley had imagined a possibility of framing an interesting, and perhaps not an unedifying, tale out of the incidents of the life of a doomed individual, whose efforts at good and virtuous conduct were to be for ever disappointed by the intervention, as it were, of some malevolent being, and who was at last to come off victorious from the fearful struggle. In short, something was meditated upon a plan resembling the imaginative tale of Sintram and his Companions, by Mons. le Baron de la Motte Fouque, although, if it then existed, the author had not seen it.

The scheme projected may be traced in the three or four first chapters of the work; but farther consideration induced the author to lay his purpose aside. It appeared, on mature consideration, that astrology, though its influence was once received and admitted by Bacon himself, does not now retain influence over the general mind sufficient even to constitute the mainspring of a romance. Besides, it occurred that to do justice to such a subject would have required not only more talent than the Author could be conscious of possessing, but also involved doctrines and discussions of a nature too serious for his purpose and for the character of the narrative. In changing his plan, however, which was done in the course of printing, the early sheets retained the vestiges of the original tenor of the story, although they now hang upon it as an unnecessary and unnatural incumbrance. The cause of such vestiges occurring is now explained and apologised for.

It is here worthy of observation that, while the astrological doctrines have fallen into general contempt, and been supplanted by superstitions of a more gross and far less beautiful character, they have, even in modern days, retained some votaries.

One of the most remarkable believers in that forgotten and despised science was a late eminent professor of the art of legerdemain. One would have thought that a person of this description ought, from his knowledge of the thousand ways in which human eyes could be deceived, to have been less than others subject to the fantasies of superstition. Perhaps the habitual use of those abstruse calculations by which, in a manner surprising to the artist himself, many tricks upon cards, etc., are performed, induced this gentleman to study the combination of the stars and planets, with the expectation of obtaining prophetic communications.

He constructed a scheme of his own nativity, calculated according to such rules of art as he could collect from the best astrological authors. The result of the past he found agreeable to what had hitherto befallen him, but in the important prospect of the future a singular difficulty occurred. There were two years during the course of which he could by no means obtain any exact knowledge whether the subject of the scheme would be dead or alive. Anxious concerning so remarkable a circumstance, he gave the scheme to a brother astrologer, who was also baffled in the same manner. At one period he found the native, or subject, was certainly alive; at another that he was unquestionably dead; but a space of two years extended between these two terms, during which he could find no certainty as to his death or existence.

The astrologer marked the remarkable circumstance in his diary, and continued his exhibitions in various parts of the empire until the period was about to expire during which his existence had been warranted as actually ascertained. At last, while he was exhibiting to a numerous audience his usual tricks of legerdemain, the hands whose activity had so often baffled the closest observer suddenly lost their power, the cards dropped from them, and he sunk down a disabled paralytic. In this state the artist languished for two years, when he was at length removed by death. It is said that the diary of this modern astrologer will soon be given to the public.

The fact, if truly reported, is one of those singular coincidences which occasionally appear, differing so widely from ordinary calculation, yet without which irregularities human life would not present to mortals, looking into futurity, the abyss of impenetrable darkness which it is the pleasure of the Creator it should offer to them. Were everything to happen in the ordinary train of events, the future would be subject to the rules of arithmetic, like the chances of gaming. But extraordinary events and wonderful runs of luck defy the calculations of mankind and throw impenetrable darkness on future contingencies.

To the above anecdote, another, still more recent, may be here added. The author was lately honoured with a letter from a gentleman deeply skilled in these mysteries, who kindly undertook to calculate the nativity of the writer of Guy Mannering, who might be supposed to be friendly to the divine art which he professed. But it was impossible to supply data for the construction of a horoscope, had the native been otherwise desirous of it, since all those who could supply the minutiae of day, hour, and minute have been long removed from the mortal sphere.

Having thus given some account of the first idea, or rude sketch, of the story, which was soon departed from, the Author, in following out the plan of the present edition, has to mention the prototypes of the principal characters in Guy Mannering.

Some circumstances of local situation gave the Author in his youth an opportunity of seeing a little, and hearing a great deal, about that degraded class who are called gipsies; who are in most cases a mixed race between the ancient Egyptians who arrived in Europe about the beginning of the fifteenth century and vagrants of European descent.

The individual gipsy upon whom the character of Meg Merrilies was founded was well known about the middle of the last century by the name of Jean Gordon, an inhabitant of the village of Kirk Yetholm, in the Cheviot Hills, adjoining to the English Border. The Author gave the public some account of this remarkable person in one of the early numbers of Blackwood’s Magazine, to the following purpose:–

‘My father remembered old Jean Gordon of Yetholm, who had great sway among her tribe. She was quite a Meg Merrilies, and possessed the savage virtue of fidelity in the same perfection. Having been often hospitably received at the farmhouse of Lochside, near Yetholm, she had carefully abstained from committing any depredations on the farmer’s property. But her sons (nine in number) had not, it seems, the same delicacy, and stole a brood-sow from their kind entertainer. Jean was mortified at this ungrateful conduct, and so much ashamed of it that she absented herself from Lochside for several years.

‘It happened in course of time that, in consequence of some temporary pecuniary necessity, the goodman of Lochside was obliged to go to Newcastle to raise some money to pay his rent. He succeeded in his purpose, but, returning through the mountains of Cheviot, he was benighted and lost his way.

‘A light glimmering through the window of a large waste barn, which had survived the farm-house to which it had once belonged, guided him to a place of shelter; and when he knocked at the door it was opened by Jean Gordon. Her very remarkable figure, for she was nearly six feet high, and her equally remarkable features and dress, rendered it impossible to mistake her for a moment, though he had not seen her for years; and to meet with such a character in so solitary a place, and probably at no great distance from her clan, was a grievous surprise to the poor man, whose rent (to lose which would have been ruin) was about his person.

‘Jean set up a loud shout of joyful recognition–

“Eh, sirs! the winsome gudeman of Lochside! Light down, light down; for ye maunna gang farther the night, and a friend’s house sae near.” The farmer was obliged to dismount and accept of the gipsy’s offer of supper and a bed. There was plenty of meat in the barn, however it might be come by, and preparations were going on for a plentiful repast, which the farmer, to the great increase of his anxiety, observed was calculated for ten or twelve guests, of the same description, probably, with his landlady.

‘Jean left him in no doubt on the subject. She brought to his recollection the story of the stolen sow, and mentioned how much pain and vexation it had given her. Like other philosophers, she remarked that the world grew worse daily; and, like other parents, that the bairns got out of her guiding, and neglected the old gipsy regulations, which commanded them to respect in their depredations the property of their benefactors. The end of all this was an inquiry what money the farmer had about him; and an urgent request, or command, that he would make her his purse-keeper, since the bairns, as she called her sons, would be soon home. The poor farmer made a virtue of necessity, told his story, and surrendered his gold to Jean’s custody. She made him put a few shillings in his pocket, observing, it would excite suspicion should he be found travelling altogether penniless.

‘This arrangement being made, the farmer lay down on a sort of shake-down, as the Scotch call it, or bed-clothes disposed upon some straw, but, as will easily be believed, slept not.

‘About midnight the gang returned, with various articles of plunder, and talked over their exploits in language which made the farmer tremble. They were not long in discovering they had a guest, and demanded of Jean whom she had got there.

‘“E’en the winsome gudeman of Lochside, poor body,” replied Jean; “he’s been at Newcastle seeking for siller to pay his rent, honest man, but deil-be-lickit he’s been able to gather in, and sae he’s gaun e’en hame wi’ a toom purse and a sair heart.”

“‘That may be, Jean,” replied one of the banditti, “but we maun ripe his pouches a bit, and see if the tale be true or no.” Jean set up her throat in exclamations against this breach of hospitality, but without producing any change in their determination. The farmer soon heard their stifled whispers and light steps by his bedside, and understood they were rummaging his clothes. When they found the money which the providence of Jean Gordon had made him retain, they held a consultation if they should take it or no; but the smallness of the booty, and the vehemence of Jean’s remonstrances, determined them in the negative. They caroused and went to rest. As soon as day dawned Jean roused her guest, produced his horse, which she had accommodated behind the hallan, and guided him for some miles, till he was on the highroad to Lochside. She then restored his whole property; nor could his earnest entreaties prevail on her to accept so much as a single guinea.

‘I have heard the old people at Jedburgh say, that all Jean’s sons were condemned to die there on the same day. It is said the jury were equally divided, but that a friend to justice, who had slept during the whole discussion, waked suddenly and gave his vote for condemnation in the emphatic words, “Hang them a’!” Unanimity is not required in a Scottish jury, so the verdict of guilty was returned. Jean was present, and only said, “The Lord help the innocent in a day like this!” Her own death was accompanied with circumstances of brutal outrage, of which poor Jean was in many respects wholly undeserving. She had, among other demerits, or merits, as the reader may choose to rank it, that of being a stanch Jacobite. She chanced to be at Carlisle upon a fair or market-day, soon after the year 1746, where she gave vent to her political partiality, to the great offence of the rabble of that city. Being zealous in their loyalty when there was no danger, in proportion to the tameness with which they had surrendered to the Highlanders in 1745, the mob inflicted upon poor Jean Gordon no slighter penalty than that of ducking her to death in the Eden. It was an operation of some time, for Jean was a stout woman, and, struggling with her murderers, often got her head above water; and, while she had voice left, continued to exclaim at such intervals, “Charlie yet! Charlie yet!” When a child, and among the scenes which she frequented, I have often heard these stories, and cried piteously for poor Jean Gordon.

‘Before quitting the Border gipsies, I may mention that my grandfather, while riding over Charterhouse Moor, then a very extensive common, fell suddenly among a large band of them, who were carousing in a hollow of the moor, surrounded by bushes. They instantly seized on his horse’s bridle with many shouts of welcome, exclaiming (for he was well known to most of them) that they had often dined at his expense, and he must now stay and share their good cheer. My ancestor was, a little alarmed, for, like the goodman of Lochside, he had more money about his person than he cared to risk in such society. However, being naturally a bold, lively-spirited man, he entered into the humour of the thing and sate down to the feast, which consisted of all the varieties of game, poultry, pigs, and so forth that could be collected by a wide and indiscriminate system of plunder. The dinner was a very merry one; but my relative got a hint from some of the older gipsies to retire just when–

The mirth and fun grew fast and furious,

and, mounting his horse accordingly, he took a French leave of his entertainers, but without experiencing the least breach of hospitality. I believe Jean Gordon was at this festival.‘[Footnote: Blackwood’s Magazine, vol. I, p. 54]

Notwithstanding the failure of Jean’s issue, for which

Weary fa’ the waefu’ wuddie,

a granddaughter survived her, whom I remember to have seen. That is, as Dr. Johnson had a shadowy recollection of Queen Anne as a stately lady in black, adorned with diamonds, so my memory is haunted by a solemn remembrance of a woman of more than female height, dressed in a long red cloak, who commenced acquaintance by giving me an apple, but whom, nevertheless, I looked on with as much awe as the future Doctor, High Church and Tory as he was doomed to be, could look upon the Queen. I conceive this woman to have been Madge Gordon, of whom an impressive account is given in the same article in which her mother Jean is mentioned, but not by the present writer:–

‘The late Madge Gordon was at this time accounted the Queen of the Yetholm clans. She was, we believe, a granddaughter of the celebrated Jean Gordon, and was said to have much resembled her in appearance. The following account of her is extracted from the letter of a friend, who for many years enjoyed frequent and favourable opportunities of observing the characteristic peculiarities of the Yetholm tribes:–“Madge Gordon was descended from the Faas by the mother’s side, and was married to a Young. She was a remarkable personage–of a very commanding presence and high stature, being nearly six feet high. She had a large aquiline nose, penetrating eyes, even in her old age, bushy hair, that hung around her shoulders from beneath a gipsy bonnet of straw, a short cloak of a peculiar fashion, and a long staff nearly as tall as herself. I remember her well; every week she paid my father a visit for her awmous when I was a little boy, and I looked upon Madge with no common degree of awe and terror. When she spoke vehemently (for she made loud complaints) she used to strike her staff upon the floor and throw herself into an attitude which it was impossible to regard with indifference. She used to say that she could bring from the remotest parts of the island friends to revenge her quarrel while she sat motionless in her cottage; and she frequently boasted that there was a time when she was of still more considerable importance, for there were at her wedding fifty saddled asses, and unsaddled asses without number. If Jean Gordon was the prototype of the CHARACTER of Meg Merrilies, I imagine Madge must have sat to the unknown author as the representative of her PERSON.”’[Footnote: Blackwood’s Magazine, vol. I, p. 56.]

How far Blackwood’s ingenious correspondent was right, how far mistaken, in his conjecture the reader has been informed.

To pass to a character of a very different description, Dominie Sampson,–the reader may easily suppose that a poor modest humble scholar who has won his way through the classics, yet has fallen to leeward in the voyage of life, is no uncommon personage in a country where a certain portion of learning is easily attained by those who are willing to suffer hunger and thirst in exchange for acquiring Greek and Latin. But there is a far more exact prototype of the worthy Dominie, upon which is founded the part which he performs in the romance, and which, for certain particular reasons, must be expressed very generally.

Such a preceptor as Mr. Sampson is supposed to have been was actually tutor in the family of a gentleman of considerable property. The young lads, his pupils, grew up and went out in the world, but the tutor continued to reside in the family, no uncommon circumstance in Scotland in former days, where food and shelter were readily afforded to humble friends and dependents. The laird’s predecessors had been imprudent, he himself was passive and unfortunate. Death swept away his sons, whose success in life might have balanced his own bad luck and incapacity. Debts increased and funds diminished, until ruin came. The estate was sold; and the old man was about to remove from the house of his fathers to go he knew not whither, when, like an old piece of furniture, which, left alone in its wonted corner, may hold together for a long while, but breaks to pieces on an attempt to move it, he fell down on his own threshold under a paralytic affection.

The tutor awakened as from a dream. He saw his patron dead, and that his patron’s only remaining child, an elderly woman, now neither graceful nor beautiful, if she ever had been either the one or the other, had by this calamity become a homeless and penniless orphan. He addressed her nearly in the words which Dominie Sampson uses to Miss Bertram, and professed his determination not to leave her. Accordingly, roused to the exercise of talents which had long slumbered, he opened a little school and supported his patron’s child for the rest of her life, treating her with the same humble observance and devoted attention which he had used towards her in the days of her prosperity.

Such is the outline of Dominie Sampson’s real story, in which there is neither romantic incident nor sentimental passion; but which, perhaps, from the rectitude and simplicity of character which it displays, may interest the heart and fill the eye of the reader as irresistibly as if it respected distresses of a more dignified or refined character.

These preliminary notices concerning the tale of Guy Mannering and some of the characters introduced may save the author and reader in the present instance the trouble of writing and perusing a long string of detached notes.

ABBOTSFORD, January, 1829.

ADDENDUM: I may add that the motto of this novel was taken from the Lay of the Last Minstrel, to evade the conclusions of those who began to think that, as the author of Waverley never quoted the works of Sir Walter Scott, he must have reason for doing so, and that the circumstances might argue an identity between them.

ABBOTSFORD, August 1, 1829.

ADDITIONAL NOTE

GALWEGIAN LOCALITIES AND PERSONAGES WHICH HAVE BEEN SUPPOSED TO BE ALLUDED TO IN THE NOVEL

An old English proverb says, that more know Tom Fool than Tom Fool knows; and the influence of the adage seems to extend to works composed under the influence of an idle or foolish planet. Many corresponding circumstances are detected by readers of which the Author did not suspect the existence. He must, however, regard it as a great compliment that, in detailing incidents purely imaginary, he has been so fortunate in approximating reality as to remind his readers of actual occurrences. It is therefore with pleasure he notices some pieces of local history and tradition which have been supposed to coincide with the fictitious persons, incidents, and scenery of Guy Mannering.

The prototype of Dirk Hatteraick is considered as having been a Dutch skipper called Yawkins. This man was well known on the coast of Galloway and Dumfriesshire, as sole proprietor and master of a buckkar, or smuggling lugger, called the ‘Black Prince.’ Being distinguished by his nautical skill and intrepidity, his vessel was frequently freighted, and his own services employed, by French, Dutch, Manx, and Scottish smuggling companies.

A person well known by the name of Buckkar-tea, from having been a noted smuggler of that article, and also by that of Bogle Bush, the place of his residence, assured my kind informant Mr. Train, that he had frequently seen upwards of two hundred Lingtow men assemble at one time, and go off into the interior of the country, fully laden with contraband goods.

In those halcyon days of the free trade, the fixed price for carrying a box of tea or bale of tobacco from the coast of Galloway to Edinburgh was fifteen shillings, and a man with two horses carried four such packages. The trade was entirely destroyed by Mr. Pitt’s celebrated commutation law, which, by reducing the duties upon excisable articles, enabled the lawful dealer to compete with the smuggler. The statute was called in Galloway and Dumfries-shire, by those who had thriven upon the contraband trade, ‘the burning and starving act.’

Sure of such active assistance on shore, Yawkins demeaned himself so boldly that his mere name was a terror to the officers of the revenue. He availed himself of the fears which his presence inspired on one particular night, when, happening to be ashore with a considerable quantity of goods in his sole custody, a strong party of excisemen came down on him. Far from shunning the attack, Yawkins sprung forward, shouting, ‘Come on, my lads; Yawkins is before you.’ The revenue officers were intimidated and relinquished their prize, though defended only by the courage and address of a single man. On his proper element Yawkins was equally successful. On one occasion he was landing his cargo at the Manxman’s Lake near Kirkcudbright, when two revenue cutters (the ‘Pigmy’ and the ‘Dwarf’) hove in sight at once on different tacks, the one coming round by the Isles of Fleet, the other between the point of Rueberry and the Muckle Ron. The dauntless freetrader instantly weighed anchor and bore down right between the luggers, so close that he tossed his hat on the deck of the one and his wig on that of the other, hoisted a cask to his maintop, to show his occupation, and bore away under an extraordinary pressure of canvass, without receiving injury. To account for these and other hairbreadth escapes, popular superstition alleged that Yawkins insured his celebrated buckkar by compounding with the devil for one-tenth of his crew every voyage. How they arranged the separation of the stock and tithes is left to our conjecture. The buckkar was perhaps called the ‘Black Prince’ in honour of the formidable insurer.

The ‘Black Prince’ used to discharge her cargo at Luce, Balcarry, and elsewhere on the coast; but her owner’s favourite landing-places were at the entrance of the Dee and the Cree, near the old Castle of Rueberry, about six miles below Kirkcudbright. There is a cave of large dimensions in the vicinity of Rueberry, which, from its being frequently used by Yawkins and his supposed connexion with the smugglers on the shore, is now called Dirk Hatteraick’s Cave. Strangers who visit this place, the scenery of which is highly romantic, are also shown, under the name of the Gauger’s Loup, a tremendous precipice, being the same, it is asserted, from which Kennedy was precipitated.

Meg Merrilies is in Galloway considered as having had her origin in the traditions concerning the celebrated Flora Marshal, one of the royal consorts of Willie Marshal, more commonly called the Caird of Barullion, King of the Gipsies of the Western Lowlands. That potentate was himself deserving of notice from the following peculiarities:–He was born in the parish of Kirkmichael about the year 1671; and, as he died at Kirkcudbright 23d November 1792, he must then have been in the one hundred and twentieth year of his age. It cannot be said that this unusually long lease of existence was noted by any peculiar excellence of conduct or habits of life. Willie had been pressed or enlisted in the army seven times, and had deserted as often; besides three times running away from the naval service. He had been seventeen times lawfully married; and, besides, such a reasonably large share of matrimonial comforts, was, after his hundredth year, the avowed father of four children by less legitimate affections. He subsisted in his extreme old age by a pension from the present Earl of Selkirk’s grandfather. Will Marshal is buried in Kirkcudbright church, where his monument is still shown, decorated with a scutcheon suitably blazoned with two tups’ horns and two cutty spoons.

In his youth he occasionally took an evening walk on the highway, with the purpose of assisting travellers by relieving them of the weight of their purses. On one occasion the Caird of Barullion robbed the Laird of Bargally at a place between Carsphairn and Dalmellington. His purpose was not achieved without a severe struggle, in which the gipsy lost his bonnet, and was obliged to escape, leaving it on the road. A respectable farmer happened to be the next passenger, and, seeing the bonnet, alighted, took it up, and rather imprudently put it on his own head. At this instant Bargally came up with some assistants, and, recognising the bonnet, charged the farmer of Bantoberick with having robbed him, and took him into custody. There being some likeness between the parties, Bargally persisted in his charge, and, though the respectability of the farmer’s character was proved or admitted, his trial before the Circuit Court came on accordingly. The fatal bonnet lay on the table of the court. Bargally swore that it was the identical article worn by the man who robbed him; and he and others likewise deponed that they had found the accused on the spot where the crime was committed, with the bonnet on his head. The case looked gloomily for the prisoner, and the opinion of the judge seemed unfavourable. But there was a person in court who knew well both who did and who did not commit the crime. This was the Caird of Barullion, who, thrusting himself up to the bar near the place where Bargally was standing, suddenly seized on the bonnet, put it on his head, and, looking the Laird full in the face, asked him, with a voice which attracted the attention of the court and crowded audience–’Look at me, sir, and tell me, by the oath you have sworn–Am not _I_ the man who robbed you between Carsphairn and Dalmellington?’ Bargally replied, in great astonishment, ‘By Heaven! you are the very man.’ ‘You see what sort of memory this gentleman has,’ said the volunteer pleader; ‘he swears to the bonnet whatever features are under it. If you yourself, my Lord, will put it on your head, he will be willing to swear that your Lordship was the party who robbed him between Carsphairn and Dalmellington.’ The tenant of Bantoberick was unanimously acquitted; and thus Willie Marshal ingeniously contrived to save an innocent man from danger, without incurring any himself, since Bargally’s evidence must have seemed to every one too fluctuating to be relied upon.

While the King of the Gipsies was thus laudably occupied, his royal consort, Flora, contrived, it is said, to steal the hood from the judge’s gown; for which offence, combined with her presumptive guilt as a gipsy, she was banished to New England, whence she never returned.

Now, I cannot grant that the idea of Meg Merrilies was, in the first concoction of the character, derived from Flora Marshal, seeing I have already said she was identified with Jean Gordon, and as I have not the Laird of Bargally’s apology for charging the same fact on two several individuals. Yet I am quite content that Meg should be considered as a representative of her sect and class in general, Flora as well as others.

The other instances in which my Gallovidian readers have obliged me by assigning to

Airy nothing A local habitation and a name,

shall also be sanctioned so far as the Author may be entitled to do so. I think the facetious Joe Miller records a case pretty much in point; where the keeper of a museum, while showing, as he said, the very sword with which Balaam was about to kill his ass, was interrupted by one of the visitors, who reminded him that Balaam was not possessed of a sword, but only wished for one. ‘True, sir,’ replied the ready-witted cicerone; ‘but this is the very sword he wished for.’ The Author, in application of this story, has only to add that, though ignorant of the coincidence between the fictions of the tale and some real circumstances, he is contented to believe he must unconsciously have thought or dreamed of the last while engaged in the composition of Guy Mannering.

CHAPTER I

He could not deny that, looking round upon the dreary region, and seeing nothing but bleak fields and naked trees, hills obscured by fogs, and flats covered with inundations, he did for some time suffer melancholy to prevail upon him, and wished himself again safe at home. –’Travels of Will. Marvel,’ IDLER, No. 49.

It was in the beginning of the month of November 17–when a young English gentleman, who had just left the university of Oxford, made use of the liberty afforded him to visit some parts of the north of England; and curiosity extended his tour into the adjacent frontier of the sister country. He had visited, on the day that opens our history, some monastic ruins in the county of Dumfries, and spent much of the day in making drawings of them from different points, so that, on mounting his horse to resume his journey, the brief and gloomy twilight of the season had already commenced. His way lay through a wide tract of black moss, extending for miles on each side and before him. Little eminences arose like islands on its surface, bearing here and there patches of corn, which even at this season was green, and sometimes a hut or farm-house, shaded by a willow or two and surrounded by large elder-bushes. These insulated dwellings communicated with each other by winding passages through the moss, impassable by any but the natives themselves. The public road, however, was tolerably well made and safe, so that the prospect of being benighted brought with it no real danger. Still it is uncomfortable to travel alone and in the dark through an unknown country; and there are few ordinary occasions upon which Fancy frets herself so much as in a situation like that of Mannering.

As the light grew faint and more faint, and the morass appeared blacker and blacker, our traveller questioned more closely each chance passenger on his distance from the village of Kippletringan, where he proposed to quarter for the night. His queries were usually answered by a counter-challenge respecting the place from whence he came. While sufficient daylight remained to show the dress and appearance of a gentleman, these cross interrogatories were usually put in the form of a case supposed, as, ‘Ye’ll hae been at the auld abbey o’ Halycross, sir? there’s mony English gentlemen gang to see that.’–Or, ‘Your honour will become frae the house o’ Pouderloupat?’ But when the voice of the querist alone was distinguishable, the response usually was, ‘Where are ye coming frae at sic a time o’ night as the like o’ this?’–or, ‘Ye’ll no be o’ this country, freend?’ The answers, when obtained, were neither very reconcilable to each other nor accurate in the information which they afforded. Kippletringan was distant at first ‘a gey bit’; then the ‘gey bit’ was more accurately described as ‘ablins three mile’; then the ‘three mile’ diminished into ‘like a mile and a bittock’; then extended themselves into ‘four mile or thereawa’; and, lastly, a female voice, having hushed a wailing infant which the spokeswoman carried in her arms, assured Guy Mannering, ‘It was a weary lang gate yet to Kippletringan, and unco heavy road for foot passengers.’ The poor hack upon which Mannering was mounted was probably of opinion that it suited him as ill as the female respondent; for he began to flag very much, answered each application of the spur with a groan, and stumbled at every stone (and they were not few) which lay in his road.

Mannering now grew impatient. He was occasionally betrayed into a deceitful hope that the end of his journey was near by the apparition of a twinkling light or two; but, as he came up, he was disappointed to find that the gleams proceeded from some of those farm-houses which occasionally ornamented the surface of the extensive bog. At length, to complete his perplexity, he arrived at a place where the road divided into two. If there had been light to consult the relics of a finger-post which stood there, it would have been of little avail, as, according to the good custom of North Britain, the inscription had been defaced shortly after its erection. Our adventurer was therefore compelled, like a knight-errant of old, to trust to the sagacity of his horse, which, without any demur, chose the left-hand path, and seemed to proceed at a somewhat livelier pace than before, affording thereby a hope that he knew he was drawing near to his quarters for the evening. This hope, however, was not speedily accomplished, and Mannering, whose impatience made every furlong seem three, began to think that Kippletringan was actually retreating before him in proportion to his advance.

It was now very cloudy, although the stars from time to time shed a twinkling and uncertain light. Hitherto nothing had broken the silence around him but the deep cry of the bog-blitter, or bull-of-the-bog, a large species of bittern, and the sighs of the wind as it passed along the dreary morass. To these was now joined the distant roar of the ocean, towards which the traveller seemed to be fast approaching. This was no circumstance to make his mind easy. Many of the roads in that country lay along the sea-beach, and were liable to be flooded by the tides, which rise with great height, and advance with extreme rapidity. Others were intersected with creeks and small inlets, which it was only safe to pass at particular times of the tide. Neither circumstance would have suited a dark night, a fatigued horse, and a traveller ignorant of his road. Mannering resolved, therefore, definitively to halt for the night at the first inhabited place, however poor, he might chance to reach, unless he could procure a guide to this unlucky village of Kippletringan.

A miserable hut gave him an opportunity to execute his purpose. He found out the door with no small difficulty, and for some time knocked without producing any other answer than a duet between a female and a cur-dog, the latter yelping as if he would have barked his heart out, the other screaming in chorus. By degrees the human tones predominated; but the angry bark of the cur being at the instant changed into a howl, it is probable something more than fair strength of lungs had contributed to the ascendency.

‘Sorrow be in your thrapple then!’ these were the first articulate words, ‘will ye no let me hear what the man wants, wi’ your yaffing?’

‘Am I far from Kippletringan, good dame?’

‘Frae Kippletringan!!!’ in an exalted tone of wonder, which we can but faintly express by three points of admiration. ‘Ow, man! ye should hae hadden eassel to Kippletringan; ye maun gae back as far as the whaap, and baud the whaap till ye come to Ballenloan, and then–’

‘This will never do, good dame! my horse is almost quite knocked up; can you not give me a night’s lodgings?’

‘Troth can I no; I am a lone woman, for James he’s awa to Drumshourloch Fair with the year-aulds, and I daurna for my life open the door to ony o’ your gang-there-out sort o’ bodies.’

‘But what must I do then, good dame? for I can’t sleep here upon the road all night.’

‘Troth, I kenna, unless ye like to gae down and speer for quarters at the Place. I’se warrant they’ll tak ye in, whether ye be gentle or semple.’

‘Simple enough, to be wandering here at such a time of night,’ thought Mannering, who was ignorant of the meaning of the phrase; ‘but how shall I get to the PLACE, as you call it?’

‘Ye maun baud wessel by the end o’ the loan, and take tent o’ the jaw-hole.’

‘O, if ye get to eassel and wessel again, I am undone! Is there nobody that could guide me to this Place? I will pay him handsomely.’

The word pay operated like magic. ‘Jock, ye villain,’ exclaimed the voice from the interior, ‘are ye lying routing there, and a young gentleman seeking the way to the Place? Get up, ye fause loon, and show him the way down the muckle loaning. He’ll show you the way, sir, and I’se warrant ye’ll be weel put up; for they never turn awa naebody frae the door; and ye ‘ll be come in the canny moment, I’m thinking, for the laird’s servant–that’s no to say his body-servant, but the helper like–rade express by this e’en to fetch the houdie, and he just staid the drinking o’ twa pints o’ tippenny to tell us how my leddy was ta’en wi’ her pains.’

‘Perhaps,’ said Mannering, ‘at such a time a stranger’s arrival might be inconvenient?’

‘Hout, na, ye needna be blate about that; their house is muckle eneugh, and decking time’s aye canty time.’

By this time Jock had found his way into all the intricacies of a tattered doublet and more tattered pair of breeches, and sallied forth, a great white-headed, bare-legged, lubberly boy of twelve years old, so exhibited by the glimpse of a rush-light which his half-naked mother held in such a manner as to get a peep at the stranger without greatly exposing herself to view in return. Jock moved on westward by the end of the house, leading Mannering’s horse by the bridle, and piloting with some dexterity along the little path which bordered the formidable jaw-hole, whose vicinity the stranger was made sensible of by means of more organs than one. His guide then dragged the weary hack along a broken and stony cart-track, next over a ploughed field, then broke down a slap, as he called it, in a drystone fence, and lugged the unresisting animal through the breach, about a rood of the simple masonry giving way in the splutter with which he passed. Finally, he led the way through a wicket into something which had still the air of an avenue, though many of the trees were felled. The roar of the ocean was now near and full, and the moon, which began to make her appearance, gleamed on a turreted and apparently a ruined mansion of considerable extent. Mannering fixed his eyes upon it with a disconsolate sensation.

‘Why, my little fellow,’ he said, ‘this is a ruin, not a house?’

‘Ah, but the lairds lived there langsyne; that’s Ellangowan Auld Place. There’s a hantle bogles about it; but ye needna be feared, I never saw ony mysell, and we’re just at the door o’ the New Place.’

Accordingly, leaving the ruins on the right, a few steps brought the traveller in front of a modern house of moderate size, at which his guide rapped with great importance. Mannering told his circumstances to the servant; and the gentleman of the house, who heard his tale from the parlour, stepped forward and welcomed the stranger hospitably to Ellangowan. The boy, made happy with half-a-crown, was dismissed to his cottage, the weary horse was conducted to a stall, and Mannering found himself in a few minutes seated by a comfortable supper, for which his cold ride gave him a hearty appetite.

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