Title: Walladmor, Vol. 1 (of 2)
Author: Willibald Alexis
Dubious author: Walter Scott
Translator: Thomas De Quincey
Release date: March 8, 2010 [eBook #31563]
Most recently updated: January 6, 2021
Credits: Produced by Charles Bowen, from scans obtained for the Internet Archive
1. Scans provided by The Web Archive:
The 3-volume German original was fictitiously attributed to Sir Walter Scott, but actually written by G.W.H. Häring (under the pseud. of Willibald Alexis). It was freely adapted into English by Thomas De Quincey.
My root is earthed; and I, a desolate branch,
Left scattered in the highway of the world,
Trod under foot, that might have been a column
Mainly supporting our demolished house.--Massinger.
The following novel was originally produced in the German language, as a soi disant translation from Sir Walter Scott, to meet the demands of the last Easter fair at Leipsic.
In Germany, from the extreme difficulties and slowness of communication between remote parts of the country, it would be altogether impossible to effect the publication of books, upon the vast scale of the current German literature, without some such general rendezvous and place of depot and exchange as the Leipsic fair presents to the dispersed members of the publishing body. By means of this fair (which is held half-yearly--at Easter and Michaelmas) a connexion is established between the remotest points of the German continent--which, in a literary sense, comprehends many parts of Europe that politically are wholly distinct from Germany. The publishers of Vienna, Trieste, and Munich, here meet with those of Hamburgh and Dresden, of Berlin and Königsburg: Copenhagen and Stockholm send their representatives: and the booksellers of Warsaw and even of Moscow are brought into direct contact with the agents of the foreign booksellers in London.
Hence, as may be supposed, it is an object of much importance that all books, which found any part of their interest upon their novelty, should be brought out at this time: and something or other is generally looked for from the pen of every popular writer as a means of giving zest and seasoning to the heavy Mess-Catalog. If it happens therefore upon any account that an author fails to meet these expectations of the Leipsic fair,--obliging persons are often at hand who step forward as his proxy by forging something in his name. This pleasant hoax it was at length judged convenient to practise upon the author of Waverley; the Easter fair offering a favourable opportunity for such an attempt, from the circumstance of there being just then no acknowledged novel in the market from the pen of that writer which was sufficiently recent to gratify the wishes of the fair or to throw suspicion upon the pretensions of the hoaxer. These pretensions, it is asserted, for some time passed unquestioned; and the good people of Germany, as we are assured, were universally duped. A work, produced to the German public and circulated with success under such assumptions, must naturally excite some curiosity in this country; to gratify which it has been judged proper to translate it.
It may be as well to add that the name "Walladmor" is accented upon the first syllable, and not upon the penultimate, by the German author; who may reasonably be allowed to dictate the pronunciation of names invented by himself.
FOOTNOTE TO "ADVERTISEMENT TO THE READER":
 Many literary men of Russia, Denmark, &c write indifferently in their native or the German languages.
W----s, the German 'Translator' of Walladmor.
Having some intention of speaking rather freely of you and your German 'Translation' in a postscript to the second volume of my English one--I am shy of sending a presentation copy to Berlin: neither you, nor your publisher, Herr Herbig, might relish all that I may take it into my head to say. Yet, as books sometimes travel far,--if you should ever happen to meet with mine knocking about the world in Germany, I would wish you to know that I have endeavoured to make you what amends I could for any little affront which I meditate in that Postscript by dedicating my English translation to yourself.
You will be surprised to observe that your three corpulent German volumes have collapsed into two English ones of rather consumptive appearance. The English climate, you see, does not agree with them: and they have lost flesh as rapidly as Captain le Harnois in Chapter the Eighth. The truth is this: on examining your ship, I found that the dry rot had got into her: she might answer the helm pretty well in your milder waters; but I was convinced that upon our stormy English seas she would founder, unless I flung overboard part of her heavy ballast, and cut away some of her middle timbers, which (I assure you) were mere touchwood. I did so; and she righted in a moment: and now, that I have driven a few new bolts into her--'calked' her--and 'payed' her, I am in hopes she will prove sea-worthy for a voyage or so.
We have a story in England, rather trite here, and a sort of philosophic common-place, like Buridan's 'Ass between two bundles of hay,' but possibly unknown in Germany: and, as it is pertinent to the case between ourselves, I will tell it: the more so, as it involves a metaphysical question; and such questions, you know, go up to you people in Germany from all parts of Europe as to "the courts above."----Sir John Cutler had a pair of silk stockings: which stockings his housekeeper Dolly continually darned for the term of three years with worsted: at the end of which term the last faint gleam of silk had finally vanished, and Sir John's silk stockings were found in their old age absolutely to have degenerated into worsted stockings. Now upon this a question arose among the metaphysicians--whether Sir John's stockings retained (or, if not, at what precise period they lost) their "personal identity." The moralists also were anxious to know whether Sir John's stockings could be considered the same "accountable" stockings from first to last. And the lawyers put the same question in another shape by asking--whether any felony, which Sir John's stockings could be supposed to have committed in youth, might lawfully be the subject of an indictment against Sir John's stockings when superannuated: whether a legacy, left to the stockings in the second year, could be claimed by the stockings at the end of the third: and whether the worsted stockings could be sued for the debts of the silk stockings.--Some such question, I conceive, will arise upon your account of St. David's Day, as darned by myself.
But here, My good Sir, stop a moment: I must not have you interpret the precedent of Sir John and Dolly too strictly: Sir John's stockings were originally of silk, and darned with worsted: but don't conceit that to be the case here. No, no, my good Sir;--I flatter myself the case between us is just the other way: your worsted stockings it is that I have darned with silk: and the relations, which I and Dolly bear to you and Sir John, are precisely inverted.
What could induce you to dress good St. David in an old threadbare coat, it passes my skill to guess: it is enough that I am sure it would give general disgust; and therefore I have not only made him a present of a new coat, but have also put a little embroidery upon it. And I really think I shall astonish the good folks in Merionethshire by my account of that saint's festival. In my young days I wandered much in that beautiful shire and other shires which he contiguous: and many a kind thing was done to me in poor men's cottages which to my dying day I shall never be able to repay individually: hence, as occasions offer, I would seek to make my acknowledgments generally to the county. Upon Penmorfa sands I once had an interesting adventure, and I have accordingly commemorated Penmorfa. To the little town of Machynleth I am indebted for various hospitalities: and I think they will acknowledge that they are indebted to me exclusively for their mayor and corporation. And there are others in that neighbourhood that, when they read of St. David's day, will hardly know whether they are standing on their head or their heels. As to the Bishop of Bangor of those days, I owed his lordship no particular favor: and I have here taken my vengeance on that see for ever by making it do suit and service to the house of Walladmor.
But enough of St. David's day. There are some other little changes which I have been obliged to make in deference to the taste of this country. In the case of Captain le Harnois it appears to me that, from imperfect knowledge of the English language, you have confounded the words 'sailor' and 'tailor'; for you make the Captain talk exactly like the latter. There is however a great deal of difference in the habits of the two animals according to our English natural histories: and I have therefore slightly retouched the Captain, and curled his whiskers. I have also taken the liberty, in the seventh chapter, of curing Miss Walladmor of an hysterical affection: what purpose it answered, I believe you would find it hard to say: and I am sure she has enough to bear without that.
Your geography, let me tell you, was none of the best: and I have repaired it myself. It was in fact a damaged lot. Something the public will bear: topographical sins dwindle into peccadilloes in a romance; and no candid people look very sharply after the hydrography of a novel. But still it did strike me--that the case of a man's swimming on his back from Bristol to the Isle of Anglesea, was more than the most indulgent public would bear. They would not stand it, Sir, I was convinced. Besides, it would have exposed me to attacks from Mr. Barrow of the Admiralty, in the Quarterly Review: especially as I had taken liberties with Mr. Croker in a note.--Your chronology was almost equally out of order: but I put that into the hands of an eminent watchmaker; and he assures me that he has 'regulated' it, and will warrant its now going as true as the Horse Guards'.
Well, to conclude: I am not quite sure but we ought to be angry at your taking these sort of hoaxing liberties with our literati; and I don't know but some of us will be making reprisals. What should you say to it in Germany if one of these days for example you were to receive a large parcel by the 'post-wagen' containing Posthumous Works of Mr. Kant. I won't swear but I shall make up such a parcel myself: and, if I should, I bet you any thing you choose that I hoax the great Bavarian professor with a treatise on the "Categorical Imperative," and "The last words of Mr. Kant on Transcendental Apperception."--Look about you, therefore, my gay fellows in Germany: for, if I live, you shall not have all the hoaxing to yourselves.
Meantime, "mine dear Sare," could you not translate me back again into German; and darn me as I have darned you? But you must not "sweat" me down in the same ratio that I have "sweated" you: for, if you do that, I fear that my "dimensions will become invisible to any thick sight" in Germany; and I shall "present no mark" to the critical enemy. Darn me into two portly volumes: and then I give you my word of honor that I will again translate you into English, and darn you in such grand style that, if Dolly and Professor Kant were both to rise from the dead, Dolly should grow jealous of me--and Kant confess himself more puzzled on the matter of personal identity by the final Walladmor than ever he had been by the Cutlerian stockings.
Jusqu'au revoir! my dear principal: hoping that you will soon invest me with that character in relation to yourself; and sign, as it is now my turn to sign,
(but not quite faithful),
FOOTNOTE TO "DEDICATION":
 Mr. Schelling: for whom however, without any joke at all, I profess the very highest respect.
Sir,--Uncommon it may certainly be, but surely not a thing quite unheard of, that a translator should dedicate his translation to the author of the original work: and, the translation here offered to your notice--being, as the writer flatters himself, by no means a common one,--he is the more encouraged to take this very uncommon liberty.
Ah Sir Walter!--did you but know to what straits the poor German translator of Walter-Scottish novels is reduced, you would pardon greater liberties than this. Ecoutez. First of all, comes the bookseller and cheapens a translator in the very cheapest market of translation-jobbers that can be supposed likely to do any justice to the work. Next,--the sheets, dripping wet as they arrive by every post from the Edinburgh press, must be translated just as they stand with or without sense or connexion. Nay it happens not unfrequently that, if a sheet should chance to end with one or two syllables of an unfinished word, we are obliged to translate this first instalment of a future meaning; and, by the time the next sheet arrives with the syllables in arrear, we first learn into what confounded scrapes we have fallen by guessing and translating at hap-hazard. Nomina sunt odiosa: else--but I shall content myself with reminding the public of the well-known and sad mishap that occurred in the translation of Kenilworth. In another instance the sheet unfortunately closed thus:--"to save himself from these disasters, he became an agent of Smith-;" and we all translated--"um sich aus diesen trübseligkeiten zu erretten, wurde er Agent bei einem Schmiedemeister;" that is, "he became foreman to a blacksmith." Now sad it is to tell what followed: we had dashed at it, and waited in trembling hope for the result: next morning's post arrived, and showed that all Germany had been basely betrayed by a catch-word of Mr. Constable's. For the next sheet took up the imperfect and embryo catch-word thus:--"field matches, or marriages contracted fur the sake of money;" and the whole Gasman sentence should have been repaired and put to rights as follows: "Er negocirte, um sich aufzuhelfen, die sogenannten Smithfields heirathen oder Ehen, welche des Gewinnstes wegen geschlossen werden:" I say, it should have been: but woe is me! it was too late: the translated sheet had been already printed off with the blacksmith in it (lord confound him!); and the blacksmith is there to this day, and cannot be ejected.
You see, Sir Walter, into what "sloughs of despond" we German translators fall--with the sad necessity of dragging your honor after us. Yet this is but a part of the general woe. When you hear in every bookseller's shop throughout Germany one unanimous complaint of the non-purchasing public and of those great profit-absorbing whirlpools, the circulating libraries,--in short all possible causes of diminished sale on the one hand; and on the other hand the forestalling spirit of competition among the translation-jobbers, bidding over each other's heads as at an auction, where the translation is knocked down to him that will contract for bringing his wares soonest to market;--hearing all this, Sir Walter, you will perceive that our old German proverb "Eile mit Weile," (i.e. Festina lente, or the more haste, the less speed) must in this case, where haste happens to be the one great qualification and sine-quâ-non of a translator, be thrown altogether into the shade by that other proverb--"Wer zuerst kommt mahlt zuerst" (First come first served).
I for my part, that I might not lie so wholly at the mercy of this tyrant--Haste, struck out a fresh path--in which you, Sir, were so obliging as to assist me. But see what new troubles arise out of this to the unhappy translator. The world pretends to doubt whether the novel is really yours: people actually begin to talk of your friend Washington Irving as the author, and God knows whom beside. As if any man, poets out of the question, could be supposed capable of an act of self-sacrifice so severe as that of writing a romance in 3 vols. under the name of a friend.
All this tends to drive us translators to utter despair. However I, in my garret, comfort myself by exclaiming "Odi profanum--," if I cannot altogether subjoin--"et arceo." From your obliging disposition, Sir Walter, I anticipate the gratification of a few lines by the next post establishing the authenticity of Walladmor. Should these lines even not be duly certified "coram notario duobusque testibus," yet if transmitted through the embassy--they will sufficiently attest their own legitimacy as well as that of your youngest child Walladmor.
Notwithstanding what I have said about haste, I fear that haste has played me a trick here and there. The fact is--we are in dread of three simultaneous translations of Walladmor from three different publishers: and you will hardly believe how much the anxiety lest another translation should get the start of us can shake the stoutest of translating hearts. The names of Lindau--Methusalem Müller--Dr. Spieker--Von Halem--and Loz sound awfully in the ears of us gentlemen of the trade. And now, alas! as many more are crowding into this Quinquevirate.
Should it happen that the recent versions of your works had not entirely satisfied your judgment, and that mine of Walladmor had,--I would in that case esteem myself greatly flattered by your again sending me through the house of B---- a copy of the manuscript of your next romance; in provision for which case I do here by anticipation acknowledge my obligations to you; and in due form of law bind myself over:
1. To the making good all expenses of "copy," &c.;
2. To the translation of both prose and verse according to the best of my poor abilities; that your eminent name may not fall into discredit through the translator's incompetence;
3. To all possible affection, friendship, respect, &c. in so far as you yourself shall be pleased to accept of any or all of these from
The German Translator of Walladmor.
FOOTNOTES TO "GERMAN DEDICATION":
 Oh! spirit of modern scepticism, to what shocking results art thou leading us! Already have Lycurgus, Romulus, Numa, &c. been resolved into mere allegorized ideas. And a learned friend has undertaken to prove, within the next 50 years, according to the best rules of modern scepsis, that no such banker as Mr. Rothschild ever existed; that the word Rothschild in fact was nothing more than a symbolic expression for a habit of advancing loans at the beginning of the 19th century: which indeed the word itself indicates, if reduced to its roots. I should not be surprized to hear that some man had undertaken to demonstrate the non-existence of Sir Walter Scott: already there are symptoms abroad: for the mysterious author of Waverley has in our own days been detected in the persons of so many poets and historians the most opposite to each other, that by this time his personality must have been evaporated and volatilized into a whole synod of men.--Note of the Dedicator.
 Names of persons who have translated one or more of Sir Walter Scott's novels into German.
|Shipwreck and Storm.||1|
|Captain le Harnois.||47|
|Welch Coast at Christmas.||73|
|Night Walk to Machynleth.||101|
|Bar of the Walladmor Arms.||125|
|St. David's Day.||161|
|Suitors in Court, and Suitors out of Court.||191|
|Funeral of Captain le Harnois.||219|
As when a dolphin and a sele are met
In the wide champian of the ocean plaine,
With cruell chaufe their courages they whet,
The maysterdome of each by force to gaine,
And dreadfull battaile twixt them do darraine;
They snuf, they snort, they bounce, they rage, they rore,
That all: the sea, disturbed with their traine,
Doth frie with fome above the surges hore:
Such was betwixt these two the troublesome uprore.
Faerie Queene.--B. v. C. ii.
Perhaps the reader may still remember the following article in the Times newspaper, which about a year or two ago raised a powerful interest on the Welch coast.
"Carnarvon.-Yesterday the inhabitants of this city were witnesses to a grand but afflicting spectacle from the highlands of the coast. The steam-vessel, Halcyon, from the Isle of Wight, and bound to the north coast of Wales, was suddenly in mid-channel--when not a breath of wind ruffled the surface of the sea--driven into our bay. Scarcely had she rounded the point of Harlech when we beheld a column of smoke rising; and in a moment after a dreadful report, echoing from the mountains, made known that the powder magazine was blown up, and the ship shattered into fragments. The barks, which crowded to the spot from all quarters, found nothing but floating spars; and were soon compelled to return by the coming-on of a dreadful hurricane. Of the whole crew, and of sixty passengers (chiefly English people returning from France), not one is saved. It is said that a very atrocious criminal was on board the Halcyon. We look with the utmost anxiety for the details of this melancholy event."
To the grief of several noble families in England, this account was confirmed in its most dreadful circumstances. Some days after the bodies of Lord W----, and of Sir O---- ---- (that distinguished ornament for so long a period of the House of Commons), were found upon the rocks. So much were they disfigured, that it was with difficulty they were recognized.
On that day there stood upon the deck of the Halcyon a young man, who gazed on the distant coasts of Wales apparently with deep emotion. From this reverie he was suddenly roused as the ship whirled round with a hideous heaving. He turned, as did all the other passengers who had been attracted on deck by the beauty of the evening, to the man at the helm. He was in the act of stretching out his arms to the centre of the ship, whence a cloud of smoke was billowing upwards in voluminous surges: the passengers turned pale: the sailors began to swear: "It's all over!" they shouted: "old Davy has us. So huzza! let's have some sport as long as he leaves us any day-light." Amidst an uproar of voices the majority of the crew rushed below; stove in the brandy-casks; drank every thing they could find; and paid no sort of regard to the clamorous outcries of the passengers for help! help! except that here and there a voice replied--Help? There is no help: Old Nick will swallow us all; so let us swallow a little comfort first.
The master of the vessel, who retained most presence of mind, hurried on deck. With his sabre he made a cut at the ropes which suspended the boat: and, as he passed Bertram, the young man already mentioned (who in preparation for the approaching catastrophe had buckled about his person a small portmanteau and stood ready to leap into the boat), with a blow of his fist he struck him overboard. All this was the work of a minute.
Scarcely had the young man been swept to a little distance by a wave, when the ship blew up with a tremendous crash. The shattered ruins were carried aloft to an immense elevation: Bertram was stunned by the explosion: and, upon recovering his senses, he saw no object upon the surface of the waters: the ship had vanished; and nothing remained but a few spars floating in the offing.
Urgent distress throws us back upon our real and unfanciful wants. In the peril of the moment Bertram forgot all the prospects, sad or gay--painful or flattering, which had occupied his thoughts on board the ship; and exerted his utmost force to swim through the tumbling billows to a barrel at a little distance which appeared and disappeared at intervals, sometimes riding aloft, and sometimes hidden by the waves. At the moment when his powers began to fail him, he succeeded in reaching the barrel.--But scarcely had he laid hold of the outermost rim with both hands, when the barrel was swayed down from the opposite side. A shipwrecked man, whose long wet hair streamed down over his face, fixed his nails, as it were the talons of a vulture, on the hoops of the barrel; and by the energy of his gripe--it seemed as though he would have pressed them through the wood itself.--He was aware of his competitor: and he shook his head wildly to clear the hair out of his eyes--and opened his lips, which displayed his teeth pressed firmly together.
"No: though the d--l himself,--thou must down into the sea: for the barrel will not support both."
So speaking he shook the barrel with such force--that the young man, had he not been struggling with death, would have been pushed under water. Both pulled at the barrel for some minutes, without either succeeding in hoisting himself upon it.--In any further contest they seemed likely to endanger themselves or to sink together with the cask. They agreed therefore to an armistice. Each kept his hold by his right hand,--each raised his left aloft, and shouted for succour. But they shouted in vain; for the storm advanced, as if it heard and were summoned by the cry; the sky was black and portentously lurid; thunder now began to roll; and the waves, which had hardly moved before the explosion, raised their heads crested with foam more turbulently at every instant. "It is in vain," said the second man; "Heaven and Earth are against us: one or both must perish: Messmate, shall we go down together?"
At these words the wild devil all at once left loose of the barrel; by which means the other, who had not anticipated this movement, lost his balance, and was sinking. His antagonist made use of his opportunity. He dashed at the sinking man's throat--in order to drag him entirely under the water; but he caught only his neck-handkerchief, which luckily gave way. The other thus murderously assaulted, on finding himself at liberty for an instant, used his time, and sprang upon the barrel; and just as his desperate enemy was hazarding a new attack, in a death struggle he struck him with his clenched fist upon the breast; the wild man threw up his arms; groaned; sank back;--and the waves swallowed him up.
In the moments of mortal agony and conflict human laws cease, for punishments have lost their terrors; even higher laws are then silent. But, in the pauses of the struggle, the voice of conscience resumes its power,--and the heart of man again relents. As Bertram went rocking over the waves numbed in body and exhausted in spirits, all about him hideous gloom, and the fitful flashes of lightning serving but to light up the great world of terrors--this inner voice was not so silenced but that he felt a pang of sorrow at the thought of having destroyed the partner of his misfortunes. A few minutes however had scarcely passed before he heard a groaning near him. Happily at this instant a flash of lightning illuminated the surrounding tract of water; and he descried his antagonist still fighting with the waves: he was holding by a spar too weak to support his weight, but capable of assisting him in swimming. His powers were apparently failing him, as he looked up to his more fortunate enemy: He stretched out his hand to him, and said:
"Stranger! show me this pity. All is over with me; or in a moment will be: should you have a happier fate, take from my pocket-book this letter--and convey it to the lady. Oh! if thou hast ever loved, I beseech thee to do this: tell her that I never ceased to think of her--that I thought of her only when I was at the point of death: and, whatsoever I may have been to man, that to her I have been most faithful." With frantic efforts he strove to unclasp his pocket-book: but could not succeed. Bertram was deeply touched by the pallid and ghastly countenance of the man (in whose features however there was a wild and licentious expression which could not be mistaken); and he said to him:
"Friend below, if I should have better luck, I will endeavour to execute your commission. Meantime I can swim; and I have now rested myself. Give me your hand. You may come aloft; and I will take a turn in the waters until I am tired. In this way, by taking turn about, possibly both of us may be saved."
"What!" cried the other--"are you crazy? Or are there really men upon this earth such as books describe?"
"No matter:" said Bertram, "give me your hand; and spring up. I will catch at the barrel when I feel weak."
The other grasped the outstretched hand; and, supporting himself for a few moments upon his elbows, gradually ascended the barrel. Bertram, on his part, resigning the portmanteau to his companion, slipped off into the waves.
Meanwhile the storm continued, and the natural darkness of night was now blended with the darkness of tempest. After some minutes, the man, who was at present in possession of the barrel, began thus:
"You fool, below there, are you still alive?"
"Yes: but I am faint, and would wish to catch hold of the barrel again."
"Catch away then:--Do you know any thing of the sea hereabouts?"
"No: it was the first time in my life that I was ever on shipboard."
The other laughed. "You don't know it? Well! now I do: and I can tell you this: there's no manner of use in our plaguing ourselves, and spending the last strength we have in keeping ourselves afloat. I know this same sea as well as I know my own country: and I am satisfied that no deliverance is possible. There is not a spot of shore that we can reach--not a point of rock big enough for a sea-mew; and the only question for us is--whether we shall enter the fishes' maw alive or dead."
"It is still possible," said the other--"that some human brother may come to our assistance."
The other laughed again and said--"Human brother, eh? Methinks, my friend, you should be rather young in this world of ours--and have no great acquaintance with master man: I know the animal: and you may take my word for it, that, on such a night as this, no soul will venture out to sea. What man of sense indeed would hazard his life--for a couple of ragamuffins like you and me? and suppose he would, who knows but that it might be worse to fall into the hands of some men of sense than into the tender mercies of the sea? But I know a trick worth two of that."
"Tell it then."
"Let us leave fooling: This cask, on which I sit, to my knowledge contains rum; or arrack; which is as good. We can easily knock a hole in it; then make ourselves happy and bouzy--fling our arms about each other like brothers, and go down together to the bottom: after that, I think we shall neither trouble nor be troubled; for we shall hardly come up again, if we go down groggy."
"Shocking? why that's suicide!"
"Well! is your conscience so delicate and scrupulous? However as you please: for any thing I care, and as you like it better, some dog of a fish may do for us what we might as well have done for ourselves. But now come aloft, my darling. I'll take my turn at swimming--as long as the state of things will allow it; and wait for you below." They changed situations.--But even upon the barrel, Bertram began to feel his powers sinking. He clung as firmly as he could. But the storm grew more and more terrific: and many times he felt faint in his wild descents from the summit of some mounting wave into the yawning chasm below: Nature is benign even in the midst of her terrors: and, when horrors have been accumulated till man can bear no more, then his sufferings are relieved for a time by insensibility. On awakening it is true that the horrors will return; but the heart has gained fresh strength to support them.
So it fared with Bertram, who continued to grow fainter and fainter; until at length in the midst of silent prayer he finally lost all consciousness.
When Bertram next awoke from his fainting fit, he heard the sea no longer thundering about him, and no longer felt himself tossing upon its waves. There was darkness around him, but not the darkness of that mighty night which the elements in uproar form. What first met his eyes was the obscure outline of a rude hut. For a long time he stared without consciousness upon the rafters of the ceiling, on which fish and ragged aprons were hung up to dry, and swinging to and fro in the current of air. This monotonous motion, which under other circumstances might have lulled him to sleep like the ticking of a clock, gradually awoke him to entire consciousness. The awful scene, which had just passed over him, came up to his mind in sudden contrast with that bright moment on the deck of the Halcyon in which he had first beheld the coasts of Wales lying in sunshine before him; and his thoughts soon took a coherent arrangement; though he could not yet make out the connexion between the barrel on which he had navigated the ocean and his present bed, nor between that fearful night abroad and the dried herrings and patched aprons which now dangled above him. These thoughts however gave way at this moment to anxiety about his portmanteau. This to his great satisfaction he found beneath his head; and he now turned his attention to the other objects about him.
The cottage was of that humble order which in this kingdom are found only at the extremities of the Scotch Highlands, and tenanted by a race of paupers who gain a scanty subsistence from the limpits and other marine products which they take at low water. The frame-work of the hovel was rudely put together of undressed pine-boughs: the walls were a mixed composition of clay, turf, sea-weed, muscle-shells, and flints: timbers had been laid for the main-beams of a ceiling; but they were not connected by joists, nor covered in; so that the view was left open to the summit of the roof, which being composed of sedge and moss allowed a passage to the wind and rain. In the little room were hanging all kinds of utensils, but in so confused an arrangement and in so dubious a light that Bertram could make out but little of what he saw. The sole light in the hut proceeded from a fire in the corner. But this fire was so sparingly fed, that it seldom blazed up or shot forth a tongue of flame except when a draught of wind swept through; which however happened pretty often. The smoke escaped much less through the chimney than through the chinks of the wall; enveloping every object in a dusky shade, and deepening the gloom. Perfect silence reigned in the house; and no living creature appeared to be present. But once, when the fire happened to shoot forth a livelier gleam, the clouds of smoke parted and discovered a female countenance--old, and with striking features, and fixing a pair of large dark-grey eyes upon a pan or cauldron which hung over the fire. Sometimes, when a cloud of vapour arose from the pan, and collected in a corner into fantastic wreaths, she pursued it with her eyes, and a smile played over her withered cheeks: but, when it dispersed or escaped through the chinks, a low muttering and sometimes a moaning might be distinguished. She had, as Bertram observed, a spinning-wheel between her feet: but busy as her hands seemed, and mechanically in motion, it was evident that she did little or no work. At intervals she sang: but what she sang was more like a low muttered chaunt, than a regular song: at least Bertram understood not a word of it, if words they were that escaped her.
After one of these chaunts, the old woman rose suddenly from her seat, wrung her hands, seemed to trace strange circles in the air, and then scattered some substance into the fire which raised a sudden burst of flames that curled over the cauldron, lit up the house for a few moments, and then roaring up the chimney left all in greater darkness than before. During these few moments however Bertram had time to observe the whole appearance of the woman with some distinctness. She seemed to have the stature of a well-grown man; but her flesh had fallen away so remarkably that the red frieze gown which she wore hung in loose folds about her. Much as Bertram was shocked at first by the spectacle of her harsh bony lineaments, her fiery eye, and her grey disheveled hair,--he yet perceived in her face the traces of former beauty. She raised her bony arms, as if in supplication, to that quarter of the room where Bertram was lying: he perceived however that it was not himself, but some object near him which drew her attention. To his great alarm he now discovered close to himself a chair--the only one in the room,--and sitting upon it some motionless figure in the attitude of a living man. The old woman stretched out her hands with more and more earnestness to this object, as though she looked for some sign from it: but, receiving none, she struck her hands violently together; in a transport of rage upset the spinning-wheel; and fell back into her seat. If Bertram had at first felt compassion on witnessing the expressions of her grief and the anguish of her expectation, this feeling was soon put to flight by the frantic explosion of anger which followed. So great was his consternation that he resolved to attempt escaping unobserved from the cottage; and he first hoped to recover his full self-possession when he should find himself at liberty and in the open air. With this intention, it may be readily imagined how much his consternation was increased on finding himself unable to stir either hand or foot. His head even moved with difficulty: and it seemed as though no faculty had been left unaffected but that of eye-sight, which served but to torment him by bringing before him this scene of terror. He could almost have wished to exchange his present situation for his recent exposure to the fury of the elements. He attempted to sleep; but found himself unable; and after the lapse of two long hours he heard a knocking at the door.
Tit. Fear her not, Lucius; somewhat doth she mean:
Canst thou not guess wherefore she plies thee thus?
Boy. My Lord, I know not, I; nor can I guess;
Unless some fit or frenzy do possess her:
For I have heard my grandsire say full often,
Extremity of griefs would make men mad:
And I have read that Hecuba of Troy
Ran mad through sorrow: that made me to fear.
Tit. Andron.--Act. iv.
The knocking grew louder and louder; but the old woman answered not a word; on the contrary she seemed only the more earnestly intent on her spinning. At length a little rustling was heard; by some artifice the door was unbolted from the outside; and somebody stepped in. Even then the old woman did not stir from her seat; and the man who had entered, flinging down a heap of old drift wood, opened the conversation himself:
"What's the matter now, mother, that you keep me so long waiting?"
"Waiting!" retorted the old woman without raising her eyes from her wheel, "you waiting!--Humph! A pretty waiting I should have, if I were to wait on every idle fellow that knocks."
"Aye, mother; but think of the weather and the frost that----"
"The frost? I tell thee what--a bonnier lad than thou, and one that I loved better far, lies frozen in his grave."
"Well, here's a brave load of wood! I gathered it on the beach."
"Wood! aye, ragged fragments! There's many such drifting about in this world."
"Like enough, mother: and, ragged as they are, there's many a bold fellow with rags on his back that would be glad to warm his hands over them."
"There's one in his grave will never warm himself again." And here the old woman began to mutter her unintelligible songs.
"So!--the old crooning!" said the young man to himself: and, going up to the fire, he said--"Mother, you mind nothing: you've no thought for any of us; and one of these days you'll be doing something or other that will bring the police rats upon us: and then all's up; and we shall all go to the old tree."
"To the tree? go, and welcome! And I'll go with you. All the tribe of you is not worth a hair of him that I knew once. And when the day comes that some are outside and knocking at the door that shall knock (well I wot) one of these days,--and all you are hushed and trembling within, and the proudest of you shaking at the knees,--then comes my time for laughing: and I will open the door, and cry--Here they are!"
The young man muttered something to himself, pushed aside the cauldron, and laid on some faggots and dry wood,--so that the rude hovel was suddenly illuminated with splendour.
"Aye!" said the old woman, "best make a beacon-fire, and light all the constables up hither!"
"Well, better be hanged than freeze!--But, mother--mother, where's the warm broth for the poor perishing soul when he wakes?"
"What!" said the old woman angrily, "shall I go down on my knees, and tend him like a son of my own? Well I remember the day (woe is me!) that they all scoffed at me when I moaned for one that was not a stranger: as God's my help, I'll be no laughing-stock again: it's my turn to laugh next."
"But Nicholas, mother--it's Nicholas that bids us tend him; and our souls are pledged for the stranger's."
"Nicholas! eh? Oh! yes, bonny Nicholas! And his soul is in pledge too. The old one has had him once by the head: and for that time he let him go: but he has him for all that: the noose is fast; and there's no sheers will ever cut that noose."
Without paying any further regard to her words, the young man filled a kettle with water and placed it on the fire: then, shaking the old woman's arm--as if to rouse her (like a child) into some attention to his words--he said to her earnestly:
"Mother Gillie, now boil the sea-man's drink of thyme, ground-ivy, pepper, ginger, honey, brandy, and all that belongs to it--you know how: make it, as you make it for ship-wrecked folk; and give it every hour to the poor soul there: and remember this--mother Gillie's life answers for his."
Like a child that has been told to do something under pain of punishment, the old woman answered--"Aye, aye; thyme, ground-ivy, pepper, ginger"--and went about her work. The young man then came up to the bed; and, laying his hands on Bertram, said--
"Ah, poor soul! he'll never be warm again: the sea has broke over him too roughly: but no matter: mother Gillie must brew the drink, if the man were a corpse; for Nicholas has said it.--Well, mother, God bless you! and another time when a Christian and one of us knocks at the door on a winter's night, sing out--Come in! and, if he should chance to be cold and thirsty, give him a glass of brandy; and think now and then that a living man is made of flesh as well as bones."
"Whither away then, Tom? To Grace, I'll warrant--the wench that has snared thee, and carries thee away from all thy kinsfolk."
"No: I must be gone to the castle; for Sir Morgan hunts in the morning."
"Ah! that Sir Morgan! that Sir Morgan! He wheedles thee, Tom; and to serve him thou leavest thy old mother. He and the young lady, and that lass Grace build houses for thee; but a mother's curse will pull them down."
"Mother, the baronet is my good friend: his father gave mine the oat-field by the shore: his grandfather saved mine from death in Canada: and the Walladmors have still been good masters; and we have still been faithful servants: and, let the white hats say what they will,--them that the quality calls radicals,--my notion is that people should stick to their old masters, and be true to them; and that's best for both sides."
"Go, get thee gone to thy boat,--falsehearted lad; snakes will rear their heads out of the water, and seize on him that honoureth not his parents and that forgetteth his brother!"
Without shewing the least displeasure at these angry words, Tom took his leave; and the old woman now addressed herself in good earnest to the task of preparing the cordial for the young stranger. He meantime had gradually recovered his entire self-possession; and from the conversation between mother and son, most of which he understood, he had drawn conclusions which tended more and more to alarm him at his total loss of power over his limbs. From the expressions of the old woman, which marked an entire indifference about him, he anticipated that she would be apt to mistake his apparent want of animation for a real one; and busied himself with all the horrors which such an error might occasion. But he was mistaken. The old woman followed the directions of her son to the letter. When her preparations were finished, a pleasant odour began to diffuse itself over the house; she drew near to the sick stranger; and rubbed his breast with a handful of the liquor. Almost immediately he felt the genial effects: the muscles of his face relaxed; he breathed more freely; his lips opened; and she poured a few spoonfuls of the cordial down his throat. Then wrapping him up in blankets, she raised him with a strength like that of a stout man rather than of an aged woman, and laid him down by the fire-side. Here the cordial, combined with previous exhaustion and agitation, and the genial warmth of the fire, soon threw him into a profound sleep. He slept as powerless as a child that is rocked by its nurse, lulled by the unintelligible songs which the old woman continued to murmur to her spinning-wheel--and which still echoed through his dreams, though they had lost their power to alarm him.
Some hours he had slumbered, when he suddenly awoke to perfect consciousness and (what gave him still greater satisfaction) to the entire command of his limbs. He unswathed himself from his blankets; stood upright on his feet; and felt a lively sense of power and freedom as he was once more able to stretch out his arms and legs. In the house all was silent. The fire upon the hearth was glimmering with a sullen glow of red light; and it appeared to be about day-break; window there was none; but through a sort of narrow loop-hole penetrated a grey beam of early light. This however lent no aspect of cheerfulness to the hut. On the contrary, the ruddy blaze of a fire had given a more human and habitable (though at the same time more picturesque) air to a dwelling which seemed expressly contrived to shut out the sun and the revelations of day light.--Looking round, he observed that the old woman was asleep: he drew near and touched her: she did not however awaken under the firmest pressure of his hand; but still in dreams continued at intervals to mutter, and to croon snatches of old songs.
An instinctive feeling convinced Bertram that he was a prisoner, and that it would be advisable for him to quit the hut clandestinely: this purpose he prepared to execute as speedily as possible. Without delay he caught up his portmanteau and advanced to the door. It cost him no great trouble to find the bolts, and to draw them without noise. But, on opening the door and shutting it behind him, he found himself in fresh perplexity; for on all sides he was surrounded by precipitous banks of earth, and the faint light of early dawn descended as into a vault through a perforated ceiling. However he discovered in one corner a rude ladder, by means of which he mounted aloft, and now found that the roof of this vault consisted of overarching eglantine, thorn bushes, furze, and a thick growth of weeds and tangled underwood. From this he soon disengaged himself: turning round and finding that the hut had totally disappeared from sight, he now perceived that the main body of the building was concealed in a sort of cleft or small deserted quarry, whilst its roof, irregularly covered over with mosses and wild plants, was sufficiently harmonized with the surrounding brakes, and in some places actually interlaced with them, effectually to prevent all suspicion of human neighbourhood. At this moment a slight covering of snow assisted the disguise: and in summer time a thicket of wild cherry trees, woven into a sort of fortification by an undergrowth of nettles, brambles, and thorns, sufficiently protected the spot from the scrutiny of the curious.
Having wound his way through these perplexities, he found his labour rewarded; for at a little distance before him lay the main ocean. He stood upon the summit of a shingly declivity which was slippery from the recent storm, and intersected by numerous channels; so that he was obliged in his descent to catch hold of the bushes to save himself from falling. The sea was still agitated; the sky was covered with scattered clouds; and in the eastern quarter the sun was just in the act of rising,--not however in majestic serenity, but blood-red and invested with a pomp of clouds, which reflected from their iron-grey the dull ruddy colors of the sun.
"When the sun rises red," said Bertram, "it foreshows stormy weather. Have I then not had storms enough in this life?"--He looked down upon the sea, and saw the waves as they rolled to shore bringing with them spars, sails, cordage, &c., which either dashed to pieces against the rocks, or by the reflux of the waves were carried back into the sea.
"Strange!" said he, "what has with difficulty escaped the sea--after struggling fruitlessly for preservation--is destroyed in a moment or carried back into the scene of its conflicts. Is not this the image of my own lot? With what mysterious yearning did I long for England! All the difficulties which threatened me on the Continent I surmounted--only to struggle for my life as I came within view of the English shores, to witness the barbarizing effects upon human kindness of death approaching in its terrors, and at last perhaps to find myself a helpless outcast summoned again to face some new perils."
He still felt the effects of his late exhaustion; and, sitting down upon a large stone, he threw his eyes over the steely surface of the sea. Looking upwards again,--he was shocked at beholding a few paces from him the tall erect person of his hostess. She stood upon a point of rock with her back to the sun, and intercepting his orb from Bertram, so that her grey hair streaming upon the wind, her red cloak which seemed to be set as it were in the solar radiance, and the lower part of her figure, which was strongly relieved upon the tremulous surface of the sea, gave to her a more than usually wild and unearthly appearance. Bertram shuddered as before a fiend; whilst the old woman, by whose side crept a large wolf-dog, said with an air of authority:
"So then I see the old proverb is true--Save a drowning man, and beware of an adders sting. But I have power: and can punish the thankless heart. So rise, traitor, and back to the house."
Bertram felt himself too much reduced in spirits, and too little acquainted with the neighbourhood, to contest the point at present: he considered besides that he was really indebted to her for attentions and hospitality; and was unwilling to appear in the light of a thankless guest. In this feeling he surrendered himself to her guidance; but to gratify his curiosity he said--
"Good mother, I owe you much for my recovery: but who is it that I must thank for my deliverance from the water? I was lying upon a barrel, at the mercy of the waves. I lost my senses; and on recovering I find myself with you, and know not how, or by whose compassion."
"What then? You'll never be a hair the drier for knowing that."
"But, mother, I had a companion in my misfortunes; was he saved along with me; or have the waves parted us for ever?"
"Never trouble yourself about that: you are saved; that's news enough for one day:--if the other fellow is drowned all the better for him; he'll not need hanging." Here the old woman laughed scornfully, and sang a song of which the burthen was
High is the gallows, the ocean is deep;
One aloft, one below: how sound is their sleep!
Bertram now descended again into the hovel: and, finding that the old woman would answer no more questions, he stretched himself upon his bed; and throughout the day resigned himself to the rest which his late exhaustion had rendered necessary.
From a slumber, into which he had fallen towards evening, he was awaked by a gentle pressure upon his arm. He unclosed his eyes for one moment, but shut them again immediately under the dazzling glare of a resinous torch which the old woman held. In his present situation he thought it best to dissemble; and therefore kept his eyes half closed, peering at the same time from beneath his eye-lids and watching the old woman's motions. She was kneeling by the side of his bed: with her left hand she raised aloft a torch; with her right she had raised a corner of the blanket and was in the act of examining his left arm, having stripped his shirt sleeve above his elbow, and appearing at this moment to be in anxious search of some spot or mark of recognition. Her whole attitude and action betrayed a feverish agitation: her dark eyes flashed with savage fire and seemed as though straining out of their sockets: and Bertram observed that she trembled--a circumstance which strikingly contrasted with the whole of her former deportment, which had discovered a firmness and intrepidity very alien to her sex and age. Presuming that her guest was asleep, the old woman now transferred her examination to his right arm, which lay doubled beneath his body, and which she endeavoured gently to draw out. Not succeeding in this, she made an effort to turn him completely over. To this effort however, without exactly knowing why, Bertram opposed all the resistance which he could without discovering that he was awake: and the old woman, unless she would rouse him up--which probably was not within her intention, found herself obliged to desist. Her failure however seemed but to increase the fiendish delirium which possessed her. She snatched a blazing pine-bough from the fire; stepped into the centre of the room; and, waving her torch in fantastic circles about her head, began a solemn chaunt in a language unknown to Bertram--at first low and deep--but gradually swelling into bolder intonations. Towards the end the song became more rapid and impetuous; and at last it terminated in a sort of wild shriek. Keeping her eyes fixed upon Bertram, as if to remark the effect of her song upon him, the old woman prepared to repeat it: but just at this moment was heard the sound of voices approaching. A wild hubbub succeeded of wrangling, laughing, swearing, from the side on which Bertram had ascended the ladder; and directly after a clamorous summons of knocking, pushing, drumming, kicking, at the door. The aged hostess, faithful to her custom, laid down her pine-brand on the hearth; arranged the blanket again; and seated herself quietly without taking any notice of the noise. Only, whilst she turned her spinning-wheel, she sang in an under voice--
He, that knocks so loud, must knock once and again:
Knock soft and low, or ye knock in vain.
Mean time the clamorers without contrived to admit themselves, as the young man had done before, but did not take the delay so patiently. It was a company of five or six stout men, any of whom (to judge by their appearance) a traveller would not have been ambitious of meeting in a lonely situation. The general air of their costume was that of sea-faring men; close, short jackets; long, roomy, slops; and coloured handkerchiefs tied loosely about the neck, and depending in long flaps below the breast. A fisherman's hat, with large slouched brim, was drawn down so as nearly to conceal the face; all wore side-arms; and some had pistols in their belts. In colours their dress presented no air of national distinction: for the most part it seemed to be composed of a coarse sacking--originally gray, but disfigured by every variety of stains blended and mottled by rain and salt water.
Bertram could discover no marks of rank or precedency amongst these men, as they passed him one by one, each turning aside to throw a searching glance on the apparently sleeping stranger. As they advanced to the old woman, they began to scold her: so at least Bertram gathered from their looks, gestures, and angry tones; for they spoke in a language with which he was wholly unacquainted. She, whom they addressed, however seemed tolerably familiarized to this mode of salutation; for she neither betrayed any discomposure in her answers, nor ever honoured them by raising her eyes to their faces, but tranquilly pursued her labours at the spinning-wheel. It was pretty evident that the aged woman exercised a very remarkable influence and some degree of authority over these rough seamen. She allowed them to run on with their peal of angry complaint; and, as soon as the volley was over, she started up to her feet with an authoritative air--and uttered a few words which, interpreted by such gestures as hers, would have been understood by a deaf man as words of command that looked for no disobedience.
The men muttered, swore a little, and cursed a little; and then sitting down in any order and place, just as every man happened to find a seat, made preparations for a meal such as circumstances allowed. Broth was simmering on the fire: from various baskets were produced bread--ship-biscuit--and brandy; dried haddock and sprats were taken down from the chimney; fresh herrings were boiling; and in no long space of time the whole wealth of the hut, together with no small addition imported by the new-comers, seemed in a fair way of extinction. Bertram felt violently irritated by appetite to jump up and join the banqueters: for this was the second night since his shipwreck, and he was beginning to recover from his fatigues. But doubts and irresolution checked him; and a misgiving that this was not the most favourable moment for such an experiment; especially as he perceived that he himself was the subject of general conversation. Without relaxing in their genial labours, the men showed sufficiently by their looks and gestures that they were deliberating on some question connected with himself. The old woman now and then interposed a word; and the name of Nicholas, as Bertram remarked, was often repeated by all parties. Some person of this name continued to occupy the conversation an hour longer. Frequently it happened that one or other of the company uttered an oath in English or Dutch, and seemed disposed to pursue the conversation in one of those languages; but in such cases the old woman never failed to check him either by signs or in her own language which was wholly unintelligible to Bertram: so that of the entire conversation he could make out nothing more than that it related to himself. After the lapse of about an hour, the whole party retired; and the hut was again restored to its former solitude and quiet.
This loller here wol prechen us somwhat.
"Nay by my father's soule, that shal be nat,"
Saydé the Shipman, "here shal be nat preche;
He shal no gospel glosen here ne teche:
We leven all in the gret God, quod he.
He woldé sowen som difficultee,
Or springen cockle in our clené come."--Chaucer.
As soon as the last echo of the retreating footsteps had died away, Bertram raised himself up from his couch; and playing the part of one just in the act of awaking, he yawned and asked for something to eat and drink. The old woman grumbled, and fetched him the remains of a jug of whiskey with some biscuit and fish--never troubling herself to inquire about the palateableness of these viands. Bertram ate and drank with as little scrupulousness as belonged to his situation; and then, finding his spirits somewhat restored, he began to question his hostess afresh:--
"Good mother, I know not whether I was dreaming or half awake; but it seemed to me that there were fishermen or some such people in the house; and that the refreshment I have just taken came from their table."
"Aye," said the old woman drily, "they can find time to dream that do little with their hands."
"But what would you have me do, my good hostess? Have you any work for me?"
The old woman shook her head.
"Well then, give me the means of going where I have something to do."
"And where is that?"
"The coast of Wales, for which I was bound when I met with my misfortune."
"The coast of Wales? Never trouble it: they've rogues enough already." Then, fixing her eyes steadily on Bertram, she looked thoughtfully; and shook her head: "Were you ever in Wales before?"
"Look well to yourself then."
"The gallows is high, my bonny lad; and they don't stand much upon ceremony."
"What is it then you take me for? Am I like a thief or a robber?"
"I know not: but you've a wicked look of one that I know well; and he's doomed to the gallows, if there's a gallows in England."
The old woman now relapsed into her moody silence, or answered only by peevish monosyllables: and, despairing of gaining any further information from her, Bertram contented himself with requesting that she would acquaint him with the first opportunity which might offer for quitting his present abode; upon which his hostess muttered something in no very cordial or acquiescing tone; and Bertram, drawing the blankets about him, resigned himself to the consideration of his present prospects. He was now so much recovered from his late suffering and exhaustion, that he felt prepared to set his hostess and her wolf-dog at defiance: but the scene, which he had just witnessed, suggested another kind of dangers. He feared that he had been thrown on a nest of smugglers, or worse: some piratical attempts had recently been made on the Belgian flag off Antwerp: the parties concerned were said to be smugglers occupying some rock or islet off the coast of Wales: and into their hands Bertram began to fear that he had fallen. Closing his eyes, he continued to ruminate on these possibilities, until at length he dropped into a slumber.
From this he was awakened in the middle of the night by a hand laid roughly on his shoulder. He stared up and beheld the old woman at his bed-side.
"Get up," said she, "or it will be too late. Yonder's a French captain taking water aboard: make haste, and he'll give you a passage."
Bertram sprang from his couch; recompensed his hostess; and hastily prepared for departure. In the midst of this hurry however his thoughts had leisure to revert to those anxieties which had occupied him as he was falling asleep. Who was this French captain? Whither bound? What was his connexion with those in whose hands he now found himself? On what terms, and with what motives, had they treated for his passage? When all is darkness however, the benighted traveller surrenders himself to the guidance of any light--though possibly no more than a wildering ignis fatuus--in the hope that it may lead him out of his perplexities. And fortunately Bertram had little time to pursue any train of anxious deliberations: for at this moment two seamen appeared at the door with a summons to follow them; the French captain having taken his water aboard, and being on the point of weighing his anchor.
Having made up his mind to take his chance, Bertram prepared cheerfully to follow his conductors; first offering his acknowledgments however, in few words, to his ancient hostess, who on her part muttered some indistinct reply--without raising her eyes, or quitting her usual posture at the spinning-wheel. The night was profoundly dark, even after they had cleared the brush-wood and tangled thickets which smothered up the rocky vault: the weather however was calm; a star or two gleamed out from the thick pall of clouds; and the sea broke upon the coast with no more than its ordinary thunders. Supported by his two guides, Bertram easily contrived to slide down the shingly precipice; and on reaching the bottom, crossed the beach and stepped on board a very large twelve-oared boat heavily laden. In the bottom were lying a number of casks and bales: and she was full of men. But what particularly struck Bertram was the gloomy silence which prevailed--so opposite to the spirit of life and gaiety which usually attend the embarkation of sailors.
Whilst the boat was now cutting her way through the waves, and the monotonous stroke of the oars broke upon the silence of the night, Bertram had leisure to renew his speculations upon the nature of his immediate prospects. A slight circumstance gave them a favourable color:--at this moment a night-breeze was sweeping pretty freshly over the water; and Bertram, who had preserved but a slender wardrobe from his shipwreck, felt its influence so much that he shivered from head to foot. This was not unobserved: and one of the men drew out a large woollen boat-cloak, and wrapped it about him with an air of surly good-nature. This was a trifle, but it indicated that he had fallen amongst human hearts: and it is benignly arranged by Providence that, as in this life "trifles light as air" furnish the food of our fears, our jealousies, and unhappy suspicions,--so also oftentimes from trifles of no higher character we draw much of our comfort, our hopes, and assurance.
Although the boat was rowed stoutly, yet--being very deeply laden--nearly an hour elapsed before she fell alongside the French captain. A solitary lanthorn or two were twinkling from the sides; and they were hailed by the party who had the watch, with a--"Qui va là?" uttered however, as Bertram remarked, in a cautious and subdued tone. To this challenge the boat returned for answer--"Pécheurs du Roi et de la Sainte Vierge:" upon which rope-ladders were dropped; the boat's company ascended; and the barrels, &c. were hoisted up by pullies to the deck. Bertram admired the activity, address, and perfect orderliness, with which so many heavy casks were raised above the decks and then lowered into their several stations; at the same time that he could not but suspect, from their number and appearance, that the business of "watering" was not the only one which had induced the French captain to drop his anchor at this point. It tended however somewhat to abate these suspicions--that, by the flashes of the lanthorns, as they played unsteadily upon the guns, anchors, and tackling of the vessel, he could distinguish the lilies of France: and upon inquiry from the helmsman, who spoke to him however in English, he learned that he was on board a French corvette--Les trois fleurs de lys.
At this moment the wind veered a point; and instantly a voice of thunder was heard exclaiming
"Mort de ma vie! look sharp: by the three names of Satan, I'll send you a message else from this little brace of bulldogs: you there at the foresheet,--be handy, will you? Or by our lady I'll nail you to the mast, until the cormorants have made their breakfast."
All was now life and activity: the sails were bent and furled: men and boys were crawling about every part of the rigging: the helmsman took his quiet station: and just as day began to break, the "Trois fleurs de lys," with all sails set, was running gaily before a fresh breeze of wind. She had made a good deal of way before there was light enough for Bertram to examine the coast he was leaving; and, by the time he became able to use his eyes with effect, all the details by which it was possible to have identified the exact situation of his late confinement were obliterated and melted into indistinct haze which preserved only the great outlines of the coast: in these the principal feature was a bold headland; and within that a pretty deep bay.
"What is that promontory called?" said Bertram, addressing an old sailor who was passing him at the moment.
"What--that right a helm?" said the sailor.
"They call that Lubber's Point."
"And what do you call the bay beyond?"
"The bay? Why Buttermilk bay: and t'other horn to leward is Cape Sugarcandy."
So saying, the old sailor hitched his trowsers; and with perfect gravity passed on--leaving Bertram not much in his debt for any accessions to his geographical knowledge. He had no leisure however to ruminate on this little specimen of nautical gaiety; for just at this moment up rolled a brawny thick-set figure, and without any ceremonies of introduction or salutation spoke to him--or rather spoke at him--thus:
"So!--This is the son of a gun that was asking for a passage?"
The lordly step and gay confidence of eye sufficiently announced to Bertram that he who addressed him was the captain of the ship: apart from which claims of rank, he was striking enough by mere personal appearance to have commanded the homage of very particular attention from any judicious spectator. His figure was short, broad, and prodigiously muscular; his limbs, though stunted, appearing knotty and (in woodman's language) gnarled; at the same time that the trunk of his body was lusty--and, for a seaman, somewhat unwieldy. In age he seemed nearer to seventy than sixty; but still manifested an unusual strength hardened to the temper of steel by constant exposure to the elements and by a life of activity. The colour of his hair was probably white; that is, per se, and with reference to its absolute or fundamental base; but by smoke and neglect it had been tarnished into grim upper strata of rusty grey and sullen yellow--which, contrasted with a broad fiery disk of face--harsh bushy eyebrows--and a Bardolph nose, effectually extinguished all ideas of the venerable which might else have been suggested by his age. A pair of keen grey eyes looked out from a mass of flesh in which they were sunk; and by their cat-like glances showed pretty clearly that in the hour of danger and conflict they could awaken into another sort of expression more characteristic of the man; an expression however, which, in this "piping time of peace" and in the hours of his gentle morning potations, was content habitually to slumber. The Captain's gait we have described as "rolling;" which in fact it was; but without meaning at all, by that expression, to derogate from its firmness: for firm it also was as the tread of a hippopotamus; and wheresoever the sole of his vast splay foot was planted, there a man would have sworn it had taken root like a young oak: but a figure as broad as his could do no other than roll when treading the deck of a vessel that was ploughing through a gay tumbling sea. As to dress, the Captain wore long slops of striped linen; stout shoes; and immense shoe-buckles: but for the upper part of his costume, in spite of his official dignity, he chose to sport--instead of the long uniform coat of a French captain, a short blue jacket worn over a red waistcoat; to which last was attached a broad leathern belt bearing a brace of pistols; and depending from the belt by a short chain he carried a Turkish scymeter in a silver scabbard. Upon his head only could he be said to wear any mark of distinction that proclaimed his rank; for upon his hat--which was a round one like that of all the crew, and slouched like theirs, but a little higher,--he advanced, by way of cockade (and as a badge at once of the national flag he hoisted and of his own rank), a very conspicuous white lily.
Such was the portly personage that now came up to Bertram, or rather shouldered him in passing, and summoned him as it seemed to face about by demanding in the voice of a Stentor:--
"So!--this is the son of a gun that was asking for a passage?"
Bertram turned to face the Captain's side, made his bow, and modestly replied that he was the person who had been a candidate for that honour.
Without altering his oblique position, the Captain slightly turned his head, carelessly glanced his eye over Bertram's person, and replied thus:
"So!--Humph!--Damn!--And where do you want to go ashore?"
"At Bristol," said Bertram, "or any place on the coast of Wales."
"Bristol?--the devil! Coast of Wales? The devil's grandmother! Was the like ever heard?--Captain le Harnois to alter his course, the Trois fleurs de lys to tack and wear--drop her anchor and weigh her anchor, for a smock-faced vagabond?"
"But I thought, Sir,--that is, I understood,--that the Fleurs de lys was expressly purposing to cruize off the Welch coast?
"Expressly purposing a tobacco-box!--I tell you what, Tom Drum: there's a d---d deal too many rogues running about these seas--a d---d deal; and the English police is no great shakes of a police that doesn't look more sharply after them:--Who the devil are you?"
Bertram was preparing to answer this unceremonious question; but the Captain interrupted him--
"Aye: I can see with half an eye: an Abram man; a mumper; a knight of the post; that jumps up behind coaches, and cuts the straps of portmanteaus: steals into houses in the dusk: waylays poor old people and women, to rob them of their rags and their halfpence. For as to the highway, and cutting throats, I think he has hardly metal for that. Or may be he's a juggler; a rope-dancer; and plays off his hocus pocus on people's pockets?"
"Upon my word, Captain, you put unspeakable wrong upon me."
"With all my heart: God give you health to wear it!"
Touched to the quick by these affronts, Bertram drew out his pocket-book; and taking out some papers, he presented them with all the hauteur he could assume to the Captain; saying, at the same time----
"If, Sir, you will do me the honour to run your eye over my passport and the certificates annexed, I am disposed to think that I shall not need any further vindication from the suspicions you are pleased to intimate."
"Toll-de-roll-loll!" said Captain le Harnois: "what's this trumpery? Whose pot-hooks are these?" At the same time negligently unfolding the papers, and tearing several by his coarse way of handling them. He threw a hasty glance over one or two: but it struck Bertram that he was holding them upside down. Be that as it might,--after tumbling, mumbling, and tearing one document after another,--the noble Captain tossed them all on the deck, advanced the broad extinguisher of his foot upon--them--blew out a cloud of breath into the morning air, and exclaimed--
"Pooh--pooh! Tom Drum: Lillibullero! 'Twon't do:--forged papers! Never think to put off your rogue's tricks on Captain le Harnois." So saying he rolled off to complete his quarter-deck turn, preparing however to open his fire again when he came upon the other tack.
Bertram's indignation was naturally great at what he viewed as an unprovoked outrage; and in spite of his precarious situation, and though fully aware that he was in the Captain's power, he was on the point of giving a loose to those feelings which calumniated innocence is at all times privileged to express--when the boatswain tapped him on the shoulder and whispered in his ear:
"Easy, master, easy: the Captain doesn't mean all he says: he speaks worse than he thinks, when he has taken his breakfast rather early. He takes brandy to breakfast, you understand. Twice a day he hauls his wind, and speaks you as fair as a man could wish; just afore breakfast, that's once; your next time's just afore noon. Oh! but it's pleasant talking with the Captain then."
At this moment Captain le Harnois was again bearing down; and, just as he brought his broadside to bear, Bertram--who was in the act of gathering up his scattered papers and replacing them in his pocket-book-contented himself with observing that on shore he hoped at least to meet with some magistrate that would pay more respect to papers regularly authenticated.
"Shore magistrate!" thundered the Captain, "the dragon and his horns! what's a shore magistrate more than a salt-water magistrate? Mort de ma vie! I take it a Captain's commission, with four ministers' hands to it--signed and countersigned, should be as good as a lubber's warrant. What talk to me of lawyers and justices? The Fleurs de lys is as good a lawyer as I know. Egad, when she shows her teeth" (and here Captain le Harnois grinned horribly, and showed his own which "after their kind" were not less formidable),--"Egad, she can lay down the law too: egad, can she: aye and I've seen the day" (and here the Captain chuckled in a fondling tone), "I've seen the day that the little wanton devil has made law: and d---d good law it was; though some said not--blast their eyes!"
To all this Bertram was silent: and Captain le Harnois, pursuing his tender remembrances, broke out afresh:
"Ah the pretty little vengeful devil!--Ha! ha! ha! I remember----but d---n me, if that's not the very thing that Master Tommy here is thinking of. He has heard that story; or some other as good; and that's what he means by singing out for shore law. But, youngster, I'd have you to know that's all over: that score's rubbed out; and the little frisky gipsy (d---n her for a little hardened devil!) has got her pardon. All's right now: her decks are washed: she has a chaplain on board; and she carries the flag of His Most Christian Majesty."
"Indeed!" said Bertram.
"Aye indeed, most venerable youth; the flag of Louis le Desiré, do you hear? Have you any thing to say against that? What does Smock-face think of the Bourbons? Is Smock-face not a good subject? Eh?"
"Captain le Harnois, I am neither a French subject by birth; nor in any respect indebted to the French government; nor owe it any obedience. On which account I am sure you will see the propriety of dispensing with any declaration of my political sentiments in this matter."
"What, what, what? not Bourbonish? Oh! but that's a foul fault, master Tommy. My ship--(d---n her for a little vixen! she doesn't know what she'd be at!)--My ship, she's Bourbonish: I'm Bourbonish: my lads--they're Bourbonish: we're all Bourbonish: and I'll have nobody swabbing my deck, that's not Bourbonish."
"I congratulate myself," said Bertram, "on sailing with so loyal a subject of his Most Christian Majesty."
"Aye, that's soon said. But, if youngster is not Bourbonish, is he not liberal neither?"
"Such are my unfortunate circumstances, Captain le Harnois, that at present it is wholly out of my power to be liberal: I really----."
"Come, that's well however: glad of that: that's something, my shy cock: any thing but a liberal or a constitutional. Cut portmanteau-straps; waylay old women; hocus pocus; any thing you like. But I'll have no liberal doings here: no liberality shall be found on board of me, whilst my name's le Harnois. Damn! I've a character to support.
"I believe we mistake each other: there are different sorts of liberality; and what I meant to say was----
"I care nothing about it: it signifies nothing talking about sorts of liberality: I'll have no sort.--And now, pray, what religion are you of? Has Smock-face no religion, eh?"
"Really, Captain le Harnois, it does appear to me, that no man is authorized or commissioned, merely upon the strength of flinging a rope to a drowning man, or affording him some common office of humanity, to institute an inquiry into his religious creed."
"Oh crimini! Not commissioned? By my commission I'm to lay hold of every man that has any thing to say against his Most Christian Majesty--the Catholic faith--or our Lady. My commission is that I'm to overhaul every man's religion. And as to what younker says about flinging a rope,--a rope's end for it! If I fling a rope to a drowning man and he lays hold of it, by my commission I'm to say--Ahoy there, waterfowl, are you religious? Is your religion so and so? And, if he sings out--No, my commission is to let go the rope and to say--Then first of all get baptized with salt water; and, when that's done, come and tell Captain le Harnois. That's my commission. D---n! I think I should know what my commission is: d---n!"
"But, Captain, you can surely make allowances for my education: that may have been unfortunate; but still I profess the most entire respect for the Romish church and her adherents."
"Respect and be d---d! I'll have no respect; I'll have religion--pure, neat, religion--with none of your Protestant water in it, or d---d half and half. My ship, a little vixen, she's religious: for I tell you she's had her decks scrubbed by the chaplain: I'm religious; ship's company's religious: we're all religious. And my passengers shall be religious: or my name's not le Harnois. For my commission says, that I'm to have none but the very best of Christians aboard: prime articles, and none else: no damaged lots."
Bertram was perfectly confounded at hearing of such intense orthodoxy on board a man of war: but he was disposed to question the entire accuracy of the representation on chancing to observe, that all the crew, who were behind the Captain's back, were laughing as they went about their work. Captain le Harnois himself seemed more than half disposed to laugh at his own picture of the holy Fleurs de lys. But at this moment he began to feel drowsy; and, giving up for the present any further examination of his passenger's theology, he got under weigh for his cabin: grumbling out, as he advanced, but without looking back--
"Well: this'll do for the first examination. And for our Lady's sake, and for the honour of the white lily, Smockface may bundle himself between decks--till the next time that we pump ship; and then he must over board with the bilge water. We must be charitable now and then for our Lady's sake. But let us have no irreligion. Let all be handsome, lovely, Bourbonish, and religious. What the d---l! An irreligious dog aboard Captain le Harnois? But I shall overhaul his principles: for that's what my commission says: else my name's not le Harnois: damn!"--With which emphatic monosyllable, ascending in a growl from the bottom of the companion ladder, Captain le Harnois concluded his matins on the deck of the Fleurs de lys.
A roar of laughter followed his final disappearance; and a succession of songs, which seemed any thing but "handsome, lovely, Bourbonish, or religious."
Pist. Perpend my words, O Signieur Dew, and mark;
O Signieur Dew, thou diest on point of fox,
Except, O Signieur, thou do give to me
Fr. Sol. O prenez misericorde, ayez pitie de moy!
Pis. Moy shall not sarve; I will have forty moys.
Hen. V.--Act 4.
Spite of the Captain's absence, and though there was no regular officer to represent him, Bertram was surprised to find that the duty on deck seemed in no respect to suffer--either in order, precision, or alacrity. All were in full activity, moving with the industry, and almost with the instinct of bees, in the tops--among the shrouds--or on deck; handling the ropes, trimming the sails, sounding, and performing all other parts of a vigilant seaman's duty. This seemed the more remarkable, as most of the crew carried a flask of brandy slung about their necks; very few of them choosing to justify the Captain's flattering picture of their orthodoxy by substituting a rosary.
The steady old helmsman, to whom Bertram was communicating his astonishment, replied--
"Aye, aye; but this is nothing: you should see them in a storm, or on a boarding party. There's not a man of 'em but might take the Captain's place. And, for that matter, the Captain might take any of ours: for he's as good a seaman as ever stept the deck. And once he was the handiest among us all, and would take his turn at any thing. But now I know not what's come to him. Ever since we were made 'regular,' (you understand), and crossed out of the king's black books,--and since the captain got his commission,--it's partly my belief that he's not right here" (touching his forehead). "And no good will come of it. For one hour we must behave pretty, and be upon honour, and, says he, 'Lads, I must have you chained up, by reason we're now a king's ship:' and the next hour he'll be laying his plots and his plans for doing some business in the old line. The Captain must have a spree now and then. He couldn't be well without it. Whereby it comes that, what between the old way and the new way, a queer rum-looking life we lead."
Of the business on board, however, though interesting for a short period, Bertram soon grew weary: and, stretching himself at his length upon the deck, he gradually withdrew his attention from every thing that was going on about him to the contemplation of the sea and the distant shores which he was approaching. The day, for a winter's day, was bright and sunny: the sky without a cloud; the atmosphere of a frosty clearness; and the sea so calm, that it appeared scarcely to swell into a ripple, except immediately in the ship's wake. The distant promontory, which he suspected to be the point whither he had been washed by the waves, after the explosion of the Halcyon, and which seemed the extremity of a small island, had now receded into an azure speck: the ship's course lay to the southward or south-east: and on the larboard quarter a long line of coast trended away to the south-west. A remarkable pile of rock on this coast attracted his attention, and rivetted his gaze as by some power of fascination. Who will refuse to sympathize with the feeling which at this moment possessed him? What person of much sensibility or reflection but has, in travelling, or on other occasions, sometimes felt a dim and perplexing sense of recognition awakened by certain objects or scenes which yet he had no reason to believe that he could ever have seen before? So it was with Bertram: a feeling of painful perplexity disturbed and saddened him as he gazed upon the coast before him: he felt as though he had at some early period of his life been familiar with some of its features: which yet seemed impossible: for he now understood from the helmsman that what he saw were parts of the Caernarvonshire and Merionethshire coasts in the neighbourhood of Pwlheli Bay.
The wind was fair, and the Fleurs de lys carried so much sail, that within the next hour the whole line of coast and bay began to unfold itself; and all the larger objects were now becoming tolerably distinct. Of these the most conspicuous was a lofty headland which threw its bold granite front in advance of all the adjacent shore, and ran out far into the sea. Like a diadem upon its summit was planted an ancient castle; presenting a most interesting object to the painter, if it were not in some respects rather grotesque. It might truly be described as "planted:" for it seemed literally a natural growth of the rock, and without division of substance: it was indeed in many places an excavation quarried into the rocks rather than a superstructure upon it: and, where this was not the case, the foundations had yet been inlaid and dovetailed as it were so artificially into the splintered crest of the rock, and the whole surface had been for ages so completely harmonized in colour by storms and accidents of climate, that it was impossible to say where the hand of art began or that of nature ended. The whole building displayed a naked baronial grandeur and disdain of ornament; whatever beauty it had--seeming to exist rather in defiance of the intentions of its occupants and as if won from those advantages of age and situation which it had not been in their power to destroy. The main body of the building, by following and adjusting itself to the outline of the rock, had of necessity taken the arrangement of a vast system of towers and quadrangles irregularly grouped and connected: at intervals it was belted with turrets: and its habitable character was chiefly proclaimed by the immense number of its windows, and by a roof of deep red tiles; which last, though generally felt as a harsh blot in the picturesque honours of the castle, were however at this particular time lowered into something like keeping by the warm ruddy light of the morning sun which was now glancing upon every window in the sea-front, and also by the dusky scarlet of decaying ferns which climbed all the neighbouring hills and in many plains skirted the water's edge. In what style of architecture the castle was built, it would have been difficult to say: it was neither exactly Gothic nor Italian of the middle ages: and upon the whole it might safely be referred to some rude and remote age which had aimed at nothing more than availing itself of the local advantages and the materials furnished by nature on the spot for the purpose of constructing a secure and imposing fortress; without any further regard to the rules or pedantries of architecture. Attached to the main building, which ascended to the height of five stories--and yet did not seem disproportionately high from the extent of its range, were several smaller dependencies--some of which appeared to be framed of wood. The purists of our days, who are so anxious to brush away all the wooden patchwork and little tributary cells that formerly clustered about the pillars and nooks of cathedrals like so many swallows' nests, had here apparently made no proselytes. And on the whole the final impression was that of a very venerable and antique but at the same time rather fantastic building.
From each side of the promontory on which the castle stood, ran off at right angles a smaller promontory; that, which was on the left side as viewed from the sea, though narrower and lower than the corresponding one on the other side, terminated however in a much larger area: and on that consideration apparently, in spite of its less commanding elevation, had been selected as the station for a watch-tower. This tower was circular; and in that respect accurately fitted to the area or platform on which it stood; the platform itself being a table of rock at the summit of a rude colossal cylinder which appeared to grow out of the waves. The whole of this lateral process from the main promontory presented a most impressive object to a spectator approaching it from sea: for the connecting part, which ran at right angles, from the great promontory to the platform, had been partly undermined; originally perhaps by some convulsion of nature: but latterly the breach had been greatly widened by storms; so that at length a vast aerial arch of granite was suspended over the waves: which arch once giving away and falling in, the rocky pillar and the watch-tower which it carried would be left insulated in the waves.
Bertram was more and more fascinated by the aspect of the ancient castle and the quiet hills behind it, with their silent fields and woodlands, which lay basking as it were in the morning sun. The whole scene was at once gay and tranquil. The sea had put off its terrors and wore the beauty of a lake: the air was "frosty but kindly:" and the shores of merry England, which he now for the first time contemplated in peace and serenity, were dressed in morning smiles; a morning, it is true, of winter; yet of winter not angry--not churlish and chiding--but of winter cheerful and proclaiming welcome to Christmas. The colours, which predominated, were of autumnal warmth: the tawny ferns had not been drenched and discoloured by rains; the oaks retained their dying leaves: and, even where the scene was most wintry, it was cheerful: the forest of ported lances, which the deciduous trees presented, were broken pleasingly by the dark glittering leaves of the holly; and the massy gloom of the yew and other evergreens was pierced and irradiated by the scarlet berries of various shrubs, or by the puce-coloured branches and the silvery stem of the birch. The Fleurs de lys had gradually neared the shore; and in the deep waters upon this part of the coast there was so little danger for a ship of much heavier burthen, that she was now running down within pistol shot of the scenery which Bertram contemplated with so much pleasure. He could distinguish every cottage that lurked in the nooks of the hills, as it sent up its light vapoury column of smoke: here and there he could see the dark blue dresses of the cottage-children: and occasionally a sound of laughter or the tones of their innocent voices, betraying them to the ear where they were not seen,--or the crowing of a cock from the bosom of some hamlet
Answer'd by faintly echoing farms remote,
gave language and expression to the tranquil beauty of the spectacle.
Bertram absolutely shuddered, with the feeling of one who treads, upon a snake, as he turned from these touching images of human happiness to the grim tackling and warlike furniture of the "little bloody: vixen" on board which he was embarked, together with the ferocious though intelligent aspects of her desperate crew. He was already eager to be set ashore; and the sudden shock of contrast made him more so. On communicating his wishes to the boatswain, however, he was honoured by a broad stare and a laugh of derision:
"What," said the boatswain, "put you ashore close under the muzzle of Walladmor Castle?"
"And why not?"
"Ask the Captain, my good lad: ask Captain Jackson."
"Jackson! I thought the Captain's name had been le Harnois."
"All's one for that: le Harnois or Jackson; one name's as good as t'other. But I wouldn't be the man to put you upon asking the Captain any such a thing. It's odds? but you'd be sent overboard, my good lad, head over heels--that's to say on any day when the Captain had taken his breakfast. No, no: high as it's perched up amongst the eagle's nests, that d---d old castle has been the rock that many a good ship has struck on. But wait till three or four o'clock; and then maybe we'll put you on ashore further down."
When wishes are hopeless, the mind is soon reconciled to give them up. Bertram felt that his were so; and, contentedly stretching himself again upon the deck, surrendered his thoughts to the influence of the lovely scenery before him.
At length the sun was setting, and another reach of coast had unfolded upon his view, when all at once he heard the dash of oars; and on rising up, he observed a little skiff rapidly nearing them. In a few minutes she boarded the Fleurs de lys: and all was life and motion upon deck. Casks and packages were interchanged; and private signals in abundance passed between the different parties. Bertram took the opportunity of bargaining for a passage to shore; and was in the act of stepping into the boat, when he was suddenly summoned before the Captain.
He found the old tiger on the quarterdeck, and in one of his blander humours. Captain le Harnois was sitting on a coil of rope, his back reclining against a carronade, with a keg of brandy on the dexter hand and a keg of whisky on the sinister. An air of grim good humour was spread over his features; he had just awaked from slumber; was for a few minutes sober; and had possibly forgotten the heterodoxy of his passenger; whom he saluted thus:
"Well, sweet Sir, and how goes the world with you?"
"Captain le Harnois, I understand that I can have a passage in the boat alongside; and I am really anxious to go ashore."
"Well, Tom, and what's to hinder it? The shore's big enough to hold you: and, if it isn't, I can't make it bigger."
"Then, Captain, I have the honour to wish you a very good evening."
"The same to you, Tom; and I have the honour, Tom, to drink your worship's health."
"I thank you, Sir; and perhaps you will allow me to leave a trifle to drink for the boat's crew that brought me aboard."
"Do, Tom, leave a trifle: I'll allow you to put fifty francs down on this whisky keg."
"Fifty francs, Captain le Harnois! Permit me to remind you that I only came aboard this morning, and that----"
"Jessamy, it's no use talking: fifty francs: we give no change here. And what the d---l? Would you think to treat the crew of the Fleurs de lys, four and forty picked men, with less than sixty franks?"
"Sixty! Captain, you said fifty."
"Did I? Well, but that was the first time of asking. Come, quick,--my young gallant,--or I shall hoist it up to seventy. I say, boatswain, tell the smith to send me a hammer and a few tenpenny nails: I've a customer here that's wanting to cheat me; and I see I must nail him to the mast, before we shall balance books. But stop a minute: I'll tell you what, Jessamy,--if you'll enter aboard the Fleurs de lys, I'll let you off for the money."
"I fear, Captain, that your work would be too much for my constitution: I am hardly strong enough to undertake such severe duty."
"Not strong enough? Oh! the dragon! my darling, what should ail you? I'll make you strong enough by to-morrow morning. Just hang him up an hour to the mast head, salt him, take him down, pickle him, hoist him up in the main tops to season, then give him some flap-dragon and biscuit, and I'll be bound there's not a lubber that lives but will be cured into a prime salt-water article. But come, sixty francs!"
Bertram hesitated for a moment: during which Captain le Harnois rose; turned on his heel; placed himself astride the carronade with a large goblet of brandy in his right hand; and with the air of an old Cupid who was affecting to look amiable and to warble, but in reality more like a Boreas who was growling, he opened the vast chasm of his mouth and began to sing a sentimental love song.
Bertram perceived that, as the brandy lowered, Captain le Harnois' demand would be likely to rise; and therefore paid the money without further demur.
"And now, my sweet boy," said Captain le Harnois, "what do you think of the Fleurs de lys? Tight sea-boat! isn't she, and a little better managed than the Halcyon, eh?--Things go on in another guess fashion here than they did on board your d---d steam boat? Different work on my deck, eh?"
"Very different work, indeed, Captain le Harnois!"
"Aye, a d---d deal different, my boy. I know what it is I'm speaking to, when I speak to my lads: but I'm d---d if a man knows what he's speaking to, when he speaks to a boiler."
During this speech Bertram was descending the ship's side: when he had seated himself in the boat, he looked up; and, seeing the Captain lounging over the taffarel, he said by way of parting speech--
"You are right, Captain le Harnois; perfectly right: and I shall always remember the very great difference I found between the Halcyon and the Fleurs de Lys."
The old ruffian grinned, and appeared to comprehend and to enjoy the equivoque. He was in no hurry to clear scores with Bertram; but leisurely pursued the boat with a truculent leer; nailed Bertram with his eye; and, when the boat was just within proper range, he took his speaking-trumpet and hailed him:
"Tom Drum, ahoy!--Take care now, when you get ashore, where you begin your old tricks--portmanteaus, old women, tumbling; mind you don't begin hocus pocus too soon: steer large, and leave Walladmor Castle on the larboard tack: for there's an old dragon in Walladmor that has one of his eyes on you by this time. He's on the look-out for you. So farewell: he's angling for you. Good bye, my lily-white Tom! A handier lad has been caught than you, Tom. So let the old women pass quietly, till Walladmor's out of hearing. I can't cry, Tom: but here's my blessing."
So saying Captain le Harnois drank up his goblet of brandy; and, tossing his heel-taps contemptuously after the boat, rolled away to his orgies at the carronade. And in this manner terminated Bertram's connexion with the Trois Fleurs de lys.
It was not very agreeable to Bertram that the gallant Captain's farewell speech had drawn the attention of all in the boat upon himself, and in no very advantageous way. Most of the party laughed pretty freely: at the bottom of the boat lay a man muffled up in a cloak, and apparently asleep: but it appeared to Bertram that he also was laughing. To relieve himself from this distressing attention, he took out his pocket-book and busied himself with his pencil; using it alternately for minuting memoranda of the scene before him, or sketching some of its more striking features. These were at this moment irresistibly captivating. The boat was gliding through a sea unrippled by a breeze: the water was exquisitely clear and reflecting the rich orange lights of the decaying sunset: a bold rocky shore was before him--haunted by gulls and sea-mews, flights of which last pursued the boat for the sake of the refuse fish which were occasionally tossed overboard: behind the rocky screen of the coast appeared a tumultuous assemblage of mountains, the remotest of which melted away into a faint aerial blue: and finally the boat's company itself, consisting of sailors rowing in their shirt-sleeves, fishermen and their wives in dresses of deep red and indigo, with the usual marine adjuncts of fish, tangle, sea-weed, &c. composed a centre to the spectacle which inspirited the whole by its rich colouring, grouping, and picturesque forms. The living part of the contributors to this fine composition seemed however but little aware of their own share in the production of the picturesque: for most of them were engaged in amusing their fancies at the expense of Bertram, whose motions had but given a different turn to the satiric humour which Captain le Harnois had called forth. One old man, who sate opposite to Bertram, laid aside his pipe, and said in an under tone to his next neighbour:
"Well, in my life I never saw the man that brought as much to paper in a summer's day as young master here has done in one half hour; he beats the parson and 'torney Williams all to nothing. But I see how it is: they say Merlin wrote the History of Wales down to the day of judgment upon these very rocks that lie right a-head: and sure, if he did, there's somebody must come to read it: and that must be young master here. For you see he cocks his eye at the rocks, as if he had some run goods in his pocket, and was looking out for a signal to come on shore. Look at him now! Lord how nimbly his fingers go! One would swear he believed that all must be over with this world, if he should stop above half a minute. See, look at him! there he goes again!"
"Aye," said another: "but I think he's hardly writing Merlin's history: though it's true enough that old saying about Merlin: he wrote it all with his fore finger: and yet they tell me it is cut as deep into the rock as if it had been done with chisel and mallet. But he must clear the moss off the face of the rock before he'll read that. And it's not every man that will read it when that's done,"
"Why none but a seventh son of a seventh son; nor he neither, except in the moonlight."
"Well, I know not," said the first speaker: "but, as to this writing and reading, I see little good it does. Lord! to think of these gentlefolks that come up to Tan-y-bwlch and Festiniog in the summer time like a shoal of herrings: I go with scores of parties to Pont-aber-glas-llyn. Well, now, what should you think there could be to write down consarning a great cobble stone? or consarning a bit of a shaw, or a puddle of water? Yet there's not one of the young quality but, as soon as ever they get sight of the Llyn, bless your eyes! they'll stand, and they'll lift up their hands, and they'll raise the whites of their eyes, and skrike out to one another--that it's awful to be near 'em."
"The d---l! you don't say so?"
"Aye, and then down they all sits: and out comes their books: and the young gentlemen holds their bits of umbrellas for the ladies; and away all their fingers are running like a dozen of harpers playing Morfa Rhuddlam. And many's the time I've seen 'em stand, whilst a man would walk a mile and a half, staring up at widow Davis's cottage that one can hardly see for the ivy, and writing consarning it--that one would think it was as old and as big as Harlich or Walladmor. Gad I'll make bold some summer to ask 'em what they see about it: for, as widow Davis said to me, 'I wonder what they find on the outside; for I never could find any thing in the inside.'"
"And what do they do with their writings when they've penned 'em?"
"God knows: I'm sure it's past my power to think. For it's clear to me, Owen, that a writ consarning a spring will never quench a man's thirst. And as to these limners that go about making a likeness of the sea, why they'll never get a herring out of it."
By this time the boat was running up a narrow creek, which soon contracted into the mouth of a little mountain brook. Here the boat took the ground, and all on board began to jump ashore--except Bertram, who was lost in contemplation of the long vista of mountains through which the brook appeared to descend. From this abstraction he was at length awakened by the voice of the old fisherman, who was mooring the skiff, and drily asked him if he purposed to go out to sea again in chace of Captain le Harnois. At this summons he started up, and was surprised to observe that his companions were already dispersed, and going off through various avenues amongst the mountains. The boat was quite empty; and his own portmanteau even had been carried out, and was lying on a stone.
"And now, my good friend," said Bertram, "answer me one question--What is the name of the nearest town? For you must know that I am quite a stranger in these parts: in what direction does it lie? how far from this spot? and which is the direct road to it?"
"One question! why that's four questions, master; and more by three than you bargained for. However, as you're a stranger, I'll make shift to fit you with three short answers that shall unlock your four riddles: The nighest town is Machynleth; and a rum-looking town it is. Ifs just fifteen miles off. And you can't miss it, if you follow your nose by the side of this brook till it leads you into yon pass amongst the mountains."
"I'm much obliged to you, friend. But is there any person you know of that could guide me through this pass and carry my portmanteau?"
"Aye, master, I know of three such persons."
"And where are they?"
"Two of them are on board Captain le Harnois: and the other----"
"At Machynleth, and I'll warrant him as drunk as he can go."
"And of what use will that be to me?"
"Nay, master, it's past my power to find out: but you're a scholar, and can tell more than I can."
Perceiving that he had got all the information from the old fisherman which he was likely to get, Bertram wished him good night; and, hoisting his portmanteau on his shoulder, set off in the direction pointed out.
Wher dwellen ye, if it to tellen be?
In the subarbés of a town, quod he,
Lurking in bernés and in lanés blind
Whereas thise robbours and thise theves by kinde
Holden hir privee fereful residence
As they that dare not shewen hir presence,--
So faren we, if I shal say the sothe.--Chaucer.
Bertram now found himself in a situation of some perplexity: he was alone; perfectly unacquainted with the country; it was already dusk, and he had to make his way through a labyrinth of hills which was likely to present danger in more shapes than one: his experience on board Captain le Harnois had taught him that he was not perfectly secure from behind; and before him was a mountainous region--better peopled in all probability with precipices and torrents than with human habitations. Under these circumstances he had to go in quest of a lodging for the night; and this, from all that he had read of England, on a double account he could scarcely venture to anticipate under any respectable roof; first because he was on foot, and secondly because he carried his own portmanteau. However he entered on his course with spirit; and for some time advanced without much difficulty. The path meandered away along the margin of the little brook, diverging from it at times, but soon winding back upon it. And as long as the road continued to lie over the little common which lay between the sea and the hills, the light being here less intercepted and reflected more freely from the pellucid brook, he had no difficulty in proceeding. But, when he had reached the foot of the hills, and found that the brook suddenly immerged into a mountain ravine, he halted in utter despondency. Looking back upon the shore, which lay due West, he perceived that the last faint blush of color had died away in the sky: a solemn veil of darkness had descended over the sea; even that was disappearing; and, within the narrow windings of the hills upon which he was now entering, the darkness of "chaos and old night" seemed to brood. That his road would be likely to lead him over precipices elevated enough for all purposes of danger, he already knew: for now and then the path began to ascend pretty steeply from the edge of the brook, though it soon again subsided to the same level. All around him was the sound of waters and of torrents: no ray of candlelight or cheerful fire issued from any cottage amongst the hills: he shouted, but received no answer: and he sate down to deliberate upon his situation.
Just at this moment it seemed to him that he heard somewhere in his neighbourhood a low muttering. He looked round: but it was impossible to distinguish any object at more than a few paces distance; and, as he had repeatedly turned to look back in his road from the sea, and had besides walked fast, he felt convinced that no person could have dogged him; and was disposed to think that he had been mistaken. The next minute however the noise recurred: he rose and moved a few paces onwards. Again he heard the low muttering as of some person talking to himself: in a moment after steps rang upon the hard frosty ground as of a heavy foot behind him; and, before he could collect his thoughts, a hand touched him on the shoulder, and a deep-toned voice exclaimed--Halt!
He had now no choice left but to face the danger: he stopped therefore; and, turning round, he perceived close to his elbow a man in no very respectable attire, so far as the obscurity would allow him to judge, but half muffled up in a cloak, and armed with a stout bludgeon. Much as he had just now been wishing for some guide, he yet could not congratulate himself on so unpropitious a rencontre. The stranger's dress and unceremonious greeting were not more suspicious than the abruptness of his appearance: for Bertram felt convinced that he must have way-laid him. Assuming however as much composure as he could, he demanded in a loud tone,
"Why did you not answer me when I shouted just now? You must have heard me.
"Heard you?" said the other, in a low but remarkably firm and deep voice,--"Heard you? Yes, I heard you well enough: but who in his senses goes shouting at night-time up and down a bye-road on a smuggler's coast, as if he meant to waken all the dogs and men in the country."
"Who? why any man that has a good conscience: what difference can the night make?"
"Aye, that has! But take my word for it, friend, a man that comes ashore from Jackson's brig may as well go quietly along and say as little as possible about his conscience. In this country they don't mind much what a man says: many a gay fellow to my knowledge has continued to give the very best character of himself all the way up the ladder of the new drop, and yet after all has been nonsuited by Jack Ketch when he got to the top of it for wanting so little a matter as another witness or so to back his own evidence."
"Well, but, I suppose, something must be proved against a man,--some overt act against the laws, before he can be suspected in any country: till that is done, the presumption is that he is a respectable man: and every judge will act on that presumption."
"Yes, in books perhaps: but when a running-fire of cross-examinations opens from under some great wig, and one's blood gets up, and one doesn't well remember all that one has said before,--I know not how it is, but things are apt to take a different turn."
"Well, my rule is to steer wide of all temptation to do ill; and then a man will carry his ship through in any waters."
"Will he? Why, may be so; and may be not. There are such things as sunk rocks: and it's not so easy to steer wide of them: constables for instance, justices of peace, lawyers, juries."
"But how came you to know that I was put on shore from Jackson's brig?"
"Why, to tell you a secret, it was I that lay at the bottom of the boat, whilst your learned self were writing notes in a pocketbook.--But hush! what's that?"
He stopped suddenly; looked cautiously round; and then went on:
"It was nothing, I believe. We may go on; but we must talk lower: in these cursed times every stone has ears. Here we must cross the brook, and double the rock on the left."
Whilst Bertram went on, he loitered a few steps behind, and then cried out--"Do you see any body?" On receiving an answer in the negative, he advanced; turned the corner, and then began again:
"You are going to Machynleth; and you want a guide to show you the road and to carry your portmanteau: Now I'll do both on cheap terms; for all I ask in return is this--that, up to the inn-door, if we meet any body that asks unpleasant questions, you will just be so good as to let me pass for your servant whom you have brought from abroad. What say you? Is it a bargain?"
"My good friend,--according to the most flattering account I have yet received of your morals (which is your own), they are rather of a loose description; and with all possible respect for your virtue that the case allows, you will admit yourself that I should be running some little risk in confiding my portmanteau to your care: for I know not who you are; and, before I could look round, you might be off with my whole property; in which case I should certainly be on a 'sunk rock.' Some little risk, yon must candidly allow?"
"No," said the stranger--"No, not at all: and if that's all the objection you have, I'll convince you that you are wrong in a moment. Now just look at me (there's a little starlight at this moment). Perhaps you'll admit that I'm rather a stouter man than yourself?"
"And possibly this bludgeon would be no especial disadvantage to me in a contest with an unarmed man?"
"I must acknowledge it would not."
"Nor this particular knife? according to your view of my 'morals,' as you call them, I suppose it would not be very difficult for me to cut your throat with it, and then pitch you into one of these dark mountain ravines--where some six weeks hence a mouldering corpse of a stranger might chance to be found, that nobody would trouble his head about?--Are my arguments forcible? satisfactory, eh?"
"Undoubtedly. I must grant that there is considerable force in your way of arguing the case. But permit me to ask, what particular consideration moves you to conduct me and my portmanteau without hire to Machynleth? It seems too disinterested a proposal, to awaken no suspicion."
"Not so disinterested as you may fancy. Suppose now I happen to have left a few debts behind me in this country: or suppose I were an alien with no passport:--or suppose any other little supposes you like: only keep them to yourself, and talk as low if you please as convenient."
"Well, be it so: here's the portmanteau: take care you don't drop this little letter-case."
The stranger tossed the portmanteau over his shoulder; and both pushed forward up the pass at a rapid pace. For some miles they advanced in silence: and Bertram, being again left to his own meditations, had leisure to recur to his original suspicions. Whenever the stranger happened to be a little a-head of him, Bertram feared that he might be then absconding with his property. When he stopped for a moment, Bertram feared that he was stopping for no good. In no way could he entirely liberate himself from uneasy thoughts. Even upon his own account of himself the man wore rather a suspicious character; and what made it most so in the eyes of Bertram was the varying style of his dialect. He seemed to have engrafted the humorous phraseology of nautical life, which he wished to pass for his natural style, upon the original stock of a provincial dialect: and yet at times, when he was betrayed into any emotion or was expressing anger at social institutions, a more elevated diction and finer choice of expressions showed that somewhere or other the man must have enjoyed an intercourse with company of a higher class. In one or other part it was clear that he was a dissembler, and wearing a masque that could not argue any good purposes. Spite of all which however, and in the midst of his distrust, some feeling of kinder interest in the man arose in Bertram's mind--whether it were from compassion as towards one who seemed to have been unfortunate, or from some more obscure feeling that he could not explain to himself.
The road now wound over a rising ground; and the stranger pointed out some lights on the left which gleamed out from the universal darkness.
"Yonder is Machynleth, if that is to be our destination. But, if the gentleman's journey lies further, I could show him another way which fetches a compass about the town."
"It is late already and very cold: for what reason then should I avoid Machynleth?"
"Oh, every man has his own thoughts and reasons: and very advisable it is that he should keep as many of them as possible to himself. Let no man ask another his name, his rank, whither he is bound, on what errand, and so forth. And, if he does, let no man answer him. For under all these little matters may chance to lurk some ugly construction in a court of justice--when a man is obliged to give evidence against a poor devil that at any rate has done him no harm."
"Aye," said Bertram, "and there are other reasons which should make the traveller cautious of answering such questions: for consider--how is he to know in what dark lane he may chance to meet the curious stranger on his next day's journey? Though to be sure you'll say that, for a man with no more baggage than myself, such caution is somewhat superfluous."
The stranger laughed heartily, and said: "True, too true, as the gentleman observes: and indeed the gentleman seems to understand how such matters are conducted very well. However, after all, I would strongly recommend it to the gentleman to avoid the town of Machynleth."
"But why so? Is it a nest of thieves?"
"Oh! Lord bless us! no: quite the other way: rather too honest, and strict, you understand."
"Well, and for what reason then avoid making the acquaintance of so very virtuous a town?"
"Why, for that reason. It's unreasonably virtuous. In particular there is a certain magistrate in the neighbourhood, who hangs his 12 men per annum: and why? For no other cause on God's earth than because their blood is hotter than his own. He has his bloodhounds for tracking them, and his spies for trepanning; and all the old women say that he can read in the stars, and in coffee grounds, where contraband goods come ashore."
"Why, my pleasant friend, what is it you take me for?"
The stranger turned round; pressed his companion's hand; but, not finding the pressure returned, he laughed and said in a significant tone:
"Take him for? I take the gentleman to be as respectable and honourable a gentleman as any that----frequents the highway by night. You are come from abroad: at school you had read flattering accounts of this famous kingdom of England and its inhabitants; and, desiring to see all this fine vision realized, you did not let the distance frighten you. And to a young man, I take it, that is some little credit."
"Well, Sir, well?"
"Before you left home, your purse had been emptied at some watering place, we'll say by gamblers, sharpers, black legs, &c.; but no matter how: there are many ways of emptying a purse; and you are now come over to our rich old England to devise means for filling it again. All right. He, that loses his money at one sort of game, must try to draw it back by some other: and in England there are many. One man marries a rich heiress: another quacks: another opens a tabernacle, and wheedles himself into old women's wills. But perhaps the best way of all is to go into trade, break, take the benefit of the Insolvent Act, and in short get famously ruined; in which case you're made for life."
"So then you do really take me to be an adventurer--a fortune-hunter?"
"Oh, Sir, God forbid I should take a man for any thing that it is not agreeable to him to be taken for; or should call him by any name which he thinks uncivil. But the last name, I think, is civil enough: for I suppose every man is a fortune-hunter in this world. Some there are now that hunt their fortunes through quiet paths where there is little risk and much profit: others again" (and here he lost his tranquil tone, and his self-possession) "others hunt a little profit through much danger, choosing rather to be in eternal strife and to put their hopes daily to hazard than to creep and crawl and sneak and grovel: and at last perhaps they venture into a chase where there is no profit at all--or where the best upshot will be that some dozen of hollow, smiling, fawning scoundrels, who sin according to act of parliament, and therefore are within the protection of parliament, may be----"
He paused suddenly, and made a fierce gesture which supplied the ellipsis to his companion: but the latter had little wish to pursue such a theme, and he diverted the conversation into another channel, resuming a topic which had been once broken off:
"I have come to Wales," said Bertram, "chiefly from the interest I take in its traditions, antiquities, and literature. The ruined monuments of so ancient a people, that maintained its independence so long and so heroically against enemies so potent, have a powerful interest to my mind when connected with their grand historical remembrances. The great architectural relics of older times,--the castles of Aberconway, Caernarvon, Harlech, and Kilgarran"----
"Aye, and Walladmor"--said the other laughing:
"Yes, Walladmor, and many others, possess a commanding interest to him who has familiarised himself with their history. All places too connected with the memory and half fabulous history of king Arthur--the grand forms of Welch scenery ennobled and glorified by the fine old romancers, Norman or English, or by the native bard songs,----
"I know them all," said the stranger interrupting him and laughing heartily,--"there's Arthur's fort at Cairwarnach--Arthur's table--Arthur's chair--the brook at Drumwaller, where he forded without wetting his feet,--and scores of old ruins in this neighbourhood."
"And doubtless you have had much pleasure in ranging through these grey memorials of elder days?"
"Pleasure! aye, that I have: many's the good keg of brandy that I've helped to empty among 'em."
"Keg of brandy!" said Bertram, somewhat shocked.
"Yes, brandy; right Cogniac: better than ever king Arthur drank, I'll be sworn. Faith, I believe he'd have sold his sceptre for a dozen of it; and Sir Gawain would have tumbled through a hoop for a quart.--Oh! the fun that some of those old walls have looked down upon many's the dark night, when I was a little younger: aye, many a wild jolly party have I sat with in some of those old ruins! And such a din we've kept, that I've expected old Merlin would come down from some old gallery and beat up our quarters."
"Why, certainly night is in some respects a favourable time for visiting such buildings: for the lights and shadows are often more grandly and broadly arranged. But were these parties that you speak of, parties of tourists to whom you acted as guide?"
"Tourists, God knows: a rum kind of tourists though: and a rum kind of guide was I. Egad, I led 'em a steeple chase; up hill and down hill; thick and thin--rocks and ruins, nothing came amiss: and there's not many tourists, I think, on the wrong side of twenty-five, that would choose to have followed us.----But I suppose now, as you've come to Wales on this errand, you would be glad to see a few old churches, abbeys, and so on: fine picking there for a man that hungers after the picturesque; owls, ivy, wall, moonshine, and what not."
"Certainly I shall," said Bertram: "I design to see every thing that is interesting; and I understand that Wales is particularly rich in such objects: and I've seen some beautiful sketches with all the picturesque adjuncts and accidents that you mention."
"Aye, bless your heart, but did you ever see a sketch of Griffith ap Gauvon? It lies about 20 miles north of Machynleth, in the eastern ravines of Snowdon. G---! you'd lift up your hands, if you saw the ruins--how majestically they stand upon the naked peaks of the rocks; and how boldly the pointed arches rise into the air and throw themselves over the unfathomable chasms! Look up from below, and there on a moonlight night you'll see the white pillars all standing in rows, like so many wax lights: and, if one looks down from above, it's half enough to put thoughts into a man's head of throwing himself down."
"I protest," said Bertram, "you make my head giddy with your description."
"Aye, but don't be giddy just yet: for we are now going over a narrow path; and there's a precipice below. Here, give me your hand. So!--Now turn to the right: now two steps up: and now take my arm; for it's so dark under these walls--that you'll be apt to stumble."
Both advanced in this way for some hundred paces, when suddenly his guide stopped, and said:
"Here we are at last: and my term of 'service' is out. This is the Walladmor Arms; and it is decidedly the best inn in the town; for there is no other."
If any courteous reader has ever, in the May-time of his own life or in the May-time of the year, made a pedestrian tour among the northern or western mountains of our island, he will understand what was in Bertram's mind at this moment--a vision of luxurious refreshment and rest after a hard day's fatigue, disturbed by anxious doubts about the nature of his reception. In this state he laid his hand upon the latch; and perhaps the light of the door-lamp, which at this moment fell upon his features, explained to his guide what was passing in his mind; for he drew him back by the arm, and said----
"One word of advice before we part: even the 'servant' may presume to counsel his 'master' as he is quitting his service. The landlord within is not one of those landlords who pique themselves on courtesy: and the gentleman tourist, with submission be it said, is not one of those tourists who travel with four horses,--or even by the stage-coach: and foot-travellers in England, especially in the winter season, do not meet with 'high consideration.' Which premises weighed,--if you were to ask for a night's lodging at your first entrance, I bet ten to one that you will get none; no, not though the house were as empty as it is probably full by the infernal din. But do what I tell you: Call for ale, porter, or wine, the moment you enter. As fast as your reckoning mounts, so fast will the frost thaw about the landlord's heart. Go to work in any other way, and I'll not answer for it but you'll have to lie in the street."
With full determination to pay attention to his advice, Bertram again laid his hand upon the latch; opened the door; and made his appearance, for the first time in his life, upon that famous stage in the records of novelists--a British inn.
Now this is worshipful society.--King John.
The room, into which Bertram now introduced himself, was spacious beyond any thing that he had anticipated: but, spacious as it was, it seemed barely sufficient for its different occupants. A large playbill, hung in a very conspicuous situation, announced the play of Venice Preserved for representation on that evening. It was now a good deal after 10 o'clock, and the performance was over: but the Venetian Nobili, in the dignified solemnity of their black dresses, were scattered about the room in parties--or laying aside the costlier part of their finery in a remote corner partly screened off from public view, which had been allotted to them as a tiring room. Round about the fire-place, in an elevated sort of dais which had been railed off into a bar, a canopy of smoke proclaimed that a festive party were somewhere seated beneath it. On advancing a few steps further, Bertram could distinguish their faces and arrangement. Close by the fire side sate a huge Dutchman with a huge pipe, solemnly fixing his eyes upon the pomp of clouds which he had created or was in the act of creating, and apparently solacing himself with some vague images of multiplication and division. His leaden eye showed that he was completely rapt away from all that was passing about him: two critics disputing at his right ear upon the relative pretensions of two actresses,--two politicians disputing at his back on the Sinking Fund and the Funds in general, as little disturbed his meditations as two disputants before his face, viz. the landlord and the manager of the theatrical company, who were sharply discussing some private point of finance in their daily reckoning. The poor manager,--with his keen, meagre, and anxious countenance, at this moment rendered doubly anxious by the throes of an arithmetical computation,--seemed the antagonist pole of the Dutchman: he was endeavouring, with little success, to bring the night's receipts into something like a counterbalance to the daily bill: this had just been presented by the landlord, who had placed his bulky person immediately behind him, looked over his shoulder, and having encircled him with his arms for the sake of leaning with his knuckles upon the table, had fairly pinned in the poor manager, who continued at intervals upon every perplexing interruption from his antagonist to wheel round and face him like a stag at bay. Nearer to Bertram sate a man, whose curved nose--black hair--ardent looks--and sallow complexion, at once announced him as a Frenchman: he was occupied in painting a portrait of one actress at the same time that he was making complimentary grimaces to three others. In the chimney-corner, and over against the Dutchman, was seated an elderly man, of short thick-set person, dressed in a shabby grey coat--boots--and a white hat. His features were not in themselves very striking, but had been habitually composed to one intense expression of dissatisfaction with all about him. Like the Dutchman he looked away from the company towards the fire, and appeared to take no interest in any thing which went on: but this in him was mere affectation. The Dutchman, as a child could see, was most sincerely indifferent to every thing but the festoons of smoke which formed about him; nor ever seemed to suffer in his peace of mind except when this aerial drapery was rent or too much attenuated: then indeed he puffed with a perceptible agitation, until he had reinstated the vapoury awning--which done he immediately recovered his equanimity. But as to White Hat, by the complexity of his manœuvres for disguising his interest in the conversation about him--by uniformly shifting his chair upon the approximation of any other chair--and by the jealous anxiety with which he affected to turn away his head if any person were talking near him, he made it sufficiently evident that no one person in the room paid so earnest an attention to what was passing as himself. He also had resorted to a pipe for the sake of expressing his abstraction from the world about him; but how different were his short--uneasy--asthmatic puffs from the floating pomp with which the Dutchman sent up his voluminous exhalations! In his right hand he held a newspaper which he appeared to be reading; sometimes glancing his eye over it, sometimes dwelling upon the words as if he were spelling them; in general however giving himself a great deal of trouble to impress upon all about him that he took little or no interest in any thing he read.
These were the most noticeable persons of the company to which Bertram now advanced; taking care at the same time to call for wine in an imposing tone of voice. At this sound the landlord wheeled suddenly round, which fortunately set the poor manager at liberty. Both stared at Bertram: the Frenchman looked up for a moment: even the White Hat, being taken by surprise, made a half wheel on his chair; though immediately reverting, not without some indignation at himself, to his former position; in fact every soul in the room looked at Bertram except the Dutchman. Silence ensued; and the landlord, after raising and dropping his eyes alternately from Bertram's head to his foot, demanded if he had a horse with him.
"No, I am on foot," replied Bertram.
"Very late time of night," the landlord muttered, "to be walking: pray, which way do you come?"
"From the sea-side, where I was set ashore this evening about 5 o'clock."
After a little further cross-examination, the landlord appeared to be satisfied; and directed "Jenny" to bring the wine; the buz of conversation, which had been hushed during the landlord's colloquy with the stranger, freshened again; and Bertram proceeded to take his seat amongst the company.
It is affirmed by some philosophers that Timon of Athens himself, if, on issuing from the darkness and cold of a fifteen miles' walk on a frosty winter's night succeeding to a day of hardship and exposure, he were suddenly to burst on a gay fire-side of human faces, lights, wine, and laughter,--would inevitably forget his misanthropy for that evening, and be glad to take his share in the conversation. Bertram was probably so disposed; it was therefore unfortunate for him that he took his seat by the side of the Dutchman.
"I perceive," said Bertram, "that you have had a play performed this evening."
Without looking up from his pipe, Minheer replied--"Like enough! I was told there were players here."
Nothing discouraged Bertram turned to his opposite neighbour, the White Hat: "You, Sir, probably attended the performance?"
"I?" replied the indignant man, "I trouble myself with such fooleries, when the poor country is ruined and perishing for bread?"
"Fooleries! Mr. Dulberry," exclaimed the manager, "what! Venice Preserved?"
"Venice Preserved, or Venice Treacle; what care I? It's a play-book, isn't it?--Here we are taxed already for the support of libraries, museums, Herculanean manuscripts, Elgin marbles, and God knows what. Very soon, I suppose government will assess us so much a head for the theatres."
"Ah, poor Venice Preserved!" ejaculated the manager, sighing: "it has always some enemy or other. In quiet times it is laid on the shelf. Then comes some season of political ferment: the liberty boys kick up a dust: the public voice calls for the play clamorously: the theatre fills nightly: every allusion is caught at with rapture: and, as to the actors, they may lie upon their oars; for, let them play as ill as they choose, they are sure of applause for the sake of what they utter. But, as often as ever this happens, in steps the government and forbids the representation."
"Forbid the representation?" shrieked Mr. Dulberry; "forbid that excellent play Venice Preserved? What! there's something in it against government, is there? Oh! it's an admirable play. And how, now, how is it they forbid it? Not by act of parliament, I dare swear: bad as parliament is, they would hardly trust it to them. By an order in council, I suppose? and Lord Londonderry sends a regiment of dragoons into the pit, eh?"
"No, Mr. Dulberry: the Lord Chamberlain forbids it."
"The Lord Chamberlain? Worse and worse! And so it's the Lord Chamberlain that sends the dragoons?--Chamberlain! why that's the man that takes care of the government sheets and pillow-slips; the overseer of the chambermaids. And he's to trample on the liberties of the country and to put out the lights of the theatre, by the hoofs of military despotism!--Oh fie! fie! poor old England!"
Partly from political indignation, and partly from some more personal indignation at a little laughing which now arose in some quarter of the room, the patriot returned hastily to the Courier, which he held in his hand; and the conversation seemed likely to droop; when suddenly Bertram's attention was drawn by a bright blaze of light; and, looking up, he beheld his reforming neighbour, Mr. Dulberry, metamorphosed into a pillar of salt. His mouth was wide open; the whites of his eyes were raised to the ceiling; one hand was clenched; the other hung lifeless by his side. The Courier had sunk with one end into the fire; a roaring flame was springing up and enveloping the whole: and, before Mr. Dulberry returned to his self-possession, the newspaper with all its world of history and prophecy was reduced to ashes.
"Mr. Dulberry! for God's sake, Mr. Dulberry! what's the matter?" exclaimed the company on all sides. "Has Bolivar beaten the royalists? Is the Austrian loan repaid? or what is it, for the love of heaven?"
"What is it, gentlemen? a thing to make your ears tingle! the Manchester massacres were a trifle to it. An Englishman----Oh Lord! gentlemen, it's all over with the habeas corpus act----an Englishman has been arrested by the emissaries of government after he had quitted the kingdom."
"What government? the French government?"
"No, gentlemen, by the English government: arrested out of the kingdom: think of that, gentlemen!"
"But where, where?" exclaimed several voices: "in France?"
"Why yes, I think I may say in France: for he was going to France; and he had actually put off in a boat from the Isle of Wight, and was three hundred yards from shore, on his way towards a French ship, which he was going to board."
"Oh come, Mr. Dulberry," said some of the company, laughing, "but that's England, however: as far as an English cannonball will reach, and a little farther too in the opinion of some jurists, the four seas are English property: England's domain; her manor; her park; and she has a right to set up turnpike gates if she pleases."
"By no means, gentlemen, by no means; Blackstone says that, to constitute possession, there must go two things--the act of possessing, and the will to possess. So also no doubt of a man's domicile: to make this bar my domicile, I must not only be here; but secondly, I must will to be here. Now this man willed to be in France; and England was no longer his domicile. And where a man is not, there he ought not by law to be arrested."
This pretty piece of subtilty was received by most of the company with a smile; but as Mr. Dulberry remarked that some little murmuring arose, which announced that some of his auditors were impressed with what he had said, he seized his opportunity, jumped upon his chair, flourished his white hat, and briefly harangued the company.
"Gentlemen," said he, "we all know that ministers have sealed this country against all unhappy foreigners, and have tarnished the old English character for generous hospitality by their cursed alien bill. This we knew before: but now comes a fresh assault on liberty. Not only must we look on and see nets and lines set all round our once hospitable shores to catch the unhappy fugitives from continental tyranny; but at length, it seems, ministers are to be allowed to throw out their grappling hooks after English fugitives from the tyranny of Lord Londonderry. If a man runs to the North Pole, I suppose Lord Londonderry and Ally Croaker will soon be after them: and that, by the way, is the meaning of all these polar voyages.--I see that even the ministerial gentlemen present cast down their eyes and look ashamed. No man has a word to say in defence. What I propose therefore is, that we all unite in an address to the king--testifying our abhorrence of this last act which has made the cup of our afflictions run over, and begging that his majesty would dissolve the present administration, and form a new one on a more patriotic basis."
"But, Mr. Dulberry, who is it that has been arrested?" cried many of the company.
"That's nothing to the purpose, gentlemen: the man's an Englishman; and that's enough, I hope."
"But how if he should turn out to be an English lunatic escaped from his keepers?" said a cynical looking man in the corner.
A laugh followed, and a general cry of--, "Name! name!"
Not to forfeit his hold upon the public attention, Mr. Dulberry found himself obliged to relax the rigor of his principles, and to descend from the universal character of Englishman to so impertinent a consideration as the character of the individual.--"His name, gentlemen, is Edward Nicholas."
"Nicholas! Edward Nicholas!" said a number of voices at once: "what our Nicholas?"
"As to that, I know not: he was described in the Courier as a bold adventurer: many honourable traits were recited of his conduct; and in particular I remember it was said that he had fought on the side of liberty in South America, and had once commanded a sloop of war--as a commissioned officer--under Artigas."
"Oh! the same, the same!" exclaimed the greater part of the company: "our Nicholas, sure enough: but what mad trick has he been playing now?"
The patriot was evidently uneasy, and reluctant to answer this question. Being pressed however on all sides, he replied--"I don't know, gentlemen, that he has been playing any tricks: the Courier pretends that he is charged with some knowledge of the Cato-street affair; treason, or misprision of treason, as they call it in their d---d treasury jargon."
"Oh! Cato-street? Is that it?" cried the whole room with one voice, "then we'll have no addresses for him: no, no! we'll not address his Majesty for a Cato-street conspirator."
"But, gentlemen," said the disconcerted patriot--"But gentlemen, I say----"
"Mr. Dulberry, it won't do," interrupted a grave-looking tradesman: "Attack the ministers as much as you will. Let every man attack them. It's all fair. And I dare say they deserve it: for I'm not the man to think any of them saints. But let's hear it all in the old English way; all fair and above board: no foul play: no stabbing of unarmed men: set Junius upon them--set Cato upon them--set Publicola upon them in the newspapers. But no slipping into men's friendly meetings! no cutting throats by the fire-side! No Venice conspirators in England."
"Friendly meetings! and fire-sides!" said Dulberry; "why, God bless me, how you varnish the matter! To hear you talk,--one would suppose these ministers of ours were so many lambs, and met for nothing but to kiss and sing psalms. I tell you, they never meet but to plot against us and our liberties. And as to conspirators, if you come to that, I know of none except at Lord Harrowby's. You say there was a conspiracy of Cato-street against Grosvenor-square: I say--No: there was a conspiracy of Grosvenor-square against Cato-street."
This view of the case seemed so new and original to the company, that a general laugh followed; and the reformer, finding that he was no longer accompanied by the sympathy of his audience, sate down in dudgeon--muttering something about "lacqueys of Lord Londonderry." The politician being silenced, an opening was now allowed for a subject far more interesting to the majority of those who were present, and to many more in this part of Wales.
"And so Nicholas is taken at last?" said Mr. Bloodingstone a butcher: "Well, now that's what I could never have thought--that Nicholas should let himself be taken as quietly as a lamb. Bless your hearts, on all this coast there's not a creek or a cranny big enough for a field-mouse but he knew it: and all the way from Barmouth to Carnarvon I'll be sworn there's not a man on the Preventive Service, simple or gentle, but Nicholas has had his neck under his foot at one time or another."
"Aye, Mr. Bloodinsgtone," replied the landlord: "but a Bow-street officer with his staff is like Joshua the son of Nun; he can make the sun and moon stand still. So that's not the thing I wonder at. What surprizes me is--that a man like Nicholas should ever meddle with these politics and politicians, that get nothing for their pains but bloody heads and a trifle of fame that would never pay for one glass of good whiskey punch. What! Nicholas was a man of sense; and a d---d long head he had of his own. And, if he would but have been quiet and have gone on in a regular way, he might have been a rich man by this time: for he had credit for evermore with the merchants in Amsterdam and Antwerp; and with some others too that I'll say nothing about."
"Was this Nicholas then settled in business at this place?" asked the Frenchman.
A smile appeared on the major part of the faces present; and the landlord answered with a loud laugh--"Settled! my God! I would be glad to see the place where Nicholas was ever settled for twenty-four hours together. No, bless you! Nicholas was no settler. And there's some folk will say that he never sate down in his life: but that's not true; for I've seen him sit many a time in that very arm-chair where the young gentleman is now sitting:" here he pointed to Bertram who felt somewhat uneasy at the very marked attention which was at this moment directed on him by the company. The landlord however took no notice, but proceeded in his answer: "No, Nicholas was no settler: and just as little can I call him a man in business. He was a sort of agent, you see, in other people's business; and a d---d dangerous sort of business too; and I suppose there's never been his match in that way since the time of Owen Owalys. However we'll say nothing about all that: he stocked the whole country with cheap brandies and other little matters. And so I'll say nothing against his way of doing business; though I reckon we mustn't praise it, except in a corner."
"You must understand, Monsieur," said a voice from behind, "that this Nicholas set up an opposition trade against the government; and undersold it, so that government lost all its trade in this part of the country: for which reason government is jealous of him, and can't abide him.--But, landlord, it seems you knew this Nicholas?"
"I knew him in a manner: but how? I knew him, and I knew him not. Scores of times he has sate in this bar, and I never knew it to be him until after he was gone. Sometimes he would come dressed like an old beggar, and slink into a corner; sometimes like a labouring man, and argue with me for the value of a halfpenny; other times I have known him come like a lord, and make his guineas fly about like so much dust. And once--egad! I can't help laughing--he came in the uniform of a dragoon officer, and he would needs cudgel me for letting Nicholas escape. He got me by the throat: I sung out for my very life: Jenny--she ran for the constables: the neighbours came flocking in: Alderman Gravesand brought all his posse comitatus down, for he was then on the look-out for Nicholas at the town's end: and, would you believe it? by that time all was settled the whole party of the smugglers, bag and baggage, was clean through the town, and ten miles on the road to Ap Gauvon. And all this at noon-day."
"Well, landlord, and what said Nicholas when you saw him next?"
"The next time I saw him, gentlemen, was in my own bar; and dressed in one of my own wigs, jacket, and apron. Gad, I never was so frightened in the whole course of my life. I had just walked a mile out of town to our parson's; and, as I was coming back, a man shot by me like an arrow: but, as quick as he was, says I to myself,--That's Nicholas! And sure enough many minutes had'nt passed before up comes a great company of men, and asks me which way Nicholas had gone. I thought to myself--These'll be the Blazer's men of the revenue service, that's stationed off Caernarvon. So I did'nt trouble myself to give 'em much of an answer, and away they pelted after him in full cry. Well, gentlemen,--before I got home, both hare and hounds (as it happened) had turned into my bar. And, if you'll believe me, the first man I clapt my eyes on as I came into my own house--egad, I thought it was myself or my own ghost."
"And if this had been in the Scotch Highlands now, landlord, you would have been sure of being in your coffin before the year was out."
"Why I know not for that, Sir: but it's not lucky in any country for a man to see his own likeness walking about: and I'll not deny but I was a little startled; and I sate me down amongst the Blazer's men, and could not speak a word. And says he to me--(but he turned his face rather away)--'Good man, did you call for whiskey?' And I could have sworn to the voice for my own amongst a thousand: But, when he served me the whiskey, I looked hard at him; and I saw it was Nicholas. But I had'nt the heart to betray him: and I says to him--'Landlord, how are you? and how goes business?'--'Business?' says he, 'we've business for evermore; I'm run off my feet with business.' And sure enough he took sixpence of me in my own bar; and fifteen shillings of the revenue men for smuggled brandy. And whilst they were drinking, out he slips--and whips away at the north gate by the very same road they had all come; and two minutes after the lieutenant and his company were off, as if the devil drove 'em, to the south."
"This extraordinary talent for personating every age and character," said the manager, "he learned (or improved however) whilst he was in my troop. He was the best actor I ever had: nothing came amiss to him--Richard the Third, or Aguecheek; Shylock or Pistol--Romeo or the Apothecary--Hamlet or the Cock: for by the way he once took it into his head to play the Cock in the first scene of Hamlet; and he crowed in so very superior a style that the oldest cock in the neighbourhood was taken in, and got to answering him; and the crowing spread from one farm-house to another till all the cocks in Carnarvonshire were crowing."
"Ha! ha! ha! Mr. Manager, and what said the audience to this?"
"What said the audience? Why they encored him--pit, boxes, and gallery: and the ghost was obliged to come on again, that he might be crowed off again. But all this was when he was a boy of 17: for he soon got tired of the stage."
"Aye, he grows tired of every thing," said some of the company: "and by this time, I'll be bound for it, he's grown tired of smuggling: and, if it be true that he has had any thing to do with Thistlewood, that's the reason."
"No," said another, "that's not the reason; tired of smuggling, I dare say he was; for a man, like Nicholas, could never have liked it for any thing but its active life, and its danger and its difficulties. But, if any thing has brought him connected with Cato-street, it is love."
"Love! what love for Lord Londonderry?"
"No, no, you guess what I mean; there are few in this room but know pretty well what I mean; love for a young lady in the neighbourhood."
"Miss Walladmor, I suppose?"
"Hush! hush!" said the landlord,--"let us name no names."
"Well! no matter for the name: but we all know that love had turned his brain: he was desperate; and for this last year and a half it's notorious that he has been as mad as a March hare."
"Nicholas in love!" said Mr. Bloodingstone, "well, now that sounds as comical to me as if I should say, that my bull-dog Towser was in love with a bull."
"Why, God bless my soul! haven't the Rotterdam merchants turned him out of their service for that very reason? I know it to be a fact that, no farther back than last February, when one of them was promising him 400 guineas if he'd do this and that,--'Damn your guineas!' says he, 'if it were not for a fairer face than ever I saw on a guinea, I would never set foot in Wales again.' And he raved at such a rate about the young lady, that all the owners began to be shy of him: and the end of it was, that Captain le----what's his name?--has been put in his room."
"Captain Jackson you mean," said the landlord, "for that's his real name; aye, it's true enough that Jackson has now got the command."
"Well, but mad or not mad, what became of Nicholas after the Bow-street officers had laid hold of him? Mr. Dulberry, you had the paper: what became of him? Clapt into a post-chaise for London, eh?"
"No, sir: with all their plots, it seems government couldn't make sure of catching him on the Cato-street business: witnesses couldn't be bought, or juries couldn't be packed, I suppose: and so they've sent him to this part of the country; and he's to take his trial at Dolgelly or Carnarvon for some old affairs, God knows what, with the Custom-house or the Blazer."
"God bless me!" exclaimed almost every man in the room, "so then we shall see Edward Nicholas once more; and I'll walk fifty miles rather than miss the sight. And which way does he come, Mr. Dulberry?"
"By sea, gentlemen; they shipped him on board the steam-packet Halcyon; and God, in his mercy, grant that this cursed instrument of despotic power may blow up and deliver so good a patriot from their snares!"
"The Halcyon!" exclaimed Bertram, with a vehemence proportioned to his sudden surprise and the interest which by this time he felt in the subject of the conversation--"The Halcyon! Why then, Mr. Dulberry, your prayer is granted: for the Halcyon blew up two days ago in St. George's Channel; somewhere, I believe, off the Isle of Anglesea: I was one of the passengers; and, to the best of my belief, all on board have perished--except myself."
In Lloyd's coffee-house, or other places of great resort in London, when a placard is exhibited reporting any important news, the restlessness of public impatience seems often as though it would extort an answer to its further curiosity from the inanimate pillar or post to which the placard is affixed: it may be supposed how much more liable to such importunity is the bearer of a placard that happens to be no stone pillar but a living man. Bertram was pressed upon from all sides for his narrative of the catastrophe, which he gave in substance as the reader has already heard it. Of Nicholas, whom he now understood to have been his fellow-passenger, he knew nothing: that some state prisoner, of extraordinary character, was on board--he had indeed casually heard; but had seen nothing of him to his own knowledge; and if he were under hatches and in irons, there was no room to doubt that he must have been amongst those who were most sure to have perished. All that he could certainly report of the final sequel to his own share in the adventure--was that, since his eyes had opened on shore, they had rested on no countenance which he remembered to have seen on board the Halcyon. It is needless to say that a mixed expression of wonder, deep interest in the events, and compassion for the unfortunate sufferers, accompanied Bertram's narrative. The narrator himself was the object of a mingled sympathy of condolence and congratulation--blended however with an air of keen examination directed to his features (now that they were brought nearer to the observers and under a steadier light) which had once before distressed him in the course of the evening, and for which he could find no satisfactory explanation. The prevailing sentiment, which arose at the end of the account, was a lively regret that the near prospect of seeing Edward Nicholas again--so suddenly opened upon them--should have been so suddenly overcast. Nevertheless, such was the general confidence in his good fortune and his unrivalled resources in presence of mind and bodily activity--that considerable odds were offered by many of the company that Nicholas, who had outlived so many desperate storms, both by sea and land, in all climates of the world, would yet be heard of again.
For any of these feelings or considerations Mr. Dulberry had no leisure: the moral, which he drew from this, as from all other events great or small--sad or merry, was exclusively civic and full of patriotic spleen:--"So then," said he, "you see what sort of ships government choose for transporting their state prisoners?"
"But, good God, Mr. Dulberry, you can hardly suppose that the boiler of the Halcyon was in the pay of my Lord Londonderry?"
"The boiler!--No: but where was the engineer that should have been in his pay? Didn't Mr. Bennett propose a year or two ago, that no steam-packet should be lawfully turned off the stocks before it was thoroughly examined by a state engineer? Didn't----"
But here supper was announced, a summons welcome in itself, and at this moment doubly so as putting a stop to the reformer. Even that person condescended to be pleased on the former consideration, though reasonably incensed on the other; and he advanced to the table in a continued ejaculation of inarticulate grunts--a sort of equivocal language in which he designed to convey alike his approbation of supper and displeasure at the interruption.
Bertram took his seat with the rest of the party; but sought an early opportunity of withdrawing himself from a scene of convivial merriment, in which his previous fatigues had by this time wholly disqualified him for sharing with any cordiality. Wearily he followed the person who conducted him to his bedchamber: but, spite of his sleepiness and exhaustion, he was roused to a slight shock of something like terror, by a little incident which occurred on the way:--in one of the galleries, through which they passed, a man was standing at the further end: he was apparently in the act of admitting himself into a bedroom: but something, which embarrassed him about the lock or the key, detained him until they advanced near enough to throw the light of a candle full upon his profile. It was the profile of a face tanned into a gypsey complexion, and for so young a face--weather-beaten, thin, and wasted; but otherwise of Grecian beauty of outline; and, as far as could be judged from so hasty and oblique a glance, remarkably expressive and dignified. The man did not look round or take any other notice of them, as they advanced: and the attendant either had not, or affected not to have, any knowledge of his person: but Bertram felt a bewildering remembrance, as if suddenly snatched and recovered from a dream, of the same features seen under circumstances of some profounder interest. He labored anxiously to recollect in what situation and when; but the events of the last few days had so agitated and bewildered his mind, that he labored in vain; and, the more he thought, the more he entangled himself in a web of perplexity. From this and all other perplexities, however, he was speedily liberated by the sound sleep which seized him the moment he had laid his head on the pillow.
FOOTNOTES TO "CHAPTER VI.":
 A joke upon an Irish accentuation of Mr. Croker's, the Secretary to the Admiralty. In his Talavera he accentuated the word Ally Hibernicé, with the accent on the first syllable. On which Mr. Southey playfully called him Ally Croaker.
 A joke borrowed from ----, by whom it was applied to a better man than himself; one of the most extraordinary men of genius in this age, and whose life has been more romantic than that of Edward Nicholas.
Pand. Hark, they ate coming from the field: shall we stand
up here, and see them as they pass towards Ilium? Good niece
do, sweet niece Cressida.
Cress. At your pleasure.
Pand. Here, here, here's an excellent place: here we may see
most bravely. I'll tell you them all by their names as they pass
by: but mark Troilus above the rest.
Troilus and Cressida: Act. 1.
When Bertram awoke, the sun was already high and pouring a golden light through the frosted window of his bedroom. The church-bells of Machynleth were ringing gaily: from one or two neighbouring villages arose a fainter sound of bells; and the stir and motion within doors and without proclaimed that this was some festal day. On descending to breakfast, he found the house arranged in the neatest order and garnished with branches of fir. The door was crowded and the street was swarming with groups of country people--men, women, and children; the women adorned with gay ribbons, and the men with bouquets of leeks. The landlord and many of his inmates paid the same honor to the day: and every thing announced that it was the great national festival of Wales, sacred to good St. David; a day on which no man of Welch blood, though he should be at Seringapatam, would think it lawful to forget this ancient recognizance of Cambrian fraternity.--True it is however, that, like all other old usages, this also (except in the principality itself) is rapidly falling into disuse. Else surely it could never have happened that precisely on this day a certain noble lord of Welch descent should have thought fit to rise in his place in the House, and make an eloquent exposition and apology for the jacobinical creed of his friends. We cannot doubt that, had a bunch of leeks been suddenly presented to his lordship at this moment, his face would have crimsoned with a blush as deep as that of the red night-cap which apparently is the object of his homage; for surely no hostility can be deeper than that between the badge of jacobinism and this antique symbol of honor, good faith, and loyal brotherhood, and reverence for the dust of our forefathers.
"How now, landlord"--said the reformer--"Is this absurd, superstitious, commemoration of St. David's day never to cease?"
"Have a care, Mr. Dulberry: don't talk too loud. There's some of our country friends outside, that, if they should overhear you, might take a fancy for trying the strength of your head with ice-clods--or put you under the pump."
"Or perhaps," said the manager, "give you a leek to eat; and not in so courtly a manner as I once saw Fluellen administer his leek to Pistol on the London boards; the part of Fluellen on that particular night by Garrick; to whom, by the way, in that part I was myself considered equal."
"All rank superstition, trash, and mummery from the days of darkness and barbarism," continued Dulberry. "And hence it comes that sound principles make so little progress in Wales. As if we hadn't red-letter days in the calendar more than enough already from national and general superstition, but these local superstitions must step in to add another. Gentlemen! it seems to me that Parliament should put a stop to all bell-ringing, wearing of leeks, flaunting about with ribbons, and flocking together in the street. Suppose, gentlemen, we should have an Address prepared against leeks."
"No addresses," Mr. Dulberry, said the landlord, "for this day at any rate! Sir Morgan Walladmor would send the beadle to you with a rod of nettles, if he was to hear of such a thing: for he doats upon the leek and St. David's day. This is one of his great jollification days: and he sends bread, meat, drink, coals, and money, to every poor cottage for a dozen miles round: nay, I may go farther and tell no lie: for though the baronet's an old man now, and has had some sorrow to bear of his own, by his good will there shouldn't be a sad heart in Machynleth on St. David's day; and that's five and twenty long miles from Castle Walladmor."
"Abominable despotism! and the poor oppressed creatures do actually swallow his drink?"
"Swallow it? Aye, Mr. Dulberry, it's no physic."
"And they dance too, I suppose?"
"Every mother's child of them, Mr. Dulberry: not a soul but'll dance to-day except babies and cripples. Lord! Mr. Dulberry, if you don't like to see poor labouring folks happy for one day in the year, I'll tell you this--you must keep out of Machynleth on St. David's day."
"Well! this tyranny goes beyond any thing I've seen: we all know that Lord Londonderry has compelled Manchester and all England to wear mourning: but this rustic tyrant is determined to make people merry when, as every body must know, they want to cry."
"Come, come, Sir, the Baronet's a good man and no tyrant; though he may have his fancies and his faults, like the rest of us: but we most of us like him pretty well, tenants and all: and, as to his niece--Miss Genevieve, I believe there's not many between this and the Castle but would go through fire and water for her."
"Sir Morgan Walladmor," said Alderman Gravesand, "is a wise man; and, in these times of change and light-mindedness, he sticks up for ancient customs. It's a pity but there were more such."
"Aye and he's a clever man," added the landlord, "and knows how to tack with the wind: for, let who would be in or out of the ministry, he has still been the king's lieutenant for these two counties of Carnarvon and Merioneth ever since I can think on."
"There you're wrong, landlord,"--replied the Alderman: "Sir Morgan never shifts or tacks for any body: he's a staunch Whig like all his ancestors from 1688; and, though he doesn't go up to Parliament now so often as he did in his younger days, yet there has never been a Tory administration but Sir Morgan Walladmor has opposed it so far as he thought honorable; that is to say, he has opposed it on the fine old Whig principles of the Russels--the Cavendishes--and the Spencers."
"And why doesn't he go up to Parliament, I'd be glad to know?" said Dulberry: "What the d---l does he stay here for, like a ruminating beast chewing the cud of his youthful patriotism? Because he has got some pleasant sinecure for himself, I suppose--and some comfortable places for his sons, his grandsons, his nephews, and his cousins."
"I'll tell you, Mr. Dulberry, why he doesn't go up to Parliament," said Alderman Gravesand; "not, as you say, out of consideration for his sons, grandsons, nephews, and cousins; for he happens to have neither son, grandson, nephew, nor cousin:--not, as you say, to preserve his own sinecures; for he has never had a shilling for his services; nor any reward at all from the state, except indeed what a man like Sir Morgan thinks the greatest of all rewards--the thanks of Parliament, and the approbation of his Sovereign: not, as you say, to take his ease and pleasure, for he has troubles enough of his own to keep him waking at Walladmor House as much as if he were in St. James's-square:--these are not his reasons, Mr. Dulberry. But now I'll tell you what is:--There are just now in London and elsewhere a set of presumptuous--illiterate--mechanical rogues who take upon themselves to be the defenders of Old England and her liberties; and they have made the very name of liberty ridiculous: and all the old authentic champions of constitutional rights in Parliament or elsewhere shrink back in shame from the opprobrium of seeming to make common cause with a crew so base and mechanical. And, if there were any person of that stamp here, and he were to take liberties with better men than himself,--I would take him by the shoulder just as I do you, Mr. Dulberry; and I would pin him down into his chair; and I would say to him--'Thou ridiculous reformer, if I hear a word of insolence from thy lips against our worthy lord lieutenant, I will most unceremoniously toss thee neck and heels out of the window.' For a day of peace and festivity that would be an unsuitable spectacle: and therefore glad I am that I see no such ridiculous person before me, but on the contrary my worthy old friend and acquaintance Samuel Dulberry."
The reformer made no manual reply to this significant threat; but contented himself with turning his back contemptuously on the Alderman--at the same time uttering these words:
"Well, Mr. Gravesand, serve your master after your own fashion: what is it to me? Carry his lap-dogs; fondle his cats; fawn upon his spaniels: what care I? But----" What dreadful form of commination hung pendant upon this 'But,' was never known: for precisely at this moment, and most auspiciously for the general harmony of the company, the reformer's eloquence was cut short by a joyous uproar of voices "They're coming! they're coming!" And immediately a sea-like sound of glad tumultuous crowds, in advance of the procession, swelled upon the ear from the open door: every window was flung up in a moment: mothers were hurrying with their infants; fathers were raising their lads and lasses on their shoulders: the thunders of the lord lieutenant's band began to peal from a distance: in half a minute the head of the procession appeared in view wheeling round the corner: heads after heads, horses after horses, in never-ending succession, kept pouring round into the street: the whole market-place filled as with the influx of a spring tide: and all eyes were turned upon the ceremonial part of the procession, which now began to unfold its pomp.
First came the Snowdon archers, two and two, in their ancient uniform of green and white, in number one hundred and twenty. Immediately behind them rode a young man in black and crimson, usually called Golden-Spear from the circumstance of his carrying the gilt spear of Harlech Castle, with which, by the custom, he is to ride into Machynleth church at a certain part of the service on St. David's day, and into Dolgelly church on the day of Pentecost, and there to strike three times against 'Traitors' grave' with a certain form of adjuration in three languages. After him came the rangers of Penmorfa, all mounted, and riding four abreast. They were in number about eighty-four; and wore, as usual, a uniform of watchet (i.e. azure) and white--with horse-cloths and housings of the same colors:--and the ancient custom had been that all the horses should be white: this rule had been relaxed in later times from the poverty of the Penmorfa people in consequence of repeated irruptions of the sea, but was now restored, with brilliant effect on the coloring of the procession, by the liberality of Sir Morgan Walladmor. Next after these rode the sheriff of Merionethshire and his billmen, all in ancient costume: and then came the most interesting part of the cavalcade. On St. David's day it had always been the custom that the Bishop of Bangor should send some representative to do suit and service for a manor which he held of the house of Walladmor: and the usage was--that, if there were an heir male to that ancient house, the Bishop sent four young men who carried falcons perched on their wrists; but, if the presumptive claimant of the Walladmor honors and estates were a female, in that case he sent four young girls who carried doves. Both the doves and the falcons had an allusion to the arms of the Walladmors: and for some reason, in the present year, Sir Morgan had chosen himself to add the four falcons and their bearers to the Bishop's doves. These were arranged in the following manner. Four beautiful girls drest altogether in white, without bonnets, and having no head-dress but white caps, were ranged in line with the four falcon-bearers, who were young boys dressed in complete suits of bishop's purple and purple mantles: all the eight rode on white horses: and immediately behind them came a kind of triumphal car, low but very spacious, and carrying Sir Morgan's five domestic harpers and the silver harps which they had won in the contests first introduced under Queen Elizabeth's reform in 1567: behind the car again rode five horsemen on gigantic horses carrying the five banners of the five several castles belonging to Sir Morgan in Wales. The banners were so managed as to droop over the heads of the young women and boys: and thus the doves, the falcons, their beautiful bearers, the white horses, the venerable harpers and their silver harps, were all gathered as it were into one central group by means of the banners of purple and gold which spread their fine floating draperies above them all.
This was the centre of the procession: but immediately in advance of this part (i.e. between it and the sheriff's party) rode the two presiding persons of the ceremony; and who in that character, as well as for the interest connected with their own appearance, commanded universal attention.--Immediately before the falcon-bearers, and mounted upon a grey charger, rode a tall meagre man in a dress well fitted to raise laughter in the spectator and with a countenance well fitted to repress it. This was Sir Morgan Walladmor. His dress was an embroidered suit something in the fashion of the French court during the regency of the Duke of Orleans in the minority of Louis the Fifteenth; and having been worn by the baronet in his youth upon some memorable occasion, where it had either aided his then handsome person in making a conquest or in some other way had connected itself with remembrances that were affecting to him, he never would wear this dress on any day but St. David's----nor on that day would ever wear any other. The dress was sacred to the festival; which, like all joyous ceremonials and commemorations, to those who are advanced in years bring with them some sorrow blended with their joy. In such sorrow however, where it is a simple tribute of natural regrets to the images of vanished things, and the fleeting records of poor transitory man, there is often an overbalance of pleasure. But the merest stranger, who read the features of Sir Morgan Walladmor with a discerning eye, might see a history written there of a sorrow that went deeper than that--a sorrow not tempered by any pleasure. On ordinary occasions this was the predominant expression of his countenance--mixed however at all times with something of a humorous aspect, a half fantastic sense of the ludicrous, and perhaps a few reliques of that sternness which at one time was said to have had some place in the composition of his character. But this had long given way to the influences of time and the softening hand of affliction: all harshness, that might once have thrown a shade over the milder graces of his character, was now removed: and on this day, above all days in the year, his heart had no leisure for any feelings but those of kindness--dilated as it was by the old ancestral glories that were revived and shadowed forth in the pomps before him. Every part of the ceremonial to his eye was rich with meaning and symbolic language: and in the eye of the rudest of his countrymen he saw this language repeated and reflected--the language of exulting national pride, with a personal application to himself as its chief local representative. Apart from these patriotic feelings, Sir Morgan was capable of enjoying that purest of all happiness which is reflected from the spectacle of happiness in others: he was besides now riding for the sixtieth time in this annual procession, having begun to ride when he was no more than five years old: and finally Sir Morgan was a gentleman in the most emphatic sense of that emphatic word. Hence it arose that his manners on this occasion were more than merely courteous or condescending; all thought of condescension was lost and forgotten in the expression of paternal benignity with which he looked on those around him: the meanest and the highest, the youngest and oldest, came in alike for the salutation of his eye: to the poorest cottagers, as he past, he bowed and smiled with an air of cordial sincerity that allowed no thought of artifice: and young and old, man and woman, all smiled with delighted faces and happy confidence as they bowed and curtsied in return.
As he passed under the inn, Sir Morgan threw up his eyes to the upper windows; and, observing them thickly crowded with strangers, he moved with a courtly politeness--at the same time smiling archly but goodnaturedly as his eye caught that of Mr. Dulberry, whose character as a reformer had reached him; and who at this moment was the only one amongst the gentlemen present that stood bolt upright, and proclaimed his radical patriotism by refusing to acknowledge the lord lieutenant's salutation. Impressive as Sir Morgan's aspect and costume were, the attention of every body however was at this moment drawn off to his youthful companion, who just now turned her eyes with a hurried glance on the inn--but immediately withdrew them, as she observed the crowd of gentlemen at the windows. All the strangers were aware that this was the baronet's niece; who was now an object of sufficient interest from the disclosures of the preceding night, even though she had been less attractive in her person.
Sorrow in Miss Walladmor wore its most touching shape: as yet it had made no ravages in her beauty; and, if it had laid a hand of gentle violence upon her health, it had as yet cropped only the luxuriance of her youthful charms. It was clear to every eye that Miss Walladmor was not one of those persons who surrender themselves unresisting victims to dejection, and sink without a struggle into premature valetudinarians. Somewhat indeed her early acquaintance with grief had dimmed the lustre of her fine blue eyes; and had given a pensive timidity to her manner. But, if her eye were less bright, it was still full of spirit and intelligence: and, if the roses were stolen from her cheek, her paleness was rather the paleness of thought than of constitutional languor; or to express it in the exquisite lines of a modern poet, if she wore 'a pale face' it was however a pale face
'--------that seem'd undoubtedly
As if a blooming face it ought to be:'
and her whole person and deportment expressed that naturally she was of redundant health and gaiety, but suffering under the shocks of a trial to which she had been summoned too early for her youthful fortitude.
Having mounted on horseback only at the entrance of Machynleth, Miss Walladmor did not wear a riding-habit; but had gratified her uncle by assuming the plain white morning dress, white ribbons, and cap, which ancient custom had consecrated to the occasion; adding only, in consideration of the frosty day, an ermine tippet. The horse she rode was a white palfrey of the beautiful breed so much valued by Charles I.; and in fact traced its pedigre from the famous White Rose which had been presented by the sister of that prince [the Electress Palatine] to an ancestor of Sir Morgan's, who had attended her to Heidelberg. At the moment of passing the inn,--one of the doves, which Miss Walladmor had been in the habit of feeding, quitted the hand of the young bearer behind, and perched upon the shoulder of her mistress; making up a picture of innocent beauty somewhat fanciful and allegoric, but not on that account the less fitted to harmonize with the antique pageantries of this heraldic solemnity.
Such were the two central and presiding figures: every eye strained after them, and all that followed was unnoticed: the bailiff of Talyllyn with the surcoat, and the silver spurs of Llewellyn; the high constable of Aber-glas-llyn, with his gorgeous display of antique liveries; the tawny coats of the Bishop of St. Asaph, who came to ride the boundaries of the old episcopal demesne of Aberkilvie, in company with the retainers of Sir Morgan; the Mayor and Corporation of Machynleth, in their crimson robes;--all alike passed unheeded: and the spectators were first roused from the fascination of the departing spectacle by the clangor of the band, which with the Barmouth sea-fencibles--two troops of dragoons and the cortége of the Sheriff of Carnarvonshire brought up the rear of the cavalcade.
As fast as the procession cleared the ground, with the fluent motion of water, the crowd closed up in its wake--all eager to press after it into the church. Bertram, who had shared deeply in the general admiration and pity expressed for Miss Walladmor, sympathized no less with the national feeling belonging to the day. Who can blame him? The spectacle of a whole multitude swayed by one feeling, however little the object of that feeling may be approved by the judgment of the spectator, appeals irresistibly to his sympathies, if he be not more than usually cold-hearted: and I remember well that, though myself a faithful son of the Scotish church, I was once seduced by such an occasion into an involuntary act of idolatrous compliance with popery. It was at Orleans: the day was splendid: the bells proclaimed a festival: a vast procession of a mixed composition, religious and military, was streaming towards the cathedral; and by a moral compulsion, rather than by any physical pressure of the crowd, I was swept along into the general vortex. Suddenly an angle of the road brought me into such a position with respect to all who were in advance of my station, that I could see the whole vast line bent into the form of a crescent, and with its head entering at the great-doors of the cathedral: I gazed on the tossing of the plumes and the never ending dance of heads succeeding to heads as they plunged into what seemed the dark abysses of the church: one after one I beheld the legions and their eagles, the banners and the lilies of France swallowed up by the cathedral: then, as I came nearer and nearer, I could hear the great blair of the organ--throwing off its clouds of ascending music, like incense fuming from an altar: nearer still I could look through the high portals into the nave of the church, and could distinguish the opposite windows storied with gorgeous emblazonries of saints and martyrs, angels and archangels, whilst above them were seen the Madonna, and "the Lamb of God" with the cross; and through the upper panes streamed in the golden rays of the sun, and the blue light of the unfathomable heavens: then, as I myself was entering, suddenly the shattering trumpet-stop was opened: and I heard the full choir singing the great anthem of Pergolesi--"And the Dead shall arise:" at which instant I also wept with the multitude, and acknowledged a common faith and a common hope: and for a moment I will confess that I apostatized to the church of Rome for the sake of her pomps and vanities: a sin which I trust is forgiven me, as I can assure the church of Scotland that it is the single occasion throughout my life on which I have had any wanderings of thought from her pure and orthodox creed.
Under a similar impulse, caught from the contagion of public enthusiasm, Bertram pressed after the procession into the church. He was carried by the crowd into a situation from which he could overlook the entire nave which was in the simplest style of Gothic architecture and naked of all the ornaments which belong to the florid Gothic of a later age. The massy pillars were left unviolated by the petty hand of household neatness: they stood severe in monumental granite, unwhitewashed, unstuccoed, without tricks or frippery. All the gingerbread work of plinths to the base, or fretted cornices to the capitals, had been banished by the austerity of the presiding taste. And it struck Bertram also, as a picturesque circumstance in the whole effect and at the same time a circumstance of rude grandeur which well accorded with the spirit of the architecture, that there was no ceiling: the whole was open to the slates; and the vast beams and joists of oak, which had been laid for upwards of four hundred years, were clearly distinguishable. Below these were suspended antique banners which floated at times in the currents of air: and all the pillars were hung with shields, helmets, shirts of mail, and other ancient records of warlike achievements--arranged in the manner of trophies. All these were covered with venerable dust, the deposition of centuries, which no loyal-hearted Welchman would on any account have disturbed.
The service, as is usual at Machynleth--at Bangor Cathedral and other great churches in North Wales, was partly performed in Welch and partly in English. The singing, which was fine and supported by an organ of prodigious power, was chiefly of a triumphant and (as it appeared to Bertram) almost martial character. Just before the sermon however an ancient ceremony showed that, if the religion of the day clothed itself in the attire of earthly pride and exultation, the martial patriotism of Wales could sometimes soar into a religious expression. The people divided to the right and the left, leaving a lane from the great door: a trumpet sounded; and in rode Golden-spear, lance in rest, the whole length of the nave--passed into the choir--and halted before a monument of black marble. He paused for a few moments: then cried with a loud voice in Welch, English, and Latin, "Bastard of Walladmor!" to which summons the choir sang a penitential antiphony. Then he raised his spear and struck the outside of the tomb: to which again the organ muttered and the choir sang a response. Then a second time he raised the golden spear, and plunged it through an iron grating which occupied the place of heart in the stony figure of a knight recumbent on the tomb: the spear sank within a foot of the head: and again the organ muttered some sad tones; after which he pronounced these words:
"God, who in six days and seven nights created heaven--and earth--the sea and all that in them is, send up thy guilty soul into this grave, so long as the sea and the earth endure, on St. David's day;--annually to hear the message which I bring from Walladmor and Harlech:--The death, which thou gavest to the Pagan dogs, was given in vain: the treason, which should have trampled on the cross, was confounded by God's weak instruments a falcon and a dove: the crescent was dimmed at Walladmor, and the golden spear prevailed at Harlech: and the banner of Walladmor is flying to this day: So let it fly until Arthur shall come again in power and great beauty: on which day thy treason be forgiven thee!"
Thus having delivered his message to the grave,--the herald drew forth his spear, ported it, bowed to the altar, and turning his horse rode back: and, as Golden-spear issued from the choir, the organ and the choristers commenced one of the chorusses in Judas Maccabaeus.
Then followed the sermon which was in Welch--but, as Bertram could distinguish, full of allusions to the great names of Wales; and in fact as martial as any part of the service, and to all appearance as gratifying to the patriotic fervour of the audience. That finished, the rival thunders of the organ within and the martial band without gave notice that the procession was on its return.
FOOTNOTES TO CHAPTER VII.:
 See Ap Howel De Lege Principal, per Forestam et Chasam Snowd. hactenus recepta; Hist. of the Gwedir Fam. &c.
 For the legend of the Two Traitors, vid. Ap Howel, ubi supra.
Charmi. Sir, I may move the court to serve your will;
But therein shall but wrong you and myself.
Rom. Why think you so, sir?
Charmi. 'Cause I am familiar
With what will be their answer: They will say
'Tis against law; and argue me of ignorance
For offering them the motion.
Rom. You know not, sir,
How in this case they may dispense with law;
And therefore frame not you their answer for them,
But do your parts.
Massinger and Field:--Fatal Dowry.
With the hope of again seeing Miss Walladmor and her uncle, Bertram was attempting to make his way up to the centre of the procession. So many others however had precisely the same object in view, that he was likely to have found it a matter of some difficulty to pierce the dense array of foot and horse passengers. Suddenly at this moment he found himself tapped on the shoulder by somebody who stood behind; and, turning round, he perceived Mr. Dulberry.
"Come with me," said Dulberry; "and I will show you a short cut by the back way: jump a hedge or two, and trespass over a few silly old women's potato gardens, and we shall be at the inn before the procession arrives."
"It will pass the inn then on its return?"
"I suppose so: but what need you or I care for such absurd mummeries? Good God! to think of the money that might have been earned by all these horses if they had been spending the day creditably and honestly in ploughing and tilling the land; whereas now----"
"Ploughing, Mr. Dulberry! but surely it's not the season just now, with the ground frozen as deep as it is, for rural labours of that sort."
"Well, no matter: there's work enough for horses amongst dyers, tanners, and such people. By the way, did you ever hear of my machine for teazing wool? Wonderful invention! horse labor entirely superseded: a little steam, and a man or two,--give me these, and I'll teaze the whole world. Wonderful the progress of the human intellect since the time of Archimedes!--But no doubt you are acquainted with my teazing machine?"
"In fact I have that honor: or rather--what am I saying? I beg your pardon; that particular teazing machine of yours, which you now allude to, I have not the honor of knowing at all."
"Ah? but then you should: the sooner the better: for no man can be said to have finished his education who is not well acquainted with my teazing machine. In fact it has had a great influence on the literature of this country. For the ode to my teazing machine, which is generally regarded as the most finished production of the English lyric muse----"
Here Mr. Dulberry was interrupted by a hedge which it was necessary to leap; and Bertram remarked, that in spite of the contempt which he professed for unprofitable show and "mummery," the reformer bestirred himself as actively and took a hedge as nimbly as the youngest lad could have done under the fear of missing any part of the spectacle. On reaching the inn however they learned that their labor was thrown away. One part of the procession had gone off by different routes to ride the boundaries of lordships and perform other annual ceremonies: part had dispersed: and another part had accompanied Sir Morgan to the town hall of Machynleth--where a Welsh court-of-grace was held, according to immemorial precedent, for receiving petitions, granting extraordinary favors or dispensations, and redressing any complaints against the agents of Sir Morgan (as lord of Walladmor and many other manors) in their various feudal duties. At this court it was Sir Morgan's custom to preside in person. As to Miss Walladmor, she, it appeared, had got into her carriage at the church door; was gone off to make some calls in the neighbourhood; and was not expected to pass through Machynleth on her road back to Walladmor Castle before dark.
After taking some refreshment, Dulberry proposed to Bertram that they should adjourn to the Town Hall. On entering the court-room, they were both surprized to observe the phlegmatic Dutchman addressing Sir Morgan in the character of petitioner. They caught enough of his closing words to understand that the gîte of his petition was to obtain the baronet's sanction for the regular and Christian interment of some foreigner who had died at sea.
"By all means, Mr. Van der Velsen,"--replied Sir Morgan, "by all means: there needs no petition: Wales, I thank God, has never failed in any point of hospitality to poor strangers who were thrown upon her kindness: much less could she betray her religious duties to the dead. But what is the name of the deceased?" "Sare Morgan," replied the Dutchman, "de pauvre man fos not Welsherman: to him Got fos not gif so moch honneur: he no more dan pauvre Jack Frenshman. Bot vat den? He goot Christen man, sweet--lovely--charmant man; des plus aimables; oh! fos beautiful man of war!"
"But what was his name, I ask, Mr. Van der Velsen?"
"De name? de name? oh! de name is le Harnois; Monsieur le Harnois; he fos Captain au service de Sa Majesté Très Chrétienne."
Bertram started with surprize: but he controlled his astonishment, and attended to what followed from Sir Morgan.
"Well, Mr. Van der Velsen, Frenchman or not, I know of no possible objection to his being decently buried. In the churchyard of Aberkilvie, which lies by the seaside about eighteen miles from this place, there are bodies of all nations--Dutch, English, Danes, Spaniards, and no doubt Frenchmen--flung upon our shores by shipwreck or other accidents of mortality. By all means let the French Captain be honourably interred at Aberkilvie."
"Tank, Sare Morgan, moch tank: bot--bot, Sare, dare is anoder leetle ting."
"And what is that, Sir?"
Here another friend of the deceased stepped forward and briefly stated that Captain le Harnois was a Roman Catholic; and that his son therefore naturally wished to bury him in a Catholic burying-ground.
"But where is there such a burying-ground?" asked Sir Morgan: "I know of none but the chapel of Utragan, where nobody has been buried since the wars of the Two Roses: and now, I am sorry to say, it is used as a potato ground."
"If the lord lieutenant would permit us to carry the deceased so far inland, there is the consecrated ground of Griffith ap Gauvon."
"True: there is Ap Gauvon certainly: I had forgot. Well, be it so: let Captain le Harnois be buried in one of the chapels at Ap Gauvon."
"Tank, Sare, moch tank," said the Dutchman: "but dare is 'noder leetle ting:" and then he explained in substance, that as the Captain had died at sea, all his friends were apprehensive that the officers of the Customs and Excise would insist on searching the hearse and coffin; an indignity which would grievously wound the feelings of his son and all his family; and which could not be viewed in France in any other light than as an insult unworthy of a great and liberal nation to the memory of a brave officer who had the honor to serve His Most Christian Majesty.
"I am sorry for it," said Sir Morgan: "but in this point it is quite impossible for me to be of any service. The coast hereabouts has been so much resorted to of late years by smuggling vessels, that the officers of the revenue are reasonably very strict: and the law is imperative."
"But this officer," said the English spokesman, "this Captain le Harnois--if you will condescend to listen to me, Sir Morgan Walladmor,--was a man of honor and of known integrity. I might go further: he was a religious man, and distinguished for his Catholic devotion: was he not, Herr Van der Velsen?"
"Oh var moch religious: as for a man of war, he fos beautiful christen: he cry moch for sin, often dat I see him: all de leetle prayer, and all de leetle hymn, he sing dem all one--two--tree--quatre--noine--time per day. De word dat de haf all time in his mout, to me and to oder men, fos deese: 'Let all ting be charmant, lufly, Bourbonish, and religious.' Oh! for de salt-water christen, he was beautiful:--beautiful man of war."
"I doubt it not, gentlemen,"--said Sir Morgan; "and am happy to hear such an account of the Captain's piety, which will now be of more service to him than all the honors we could render to his poor earthly remains. Not that I would countenance any person in offering them an indignity, if I could see how it were to be avoided."
"We are all sure that you would not," said the Englishman: "the name of Walladmor is a pledge for every thing that is high-minded and liberal. And in this case young le Harnois, the captain's son, was the more induced to hope for the indulgence desired, because the deceased was a man of family and connected with the highest blood in Europe. In particular, he had the honor to be distantly related to the house of Walladmor."
"Ah?" said Sir Morgan, "in what way?"
"Through the Montmorencies. It is notorious to all Europe that there is an old connexion between the Walladmors and the Montmorencies: and the family of le Harnois is nearly connected by the female side with the Montmorencies."
"Undoubtedly," said Sir Morgan, "my family have more than once intermarried with the Montmorencies. Undoubtedly: what you say is very true, gentlemen. And as this is the case, I will not deny that I am disposed to view your petition favourably. Some indulgence--some consideration--is certainly due to the blood of the Montmorencies.----Let me think a moment." Then, after a pause, he added--"Well, gentlemen, I will grant you the dispensation you ask. You shall have my order to the officers of the Customs and Excise for the undisturbed passage of the funeral train to Griffith ap Gauvon. I will take the whole responsibility on myself; and this evening I will write to the Lords of the Treasury and the Home Secretary, to prevent any misstatement of the matter. Davies, make out the order; and I will sign it."
Both the appellants made their acknowledgments to Sir Morgan in the warmest terms; and, having received the order, together with an assurance from Sir Morgan that he should send down a carriage from Walladmor House to meet the funeral on the sea-shore, and pay the last honors to the poor gentleman's remains,--they bowed profoundly, and quitted the court.
Bertram meantime, who had so recently parted with Captain le Harnois in apparent good health, had been at first thoroughly confounded by this unexpected intelligence of his death, until the portrait of the deceased gentleman's piety--drawn by his friends in such very flattering colors--began to suggest a belief that certainly there must be two Captains le Harnois, and probably therefore two descendants of the Montmorencies, cruizing off the coast of Wales. This belief again was put to flight by 'de word which he haf alway in his mout' as reported by Herr Van der Velsen. Not knowing what to think, he followed the two negociators; and, addressing himself to the Dutchman, begged to know if the deceased Captain, on whose behalf the petition had just been presented to the lord lieutenant, were that Captain le Harnois who commanded the Fleurs-de-lys?
"Oh Sare, ja: de var same, de pious good christen Capitaine le Harnois."
"God bless me! is it possible? I parted with him last night at five o'clock; and I protest I never saw a man look better in my life. Dead! Why it seems a thing incredible. At five o'clock yesterday, but twenty-three hours ago, I declare to you, Mr. Van der Velsen, that I saw him with a keg of spirits by his side: and I'll venture to say that he drank a glass of it every three minutes."
"Aye, alway he trank his physic at five o'clock: bot, Sare--mine dear Sare, all would not save him: no ting would save him: his time fos come."
"And what was his complaint, pray?"
"Consumption! What Captain le Harnois' complaint consumption?"
"Oh! que oui, Sare: he complain moch of consomption."
"Why he had good reason to complain of it, if it killed him with so little warning. But what sort of consumption? Consumption of the brandy cask?"
"Oh no, mine dear friend: consomption--what you call it?--trotting consomption."
"Galloping consumption he means," said the English coadjutor of Mr. Van der Velsen.
"In good truth then it must have galloped," said Bertram; "for last night----"
"Well, Sir, no matter how or when, you hear that the Captain is dead: we are not his doctors, but his executors: and, if you owe him any money, you will pay it to me or to this gentleman. Or,"--he added on observing that Bertram laughed at such a conceit as that of the worthy Captain's having suffered any man to leave the Fleurs-de-lys in his debt,--"Or, if you owe nothing to his estate, perhaps out of love you will join us to-morrow on the road to Ap Gauvon:" and at the same time he put into Bertram's hand a written paper of the following tenor, but without date or subscription:
"In full confidence that you are a good Christian, and that you patronize freedom of trade, we hereby invite you to attend the funeral of the late Captain le Harnois; a worthy Christian, and one who admired--patronized--and personally promoted unlimited freedom of trade by every means in his power. The place of rendezvous is Huntingcross, near the sea-side by Aberkilvie; the time nine in the morning. If any other engagement should interfere with your attending at this hour and place, you will be so good as to join us on the road to Griffith ap Gauvon. Finally, dear christian brother, out of affection to the memory of the deceased have the kindness to bring a cudgel with you not less than two inches thick, and three and a half feet long."
Bertram mused a little on this last item in the invitation: but, recollecting that it might possibly be part of the etiquette in Welsh funeral solemnities, and being at any rate certain that the funeral had the highest possible sanction,--he said at length
"Well, gentlemen,--I cannot say that I owe the deceased Captain any money, or much love. But I bear no malice: and I have a mind to see how funerals are conducted in North Wales; and Griffith ap Gauvon, I now recollect, was one of the places pointed out to me as best worth seeing in this part of the country. All things considered therefore, if the morning should prove fine, I will not fail to join you somewhere on the road to Ap Gauvon."
At this point the conversation dropped; his two companions thanked him, and turned off down a bye street--upon some business connected with the preparations for the ensuing day; whilst Bertram pursued the direct road to the inn.
By this time it was dusk: the cottage windows were beginning to brighten with the blazing fire within; crowds of men were in the street elevated with Sir Morgan's liquor; and all the boys of Machynleth were gathering into groups, and preparing to let off their squibs and crackers in honour of the day. On approaching the inn, Bertram observed a carriage drawn up to the door; and a sudden blaze of light from one of the torches, which now began to appear amongst the crowd, showed him the figure of a young lady sitting inside. A minute afterwards, one of the attendants lit the carriage lamps; in doing which, the light of his candle illuminated the inside of the carriage, and fell strongly upon a face too beautiful and expressive to be forgotten by any one who had once beheld it. Bertram perceived that it was Miss Walladmor, who was now on her return to Walladmor House.
"She'll be off in a moment," said the landlord: "she's only stopping to change horses and get the lamps lit. The Lord Lieutenant's horses, that brought her in from the Castle in the forenoon, have been a matter of thirty miles with her since church-time on the other side the country; and that's near sixty in all. And so she takes my horses on to Walladmor."
"And does Sir Morgan not accompany her?"
"Oh! lord, no: Sir Morgan always dines with the Corporation; and he'll not be on the road for these seven hours; not on this side of midnight, I'll warrant him. This is St. David's day, I'd have you to remember: and this I'll take upon me to say----Mind, I name no names----but this I'll say, there's no man in Machynleth, gentle or simple, that will have the face to be sober to-night when the clock strikes twelve, nor any man that will leave Machynleth sober after twelve. What! do you take us for heathens? Most of us have been drunk these four hours agone; and are ready to be drunk again; and there's not many here but will have their eyes set in their heads in two hours more. I'll answer for one."
"Well, but at least you'll except Miss Walladmor's servants, I hope."
"I'll except nobody: if Miss Walladmor wants lads to drive her that are not drunk, she must send for 'em to some other county: she'll not find 'em in this. But she knows that well enough. Lord love her! there's not a driver in the county, not a horse almost nor any dumb creature whatsomever, that would bring Miss Walladmor into any danger. What! the lads may be a little 'fresh' or so; but they'll drive all the better for that. There's that lad now: he's going to ride the leaders; and I'm much in doubt whether he'll be able to mount. But if he once gets fairly into the saddle, the devil won't throw him out; he'll sit like a leech all the way from Carnarvonshire to Jerusalem."
Whether wrong or right in the latter part of this prediction, the landlord was certainly right in the former. For at this moment the postillion had succeeded in putting his foot into the stirrup, but in throwing his leg over the horse's croupe, he grazed his flank sharply with the spur--and, from the instantaneous rearing and plunging of the horse, was pretty nearly flung under his feet. Drunk as the lad was, however, he had a sort of instinct for maintaining or recovering any hold once gained that soon enabled him to throw himself into the saddle. But the danger was now past his power to control: a shower of squibs and crackers, which had been purposely reserved by way of a valedictory salute to Miss Walladmor, were at this moment discharged; and one of them unfortunately fell under the feet of the near leader. Previously irritated, and now alarmed beyond measure by the fireworks--the huzzas--and the flashing lights, the horse became ungovernable; the contagion of panic spread; all were plunging and kicking at once: the splinter-bar was smashed to atoms; and, the crowd of by-standers being confused by the darkness and the uncertain light, before any one could lay hands upon them--the horses had lurched to one side and placed the carriage at the very edge of the road fenced off only by a slender wooden railing of two feet high from a precipice of forty feet, which just at this place overhung the river. At this instant a man, muffled up in a dark cloak, whom Bertram, whilst talking with the landlord, had repeatedly observed walking about the carriage and looking anxiously to the windows, sprang with the speed of lightning to the leaders' heads--and held them forcibly until others followed his example and seized the heads of the wheel-horses. But all the horses continuing still to tremble with that sort of trepidating and trampling motion which announces a speedy relapse into the paroxysm of fury,--the man who held the leaders drew a cutlass from beneath his cloak; and, tossing it to a sailor-like man who stood near him, bade him instantly cut the traces: not a moment was to be lost; for the hind wheels were already backing obliquely against the rails; the slight wood work was heard crashing; and a few inches more of retrograde motion would send the whole equipage over the precipice. The sailor however had a sailor's agility, and cut away as if he had been cutting at a boarding netting. Ten seconds sufficed to disengage the carriage from the horses; and at the same instant a body of men seizing the hind wheels rolled the carriage forward from the dark precipitous edge over which it already hung in tottering suspense. A burst of joyous exultation rose from the crowd; for Miss Walladmor was universally beloved--as much on her own account, as from the local attachment to her name and family. Whilst the danger lasted she had sate still and composed in the carriage: when it was over she first felt a little agitated; and the loud testimonies of affectionate congratulation made her more so. She bent forward however to the window, and commanded herself sufficiently to thank them all in a low but very audible and emphatic tone. The sweetness of her low and melancholy voice trembling with emotion, and her pensive beauty which was at this moment powerfully revealed by the torch-light, charmed the rudest man in the crowd: all was hushed while she spoke; and the next moment an answer rose from the whole assemblage of people in clamorous expressions of attachment to the young lady of Walladmor.
Bertram had been a silent observer of all; he still kept his eye on the man in the cloak; and he observed, that as soon as the attention of the crowd was withdrawn from the carriage this man again approached it. Miss Walladmor had also observed him; and, being well aware that it was chiefly to the man in the cloak that she was indebted for her safety, she was anxious for an opportunity of thanking him separately. For this purpose she leaned forward as he approached, and was going to have spoke: but suddenly the stranger unmuffled his head; the light of the lamp fell upon his features, and disclosed the countenance of a young man--apparently about twenty-four years old; a countenance which at this moment appeared to Bertram eminently noble and dignified, and strongly reminded him of the fine profile which he had seen in the gallery of the inn. It was a countenance that to Miss Walladmor was known too well for her peace: this was evident from all that followed. She uttered a sudden shriek on seeing him; the noise of the crowd overpowered it, but Bertram was near and heard it; then sank back for a moment; then again leaned forward, and turned deadly pale: then seemed to recover herself, and burst into tears--large tears which glittered in the lamplight: and at last fixing her eyes upon the stranger--and seeing that he stood checked and agitated by the uncertain meaning of her manner,--in a moment, and in a rapture of tenderness that asked no counsel of fears or selfish scruples, or of any thing on this earth but her own woman's heart, she stretched out her hand to him and through her streaming tears smiled upon him with innocent love. She had no voice to thank him as her deliverer: nor did she at this moment think of him as such; for her heart had gone back to times in which she needed no ties of gratitude (or believed that she needed none) to justify her attachment. On the other hand the stranger likewise uttered not a word. He, who would have died a thousand times to have saved a hair of her head from suffering injury, had not thought of his recent service as of any thing that could entitle him to a moment's favour; and, when he actually beheld the smile of her angelic countenance and found her hand within his own, he held it at first as one who knew not that he held it: for a little space his thoughts seemed to wander; he looked upwards as if in deep perplexity; and Bertram observed a slight convulsive movement about his lips. But suddenly he recovered himself; pressed the hand which he held with a look of unutterable fervor to his heart; kissed it with an anguish of love deep--endless--despairing; and, as he resigned if, offered a letter which Miss Walladmor immediately accepted without hesitation; and then, without hazarding another look, he disappeared hastily in the darkness.
All passed within little more than a minute: from the position he occupied, Bertram had reason to believe that he only had witnessed the extraordinary scene: and he could not but ejaculate to himself--"What a world of meaning was uttered here, and yet no syllable spoken!"
Miss Walladmor now drew up the glasses: the injuries sustained by the carriage were speedily repaired; the horses again harnessed: and, within ten minutes from a scene so variously agitating to her fortitude and her affections, she was happy to find herself left to the solitude and darkness of her long evening ride to Walladmor.
Char. What!--Away, away, for shame!--You, profane rogues,
Must not be mingled with these holy relicks:
This is a sacrifice;--our shower shall crown
His sepulchre with olive, myrrh, and bays,
The plants of peace, of sorrow, victory:
Your tears would spring but weeds.
1 Cred. Would they so?
We'll keep them to stop bottles then.
Rom. No: keep them for your own low sins, you rogues,
Till you repent: you'll die else and be damn'd.
2 Cred. Damn'd!--ha! ha! ha!
Rom. Laugh ye?
2 Cred. Yes, faith, Sir: we would be very glad
To please you either way.
1 Cred. You're ne'er content,
Crying nor laughing.
Massinger and Field, Fatal Dowry.--Act II. Sc. 1.
The next morning was fine and promising, the frost still continuing; and Bertram, if he had otherwise been likely to forget his engagement, would have been reminded of it by the silence of the inn and the early absence of all the strangers; most of whom, there was reason to suspect, had gone off with the view of witnessing or taking part in the funeral honors of Captain le Harnois. This however was a conjecture which Bertram owed rather to his own sagacity than to any information won from the landlord, who seemed to make it a point of his duty to profess entire ignorance of the motions of all whom he harboured in his house; and, with respect to the funeral in particular, for some reason chose to treat it as a mysterious affair not publicly to be talked of.
Taking the direction of Aberkilvie, Bertram pursued a slanting course to the sea--but so as to command a view of the first reach of the valley through which the funeral was to pass; his purpose being to drop down into the procession, from the hills which he was now traversing, at any convenient spot which the circumstances of the ground might point out. At length, on looking down from the summit of a hill, he descried the funeral train: the head of the column had apparently been in motion for some time, and was now winding through the rocky defiles into the long narrow strath which lay below him; but such was the extent of the train that the rear had but just cleared the sea-shore. It was a solemn and impressive spectacle to look down from such a height upon the sable and inaudible procession stealing along and meandering upon the narrow ribbon-like paths that skirted the base of the mountains. The mourners were naturally a silent train even when viewed from a nearer station: but from Bertram's aerial position the very horses and carriages seemed shod with felt. So far as he could make out the objects from the elevation at which he stood, the procession opened with a large hearse--by the side of which walked four stout marines as mourners. Close behind the hearse followed about a dozen post-chaises; and, by the side of each, walked a couple of sailors armed with cutlasses. Immediately in the rear of the post-chaises followed those who claimed relationship to the deceased; amongst whom Bertram fancied that he could distinguish plumes of feathers--and occasionally, as the inequalities of the ground threw the files into a looser array, a motley assemblage of colors and a glittering of arms.
From this leisurely view however of the procession, as in the character of an indifferent spectator, Bertram now gradually dropped down the hill in order to take his station in it as an active participator in its labors. The speed and direction of his course proclaimed his purpose: and, although the majority of the train walked with their heads bent to the ground, there were many who saw him; and all with one accord called aloud to him, before he took his place in the train, to cut himself a knotty cudgel. This symbol of fraternity Bertram had wholly forgotten to provide; and, observing that in feet all the mourners carried one, he hesitated not to cut a stout bough out of the first thorn bush he happened to see. This however chanced to be so large--knotty--and clublike, that Bertram could not forbear secretly comparing his own appearance with that of the Heraldic wild man of the woods as emblazoned in Armorial Bearings. Indeed this whole ceremony of initiation struck him as so whimsical, and so nearly resembling the classical equipment for the funeral regions dictated by the Sibyl to Æneas, that he took the liberty--on assuming his place in the funeral train--to put a question to his next neighbour on the use and meaning of so singular a rite: "Was it an indigenous Welsh custom, or a custom adopted from France on this particular occasion in honour of Capt. le Harnois?" His neighbour however happened to be somewhat churlish and surly; and contented himself with replying--"The meaning of it is this: there are a d---d number of dogs in this country: and there's no keeping them in any order without cudgels: that's the use of them."
For some time the procession advanced with great order and decorum: and, so long as the sea continued to be visible in the rear, a profound quietness and silence reigned throughout the multitude: but no sooner had the windings of the hills and the inequalities of the road shut out the sea-shore from their view, than a freer movement of feeling began to stir through the train and to relax all the previous restraints. One coughed: another hemmed and hawed: some began to unmuffle their voices from the whispering way in which they had hitherto spoken: and others who had acquaintances dispersed up and down the procession conversed with them from a distance in loud and familiar tones. Once invaded, the whole solemnity of the procession was speedily dissolved: and a corpulent man, stepping out of the line, threw himself down upon a stone; unbuttoned his coat and waistcoat; and at the same time sang out--
"Let who will endure this devil's quick march: I'll not go a step further without a dram. You there a-head, have you got any thing to drink? Hearse ahoy,--have you no gin under hatches? I'm d---d, if I go a step further without grog: and Capt. le Harnois may turn out, and tumble to his grave head over heels for me, unless you bring us a glass of something--I don't care what. D---n this walking on foot! Come, bear a hand there--do you hear, you lubbers a-head! What the devil! I say--Hearse ahoy!"
When once a mutineer steps forward, he is pretty sure of another to second him: for it is but the first step over the threshold which alarms men. So it was here. The standard of revolt, which the corpulent man had set up, was soon flocked to by many others as well; corpulent; as lean; and a general clamor was, raised for spirits or wine. This meeting with no attention, a Dutch concert began of songs in every possible, style--hunting songs, sea songs, jovial songs, love songs, comic songs, political songs, together with the lowest obscenity and ribaldry; all which, floated on the breeze through the sinuous labyrinths: of the mountains in company with the Catholic chaunts and anthems which attended the body of Captain le Harnois. Never man had merrier funeral. Singing being over, then commenced every possible variety of ingenious mimicry oft every possible sound known to the earth beneath or the waters under the earth--howling, braying, bleating, lowing, neighing, whinnying, hooting, barking, catterwauling; until at length a grave and well-dressed man stepped forward to expostulate with the insurgents. In this person Bertram immediately recognised the manager of the theatre, and was thus at once able to account for the motley-colored dresses which he had seen and the plumes of feathers. Him however the seceders refused to hear: 'what! listen to a harlequin whom every man may see for sixpence?' And the insurrection seemed likely to prosper. The conductors of the funeral however, who had advanced far a-head with the van of the procession, now returned and proposed an accommodation with the malcontents--by virtue of which they should be allowed triple allowance of wine and spirits at the place of their destination in lieu of all demands on the road, which on certain considerations it was dangerous to concede. Even this proposition however would not perhaps have been accepted by the musical insurgents, but for a sudden alarm which occurred at this moment: a sailor, who had been reconnoitring from the neighbouring heights, hastily ran down with the intelligence that the excise officers were approaching. Under this pressure of common danger the treaty was immediately concluded: all resumed their places in the procession; and the funeral anthems began to peal through the winding valleys again. Bertram indeed, who heard some persons in his neighbourhood still uttering snatches of ribaldry, anticipated some serious collision of the sacred music with the profane just as the officers were passing. But on the contrary the vilest of the ribalds passed from their ale-house songs into the choral music of the funeral service with as much ease as a musician modulates out of one key into another.
In a few minutes a halt, which ran through the whole long line of the procession, announced by a kind of sympathy what was taking place in it's head. Some stop and cross-questioning it had to parry from a small party of excise-officers; but that was soon over; the excisemen rode slowly past them on their sorry jades, and reconnoitred them suspiciously; but gave them no further interruption: and the whole line moved on as freely as before.
The funeral train now advanced for some time without interruption. The next disturbance of the general harmony arose in the shape of some political songs of an inflammatory character: these were sung in a loud voice which Bertram immediately recognised as that of Mr. Dulberry. Much it surprised him to find the reformer in a situation of this character which apparently promised so little fuel to the peculiar passions which devoured him. However Mr. Dulberry afterwards made it evident to Bertram that it promised a good deal. For in the first place he cherished a secret hope that the whole meeting was of an unlawful character: and in the second place he was sure of being treated to the consolations of smuggled brandy; in which, besides it's intrinsic excellence, every glass would derive an additional zest from the consideration that it had been the honored means of cheating government out of three pence half-penny.--With all his horror however of regular government and subordination, Mr. Dulberry was made sensible that on the present occasion he must submit to some such oppression; for, as he was wholly unsupported in his annoyance, the managers were determined to prevent it's spreading by acting with summary vigor: accordingly the reformer was roughly seized, and made sensible by the determined air of those about him that this conduct would not be tolerated. Threats however seldom weighed much with Mr. Dulberry: to all such arguments he was in the habit of retorting Magna Charta, the Bill of Rights, Habeas Corpus, &c.: and to the rough gestures of those who had seized him, he objected actions of assault and battery. Seeing whom they had to deal with, one of the coolest amongst the managers applied an argument better suited to his temper: "Are you a spy, Mr. Dulberry, an informer, a tool of Lord Londonderry?" Mr. Dulberry was dumb with horror. "Because," continued the other, "you are now abetting the agents of government, whose active opposition we anticipate (according to some private information we have received) at the next toll-bar. We are fast approaching to it. And they will desire no better plea for stopping our progress than the style and tendency of your songs on so solemn an occasion."--At this moment in fact a curve in the road brought them in view of a turnpike gate, the appearance of which unpleasantly corroborated the private information: for it was barricadoed with carts and waggons; and flanked, on both sides of the road, by parties of horse and foot from the customs and the excise.
At this spectacle Mr. Dulberry immediately desisted from his opposition; the line of march was restored; and again the solemn anthem rose--filling the narrow valley through which the road lay. Meantime the leaders of the company mustered behind the chaises which had now been placed two a-breast in order to masque their motions: close consultations were held: and from a sack, which had been taken out of one of the post chaises, about a dozen cutlasses were distributed to a select party of friends. These however were concealed by the long mourning cloaks: and nothing was allowed to appear that could tend to throw any colorable doubt on the pacific character of the procession.
The head of the train had now reached the gate: an abrupt halt ensued: and half-a-dozen well-dressed persons went forward to demand the cause of this interruption. High words were soon heard passing between the parties; and numbers began to quit their stations in the procession and press forward--some from secret orders to that effect, and others from anxious curiosity. Among the latter was Bertram, who came up as one of the spokesmen on the side of the funeral was exclaiming,
"So then you refuse to respect the order of the lord lieutenant?
"By no means," replied a revenue officer, "by no means: we have the highest respect for the lord lieutenant and his orders."
"You mean to say then that the order is a forged one?"
"No: not forged, but granted perhaps on forged representations: the lord lieutenant is no more satisfied with the truth of the allegations which obtained that order--than we are."
"That is false, Sir: the lord lieutenant is perfectly satisfied, as some here can testify: and it is a mere accident and owing no doubt to the earliness of our departure from the shore, that his carriage is not in the train."
"You deceive yourselves, gentlemen; it is no accident. Information was given to Sir Morgan late last night which determined him to alter his intentions in that point, or at least to suspend them. Satisfy us that the body of Captain le Harnois is in that hearse, and we will immediately despatch an express to Walladmor Castle; from which a carriage and attendants will be able to join you in two hours by the cross road of Festiniog."
"But, good God! is it possible that you can wish to disturb the remains of a gallant officer and a legitimate descendant of the Montmorencies? Why, Sir, the most savage islanders of the South Seas,--cannibals even, anthropophagi, and 'men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders,'--respect the rights of the dead. The son of Capt. le Harnois is in the company: will not his word of honor, the word of a Montmorency, be a sufficient guarantee for us? The bare name of a Montmorency, the first French family that ever received baptism, ought to be a passport through Christendom."
"It is a name," replied the officer, "that will pass no turnpike gate in Merionethshire. And to cut the matter short, not a carriage shall pass this gate till we have searched it."
"But if you disregard the name of Montmorency, will you show no honor to the Lilies of France? The deceased Captain mounted the flag of his Most Christian Majesty. Are you not afraid of causing a rupture between the courts of St. James and St. Cloud?"
The officer smiled, and said he hoped it would not come to that.
"Perhaps not: but what will prevent it? Why this, my friend: that you will yourself be made the sacrifice. It is notorious that the English treasury are just now shy of war: something however must be thought of to appease the wounded honor of France; Lord Londonderry will send down a mantrap: some dark night you will be kidnapped: and your head will be sent in a charger to the Thuilleries."
A burst of laughter followed, in which Bertram was surprized to perceive that many of his own party joined as heartily as the other. Some however, of a weather-beaten sea-faring appearance, listened with manifest impatience to this conference; and one of them, as spokesman for the rest, cried out--
"My eyes! what's the good of all this jaw? Get out of my Way, master Harlequin, and go aft: noble Captain, shall us lay 'em aboard?" So saying he turned his eye upon a young man near the hearse who had been pointed out to Bertram as young le Harnois and chief mourner. His hat was slouched over his eyes, and his side face only presented to Bertram,--who in this however fancied again that he saw enough to recognize the stranger who had so much impressed him in the gallery of the inn. But he had little time for examination: in a moment after the young man whispered to a person who stood on his right and to another on his left: these retired a little to the rear; whilst a strong party, that had gradually collected in advance of the hearse, rapidly formed and dressed in a line facing the revenue officers. At that instant the young man whistled; and, in the twinkling of an eye, upwards of forty cloaks were slipped off--discovering a stout body of sailors well armed with pistols, dirks, and cutlasses; and some of them carrying carbines slung at their backs. A general huzza followed: the two persons who had gone to the rear, each with seven or eight followers, ran severally to the right and left at right angles from the road strait up the steep hills which rose on each side; then making a short circuit they descended like a torrent in the rear of the revenue officers; swarmed with the agility of cats over their waggons, and from these upon the turnpike gate--whence they threw themselves with ease on the horses, riding en croupe behind the officers; who on their part, being hemmed in by a party far out-numbering themselves in front and by the gate behind, had no means of counteracting the manœuvre. In this awkward situation pinioned from behind and too ill mounted to have any hope of charging through so dense a crowd of armed men whose rear rested upon a triple line of post chaises, the officers saw that resistance would be fruitless; and unwillingly they gave up their arms. Meantime a stronger party of officers, who were on foot, had retired into a little garden adjoining to the turnpike house, and were now drawn up behind; a low hedge. To dislodge these, a select body of sailors was ordered forward--which 'the chief mourner' headed in person. As they were advancing, the officers discharged their pistols--of which however not many were loaded with ball; so powerful, a resistance not having been anticipated; and the result was, that nobody was wounded except the commander of the party; and he only by a flesh wound in his left arm. According to the directions previously given them, before the officers had time to reload, the whole party of sailors rushed in upon them; and, without unshipping their fire-arms or cutlasses, attacked them with cudgels. Ten or eleven out of five-and-twenty were instantly stretched on the ground and disarmed; of the remainder the major part scaled the turnpike gate, and succeeded in throwing themselves into a waggon which was drawn up with its broad-side across the road. Beyond this were drawn up two other lines of carts; into the last of which, for the sake of keeping open their retreat, they stepped. From these however the horses had not been taken out: they were simply backed up at right angles to the two inner lines, which stood across the road, the horses' heads looking down the road. Here they posted themselves; half their faces in one direction, half in the other. "Now then for my boarders!" said the young leader jocosely, "where are my boarders?" And instantly an active party, whom he ordered not to advance beyond the second range of carts, swarmed over the gate: two or three others meantime slipped round by the hill; and, whilst the 'boarders' engaged the whole attention of the enemy, applied their cudgels so suddenly and so vigorously to the horses that they started off at full gallop; and, to prevent any early relaxation of their speed, the sailors ran along with them for fifty or sixty yards--belaboring them with exemplary vigor. The consequence of this sudden movement was--that five lost their balance and fell overboard: all the rest continued to scud along the road in the two heavy vessels on board which they had embarked themselves--repeatedly crossing and nearly running foul of each other--until at length, just as they approached a turn of the road which would have carried them out of sight of their enemies, they came into sudden and violent collision; both carts capsized; and all on board were shot out to every point of the compass. A roar of laughter ascended from the sailors: who now proceeded hastily to collect their trophies, and to clear the road of obstructions. The captured arms were tossed into a light cart, which was sent on before. Three of the horses, selected with due regard to their dulness and moral incapacity for trotting, were harnessed to the waggon; which was given up to those of the revenue officers who had sustained any hurt in the engagement. The rest were mustered and directed to go about their business by the same road which the funeral train had just traversed. By these arrangements all danger of immediate pursuit was obviated: the turnpike being eighteen miles in that direction from the nearest town. The chapel of Utragan, four miles a-head, was fixed as the place at which all the horses and arms would be left for their owners on the ensuing night: and then the enemy were finally turned adrift with three cheers and a glass of French brandy to those who chose to accept it.
"And now, my lads," said the leader, after ordering a double allowance of brandy to be served out to every man, "now we must make the most of our time. So leave the carts here: clap the horses on as leaders to our own; and push forward like Hell to Utragan, where we must all rendezvous, and somewhere in that neighbourhood will consign our cargo to safe custody." So saying he mounted one of the horses, and hastily rode off.
Then followed a scene which put the finishing hand to the astonishment of Bertram (who had stood aloof during the late engagement) and formed an appropriate close to the funeral of Captain le Harnois. The cart horses were distributed, as far as they would go, amongst the carriages: the hearse which originally had four, was now therefore drawn by six. A jolly boatswain, who had armed his heels with a pair of immense old French spurs, rode the leaders--a couple of huge broad-backed plough horses: his mourning cloak he used by way of saddle; and in lieu of whip he produced the "cat" of the Fleurs-de-lys. The two hinder pairs were driven with long reins by a sailor whose off leg was a wooden one: this he turned to excellent account by thumping the foot-board incessantly to the great alarm of the horses. Assessor to him upon the box, sate an old fisherman who made himself useful to the concern by leaning forward and flagellating the wheel horses with one of the captured cart whips. Upon the roof were mounted sixteen or eighteen sailors, two of whom in one corner were performing a minuet with a world of ceremonious bows and curtseys to each other; and most of the others were linking hands and dancing the steps of a hornpipe about a man in the centre who had tied his mourning cloak to his cudgel by way of flag, and was holding it aloft to catch the breezes which streamed through the narrow defiles of the hills. None but sailors, well practised in treading the deck of a rolling ship, could possibly have maintained their footing: for the boatswain, the wooden leg, and the fisherman, kept up their horses inexorably to their duty of an immutable gallop; the hearse and its plumes flew through the solitary valley; the post-chaises, carrying a similar crew on their upper decks, flew after the hearse; and in the rear of the whole, with all the sail they could crowd (but haud passibus æquis) flew a long straggling tail of pedestrians with cloaks streaming, outstretched arms, and waving hats, hallooing and upbraiding the sailors with treachery for not taking them on board. Amongst them the most conspicuous was Mr. Dulberry: with his cloak tucked about his middle, "succinct for speed," he spun along with fury in his eyes--howling out, at every moment, "Stop, ye cursed Aristocrats! All men are equal. Stop for your pedestrian brothers; ye vile Aristocratic hounds!"--but all in vain: the sailors had shouting enough of their own to mind. From the hearse, which acted as commodore to the whole squadron, a running fire of signals and nautical instructions was kept up fore and aft: "Now bowson! now Fisherman! what are you after?--keep 'em up, keep 'em up. Look at that great lumbering devil."--"What that?"--"No, that on the starboard: by G---, he runs like a cow. Who's got a stone? Here, hand it us; and I'll send him a remembrance. Messmates astern,--keep a sharp look out; there's breakers a-head. Now, bowson, come--what are you up to? Give that off leader of yours a kick for me. Look at him: He never was out of a plough field; and he thinks he's ploughing for the devil. Have you ever a bullet, bowson? Drop it into his ear, and he'll gallop like a pig in a storm.--Fisherman, you throw your lash as if you were trout-fishing: here, give us your whip, and I'll start him--an old black devil! Now, bowson, mind how you double Cape Horn!"
In the next moment Cape Horn was doubled: one after one the flying squadron of hearse and chaises, which still continued to scud along like clouds before the wind, whirled round a point of rock and vanished like a hurricane: in a few minutes the flying pedestrians had followed them: the hubbub of shouts, halloos, curses, and travelling echoes, were hushed abruptly as in the silence of the grave: the wild spectacle of black draperies and fierce faces had fled like an exhalation or a delirium: all were locked up from the eye and the ear by the lofty barriers of another valley, and Bertram, who had lingered behind--and now found himself left alone in a solitary valley with a silence as profound under the broad light of three o'clock in the afternoon as elsewhere at midnight,--felt so much perplexed by this abrupt transition and the tumultuous succession of incidents, that for some time he was almost disposed to doubt whether Captain le Harnois, and the funeral of Captain le Harnois, and every thing that related to Captain le Harnois were not some aerial pageant bred out of those melancholy vapors which are often attributed to the solemn impressions of mountain solitudes.
FOOTNOTE TO "CHAPTER IX.":
Sed non ante datur telluris operta subire, Auricomos quam quis decerpaerit arbore fœtus. Æn. vi. 140.