1. Scans provided by The Web Archive: http://www.archive.org/details/walladmor02dequ
2. The 3-volume German original was fictitiously attributed to Sir Walter Scott, but actually written by G. W. H. Haering (under the pseud. of Willibald Alexis). It was freely adapted into English by Thomas De Quincey.
3. The diphthong oe is indicated by [oe].
"FREELY TRANSLATED INTO GERMAN FROM THE ENGLISH OF SIR WALTER SCOTT."
AND NOW FREELY TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN INTO ENGLISH.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
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.
LONDON: PRINTED FOR TAYLOR AND HESSEY, 93 FLEET STREET, AND 13 WATERLOO PLACE, PALL MALL. 1825
CHAPTER X. PAGE. Maternal Madness. 1
CHAPTER XI. Old Friend with a New Face. 19
CHAPTER XII. Winter Night-Wandering. 45
CHAPTER XIII. Arrest. 69
CHAPTER XIV. Rioting. 83
CHAPTER XV. Feudal Castle. 95
CHAPTER XVI. Examination. 109
CHAPTER XVII. Unexpected Visit. 127
Distraction of Grief. 161
CHAPTER XIX. Distraction of Love. 205
CHAPTER XX. Trial for High Treason. 235
CHAPTER XXI. Catastrophe. 268
Hast thou a medicine to restore my wits When I have lost them?—If not, leave to talk. Beaumont and Fletcher; Philaster.
In this perplexity, whilst sitting down to clear up his thoughts and to consider of his future motions, Bertram suddenly remembered that immediately before the attack on the revenue officers, a note had been put into his hand—which he had at that time neglected to read under the overpowering interest of the scene which followed. This note he now drew from his pocket: it was written in pencil, and contained the following words:
"You wish to see the ruins of Ap Gauvon. In confidence therefore let me tell you that the funeral train will direct its course upon a different point. Take any convenient opportunity for leaving this rabble, and pursue your route to the Abbey through the valley which branches off on the left. You will easily reach it by nightfall; and you will there receive a welcome from AN OLD FRIEND."
The day was uncommonly dear and bright; the frosty air looked sharp, keen, and "in a manner vitreous;" and every thing wore a cheerful and promising aspect, except that towards the horizon the sky took that emerald tint which sometimes on such days foreruns the approach of snow. However, as it was now too late to return to Machynleth whilst the day-light lasted—and as the ruins of Ap Gauvon were both in themselves and in their accompaniments of scenery, according to the description which had been given of them, an object of powerful attraction to Bertram,—he resolved to go forward in the track pointed out. After advancing a couple of miles, he bent his steps through the valley which opened on his left; and soon reached a humble ale-house into which he turned for the sake of obtaining at the same time refreshments and further directions for his route.
"How far do you call it, landlord, to the Abbey of Griffith ap Gauvon."
"To Ap Gauvon? Why let me see—it'll be a matter of eight miles; or better than seven any way. But you'll never be thinking of going so far to-night."
"Why,—is there any danger, then?"
"Nay, I don't know for that: we've now and then odd sort of folks come up this way from the sea-side: but I reckon they wouldn't meddle of you: for you'll never sure be going into the Abbey?"
"But, suppose I did, is there nobody at the Abbey or near it that could give me a night's lodging?" The landlord stared with a keen expression of wonder,—and answered, with some reserve, "Why who should there be but the owls, and in summer time may be a few bats?"
"Well, perhaps I shall find a lodging somewhere in the neighbourhood: meantime I would thank you to put me into the nearest road."
"Why, that's sooner said than done: its a d—-d awkward cross-country road, and there's few in this country can hit it. But the best way for you will be to keep right over the shoulder of yonder hill, and then bear away under the hills to your right, till you come to the old gallows of Pont-ar-Diawl: and there you must look about for somebody able to put you in the way."
"An old gallows! Surely you can't have much need of a standing gallows in a country so thinly peopled as this?"
"Why no, master; we don't make much use of it: not but there has been some fine lads in my time that have taken their last look of day-light on that gallows; and here and there you'll meet with an old body amongst these hills that has the heart-ache when she looks that way. But the gallows is partly built of stone: they say King Edward I. built it, to hang the Welsh harpers on; by the dozen at once, I have heard say. Well, all's one to you and me: by the score if it pleased him.
"But now-a-days I suppose it will not have many customers from the harpers: what little business it has will lie chiefly among those 'odd sort of folks from the sea-side,'—eh, landlord?"
"Why master, as to that, as long as folks do me no harm, it's never my way to say any thing ill of them. Now and then, may be, I hear a noise of winter nights in my barn: and my wife and daughters would have me to lock the barn-door before it's dark. But what? as I often says to them; it's better to have folks making free with one's straw, and now and then an armful of hay for a horse or so, than to have one's house burnt over one's head one of these long winter nights. And, to give the devil his due, I don't think they're much in my debt: for often enough I find a bottle or two of prime old wine left behind them."
"So then, on the whole, these sea-side gentry are not uncivil: and, if it's they that tenant Ap Gauvon, perhaps they'll show a little hospitality to a wanderer like myself?"
"Aye, but that's more than I'll answer for. I know little about Ap Gauvon: it's a place I never was at—nor ever will be, please God. Why should any man go and thrust his hand into a hornet's nest, where there's nothing to be got?"
"But landlord, if these smugglers come and visit you, I think they couldn't be angry with you for returning the visit."
"I tell you, I know of no smugglers at Ap Gauvon: some folks say there are ghosts at Ap Gauvon; and Merlin has been seen of moonlight nights walking up and down the long galleries: and sometimes of dark nights the whole Abbey in a manner has been lit up; and shouting and laughing enough to waken all the church-yards round Snowdon. But I mustn't stand gossiping here, master: I've my cows to fetch up, and fifty things to do before its dark."
So saying he turned on his heel, whilst Bertram pursued his way to the stone gallows. This he reached in about an hour and a half; by which time the light was beginning to decay. Looking round for some person of whom he could inquire the road, he saw or fancied that he saw—a human figure near the gallows; and, going a little nearer he clearly distinguished a woman sitting at its foot. He paused a little while to watch her. Sometimes she muttered to herself, and seemed as if lost in thought: sometimes she roused herself up suddenly, and sang in a wild and boisterous tone of gaiety: but it easily appeared that there was no joy in her gaiety: for the tone of exultation soon passed into something like a ferocious expression of vengeance. Then, after a time, she would suddenly pause and laugh: but in the next moment would seem to recover the main recollection that haunted her; and falling back as into the key-note of her distress, would suddenly burst into tears. Bertram saw enough to convince him that the poor creature's wits were unsettled; and from the words of one of the fragments which she sang, a suspicion flashed upon his mind that it could be no other than his hostess in the wild cottage; though how, or on what errand, come over to this neighbourhood—he was at a loss to guess. To satisfy himself on all these points if possible, he moved nearer and accosted her:
"A cold evening, good mother, for one so old as you to be sitting out in the open air."
"Yes, Sir," she answered, without expressing any surprise at his sudden interruption; "yes, Sir, its a cold evening: but I am waiting for a young lad that was to meet me here."
Bertram now saw that his conjecture was right: it was indeed his aged and mysterious hostess: but, before he could speak, she seemed to have forgotten that he was present—and sang in an under tone:
They hung him high aboon the rest, He was sae trim a boy; Thair dyed the youth whom I lov'd best —My winsome Gilderoy.
"A young man you were expecting to meet you?" said Bertram.
"Yes, Sir, a young man:" and then, holding up her apron to her face as if ashamed, she added—"he was a sweetheart of mine. Sir." But in a moment, as if recollecting herself, she cried out—"No, no, no: I'll tell you the whole truth: he was my son, my love, my darling: and they took him, Sir, they hanged him here. And, if you'll believe my word, Sir—they wouldn't let his old mother kiss his bonny lips before he died. Well, well! Let's have nothing but peace and quietness. All's to be right at last. There's more of us, I believe, that won't die in our beds. But don't say I told you."
"My good old hostess, can you show me the road to Griffith ap Gauvon?"
"Ap Gauvon, is it? Aye, aye: there's one of them: he'll never die in his bed, rest you sure of that. Never you trouble your head about him: I've settled all that: and Edward Nicholas will be hanged at this gallows, if my name's Gillie Godber."
"But, Mrs. Godber, don't you remember me? I was two nights at your cottage; and I'm now going to the Abbey of Ap Gauvon where I hope to meet one that I may perhaps be of some service to."
"Don't think it: there's nobody can ever be of service to Edward Nicholas. He's to be hanged, I tell you, and nobody must save him. I have heard it sworn to. You'll say that I am but a weak old woman. But you would not think now what a voice I have: for all it trembles so, my voice can be heard when it curses from Anglesea to Walladmor. Not all the waves of the sea can cry it down."
"But why must Edward Nicholas be hanged?"
"Oh, my sly Sir, you would know my secret—would you? You're a lawyer, I believe. But stay—I'll tell you why he must be hanged:" and here she raised her withered arm to the stars which were just then becoming visible in the dusk. Pointing with her forefinger to a constellation brighter than the rest, she said——
"There was a vow made when he was born; and it's written amongst the stars. And there's not a letter in that book that can ever be blotted out. I can read what's written there. Do you think that nobody's barns must be hanged but mine?"
"But who then was it, my good Mrs. Godber, that hanged your son?"
"Who should it be but the old master of Walladmor? He knows by this time what it is to have the heart-ache. Oh kite! he tore my lamb from me. But, hark in your ear—Sir Lawyer! I visited his nest, old ravening kite! High as it was in the air, I crept up to his nest: I did—I did!" And here she clapped her hands, and expressed a frantic exultation: but, in a moment after, she groaned and sate down; and, covering her face with her hands, she burst into tears; and soon appeared to have sunk into thought, and to be unconscious of Bertram's presence.
Once more he attempted to rouse her attention by asking the road to Ap Gauvon; but the sound of his voice only woke her into expressing her thoughts aloud:
"Nay, nay,—my old gentleman, that's a saying that'll never come true:
When black men storm the outer door, Grief than be over At Walladmor!
It's an old saying I'll grant, but it's a false one: grief will never be over at Walladmor: that's past all black men's healing!"
"But, Mrs. Godber, will you not come with me to Griffith ap Gauvon;"
She started up at the words Ap Gauvon; without speaking a word, she drew her cloak about her; and, as if possessed by some sudden remembrance, she strode off at so rapid a pace over the moor that Bertram had some difficulty in keeping up with her. This however he determined to do: for he remarked that her course lay towards a towering range of heights which seemed to overlook the valley in which they were walking, and which he had reason to believe was a principal range of Snowdon: he had been nearing it through the whole afternoon; and he knew that Ap Gauvon lay somewhere at the foot of that mountain. For some time his aged companion kept up her speed: but, on reaching a part of the moor which was intersected with turf pits, she was compelled to suit her pace to the intricacy of the ground; though even here she selected her path from the labyrinth before her with a promptitude and decision which showed that she was well acquainted with the ground she was traversing. On emerging again into smoother roads, she resumed at intervals her rapid motions: and again, on some sudden caprice as it seemed, would slink into a stealthy pace—and walk on tiptoe, as if in the act of listening or surprising some one before her. Once only she spoke, upon Bertram's asking if the abbey were a safe place for a stranger: "Oh aye," she replied, "Edward Nicholas is a lamb when he's not provoked: but his hand is red with blood for all that."
No question after this roused her attention. Now and then she sang; sometimes she crooned a word or two to herself; and more often she sank into thoughtful silence: until at length, after advancing in this way for about a mile and a half,—suddenly Bertram missed her; and looking round he saw the outline of a figure stealing away in the dusk and muttering some indistinct sounds of complaint. He felt considerable perplexity at being thus suddenly abandoned by his guide: but from this he was relieved by now distinguishing a group of towers and turrets close to him—which at first had escaped his eye from the dark background of mountainous barrier with which they seemed to blend: and going a few steps nearer, he perceived a light issuing from the window of a vault. To this window, for the purpose of reconnoitring the inmates of so lonely an abode, he now pushed his way with some difficulty through heaps of ruins and of tangled thorns. The upper edge of the window-frame however being on a level with the ground, he could perceive little more than a small part of a stone floor which lay at a great depth below him; and on this, by the strong light of a blazing fire, he saw the moving shadows of human figures as they passed and repassed: and at intervals he heard the rolling of casks and barrels. Determined to examine a little further, he stretched himself along the steep declivity of earth which sloped down to the lower edge of the window. In this posture he gained a complete view of the vault, which to his astonishment he now discovered to be a subterraneous church of vast dimensions, such as are sometimes found in the old monasteries below the ordinary chapel of the order. Seated at a table near the fire was a young man whose face, as it was at this moment lit up by a blazing fire, proclaimed him at once for the stranger whose services to Miss Walladmor and mysterious interview with her he had witnessed with so much interest. Round about him stood groups of armed men; but of these he took little notice. Bertram remarked that all of them treated him with an air of respect, and addressed him by the title of Captain: to which on his part he replied with an air of good natured familiarity that seemed to disown the station of authority which they were disposed to confer upon him. Anxious to hear and see a little more before he ventured into such a company, he endeavoured to shift his position for one more convenient to his purpose; but in this attempt he nearly, precipitated himself through the window. He recovered his footing however by suddenly catching at a mountain ash; but, in so doing, he dislodged a quantity of earth and stones which fell rattling down amongst the party below.
"Rats! rats!" instantaneously exclaimed the whole body: "shall we fire, Captain?"
"Stop a moment," said Nicholas; and mounting up a ladder, which stood near the window, he held up a lighted bough of Scotch fir to the place of Bertram's concealment.
"God bless my soul," exclaimed he, "its my young friend in search of the picturesque: I protest I never looked for is coming through the window. Here, bear a hand, and help him in."
The ladder was now applied and steadied; with some little difficulty in extricating himself from the rubbish and thorns which beset him, Bertram descended: and was not sorry to find himself, though amongst such society, suddenly translated from the severe cold of the air and a situation of considerable peril to the luxury of rest and a warm fire.
FOOTNOTE TO "CHAPTER X.":
[Footnote 1: A picturesque expression borrowed from a celebrated English author in one of his letters from Paris, published in the Morning Chronicle.]
O what an easie thing is to descry The gentle blood, however it be wrapt In sade misfortunes foule deformity And wretched sorrowes which have often hapt! For,—howsoever it may grow mis-shapt Like this wyld man being undisciplyned That to all virtue it may seeme unapt,— Yet it will show some sparkles of gentle mynd And at the last breake forth in his owne proper kynd. Faerie Queene—B. vi. C, 5.
All the men were now dismissed by their leader except one—who was directed to place wine and refreshments on the table: this was done. "And now, Valentine," said the leader, "you may return home: for I think you have a scolding wife; and by the way, if she wishes to have a certificate of your good behaviour and fidelity to her during your absence from home, get me a pencil and I will write one."
"Ah! Captain Nicholas," said the man, "you're still the same man; always ready for a joke, let danger be as near as it will."
"Danger! what danger?"
"Why, to say the truth, I don't above half like the old woman from Anglesea."
"What, Gillie Godber?"
"Yes: she talks strangely at times; and, as sure as your name's mentioned, she puts on a d—d Judas face; and talks—God! I hardly know what she talks; but it's my belief she means you no good."
"Hm!—Well, so I have sometimes thought myself. Yet I know not. At times she's as kind as if she were my own mother. And at all events I can't do without her, so long as I have business at Walladmor Castle. Her son, you know, lives there: and, but for her, I should often be at a loss for means of communicating with him."
"And has Gillie been at Walladmor to-day?"
"Yes: pretty early this morning."
"Then take my word for it—its she that has blabbed to Sir Morgan about the funeral. And I'd be glad to think that were the worst: for I heard it whispered once or twice to-day that Sir Morgan had got notice of your return. Black Will saw an express of Sir Morgan's riding off to Carnarvon: and, by one that left Machynleth at noon I heard that Alderman Gravesend was stirring with all his bull-dogs."
"Well,—I think they'll hardly catch me this night. And, as the moon will soon be rising, I would advise you to make the best of your way to Aberkilvie. Pleasant moonlight to you; and give my compliments to your wife."
"Ah! Captain,—I wish there were no moonlight to-night: for my heart misgives me, unless you take better care, some cross luck will fall out. However, I'll not go to Aberkilvie: I'll stay in the neighbourhood: and, if I hear a shot, I'll come down with one or two more."
The man retired: and Nicholas for a few minutes appeared to be sunk in reverie: but soon recovering himself he addressed Bertram with an air of gaiety:
"Well, my young friend, and how do you like the world in Wales? You have taken my advice I find, and have come to see Ap Gauvon."
"It was you then that were my guide to Machynleth? I was beginning to suspect as much. Who it was that sent me the note this morning, I need not ask: for my eyes assure me that you were the person who presided on that occasion, both as commander and as chief mourner."
"And I hope you disapproved my behaviour in neither part."
"To do you justice, you behaved incomparably well in both. In the latter part, however,—well as you acquitted yourself,—you must excuse me if I doubt your sincerity."
"You surprise me," said Nicholas smiling: "what doubt the sincerity of my grief for the death of Captain le Harnois?"
"My doubts go even a little further. I doubt whether the body of Captain le Harnois at all accompanied the procession. But what, in the name of God then, could bring so large a train of mourners together?—Will you say upon your word that you have deposited the body in any burying-place?"
Nicholas laughed immoderately. "Your discernment is wonderful. As to the body, I can assure you that it has not only been deposited in a burying-place at Utragan,—-but immediately afterwards dispersed as holy reliques all over the country: and no saint's reliques in Christendom will meet with more honour and attention. As to what brought the crowd together,—if you come to that, my young friend, what brought you thither? I have some plans which make it prudent for me to renew an old connexion with a body of stout friends at sea and on shore. Most of the others, I suppose, came for liquor. And you, if I do not affront you by that suggestion, were naturally desirous of seeing how the land lay before you commenced operations. For the oldest fox is at fault in a strange country."
"You still persist, I see, in looking upon me as an adventurer: is it your opinion that every body else would pass the same harsh judgment on me?"
"Ay, if not a harsher: but do you know, Mr. Bertram, that at first sight, I knew your profession by your face, and what your destiny is in this life."
"And which of my unhappy features is it that bears this unpleasant witness against me?"
"Unhappy you may truly call them," said the other, smiling bitterly—"unhappy indeed; for they are the same as my own. I rest a little upon omens and prefigurations; and am superstitious; as those must ever be who have lived upon the sea, and have risked their all upon the faith of its unsteady waves. It will mortify you (my young friend) to confess, (but it is true) that much as storm, sun, passion, and hardships, may have tanned and disfeatured my face, nevertheless it is still like thy gentle woman's face, with its fair complexion and its overshadowing locks; and when I look back upon that inanimate portrait which once an idle artist painted of me, in my 16th year, I remember that it was one and the same with thine. Kindred features should imply kindred dispositions and minds. The first time that I observed you closely, on that evening when you came on shore from Jackson's brig, sunk in reverie and thinking no doubt, if indeed you thought of me at all, that I was asleep; then did I behold in your eye my own; read in your forehead all the storms that too surely have tossed and rocked the little boat of your uneasy life; saw your plans, so wide and spacious—your little peace—your doubts about the end which you were pursuing—your bold resolves—bold, and with not much hope."
"Oh stranger, but thou knowest the art, far above thy education, of reading the souls of others."
A smile passed over his countenance whilst he replied: "Education! oh yes, I too have had some education: oh! doubtless education is a fine thing, not to run in amongst gentlemen of refinement like a wild beast, and shock the good pious lambs with coarse manners or ferocious expressions. Oh yes, education is of astonishing value: a man of the wildest pursuits, and the nature of a ruffian, may shroud himself in this, as a wolf in sheep's clothing—and be well received by all those accomplished creatures whom fortune brought into this world, not in smoky huts, but in rich men's rooms decked with tapestry. I too have stolen a little morsel of education amongst a troop of players; and if my coarse habits will sometimes look out, why that's no fault of mine, but of those worthy paupers that thought proper to steal me in my infancy. There are hours, Bertram, in which I have longings, longings keen as those of women with child—longings for conversations with men of higher faculties—men that I could understand—men that could answer me—aye, and that would answer me, and not turn away from the poor vagabond with disdain."
"And you have chosen me for such a comrade?"
"As you please: that rests with yourself. But, Bertram, at any rate, I rejoice to find amongst my equals one that does not—as others do of the plebeian rout—live the sport of the passing moment,—one that risks his life, yet in risking it knows what life is—that has eyes to see—thoughts to think,—feelings but such a dissembling hypocrite as you" (and here he smiled) "will laugh when he hears a ruffian talk of feelings."
"Your wish is, then, to find some well-educated comrade, who, when your conscience is troublesome, may present your crimes under their happiest aspect—may take the sting out of your offences, and give to the wicked deed the colouring of a noble one?"
Nicholas knit his brows, and said with a quick and stern voice:
"What I have done I shall never deny: neither here nor there above—if any above or below there be. I want nobody to call my deeds by pretty names, neither before they are executed nor after. What I want is a friend; one to whom I could confide my secret thoughts without kneeling as before a priest—or confessing as to a judge: one that will rush with me like a hurricane into life, till we are both in our graves; or one that refusing to do this, and standing himself upright, would yet allow the poor guilty outcast to attach himself to his support, and sometimes to repose his weary head upon a human heart."
Bertram stared at him; which the other observed, and said smilingly:
"You wonder at my pathos: but you must recollect that I told you I had once been amongst players."
"Speak frankly—what is it you wish of me?"
"This I wish: will you either run joint hazard with me—and try your fortunes in this country;—or will you take your own course, but now and then permit me, when my heart is crazed by passion, by solitude, and unparticipated anguish,—to lighten it by your society?"
"Once for all I declare to you, with respect to your first proposal, that I will enter into no unlawful connexions."
"Be it so: that word is enough. You refuse to become an adventurer like myself? I ask not for your reasons; your will in such a case is law enough. But then can you, in the other sense, be my friend?"
"Rash man! whence is it that you derive such boundless confidence in me?"
Nicholas stepped up to the young man nearer than before—looked him keenly but kindly in the eyes—as if seeking to revive some remembrance in him; then pressed his hand, and said—
"Have you forgotten then that poor wretch in the tumult of the waves, to whom, when he was in his agony, thou, Bertram, didst resign thy own security—and didst descend into the perilous and rocking waters? Deeply, oh deeply, I am in thy debt; far more deeply I would be, when I ask for favours such as this."
"Is it possible? Are you he? But now I recollect your forehead was then hidden by streaming hair; convulsive spasms played about your lips; and your face was disguised by a long beard."
"I am he; and but for thee should now lie in the bowels of a shark, or spitted upon some rock at the bottom of the ocean. But come, my young friend, come into the open air: for in this vault I feel the air too close and confined."
Owls and other night birds which had found an asylum here, disturbed by the steps of the two nightly wanderers, now soared aloft to the highest turrets. At length after moving in silence for some minutes, both stepped out through the pointed arch of a narrow gate-way into the open air upon a lofty battlement. Nicholas seized Bertram's hand, with the action of one who would have checked him at some dangerous point;—and, making a gesture which expressed—"look before you!" he led him to the outer edge of the wall. At this moment the full moon in perfect glory burst from behind a towering pile of clouds, and illuminated a region such as the young man had hitherto scarcely known by description. Dizzily he looked down upon what seemed a bottomless abyss at his feet. The Abbey-wall, on which he stood, built with colossal art, was but the crest or surmounting of a steep and monstrous wall of rock, which rose out of depths in which his eye could find no point on which to settle. On the other side of this immeasurable gulph lay in deep shadow—the main range of Snowdon; whose base was perhaps covered with thick forests, but whose summit and declivities displayed a dreary waste. Dazzled by the grandeur of the spectacle, Bertram would have sought repose for his eye by turning round; but the new scene was, if not greater, still more striking. From his lofty station he overlooked the spacious ruins of the entire monastery, as its highest points silvered over by moonlight shot up from amidst the illimitable night of ravines, chasms, and rocky peaks that form the dependencies of Snowdon. Add to these permanent features of the scene the impressive accident of the time—midnight, with an universal stillness in the air, and the whole became a fairy scene, in which the dazzled eye comprehended only the total impression, without the separate details or the connexions of its different points. So much however might be inferred from the walls which lay near with respect to those which gleamed in the distance—that the towers and buildings of the abbey had been for the most part built upon prominent peaks of rock. Those only, which were so founded, had resisted the hand of time: while the cross walls which connected them, wanting such a rocky basis, had all fallen in. Solemnly above all the chapels and turrets rose, brilliantly illuminated by the moon, the main tower. Upon a solitary crag, that started from the deeps, it stood with a boldness that seemed to proclaim defiance on the part of man to nature—and victorious efforts of his hands over all her opposition. Round about it every atom of the connecting masonry had mouldered away and sunk into heaps of rubbish below—so that all possibility of reaching the tower seemed to be cut off. But beyond this tower Gothic fretwork and imperfect windows rose from the surrounding crags; and in many places were seen pillars springing from two dissevered points of rock—rising higher and higher—and at last inclining towards each other in vast arches; but the central stones that should have locked the architraves of the mighty gates were wanting; and the columns stood to a fanciful eye like two lovers, whom nature and pure inclination have destined for each other, but whom some malicious mischance has separated for ever. Bertram shut his eyes, before the dazzling spectacle: when he opened them again, his guide said with a tranquil voice—in which however a tone of exultation might be distinguished,
"This is Griffith ap Gauvon, of which I lately spoke to you."
All words, as Bertram felt, would fail to express the strength of his emotions: language would but have violated the solemnity of the thoughts which riveted his gaze to the scene before him. He was silent therefore; and in a few moments his companion resumed:
"Here, Bertram, do I often stand on the giddy precipice; and I look down upon the dread tranquillity of the spectacle; and then often I feel as though I wanted no friend; as though nature, the mighty mother, were a sufficient friend that fulfilled all my wishes—a friend far better and wiser than any which the false world can offer. But, Bertram, come a little further!"
He led him, sideways, from that part of the building out of which they had issued by the little portal about 100 yards further. The wall, scarce three feet wide, stood here nearly insulated: and was on the one side bounded by the abyss just described, and on the other by what might have been an inner court—that lay however at least three stories deep below. Nothing but a cross-wall, which rose above the court towards a little tower, touched this main wall. At the extremity of this last, where it broke off abruptly, both stopped. Hardly forty steps removed from them, rose the great tower, which in past times doubtless had been connected with the point at which they stood, but was now divided by as deep a gulph as that which lay to the outside wall, "Further there is nothing," said his guide: "often have I come hither and meditated whether I should not make one step onwards, and in that way release myself from all anxiety about any future steps upon this earth."
"But the power and the grandeur of nature have arrested you and awed you?"
"Right. Look downwards into the abyss before us:—deep, deep below, trickles along, between pebbles and moss and rocky fragment, a little brook: now it is lit up by the moon;—and at this moment it seems to me as if something were stirring; and now something is surely leaping over:—but no—it was deception: often when I have stood here in meditation, and could not comprehend what checked me from taking one bold leap, a golden pillar of moonlight has met me gleaming upwards from the little brook below—(brook that I have haunted in happier days); and suddenly I have risen as if ashamed—and stolen away in silence."
"Nicholas, do you believe in God?"
"Will you know the truth? I have lately learnt to believe."
"By what happy chance?"
"Happy!" and his companion laughed bitterly. "Leagued with bold and desperate men, to rid the world of a knot of vipers, for months I had waited for the moment when they should assemble together, in order to annihilate at one blow the entire brood. Daily we prayed, if you will call that praying, that this moment would arrive: but months after months passed: we waited; and we despaired. At length on a day,—I remember it was at noon—in burst a friend upon us and cried out—'Triumph and glory! this night the King's ministers all meet at Lord Harrowby's.' At these words many stern conspirators fell on their knees; others folded their hands—hands (God knows!) but little used to such a folding: I could do neither; I stretched out my arms and cried aloud—There is a Providence!"
"Spare your horrors, and your morality. Providence, we know, has willed it otherwise: the honourable gentlemen, at whom we had levelled, flourish in prosperity and honour; and my friends moulder beneath the scaffold."
"Having this origin, I presume that your faith in a Providence is at present—"
"Unshaken: my dagger was meant for Lord Londonderry: and, although he has escaped my wrath, yet I know not how, but a curse seems to cling to my blade, that whomsoever I have once devoted to it with full determination of purpose, that man —— ——"
Bertram shuddered, and said, "So then it was a conspirator from Cato-street that I delivered from death?"
"Well, push the conspirator over the wall, if you repent."
"But what carried you amongst such an atrocious band? What could you reap from the murder of the English ministers?—no merchant from Amsterdam stood with a full purse in the back ground."
"One step brings on another, and the rage of licentious mobs cannot be stopped until it has consumed itself. Upon the smoking ashes of the old palaces, between the overladen scaffold on one side and the charnel house on the other, blood from each side floating the slippery streets,—then is man's worth put to proof; then it is tried not by his prattling, which he calls eloquence—nor by his overloaded memory which he calls knowledge: then comes into play the arm, and then the head:"
"And what would you have gained as chief of a maddening populace?"
"What should I have gained? That sort of consideration I leave to the 'learned' and to 'ministers' and such people: my part is—to resolve and to execute as the crisis arises."
"So then it was mere appetite for destruction that drove you on? For that I should scarce have thought your misanthropy sufficient."
"Call it folly, call it frenzy, call it what you will—but something higher it was that stood in the back ground. A beautiful picture it was when I represented to myself all the great leaders, headless—and in that point on a level with the poor culprit that has just ascended the scaffold for stealing some half a pound of trash. This it was that allured me; and the pleasure of being myself the decapitator! Then worth should have borne the sway, and merit."
"Merit? What sort of merit?"
"You think a blood-hound has none,"—said Nicholas, with eyes that shot fire:—"but he can acquire it. Heaven and Earth! he that has such marrow—such blood in his veins—such a will—such an unconquerable will—he can begin a new life: he can be born again. Bertram, do not mock me when I tell you—passionate love has crazed my wits. See, here is a handkerchief of hers! For her sake do I curse my former life; for her sake, I would sink its memory into the depths of ocean! Oh that I could! that all the waters of the ocean could cleanse this hand! that I could come up from the deep sea as pure though I were as helpless as an infant! Once upon a dreadful night—But stop! what was that? Did you hear no whispering from below? Once upon a dreadful night——: Steps go there! hush! hush!"
Bertram's companion here suddenly drew his cloak from his shoulders—rolled it up under his arm—caught his coat-skirts under both arms—and stood with head and body bent forwards, whilst his eyes seemed to search and traverse the dark piles of building from which they had issued; his attitude was that of a stag, that, with pointed ears and with fore-feet rising for a bound, is looking to the thicket from which the noise issues that has startled him. Bertram too threw his eyes over the walls as far as he could to the lower part of the ruins; and remarked that, if any hostile attack were made, they should be without deliverance; they were shut in; and no egress remained except that which would be pre-occupied by their assailants.
"I believe I was mistaken," said Nicholas, drawing his breath again, just as Bertram fancied he saw a stirring of the shadow which lay within the gateway at the further end. He was on the point of communicating what he observed to the other, when suddenly a shot was fired. In that same instant Nicholas had thrown his cloak into the abyss; and without a word spoken ran straight, with an agility and speed that thunderstruck Bertram, to the archway; from which figures of armed men were now seen to issue apparently with the intention of intercepting the fugitive. Bertram now expected to see a struggle, as Nicholas was running right into the mouth of the danger. But in the midst of his quickest speed he checked—turned to the left about—leaped down with the instinctive agility of a chamois upon the wall below, which, bisecting the inner court, connected the main wall with the outer, and then ran along upon the narrow ridge of this inner wall, interrupted as it was by holes and loose stones. At every instant Bertram expected to see him fall and never rise again. But the danger to Nicholas came from another quarter. The pursuers, it would seem, had calculated on the intrepidity and agility of their man, and another group of men faced him on the opposite side. No choice appeared left to the fugitive—but to surrender, or to leap down. Suddenly he stood still, pulled out of his belt a brace of pistols—fired one in each hand upon the antagonists who stood near to him; and, whilst these shrank back in sudden surprise, though no one appeared wounded, with incredible dexterity and speed he sank from the eyes of Bertram—and disappeared. In a moment after Bertram thought he heard a dull sound as of a sullen plunge through briars and brambles into the rubbish below. All was then still.——
"One has burst the net," exclaimed the men, "but there stands his comrade: and, if he prove the right one, no matter what becomes of the other." So saying, both parties neared cautiously to possess themselves of Bertram.
On his part Bertram had no wish, as indeed (he was aware) no power, to escape them. Advancing therefore with a tranquil demeanour, he surrendered himself at once: and the next moment an Irishman of the party, being summoned to examine his features, held up a torch to his face and solemnly pronounced the prisoner to be that Nicholas of whom they were in search.
Prot. 'Tis wonderful dark! I have lost my man; And dare not call for him, but I should have More followers than I would pay wages to. What throes am I in—in this travel! These Be honourable adventures! Beaumont and Fletcher: Thierry and Theodor.
"Come, let's away from this old monk's nest," said one of the constables, "for it looks uncanny."
"Aye, Sampson, and who knows but some of Nicholas's gang may be lurking behind the pillars?"
"Nay it's not altogether that I'm thinking of; but the old monks with their cowls; and Merlin; and God knows how many ghosts beside;—I could fancy that I saw some of them just now at the end of these long galleries. So let's away."
Others however objected that they were starved by their long watching in the cold, and stood in need of refreshments. It was determined therefore to make a halt. Two men staid by the prisoner, whilst the rest collected wood and soon succeeded in lighting a prodigious fire upon the spacious area before the main entrance into the Abbey. Round this the party collected: a hamper of smuggled claret, which they had fortunately intercepted on its road from the abbey, was unpacked: wine and the genial warmth of the fire disposed all present except the prisoner to mirth and festivity; and not one soul but seemed to regard it as a point of conscience to reward their fatigue and celebrate their success by getting royally intoxicated.
"Why so downcast, my lad?" said one of the constables to Bertram; "in my youth I was as near to the gallows as you; and yet you see I am now virtuous; and a man of credit in the state."
"Aye, Sampson," said Kilmary, "unless you're much belied, you got your reprieve just as you were going to be turned off."
"And you, Kilmary, got yours something later: for I've often heard that you were cut down after hanging some five minutes or so. This was in Wicklow, gentlemen: and being in time of rebellion there was so much business that they were often obliged to employ dilettanti artists in hanging: and now and then there was not time to go through the work properly.—But, as I was saying, courage my young lad. Were I in your place, I would bless my stars that I had fallen into the company of honest men, and got rid of such rascally friends as yours, that run away at the pinch. You see by this that no dependance can be placed upon such villains, and that virtue only can be relied on. Oh! I could preach finely to you, my boy: but where's the use of it? If you're hanged, you'll not want it: and, if you're not hanged, you'll forget it."
Bertram meantime had for a moment withdrawn his attention from the unpleasant circumstances of his own situation to the striking features of the scene before him. In the back ground lay Snowdon bending into a vast semicircus, and absorbing into its gigantic shadows the minor hills which lay round its base: all were melted into perfect unity: and from the height of its main range the whole seemed within a quarter of a mile from the spot which he himself occupied. Between this and the abbey lay a level lawn, chequered with moonlight and the mighty shadows of Snowdon. Of the abbey itself many parts appeared in the distance; sullen recesses which were suddenly and partially revealed by the fluctuating glare of the fire; aerial windows through which the sky gleamed in splendour, unless when it was obscured for a moment by the clouds which sailed across; pinnacles and crosses of sublime altitude in the remote distance; and in the immediate foreground the great gateway of the abbey and the wide circle of armed men carousing about the fire in sitting or recumbent attitudes.
From this fine natural composition, which he contemplated with a half regret that Merlin did not really make his appearance from some long gallery or gloomy arch-way leading Salvator Rosa by the hand, Bertram was suddenly called off to the conversation around him—which, as the wine began to act, had gradually risen into the high key of violent altercation. A reward of 500l. had been offered, as he now collected, for the apprehension of Nicholas; and the dispute turned upon the due appropriation of this sum.
"What the d—-l, Sampson! rank or precedency has nothing to do in this case: that's settled, and we are all to share alike."
"D—— your impudence," cried Sampson—"Social distinctions in all things: it's as clear as sunlight in October that I, as leader and the man of genius, am to have 300l.; and you divide the other 200l. amongst you."
"What?" said the Irishman: "200l. amongst eight men?"
"Why, as for you, Kilmary, you get nothing. You stayed behind and wouldn't venture yourself upon the wall."
"No: Red-hair, you sheer off," exclaimed all the rest: but Red-hair pro tested against this; and almost screamed with wrath:
"By rights I should have half," said Kilmary; "for without me you would never have known who he was."
"Not a farthing more than according to merit; and then your share will come short."
Kilmary leaped up and clenched his fist:
"May the great devil swallow——." But scarce had he uttered a word, when a shot was fired; then a second—a third—a fourth; and a wild shout arose at a little distance of—
"Cut them down!"
Sampson had fallen back wounded: but, full of presence of mind, he called out to the Irishman—"Seize him, Kilmary! seize the prisoner, or he'll escape."
But Kilmary had been the first to escape himself; some others had followed: two of more resolution were preparing to execute the orders of the constable; when suddenly they were assailed so fiercely that one tumbled into the fire, and the other rolled over the wounded constable. An uproar of shouts and curses arose: and in this tumult Bertram found himself seized by two stout fellows who hurried him off, before he had time to recollect himself, into the shades of a neighbouring thicket. Here, where nobody could discover them by the light of the fire, they made a halt and cut the cords that confined the prisoner.
"Take breath for a moment," said one of his conductors, "and then away with us through thick and thin, before the bloodhounds rally."
"Captain Nicholas, shall we give them another round?" said a voice which struck Bertram as one which he had somewhere heard before.
"No, no, Tom,—let us be quiet whilst we are well: we have executed our work in a workmanlike style: another discharge would but serve to point out the course of our flight: for fly we must; a little bird whispered in my ear that they have a rear guard: and it will be well if we all reach our quarters this night in safety: to do which, my lads, our best chance will be to disperse; so good night to you all, and thanks for your able services. Mr. Bertram, I will put you in the way."
All the rest immediately stole away like shadows amongst the bushes; and Bertram again found himself alone with Edward Nicholas, who now guided him away from the neighbourhood of the abbey by intricate and almost impracticable paths up hill and down—through blind lanes and the shadowy skirts of forests—and once or twice along the pebbly channels of the little mountain brooks. On such ground Bertram often lost his footing; and Nicholas, who kept a-head, was more than once obliged to turn back and lend him his assistance. It was with no little pleasure therefore that at length he found himself again upon a level path which wound amongst the crags and woodlands—but in so mazy a track that it required little less than an Indian sagacity to hit it. From this they immerged into a series of ridings cut through the extensive woods of Tre Mawr; and, as they approached the end of one of these alleys, Bertram saw before them a wide heath stretching like a sea under the brilliant light of the wintry moon which had now attained her meridian altitude.
"Here," said Nicholas, as they issued upon the heath, "here we must part: for the road, which I must pursue, would be too difficult for a person unacquainted with the ground.—You, I suppose, admire this bright moon and the deluge of light she sheds: so do not I; and I heartily wish some poet or sonneteer had her in his pocket: for a dark night would have favoured our retreat much better. As it is, we must cross the heath by separate routes. You shall have the easiest. Do you see that black point on the heath? It is a stone of remarkable size and shape. When you reach it, turn to the left; and then, upon coming to the peat-trenches, to the right—until you arrive at a little hill: from the summit of this, and about a mile distant, you will observe some inclosures: there dwells Evan Williams: mention my name, and he will gladly harbour you until the heat of the pursuit is over. I will contrive to communicate with you in a day or two by means of Tom Godber—the young man who spoke to me as we left Ap Gauvon."
"Ah! by the way, I thought I knew his voice: he is the son then of old Mrs. Gillie Godber from Anglesea?"
"Exactly: and he is a helper in the stables at Walladmor Castle. You may trust him safely; for he is entirely attached to my interests: but now good night; for there is every appearance of snow coming on: it has been threatening for the last twenty-four hours: cold so severe as this is always the harbinger of snow: and, from the appearance of the sky at this moment, I doubt there will be a heavy fall before morning: good night!"
So saying Edward Nicholas struck across the heath, leaving Bertram in some perplexity as to the course he ought to adopt. He was aware that the most favourable step to the establishment of his own innocence would be to disclaim all voluntary participation in the late rescue by surrendering himself again to the officers of justice. Yet he could not but feel that to retrace his steps to Ap Gauvon was a matter of peril or impossibility under any state of the weather: and at this moment the threatening aspect of the sky, over which a curtain of clouds was gradually drawing, combined with his own weariness and craving for rest to urge him onwards upon the route pointed out by Nicholas. There was no time for long deliberations: the moon was now left in a deep gulph of the heavens, which the thick pall of clouds was hastening every moment to close over: and with some anxiety Bertram started off hastily in the direction of the stone. This he reached without much difficulty; took the right turn; and hoped soon to arrive at the peat-ditch which formed the second point in his carte du pays. After walking however for a longer time than seemed requisite for traversing the distance, he began to fear that he had wandered from the track. He turned; grew anxious; diverged a little to the right, and then again to the left, in hopes of coming upon the object he was in search of; then turned again; and finally lost all knowledge of his bearing or the direction in which he had just come, Mounting a little rising ground he beheld the abbey of Ap Gauvon, apparently two miles distant, still reddening with the angry glare of torches—sometimes gleaming over the outer walls, sometimes flashing from the windows or upper battlements; a proof that the police-officers had not yet renounced all hopes of recovering their prisoner. This spectacle did not tend to restore him to his self-possession: he descended the hill in trepidation: and, on reaching its foot, anxiously considered what it would be best to do. At this moment, the touch of something wet and cold upon his face struck a deadly chill to his heart: he hoped he might be mistaken; but the next instant came a second—a third—a fourth, until the whole air was filled with snow-flakes. Raising his head at this time he beheld the moon, at an immense altitude above him, shooting down her light through a shaft as it were in the clouds: the slender orifice of the shaft contracted: a sickly mist spread over the disk of the luminary; in a moment after all was gone; and one unbroken canopy of thick dun clouds muffled the whole hemisphere.
In this perplexity what was he to do? From the hill, which he had just descended, he remembered to have seen some dark object, apparently about half a mile distant: this might be a hovel or small cottage; and in this direction he determined to run. The snow was now in his back; and the dark spot soon began to swell upon his sight: in five minutes more he came up to it. He felt about for door or window; but could find none: and great was his disappointment when, upon more attentive examination, he perceived that what he had mistaken for a place of shelter was the antique stone gallows which he had passed in the afternoon. Under the lee of this old monument of elder days he was seeking out a favourable spot for a temporary shelter from the violence of the storm, when to his sudden horror and astonishment up started a tall female figure and seized him eagerly by the arm. At first she seemed speechless from some strong passion, and shaken as if by an ague fit: but, in a few moments she recovered her voice; and with piercing tones, in which, though trembling from agitation, Bertram immediately recognized those of poor Gillie Godber, she exclaimed—
"Ah Gregory! is it you? Are you come at last?—My darling! I have waited for thee—oh how long! Four and twenty years I have wept and watched, and watched and wept.—Oh come with me, my boy—my boy! God's curse on them that ever took thee away! Turn to me, my son: oh come, come, come, come!"
With the energy of a maniac she flung her withered arm about his neck: but Bertram was so overcome by the sudden shock of surprise, and by mingled emotions of awe, pity, and distraction of purpose, on finding himself thus suddenly in the arms of a lunatic, that he tore himself violently away and ran off without asking himself whither. The poor frantic mother pursued him, with outstretched arms and her aged locks streaming upon the wind; crying out continually,
"Gregory, my love! turn back: the wind is high and stormy; and the snowflakes are driving—driving—driving! I have kept a fire to warm you in Anglesea for four and twenty years. Turn back to me, my bonny lad! my love! my darling!"
Her powers were unable to support her in this contest of speed with the energies of a young man suddenly restored by the excitement of panic: and, on looking back within half a minute, Bertram perceived that her figure was already obscured by the tumult of snow which raged in the air. Her shrill voice however still at intervals forced its way to his ear, in the very teeth of the wind, and contributed to aggravate the distressing circumstances of his situation at this moment. It was a situation indeed which might have shaken the fortitude of one more accustomed to struggle with danger. The clouds had now lost their colour of yellowish dun, and assumed a livid lead colour which contrasted powerfully with the white livery in which all things were already arrayed: the snowflakes, conflicting with the baffling wind as they descended, "tormented all the air,"—and, to the eye of one looking upwards, seemed to cross—thwart—and mazily interweave with each other as rapidly as a weaver's shuttle, and with the lambent scintillating lustre of fire-flies: and the plashes or shallow pools of water, which were frequent in this part of the heath amongst the excavations from which peats had been dug, now began under the sudden breaking up of the frost to give way beneath their warm covering of snow to the weight of a man. The wind, which was likely to subside as the fall of snow grew more settled, at present blew a perfect hurricane; and unfortunately the accidental direction which Bertram had taken on extricating himself from the poor mad woman,—a direction which he was unwilling to change from his fear of again falling in with her,—brought him into direct opposition to it. To these disheartening and bewildering circumstances of his present situation were added those of previous exhaustion, cold, hunger, and anxiety in regard to the probable construction of the share he had borne, as a passive spectator, in the events of the day; having, however unintentionally, become a party in the eye of the law to the attack on the revenue officers—and possibly, as he feared, to that upon the police officers at Ap Gauvon. Under all these circumstances of distress however he continued to make way; but more and more slowly: and at length, whilst cowring his head before the blinding drift of the snow, he plunged unawares into a peat trench. He found himself up to the shoulders in water; and with some difficulty crawled out on the opposite bank. This, which under other circumstances might have been regarded as a misfortune, now turned out a very serviceable event: for the sudden shock of this cold bath not only communicated a stimulus to the drooping powers of his frame, and liberated him from the sleepy torpor which had been latterly stealing over him,—but, by urging him to run as vigorously as he could in order to shake off the extreme chill which now seized him, tended still more to restore the action of his animal powers. A reviving hope too had suddenly sprung up that this might be the peat trench to which the directions of Nicholas referred: and he ran with alacrity and chearfulness. In this course however he was all at once arrested by a violent blow on his temples. Raising his head, which he still carried slanting against the wind, to his sudden joy he discovered in the cause of this rude shock a most welcome indication of approach to some beaten road, and probably to the dwellings of men. It was a lofty pole, such as is ordinarily erected upon moorish or mountainous tracts against the accidents of deep snow. Bertram's hopes were realized. At a little distance he found a second pole, then a third, and a fourth, &c. until at length he dropped down upon a little cluster of cottages. He saw indeed neither house, nor tree, nor hedge before him: for even a whole village at such a time—its low roofs all white with snow—would not have been distinguishable: but he heard the bleating of sheep. Seldom had his heart throbbed with such a sudden thrill of gladness as at this sound. With hurried steps he advanced, and soon found a low hedge which without hesitation he climbed; he felt the outer wall of a house, but could not find the door. Close to the house however was a wooden barn, from which issued the bleating which had so much gladdened the poor wanderer; and to this he directed his steps.
Many a reader, when he runs over this chapter by his warm fire-side, or possibly in summer, will not forbear laughing. But whosoever, led by pleasure or necessity, has in winter roamed over a heath in the Scotch Highlands, and has been fairly mist-foundered,—knows what a blessed haven for the weary and frozen way-farer is a reeking sheep-cote. The author of this novel speaks here feelingly and from a memorable personal experience: upon a romantic pedestrian excursion from Edinburgh to the western parts of Strathnavern he once lost his way in company with his friend, Thomas Vanley, Esq. who departed this life about ten years ago, but will live for ever in his tender recollection. After wandering for several hours in the thickest mist upon this Novembry heath, and what by moorish ground—what by the dripping atmosphere being thoroughly soaked, and stiffening with cold, the author and Mr. Vanley discovered on a declivity of the bleak Mount Patrick a solitary hovel. It stood apart from all houses or dwellings; and even the shepherd on this particular night had stolen away (probably on a love-tryst): however, if the shepherd was gone, his sheep were not: and we found about fifty of them in the stall, which had recently been littered with fine clean straw. We clambered over the hurdle at the door; and made ourselves a warm cozy lair amongst the peaceful animals. Many times after in succeeding years Mr. Vanley assured me—that, although he had in India (as is well known to the public) enjoyed all the luxuries of a Nabob whilst he served in those regions under Sir Arthur Wellesley, yet never had any Indian bed been so voluptuous to him as that straw-bed amongst the sheep upon the desolate wilds of Mount Patrick.
To his great delight Bertram found the door of the barn only latched: without noise he opened it just wide enough to admit his person; and then, closing it again cautiously, climbed over the great hurdle which barricadoed the entrance. Then he groped along in a stooping posture—feeling his way on the ground, as he advanced, with his hands; but, spite of all his precaution, the sheep were disturbed; they fled from him bleating tumultuously, as commonly happens when a stranger intrudes amongst them, and crowded to the furthest corner of the barn. Much greater was his alarm however when all at once he stumbled with his hands upon a long out-stretched human body. He shrank back with sudden trepidation; drew in his breath; and kept himself as still as death. But, observing by the hard and uniform breathing that it was a man buried in profound sleep, he stepped carefully over him, and sought a soft and warm bed in the remotest corner of the barn. Luckily he found means to conciliate the aboriginal tenants of the barn; and in no long time two fleecy lambs couched beside him; and he was forced to confess that after the fatigues of such a day no bed could have been more grateful or luxurious.
Som. O monstrous traitor!—I arrest thee, York, Of capital treason 'gainst the king and crown: Obey, audacious traitor! Henry VI. Second Part.
On awaking the next morning, Bertram perceived by the strength of the light now brightened by reflexion from the dazzling snow that the morning was far advanced; and, rising hastily from his bed of heath and fern, he was somewhat startled to perceive a whole family of women and children standing at a little distance and surveying him with looks of anxious curiosity checked however and disturbed by something of fear and suspicion. These feelings appeared a little to give way before the interesting appearance of the youthful stranger: an expression of pity arose for the distress which could have brought him into that situation: and in a few words of Welsh, which were rendered intelligible to Bertram by the courteous gestures which accompanied them, he was invited into the house—and seated by a blazing fire of peat and wood. With the cheerful hospitality of mountaineers, his fair hostesses proceeded to prepare breakfast for him; and Bertram had no reason to complain of any coldness or remissness in their attentions. Yet, in the midst of all their kindness, he could not but discover an air of lurking distrust which somewhat embarrassed him. At first he had accounted for this upon the natural shock which it must have given to a few women to find an unknown intruder upon their premises dressed in a foreign style, and occupying so very unusual a situation amongst their sheep. And this interpretation appeared the more reasonable—as he now became aware that the women and children were left almost to their own protection; for the house was in a lonely situation; and all the men of the family were abroad, except an imbecile grey-beard whom one of the young women addressed as her grandfather. All fears however, Bertram flattered himself, should have been dispersed immediately by his appearance and the gentleness of his demeanour: much therefore it perplexed him to observe after the lapse of some time that the shyness and something like displeasure, which had at first clouded the faces of his fair friends, seemed in no degree to give way before his amiable looks and manners. The children in particular, he remarked, regarded him with eyes of dislike, and rejected all his advances. Happening to follow them to the door for a moment, he there observed what threw some light upon the case: the children were mourning over the body of a dog which lay dead in the corner of a little garden: and, from the angry glances which they directed at himself, he no longer doubted that they regarded him as the destroyer of their favourite. To a young man of sensibility and amiable disposition, and chiefly in search of the picturesque, it was peculiarly unpleasant to find himself the object of such a suspicion. To lie under the reproach of an act, which, unless it were a necessary act, was a very savage and brutal one,—must naturally be painful under any circumstances; much more so at a time when he was indebted to the goodness of the family, whom he was supposed to have thus wantonly injured, for the most hospitable attentions. At this moment a sudden recollection darted into his mind of his nocturnal companion in the barn, to whom he doubted not the death of the dog was to be attributed. Unable however from his ignorance of the Welsh language to explain this circumstance, or to make his own vindication, he prepared to liberate himself from the uneasy and humiliating situation, in which he now found himself placed, by taking his leave as soon as possible.
At this moment an ill-looking fellow, who seemed to have some acquaintance with the family, entered the cottage: he fixed his eyes keenly upon Bertram; and, when the latter rose to depart, offered himself as a guide to Machynleth. Bertram had noticed his scrutiny with some uneasiness and displeasure; but having no ready excuse for declining his offers, nor indeed seeing any use in doing so, he said that he would be glad to avail himself of his services; took his hat; and, bowing to the family with as much composure and as obliging an air as his embarrassing feelings would allow, moved towards the door. On this there was a general murmur amongst the women; and a sudden stir as if from some wish to detain him. Their looks meantime expressed compassion: and Bertram discovered no signs of any hostile intention: yet, as he was unable to imagine any reason advantageous to himself which they could have for detaining him, he persisted in departing.
The day was beautiful; but the roads were heavy and toilsome to the foot-passenger; for the snow lay deep; and frost had succeeded just sufficient to glaze the surface into a crispness which retarded without absolutely resisting the pressure of the foot. Their progress was therefore slow: but they had floundered on between two and three miles: and as yet Bertram had found no cause for openly expressing his dissatisfaction with his guide. The manners and deportment of the man were indeed unpleasant: his head he carried in a drooping posture; never looked directly in Bertram's face; and now and then eyed him askance. Occasionally he fell behind a little; and once, upon turning suddenly round, Bertram detected him in the act of applying a measure to his footsteps. These were alarming circumstances in his behaviour: but otherwise he was civil and communicative in his replies; and showed a good deal of intelligence in his account of the different objects on the road about which Bertram inquired. All at once however he was missing; and, looking round, Bertram perceived him, at the top of a slight eminence a little to the left of the road, waving his handkerchief and whistling a loud summons to some person or party in the neighbourhood.
"Ah rascal!" cried Bertram: but before he could complete the sentence, his attention was drawn off to a party of horsemen who now wheeled into sight and rapidly extended their line—man[oe]uvring their horses with the evident purpose of intercepting him, if he should attempt to escape. This however, if it had been feasible, was no part of his intention: judging from their appearance that they were police officers, he advanced to meet them with a firm step—calling out at the same time—
"Take notice, I surrender myself voluntarily: the magistrates, I have no doubt, will consider my explanations satisfactory: and all I have to regret is—-that any body should have been wounded in an affair connected in any way with myself."
This he said on observing, in the person of one who rode foremost, the "virtuous" Mr. Sampson carrying his arm in a sling. Mr. Sampson however replied to this indirect expression of condolence by a sceptical and somewhat satirical grin:
"Do but hearken to him," said he to the other constables: "hearken to this pious youth: we, that are honest men now, are not so religious by one half. And he can satisfy the magistrates? Aye, no doubt: but first he must hang a little; hang a little,—do you hear, Sir? But pray, Kilmary, how came you to let him move off till we got up?"
"He wouldn't stay," said Kilmary, in whom Bertram now recognised his guide: "nothing would content him but off he must bolt: and the farmer's people would not help me to keep him. Nay, I believe they would have hid him, or let him out at the back door, if he hadn't killed their old dog last night. I palavered to them about the laws, and justice, and what not: but they wouldn't stand it."
"Faith and I can't blame them," said Sampson: "it's no joke for a lonesome family on a heath side to make an enemy of such a pious youth as our friend here."
"Well, bind him fast and keep him better than you did the last time: for I shall hardly catch him for you a third time. It was no such easy matter to track him, I'll assure you; his footmarks were half snowed up."
"Aye, Kilmary, thou art a good hound for running down a fox. To give thee no more than thy due, thou art a hound in every thing; a perfect hound."
"But no hound that will fetch and carry for others, Mr. Sampson: if I'm always to be the hound to hunt the fox home, I'll have my right share of the reward."
"You shall, Kilmary: and what's that? What's a hound's share? A bone or so when his master has dined: isn't it, Kilmary? eh, my boy?"
Kilmary muttered a few inarticulate words; and slunk behind. Meantime the constables dismounted; and, having handcuffed Bertram, passed a cord round his body, the two extremities of which were carried in the hands of Sampson and another, who remounted their horses and led him after them in this felonious style.
Fortunately for Bertram's comfort, Sampson's wound obliged him to ride slowly: notwithstanding which he was heartily thankful when, after advancing for some hours, they came within view of the church towers at Machynleth, distant about three miles—and found Alderman Gravesand with a barouche-and-four waiting for them at the top of the hill.
Bertram was placed in the carriage; and Sampson took his seat by his side; Kilmary mounting Sampson's horse. By this time it was four o'clock; and Alderman Gravesand directed the whole party to push forward at their utmost speed; "it was his intention to carry the prisoner to Walladmor Castle nearly thirty miles distant; and he wished to be through Machynleth before the light failed."
"Would his worship then go through the town?" asked Sampson: "might it not be better to send forward with orders for horses to meet them in the outskirts, and avoid the town by making a little circuit?"
"No:" this proposal the Alderman rejected, as he would have done any other which looked like a compromise of the magisterial dignity or a concession to the popular spirit. Mr. Gravesand was a man who doated on what he called energy and vigour; others called it tyranny and the spirit of domineering. Of Lord Chesterfield's golden maxim—Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re—he attended so earnestly to the latter half that he generally forgot the former. And upon the present occasion he was resolved to parade his contempt for "the jacobinical populace" of Machynleth by carrying his prisoner boldly through the midst of them.
The fact is—that the populace of Machynleth were not Jacobinical, nor ever showed any disposition to insubordination unless in behalf of smuggling (which on this coast was a matter of deep interest to the poor man's comforts), or in cases where Alderman Gravesand was concerned. The Lord Lieutenant, whom they loved and reverenced, could at all times calm them by a word; and any inferior magistrate, who would take the least pains to cultivate their good will, was sure of finding them in all ordinary cases reasonable and accessible to persuasion. But for Alderman Gravesand,—who had never missed an opportunity of expressing his hatred and affected contempt for them, they were determined on showing him that there was no love lost between them: right or wrong, in every case they gave him as much trouble as they possibly could. And in the present case, which was supposed to be an arrest for some participation in the smuggler's affair of the funeral, they had one motive more than was needed to sharpen the spirit of resistance to the worshipful gentleman.
That when the people, which had thereabout Long wayted, saw his sudden desolation, They gan together in tumultuous rout And mutining to stirre up civil faction For certain losse of so great expectation: For well they hoped to have got great good And wondrous riches by his innovation: Therefore resolving to revenge his blood They rose in armes, and all in battell order stood. Faery Queene, B. V. C. III.
Rapidly as the magisterial party moved, the news of their approach had run before them; and, on entering the north gates of Machynleth, they found nearly all the male population in the streets. Large bodies of smugglers were dispersed in the crowd, many of whom saw clearly that the magistrate was in a mistake as to the person of his prisoner: but they had good reasons for leaving him in his error. Up to the inn-door, where it was foreseen that the carriage would draw up to change horses, no particular opposition was offered to the advance of that or it's escort. Hisses indeed, groans, hooting, curses, and every variety of insult short of manual violence, continued to rise in stormy chorus all the way to the inn-door. But the attack, which was obviously in agitation, waited either for the first blow to be struck by some one more daring than the rest—or for some more favourable situation.
Just as the carriage stopped, an upper window was thrown up, and forth came the head of Mr. Dulberry the radical reformer in a perfect panic of exultation. This was the happiest moment of his existence. No longer in mere vision or prophetic rapture, but with his bodily eyes, he beheld the civil authority set at nought, insulted, threatened; and a storm rising in which he might have the honour to preside and direct. He was suffocated with joy; and for a minute found himself too much affected to speak.
Whilst he was yet speechless, and distracted by the choice amongst ten thousand varieties of argument and advice for the better nursing of the infant riot,—a drunken man advanced from the inn and laid himself across the street immediately before the feet of the horses which were at this moment harnessing to the carriage, loudly protesting that they should pass over his body before he would see them carry off to a dungeon so noble a martyr to the freedom of trade. Alderman Gravesand directed the constables to remove the man by force. This fired the train of Dulberry's pent-up eloquence. He "adjured the mob by those who met at Runnymead to resist such an act of lawless power; applauded the heaven-born suggestion of the drunkard; called upon them all to follow his example; by Magna Charta every Englishman was entitled to stretch himself at length in the mud when and where he would; and at the Alderman's peril be it, if he should presume to drive over them."
Meantime the constables had seized the man, and tossed him into the gutter. So far the system of vigour seemed to carry the day. But either this act or the urgency of the time (the horses being now harnessed and the postillions on the point of mounting) was the signal for the universal explosion of the popular wrath. Stones, coals, brickbats, whizzed on every side: the traces of the barouche were cut: the constables were knocked down: those of them, who were seated in the carriage, were collared and pulled out; excepting only Sampson who, being a powerful and determined man, still kept his hold of Bertram: and the Alderman, who was the main cause of the whole disturbance, was happy to make a precipitate retreat into the inn; at an upper window of which he soon appeared with the Riot Act in his hand.
At this crisis, however, from some indications which he observed below of the state of temper in regard to himself just now prevailing amongst the mob he thought it prudent to lay aside his first intentions; and, putting the Riot Act into his pocket, he began to bow; most awkwardly attempted the new part of gracious conciliator; expostulated gently; laid his hand on his heart; and endeavoured to explain that the prisoner was not arrested for any offence against the revenue laws, but for high treason. Not a syllable of what he said was heard. At the adjoining window stood Mr. Dulberry, labouring with a zeal as ineffectual to heighten and to guide the storm which the Alderman was labouring to lay. Like two rival candidates on the hustings, both stood making a dumb show of grimaces, rhetorical gestures, and passionate appeals; blowing hot and cold like Boreas and Phoebus in their contest for the traveller; the one striving to sow, the other to extirpate sedition: the reformer blowing the bellows and fanning the fire which the magistrate was labouring to extinguish.
Fortunately perhaps for both, and possibly for all the parties concerned, arguments were now at hand more efficacious than those of either. At this moment a trampling of horses was heard; words of command could be distinguished in military language; and amidst a general cry of "The red coats! the red coats!" a squadron of dragoons was seen advancing rapidly along the street. The mob gave way immediately, and retired into the houses and side alleys. Just as the dragoons came up, a bold fellow had knocked the wounded constable backwards, and was in the act of seizing firm hold of Bertram,—when the commanding officer rode up and with the flat of his sabre struck him so violently over the head and shoulders that he rolled into the mud, but retained however presence of mind enough to retire within a party of his friends.
In a few minutes the officer had succeeded in restoring order: he now took the prisoner from the carriage and mounted him behind a dragoon. His hands, which had been hitherto tied behind him, were for a moment unfettered—passed round the dragoon's body—and then again confined by cords. These arrangements made,—the whole cavalcade accompanied by two constables drew off at a rapid pace to the city gates. Under this third variety in the style of his escort, Bertram began to experience great fatigue and suffering. Without any halt, or a word speaking, the cavalry proceeded at a long trot for two hours along a well-beaten road. On reaching a wretched ale-house, however, necessity obliged them to make a short halt and to take such refreshments as the place afforded. To the compassion of a dragoon Bertram was here indebted for a dram; and he was allowed to stretch himself at length on the floor of the house and to take a little sleep. From this however he was soon roused by the gingling of spurs; roughly shaken up; and mounted again in the former fashion behind the dragoon. It was now dark; a night-storm was beginning to rise; and it appeared to the prisoner as though the road were approaching the coast. The air grew colder and colder, the wind more piercing, and Bertram—whose situation made all change of posture impossible—felt as though he could not long hold out against the benumbing rigour of the frost. So much was his firmness subdued, that he could not forbear expressing his suffering by inarticulate moans. The dragoon, who rode before him, was touched with compassion and gave him a draught from his rum flask. The strength, given by spirituous liquors to a person under the action of frost, is notoriously but momentary and leaves the sufferer exposed to an immediate and more dangerous reaction of the frost. This effect Bertram experienced: a pleasant sensation began to steal over him; one limb began to stiffen after another; and his vital powers had no longer energy enough to resist the seductive approaches of sleep. At this moment an accident saved him. The whole troop pulled up abruptly; and at the same instant a piercing cry for help, and a violent trampling of horses' hoofs, roused Bertram from his stupefaction.
The accident was this: a trooper had diverged from the line of road, and was in the act of driving his horse over a precipice which overhung the sea-coast just at the very moment when his error was betrayed to him by the moving lights below. The horse however clung by his fore-feet, which had fortunately been rough-shod, to a tablet of slanting rock glazed over with an enamel of ice; and his comrades came up in time to save both the trooper and his horse. Meantime the harsh and sudden shock of this abrupt halt, together with the appalling character of the incident which led to it, had roused Bertram; and he was still further roused by the joyful prospect of a near termination to his journey as well as by the remarkable features of the road on which his eyes now opened from his brief slumber.
The road, as he now became aware, wound upwards along the extreme edge of the rocky barrier which rose abruptly from the sea-coast. In the murky depths below he saw nothing but lights tossing up and down, gleaming at intervals, and then buried in sudden darkness—the lights probably of vessels driving before wind and weather in a heavy sea. The storm was now in its strength on the sea-quarter. The clouds had parted before the wind; and a pale gleam of the moon suddenly betrayed to the prisoner the spectacle of a billowy sea below him, an iron barrier of rocky coast, and at some distance above him the gothic towers and turrets of an old castle running out as it were over the sea itself upon one of the bold prominences of the cliffs. The sharp lines of this aerial pile of building were strongly relieved upon the sky which now began to be overspread with moonlight. To this castle their route was obviously directed. But danger still threatened them: the road was narrow and steep; the wind blustered; and gusty squalls at intervals threatened to upset both horse and rider into the abyss. However the well-trained horses overcame all difficulties; at length the head of the troop reached the castle; and the foremost dragoon seizing a vast iron knocker struck the steel-plated gate so powerfully, that the echo on a more quiet night would have startled all the deer in the adjacent park for two miles round.