Reputation! that's man's idol
Set up against God, the Maker of all laws,
Who hath commanded us we should not kill,
And yet we say we must, for Reputation!
What honest man can either fear his own,
Or else will hurt another's reputation?
Fear to do base unworthy things is valour;
If they be done to us, to suffer them
Is valour too.
The Colonel was walking pensively up and down the parlour when the
officious landlady reentered to take his commands. Having given
them in the manner he thought would be most acceptable 'for the
good of the house,' be begged to detain her a moment.
'I think,' he said, 'madam, if I understood the good people right,
Mr. Bertram lost his son in his fifth year?'
'O ay, sir, there's nae doubt o' that, though there are mony idle
clashes about the way and manner, for it's an auld story now, and
everybody tells it, as we were doing, their ain way by the
ingleside. But lost the bairn was in his fifth year, as your
honour says, Colonel; and the news being rashly tell'd to the
leddy, then great with child, cost her her life that samyn night;
and the Laird never throve after that day, but was just careless
of everything, though, when his daughter Miss Lucy grew up, she
tried to keep order within doors; but what could she do, poor
thing? So now they're out of house and hauld.'
'Can you recollect, madam, about what time of the year the child
was lost?' The landlady, after a pause and some recollection,
answered, 'she was positive it was about this season'; and added
some local recollections that fixed the date in her memory as
occurring about the beginning of November 17--.
The stranger took two or three turns round the room in silence,
but signed to Mrs. Mac-Candlish not to leave it.
'Did I rightly apprehend,' he said, 'that the estate of Ellangowan
is in the market?'
'In the market? It will be sell'd the morn to the highest bidder--
that's no the morn, Lord help me! which is the Sabbath, but on
Monday, the first free day; and the furniture and stocking is to
be roupit at the same time on the ground. It's the opinion of the
haill country that the sale has been shamefully forced on at this
time, when there's sae little money stirring in Scotland wi' this
weary American war, that somebody may get the land a bargain. Deil
be in them, that I should say sae!'--the good lady's wrath rising
at the supposed injustice.
'And where will the sale take place?'
'On the premises, as the advertisement says; that's at the house
of Ellangowan, your honour, as I understand it.'
'And who exhibits the title-deeds, rent-roll, and plan?'
'A very decent man, sir; the sheriff-substitute of the county, who
has authority from the Court of Session. He's in the town just
now, if your honour would like to see him; and he can tell you
mair about the loss of the bairn than ony body, for the sheriff-
depute (that's his principal, like) took much pains to come at the
truth o' that matter, as I have heard.'
'And this gentleman's name is--'
'Mac-Morlan, sir; he's a man o' character, and weel spoken o'.'
'Send my compliments--Colonel Mannering's compliments to him, and
I would be glad he would do me the pleasure of supping with me,
and bring these papers with him; and I beg, good madam, you will
say nothing of this to any one else.'
'Me, sir? ne'er a word shall I say. I wish your honour (a
courtesy), or ony honourable gentleman that's fought for his
country (another courtesy), had the land, since the auld family
maun quit (a sigh), rather than that wily scoundrel Glossin,
that's risen on the ruin of the best friend he ever had. And now I
think on't, I'll slip on my hood and pattens, and gang to Mr. Mac-
Morlan mysell, he's at hame e'en now; it's hardly a step.'
'Do so, my good landlady, and many thanks; and bid my servant step
here with my portfolio in the meantime.'
In a minute or two Colonel Mannering was quietly seated with his
writing materials before him. We have the privilege of looking
over his shoulder as he writes, and we willingly communicate its
substance to our readers. The letter was addressed to Arthur
Mervyn, Esq., of Mervyn Hall, Llanbraithwaite, Westmoreland. It
contained some account of the writer's previous journey since
parting with him, and then proceeded as follows:--
'And now, why will you still upbraid me with my melancholy,
Mervyn? Do you think, after the lapse of twenty-five years,
battles, wounds, imprisonment, misfortunes of every description, I
can be still the same lively, unbroken Guy Mannering who climbed
Skiddaw with you, or shot grouse upon Crossfell? That you, who
have remained in the bosom of domestic happiness, experience
little change, that your step is as light and your fancy as full
of sunshine, is a blessed effect of health and temperament,
cooperating with content and a smooth current down the course of
life. But MY career has been one of difficulties and doubts and
errors. From my infancy I have been the sport of accident, and,
though the wind has often borne me into harbour, it has seldom
been into that which the pilot destined. Let me recall to you--but
the task must be brief--the odd and wayward fates of my youth, and
the misfortunes of my manhood.
'The former, you will say, had nothing very appalling. All was not
for the best; but all was tolerable. My father, the eldest son of
an ancient but reduced family, left me with little, save the name
of the head of the house, to the protection of his more fortunate
brothers. They were so fond of me that they almost quarrelled
about me. My uncle, the bishop, would have had me in orders, and
offered me a living; my uncle, the merchant, would have put me
into a counting-house, and proposed to give me a share in the
thriving concern of Mannering and Marshall, in Lombard Street. So,
between these two stools, or rather these two soft, easy, well-
stuffed chairs of divinity and commerce, my unfortunate person
slipped down, and pitched upon a dragoon saddle. Again, the bishop
wished me to marry the niece and heiress of the Dean of Lincoln;
and my uncle, the alderman, proposed to me the only daughter of
old Sloethorn, the great wine-merchant, rich enough to play at
span-counter with moidores and make thread-papers of bank-notes; and
somehow I slipped my neck out of both nooses, and
married--poor, poor Sophia Wellwood.
'You will say, my military career in India, when I followed my
regiment there, should have given me some satisfaction; and so it
assuredly has. You will remind me also, that if I disappointed the
hopes of my guardians, I did not incur their displeasure; that the
bishop, at his death, bequeathed me his blessing, his manuscript
sermons, and a curious portfolio containing the heads of eminent
divines of the church of England; and that my uncle, Sir Paul
Mannering, left me sole heir and executor to his large fortune.
Yet this availeth me nothing; I told you I had that upon my mind
which I should carry to my grave with me, a perpetual aloes in the
draught of existence. I will tell you the cause more in detail
than I had the heart to do while under your hospitable roof. You
will often hear it mentioned, and perhaps with different and
unfounded circumstances. I will therefore speak it out; and then
let the event itself, and the sentiments of melancholy with which
it has impressed me, never again be subject of discussion between
'Sophia, as you well know, followed me to India. She was as
innocent as gay; but, unfortunately for us both, as gay as
innocent. My own manners were partly formed by studies I had
forsaken, and habits of seclusion not quite consistent with my
situation as commandant of a regiment in a country where universal
hospitality is offered and expected by every settler claiming the
rank of a gentleman. In a moment of peculiar pressure (you know
how hard we were sometimes run to obtain white faces to
countenance our line-of-battle), a young man named Brown joined
our regiment as a volunteer, and, finding the military duty more
to his fancy than commerce, in which he had been engaged, remained
with us as a cadet. Let me do my unhappy victim justice: he
behaved with such gallantry on every occasion that offered that
the first vacant commission was considered as his due. I was
absent for some weeks upon a distant expedition; when I returned I
found this young fellow established quite as the friend of the
house, and habitual attendant of my wife and daughter. It was an
arrangement which displeased me in many particulars, though no
objection could be made to his manners or character. Yet I might
have been reconciled to his familiarity in my family, but for the
suggestions of another. If you read over--what I never dare open--
the play of "Othello," you will have some idea of what followed--
I mean of my motives; my actions, thank God! were less
reprehensible. There was another cadet ambitious of the vacant
situation. He called my attention to what he led me to term
coquetry between my wife and this young man. Sophia was virtuous,
but proud of her virtue; and, irritated by my jealousy, she was so
imprudent as to press and encourage an intimacy which she saw I
disapproved and regarded with suspicion. Between Brown and me
there existed a sort of internal dislike. He made an effort or two
to overcome my prejudice; but, prepossessed as I was, I placed
them to a wrong motive. Feeling himself repulsed, and with scorn,
he desisted; and as he was without family and friends, he was
naturally more watchful of the deportment of one who had both.
'It is odd with what torture I write this letter. I feel inclined,
nevertheless, to protract the operation, just as if my doing so
could put off the catastrophe which has so long embittered my
life. But--it must be told, and it shall be told briefly.
'My wife, though no longer young, was still eminently handsome,
and--let me say thus far in my own justification-she was fond of
being thought so--I am repeating what I said before. In a word, of
her virtue I never entertained a doubt; but, pushed by the artful
suggestions of Archer, I thought she cared little for my peace of
mind, and that the young fellow Brown paid his attentions in my
despite, and in defiance of me. He perhaps considered me, on his
part, as an oppressive aristocratic man, who made my rank in
society and in the army the means of galling those whom
circumstances placed beneath me. And if he discovered my silly
jealousy, he probably considered the fretting me in that sore
point of my character as one means of avenging the petty
indignities to which I had it in my power to subject him. Yet an
acute friend of mine gave a more harmless, or at least a less
offensive, construction to his attentions, which he conceived to
be meant for my daughter Julia, though immediately addressed to
propitiate the influence of her mother. This could have been no
very flattering or pleasing enterprise on the part of an obscure
and nameless young man; but I should not have been offended at
this folly as I was at the higher degree of presumption I
suspected. Offended, however, I was, and in a mortal degree.
'A very slight spark will kindle a flame where everything lies
open to catch it. I have absolutely forgot the proximate cause of
quarrel, but it was some trifle which occurred at the card-table
which occasioned high words and a challenge. We met in the morning
beyond the walls and esplanade of the fortress which I then
commanded, on the frontiers of the settlement. This was arranged
for Brown's safety, had he escaped. I almost wish he had, though
at my own expense; but he fell by the first fire. We strove to
assist him; but some of these looties, a species of native
banditti who were always on the watch for prey, poured in upon us.
Archer and I gained our horses with difficulty, and cut our way
through them after a hard conflict, in the course of which he
received some desperate wounds. To complete the misfortunes of
this miserable day, my wife, who suspected the design with which I
left the fortress, had ordered her palanquin to follow me, and was
alarmed and almost made prisoner by another troop of these
plunderers. She was quickly released by a party of our cavalry;
but I cannot disguise from myself that the incidents of this fatal
morning gave a severe shock to health already delicate. The
confession of Archer, who thought himself dying, that he had
invented some circumstances, and for his purposes put the worst
construction upon others, and the full explanation and exchange of
forgiveness with me which this produced, could not check the
progress of her disorder. She died within about eight months after
this incident, bequeathing me only the girl of whom Mrs. Mervyn is
so good as to undertake the temporary charge. Julia was also
extremely ill; so much so that I was induced to throw up my
command and return to Europe, where her native air, time, and the
novelty of the scenes around her have contributed to dissipate her
dejection and restore her health.
'Now that you know my story, you will no longer ask me the reason
of my melancholy, but permit me to brood upon it as I may. There
is, surely, in the above narrative enough to embitter, though not
to poison, the chalice which the fortune and fame you so often
mention had prepared to regale my years of retirement.
'I could add circumstances which our old tutor would have quoted
as instances of DAY FATALITY,--you would laugh were I to mention
such particulars, especially as you know I put no faith in them.
Yet, since I have come to the very house from which I now write, I
have learned a singular coincidence, which, if I find it truly
established by tolerable evidence, will serve as hereafter for
subject of curious discussion. But I will spare you at present, as
I expect a person to speak about a purchase of property now open
in this part of the country. It is a place to which I have a
foolish partiality, and I hope my purchasing may be convenient to
those who are parting with it, as there is a plan for buying it
under the value. My respectful compliments to Mrs. Mervyn, and I
will trust you, though you boast to be so lively a young
gentleman, to kiss Julia for me. Adieu, dear Mervyn.--Thine ever,
Mr. Mac-Morlan now entered the room. The well-known character of
Colonel Mannering at once disposed this gentleman, who was a man
of intelligence and probity, to be open and confidential. He
explained the advantages and disadvantages of the property. 'It
was settled,' he said, 'the greater part of it at least, upon
heirs-male, and the purchaser would have the privilege of
retaining in his hands a large proportion of the price, in case of
the reappearance, within a certain limited term, of the child who
'To what purpose, then, force forward a sale?' said Mannering.
Mac-Morlan smiled. 'Ostensibly,' he answered, 'to substitute the
interest of money instead of the ill-paid and precarious rents of
an unimproved estate; but chiefly it was believed, to suit the
wishes and views of a certain intended purchaser, who had become a
principal creditor, and forced himself into the management of the
affairs by means best known to himself, and who, it was thought,
would find it very convenient to purchase the estate without
paying down the price.'
Mannering consulted with Mr. Mac-Morlan upon the steps for
thwarting this unprincipled attempt. They then conversed long on
the singular disappearance of Harry Bertram upon his fifth
birthday, verifying thus the random prediction of Mannering, of
which, however, it will readily be supposed he made no boast. Mr.
Mac-Morlan was not himself in office when that incident took
place; but he was well acquainted with all the circumstances, and
promised that our hero should have them detailed by the sheriff-
depute himself, if, as he proposed, he should become a settler in
that part of Scotland. With this assurance they parted, well
satisfied with each other and with the evening's conference.
On the Sunday following, Colonel Mannering attended the parish
church with great decorum. None of the Ellangowan family were
present; and it was understood that the old Laird was rather worse
than better. Jock Jabos, once more despatched for him, returned
once more without his errand; but on the following day Miss
Bertram hoped he might be removed.