Nor board nor garner own we now,
Nor roof nor latched door,
Nor kind mate, bound, by holy vow,
To bless a good man's store
Noon lulls us in a gloomy den,
And night is grown our day;
Uprouse ye, then, my merry men!
And use it as ye may
Brown could now reckon his foes: they were five in number; two of
them were very powerful men, who appeared to be either real seamen
or strollers who assumed that character; the other three, an old
man and two lads, were slighter made, and, from their black hair
and dark complexion, seemed to belong to Meg's tribe. They passed
from one to another the cup out of which they drank their spirits.
'Here's to his good voyage!' said one of the seamen, drinking; 'a
squally night he's got, however, to drift through the sky in.'
We omit here various execrations with which these honest gentlemen
garnished their discourse, retaining only such of their expletives
as are least offensive.
' 'A does not mind wind and weather; 'a has had many a north-
easter in his day.'
'He had his last yesterday,' said another gruffly; 'and now old
Meg may pray for his last fair wind, as she's often done before.'
'I'll pray for nane o' him,' said Meg, 'nor for you neither, you
randy dog. The times are sair altered since I was a kinchen-mort.
Men were men then, and fought other in the open field, and there
was nae milling in the darkmans. And the gentry had kind hearts,
and would have given baith lap and pannel to ony puir gipsy; and
there was not one, from Johnnie Faa the upright man to little
Christie that was in the panniers, would cloyed a dud from them.
But ye are a' altered from the gude auld rules, and no wonder that
you scour the cramp-ring and trine to the cheat sae often. Yes, ye
are a' altered: you 'll eat the goodman's meat, drink his drink,
sleep on the strammel in his barn, and break his house and cut his
throat for his pains! There's blood on your hands, too, ye dogs,
mair than ever came there by fair righting. See how ye'll die
then. Lang it was ere he died; he strove, and strove sair, and
could neither die nor live; but you--half the country will see
how ye'll grace the woodie.'
The party set up a hoarse laugh at Meg's prophecy.
'What made you come back here, ye auld beldam?' said one of the
gipsies; 'could ye not have staid where you were, and spaed
fortunes to the Cumberland flats? Bing out and tour, ye auld
devil, and see that nobody has scented; that's a' you're good for
'Is that a' I am good for now?' said the indignant matron. 'I was
good for mair than that in the great fight between our folk and
Patrico Salmon's; if I had not helped you with these very fambles
(holding up her hands), Jean Baillie would have frummagem'd you,
ye feckless do-little!'
There was here another laugh at the expense of the hero who had
received this amazon's assistance.
'Here, mother,' said one of the sailors, 'here's a cup of the
right for you, and never mind that bully-huff.'
Meg drank the spirits, and, withdrawing herself from farther
conversation, sat down before the spot where Brown lay hid, in
such a posture that it would have been difficult for any one to
have approached it without her rising. The men, however, showed no
disposition to disturb her.
They closed around the fire and held deep consultation together;
but the low tone in which they spoke, and the cant language which
they used, prevented Brown from understanding much of their
conversation. He gathered in general that they expressed great
indignation against some individual. 'He shall have his gruel,'
said one, and then whispered something very low into the ear of
'I'll have nothing to do with that,' said the other.
'Are you turned hen-hearted, Jack?'
'No, by G-d, no more than yourself, but I won't. It was something
like that stopped all the trade fifteen or twenty years ago. You
have heard of the Loup?'
'I have heard HIM (indicating the corpse by a jerk of his head)
tell about that job. G-d, how he used to laugh when he showed us
how he fetched him off the perch!'
'Well, but it did up the trade for one while,' said Jack.
'How should that be?' asked the surly villain.
'Why,' replied Jack, 'the people got rusty about it, and would not
deal, and they had bought so many brooms that--'
'Well, for all that,' said the other, 'I think we should be down
upon the fellow one of these darkmans and let him get it well.'
'But old Meg's asleep now,' said another; 'she grows a driveller,
and is afraid of her shadow. She'll sing out, some of these odd-
come-shortlies, if you don't look sharp.'
'Never fear,' said the old gipsy man; 'Meg's true-bred; she's the
last in the gang that will start; but she has some queer ways, and
often cuts queer words.'
With more of this gibberish they continued the conversation,
rendering it thus, even to each other, a dark obscure dialect,
eked out by significant nods and signs, but never expressing
distinctly, or in plain language, the subject on which it turned.
At length one of them, observing Meg was still fast asleep, or
appeared to be so, desired one of the lads 'to hand in the black
Peter, that they might flick it open.' The boy stepped to the door
and brought in a portmanteau, which Brown instantly recognised for
his own. His thoughts immediately turned to the unfortunate lad he
had left with the carriage. Had the ruffians murdered him? was the
horrible doubt that crossed his mind. The agony of his attention
grew yet keener, and while the villains pulled out and admired the
different articles of his clothes and linen, he eagerly listened
for some indication that might intimate the fate of the postilion.
But the ruffians were too much delighted with their prize, and too
much busied in examining its contents, to enter into any detail
concerning the manner in which they had acquired it. The
portmanteau contained various articles of apparel, a pair of
pistols, a leathern case with a few papers, and some money, etc.,
etc. At any other time it would have provoked Brown excessively to
see the unceremonious manner in which the thieves shared his
property, and made themselves merry at the expense of the owner.
But the moment was too perilous to admit any thoughts but what had
immediate reference to self-preservation.
After a sufficient scrutiny into the portmanteau, and an equitable
division of its contents, the ruffians applied themselves more
closely to the serious occupation of drinking, in which they spent
the greater part of the night. Brown was for some time in great
hopes that they would drink so deep as to render themselves
insensible, when his escape would have been an easy matter. But
their dangerous trade required precautions inconsistent with such
unlimited indulgence, and they stopped short on this side of
absolute intoxication. Three of them at length composed themselves
to rest, while the fourth watched. He was relieved in this duty by
one of the others after a vigil of two hours. When the second
watch had elapsed, the sentinel awakened the whole, who, to
Brown's inexpressible relief, began to make some preparations as
if for departure, bundling up the various articles which each had
appropriated. Still, however, there remained something to be done.
Two of them, after some rummaging which not a little alarmed
Brown, produced a mattock and shovel; another took a pickaxe from
behind the straw on which the dead body was extended. With these
implements two of them left the hut, and the remaining three, two
of whom were the seamen, very strong men, still remained in
After the space of about half an hour, one of those who had
departed again returned, and whispered the others. They wrapped up
the dead body in the sea cloak which had served as a pall, and
went out, bearing it along with them. The aged sibyl then arose
from her real or feigned slumbers. She first went to the door, as
if for the purpose of watching the departure of her late inmates,
then returned, and commanded Brown, in a low and stifled voice, to
follow her instantly. He obeyed; but, on leaving the hut, he would
willingly have repossessed himself of his money, or papers at
least, but this she prohibited in the most peremptory manner. It
immediately occurred to him that the suspicion of having removed
anything of which he might repossess himself would fall upon this
woman, by whom in all probability his life had been saved. He
therefore immediately desisted from his attempt, contenting
himself with seizing a cutlass, which one of the ruffians had
flung aside among the straw. On his feet, and possessed of this
weapon, he already found himself half delivered from the dangers
which beset him. Still, however, he felt stiffened and cramped,
both with the cold and by the constrained and unaltered position
which he had occupied all night. But, as he followed the gipsy
from the door of the hut, the fresh air of the morning and the
action of walking restored circulation and activity to his
The pale light of a winter's morning was rendered more clear by
the snow, which was lying all around, crisped by the influence of
a severe frost. Brown cast a hasty glance at the landscape around
him, that he might be able again to know the spot. The little
tower, of which only a single vault remained, forming the dismal
apartment in which he had spent this remarkable night, was perched
on the very point of a projecting rock overhanging the rivulet. It
was accessible only on one side, and that from the ravine or glen
below. On the other three sides the bank was precipitous, so that
Brown had on the preceding evening escaped more dangers than one;
for, if he had attempted to go round the building, which was once
his purpose, he must have been dashed to pieces. The dell was so
narrow that the trees met in some places from the opposite sides.
They were now loaded with snow instead of leaves, and thus formed
a sort of frozen canopy over the rivulet beneath, which was marked
by its darker colour, as it soaked its way obscurely through
wreaths of snow. In one place, where the glen was a little wider,
leaving a small piece of flat ground between the rivulet and the
bank, were situated the ruins of the hamlet in which Brown had
been involved on the preceding evening. The ruined gables, the
insides of which were japanned with turf-smoke, looked yet blacker
contrasted with the patches of snow which had been driven against
them by the wind, and with the drifts which lay around them.
Upon this wintry and dismal scene Brown could only at present cast
a very hasty glance; for his guide, after pausing an instant as if
to permit him to indulge his curiosity, strode hastily before him
down the path which led into the glen. He observed, with some
feelings of suspicion, that she chose a track already marked by
several feet, which he could only suppose were those of the
depredators who had spent the night in the vault. A moment's
recollection, however, put his suspicions to rest. It was not to
be thought that the woman, who might have delivered him up to her
gang when in a state totally defenceless, would have suspended her
supposed treachery until he was armed and in the open air, and had
so many better chances of defence or escape. He therefore followed
his guide in confidence and silence. They crossed the small brook
at the same place where it previously had been passed by those who
had gone before. The footmarks then proceeded through the ruined
village, and from thence down the glen, which again narrowed to a
ravine, after the small opening in which they were situated. But
the gipsy no longer followed the same track; she turned aside, and
led the way by a very rugged and uneven path up the bank which
overhung the village. Although the snow in many places hid the
pathway, and rendered the footing uncertain and unsafe, Meg
proceeded with a firm and determined step, which indicated an
intimate knowledge of the ground she traversed. At length they
gained the top of the bank, though by a passage so steep and
intricate that Brown, though convinced it was the same by which he
had descended on the night before, was not a little surprised how
he had accomplished the task without breaking his neck. Above, the
country opened wide and uninclosed for about a mile or two on the
one hand, and on the other were thick plantations of considerable
Meg, however, still led the way along the bank of the ravine out
of which they had ascended, until she heard beneath the murmur of
voices. She then pointed to a deep plantation of trees at some
distance. 'The road to Kippletringan,' she said, 'is on the other
side of these inclosures. Make the speed ye can; there's mair
rests on your life than other folk's. But you have lost all--
stay.' She fumbled in an immense pocket, from which she produced a
greasy purse--'Many's the awmous your house has gi'en Meg and
hers; and she has lived to pay it back in a small degree;' and she
placed the purse in his hand.
'The woman is insane,' thought Brown; but it was no time to debate
the point, for the sounds he heard in the ravine below probably
proceeded from the banditti. 'How shall I repay this money,' he
said, 'or how acknowledge the kindness you have done me?'
'I hae twa boons to crave,' answered the sibyl, speaking low and
hastily: 'one, that you will never speak of what you have seen
this night; the other, that you will not leave this country till
you see me again, and that you leave word at the Gordon Arms where
you are to be heard of, and when I next call for you, be it in
church or market, at wedding or at burial, Sunday or Saturday,
mealtime or fasting, that ye leave everything else and come with
'Why, that will do you little good, mother.'
'But 'twill do yoursell muckle, and that's what I'm thinking o'. I
am not mad, although I have had eneugh to make me sae; I am not
mad, nor doating, nor drunken. I know what I am asking, and I know
it has been the will of God to preserve you in strange dangers,
and that I shall be the instrument to set you in your father's
seat again. Sae give me your promise, and mind that you owe your
life to me this blessed night.'
'There's wildness in her manner, certainly,' thought Brown, 'and
yet it is more like the wildness of energy than of madness.'--
'Well, mother, since you do ask so useless and trifling a favour,
you have my promise. It will at least give me an opportunity to
repay your money with additions. You are an uncommon kind of
creditor, no doubt, but--'
'Away, away, then!' said she, waving her hand. 'Think not about
the goud, it's a' your ain; but remember your promise, and do not
dare to follow me or look after me.' So saying, she plunged again
into the dell, and descended it with great agility, the icicles
and snow-wreaths showering down after her as she disappeared.
Notwithstanding her prohibition, Brown endeavoured to gain some
point of the bank from which he might, unseen, gaze down into the
glen; and with some difficulty (for it must be conceived that the
utmost caution was necessary) he succeeded. The spot which he
attained for this purpose was the point of a projecting rock,
which rose precipitously from among the trees. By kneeling down
among the snow and stretching his head cautiously forward, he
could observe what was going on in the bottom of the dell. He saw,
as he expected, his companions of the last night, now joined by
two or three others. They had cleared away the snow from the foot
of the rock and dug a deep pit, which was designed to serve the
purpose of a grave. Around this they now stood, and lowered into
it something wrapped in a naval cloak, which Brown instantly
concluded to be the dead body of the man he had seen expire. They
then stood silent for half a minute, as if under some touch of
feeling for the loss of their companion. But if they experienced
such, they did not long remain under its influence, for all hands
went presently to work to fill up the grave; and Brown, perceiving
that the task would be soon ended, thought it best to take the
gipsy woman's hint and walk as fast as possible until he should
gain the shelter of the plantation.
Having arrived under cover of the trees, his first thought was of
the gipsy's purse. He had accepted it without hesitation, though
with something like a feeling of degradation, arising from the
character of the person by whom he was thus accommodated. But it
relieved him from a serious though temporary embarrassment. His
money, excepting a very few shillings, was in his portmanteau, and
that was in possession of Meg's friends. Some time was necessary
to write to his agent, or even to apply to his good host at
Charlie's Hope, who would gladly have supplied him. In the
meantime he resolved to avail himself of Meg's subsidy, confident
he should have a speedy opportunity of replacing it with a
handsome gratuity. 'It can be but a trifling sum,' he said to
himself, 'and I daresay the good lady may have a share of my
banknotes to make amends.'
With these reflections he opened the leathern purse, expecting to
find at most three or four guineas. But how much was he surprised
to discover that it contained, besides a considerable quantity of
gold pieces, of different coinages and various countries, the
joint amount of which could not be short of a hundred pounds,
several valuable rings and ornaments set with jewels, and, as
appeared from the slight inspection he had time to give them, of
very considerable value.
Brown was equally astonished and embarrassed by the circumstances
in which he found himself, possessed, as he now appeared to be, of
property to a much greater amount than his own, but which had been
obtained in all probability by the same nefarious means through
which he had himself been plundered. His first thought was to
inquire after the nearest justice of peace, and to place in his
hands the treasure of which he had thus unexpectedly become the
depositary, telling at the same time his own remarkable story. But
a moment's consideration brought several objections to this mode
of procedure In the first place, by observing this course he
should break his promise of silence, and might probably by that
means involve the safety, perhaps the life, of this woman, who had
risked her own to preserve his, and who had voluntarily endowed
him with this treasure--a generosity which might thus become the
means of her ruin. This was not to be thought of. Besides, he was
a stranger, and for a time at least unprovided with means of
establishing his own character and credit to the satisfaction of a
stupid or obstinate country magistrate. 'I will think over the
matter more maturely,' he said; 'perhaps there may be a regiment
quartered at the county town, in which case my knowledge of the
service and acquaintance with many officers of the army cannot
fail to establish my situation and character by evidence which a
civil judge could not sufficiently estimate. And then I shall have
the commanding officer's assistance in managing matters so as to
screen this unhappy madwoman, whose mistake or prejudice has been
so fortunate for me. A civil magistrate might think himself
obliged to send out warrants for her at once, and the consequence,
in case of her being taken, is pretty evident. No, she has been
upon honour with me if she were the devil, and I will be equally
upon honour with her. She shall have the privilege of a court-
martial, where the point of honour can qualify strict law.
Besides, I may see her at this place, Kipple--Couple--what did
she call it? and then I can make restitution to her, and e'en let
the law claim its own when it can secure her. In the meanwhile,
however, I cut rather an awkward figure for one who has the honour
to bear his Majesty's commission, being little better than the
receiver of stolen goods.'
With these reflections, Brown took from the gipsy's treasure three
or four guineas, for the purpose of his immediate expenses, and,
tying up the rest in the purse which contained them, resolved not
again to open it until he could either restore it to her by whom
it was given, or put it into the hands of some public functionary.
He next thought of the cutlass, and his first impulse was to leave
it in the plantation. But, when he considered the risk of meeting
with these ruffians, he could not resolve on parting with his
arms. His walking-dress, though plain, had so much of a military
character as suited not amiss with his having such a weapon.
Besides, though the custom of wearing swords by persons out of
uniform had been gradually becoming antiquated, it was not yet so
totally forgotten as to occasion any particular remark towards
those who chose to adhere to it. Retaining, therefore, his weapon
of defence, and placing the purse of the gipsy in a private
pocket, our traveller strode gallantly on through the wood in
search of the promised highroad.