Unfit to live or die--O marble heart!
After him, fellows, drag him to the block.
Measure for Measure.
The jail at the county town of the shire of----was one of those
old-fashioned dungeons which disgraced Scotland until of late
years. When the prisoners and their guard arrived there,
Hatteraick, whose violence and strength were well known, was
secured in what was called the condemned ward. This was a large
apartment near the top of the prison. A round bar of
iron,[Footnote: See Note 9.] about the thickness of a man's arm
above the elbow, crossed the apartment horizontally at the height
of about six inches from the floor; and its extremities were
strongly built into the wall at either end. Hatteraick's ankles
were secured within shackles, which were connected by a chain, at
the distance of about four feet, with a large iron ring, which
travelled upon the bar we have described. Thus a prisoner might
shuffle along the length of the bar from one side of the room to
another, but could not retreat farther from it in any other
direction than the brief length of the chain admitted. When his
feet had been thus secured, the keeper removed his handcuffs and
left his person at liberty in other respects. A pallet-bed was
placed close to the bar of iron, so that the shackled prisoner
might lie down at pleasure, still fastened to the iron bar in the
Hatteraick had not been long in this place of confinement before
Glossin arrived at the same prison-house. In respect to his
comparative rank and education, he was not ironed, but placed in a
decent apartment, under the inspection of Mac-Guffog, who, since
the destruction of the bridewell of Portanferry by the mob, had
acted here as an under-turnkey. When Glossin was enclosed within
this room, and had solitude and leisure to calculate all the
chances against him and in his favour, he could not prevail upon
himself to consider the game as desperate.
'The estate is lost,' he said, 'that must go; and, between
Pleydell and Mac-Morlan, they'll cut down my claim on it to a
trifle. My character--but if I get off with life and liberty I'll
win money yet and varnish that over again. I knew not of the
gauger's job until the rascal had done the deed, and, though I had
some advantage by the contraband, that is no felony. But the
kidnapping of the boy--there they touch me closer. Let me see.
This Bertram was a child at the time; his evidence must be
imperfect. The other fellow is a deserter, a gipsy, and an outlaw.
Meg Merrilies, d-n her, is dead. These infernal bills! Hatteraick
brought them with him, I suppose, to have the means of threatening
me or extorting money from me. I must endeavour to see the rascal;
must get him to stand steady; must persuade him to put some other
colour upon the business.'
His mind teeming with schemes of future deceit to cover former
villainy, he spent the time in arranging and combining them until
the hour of supper. Mac-Guffog attended as turnkey on this
occasion. He was, as we know, the old and special acquaintance of
the prisoner who was now under his charge. After giving the
turnkey a glass of brandy, and sounding him with one or two
cajoling speeches, Glossin made it his request that he would help
him to an interview with Dirk Hatteraick. 'Impossible! utterly
impossible! it's contrary to the express orders of Mr. Mac-Morlan,
and the captain (as the head jailor of a county jail is called in
Scotland) would never forgie me.'
'But why should he know of it?' said Glossin, slipping a couple of
guineas into Mac-Guffog's hand.
The turnkey weighed the gold and looked sharp at Glossin. 'Ay, ay,
Mr. Glossin, ye ken the ways o' this place. Lookee, at lock-up
hour I'll return and bring ye upstairs to him. But ye must stay a'
night in his cell, for I am under needcessity to carry the keys to
the captain for the night, and I cannot let you out again until
morning; then I'll visit the wards half an hour earlier than
usual, and ye may get out and be snug in your ain birth when the
captain gangs his rounds.'
When the hour of ten had pealed from the neighbouring steeple Mac-
Guffog came prepared with a small dark lantern. He said softly to
Glossin, 'Slip your shoes off and follow me.' When Glossin was out
of the door, Mac-Guffog, as if in the execution of his ordinary
duty, and speaking to a prisoner within, called aloud, 'Good-night
to you, sir,' and locked the door, clattering the bolts with much
ostentatious noise. He then guided Glossin up a steep and narrow
stair, at the top of which was the door of the condemned ward; he
unbarred and unlocked it, and, giving Glossin the lantern, made a
sign to him to enter, and locked the door behind him with the same
In the large dark cell into which he was thus introduced Glossin's
feeble light for some time enabled him to discover nothing. At
length he could dimly distinguish the pallet-bed stretched on the
floor beside the great iron bar which traversed the room, and on
that pallet reposed the figure of a man. Glossin approached him.
'Donner and hagel! it is his voice,' said the prisoner, sitting up
and clashing his fetters as he rose; 'then my dream is true!
Begone, and leave me to myself; it will be your best.'
'What! my good friend,' said Glossin, 'will you allow the prospect
of a few weeks' confinement to depress your spirit?'
'Yes,' answered the ruffian, sullenly, 'when I am only to be
released by a halter! Let me alone; go about your business, and
turn the lamp from my face!'
'Psha! my dear Dirk, don't be afraid,' said Glossin; 'I have a
glorious plan to make all right.'
'To the bottomless pit with your plans!' replied his accomplice;
'you have planned me out of ship, cargo, and life; and I dreamt
this moment that Meg Merrilies dragged you here by the hair and
gave me the long clasped knife she used to wear; you don't know
what she said. Sturmwetter! it will be your wisdom not to tempt
'But, Hatteraick, my good friend, do but rise and speak to me,'
'I will not!' answered the savage, doggedly. 'You have caused all
the mischief; you would not let Meg keep the boy; she would have
returned him after he had forgot all.'
'Why, Hatteraick, you are turned driveller!'
'Wetter! will you deny that all that cursed attempt at
Portanferry, which lost both sloop and crew, was your device for
your own job?'
'But the goods, you know--'
'Curse the goods!' said the smuggler, 'we could have got plenty
more; but, der deyvil! to lose the ship and the fine fellows, and
my own life, for a cursed coward villain, that always works his
own mischief with other people's hands! Speak to me no more; I'm
'But, Dirk--but, Hatteraick, hear me only a few words.'
'Only one sentence.'
'Tousand curses! nein.'
'At least get up, for an obstinate Dutch brute!' said Glossin,
losing his temper and pushing Hatteraick with his foot.
'Donner and blitzen!' said Hatteraick, springing up and grappling
with him; 'you WILL have it then?'
Glossin struggled and resisted; but, owing to his surprise at the
fury of the assault, so ineffectually that he fell under
Hatteraick, the back part of his neck coming full upon the iron
bar with stunning violence. The death-grapple continued. The room
immediately below the condemned ward, being that of Glossin, was,
of course, empty; but the inmates of the second apartment beneath
felt the shock of Glossin's heavy fall, and heard a noise as of
struggling and of groans. But all sounds of horror were too
congenial to this place to excite much curiosity or interest.
In the morning, faithful to his promise, Mac-Guffog came. 'Mr.
Glossin,' said he, in a whispering voice.
'Call louder,' answered Dirk Hatteraick.
'Mr. Glossin, for God's sake come away!'
'He'll hardly do that without help,' said Hatteraick.
'What are you chattering there for, Mac-Guffog?' called out the
captain from below.
'Come away, for God's sake, Mr. Glossin!' repeated the turnkey.
At this moment the jailor made his appearance with a light. Great
was his surprise, and even horror, to observe Glossin's body lying
doubled across the iron bar, in a posture that excluded all idea
of his being alive. Hatteraick was quietly stretched upon his
pallet within a yard of his victim. On lifting Glossin it was
found he had been dead for some hours. His body bore uncommon
marks of violence. The spine where it joins the skull had received
severe injury by his first fall. There were distinct marks of
strangulation about the throat, which corresponded with the
blackened state of his face. The head was turned backward over the
shoulder, as if the neck had been wrung round with desperate
violence. So that it would seem that his inveterate antagonist had
fixed a fatal gripe upon the wretch's throat, and never quitted it
while life lasted. The lantern, crushed and broken to pieces, lay
beneath the body.
Mac-Morlan was in the town, and came instantly to examine the
corpse. 'What brought Glossin here?' he said to Hatteraick.
'The devil!' answered the ruffian.
'And what did you do to him?'
'Sent him to hell before me!' replied the miscreant.
'Wretch,' said Mac-Morlan, 'you have crowned a life spent without
a single virtue with the murder of your own miserable accomplice!'
'Virtue?' exclaimed the prisoner. 'Donner! I was always faithful
to my shipowners--always accounted for cargo to the last stiver.
Hark ye! let me have pen and ink and I'll write an account of the
whole to our house, and leave me alone a couple of hours, will ye;
and let them take away that piece of carrion, donnerwetter!'
Mac-Morlan deemed it the best way to humour the savage; he was
furnished with writing materials and left alone. When they again
opened the door it was found that this determined villain had
anticipated justice. He had adjusted a cord taken from the
truckle-bed, and attached it to a bone, the relic of his
yesterday's dinner, which he had contrived to drive into a crevice
between two stones in the wall at a height as great as he could
reach, standing upon the bar. Having fastened the noose, he had
the resolution to drop his body as if to fall on his knees, and to
retain that posture until resolution was no longer necessary. The
letter he had written to his owners, though chiefly upon the
business of their trade, contained many allusions to the younker
of Ellangowan, as he called him, and afforded absolute
confirmation of all Meg Merrilies and her nephew had told.
To dismiss the catastrophe of these two wretched men, I shall only
add, that Mac-Guffog was turned out of office, notwithstanding his
declaration (which he offered to attest by oath), that he had
locked Glossin safely in his own room upon the night preceding his
being found dead in Dirk Hatteraick's cell. His story, however,
found faith with the worthy Mr. Skriegh and other lovers of the
marvellous, who still hold that the Enemy of Mankind brought these
two wretches together upon that night by supernatural
interference, that they might fill up the cup of their guilt and
receive its meed by murder and suicide.