ON the next morning, great was the alarm and confusion of the officers when they discovered the escape of their prisoner. Mac-Guffog appeared before Glossin with a head perturbed with brandy and fear, and incurred a most severe reprimand for neglect of duty. The resentment of the Justice appeared only to be suspended by his anxiety to recover possession of the prisoner, and the thief-takers, glad to escape from his awful and incensed presence, were sent off in every direction (except the right one) to recover their prisoner, if possible. Glossin particularly recommended a careful search at the Kaim of Derncleugh, which was occasionally occupied under night by vagrants of different descriptions. Heaving thus dispersed his myrmidons in various directions, he himself hastened by devious paths through the Wood of Warroch, to his appointed interview with Hatteraick, from whom he hoped to learn, at more leisure than last nights conference admitted, the circumstances attending the return of the heir of Ellangowan to his native country.
With manuvres like those of a fox when he doubles to avoid the pack, Glossin strove to approach the place of appointment in a manner which should leave no distinct track of his course. Would to Heaven it would snow, he said, looking upward, and hide these foot-prints. Should one of the officers light upon them, he would run the scent up like a blood-hound, and surprise us. I must get down upon the sea-beach, and contrive to creep along beneath the rocks.
And accordingly he descended from the cliffs with some difficulty, and scrambled along between the rocks and the advancing tide; now looking up to see if his motions were watched from the rocks above him, now casting a jealous glance to mark if any boat appeared upon the sea, from which his course might be discovered.
But even the feelings of selfish apprehension were for a time superseded, as Glossin passed the spot where Kennedys body had been found. It was marked by the fragment of a rock which had been precipitated from the cliff above, either with the body or after it. The mass was now encrusted with small shell-fish, and tasselled with tangle and sea-weed; but still its shape and substance were different from those of the other rocks which lay scattered around. His voluntary walks, it will readily be believed, had never led to this spot; so that finding himself now there for the first time after the terrible catastrophe, the scene at once recurred to his mind with all its accompaniments of horror. He remembered how, like a guilty thing, gliding from the neighbouring place of concealment, he had mingled with eagerness, yet with caution, among the terrified group who surrounded the corpse, dreading lest any one should ask from whence he came. He remembered, too, with what conscious fear he had avoided gazing upon that ghastly spectacle. The wild scream of his patron, My bairn! my bairn! again rang in his ears. Good God! he exclaimed, and is all I have gained worth the agony of that moment, and the thousand anxious fears and horrors which have since embittered my life?Oh, how I wish that I lay where that wretched man lies, and that he stood here in life and health! But these regrets are all too late.
Stifling, therefore, his feelings, he crept forward to the cave, which was so near the spot where the body was found, that the smugglers might have heard from their hiding-place the various conjectures of the bystanders concerning the fate of their victim. But nothing could be more completely concealed than the entrance to their asylum. The opening, not larger than that of a fox-earth, lay in the face of the cliff directly behind a large black rock, or rather upright stone, which served at once to conceal it from strangers, and as a mark to point out its situation to those who used it as a place of retreat. The space between the stone and the cliff was exceedingly narrow, and being heaped with sand and other rubbish, the most minute search would not have discovered the mouth of the cavern, without removing those substances which the tide had drifted before it. For the purpose of further concealment, it was usual with the contraband traders who frequented this haunt, after they had entered, to stuff the mouth with withered seaweed, loosely piled together as if carried there by the waves Dirk Hatteraick had not forgotten this precaution.
Glossin, though a bold and hardy man, felt his heart throb and his knees knock together, when he prepared to enter this den of secret iniquity, in order to hold conference with a felon, whom he justly accounted one of the most desperate and depraved of men. But he has no interest to injure me, was his consolatory reflection. He examined his pocket-pistols, however, before removing the weeds and entering the cavern, which he did upon hands and knees. The passage, which at first was low and narrow, just admitting entrance to a man in a creeping posture, expanded after a few yards into a high arched vault of considerable width. The bottom, ascending gradually, was covered with the purest sand. Ere Glossin had got upon his feet, the hoarse yet suppressed voice of Hatteraick growled through the recesses of the cave.
The flame then began to blaze brightly, and Hatteraick hung his bronzed visage, and expanded his hard and sinewy hands over it, with an avidity resembling that of a famished wretch to whom food is exposed. The light showed his savage and stern features, and the smoke, which in his agony of cold he seemed to endure almost to suffocation, after circling round his head, rose to the dim and rugged roof of the cave, through which it escaped by some secret rents or clefts in the rock; the same doubtless that afforded air to the cavern when the tide was in, at which time the aperture to the sea was filled with water.
And now I have brought you some breakfast, said Glossin, producing some cold meat and a flask of spirits. The latter Hatteraick eagerly seized upon, and applied to his mouth; and, after a hearty draught, he exclaimed, with great rapture, Das schmeckt!that is goodthat warms the liver! Then broke into the fragment of a High-Dutch song.
Why, fluch and blitzen! he was no charge of mine. Lieutenant Brown gave him to his cousin thats in the Middleburgh house of Vanbeest and Vanbruggen, and told him some gooses gazette about his being taken in a skirmish with the land-sharkshe gave him for a foot-boy. Me let him escape!the bastard kinchin should have walked the plank ere I troubled myself about him.
Nein, nein; the kinchin got about the old mans heart, and he gave him his own name, and bred him up in the office, and then sent him to IndiaI believe he would have packed him back here, but his nephew told him it would do up the free trade for many a day, if the youngster got back to Scotland.
Deyvil! replied Hatteraick, how should I tell what he knows now? But he remembered something of it long. When he was but ten years old, he persuaded another Satans limb of an English bastard like himself to steal my luggers khamboatwhat do you call it?to return to his country, as he called itfire him! Before we could overtake them, they had the skiff out of channel as far as the Deurloothe boat might have been lost.
Why, I was so angry myself, that sapperment! I did give him a tip over the sidebut split himthe comical little devil swam like a duck; so I made him swim astern for a mile to teach him manners, and then took him in when he was sinking. By the knocking Nicholas! hell plague you, now hes come over the herring-pond. When he was so high he had the spirit of thunder and lightning.
Why, how should I know?the house there was done up, and that gave us a shake at Middleburgh, I thinkso they sent me again to see what could be done among my old acquaintances herefor we held old stories were done away and forgotten. So I had got a pretty trade on foot within the last two trips; but that stupid houndsfoot schelm, Brown, has knocked it on the head again, I suppose, with getting himself shot by the colonel-man.
A fellow from the gipsies, that, about eighteen years since, was pressed on board that dd fellow Pritchards sloop-of-war. It was he came off and gave us warning that the Shark was coming round upon us the day Kennedy was done; and he told us how Kennedy had given the information. The gipsies and Kennedy had some quarrel besides. This Gab went to the East Indies in the same ship with your younker, and, sapperment! knew him well, though the other did not remember him. Gab kept out of his eye though, as he had served the States against England, and was a deserter to boot; and he sent us word directly, that we might know of his being herethough it does not concern us a ropes end.
Sturm-wetter! said the Captain, do you think we were mad? none of us, man. Gott! the country was too hot for the trade already, with that dd frolic of Browns, attacking what you call Woodbourne House.
Not our lieutenant, I promise you; for he was laid six feet deep at Derncleugh the day before the thing happened. Tausend deyvils, man! do ye think that he could rise out of the earth to shoot another man?
Glossin paused; and, fertile in expedients, hastily ran over his project in his own mind, and then drew near the smuggler with a confidential air. You know, my dear Hatteraick it is our principal business to get rid of this young man?
Not, continued Glossinnot that I would wish any personal harm to himififif we can do without. Now, he is liable to be seized upon by justice, both as bearing the same name with your lieutenant, who was engaged in that affair at Woodbourne, and for firing at young Hazlewood with intent to kill or wound.
True, my dear Dirkwell noticed, my friend Hatteraick! But there is ground enough for a temporary imprisonment till he fetch his proofs from England or elsewhere, my good friend. I understand the law, Captain Hatteraick, and Ill take it upon me, simple Gilbert Glossin of Ellangowan, justice of peace for the county of, to refuse his bail, if he should offer the best in the country, until he is brought up for a second examinationnow where dye think Ill incarcerate him?
Stay, my friendyou do care a great deal. Do you know your goods, that were seized and carried to Woodbourne, are now lying in the Custom-house at Portan-ferry? (a small fishing-town). Now I will commit this younker
I will take care that the red-coats are dispersed through the country; you land at night with the crew of your lugger, receive your own goods, and carry the younker Brown with you back to Flushing. Wont that do?
Aye, and a wooden lion at the door, and a painted sentinel in the garden, with a pipe in his mouth!But hark ye, Hatteraickwhat will all the tulips, and flower-gardens, and pleasure-houses in the Netherlands do for you, if you are hanged here in Scotland?
Aye, hanged, meinheer Captain. The devil can scarce save Dirk Hatteraick from being hanged for a murderer and kidnapper, if the younker of Ellangowan should settle in this country, and if the gallant Captain chances to be caught here re-establishing his fair trade! And I wont say, but, as peace is now so much talked of, their High Mightinesses may not hand him over to oblige their new allies, even if he remained in faderland.
I doubt that, Captain Hatteraick, said Glossin drily, because you would probably find a dozen red-coats at the Custom-house, whom it must be my business, if we agree about this matter, to have removed. Come, come, I will be as liberal as I can, but you should have a conscience.
Now strafe mich der deyfel!this provokes me more than all the rest!You rob and you murder, and you want me to rob and murder, and play the silver-cooper, or kidnapper, as you call it, a dozen times over, and then, hagel and wind-sturm! you speak to me of conscience! Can you think of no fairer way of getting rid of this unlucky lad?
Severity! said the fellow, with a kind of groan. I wish you had had my dreams when I first came to this doghole, and tried to sleep among the dry seaweed. First, there was that dd fellow there, with his broken back, sprawling as he did when I hurled the rock over a-top on himha! ha!you would have sworn he was lying on the floor where you stand, wriggling like a crushed frogand then
Neinall dead, shot, hanged, drowned, and damned. Brown was the lastall dead but Gipsy Gab, and he would go off the country for a spill of moneyor hell be quiet for his own sakeor old Meg, his aunt, will keep him quiet for hers.
Not sheshe wont startshe swore by the salmon,1 if we did the kinchin no harm, she would never tell how the gauger got it. Why, man, though I gave her a wipe with my hanger in the heat of the matter, and cut her arm, and though she was so long after in trouble about it up at your borough-town there, der deyvil! old Meg was as true as steel.
Hatteraick jumped upright upon his feet, and looked at Glossin from head to heel.I dont see the goats foot, he said;and yet he must be the very deyvil!But Meg Merrilies is closer yet with the Kobold than you areaye, and I had never such weather as after having drawn her blood.Nein, nein, Ill meddle with her no moreshes a witch of the fienda real deyvils kindbut thats her affair. Donner and wetter! Ill neither make nor meddlethats her work.But for the restwhy, if I thought the trade would not suffer, I would soon rid you of the younker, if you send me word when hes under embargo.
In brief and under tones the two worthy associates concerted their enterprise, and agreed at which of his haunts Hatteraick should be heard of. The stay of his lugger on the coast was not difficult, as there were no kings vessels there at the time.