Glen Discovery in GlenLyon
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Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott vol ii Chapter third and fourth

Project Gutenberg's Rob Roy, Complete, by Sir Walter Scott

  --It strikes an awe
And terror on my aching sight; the tombs
And monumental caves of death look cold,
And shoot a chillness to the trembling heart.
Mourning Bride.

Notwithstanding the impatience of my conductor, I could not forbear to pause and gaze for some minutes on the exterior of the building, rendered more impressively dignified by the solitude which ensued when its hitherto open gates were closed, after having, as it were, devoured the multitude which had lately crowded the churchyard, but now, enclosed within the building, were engaged, as the choral swell of voices from within announced to us, in the solemn exercises of devotion. The sound of so many voices united by the distance into one harmony, and freed from those harsh discordances which jar the ear when heard more near, combining with the murmuring brook, and the wind which sung among the old firs, affected me with a sense of sublimity. All nature, as invoked by the Psalmist whose verses they chanted, seemed united in offering that solemn praise in which trembling is mixed with joy as she addressed her Maker. I had heard the service of high mass in France, celebrated with all the _e'clat_ which the choicest music, the richest dresses, the most imposing ceremonies, could confer on it; yet it fell short in effect of the simplicity of the Presbyterian worship. The devotion in which every one took a share seemed so superior to that which was recited by musicians as a lesson which they had learned by rote, that it gave the Scottish worship all the advantage of reality over acting.

As I lingered to catch more of the solemn sound, Andrew, whose impatience became ungovernable, pulled me by the sleeve--“Come awa', sir--come awa'; we maunna be late o' gaun in to disturb the worship; if we bide here the searchers will be on us, and carry us to the guard-house for being idlers in kirk-time.”

Thus admonished, I followed my guide, but not, as I had supposed, into the body of the cathedral. “This gate--this gate, sir,” he exclaimed, dragging me off as I made towards the main entrance of the building--“There's but cauldrife law-work gaun on yonder--carnal morality, as dow'd and as fusionless as rue leaves at Yule--Here's the real savour of doctrine.”

So saying, we entered a small low-arched door, secured by a wicket, which a grave-looking person seemed on the point of closing, and descended several steps as if into the funeral vaults beneath the church. It was even so; for in these subterranean precincts,--why chosen for such a purpose I knew not,--was established a very singular place of worship.

Conceive, Tresham, an extensive range of low-browed, dark, and twilight vaults, such as are used for sepulchres in other countries, and had long been dedicated to the same purpose in this, a portion of which was seated with pews, and used as a church. The part of the vaults thus occupied, though capable of containing a congregation of many hundreds, bore a small proportion to the darker and more extensive caverns which yawned around what may be termed the inhabited space. In those waste regions of oblivion, dusky banners and tattered escutcheons indicated the graves of those who were once, doubtless, “princes in Israel.” Inscriptions, which could only be read by the painful antiquary, in language as obsolete as the act of devotional charity which they employed, invited the passengers to pray for the souls of those whose bodies rested beneath. Surrounded by these receptacles of the last remains of mortality, I found a numerous congregation engaged in the act of prayer. The Scotch perform this duty in a standing instead of a kneeling posture--more, perhaps, to take as broad a distinction as possible from the ritual of Rome than for any better reason; since I have observed, that in their family worship, as doubtless in their private devotions, they adopt, in their immediate address to the Deity, that posture which other Christians use as the humblest and most reverential. Standing, therefore, the men being uncovered, a crowd of several hundreds of both sexes, and all ages, listened with great reverence and attention to the extempore, at least the unwritten, prayer of an aged clergyman,* who was very popular in the city.

* I have in vain laboured to discover this gentleman's name, and the period of his incumbency. I do not, however, despair to see these points, with some others which may elude my sagacity, satisfactorily elucidated by one or other of the periodical publications which have devoted their pages to explanatory commentaries on my former volumes; and whose research and ingenuity claim my peculiar gratitude, for having discovered many persons and circumstances connected with my narratives, of which I myself never so much as dreamed.

Educated in the same religious persuasion, I seriously bent my mind to join in the devotion of the day; and it was not till the congregation resumed their seats, that my attention was diverted to the consideration of the appearance of all around me.

At the conclusion of the prayer, most of the men put on their hats or bonnets, and all who had the happiness to have seats sate down. Andrew and I were not of this number, having been too late of entering the church to secure such accommodation. We stood among a number of other persons in the same situation, forming a sort of ring around the seated part of the congregation. Behind and around us were the vaults I have already described; before us the devout audience, dimly shown by the light which streamed on their faces through one or two low Gothic windows, such as give air and light to charnel-houses. By this were seen the usual variety of countenances which are generally turned towards a Scotch pastor on such occasions, almost all composed to attention, unless where a father or mother here and there recalls the wandering eyes of a lively child, or disturbs the slumbers of a dull one. The high-boned and harsh countenance of the nation, with the expression of intelligence and shrewdness which it frequently exhibits, is seen to more advantage in the act of devotion, or in the ranks of war, than on lighter and more cheerful occasions of assemblage. The discourse of the preacher was well qualified to call forth the various feelings and faculties of his audience.

Age and infirmities had impaired the powers of a voice originally strong and sonorous. He read his text with a pronunciation somewhat inarticulate; but when he closed the Bible, and commenced his sermon, his tones gradually strengthened, as he entered with vehemence into the arguments which he maintained. They related chiefly to the abstract points of the Christian faith,--subjects grave, deep, and fathomless by mere human reason, but for which, with equal ingenuity and propriety, he sought a key in liberal quotations from the inspired writings. My mind was unprepared to coincide in all his reasoning, nor was I sure that in some instances I rightly comprehended his positions. But nothing could be more impressive than the eager enthusiastic manner of the good old man, and nothing more ingenious than his mode of reasoning. The Scotch, it is well known, are more remarkable for the exercise of their intellectual powers, than for the keenness of their feelings; they are, therefore, more moved by logic than by rhetoric, and more attracted by acute and argumentative reasoning on doctrinal points, than influenced by the enthusiastic appeals to the heart and to the passions, by which popular preachers in other countries win the favour of their hearers.

Among the attentive group which I now saw, might be distinguished various expressions similar to those of the audience in the famous cartoon of Paul preaching at Athens. Here sat a zealous and intelligent Calvinist, with brows bent just as much as to indicate profound attention; lips slightly compressed; eyes fixed on the minister with an expression of decent pride, as if sharing the triumph of his argument; the forefinger of the right hand touching successively those of the left, as the preacher, from argument to argument, ascended towards his conclusion. Another, with fiercer and sterner look, intimated at once his contempt of all who doubted the creed of his pastor, and his joy at the appropriate punishment denounced against them. A third, perhaps belonging to a different congregation, and present only by accident or curiosity, had the appearance of internally impeaching some link of the reasoning; and you might plainly read, in the slight motion of his head, his doubts as to the soundness of the preacher's argument. The greater part listened with a calm, satisfied countenance, expressive of a conscious merit in being present, and in listening to such an ingenious discourse, although perhaps unable entirely to comprehend it. The women in general belonged to this last division of the audience; the old, however, seeming more grimly intent upon the abstract doctrines laid before them; while the younger females permitted their eyes occasionally to make a modest circuit around the congregation; and some of them, Tresham (if my vanity did not greatly deceive me), contrived to distinguish your friend and servant, as a handsome young stranger and an Englishman. As to the rest of the congregation, the stupid gaped, yawned, or slept, till awakened by the application of their more zealous neighbours' heels to their shins; and the idle indicated their inattention by the wandering of their eyes, but dared give no more decided token of weariness. Amid the Lowland costume of coat and cloak, I could here and there discern a Highland plaid, the wearer of which, resting on his basket-hilt, sent his eyes among the audience with the unrestrained curiosity of savage wonder; and who, in all probability, was inattentive to the sermon for a very pardonable reason--because he did not understand the language in which it was delivered. The martial and wild look, however, of these stragglers, added a kind of character which the congregation could not have exhibited without them. They were more numerous, Andrew afterwards observed, owing to some cattle-fair in the neighbourhood.

Such was the group of countenances, rising tier on tier, discovered to my critical inspection by such sunbeams as forced their way through the narrow Gothic lattices of the Laigh Kirk of Glasgow; and, having illuminated the attentive congregation, lost themselves in the vacuity of the vaults behind, giving to the nearer part of their labyrinth a sort of imperfect twilight, and leaving their recesses in an utter darkness, which gave them the appearance of being interminable.

I have already said that I stood with others in the exterior circle, with my face to the preacher, and my back to those vaults which I have so often mentioned. My position rendered me particularly obnoxious to any interruption which arose from any slight noise occurring amongst these retiring arches, where the least sound was multiplied by a thousand echoes. The occasional sound of rain-drops, which, admitted through some cranny in the ruined roof, fell successively, and splashed upon the pavement beneath, caused me to turn my head more than once to the place from whence it seemed to proceed, and when my eyes took that direction, I found it difficult to withdraw them; such is the pleasure our imagination receives from the attempt to penetrate as far as possible into an intricate labyrinth, imperfectly lighted, and exhibiting objects which irritate our curiosity, only because they acquire a mysterious interest from being undefined and dubious. My eyes became habituated to the gloomy atmosphere to which I directed them, and insensibly my mind became more interested in their discoveries than in the metaphysical subtleties which the preacher was enforcing.

My father had often checked me for this wandering mood of mind, arising perhaps from an excitability of imagination to which he was a stranger; and the finding myself at present solicited by these temptations to inattention, recalled the time when I used to walk, led by his hand, to Mr. Shower's chapel, and the earnest injunctions which he then laid on me to redeem the time, because the days were evil. At present, the picture which my thoughts suggested, far from fixing my attention, destroyed the portion I had yet left, by conjuring up to my recollection the peril in which his affairs now stood. I endeavoured, in the lowest whisper I could frame, to request Andrew to obtain information, whether any of the gentlemen of the firm of MacVittie & Co. were at present in the congregation. But Andrew, wrapped in profound attention to the sermon, only replied to my suggestion by hard punches with his elbow, as signals to me to remain silent. I next strained my eyes, with equally bad success, to see if, among the sea of up-turned faces which bent their eyes on the pulpit as a common centre, I could discover the sober and business-like physiognomy of Owen. But not among the broad beavers of the Glasgow citizens, or the yet broader brimmed Lowland bonnets of the peasants of Lanarkshire, could I see anything resembling the decent periwig, starched ruffles, or the uniform suit of light-brown garments appertaining to the head-clerk of the establishment of Osbaldistone and Tresham. My anxiety now returned on me with such violence as to overpower not only the novelty of the scene around me, by which it had hitherto been diverted, but moreover my sense of decorum. I pulled Andrew hard by the sleeve, and intimated my wish to leave the church, and pursue my investigation as I could. Andrew, obdurate in the Laigh Kirk of Glasgow as on the mountains of Cheviot, for some time deigned me no answer; and it was only when he found I could not otherwise be kept quiet, that he condescended to inform me, that, being once in the church, we could not leave it till service was over, because the doors were locked so soon as the prayers began. Having thus spoken in a brief and peevish whisper, Andrew again assumed the air of intelligent and critical importance, and attention to the preacher's discourse.

While I endeavoured to make a virtue of necessity, and recall my attention to the sermon, I was again disturbed by a singular interruption. A voice from behind whispered distinctly in my ear, “You are in danger in this city.”--I turned round, as if mechanically.

One or two starched and ordinary-looking mechanics stood beside and behind me,--stragglers, who, like ourselves, had been too late in obtaining entrance. But a glance at their faces satisfied me, though I could hardly say why, that none of these was the person who had spoken to me. Their countenances seemed all composed to attention to the sermon, and not one of them returned any glance of intelligence to the inquisitive and startled look with which I surveyed them. A massive round pillar, which was close behind us, might have concealed the speaker the instant he uttered his mysterious caution; but wherefore it was given in such a place, or to what species of danger it directed my attention, or by whom the warning was uttered, were points on which my imagination lost itself in conjecture. It would, however, I concluded, be repeated, and I resolved to keep my countenance turned towards the clergyman, that the whisperer might be tempted to renew his communication under the idea that the first had passed unobserved.

My plan succeeded. I had not resumed the appearance of attention to the preacher for five minutes, when the same voice whispered, “Listen, but do not look back.” I kept my face in the same direction. “You are in danger in this place,” the voice proceeded; “so am I--meet me to-night on the Brigg, at twelve preceesely--keep at home till the gloaming, and avoid observation.”

Here the voice ceased, and I instantly turned my head. But the speaker had, with still greater promptitude, glided behind the pillar, and escaped my observation. I was determined to catch a sight of him, if possible, and extricating myself from the outer circle of hearers, I also stepped behind the column. All there was empty; and I could only see a figure wrapped in a mantle, whether a Lowland cloak, or Highland plaid, I could not distinguish, which traversed, like a phantom, the dreary vacuity of vaults which I have described.

I made a mechanical attempt to pursue the mysterious form, which glided away and vanished in the vaulted cemetery, like the spectre of one of the numerous dead who rested within its precincts. I had little chance of arresting the course of one obviously determined not to be spoken with; but that little chance was lost by my stumbling and falling before I had made three steps from the column. The obscurity which occasioned my misfortune, covered my disgrace; which I accounted rather lucky, for the preacher, with that stern authority which the Scottish ministers assume for the purpose of keeping order in their congregations, interrupted his discourse, to desire the “proper officer” to take into custody the causer of this disturbance in the place of worship. As the noise, however, was not repeated, the beadle, or whatever else he was called, did not think it necessary to be rigorous in searching out the offender, so that I was enabled, without attracting farther observation, to place myself by Andrew's side in my original position. The service proceeded, and closed without the occurrence of anything else worthy of notice.

As the congregation departed and dispersed, my friend Andrew exclaimed, “See, yonder is worthy Mr. MacVittie, and Mrs. MacVittie, and Miss Alison MacVittie, and Mr. Thamas MacFin, that they say is to marry Miss Alison, if a' bowls row right--she'll hae a hantle siller, if she's no that bonny.”

My eyes took the direction he pointed out. Mr. MacVittie was a tall, thin, elderly man, with hard features, thick grey eyebrows, light eyes, and, as I imagined, a sinister expression of countenance, from which my heart recoiled. I remembered the warning I had received in the church, and hesitated to address this person, though I could not allege to myself any rational ground of dislike or suspicion.

I was yet in suspense, when Andrew, who mistook my hesitation for bashfulness, proceeded to exhort me to lay it aside. “Speak till him--speak till him, Mr. Francis--he's no provost yet, though they say he'll be my lord neist year. Speak till him, then--he'll gie ye a decent answer for as rich as he is, unless ye were wanting siller frae him--they say he's dour to draw his purse.”

It immediately occurred to me, that if this merchant were really of the churlish and avaricious disposition which Andrew intimated, there might be some caution necessary in making myself known, as I could not tell how accounts might stand between my father and him. This consideration came in aid of the mysterious hint which I had received, and the dislike which I had conceived at the man's countenance. Instead of addressing myself directly to him, as I had designed to have done, I contented myself with desiring Andrew to inquire at Mr. MacVittie's house the address of Mr. Owen, an English gentleman; and I charged him not to mention the person from whom he received the commission, but to bring me the result to the small inn where we lodged. This Andrew promised to do. He said something of the duty of my attending the evening service; but added with a causticity natural to him, that “in troth, if folk couldna keep their legs still, but wad needs be couping the creels ower through-stanes, as if they wad raise the very dead folk wi' the clatter, a kirk wi' a chimley in't was fittest for them.”


  On the Rialto, every night at twelve,
I take my evening's walk of meditation:
There we two will meet.
Venice Preserved.


Full of sinister augury, for which, however, I could assign no satisfactory cause, I shut myself up in my apartment at the inn, and having dismissed Andrew, after resisting his importunity to accompany him to St. Enoch's Kirk,* where, he said, “a soul-searching divine was to haud forth,” I set myself seriously to consider what were best to be done.

* This I believe to be an anachronism, as Saint Enoch's Church was not built at the date of the story. [It was founded in 1780, and has since been rebuilt.]

I never was what is properly called superstitious; but I suppose that all men, in situations of peculiar doubt and difficulty, when they have exercised their reason to little purpose, are apt, in a sort of despair, to abandon the reins to their imagination, and be guided altogether by chance, or by those whimsical impressions which take possession of the mind, and to which we give way as if to involuntary impulses. There was something so singularly repulsive in the hard features of the Scotch trader, that I could not resolve to put myself into his hands without transgressing every caution which could be derived from the rules of physiognomy; while, at the same time, the warning voice, the form which flitted away like a vanishing shadow through those vaults, which might be termed “the valley of the shadow of death,” had something captivating for the imagination of a young man, who, you will farther please to remember, was also a young poet.

If danger was around me, as the mysterious communication intimated, how could I learn its nature, or the means of averting it, but by meeting my unknown counsellor, to whom I could see no reason for imputing any other than kind intentions. Rashleigh and his machinations occurred more than once to my remembrance;--but so rapid had my journey been, that I could not suppose him apprised of my arrival in Glasgow, much less prepared to play off any stratagem against my person. In my temper also I was bold and confident, strong and active in person, and in some measure accustomed to the use of arms, in which the French youth of all kinds were then initiated. I did not fear any single opponent; assassination was neither the vice of the age nor of the country; the place selected for our meeting was too public to admit any suspicion of meditated violence. In a word, I resolved to meet my mysterious counsellor on the bridge, as he had requested, and to be afterwards guided by circumstances. Let me not conceal from you, Tresham, what at the time I endeavoured to conceal from myself--the subdued, yet secretly-cherished hope, that Diana Vernon might--by what chance I knew not--through what means I could not guess--have some connection with this strange and dubious intimation conveyed at a time and place, and in a manner so surprising. She alone--whispered this insidious thought--she alone knew of my journey; from her own account, she possessed friends and influence in Scotland; she had furnished me with a talisman, whose power I was to invoke when all other aid failed me; who then but Diana Vernon possessed either means, knowledge, or inclination, for averting the dangers, by which, as it seemed, my steps were surrounded? This flattering view of my very doubtful case pressed itself upon me again and again. It insinuated itself into my thoughts, though very bashfully, before the hour of dinner; it displayed its attractions more boldly during the course of my frugal meal, and became so courageously intrusive during the succeeding half-hour (aided perhaps by the flavour of a few glasses of most excellent claret), that, with a sort of desperate attempt to escape from a delusive seduction, to which I felt the danger of yielding, I pushed my glass from me, threw aside my dinner, seized my hat, and rushed into the open air with the feeling of one who would fly from his own thoughts. Yet perhaps I yielded to the very feelings from which I seemed to fly, since my steps insensibly led me to the bridge over the Clyde, the place assigned for the rendezvous by my mysterious monitor.

Although I had not partaken of my repast until the hours of evening church-service were over,--in which, by the way, I complied with the religious scruples of my landlady, who hesitated to dress a hot dinner between sermons, and also with the admonition of my unknown friend, to keep my apartment till twilight,--several hours had still to pass away betwixt the time of my appointment and that at which I reached the assigned place of meeting. The interval, as you will readily credit, was wearisome enough; and I can hardly explain to you how it passed away. Various groups of persons, all of whom, young and old, seemed impressed with a reverential feeling of the sanctity of the day, passed along the large open meadow which lies on the northern bank of the Clyde, and serves at once as a bleaching-field and pleasure-walk for the inhabitants, or paced with slow steps the long bridge which communicates with the southern district of the county. All that I remember of them was the general, yet not unpleasing, intimation of a devotional character impressed on each little party--formally assumed perhaps by some, but sincerely characterising the greater number--which hushed the petulant gaiety of the young into a tone of more quiet, yet more interesting, interchange of sentiments, and suppressed the vehement argument and protracted disputes of those of more advanced age. Notwithstanding the numbers who passed me, no general sound of the human voice was heard; few turned again to take some minutes' voluntary exercise, to which the leisure of the evening, and the beauty of the surrounding scenery, seemed to invite them: all hurried to their homes and resting-places. To one accustomed to the mode of spending Sunday evenings abroad, even among the French Calvinists, there seemed something Judaical, yet, at the same time striking and affecting, in this mode of keeping the Sabbath holy. Insensibly I felt my mode of sauntering by the side of the river, and crossing successively the various persons who were passing homeward, and without tarrying or delay, must expose me to observation at least, if not to censure; and I slunk out of the frequented path, and found a trivial occupation for my mind in marshalling my revolving walk in such a manner as should least render me obnoxious to observation. The different alleys lined out through this extensive meadow, and which are planted with trees, like the Park of St. James's in London, gave me facilities for carrying into effect these childish manoeuvres.

As I walked down one of these avenues, I heard, to my surprise, the sharp and conceited voice of Andrew Fairservice, raised by a sense of self-consequence to a pitch somewhat higher than others seemed to think consistent with the solemnity of the day. To slip behind the row of trees under which I walked was perhaps no very dignified proceeding; but it was the easiest mode of escaping his observation, and perhaps his impertinent assiduity, and still more intrusive curiosity. As he passed, I heard him communicate to a grave-looking man, in a black coat, a slouched hat, and Geneva cloak, the following sketch of a character, which my self-love, while revolting against it as a caricature, could not, nevertheless, refuse to recognise as a likeness.

“Ay, ay, Mr. Hammorgaw, it's e'en as I tell ye. He's no a'thegither sae void o' sense neither; he has a gloaming sight o' what's reasonable--that is anes and awa'--a glisk and nae mair; but he's crack-brained and cockle-headed about his nipperty-tipperty poetry nonsense--He'll glowr at an auld-warld barkit aik-snag as if it were a queezmaddam in full bearing; and a naked craig, wi' a bum jawing ower't, is unto him as a garden garnisht with flowering knots and choice pot-herbs. Then he wad rather claver wi' a daft quean they ca' Diana Vernon (weel I wet they might ca' her Diana of the Ephesians, for she's little better than a heathen--better? she's waur--a Roman, a mere Roman)--he'll claver wi' her, or any ither idle slut, rather than hear what might do him gude a' the days of his life, frae you or me, Mr. Hammorgaw, or ony ither sober and sponsible person. Reason, sir, is what he canna endure--he's a' for your vanities and volubilities; and he ance tell'd me (puir blinded creature!) that the Psalms of David were excellent poetry! as if the holy Psalmist thought o' rattling rhymes in a blether, like his ain silly clinkum-clankum things that he ca's verse. Gude help him!--twa lines o' Davie Lindsay would ding a' he ever clerkit.”

While listening to this perverted account of my temper and studies, you will not be surprised if I meditated for Mr. Fairservice the unpleasant surprise of a broken pate on the first decent opportunity. His friend only intimated his attention by “Ay, ay!” and “Is't e'en sae?” and suchlike expressions of interest, at the proper breaks in Mr. Fairservice's harangue, until at length, in answer to some observation of greater length, the import of which I only collected from my trusty guide's reply, honest Andrew answered, “Tell him a bit o'my mind, quoth ye? Wha wad be fule then but Andrew? He's a red-wad deevil, man--He's like Giles Heathertap's auld boar;--ye need but shake a clout at him to make him turn and gore. Bide wi' him, say ye?--Troth, I kenna what for I bide wi' him mysell. But the lad's no a bad lad after a'; and he needs some carefu' body to look after him. He hasna the right grip o' his hand--the gowd slips through't like water, man; and it's no that ill a thing to be near him when his purse is in his hand, and it's seldom out o't. And then he's come o' guid kith and kin--My heart warms to the poor thoughtless callant, Mr. Hammorgaw--and then the penny fee”--

In the latter part of this instructive communication, Mr. Fairservice lowered his voice to a tone better beseeming the conversation in a place of public resort on a Sabbath evening, and his companion and he were soon beyond my hearing. My feelings of hasty resentment soon subsided, under the conviction that, as Andrew himself might have said, “A harkener always hears a bad tale of himself,” and that whoever should happen to overhear their character discussed in their own servants'-hall, must prepare to undergo the scalpel of some such anatomist as Mr. Fairservice. The incident was so far useful, as, including the feelings to which it gave rise, it sped away a part of the time which hung so heavily on my hand.

Evening had now closed, and the growing darkness gave to the broad, still, and deep expanse of the brimful river, first a hue sombre and uniform--then a dismal and turbid appearance, partially lighted by a waning and pallid moon. The massive and ancient bridge which stretches across the Clyde was now but dimly visible, and resembled that which Mirza, in his unequalled vision, has described as traversing the valley of Bagdad. The low-browed arches, seen as imperfectly as the dusky current which they bestrode, seemed rather caverns which swallowed up the gloomy waters of the river, than apertures contrived for their passage. With the advancing night the stillness of the scene increased. There was yet a twinkling light occasionally seen to glide along by the stream, which conducted home one or two of the small parties, who, after the abstinence and religious duties of the day, had partaken of a social supper--the only meal at which the rigid Presbyterians made some advance to sociality on the Sabbath. Occasionally, also, the hoofs of a horse were heard, whose rider, after spending the Sunday in Glasgow, was directing his steps towards his residence in the country. These sounds and sights became gradually of more rare occurrence; at length they altogether ceased, and I was left to enjoy my solitary walk on the shores of the Clyde in solemn silence, broken only by the tolling of the successive hours from the steeples of the churches.

But as the night advanced my impatience at the uncertainty of the situation in which I was placed increased every moment, and became nearly ungovernable. I began to question whether I had been imposed upon by the trick of a fool, the raving of a madman, or the studied machinations of a villain, and paced the little quay or pier adjoining the entrance to the bridge, in a state of incredible anxiety and vexation. At length the hour of twelve o'clock swung its summons over the city from the belfry of the metropolitan church of St. Mungo, and was answered and vouched by all the others like dutiful diocesans. The echoes had scarcely ceased to repeat the last sound, when a human form--the first I had seen for two hours--appeared passing along the bridge from the southern shore of the river. I advanced to meet him with a feeling as if my fate depended on the result of the interview, so much had my anxiety been wound up by protracted expectation. All that I could remark of the passenger as we advanced towards each other, was that his frame was rather beneath than above the middle size, but apparently strong, thick-set, and muscular; his dress a horseman's wrapping coat. I slackened my pace, and almost paused as I advanced in expectation that he would address me. But to my inexpressible disappointment he passed without speaking, and I had no pretence for being the first to address one who, notwithstanding his appearance at the very hour of appointment, might nevertheless be an absolute stranger. I stopped when he had passed me, and looked after him, uncertain whether I ought not to follow him. The stranger walked on till near the northern end of the bridge, then paused, looked back, and turning round, again advanced towards me. I resolved that this time he should not have the apology for silence proper to apparitions, who, it is vulgarly supposed, cannot speak until they are spoken to. “You walk late, sir,” said I, as we met a second time.

“I bide tryste,” was the reply; “and so I think do you, Mr. Osbaldistone.”

“You are then the person who requested to meet me here at this unusual hour?”

“I am,” he replied. “Follow me, and you shall know my reasons.”

“Before following you, I must know your name and purpose,” I answered.

“I am a man,” was the reply; “and my purpose is friendly to you.”

“A man!” I repeated;--“that is a very brief description.”

“It will serve for one who has no other to give,” said the stranger. “He that is without name, without friends, without coin, without country, is still at least a man; and he that has all these is no more.”

“Yet this is still too general an account of yourself, to say the least of it, to establish your credit with a stranger.”

“It is all I mean to give, howsoe'er; you may choose to follow me, or to remain without the information I desire to afford you.”

“Can you not give me that information here?” I demanded.

“You must receive it from your eyes, not from my tongue--you must follow me, or remain in ignorance of the information which I have to give you.”

There was something short, determined, and even stern, in the man's manner, not certainly well calculated to conciliate undoubting confidence.

“What is it you fear?” he said impatiently. “To whom, think ye, is your life of such consequence, that they should seek to bereave ye of it?”

“I fear nothing,” I replied firmly, though somewhat hastily. “Walk on--I attend you.”

We proceeded, contrary to my expectation, to re-enter the town, and glided like mute spectres, side by side, up its empty and silent streets. The high and gloomy stone fronts, with the variegated ornaments and pediments of the windows, looked yet taller and more sable by the imperfect moonshine. Our walk was for some minutes in perfect silence. At length my conductor spoke.

“Are you afraid?”

“I retort your own words,” I replied: “wherefore should I fear?”

“Because you are with a stranger--perhaps an enemy, in a place where you have no friends and many enemies.”

“I neither fear you nor them; I am young, active, and armed.”

“I am not armed,” replied my conductor: “but no matter, a willing hand never lacked weapon. You say you fear nothing; but if you knew who was by your side, perhaps you might underlie a tremor.”

“And why should I?” replied I. “I again repeat, I fear nought that you can do.”

“Nought that I can do?--Be it so. But do you not fear the consequences of being found with one whose very name whispered in this lonely street would make the stones themselves rise up to apprehend him--on whose head half the men in Glasgow would build their fortune as on a found treasure, had they the luck to grip him by the collar--the sound of whose apprehension were as welcome at the Cross of Edinburgh as ever the news of a field stricken and won in Flanders?”

“And who then are you, whose name should create so deep a feeling of terror?” I replied.

“No enemy of yours, since I am conveying you to a place, where, were I myself recognised and identified, iron to the heels and hemp to the craig would be my brief dooming.”

I paused and stood still on the pavement, drawing back so as to have the most perfect view of my companion which the light afforded me, and which was sufficient to guard against any sudden motion of assault.

“You have said,” I answered, “either too much or too little--too much to induce me to confide in you as a mere stranger, since you avow yourself a person amenable to the laws of the country in which we are--and too little, unless you could show that you are unjustly subjected to their rigour.”

As I ceased to speak, he made a step towards me. I drew back instinctively, and laid my hand on the hilt of my sword.

“What!” said he--“on an unarmed man, and your friend?”

“I am yet ignorant if you are either the one or the other,” I replied; “and to say the truth, your language and manner might well entitle me to doubt both.”

“It is manfully spoken,” replied my conductor; “and I respect him whose hand can keep his head.--I will be frank and free with you--I am conveying you to prison.”

“To prison!” I exclaimed--“by what warrant or for what offence?--You shall have my life sooner than my liberty--I defy you, and I will not follow you a step farther.”

“I do not,” he said, “carry you there as a prisoner; I am,” he added, drawing himself haughtily up, “neither a messenger nor sheriff's officer. I carry you to see a prisoner from whose lips you will learn the risk in which you presently stand. Your liberty is little risked by the visit; mine is in some peril; but that I readily encounter on your account, for I care not for risk, and I love a free young blood, that kens no protector but the cross o' the sword.”

While he spoke thus, we had reached the principal street, and were pausing before a large building of hewn stone, garnished, as I thought I could perceive, with gratings of iron before the windows.

“Muckle,” said the stranger, whose language became more broadly national as he assumed a tone of colloquial freedom--“Muckle wad the provost and bailies o' Glasgow gie to hae him sitting with iron garters to his hose within their tolbooth that now stands wi' his legs as free as the red-deer's on the outside on't. And little wad it avail them; for an if they had me there wi' a stane's weight o' iron at every ankle, I would show them a toom room and a lost lodger before to-morrow--But come on, what stint ye for?”

As he spoke thus, he tapped at a low wicket, and was answered by a sharp voice, as of one awakened from a dream or reverie,--“Fa's tat?--Wha's that, I wad say?--and fat a deil want ye at this hour at e'en?--Clean again rules--clean again rules, as they ca' them.”

The protracted tone in which the last words were uttered, betokened that the speaker was again composing himself to slumber. But my guide spoke in a loud whisper--“Dougal, man! hae ye forgotten Ha nun Gregarach?”

“Deil a bit, deil a bit,” was the ready and lively response, and I heard the internal guardian of the prison-gate bustle up with great alacrity. A few words were exchanged between my conductor and the turnkey in a language to which I was an absolute stranger. The bolts revolved, but with a caution which marked the apprehension that the noise might be overheard, and we stood within the vestibule of the prison of Glasgow,--a small, but strong guard-room, from which a narrow staircase led upwards, and one or two low entrances conducted to apartments on the same level with the outward gate, all secured with the jealous strength of wickets, bolts, and bars. The walls, otherwise naked, were not unsuitably garnished with iron fetters, and other uncouth implements, which might be designed for purposes still more inhuman, interspersed with partisans, guns, pistols of antique manufacture, and other weapons of defence and offence.

At finding myself so unexpectedly, fortuitously, and, as it were, by stealth, introduced within one of the legal fortresses of Scotland, I could not help recollecting my adventure in Northumberland, and fretting at the strange incidents which again, without any demerits of my own, threatened to place me in a dangerous and disagreeable collision with the laws of a country which I visited only in the capacity of a stranger.

Go to volii chapters 5 & 6