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Chapter 18

--Last scene of all,
To close this strange eventful history.--AS YOU LIKE IT.

On the next morning, Mr. Ratcliffe presented Miss Vere with a letter
from her father, of which the following is the tenor:--

"MY DEAREST CHILD, The malice of a persecuting government will compel
me, for my own safety, to retreat abroad, and to remain for some time
in foreign parts. I do not ask you to accompany, or follow me; you will
attend to my interest and your own more effectually by remaining where
you are. It is unnecessary to enter into a minute detail concerning the
causes of the strange events which yesterday took place. I think I have
reason to complain of the usage I have received from Sir Edward Mauley,
who is your nearest kinsman by the mother's side; but as he has declared
you his heir, and is to put you in immediate possession of a large part
of his fortune, I account it a full atonement. I am aware he has never
forgiven the preference which your mother gave to my addresses, instead
of complying with the terms of a sort of family compact, which absurdly
and tyrannically destined her to wed her deformed relative. The shock
was even sufficient to unsettle his wits (which, indeed, were never
over-well arranged), and I had, as the husband of his nearest kinswoman
and heir, the delicate task of taking care of his person and property,
until he was reinstated in the management of the latter by those who, no
doubt, thought they were doing him justice; although, if some parts of
his subsequent conduct be examined, it will appear that he ought,
for his own sake, to have been left under the influence of a mild and
salutary restraint.

"In one particular, however, he showed a sense of the ties of blood,
as well as of his own frailty; for while he sequestered himself closely
from the world, under various names and disguises, and insisted on
spreading a report of his own death (in which to gratify him I willingly
acquiesced), he left at my disposal the rents of a great proportion of
his estates, and especially all those, which, having belonged to your
mother, reverted to him as a male fief. In this he may have thought
that he was acting with extreme generosity, while, in the opinion of all
impartial men, he will only be considered as having fulfilled a natural
obligation, seeing that, in justice, if not in strict law, you must
be considered as the heir of your mother, and I as your legal
administrator. Instead, therefore, of considering myself as loaded
with obligations to Sir Edward on this account, I think I had reason
to complain that these remittances were only doled out to me at the
pleasure of Mr. Ratcliffe, who, moreover, exacted from me mortgages
over my paternal estate of Ellieslaw for any sums which I required as an
extra advance; and thus may be said to have insinuated himself into the
absolute management and control of my property. Or, if all this seeming
friendship was employed by Sir Edward for the purpose of obtaining a
complete command of my affairs, and acquiring the power of ruining me
at his pleasure, I feel myself, I must repeat, still less bound by the
alleged obligation.

"About the autumn of last year, as I understand, either his own crazed
imagination, or the accomplishment of some such scheme as I have hinted,
brought him down to this country. His alleged motive, it seems, was a
desire of seeing a monument which he had directed to be raised in the
chapel over the tomb of your mother. Mr. Ratcliffe, who at this time
had done me the honour to make my house his own, had the complaisance to
introduce him secretly into the chapel. The consequence, as he informs
me, was a frenzy of several hours, during which he fled into the
neighbouring moors, in one of the wildest spots of which he chose, when
he was somewhat recovered, to fix his mansion, and set up for a sort of
country empiric, a character which, even in his best days, he was fond
of assuming. It is remarkable, that, instead of informing me of these
circumstances, that I might have had the relative of my late wife taken
such care of as his calamitous condition required, Mr. Ratcliffe seems
to have had such culpable indulgence for his irregular plans as to
promise and even swear secrecy concerning them. He visited Sir Edward
often, and assisted in the fantastic task he had taken upon him of
constructing a hermitage. Nothing they appear to have dreaded more than
a discovery of their intercourse.

"The ground was open in every direction around, and a small subterranean
cave, probably sepulchral, which their researches had detected near
the great granite pillar, served to conceal Ratcliffe, when any one
approached his master. I think you will be of opinion, my love, that
this secrecy must have had some strong motive. It is also remarkable,
that while I thought my unhappy friend was residing among the Monks of
La Trappe, he should have been actually living, for many months, in this
bizarre disguise, within five miles of my house, and obtaining regular
information of my most private movements, either by Ratcliffe, or
through Westburnflat or others, whom he had the means to bribe to any
extent. He makes it a crime against me that I endeavoured to establish
your marriage with Sir Frederick. I acted for the best; but if Sir
Edward Mauley thought otherwise, why did he not step manfully forward,
express his own purpose of becoming a party to the settlements, and take
that interest which he is entitled to claim in you as heir to his great

"Even now, though your rash and eccentric relation is somewhat tardy in
announcing his purpose, I am far from opposing my authority against
his wishes, although the person he desires you to regard as your future
husband be young Earnscliff; the very last whom I should have thought
likely to be acceptable to him, considering a certain fatal event. But I
give my free and hearty consent, providing the settlements are drawn in
such an irrevocable form as may secure my child from suffering by
that state of dependence, and that sudden and causeless revocation of
allowances, of which I have so much reason to complain. Of Sir Frederick
Langley, I augur, you will hear no more. He is not likely to claim the
hand of a dowerless maiden. I therefore commit you, my dear Isabella, to
the wisdom of Providence and to your own prudence, begging you to lose
no time in securing those advantages, which the fickleness of your
kinsman has withdrawn from me to shower upon you.

"Mr. Ratcliffe mentioned Sir Edward's intention to settle a considerable
sum upon me yearly, for my maintenance in foreign parts; but this my
heart is too proud to accept from him. I told him I had a dear child,
who, while in affluence herself, would never suffer me to be in poverty.
I thought it right to intimate this to him pretty roundly, that whatever
increase be settled upon you, it may be calculated so as to cover this
necessary and natural encumbrance. I shall willingly settle upon you
the castle and manor of Ellieslaw, to show my parental affection and
disinterested zeal for promoting your settlement in life. The annual
interest of debts charged on the estate somewhat exceeds the income,
even after a reasonable rent has been put upon the mansion and mains.
But as all the debts are in the person of Mr. Ratcliffe, as your
kinsman's trustee, he will not be a troublesome creditor. And here I
must make you aware, that though I have to complain of Mr. Ratcliffe's
conduct to me personally, I, nevertheless, believe him a just and
upright man, with whom you may safely consult on your affairs, not to
mention that to cherish his good opinion will be the best way to retain
that of your kinsman. Remember me to Marchie--I hope he will not be
troubled on account of late matters. I will write more fully from the
Continent. Meanwhile, I rest your loving father, RICHARD VERE."

The above letter throws the only additional light which we have been
able to procure upon the earlier part of our story. It was Hobbie's
opinion, and may be that of most of our readers, that the Recluse
of Mucklestane-Moor had but a kind of a gleaming, or twilight
understanding; and that he had neither very clear views as to what he
himself wanted, nor was apt to pursue his ends by the clearest and most
direct means; so that to seek the clew of his conduct, was likened, by
Hobbie, to looking for a straight path through a common, over which are
a hundred devious tracks, but not one distinct line of road.

When Isabella had perused the letter, her first enquiry was after her
father. He had left the castle, she was informed, early in the morning,
after a long interview with Mr. Ratcliffe, and was already far on his
way to the next port, where he might expect to find shipping for the

"Where was Sir Edward Mauley?"

No one had seen the Dwarf since the eventful scene of the preceding

"Odd, if onything has befa'en puir Elshie," said Hobbie Elliot, "I wad
rather I were harried ower again."

He immediately rode to his dwelling, and the remaining she-goat came
bleating to meet him, for her milking time was long past. The Solitary
was nowhere to be seen; his door, contrary to wont, was open, his fire
extinguished, and the whole hut was left in the state which it exhibited
on Isabella's visit to him. It was pretty clear that the means of
conveyance which had brought the Dwarf to Ellieslaw on the preceding
evening, had removed him from it to some other place of abode. Hobbie
returned disconsolate to the castle.

"I am doubting we hae lost Canny Elshie for gude an' a'."

"You have indeed," said Ratcliffe, producing a paper, which he put into
Hobbie's hands; "but read that, and you will perceive you have been no
loser by having known him."

It was a short deed of gift, by which "Sir Edward Mauley, otherwise
called Elshender the Recluse, endowed Halbert or Hobbie Elliot, and
Grace Armstrong, in full property, with a considerable sum borrowed by
Elliot from him."

Hobbie's joy was mingled with feelings which brought tears down his
rough cheeks.

"It's a queer thing," he said; "but I canna joy in the gear, unless I
kend the puir body was happy that gave it me."

"Next to enjoying happiness ourselves," said Ratcliffe, "is the
consciousness of having bestowed it on others. Had all my master's
benefits been conferred like the present, what a different return would
they have produced! But the indiscriminate profusion that would glut
avarice, or supply prodigality, neither does good, nor is rewarded by
gratitude. It is sowing the wind to reap the whirlwind."

"And that wad be a light har'st," said Hobbie; "but, wi' my young
leddie's leave, I wad fain take down Eishie's skeps o' bees, and set
them in Grace's bit flower yard at the Heugh-foot--they shall ne'er be
smeekit by ony o' huz. And the puir goat, she would be negleckit about a
great toun like this; and she could feed bonnily on our lily lea by the
burn side, and the hounds wad ken her in a day's time, and never fash
her, and Grace wad milk her ilka morning wi' her ain hand, for Elshie's
sake; for though he was thrawn and cankered in his converse, he likeit
dumb creatures weel."

Hobbie's requests were readily granted, not without some wonder at
the natural delicacy of feeling which pointed out to him this mode of
displaying his gratitude. He was delighted when Ratcliffe informed him
that his benefactor should not remain ignorant of the care which he took
of his favourite.

"And mind be sure and tell him that grannie and the titties, and,
abune a', Grace and mysell, are weel and thriving, and that it's a' his
doing--that canna but please him, ane wad think."

And Elliot and the family at Heugh-foot were, and continued to be, as
fortunate and happy as his undaunted honesty, tenderness, and gallantry
so well merited.

All bar between the marriage of Earnscliff and Isabella was now removed,
and the settlements which Ratcliffe produced on the part of Sir Edward
Mauley, might have satisfied the cupidity of Ellieslaw himself. But Miss
Vere and Ratcliffe thought it unnecessary to mention to Earnscliff that
one great motive of Sir Edward, in thus loading the young pair with
benefits, was to expiate his having, many years before, shed the blood
of his father in a hasty brawl. If it be true, as Ratcliffe asserted,
that the Dwarf's extreme misanthropy seemed to relax somewhat, under
the consciousness of having diffused happiness among so many, the
recollection of this circumstance might probably be one of his chief
motives for refusing obstinately ever to witness their state of

Mareschal hunted, shot, and drank claret--tired of the country, went
abroad, served three campaigns, came home, and married Lucy Ilderton.

Years fled over the heads of Earnscliff and his wife, and found and left
them contented and happy. The scheming ambition of Sir Frederick
Langley engaged him in the unfortunate insurrection of 1715. He was made
prisoner at Preston, in Lancashire, with the Earl of Derwentwater,
and others. His defence, and the dying speech which he made at his
execution, may be found in the State Trials. Mr. Vere, supplied by
his daughter with an ample income, continued to reside abroad, engaged
deeply in the affair of Law's bank during the regency of the Duke of
Orleans, and was at one time supposed to be immensely rich. But, on the
bursting of that famous bubble, he was so much chagrined at being
again reduced to a moderate annuity (although he saw thousands of his
companions in misfortune absolutely starving), that vexation of mind
brought on a paralytic stroke, of which he died, after lingering under
its effects a few weeks.

Willie of Westburnflat fled from the wrath of Hobbie Elliot, as his
betters did from the pursuit of the law. His patriotism urged him to
serve his country abroad, while his reluctance to leave his native soil
pressed him rather to remain in the beloved island, and collect purses,
watches, and rings on the highroads at home. Fortunately for him, the
first impulse prevailed, and he joined the army under Marlborough;
obtained a commission to which he was recommended by his services in
collecting cattle for the commissariat; returned home after many
years, with some money (how come by Heaven only knows),--demolished
the peel-house at Westburnflat, and built, in its stead, a high narrow
ONSTEAD, of three stories, with a chimney at each end--drank brandy with
the neighbours, whom, in his younger days, he had plundered--died in his
bed, and is recorded upon his tombstone at Kirkwhistle (still extant),
as having played all the parts of a brave soldier, a discreet neighbour,
and a sincere Christian.

Mr. Ratcliffe resided usually with the family at Ellieslaw, but
regularly every spring and autumn he absented himself for about a month.
On the direction and purpose of his periodical journey he remained
steadily silent; but it was well understood that he was then in
attendance on his unfortunate patron. At length, on his return from
one of these visits, his grave countenance, and deep mourning dress,
announced to the Ellieslaw family that their benefactor was no more. Sir
Edward's death made no addition to their fortune, for he had divested
himself of his property during his lifetime, and chiefly in their
favour. Ratcliffe, his sole confidant, died at a good old age, but
without ever naming the place to which his master had finally retired,
or the manner of his death, or the place of his burial. It was supposed
that on all these particulars his patron had enjoined him strict

The sudden disappearance of Elshie from his extraordinary hermitage
corroborated the reports which the common people had spread concerning
him. Many believed that, having ventured to enter a consecrated
building, contrary to his paction with the Evil One, he had been bodily
carried off while on his return to his cottage; but most are of opinion
that he only disappeared for a season, and continues to be seen from
time to time among the hills. And retaining, according to custom, a
more vivid recollection of his wild and desperate language, than of the
benevolent tendency of most of his actions, he is usually identified
with the malignant demon called the Man of the Moors, whose feats were
quoted by Mrs. Elliot to her grandsons; and, accordingly, is generally
represented as bewitching the sheep, causing the ewes to KEB, that is,
to cast their lambs, or seen loosening the impending wreath of snow
to precipitate its weight on such as take shelter, during the storm,
beneath the bank of a torrent, or under the shelter of a deep glen. In
short, the evils most dreaded and deprecated by the inhabitants of that
pastoral country, are ascribed to the agency of the BLACK DWARF.

Sir Walter Scott

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