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Chapter 3


Brown Dwarf, that o'er the moorland strays,
Thy name to Keeldar tell!
"The Brown Man of the Moor, that stays
Beneath the heather-bell."--JOHN LEYDEN

The object which alarmed the young farmer in the middle of his valorous
protestations, startled for a moment even his less prejudiced companion.
The moon, which had arisen during their conversation, was, in the phrase
of that country, wading or struggling with clouds, and shed only a
doubtful and occasional light. By one of her beams, which streamed upon
the great granite column to which they now approached, they discovered
a form, apparently human, but of a size much less than ordinary, which
moved slowly among the large grey stones, not like a person intending
to journey onward, but with the slow, irregular, flitting movement of a
being who hovers around some spot of melancholy recollection, uttering
also, from time to time, a sort of indistinct muttering sound. This so
much resembled his idea of the motions of an apparition, that Hobbie
Elliot, making a dead pause, while his hair erected itself upon his
scalp, whispered to his companion, "It's Auld Ailie hersell! Shall I gie
her a shot, in the name of God?"

"For Heaven's sake, no," said his companion, holding down the weapon
which he was about to raise to the aim--"for Heaven's sake, no; it's
some poor distracted creature."

"Ye're distracted yoursell, for thinking of going so near to her," said
Elliot, holding his companion in his turn, as he prepared to advance.
"We'll aye hae time to pit ower a bit prayer (an I could but mind ane)
afore she comes this length--God! she's in nae hurry," continued he,
growing bolder from his companion's confidence, and the little notice
the apparition seemed to take of them. "She hirples like a hen on a het
girdle. I redd ye, Earnscliff" (this he added in a gentle whisper), "let
us take a cast about, as if to draw the wind on a buck--the bog is no
abune knee-deep, and better a saft road as bad company." [The Scots use
the epithet soft, IN MALAM PARTEM, in two cases, at least. A SOFT road
is a road through quagmire and bogs; and SOFT weather signifies that
which is very rainy.]

Earnscliff, however, in spite of his companion's resistance and
remonstrances, continued to advance on the path they had originally
pursued, and soon confronted the object of their investigation.

The height of the figure, which appeared even to decrease as they
approached it, seemed to be under four feet, and its form, as far as the
imperfect light afforded them the means of discerning, was very nearly
as broad as long, or rather of a spherical shape, which could only
be occasioned by some strange personal deformity. The young sportsman
hailed this extraordinary appearance twice, without receiving any
answer, or attending to the pinches by which his companion endeavoured
to intimate that their best course was to walk on, without giving
farther disturbance to a being of such singular and preternatural
exterior. To the third repeated demand of "Who are you? What do you here
at this hour of night?"--a voice replied, whose shrill, uncouth, and
dissonant tones made Elliot step two paces back, and startled even his
companion, "Pass on your way, and ask nought at them that ask nought at
you."

"What do you do here so far from shelter? Are you benighted on your
journey? Will you follow us home ('God forbid!' ejaculated Hobbie
Elliot, involuntarily), and I will give you a lodging?"

"I would sooner lodge by mysell in the deepest of the Tarras-flow,"
again whispered Hobbie.

"Pass on your way," rejoined the figure, the harsh tones of his voice
still more exalted by passion. "I want not your guidance--I want not
your lodging--it is five years since my head was under a human roof, and
I trust it was for the last time."

"He is mad," said Earnscliff.

"He has a look of auld Humphrey Ettercap, the tinkler, that perished
in this very moss about five years syne," answered his superstitious
companion; "but Humphrey wasna that awfu' big in the bouk."

"Pass on your way," reiterated the object of their curiosity, "the
breath of your human bodies poisons the air around me--the sound of pour
human voices goes through my ears like sharp bodkins."

"Lord safe us!" whispered Hobbie, "that the dead should bear sie fearfu'
ill-will to the living!--his saul maun be in a puir way, I'm jealous."

"Come, my friend," said Earnscliff, "you seem to suffer under some
strong affliction; common humanity will not allow us to leave you here."

"Common humanity!" exclaimed the being, with a scornful laugh that
sounded like a shriek, "where got ye that catch-word--that noose for
woodcocks--that common disguise for man-traps--that bait which the
wretched idiot who swallows, will soon find covers a hook with barbs ten
times sharper than those you lay for the animals which you murder for
your luxury!"

"I tell you, my friend," again replied Earnscliff, "you are incapable of
judging of your own situation--you will perish in this wilderness, and
we must, in compassion, force you along with us."

"I'll hae neither hand nor foot in't," said Hobbie; "let the ghaist take
his ain way, for God's sake!"

"My blood be on my own head, if I perish here," said the figure; and,
observing Earnscliff meditating to lay hold on him, he added, "And
your blood be upon yours, if you touch but the skirt of my garments, to
infect me with the taint of mortality!"

The moon shone more brightly as he spoke thus, and Earnscliff observed
that he held out his right hand armed with some weapon of offence, which
glittered in the cold ray like the blade of a long knife, or the barrel
of a pistol. It would have been madness to persevere in his attempt upon
a being thus armed, and holding such desperate language, especially as
it was plain he would have little aid from his companion, who had fairly
left him to settle matters with the apparition as he could, and had
proceeded a few paces on his way homeward. Earnscliff, however, turned
and followed Hobbie, after looking back towards the supposed maniac,
who, as if raised to frenzy by the interview, roamed wildly around the
great stone, exhausting his voice in shrieks and imprecations, that
thrilled wildly along the waste heath.

The two sportsmen moved on some time in silence, until they were out
of hearing of these uncouth sounds, which was not ere they had gained a
considerable distance from the pillar that gave name to the moor. Each
made his private comments on the scene they had witnessed, until Hobbie
Elliot suddenly exclaimed, "Weel, I'll uphaud that yon ghaist, if it
be a ghaist, has baith done and suffered muckle evil in the flesh, that
gars him rampauge in that way after he is dead and gane."

"It seems to me the very madness of misanthropy," said Earnscliff;
following his own current of thought.

"And ye didna think it was a spiritual creature, then?" asked Hobbie at
his companion.

"Who, I?--No, surely."

"Weel, I am partly of the mind mysell that it may be a live thing--and
yet I dinna ken, I wadna wish to see ony thing look liker a bogle."

"At any rate," said Earnscliff, "I will ride over to-morrow and see what
has become of the unhappy being."

"In fair daylight?" queried the yeoman; "then, grace o' God, I'se be
wi' ye. But here we are nearer to Heugh-foot than to your house by twa
mile,--hadna ye better e'en gae hame wi' me, and we'll send the callant
on the powny to tell them that you are wi' us, though I believe there's
naebody at hame to wait for you but the servants and the cat."

"Have with you then, friend Hobbie," said the young hunter; "and as I
would not willingly have either the servants be anxious, or puss forfeit
her supper, in my absence, I'll be obliged to you to send the boy as you
propose."

"Aweel, that IS kind, I must say. And ye'll gae hame to Heugh-foot?
They'll be right blithe to see you, that will they."

This affair settled, they walked briskly on a little farther, when,
coming to the ridge of a pretty steep hill, Hobbie Elliot exclaimed,
"Now, Earnscliff, I am aye glad when I come to this very bit--Ye see
the light below, that's in the ha' window, where grannie, the gash auld
carline, is sitting birling at her wheel--and ye see yon other light
that's gaun whiddin' back and forrit through amang the windows? that's
my cousin, Grace Armstrong,--she's twice as clever about the house as my
sisters, and sae they say themsells, for they're good-natured lasses as
ever trode on heather; but they confess themsells, and sae does grannie,
that she has far maist action, and is the best goer about the toun, now
that grannie is off the foot hersell.--My brothers, ane o' them's away
to wait upon the chamberlain, and ane's at Moss-phadraig, that's our led
farm--he can see after the stock just as weel as I can do."

"You are lucky, my good friend, in having so many valuable relations."

"Troth am I--Grace make me thankful, I'se never deny it.--But will
ye tell me now, Earnscliff, you that have been at college, and the
high-school of Edinburgh, and got a' sort o' lair where it was to
be best gotten--will ye tell me--no that it's ony concern of mine in
particular,--but I heard the priest of St. John's, and our minister,
bargaining about it at the Winter fair, and troth they baith spak very
weel--Now, the priest says it's unlawful to marry ane's cousin; but I
cannot say I thought he brought out the Gospel authorities half sae weel
as our minister--our minister is thought the best divine and the best
preacher atween this and Edinburgh--Dinna ye think he was likely to be
right?"

"Certainly marriage, by all protestant Christians, is held to be as free
as God made it by the Levitical law; so, Hobbie, there can be no bar,
legal or religious, betwixt you and Miss Armstrong."

"Hout awa' wi' your joking, Earnscliff," replied his companion,--"ye
are angry aneugh yoursell if ane touches you a bit, man, on the sooth
side of the jest--No that I was asking the question about Grace, for ye
maun ken she's no my cousin-germain out and out, but the daughter of
my uncle's wife by her first marriage, so she's nae kith nor kin to
me--only a connexion like. But now we're at the Sheeling-hill--I'll fire
off my gun, to let them ken I'm coming, that's aye my way; and if I hae
a deer I gie them twa shots, ane for the deer and ane for mysell."

He fired off his piece accordingly, and the number of lights were
seen to traverse the house, and even to gleam before it. Hobbie Elliot
pointed out one of these to Earnscliff, which seemed to glide from the
house towards some of the outhouses-"That's Grace hersell," said Hobbie.
"She'll no meet me at the door, I'se warrant her--but she'll be awa',
for a' that, to see if my hounds' supper be ready, poor beasts."

"Love me, love my dog," answered Earnscliff. "Ah, Hobbie, you are a
lucky young fellow!"

This observation was uttered with something like a sigh, which
apparently did not escape the ear of his companion.

"Hout, other folk may be as lucky as I am--O how I have seen Miss Isabel
Vere's head turn after somebody when they passed ane another at the
Carlisle races! Wha kens but things may come round in this world?"

Earnscliff muttered something like an answer; but whether in assent of
the proposition, or rebuking the application of it, could not easily be
discovered; and it seems probable that the speaker himself was willing
his meaning should rest in doubt and obscurity. They had now descended
the broad loaning, which, winding round the foot of the steep bank,
or heugh, brought them in front of the thatched, but comfortable,
farm-house, which was the dwelling of Hobbie Elliot and his family.

The doorway was thronged with joyful faces; but the appearance of a
stranger blunted many a gibe which had been prepared on Hobbie's lack
of success in the deer-stalking. There was a little bustle among three
handsome young women, each endeavouring to devolve upon another the task
of ushering the stranger into the apartment, while probably all were
anxious to escape for the purpose of making some little personal
arrangements, before presenting themselves to a young gentleman in a
dishabille only intended for their brother.

Hobbie, in the meanwhile, bestowing some hearty and general abuse upon
them all (for Grace was not of the party), snatched the candle from the
hand of one of the rustic coquettes, as she stood playing pretty with
it in her hand, and ushered his guest into the family parlour, or rather
hall; for the place having been a house of defence in former times, the
sitting apartment was a vaulted and paved room, damp and dismal enough
compared with the lodgings of the yeomanry of our days, but which, when
well lighted up with a large sparkling fire of turf and bog-wood, seemed
to Earnscliff a most comfortable exchange for the darkness and bleak
blast of the hill. Kindly and repeatedly was he welcomed by the
venerable old dame, the mistress of the family, who, dressed in her
coif and pinners, her close and decent gown of homespun wool, but with a
large gold necklace and ear-rings, looked, what she really was, the lady
as well as the farmer's wife, while, seated in her chair of wicker, by
the corner of the great chimney, she directed the evening occupations
of the young women, and of two or three stout serving wenches, who sate
plying their distaffs behind the backs of their young mistresses.

As soon as Earnscliff had been duly welcomed, and hasty orders issued
for some addition to the evening meal, his grand-dame and sisters opened
their battery upon Hobbie Elliot for his lack of success against the
deer.

"Jenny needna have kept up her kitchen-fire for a' that Hobbie has
brought hame," said one sister.

"Troth no, lass," said another; "the gathering peat, if it was weel
blawn, wad dress a' our Hobbie's venison." [The gathering peat is the
piece of turf left to treasure up the secret seeds of fire, without any
generous consumption of fuel; in a word, to keep the fire alive.]

"Ay, or the low of the candle, if the wind wad let it hide steady," said
a third; "if I were him, I would bring hame a black craw, rather than
come back three times without a buck's horn to blaw on."

Hobbie turned from the one to the other, regarding them alternately
with a frown on his brow, the augury of which was confuted by the
good-humoured laugh on the lower part of his countenance. He then strove
to propitiate them, by mentioning the intended present of his companion.

"In my young days," said the old lady, "a man wad hae been ashamed
to come back frae the hill without a buck hanging on each side o' his
horse, like a cadger carrying calves."

"I wish they had left some for us then, grannie," retorted Hobbie;
"they've cleared the country o' them, thae auld friends o' yours, I'm
thinking."

"We see other folk can find game, though you cannot, Hobbie," said the
eldest sister, glancing a look at young Earnscliff.

"Weel, weel, woman, hasna every dog his day, begging Earnscliff's
pardon for the auld saying--Mayna I hae his luck, and he mine, another
time?--It's a braw thing for a man to be out a' day, and frighted--na, I
winna say that neither but mistrysted wi' bogles in the hame-coming, an'
then to hae to flyte wi' a wheen women that hae been doing naething a'
the live-lang day, but whirling a bit stick, wi' a thread trailing at
it, or boring at a clout."

"Frighted wi' bogles!" exclaimed the females, one and all,--for great
was the regard then paid, and perhaps still paid, in these glens, to all
such fantasies.

"I did not say frighted, now--I only said mis-set wi' the thing--And
there was but ae bogle, neither--Earnscliff, ye saw it; as weel as I
did?"

And he proceeded, without very much exaggeration, to detail, in his own
way, the meeting they had with the mysterious being at Mucklestane-Moor,
concluding, he could not conjecture what on earth it could be, unless it
was either the Enemy himsell, or some of the auld Peghts that held the
country lang syne.

"Auld Peght!" exclaimed the grand-dame; "na, na--bless thee frae scathe,
my bairn, it's been nae Peght that--it's been the Brown Man of the
Moors! O weary fa' thae evil days!--what can evil beings be coming for
to distract a poor country, now it's peacefully settled, and living in
love and law--O weary on him! he ne'er brought gude to these lands or
the indwellers. My father aften tauld me he was seen in the year o' the
bloody fight at Marston-Moor, and then again in Montrose's troubles, and
again before the rout o' Dunbar, and, in my ain time, he was seen about
the time o' Bothwell-Brigg, and they said the second-sighted Laird of
Benarbuck had a communing wi' him some time afore Argyle's landing,
but that I cannot speak to sae preceesely--it was far in the west.--O,
bairns, he's never permitted but in an ill time, sae mind ilka ane o' ye
to draw to Him that can help in the day of trouble."

Earnscliff now interposed, and expressed his firm conviction that the
person they had seen was some poor maniac, and had no commission from
the invisible world to announce either war or evil. But his opinion
found a very cold audience, and all joined to deprecate his purpose of
returning to the spot the next day.

"O, my bonny bairn," said the old dame (for, in the kindness of
her heart, she extended her parental style to all in whom she was
interested)---"You should beware mair than other folk--there's been a
heavy breach made in your house wi' your father's bloodshed, and wi'
law-pleas, and losses sinsyne;--and you are the flower of the flock, and
the lad that will build up the auld bigging again (if it be His will)
to be an honour to the country, and a safeguard to those that dwell
in it--you, before others, are called upon to put yoursell in no rash
adventures--for yours was aye ower venturesome a race, and muckle harm
they have got by it."

"But I am sure, my good friend, you would not have me be afraid of going
to an open moor in broad daylight?"

"I dinna ken," said the good old dame; "I wad never bid son or friend o'
mine haud their hand back in a gude cause, whether it were a friend's or
their ain--that should be by nae bidding of mine, or of ony body that's
come of a gentle kindred--But it winna gang out of a grey head like
mine, that to gang to seek for evil that's no fashing wi' you, is clean
against law and Scripture."

Earnscliff resigned an argument which he saw no prospect of maintaining
with good effect, and the entrance of supper broke off the conversation.
Miss Grace had by this time made her appearance, and Hobbie, not without
a conscious glance at Earnscliff, placed himself by her side. Mirth
and lively conversation, in which the old lady of the house took the
good-humoured share which so well becomes old age, restored to the
cheeks of the damsels the roses which their brother's tale of the
apparition had chased away, and they danced and sung for an hour after
supper as if there were no such things as goblins in the world.


Sir Walter Scott

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