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Chapter 4

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.


Sir Walter Scott