- It was not many days till a caddy came with a large parcel to Mrs. Logan's house, which parcel he delivered into her hands, accompanied with a sealed note, containing an inventory of the articles, and a request to know if the unfortunate Arabella Calvert would be admitted to converse with Mrs. Logan.
Never was there a woman so much overjoyed as Mrs. Logan was at this message. She returned compliments. Would be most happy to see her; and no article of the parcel should be looked at, or touched, till her arrival. It was not long till she made her appearance, dressed in somewhat better style than she had yet seen her; delivered her over the greater part of the stolen property, besides many things that either never had belonged to Mrs. Logan or that she thought proper to deny in order that the other might retain them.
The tale that she told of her misfortunes was of the most distressing nature, and was enough to stir up all the tender, as well as abhorrent feelings in the bosom of humanity. She had suffered every deprivation in fame, fortune, and person. She had been imprisoned; she had been scourged, and branded as an impostor; and all on account of her resolute and unmoving fidelity and truth to several of the very worst of men, every one of whom had abandoned her to utter destitution and shame. But this story we cannot enter on at present, as it would perhaps mar the thread of our story, as much as it did the anxious anticipations of Mrs. Logan, who sat pining and longing for the relation that follows.
"Now I know, Mrs. Logan, that you are expecting a detail of the circumstances relating to the death of Mr. George Colwan; and, in gratitude for your unbounded generosity and disinterestedness, I will tell you all that I know, although, for causes that will appear obvious to you, I had determined never in life to divulge one circumstance of it. I can tell you, however, that you will be disappointed, for it was not the gentleman who was accused, found guilty, and would have suffered the utmost penalty of the law had he not made his escape. It was not he, I say, who slew your young master, nor had he any hand in it."
"I never thought he had. But, pray, how do you come to know this?"
"You shall hear. I had been abandoned in York by an artful and consummate fiend; and found guilty of being art and part concerned in the most heinous atrocities, and, in his place, suffered what I yet shudder to think of I was banished the county, begged my way with my poor outcast child up to Edinburgh, and was there obliged, for the second time in my life, to betake myself to the most degrading of all means to support two wretched lives. I hired a dress, and betook me, shivering, to the High Street, too well aware that my form and appearance would soon draw me suitors enow at that throng and intemperate time of the Parliament. On my very first stepping out to the street, a party of young gentlemen was passing. I heard by the noise they made, and the tenor of their speech, that they were more then mellow, and so I resolved to keep near them, in order, if possible, to make some of them my prey. But, just as one of them began to eye me, I was rudely thrust into a narrow close by one of the guardsmen. I had heard to what house the party was bound, for the men were talking exceedingly loud, and making no secret of it: so I hasted down the close, and round below to the one where their rendezvous was to be; but I was too late, they were all housed and the door bolted. I resolved to wait, thinking they could not all stay long; but I was perishing with famine, and was like to fall down. The moon shone as bright as day, and I perceived, by a sign at the bottom of the close, that there was a small tavern of a certain description up two stairs there. I went up and called, telling the mistress of the house my plan. She approved of it mainly, and offered me her best apartment, provided I could get one of these noble mates to accompany me. She abused Lucky Sudds, as she called her, at the inn where the party was, envying her huge profits, no doubt, and giving me afterwards something to drink for which I really felt exceedingly grateful in my need. I stepped downstairs in order to be on the alert. The moment that I reached the ground, the door of Lucky Sudds' house opened and shut, and down came the Honourable Thomas Drummond, with hasty and impassioned strides, his sword rattling at his heel. I accosted him in a soft and soothing tone. He was taken with my address; for he instantly stood still and gazed intently at me, then at the place, and then at me again. I beckoned him to follow me, which he did without further ceremony, and we soon found ourselves together in the best room of a house where everything was wretched. He still looked about him, and at me; but all this while he had never spoken a word. At length, I asked if he would take any refreshment? 'If you please,' said he. I asked what he would have, but he only answered, 'Whatever you choose, madam.' If he was taken with my address, I was much more taken with his; for he was a complete gentleman, and a gentleman will ever act as one. At length, he began as follows:
"'I am utterly at a loss to account for this adventure, madam. It seems to me like enchantment, and I can hardly believe my senses. An English lady, I judge, and one, who from her manner and address should belong to the first class of society, in such a place as this, is indeed matter of wonder to me. At the foot of a close in Edinburgh! and at this time of the night! Surely it must have been no common reverse of fortune that reduced you to this?' I wept, or pretended to do so; on which he added, 'Pray, madam, take heart. Tell me what has befallen you; and if I can do anything for you, in restoring you to your country or your friends, you shall command my interest.'
"I had great need of a friend then, and I thought now was the time to secure one. So I began and told him the moving tale I have told you. But I soon perceived that I had kept by the naked truth too unvarnishedly, and thereby quite overshot my mark. When he learned that he was sitting in a wretched corner of an irregular house, with a felon, who had so lately been scourged and banished as a swindler and impostor, his modest nature took the alarm, and he was shocked, instead of being moved with pity. His eye fixed on some of the casual stripes on my arm, and from that moment he became restless and impatient to be gone. I tried some gentle arts to retain him, but in vain; so, after paying both the landlady and me for pleasures he had neither tasted nor asked, he took his leave.
"I showed him downstairs; and, just as be turned the corner of the next land, a man came rushing violently by him; exchanged looks with him, and came running up to me. He appeared in great agitation, and was quite out of breath; and, taking my hand in his, we ran upstairs together without speaking, and were instantly in the apartment I had left, where a stoup of wine still stood untasted. 'Ah, this is fortunate!' said my new spark, and helped himself. In the meanwhile, as our apartment was a corner one, and looked both east and north, I ran to the eastern casement to look after Drummond. Now, note me well: I saw him going eastward in his tartans and bonnet, and the gilded hilt of his claymore glittering in the moon; and, at the very same time, I saw two men, the one in black, and the other likewise in tartans, coming towards the steps from the opposite bank, by the foot of the loch; and I saw Drummond and they eyeing each other as they passed. I kept view of him till he vanished towards Leith Wynd, and by that time the two strangers had come close up under our window. This is what I wish you to pay particular attention to. I had only lost sight of Drummond (who had given me his name and address) for the short space of time that we took in running up one pair of short stairs; and during that space he had halted a moment, for, when I got my eye on him again, he had not crossed the mouth of the next entry, nor proceeded above ten or twelve paces, and, at the same time, I saw the two men coming down the bank on the opposite side of the loch, at about three hundred paces' distance. Both he and they were distinctly in my view, and never within speech of each other, until he vanished into one of the wynds leading towards the bottom of the High Street, at which precise time the two strangers came below my window; so that it was quite dear he neither could be one of them nor have any communication with them.
"Yet, mark me again; for, of all things I have ever seen, this was the most singular. When I looked down at the two strangers, one of them was extremely like Drummond. So like was he that there was not one item in dress, form, feature, nor voice, by which I could distinguish the one from the other. I was certain it was not he, because I had seen the one going and the other approaching at the same time, and my impression at the moment was that I looked upon some spirit, or demon, in his likeness. I felt a chillness creep all round my heart, my knees tottered, and, withdrawing my head from the open casement that lay in the dark shade, I said to the man who was with me, 'Good God, what is this?'
"'What is it, my dear?' said he, as much alarmed as I was.
"'As I live, there stands an apparition!' said I.
"He was not so much afraid when he heard me say so, and, peeping cautiously out, he looked and listened awhile, and then, drawing back, he said in a whisper, 'They are both living men, and one of them is he I passed at the corner.'
"'That he is not,' said I, emphatically. 'To that I will make oath.'
"He smiled and shook his head, and then added, 'I never then saw a man before, whom I could not know again, particularly if he was the very last I had seen. But what matters it whether it be or not? As it is no concern of ours, let us sit down and enjoy ourselves.'
'But it does matter a very great deal with me, sir,' said I.'Bless me, my head is giddymy breath quite gone, and I feel as if I were surrounded with fiends. Who are you, sir?'
'You shall know that ere we two part, my love,' said he. 'I cannot conceive why the return of this young gentleman to the spot he so lately left should discompose you. I suppose he got a glance of you as he passed, and has returned to look after you, and that is the whole secret of the matter.'
"'If you will be so civil as to walk out and join him then, it will oblige me hugely,' said I, 'for I never in my life experienced such boding apprehensions of evil company. I cannot conceive how you should come up here without asking my permission. Will it please you to be gone, sir?' I was within an ace of prevailing. He took out his purseI need not say moreI was bribed to let him remain. Ah, had I kept my frail resolution of dismissing him at that moment, what a world of shame and misery had been evited! But that, though uppermost still in my mind, has nothing ado here.
"When I peeped over again, the two men were disputing in a whisper, the one of them in violent agitation and terror, and the other upbraiding him, and urging him on to some desperate act. At length I heard the young man in the Highland garb say indignantly, 'Hush, recreant! It is God's work which you are commissioned to execute, and it must be done. But, if you positively decline it, I will do it myself, and do you beware of the consequences.'
"'Oh, I will, I will!' cried the other in black clothes, in a wretched beseeching tone. 'You shall instruct me in this, as in all things else.'
"I thought all this while I was closely concealed from them, and wondered not a little when be in tartans gave me a sly nod, as much as to say, 'What do you think of this?' or, 'Take note of what you see,' or something to that effect; from which I perceived that, whatever he was about, he did not wish it to be kept a secret. For all that, I was impressed with a terror and anxiety that I could not overcome, but it only made me mark every event with the more intense curiosity. The Highlander, whom I still could not help regarding as the evil genius of Thomas Drummond, performed every action as with the quickness of thought. He concealed the youth in black in a narrow entry, a little to the westward of my windows, and, as he was leading him across the moonlight green by the shoulder, I perceived, for the first time, that both of them were armed with rapiers. He pushed him without resistance into the dark shaded close, made another signal to me, and hasted up the close to Lucky Sudds' door. The city and the morning were so still that I heard every word that was uttered, on putting my head out a little. He knocked at the door sharply, and, after waiting a considerable space, the bolt was drawn, and the door, as I conceived, edged up as far as the massy chain would let it. 'Is young Dalcastle still in the house?' said he sharply.
"I did not hear the answer, but I heard him say, shortly after, 'If he is, pray tell him to speak with me for a few minutes.' He then withdrew from the door, and came slowly down the close, in a lingering manner, looking oft behind him. Dalcastle came out; advanced a few steps after him, and then stood still, as if hesitating whether or not he should call out a friend to accompany him; and that instant the door behind him was closed, chained, and the iron bolt drawn; on hearing of which, he followed his adversary without further hesitation. As he passed below my window, I heard him say, 'I beseech you, Tom, let us do nothing in this matter rashly'; but I could not hear the answer of the other, who had turned the corner.
"I roused up my drowsy companion, who was leaning on the bed, and we both looked together from the north window. We were in the shade, but the moon shone full on the two young gentlemen. Young Dalcastle was visibly the worse of liquor, and, his back being turned towards us, he said something to the other which I could not make out, although he spoke a considerable time, and, from his tones and gestures, appeared to be reasoning.
"When he had done, the tall young man in the tartans drew his sword, and, his face being straight to us, we heard him say distinctly, 'No more words about it, George, if you please; but if you be a man, as I take you to be, draw your sword, and let us settle it here.'
"Dalcastle drew his sword, without changing his attitude; buthe spoke with more warmth, for we heard his words, 'Think youthat I fear you, Tom? Be assured, Sir, I would not fear ten of thebest of your name, at each other's backs: all that I want is to havefriends with us to see fair play, for, if you close with me, you are a dead man.'
"The other stormed at these words. 'You are a braggart, Sir,'cried he, 'a wretcha blot on the cheek of naturea blight onthe Christian worlda reprobateI'll have your soul, Sir. Youmust play at tennis, and put down elect brethren in another worldto-morrow.' As he said this, he brandished his rapier, excitingDalcastle to offence. He gained his point. The latter, who hadpreviously drawn, advanced upon his vapouring and licentiousantagonist, and a fierce combat ensued. My companion wasdelighted beyond measure, and I could not keep him from exclaiming, loud enough to have been heard, 'That's grand! That'sexcellent!' For me, my heart quaked like an aspen. Young Dalcastle either had a decided advantage over his adversary, or else the other thought proper to let him have it; for he shifted, andswore, and flitted from Dalcastle's thrusts like a shadow, utteringofttimes a sarcastic laugh, that seemed to provoke the other beyond all bearing. At one time, he would spring away to a great distance, then advance again on young Dalcastle with the swiftness of lightning. But that young hero always stood his ground, and repelled the attack: he never gave way, although they fought nearly twice round the bleaching green, which you know is not a very small one. At length they fought close up to the mouth of the dark entry, where the fellow in black stood all this while concealed, and then the combatant in tartans closed with his antagonist, or pretended to do so; but, the moment they began to grapple, he wheeled about, turning Colwan's back towards the entry, and then cried out, 'Ah, hell has it! My friend, my friend!'
"That moment the fellow in black rushed from his cover with his drawn rapier, and gave the brave young Dalcastle two deadly wounds in the back, as quick as arm could thrust, both of which I thought pierced through his body. He fell, and, rolling himself on his back, he perceived who it was that had slain him thus foully, and said, with a dying emphasis, which I never heard equalled, 'oh, dog of hell, it is you who has done this!'
"He articulated some more, which I could not hear for other sounds; for, the moment that the man in black inflicted the deadly wound, my companion called out, 'That's unfair, you rip! That's damnable! to strike a brave fellow behind! One at a time, you cowards!' etc., to all which the unnatural fiend in the tartans answered with a loud exulting laugh; and then, taking the poor paralysed murderer by the bow of the arm, be hurried him in the dark entry once more, where I lost sight of them for ever."
Before this time Mrs. Logan had risen up; and, when the narrator had finished, she was standing with her arms stretched upwards at their full length, and her visage turned down, on which were portrayed the lines of the most absolute horror. "The dark suspicions of my late benefactor have been just, and his last prediction is fulfilled," cried she. "The murderer of the accomplished George Colwan has been his own brother, set on, there is little doubt, by her who bare them both, and her directing angel, the self-justified bigot. Aye, and yonder they sit, enjoying the luxuries so dearly purchased, with perfect impunity! If the Almighty do not hurl them down, blasted with shame and confusion, there is no hope of retribution in this life. And, by His might, I will be the agent to accomplish it! Why did the man not pursue the foul murderers? Why did he not raise the alarm, and call the watch?"
"He? The wretch! He durst not move from the shelter he had obtained. No, not for the soul of him. He was pursued for his life, at the moment when he first flew into my arms. But I did not know it; no, I did not then know him. May the curse of heaven, and the blight of hell, settle on the detestable wretch! He pursue for the sake of justice! No; his efforts have all been for evil, but never for good. But I raised the alarm; miserable and degraded as I was, I pursued and raised the watch myself Have you not heard the name of Bell Calvert coupled with that hideous and mysterious affair?"
"Yes, I have. In secret often I have heard it. But how came it that you could never be found? How came it that you never appeared in defence of the Honourable Thomas Drummond; you, the only person who could have justified him?"
"I could not, for I then fell under the power and guidance of a wretch who durst not for the soul of him be brought forward in the affair. And, what was worse, his evidence would have overborne mine, for he would have sworn that the man who called out and fought Colwan was the same he met leaving my apartment, and there was an end of it. And, moreover, it is well known that this same manthis wretch of whom I speak, never mistook one man for another in his life, which makes the mystery of the likeness between this incendiary and Drummond the more extraordinary."
"If it was Drummond, after all that you have asserted, then are my surmises still wrong."
"There is nothing of which I can be more certain than that it was not Drummond. We have nothing on earth but our senses to depend upon. if these deceive us, what are we to do? I own I cannot account for it; nor ever shall be able to account for it as long as I live."
"Could you know the man in black, if you saw him again?"
"I think I could, if I saw him walk or run: his gait was very particular. He walked as if he had been flat-soled, and his legs made of steel, without any joints in his feet or ankles."
"The very same! The very same! The very same! Pray will you take a few days' journey into the country with me, to look at such a man?"
"You have preserved my life, and for you I will do anything. I will accompany you with pleasure: and I think I can say that I will know him, for his form left an impression on my heart not soon to be effaced. But of this I am sure that my unworthy companion will recognize him, and that he will be able to swear to his identity every day as long as he lives."
"Where is he? Where is he? Oh! Mrs. Calvert, where is he?"
"Where is he? He is the wretch whom you heard giving me up to the death; who, after experiencing every mark of affection that a poor ruined being could confer, and after committing a thousand atrocities of which she was ignorant, became an informer to save his diabolical life, and attempted to offer up mine as a sacrifice for all. We will go by ourselves first, and I will tell you if it is necessary to send any farther."
The two dames, the very next morning, dressed themselves like country goodwives, and, hiring two stout ponies furnished with pillions, they took their journey westward, and the second evening after leaving Edinburgh they arrived at the village about two miles below Dalcastle, where they alighted. But Mrs. Logan, being anxious to have Mrs. Calvert's judgment, without either hint or preparation, took care not to mention that they were so near to the end of their journey. In conformity with this plan, she said, after they had sat a while: "Heigh-ho, but I am weary! What, suppose we should rest a day here before we proceed farther on our journey?"
Mrs. Calvert was leaning on the casement and looking out when her companion addressed these words to her, and by far too much engaged to return any answer, for her eyes were riveted on two young men who approached from the farther end of the village; and at length, turning round her head, she said, with the most intense interest, "Proceed farther on our journey, did you say? That we need not do; for, as I live, here comes the very man!"
Mrs. Logan ran to the window, and, behold, there was indeed Robert Wringhim Colwan (now the Laird of Dalcastle) coming forward almost below their window, walking arm in arm with another young man; and, as the two passed, the latter looked up and made a sly signal to the two dames, biting his lip, winking with his left eye, and nodding his head. Mrs. Calvert was astonished at this recognizance, the young man's former companion having made exactly such another signal on the night of the duel, by the light of the moon; and it struck her, moreover, that she had somewhere seen this young man's face before. She looked after him, and he winked over his shoulder to her; but she was prevented from returning his salute by her companion, who uttered a loud cry, between a groan and shriek, and fell down on the floor with a rumble like a wall that had suddenly been undermined. She had fainted quite away, and required all her companion's attention during the remainder of the evening, for she had scarcely ever well recovered out of one fit before she fell into another, and in the short intervals she raved like one distracted or in a dream. After falling into a sound sleep by night. she recovered her equanimity, and the two began to converse seriously on what they had seen. Mrs. Calvert averred that the young man who passed next to the window was the very man who stabbed George Colwan in the back, and she said she was willing to take her oath on it at any time when required, and was certain, if the wretch Ridsley saw him, that he would make oath to the same purport, for that his walk was so peculiar no one of common discernment could mistake it.
Mrs. Logan was in great agitation, and said: "It is what I have suspected all along, and what I am sure my late master and benefactor was persuaded of, and the horror of such an idea cut short his days. That wretch, Mrs. Calvert, is the born brother of him he murdered, sons of the same mother they were, whether or not of the same father, the Lord only knows. But, Oh, Mrs. Calvert, that is not the main thing that has discomposed me, and shaken my nerves to pieces at this time. Who do you think the young man was who walked in his company to-night?"
"I cannot for my life recollect, but am convinced I have seen the same fine form and face before."
"And did not he seem to know us, Mrs. Calvert? You who are able to recollect things as they happened, did he not seem to recollect us, and make signs to that effect?"
"He did, indeed, and apparently with great good humour."
"Oh, Mrs Calvert, hold me, else I shall fall into hysterics again! Who is he? Who is he? Tell me who you suppose he is, for I cannot say my own thought."
"On my life, I cannot remember."
"Did you note the appearance of the young gentleman you saw slain that night? Do you recollect aught of the appearance of my young master, George Colwan?"
Mrs. Calvert sat silent, and stared the other mildly in the face. Their looks encountered, and there was an unearthly amazement that gleamed from each, which, meeting together, caught real fire, and returned the flame to their heated imaginations, till the two associates became like two statues, with their hands spread, their eyes fixed, and their chops fallen down upon their bosoms. An old woman who kept the lodging-house, having been called in before when Mrs. Logan was faintish, chanced to enter at this crisis with some cordial; and, seeing the state of her lodgers, she caught the infection, and fell into the same rigid and statue-like appearance. No scene more striking was ever exhibited; and if Mrs. Calvert had not resumed strength of mind to speak, and break the spell, it is impossible to say how long it might have continued. "It is he, I believe," said she, uttering the words as it were inwardly. "It can be none other but he. But, no, it is impossible! I saw him stabbed through and through the heart; I saw him roll backward on the green in his own blood, utter his last words, and groan away his soul. Yet, if it is not he, who can it be?"
"It is he!" cried Mrs. Logan, hysterically.
"Yes, yes, it is he!" cried the landlady, in unison.
"It is who?" said Mrs. Calvert. "Whom do you mean, mistress?"
"Oh, I don't know! I don't know! I was affrighted."
"Hold your peace then till you recover your senses, and tell me, if you can, who that young gentleman is who keeps company with the new Laird of Dalcastle?"
"Oh, it is he! It is he!" screamed Mrs. Logan, wringing her hands.
"Oh, it is he! It is he!" cried the landlady, wringing hers.
Mrs. Calvert turned the latter gently and civilly out of the apartment, observing that there seemed to be some infection in the air of the room, and she would be wise for herself to keep out of it.
The two dames had a restless and hideous night. Sleep came not to their relief, for their conversation was wholly about the dead, who seemed to be alive, and their minds were wandering and groping in a chaos of mystery. "Did you attend to his corpse, and know that he positively died and was buried?" said Mrs. Calvert.
"Oh, yes, from the moment that his fair but mangled corpse was brought home, I attended it till that when it was screwed in the coffin. I washed the long stripes of blood from his lifeless form, on both sides of the body. I bathed the livid wound that passed through his generous and gentle heart. There was one through the flesh of his left side too, which had bled most outwardly of them all. I bathed them, and bandaged them up with wax and perfumed ointment, but still the blood oozed through all, so that when he was laid in the coffin he was like one newly murdered. My brave, my generous young master. He was always as a son to me, and no son was ever more kind or more respectful to a mother. But he was butcheredhe was cut off from the earth ere he had well reached to manhoodmost barbarously and unfairly slain. And how is it, how can it be, that we again see him here, walking arm in arm with his murderer?"
"The thing cannot be, Mrs. Logan. It is a phantasy of our disturbed imaginations, therefore let us compose ourselves till we investigate this matter farther."
"It cannot be in nature, that is quite clear," said Mrs. Logan. "Yet how it should be that I should think soI who knew and nursed him from his infancythere lies the paradox. As you said once before, we have nothing but our senses to depend on, and, if you and I believe that we see a person, why, we do see him. Whose word, or whose reasoning can convince us against our own senses? We will disguise ourselves as poor women selling a few country wares, and we will go up to the Hall, and see what is to see, and hear what we can hear, for this is a weighty business in which we are engaged, namely, to turn the vengeance of the law upon an unnatural monster; and we will further learn, if we can, who this is that accompanies him."
Mrs. Calvert acquiesced, and the two dames took their way to Dalcastle, with baskets well furnished with trifles. They did not take the common path from the village, but went about, and approached the mansion by a different way. But it seemed as if some overruling power ordered it that they should miss no chance of attaining the information they wanted. For ere ever they came within half a mile of Dalcastle they perceived the two youths coming as to meet them, on the same path. The road leading from Dalcastle towards the north-east, as all the country knows, goes along a dark bank of brush-wood called the Bogle-heuch. It was by this track that the two women were going, and, when they perceived the two gentlemen meeting them, they turned back, and, the moment they were out of their sight, they concealed themselves in a thicket close by the road. They did this because Mrs. Logan was terrified for being discovered, and because they wished to reconnoitre without being seen. Mrs. Calvert now charged her, whatever she saw, or whatever she heard, to put on a resolution, and support it, for if she fainted there and was discovered, what was to become of her!
The two young men came on, in earnest and vehement conversation; but the subject they were on was a terrible one, and hardly fit to be repeated in the face of a Christian community. Wringhim was disputing the boundlessness of the true Christian's freedom, and expressing doubts that, chosen as he knew he was from all eternity, still it might be possible for him to commit acts that would exclude him from the limits of the covenant. The other argued, with mighty fluency, that the thing was utterly impossible, and altogether inconsistent with eternal predestination. The arguments of the latter prevailed, and the laird was driven to sullen silence. But, to the women's utter surprise, as the conquering disputant passed, he made a signal of recognizance through the brambles to them, as formerly, and, that he might expose his associate fully, and in his true colours, he led him back, wards and forwards by the women more than twenty times, making him to confess both the crimes that he had done and those he had in contemplation. At length he said to him: "Assuredly I saw some strolling vagrant women on this walk, my dear friend: I wish we could find them, for there is little doubt that they are concealed here in your woods."
"I wish we could find them," answered Wringhim. "We would have fine sport maltreating and abusing them."
"That we should, that we should! Now tell me, Robert, if you found a malevolent woman, the latent enemy of your prosperity, lurking in these woods to betray you, what would you inflict on her?"
"I would tear her to pieces with my dogs, and feed them with her flesh. Oh, my dear friend, there is an old strumpet who lived with my unnatural father, whom I hold in such utter detestation that I stand constantly in dread of her, and would sacrifice the half of my estate to shed her blood!"
"What will you give me if I will put her in your power, and give you a fair and genuine excuse for making away with her; one for which you shall answer at the bar, here or hereafter?"
"I should like to see the vile hag put down. She is in possession of the family plate, that is mine by right, as well as a thousand valuable relics, and great riches besides, all of which the old profligate gifted shamefully away. And it is said, besides all these, that she has sworn my destruction."
"She has, she has. But I see not how she can accomplish that, seeing the deed was done so suddenly, and in the silence of the night."
"It was said there were some onlookers. But where shall we find that disgraceful Miss Logan?"
"I will show you her by and by. But will you then consent to the other meritorious deed? Come, be a man, and throw away scruples."
"If you can convince me that the promise is binding I will."
"Then step this way, till I give you a piece of information."
They walked a little way out of hearing, but went not out of sight; therefore, though the women were in a terrible quandary, they durst not stir, for they had some hopes that this extraordinary person was on a mission of the same sort with themselves, knew of them, and was going to make use of their testimony. Mrs. Logan was several times on the point of falling into a swoon, so much did the appearance of the young man impress her, until her associate covered her face that she might listen without embarrassment. But this latter dialogue roused different feelings within them; namely, those arising from imminent personal danger. They saw his waggish associate point out the place of their concealment to Wringhim, who came towards them, out of curiosity to see what his friend meant by what he believed to be a joke, manifestly without crediting it in the least degree. When he came running away, the other called after him: "If she is too hard for you, call to me." As he said this, he hasted out of sight, in the contrary direction, apparently much delighted with the joke.
Wringhim came rushing through the thicket impetuously, to the very spot where Mrs. Logan lay squatted. She held the wrapping close about her head, but he tore it off and discovered her. "The curse of God be on thee!" said he. "What fiend has brought thee here, and for what purpose art thou come? But, whatever has brought thee, I have thee!" and with that he seized her by the throat. The two women, when they heard what jeopardy they were in from such a wretch, had squatted among the underwood at a small distance from each other, so that he had never observed Mrs. Calvert; but, no sooner had he seized her benefactor, than, like a wild cat, she sprung out of the thicket, and had both hands fixed at his throat, one of them twisted in his stock, in a twinkling. She brought him back-over among the brushwood, and the two, fixing on him like two harpies, mastered him with case. Then indeed was he woefully beset. He deemed for a while that his friend was at his back, and, turning his bloodshot eyes towards the path, he attempted to call; but there was no friend there, and the women cut short his cries by another twist of his stock. "Now, gallant and rightful Laird of Dalcastle," said Mrs. Logan, "what hast thou to say for thyself? Lay thy account to dree the weird thou hast so well earned. Now shalt thou suffer due penance for murdering thy brave and only brother."
"Thou liest, thou hag of the pit! I touched not my brother's life."
"I saw thee do it with these eyes that now look thee in the face; ay, when his back was to thee, too, and while he was hotly engaged with thy friend," said Mrs. Calvert.
"I heard thee confess it again and again this same hour," said Mrs. Logan.
"Ay, and so did I," said her companion. "Murder will out, though the Almighty should lend hearing to the ears of the willow, and speech to the seven tongues of the woodriff."
"You are liars and witches!" said he, foaming with rage, "and creatures fitted from the beginning for eternal destruction. I'll have your bones and your blood sacrificed on your cursed altars! O Gil-Martin! Gil-Martin! Where art thou now? Here, here is the proper food for blessed vengeance! Hilloa!"
There was no friend, no Gil-Martin there to hear or assist him: he was in the two women's mercy, but they used it with moderation. They mocked, they tormented, and they threatened him; but, finally, after putting him in great terror, they bound his hands behind his back, and his feet fast with long straps of garters which they chanced to have in their baskets, to prevent him from pursuing them till they were out of his reach. As they left him, which they did in the middle of the path, Mrs. Calvert said: "We could easily put an end to thy sinful life, but our hands shall be free of thy blood. Nevertheless thou art still in our power, and the vengeance of thy country shall overtake thee, thou mean and cowardly murderer, ay, and that more suddenly than thou art aware!"
The women posted to Edinburgh; and as they put themselves under the protection of an English merchant, who was journeying thither with twenty horses laden, and armed servants, so they had scarcely any conversation on the road. When they arrived at Mrs. Logan's house, then they spoke of what they had seen and heard, and agreed that they had sufficient proof to condemn young Wringhim, who they thought richly deserved the severest doom of the law.
"I never in my life saw any human being," said Mrs. Calvert, whom I thought so like a fiend. If a demon could inherit flesh and blood, that youth is precisely such a being as I could conceive that demon to be. The depth and the malignity of his eye is hideous. His breath is like the airs from a charnel house, and his flesh seems fading from his bones, as if the worm that never dies were gnawing it away already."
"He was always repulsive, and every way repulsive," said the other, "but be is now indeed altered greatly to the worse. While we were hand-fasting him, I felt his body to be feeble and emaciated; but yet I know him to be so puffed up with spiritual pride that I believe he weens every one of his actions justified before God, and, instead of having stings of conscience for these, he takes great merit to himself in having effected them. Still my thoughts are less about him than the extraordinary being who accompanies him. He does everything with so much ease and indifference, so much velocity and effect, that all bespeak him an adept in wickedness. The likeness to my late hapless young master is so striking that I can hardly believe it to be a chance model; and I think he imitates him in everything, for some purpose or some effect on his sinful associate. Do you know that he is so like in every lineament, look, and gesture, that, against the, clearest light of reason, I cannot in my mind separate the one from the other, and have a certain indefinable expression on my mind that they are one and the same being, or that the one was a prototype of the other."
"If there is an earthly crime," said Mrs. Calvert, "for the due punishment of which the Almighty may be supposed to subvert the order of nature, it is fratricide. But tell me, dear friend, did you remark to what the subtile and hellish villain was endeavouring to prompt the assassin?"
"No, I could not comprehend it. My senses were altogether so bewildered that I thought they had combined to deceive me, and I gave them no credit."
"Then bear me: I am almost certain he was using every persuasion to induce him to make away with his mother; and I likewise conceive that I heard the incendiary give his consent!"
"This is dreadful. Let us speak and think no more about it, till we see the issue. In the meantime, let us do that which is our bounden dutygo and divulge all that we know relating to this foul murder."
Accordingly the two women went to Sir Thomas Wallace of Craigie, the Lord justice Clerk (who was, I think, either uncle or grandfather to young Drummond, who was outlawed and obliged to fly his country on account of Colwan's death), and to that gentleman they related every circumstance of what they had seen and heard. He examined Calvert very minutely, and seemed deeply interested in her evidencesaid he knew she was relating the truth, and, in testimony of it, brought a letter of young Drummond's from his desk, wherein that young gentleman, after protesting his innocence in the most forcible terms, confessed having been with such a woman in such a house, after leaving the company of his friends; and that, on going home, Sir Thomas's servant had let him in, in the dark, and from these circumstances he found it impossible to prove an alibi. He begged of his relative, if ever an opportunity offered, to do his endeavour to clear up that mystery, and remove the horrid stigma from his name in his country, and among his kin, of having stabbed a friend behind his back.
Lord Craigie, therefore, directed the two women to the proper authorities, and, after hearing their evidence there, it was judged proper to apprehend the present Laird of Dalcastle, and bring him to his trial. But, before that, they sent the prisoner in the Tolbooth, he who had seen the whole transaction along with Mrs. Calvert, to take a view of Wringhim privately; and, his discrimination being so well known as to be proverbial all over the land, they determined secretly to be ruled by his report. They accordingly sent him on a pretended mission of legality to Dalcastle, with orders to see and speak with the proprietor, without giving him a hint what was wanted. On his return, they examined him, and he told them that he found all things at the place in utter confusion and dismay; that the lady of the place was missing, and could not be found, dead or alive. On being asked if he had ever seen the proprietor before, he looked astounded and unwilling to answer. But it came out that he had; and that he had once seen him kill a man on such a spot at such an hour.
Officers were then dispatched, without delay, to apprehend the monster, and bring him to justice. On these going to the mansion, and inquiring for him, they were told he was at home; on which they stationed guards, and searched all the premises, but he was not to be found. It was in vain that they overturned beds, raised floors, and broke open closets: Robert Wringhim Colwan was lost once and for ever. His mother also was lost; and strong suspicions attached to some of the farmers and house servants to whom she was obnoxious, relating to her disappearance.
The Honourable Thomas Drummond became a distinguished officer in the Austrian service, and died in the memorable year for Scotland, 1715; and this is all with which history, justiciary records, and tradition, furnish me relating to these matters.
I have now the pleasure of presenting my readers with an original document of a most singular nature, and preserved for their perusal in a still more singular manner. I offer no remarks on it, and make as few additions to it, leaving everyone to judge for himself. We have heard much of the rage of fanaticism in former days, but nothing to this.