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- Guy Mannering, Vol. II - 1/53 -
BY SIR WALTER SCOTT
A man may see how this world goes with no eyes. Look with thine ears. See how yon justice rails upon yon simple thief. Hark in thine ear: Change places; and, handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief?
Among those who took the most lively interest in endeavouring to discover the person by whom young Charles Hazlewood had been waylaid and wounded was Gilbert Glossin, Esquire, late writer in ----, now Laird of Ellangowan, and one of the worshipful commission of justices of the peace for the county of----. His motives for exertion on this occasion were manifold; but we presume that our readers, from what they already know of this gentleman, will acquit him of being actuated by any zealous or intemperate love of abstract justice.
The truth was, that this respectable personage felt himself less at ease than he had expected, after his machinations put him in possession of his benefactor's estate. His reflections within doors, where so much occurred to remind him of former times, were not always the self-congratulations of successful stratagem. And when he looked abroad he could not but be sensible that he was excluded from the society of the gentry of the county, to whose rank he conceived he had raised himself. He was not admitted to their clubs, and at meetings of a public nature, from which he could not be altogether excluded, he found himself thwarted and looked upon with coldness and contempt. Both principle and prejudice cooperated in creating this dislike; for the gentlemen of the county despised him for the lowness of his birth, while they hated him for the means by which he had raised his fortune. With the common people his reputation stood still worse. They would neither yield him the territorial appellation of Ellangowan nor the usual compliment of Mr. Glossin: with them he was bare Glossin; and so incredibly was his vanity interested by this trifling circumstance, that he was known to give half-a-crown to a beggar because he had thrice called him Ellangowan in beseeching him for a penny. He therefore felt acutely the general want of respect, and particularly when he contrasted his own character and reception in society with those of Mr. Mac-Morlan, who, in far inferior worldly circumstances, was beloved and respected both by rich and poor, and was slowly but securely laying the foundation of a moderate fortune, with the general good-will and esteem of all who knew him.
Glossin, while he repined internally at what he would fain have called the prejudices and prepossessions of the country, was too wise to make any open complaint. He was sensible his elevation was too recent to be immediately forgotten, and the means by which he had attained it too odious to be soon forgiven. But time, thought he, diminishes wonder and palliates misconduct. With the dexterity, therefore, of one who made his fortune by studying the weak points of human nature, he determined to lie by for opportunities to make himself useful even to those who most disliked him; trusting that his own abilities, the disposition of country gentlemen to get into quarrels, when a lawyer's advice becomes precious, and a thousand other contingencies, of which, with patience and address, he doubted not to be able to avail himself, would soon place him in a more important and respectable light to his neighbours, and perhaps raise him to the eminence sometimes attained by a shrewd, worldly, bustling man of business, when, settled among a generation of country gentlemen, he becomes, in Burns's language,
The tongue of the trump to them a'.
The attack on Colonel Mannering's house, followed by the accident of Hazlewood's wound, appeared to Glossin a proper opportunity to impress upon the country at large the service which could be rendered by an active magistrate (for he had been in the commission for some time), well acquainted with the law, and no less so with the haunts and habits of the illicit traders. He had acquired the latter kind of experience by a former close alliance with some of the most desperate smugglers, in consequence of which he had occasionally acted, sometimes as a partner, sometimes as legal adviser, with these persons, But the connexion had been dropped many years; nor, considering how short the race of eminent characters of this description, and the frequent circumstances occur to make them retire from particular scenes of action, had he the least reason to think that his present researches could possibly compromise any old friend who might possess means of retaliation. The having been concerned in these practices abstractedly was a circumstance which, according to his opinion, ought in no respect to interfere with his now using his experience in behalf of the public, or rather to further his own private views. To acquire the good opinion and countenance of Colonel Mannering would be no small object to a gentleman who was much disposed to escape from Coventry, and to gain the favour of old Hazlewood, who was a leading man in the county, was of more importance still. Lastly, if he should succeed in discovering, apprehending, and convicting the culprits, he would have the satisfaction of mortifying, and in some degree disparaging, Mac- Morlan, to whom, as sheriff-substitute of the county, this sort of investigation properly belonged, and who would certainly suffer in public opinion should the voluntary exertions of Glossin be more successful than his own.
Actuated by motives so stimulating, and well acquainted with the lower retainers of the law, Glossin set every spring in motion to detect and apprehend, if possible, some of the gang who had attacked Woodbourne, and more particularly the individual who had wounded Charles Hazlewood. He promised high rewards, he suggested various schemes, and used his personal interest among his old acquaintances who favoured the trade, urging that they had better make sacrifice of an understrapper or two than incur the odium of having favoured such atrocious proceedings. But for some time all these exertions were in vain. The common people of the country either favoured or feared the smugglers too much to afford any evidence against them. At length this busy magistrate obtained information that a man, having the dress and appearance of the person who had wounded Hazlewood, had lodged on the evening before the rencontre at the Gordon Arms in Kippletringan. Thither Mr. Glossin immediately went, for the purpose of interrogating our old acquaintance Mrs. Mac-Candlish.
The reader may remember that Mr. Glossin did not, according to this good woman's phrase, stand high in her books. She therefore attended his summons to the parlour slowly and reluctantly, and, on entering the room, paid her respects in the coldest possible manner. The dialogue then proceeded as follows:--
'A fine frosty morning, Mrs. Mac-Candlish.'
'Ay, sir; the morning's weel eneugh,' answered the landlady, drily.
'Mrs. Mac-Candlish, I wish to know if the justices are to dine here as usual after the business of the court on Tuesday?'
'I believe--I fancy sae, sir--as usual' (about to leave the room).
'Stay a moment, Mrs. Mac-Candlish; why, you are in a prodigious hurry, my good friend! I have been thinking a club dining here once a month would be a very pleasant thing.'
'Certainly, sir; a club of RESPECTABLE gentlemen.'
'True, true,' said Glossin, 'I mean landed proprietors and gentlemen of weight in the county; and I should like to set such a thing a-going.'
The short dry cough with which Mrs. Mac-Candlish received this proposal by no means indicated any dislike to the overture abstractedly considered, but inferred much doubt how far it would succeed under the auspices of the gentleman by whom it was proposed. It was not a cough negative, but a cough dubious, and as such Glossin felt it; but it was not his cue to take offence.
'Have there been brisk doings on the road, Mrs. Mac-Candlish? Plenty of company, I suppose?'
'Pretty weel, sir,--but I believe I am wanted at the bar.'
'No, no; stop one moment, cannot you, to oblige an old customer? Pray, do you remember a remarkably tall young man who lodged one night in your house last week?'
'Troth, sir, I canna weel say; I never take heed whether my company be lang or short, if they make a lang bill.'
'And if they do not, you can do that for them, eh, Mrs. Mac- Candlish? ha, ha, ha! But this young man that I inquire after was upwards of six feet high, had a dark frock, with metal buttons, light-brown hair unpowdered, blue eyes, and a straight nose, travelled on foot, had no servant or baggage; you surely can remember having seen such a traveller?'
'Indeed, sir,' answered Mrs. Mac-Candlish, bent on baffling his inquiries, 'I canna charge my memory about the matter; there's mair to do in a house like this, I trow, than to look after passengers' hair, or their een, or noses either.'
'Then, Mrs. Mac-Candlish, I must tell you in plain terms that this person is suspected of having been guilty of a crime; and it is in consequence of these suspicions that I, as a magistrate, require this information from you; and if you refuse to answer my questions, I must put you upon your oath.'
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