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it was exalted when he was exhorted to pronounce more distinctly,– all added fresh subject for mirth to the torn cloak and shattered shoe, which have afforded legitimate subjects of raillery against the poor scholar, from Juvenal's time downward. It was never known that Sampson either exhibited irritability at this ill usage, or made the least attempt to retort upon his tormentors. He slunk from college by the most secret paths he could discover, and plunged himself into his miserable lodging, where, for eighteen-pence a week, he was allowed the benefit of a straw mattress, and, if his landlady was in good humor, permission to study his task by her fire. Under all these disadvantages, he obtained a competent knowledge of Greek and Latin, and some acquaintance with the sciences.
In progress of time, Abel Sampson, probationer of divinity, was admitted to the privileges of a preacher. But, alas! partly from his own bashfulness, partly owing to a strong and obvious disposition to risibility, which pervaded the congregation upon his first attempt, he became totally incapable of proceeding in his intended discourse-gasped, grinned hideously, rolled his eyes till the congregation thought them flying out of his head-shut the Bible-stumbled down the pulpitstairs, trampling upon the old women who generally take their station there,-and was ever after designated as a stickit? minister.” And thus he wandered back to his own country, with blighted hopes and prospects, to share the poverty of his parents. As he had neither friend nor confidant, hardly even an acquaintance, no one had the means of observing closely how Dominie Sampson bore a disappointment which supplied the whole town with a week's sport. To all appearance, the equanimity of Sampson was unshaken. He sought to assist his parents by teaching a school, and soon had plenty of scholars, but very few fees. In fact, he taught the sons of farmers for what they chose to give him, and the poor for nothing; aud, to the shame of the former be it spoken, the pedagogue's gains never equalled those of a skilful ploughman. He wrote, however, a good hand, and added something to his pittance by copying accounts and writing letters for Ellangowan.
Now it must be confessed that our friend Sampson, although a profound scholar and mathematician, had not travelled so far in philosophy as to doubt the reality of witchcraft or apparitions. Born, indeed, at a time when a doubt in the existence of witches was interpreted as equivalent to a justification of their infernal practices, a belief of such legends had been impressed upon the Dominie as an article indivisible from his religious faith; and perhaps it would have been equally difficult to have induced him to doubt the one as the other. With these feelings, and in a thick, misty day, which was already drawing to its close, Dominie Sampson did not pass the Kairn of Derncleugh without some feelings of tacit horror.
1 A noted Roman Satirist.
What, then, was his astonishment, when, on passing the door-that door which was supposed to have been placed there by one of the later Lairds of Ellangowan to prevent presumptuous strangers from incurring the dangers of the haunted vault—that door supposed to be always locked, and the key of which was popularly said to be deposited with the presbytery—that door, that very door opened suddenly, and the figure of Meg Merrilies, well known, though not seen for many a revolving year, was placed at once before the eyes of the startled Dominie! She stood immediately before him in the foot-path, confronting him so absolutely that he could not avoid her except by fairly turning back, which his manhood prevented him from thinking of.
“I kenn'di ye wad ? be here,” she said with her harsh and hollow voice; “I ken wha' ye seek, but ye maun* do my bidding.”
Get thee behind me!” said the alarmed Dominie—“Avoid ye!Conjuro te scelestissima-iniquissima,atque miserrima–Conjuro te !!! 5
Meg stood her ground against this tremendous volley of superlatives, which Sampson hawked up from the pit of his stomach, and hurled at her in thunder. “Is the carl daft,” 6 she said, “wi' his glamour?” ?
" Conjuro,” continued the Dominie, “abjuro,8 contestor 8.
“What, in the name of Sathan, are ye feared for, wi' your French gibberish that would make a dog sick? Listen, ye stickit stibbler, 10 to what I tell ye, or ye sall ruell it while there's a limb o' ye hings to anither! Tell Colonel Mannering that I ken he's seeking me.
He kens, and I ken, that the blood will be wiped out, and the lost will be found,
And Bertram's right and Bertram's might
Hae, there's a letter to him; I was gaunla to send it in another way.-I canna write mysell; but I haels them that will baith write and read, and ride and rin for me. Tell him the time’s coming now and the weird's dreed 14
1 Knew. Would.
3 Who. 4 Must. 5 I adjure thee thou most accursed, spiteful, and wretched one, I adjure thee. 6 Man foolish. Spell. I swear and attest. 9 Inarticulate babble.
12 Going 10 Good-for-nothing minister.
11 Shall repent. 13 Have. 14 Fate is accomplished.
and the wheel's turning. Bid him look at the stars, as he has looked at them before.— Will ye mind a' this?" Assuredly,” said the Dominie, “I am dubious—for, woman,
I am perturbed at thy words, and my flesh quakes to hear thee.”
“They'll do you nael ill though, and may be muckle gude.” ? “Avoid ye! I desire no good that comes by unlawful means.
“Fule-body that thou art!” said Meg, stepping up to him with a frown of indignation that made her dark eyes flash like lamps from under her bent brows—“ Fule-body! If I meant ye wrang, couldna I clod 3 ye over that craig, and wad man ken how ye cam by your end mair than Frank Kennedy? Hear ye that, ye worricow ?” 4
“In the name of all that is good,” said the Dominie, recoiling, and pointing his long pewter-headed walking-cane like a javelin at the supposed sorceress, —" in the name of all that is good, bides off hands! I will not be handled—woman, stand off, upon thine own proper perilldesist, I say—I am strong-lo, I will resist!" Here his speech was cut short; for Meg, armed with supernatural strength, (as the Dominie asserted) broke in upon his guard, put by a thrust which he made at her with his cane, and lifted him into the vault, as easily,” said he, could sway a Kitchen's Atlas.”
“Sit down there,” she said, pushing the half-throttled preacher with some violence against a broken chair—“sit down there, and gather your wind and your senses, ye black barrow-trame of the Kirk? that ye are! Are ye fous or fasting ?”.
Fasting—from all but sin,” answered the Dominie, who, recovering his voice, and finding his exorcisms only served to exasperate the intractable sorceress, thought it best to affect complaisance and submission, inwardly conning over, however, the wholesome conjurations which he durst no longer utter aloud. But as the Dominie's brain was by no means equal to carry on two trains of ideas at the same time, a word or two of his mental exercise sometimes escaped, and mingled with his uttered speech in a manner ludicrous enough, especially as the poor man shrunk himself together after every escape of the kind, from terror of the effect it might produce upon the irritable feelings of the witch.
Meg, in the meanwhile, went to a great black cauldron that was boiling on a fire on the floor, and, lifting the lid, an odor was diffused through the vault, which, if the vapors of a witch’s cauldron could in aught be trusted, promised better things than the hell-broth which such vessels are usually supposed to contain. It was, in fact, the savor of a
2 Much good. 3 Throw. 4 Scarecrow. 5 Keep. ministerial office. 7 Church. 8 Drunk.
6 A term derisive of his
goodly stew, composed of fowls, hares, partridges, and moorgame, boiled in a large mess with potatoes, onions, and leeks, and, from the size of the cauldron, appeared to be prepared for half a dozen people at least.
So ye hae eat naething a' day?" said Meg, heaving a large portion of this mess into a brown dish, and strewing it savorily with salt and pepper.
“Nothing,” answered the Domivie—“scelestissima—that is, gude wife.”
“Hae, then,” said she, placing the dish before him, there's what will warm your heart.”
“I do not hunger-malefical—that is to say—Mrs. Merrilies!” for he said unto himself, “ The savor is sweet, but it hath been cooked by a Canidia? or an Erichthoë.”3
· If ye dinna eat instantly, and put some saul in ye, by the bread and the salt, I'll put it down your throat wi' the cutty4 spoon, scaulding as it is, and whether ye will or no. Gape,5 sinner, and swallow.”
Sampson, afraid of eye of newt, 6 and toe of frog, tigers' chaudrons,? and so forth, had determined not to venture; but the smell of the stew was fast melting his obstinacy, which flowed from his chops as it were in streams of water, and the witch's threats decided him to feed. Hunger and fear are excellent casuists.
· Saul,” said Hunger, “feasted with the witch of Endor.” " And," quoth Fear, the salt which she sprinkled upon the food showeth plainly it is not a necromantic banquet, in which that seasoning never occurs.”
And besides,” says Hunger, after the first spoonful, “it is savory and refreshing viands."
“So ye like the meat?” said the hostess.
"Yea,” answered the Dominie, “and I give thee thanks—sceleratissima! 8—which means—Mrs. Margaret.”
" Aweel, eat your fill, but, ano ye kenn'd how it was gotten, ye may be wadna like it sae weel,” Sampson's spoon dropped, in the act of carrying its load to his mouth. “There's been mony a moonlight watch to bring a' that trade thegither,” 10 continued Meg, —" the folk that are to eat that dinner thought little o' your game-laws.”
“Is that all?” thought Sampson, resuming his spoon, and shovelling away manfully; “I will not lack my food upon that argument."
“Now, ye maun tak a drami.” "I will,” quoth Sampson—“Conjuro te—that is, I thank you heartily,"
1 Evil-doer. 2 A reputed sorceress at Rome. 3 A Thessalian witch. 4 A large dish spoon.
5 Open the mouth. 6 Lizard. 7 Entrails—an allusion to the opening scene in Macbeth, 8 Most wicked one. 9 If. 10 Stuff together.
for he thought to himself, in for a penny in for a pound; and he fairly drank the witch's health in a cupful of brandy. When he had put this cope-stone' upon Meg's good cheer, he felt, as he said, mightily elevated and afraid of no evil which could befall unto him.
* Will ye remember my errand now?” said Meg Merrilies; “I ken by the cast o' your ee’ that ye're anither man than when ye cam in."
“I will, Mrs. Margaret,” repeated Sampson stoutly; “I will deliver unto him the sealed yepistle, and I will add what you please to send by word of mouth.”
“Then I'll make it short,” says Meg. “Tell him to look at the stars without fail this night, and to do what I desire him in that letter, as he would wish
That Bertram's right and Bertram's might
I have seen him twice when he saw na me; I ken when he was in the country first, and I ken what's brought him back again. Up, an' to the gate! ye're ower lang here—follow me."
Sampson followed the sibyl accordingly, who guided him about a quarter of a mile through the woods, by a shorter cut than he could have found for himself; they then entered upon the common, Meg still marching before him at a great pace, until she gained the top of a small hillock which overhung the road.
“Here,” she said, “stand still here. Look how the setting sun breaks through yon cloud that's been darkening the lift 3 a' day. See where the first stream o' light fa’s4—it's upon Donagild's round tower—the auldest tower in the Castle of Ellangowan—that's no for naething! See as it's gloomings to seaward abuneb yon sloop in the bay—that's no for naething, neither. Here I stood on this very spot,” said she, drawing herself up so as not to lose one hair-breadth of her uncommon height, and stretching out her long, sinewy arm and clenched hand—“here I stood when I tauld the last Laird o' Ellangowan what was coming on his house; and did that fa’ to the ground? Na—it hit even ower sair!? And here, where I broke the wand of peace ower him—here I stand again—to bid God bless and prosper the just heir of Ellangowan, that will sure be brought to his ain;S and the best laird he shall be that Ellangowan has seen for three hundred years. I'll no live to see it, maybe; but there will be mony a blythe ee see it, though mine be closed. And now, Abel Sampson, as ever ye lo’ed the house of Ellangowan,
1 Top-stone. ? Eye, 3 Sky. 4 Falls.
5 Darkening. Above.
7 Too sorely. 8 Own.