And thus, unconscious as the most absolute stranger, and in circumstances which, if not destitute, were for the present highly embarrassing; without the countenance of a friend within the circle of several hundred miles; accused of a heavy crime, and, what was as bad as all the rest, being nearly penniless, did the harassed wanderer for the first time, after the interval of so many years, approach the remains of the castle, where his ancestors had exercised all but regal dominion.
--Yes, ye moss-green walls, Ye towers defenceless, I revisit ye Shame-stricken! Where are all your trophies now? Your thronged courts, the revelry, the tumult, That spoke the grandeur of my house, the homage Of neighbouring Barons? Mysterious Mother.
Entering the castle of Ellangowan by a postern door-way, which showed symptoms of having been once secured with the most jealous care, Brown (whom, since he has set font upon the property of his fathers, we shall hereafter call by his father's name of Bertram) wandered from one ruined apartment to another, surprised at the massive strength of some parts of the building, the rude and impressive magnificence of others, and the great extent of the whole. In two of these rooms, close beside each other, he saw signs of recent habitation. In one small apartment were empty bottles, half-gnawed bones, and dried fragments of bread. In the vault which adjoined, and which was defended by a strong door, then left open, he observed a considerable quantity of straw, and in both were the relies of recent fires. How little was it possible for Bertram to conceive, that such trivial circumstances were closely connected with incidents affecting his prosperity, his honour, perhaps his life!
After satisfying his curiosity by a hasty glance through the interior of the castle, Bertram now advanced through the great gateway which opened to the land, and paused to look upon the noble landscape which it commanded. Having in vain endeavoured to guess the position of Woodbourne, and having nearly ascertained that of Kippletringan, he turned to take a parting look at the stately ruins which he had just traversed. He admired the massive and picturesque effect of the huge round towers, which, flanking the gateway, gave a double portion of depth and majesty to the high yet gloomy arch under which it opened. The, carved stone escutcheon of the ancient family, bearing for their arms three wolves' heads, was hung diagonally beneath the helmet and crest, the latter being a wolf couchant pierced with an arrow. On either side stood as supporters, in full human size, or larger, a salvage man proper, to use the language of heraldry, wreathed and cinctured, and holding in his hand an oak-tree eradicated, that is, torn up by the roots.
"And the powerful barons who owned this blazonry," thought Bertram, pursuing the usual train of ideas which flows upon the mind at such scenes,--"do their posterity continue to possess the lands which they had laboured to fortify so strongly? or are they wanderers, ignorant perhaps even of the fame or power of their forefathers, while their hereditary possessions are held by a race of strangers? Why is it?" he thought, continuing to follow out the succession of ideas which the scene prompted, "why is it that some scenes awaken thoughts, which belong as it were to dreams of early and shadowy recollection, such as my old Brahmin Moonshie would have ascribed to a state of previous existence? Is it the visions of our sleep that float confusedly in our memory, and are recalled by the appearance of such real objects as in any respect correspond to the phantoms they presented to our imagination? How often do we find ourselves in society which we have never before met, and yet feel impressed with a mysterious and ill-defined consciousness, that neither the scene, the speakers, nor the subject are entirely new; nay, feel as if we could anticipate that part of the conversation which has not yet taken place! It is even so with me while I gaze upon that ruin; nor can I divest myself of the idea, that these massive towers, and that dark gateway, retiring through its deep-vaulted and ribbed arches, and dimly lighted by the courtyard beyond, are not entirely strange to me. Can it be that they have been familiar to me in infancy, and that I am to seek in their vicinity those friends of whom my childhood has still a tender though faint remembrance, and whom I early exchanged for such severe taskmasters? Yet Brown, who I think would not have deceived me, always told me I was brought off from the eastern coast, after a skirmish in which my father was killed; and I do remember enough of a horrid scene of violence to strengthen his account."
It happened that the spot upon which young Bertram chanced to station himself for the better viewing the castle, was nearly the same on which his father had died. It was marked by a large old oak-tree, the only one on the esplanade, and which, having been used for executions by the barons of Ellangowan, was called the justice Tree. It chanced, and the coincidence was remarkable, that Glossin was this morning engaged with a person, whom he was in the habit of consulting in such matters, concerning some projected repairs, and a large addition to the house of Ellangowan, and that, having no great pleasure in remains so intimately connected with the grandeur of the former inhabitants, he had resolved to use the stones of the ruinous castle in his new edifice. Accordingly he came up the bank, followed by the land-surveyor mentioned on a former occasion, who was also in the habit of acting as a sort of architect in case of necessity. In drawing the plans, etc., Glossin was in the custom of relying upon his own skill. Bertram's back was towards them as they came up the ascent, and he was quite shrouded by the branches of the large tree, so that Glossin was not aware of the presence of the stranger till he was close upon him.
"Yes, sir, as I have often said before to you, the Old Place is a perfect quarry of hewn stone, and it would be better for the estate if it were all down, since it is only a den for smugglers. "At this instant Bertram turned short round upon Glossin at the distance of two yards only, and said--"Would you destroy this fine old castle, sir?"
His face, person, and voice, were so exactly those of his father in his best days, that Glossin, hearing his exclamation, and seeing such a sudden apparition in the shape of his patron, and on nearly the very spot where he had expired, almost thought the grave had given up its dead! --He staggered back two or three paces, as if he had received a sudden and deadly wound. He instantly recovered, however, his presence of mind, stimulated by the thrilling reflection that it was no inhabitant of the other world which stood before him, but an injured man, whom the slightest want of dexterity on his part might lead to acquaintance with his rights, and the means of asserting them to his utter destruction. Yet his ideas were so much confused by the shock he had received, that his first question partook of the alarm.