The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Antiquary, Volume 2, by Sir Walter Scott This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: The Antiquary, Volume 2 Author: Sir Walter Scott Release Date: August 17, 2004 [EBook #7004] Last Updated: February 22, 2010 Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE ANTIQUARY, VOLUME 2 *** Produced by David Widger
Subject or Title
|Breakfast at Monkbarns||A. H. Tourrier||P. Tesysonnieres|
|The Funeral of the Countess||A. H. Tourrier||V. Focillon|
|Lord Glenallen and Elspeth||A. H. Tourrier||Charles Courtry|
|The Antiquary Visits Edie in Prison||A. H. Tourrier||W. Nooth|
|"My good friends, 'favete linguis'"||Original Etching by:||George Cruikshank|
|The Antiquary Arming||A. H. Tourrier||H. C. Manesse|
Wiser Raymondus, in his closet pent, Laughs at such danger and adventurement When half his lands are spent in golden smoke, And now his second hopeful glasse is broke, But yet, if haply his third furnace hold, Devoteth all his pots and pans to gold.*
* The author cannot remember where these lines are to be found: perhaps in Bishop Hall's Satires. [They occur in Book iv. Satire iii.]
About a week after the adventures commemorated in our last CHAPTER, Mr. Oldbuck, descending to his breakfast-parlour, found that his womankind were not upon duty, his toast not made, and the silver jug, which was wont to receive his libations of mum, not duly aired for its reception.
"This confounded hot-brained boy!" he said to himself; "now that he begins to get out of danger, I can tolerate this life no longer. All goes to sixes and sevens—an universal saturnalia seems to be proclaimed in my peaceful and orderly family. I ask for my sister—no answer. I call, I shout—I invoke my inmates by more names than the Romans gave to their deities—at length Jenny, whose shrill voice I have heard this half-hour lilting in the Tartarean regions of the kitchen, condescends to hear me and reply, but without coming up stairs, so the conversation must be continued at the top of my lungs. "—Here he again began to hollow aloud—"Jenny, where's Miss Oldbuck?"
"Miss Grizzy's in the captain's room."
"Umph!—I thought so—and where's my niece?"
"Miss Mary's making the captain's tea."
"Umph! I supposed as much again—and where's Caxon?"
"Awa to the town about the captain's fowling-gun, and his setting-dog."
"And who the devil's to dress my periwig, you silly jade?—when you knew that Miss Wardour and Sir Arthur were coming here early after breakfast, how could you let Caxon go on such a Tomfool's errand?"
"Me! what could I hinder him?—your honour wadna hae us contradict the captain e'en now, and him maybe deeing?"
"Dying!" said the alarmed Antiquary,—"eh! what? has he been worse?"
"Na, he's no nae waur that I ken of."*
* It is, I believe, a piece of free-masonry, or a point of conscience, among the Scottish lower orders, never to admit that a patient is doing better. The closest approach to recovery which they can be brought to allow, is, that the pairty inquired after is "Nae waur."
"Then he must be better—and what good is a dog and a gun to do here, but the one to destroy all my furniture, steal from my larder, and perhaps worry the cat, and the other to shoot somebody through the head. He has had gunning and pistolling enough to serve him one while, I should think."
Here Miss Oldbuck entered the parlour, at the door of which Oldbuck was carrying on this conversation, he bellowing downward to Jenny, and she again screaming upward in reply.
"Dear brother," said the old lady, "ye'll cry yoursell as hoarse as a corbie—is that the way to skreigh when there's a sick person in the house?"
"Upon my word, the sick person's like to have all the house to himself,— I have gone without my breakfast, and am like to go without my wig; and I must not, I suppose, presume to say I feel either hunger or cold, for fear of disturbing the sick gentleman who lies six rooms off, and who feels himself well enough to send for his dog and gun, though he knows I detest such implements ever since our elder brother, poor Williewald, marched out of the world on a pair of damp feet, caught in the Kittlefitting-moss. But that signifies nothing; I suppose I shall be expected by and by to lend a hand to carry Squire Hector out upon his litter, while he indulges his sportsmanlike propensities by shooting my pigeons, or my turkeys—I think any of the ferae naturae are safe from him for one while."
Miss M'Intyre now entered, and began to her usual morning's task of arranging her uncle's breakfast, with the alertness of one who is too late in setting about a task, and is anxious to make up for lost time. But this did not avail her. "Take care, you silly womankind—that mum's too near the fire—the bottle will burst; and I suppose you intend to reduce the toast to a cinder as a burnt-offering for Juno, or what do you call her—the female dog there, with some such Pantheon kind of a name, that your wise brother has, in his first moments of mature reflection, ordered up as a fitting inmate of my house (I thank him), and meet company to aid the rest of the womankind of my household in their daily conversation and intercourse with him."
"Dear uncle, don't be angry about the poor spaniel; she's been tied up at my brother's lodgings at Fairport, and she's broke her chain twice, and came running down here to him; and you would not have us beat the faithful beast away from the door?—it moans as if it had some sense of poor Hector's misfortune, and will hardly stir from the door of his room."
"Why," said his uncle, "they said Caxon had gone to Fairport after his dog and gun."
"O dear sir, no," answered Miss M'Intyre, "it was to fetch some dressings that were wanted, and Hector only wished him to bring out his gun, as he was going to Fairport at any rate."
"Well, then, it is not altogether so foolish a business, considering what a mess of womankind have been about it—Dressings, quotha?—and who is to dress my wig?—But I suppose Jenny will undertake"—continued the old bachelor, looking at himself in the glass—"to make it somewhat decent. And now let us set to breakfast—with what appetite we may. Well may I say to Hector, as Sir Isaac Newton did to his dog Diamond, when the animal (I detest dogs) flung down the taper among calculations which had occupied the philosopher for twenty years, and consumed the whole mass of materials—Diamond, Diamond, thou little knowest the mischief thou hast done!"
"I assure you, sir," replied his niece, "my brother is quite sensible of the rashness of his own behaviour, and allows that Mr. Lovel behaved very handsomely."
"And much good that will do, when he has frightened the lad out of the country! I tell thee, Mary, Hector's understanding, and far more that of feminity, is inadequate to comprehend the extent of the loss which he has occasioned to the present age and to posterity—aureum quidem opus—a poem on such a subject, with notes illustrative of all that is clear, and all that is dark, and all that is neither dark nor clear, but hovers in dusky twilight in the region of Caledonian antiquities. I would have made the Celtic panegyrists look about them. Fingal, as they conceitedly term Fin-Mac-Coul, should have disappeared before my search, rolling himself in his cloud like the spirit of Loda. Such an opportunity can hardly again occur to an ancient and grey-haired man; and to see it lost by the madcap spleen of a hot-headed boy! But I submit—Heaven's will be done!"
Thus continued the Antiquary to maunder, as his sister expressed it, during the whole time of breakfast, while, despite of sugar and honey, and all the comforts of a Scottish morning tea-table, his reflections rendered the meal bitter to all who heard them. But they knew the nature of the man. "Monkbarns's bark," said Miss Griselda Oldbuck, in confidential intercourse with Miss Rebecca Blattergowl, "is muckle waur than his bite."
In fact, Mr. Oldbuck had suffered in mind extremely while his nephew was in actual danger, and now felt himself at liberty, upon his returning health, to indulge in complaints respecting the trouble he had been put to, and the interruption of his antiquarian labours. Listened to, therefore, in respectful silence, by his niece and sister, he unloaded his discontent in such grumblings as we have rehearsed, venting many a sarcasm against womankind, soldiers, dogs, and guns, all which implements of noise, discord, and tumult, as he called them, he professed to hold in utter abomination.
This expectoration of spleen was suddenly interrupted by the noise of a carriage without, when, shaking off all sullenness at the sound, Oldbuck ran nimbly up stairs and down stairs, for both operations were necessary ere he could receive Miss Wardour and her father at the door of his mansion.
A cordial greeting passed on both sides. And Sir Arthur, referring to his previous inquiries by letter and message, requested to be particularly informed of Captain M'Intyre's health.
"Better than he deserves," was the answer—"better than he deserves, for disturbing us with his vixen brawls, and breaking God's peace and the King's."
"The young gentleman," Sir Arthur said, "had been imprudent; but he understood they were indebted to him for the detection of a suspicious character in the young man Lovel."
"No more suspicious than his own," answered the Antiquary, eager in his favourites defence;—"the young gentleman was a little foolish and headstrong, and refused to answer Hector's impertinent interrogatories— that is all. Lovel, Sir Arthur, knows how to choose his confidants better—Ay, Miss Wardour, you may look at me—but it is very true;—it was in my bosom that he deposited the secret cause of his residence at Fairport; and no stone should have been left unturned on my part to assist him in the pursuit to which he had dedicated himself."
On hearing this magnanimous declaration on the part of the old Antiquary, Miss Wardour changed colour more than once, and could hardly trust her own ears. For of all confidants to be selected as the depositary of love affairs,—and such she naturally supposed must have been the subject of communication,—next to Edie Ochiltree, Oldbuck seemed the most uncouth and extraordinary; nor could she sufficiently admire or fret at the extraordinary combination of circumstances which thus threw a secret of such a delicate nature into the possession of persons so unfitted to be entrusted with it. She had next to fear the mode of Oldbuck's entering upon the affair with her father, for such, she doubted not, was his intention. She well knew that the honest gentleman, however vehement in his prejudices, had no great sympathy with those of others, and she had to fear a most unpleasant explosion upon an e'claircissement taking place between them. It was therefore with great anxiety that she heard her father request a private interview, and observed Oldbuck readily arise and show the way to his library. She remained behind, attempting to converse with the ladies of Monkbarns, but with the distracted feelings of Macbeth, when compelled to disguise his evil conscience by listening and replying to the observations of the attendant thanes upon the storm of the preceding night, while his whole soul is upon the stretch to listen for the alarm of murder, which he knows must be instantly raised by those who have entered the sleeping apartment of Duncan. But the conversation of the two virtuosi turned on a subject very different from that which Miss Wardour apprehended.
"Mr. Oldbuck," said Sir Arthur, when they had, after a due exchange of ceremonies, fairly seated themselves in the sanctum sanctorum of the Antiquary,—"you, who know so much of my family matters, may probably be surprised at the question I am about to put to you."
"Why, Sir Arthur, if it relates to money, I am very sorry, but"—
"It does relate to money matters, Mr. Oldbuck."
"Really, then, Sir Arthur," continued the Antiquary, "in the present state of the money-market—and stocks being so low"—
"You mistake my meaning, Mr. Oldbuck," said the Baronet; "I wished to ask your advice about laying out a large sum of money to advantage."
"The devil!" exclaimed the Antiquary; and, sensible that his involuntary ejaculation of wonder was not over and above civil, he proceeded to qualify it by expressing his joy that Sir Arthur should have a sum of money to lay out when the commodity was so scarce. "And as for the mode of employing it," said he, pausing, "the funds are low at present, as I said before, and there are good bargains of land to be had. But had you not better begin by clearing off encumbrances, Sir Arthur?—There is the sum in the personal bond—and the three notes of hand," continued he, taking out of the right-hand drawer of his cabinet a certain red memorandum-book, of which Sir Arthur, from the experience of former frequent appeals to it, abhorred the very sight—"with the interest thereon, amounting altogether to—let me see"—
"To about a thousand pounds," said Sir Arthur, hastily; "you told me the amount the other day."
"But there's another term's interest due since that, Sir Arthur, and it amounts (errors excepted) to eleven hundred and thirteen pounds, seven shillings, five pennies, and three-fourths of a penny sterling—But look over the summation yourself."
"I daresay you are quite right, my dear sir," said the Baronet, putting away the book with his hand, as one rejects the old-fashioned civility that presses food upon you after you have eaten till you nauseate— "perfectly right, I dare say; and in the course of three days or less you shall have the full value—that is, if you choose to accept it in bullion."
"Bullion! I suppose you mean lead. What the deuce! have we hit on the vein then at last? But what could I do with a thousand pounds' worth, and upwards, of lead? The former abbots of Trotcosey might have roofed their church and monastery with it indeed—but for me"—
"By bullion," said the Baronet, "I mean the precious metals,—gold and silver."
"Ay! indeed?—and from what Eldorado is this treasure to be imported?"
"Not far from hence," said Sir Arthur, significantly. "And naow I think of it, you shall see the whole process, on one small condition."
"And what is that?" craved the Antiquary.
"Why, it will be necessary for you to give me your friendly assistance, by advancing one hundred pounds or thereabouts."
Mr. Oldbuck, who had already been grasping in idea the sum, principal and interest, of a debt which he had long regarded as wellnigh desperate, was so much astounded at the tables being so unexpectedly turned upon him, that he could only re-echo, in an accent of wo and surprise, the words, "Advance one hundred pounds!"
"Yes, my good sir," continued Sir Arthur; "but upon the best possible security of being repaid in the course of two or three days."
There was a pause—either Oldbuck's nether jaw had not recovered its position, so as to enable him to utter a negative, or his curiosity kept him silent.
"I would not propose to you," continued Sir Arthur, "to oblige me thus far, if I did not possess actual proofs of the reality of those expectations which I now hold out to you. And I assure you, Mr. Oldbuck, that in entering fully upon this topic, it is my purpose to show my confidence in you, and my sense of your kindness on many former occasions."
Mr. Oldbuck professed his sense of obligation, but carefully avoided committing himself by any promise of farther assistance.
"Mr. Dousterswivel," said Sir Arthur, "having discovered"—
Here Oldbuck broke in, his eyes sparkling with indignation. "Sir Arthur, I have so often warned you of the knavery of that rascally quack, that I really wonder you should quote him to me."
"But listen—listen," interrupted Sir Arthur in his turn, "it will do you no harm. In short, Dousterswivel persuaded me to witness an experiment which he had made in the ruins of St. Ruth—and what do you think we found?"
"Another spring of water, I suppose, of which the rogue had beforehand taken care to ascertain the situation and source."
"No, indeed—a casket of gold and silver coins—here they are."
With that, Sir Arthur drew from his pocket a large ram's horn, with a copper cover, containing a considerable quantity of coins, chiefly silver, but with a few gold pieces intermixed. The Antiquary's eyes glistened as he eagerly spread them out on the table.
"Upon my word—Scotch, English, and foreign coins, of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and some of them rari—et rariores—etiam rarissimi! Here is the bonnet-piece of James V., the unicorn of James II.,—ay, and the gold festoon of Queen Mary, with her head and the Dauphin's. And these were really found in the ruins of St. Ruth?"
"Most assuredly—my own eyes witnessed it."
"Well," replied Oldbuck; "but you must tell me the when—the where-the how."
"The when," answered Sir Arthur, "was at midnight the last full moon—the where, as I have told you, in the ruins of St. Ruth's priory—the how, was by a nocturnal experiment of Dousterswivel, accompanied only by myself."
"Indeed!" said Oldbuck; "and what means of discovery did you employ?"
"Only a simple suffumigation," said the Baronet, "accompanied by availing ourselves of the suitable planetary hour."
"Simple suffumigation? simple nonsensification—planetary hour? planetary fiddlestick! Sapiens dominabitur astris. My dear Sir Arthur, that fellow has made a gull of you above ground and under ground, and he would have made a gull of you in the air too, if he had been by when you was craned up the devil's turnpike yonder at Halket-head—to be sure the transformation would have been then peculiarly apropos."
"Well, Mr. Oldbuck, I am obliged to you for your indifferent opinion of my discernment; but I think you will give me credit for having seen what I say I saw."
"Certainly, Sir Arthur," said the Antiquary,—"to this extent at least, that I know Sir Arthur Wardour will not say he saw anything but what he thought he saw."
"Well, then," replied the Baronet, "as there is a heaven above us, Mr. Oldbuck, I saw, with my own eyes, these coins dug out of the chancel of St. Ruth at midnight. And as to Dousterswivel, although the discovery be owing to his science, yet, to tell the truth, I do not think he would have had firmness of mind to have gone through with it if I had not been beside him."
"Ay! indeed?" said Oldbuck, in the tone used when one wishes to hear the end of a story before making any comment.
"Yes truly," continued Sir Arthur—"I assure you I was upon my guard—we did hear some very uncommon sounds, that is certain, proceeding from among the ruins."
"Oh, you did?" said Oldbuck; "an accomplice hid among them, I suppose?"
"Not a jot," said the Baronet;—"the sounds, though of a hideous and preternatural character, rather resembled those of a man who sneezes violently than any other—one deep groan I certainly heard besides; and Dousterswivel assures me that he beheld the spirit Peolphan, the Great Hunter of the North—(look for him in your Nicolaus Remigius, or Petrus Thyracus, Mr. Oldbuck)—who mimicked the motion of snuff-taking and its effects."
"These indications, however singular as proceeding from such a personage, seem to have been apropos to the matter," said the Antiquary; "for you see the case, which includes these coins, has all the appearance of being an old-fashioned Scottish snuff-mill. But you persevered, in spite of the terrors of this sneezing goblin?"
"Why, I think it probable that a man of inferior sense or consequence might have given way; but I was jealous of an imposture, conscious of the duty I owed to my family in maintaining my courage under every contingency, and therefore I compelled Dousterswivel, by actual and violent threats, to proceed with what he was about to do;—and, sir, the proof of his skill and honesty is this parcel of gold and silver pieces, out of which I beg you to select such coins or medals as will best suit your collection."
"Why, Sir Arthur, since you are so good, and on condition you will permit me to mark the value according to Pinkerton's catalogue and appreciation, against your account in my red book, I will with pleasure select"—
"Nay," said Sir Arthur Wardour, "I do not mean you should consider them as anything but a gift of friendship and least of all would I stand by the valuation of your friend Pinkerton, who has impugned the ancient and trustworthy authorities upon which, as upon venerable and moss-grown pillars, the credit of Scottish antiquities reposed."
"Ay, ay," rejoined Oldbuck, "you mean, I suppose, Mair and Boece, the Jachin and Boaz, not of history but of falsification and forgery. And notwithstanding all you have told me, I look on your friend Dousterswivel to be as apocryphal as any of them."
"Why then, Mr. Oldbuck," said Sir Arthur, "not to awaken old disputes, I suppose you think, that because I believe in the ancient history of my country, I have neither eyes nor ears to ascertain what modern events pass before me?"
"Pardon me, Sir Arthur," rejoined the Antiquary; "but I consider all the affectation of terror which this worthy gentleman, your coadjutor, chose to play off, as being merely one part of his trick or mystery. And with respect to the gold or silver coins, they are so mixed and mingled in country and date, that I cannot suppose they could be any genuine hoard, and rather suppose them to be, like the purses upon the table of Hudibras's lawyer—
—Money placed for show, Like nest-eggs, to make clients lay, And for his false opinions pay.—
It is the trick of all professions, my dear Sir Arthur. Pray, may I ask you how much this discovery cost you?"
"About ten guineas."
"And you have gained what is equivalent to twenty in actual bullion, and what may be perhaps worth as much more to such fools as ourselves, who are willing to pay for curiosity. This was allowing you a tempting profit on the first hazard, I must needs admit. And what is the next venture he proposes?"
"An hundred and fifty pounds;—I have given him one-third part of the money, and I thought it likely you might assist me with the balance."
"I should think that this cannot be meant as a parting blow—is not of weight and importance sufficient; he will probably let us win this hand also, as sharpers manage a raw gamester.—Sir Arthur, I hope you believe I would serve you?"
"Certainly, Mr. Oldbuck; I think my confidence in you on these occasions leaves no room to doubt that."
"Well, then, allow me to speak to Dousterswivel. If the money can be advanced usefully and advantageously for you, why, for old neighbourhood's sake, you shall not want it but if, as I think, I can recover the treasure for you without making such an advance, you will, I presume, have no objection!"
"Unquestionably, I can have none whatsoever."
"Then where is Dousterswivel?" continued the Antiquary.
"To tell you the truth, he is in my carriage below; but knowing your prejudice against him"—
"I thank Heaven, I am not prejudiced against any man, Sir Arthur: it is systems, not individuals, that incur my reprobation." He rang the bell. "Jenny, Sir Arthur and I offer our compliments to Mr. Dousterswivel, the gentleman in Sir Arthur's carriage, and beg to have the pleasure of speaking with him here."
Jenny departed and delivered her message. It had been by no means a part of the project of Dousterswivel to let Mr. Oldbuck into his supposed mystery. He had relied upon Sir Arthur's obtaining the necessary accommodation without any discussion as to the nature of the application, and only waited below for the purpose of possessing himself of the deposit as soon as possible, for he foresaw that his career was drawing to a close. But when summoned to the presence of Sir Arthur and Mr. Oldbuck, he resolved gallantly to put confidence in his powers of impudence, of which, the reader may have observed, his natural share was very liberal.
—And this Doctor, Your sooty smoky-bearded compeer, he Will close you so much gold in a bolt's head, And, on a turn, convey in the stead another With sublimed mercury, that shall burst i' the heat, And all fly out in fumo.— The Alchemist.
"How do you do, goot Mr. Oldenbuck? and I do hope your young gentleman, Captain M'Intyre, is getting better again? Ach! it is a bat business when young gentlemens will put lead balls into each other's body."
"Lead adventures of all kinds are very precarious, Mr. Dousterswivel; but I am happy to learn," continued the Antiquary, "from my friend Sir Arthur, that you have taken up a better trade, and become a discoverer of gold."
"Ach, Mr. Oldenbuck, mine goot and honoured patron should not have told a word about dat little matter; for, though I have all reliance—yes, indeed, on goot Mr. Oldenbuck's prudence and discretion, and his great friendship for Sir Arthur Wardour—yet, my heavens! it is an great ponderous secret."
"More ponderous than any of the metal we shall make by it, I fear," answered Oldbuck.
"Dat is just as you shall have de faith and de patience for de grand experiment—If you join wid Sir Arthur, as he is put one hundred and fifty—see, here is one fifty in your dirty Fairport bank-note—you put one other hundred and fifty in de dirty notes, and you shall have de pure gold and silver, I cannot tell how much."
"Nor any one for you, I believe," said the Antiquary. "But, hark you, Mr. Dousterswivel: Suppose, without troubling this same sneezing spirit with any farther fumigations, we should go in a body, and having fair day-light and our good consciences to befriend us, using no other conjuring implements than good substantial pick-axes and shovels, fairly trench the area of the chancel in the ruins of St. Ruth, from one end to the other, and so ascertain the existence of this supposed treasure, without putting ourselves to any farther expense—the ruins belong to Sir Arthur himself, so there can be no objection—do you think we shall succeed in this way of managing the matter?"
"Bah!—you will not find one copper thimble—But Sir Arthur will do his pleasure. I have showed him how it is possible—very possible—to have de great sum of money for his occasions—I have showed him de real experiment. If he likes not to believe, goot Mr. Oldenbuck, it is nothing to Herman Dousterswivel—he only loses de money and de gold and de silvers—dat is all."
Sir Arthur Wardour cast an intimidated glance at Oldbuck who, especially when present, held, notwithstanding their frequent difference of opinion, no ordinary influence over his sentiments. In truth, the Baronet felt, what he would not willingly have acknowledged, that his genius stood rebuked before that of the Antiquary. He respected him as a shrewd, penetrating, sarcastic character—feared his satire, and had some confidence in the general soundness of his opinions. He therefore looked at him as if desiring his leave before indulging his credulity. Dousterswivel saw he was in danger of losing his dupe, unless he could make some favourable impression on the adviser.
"I know, my goot Mr. Oldenbuck, it is one vanity to speak to you about de spirit and de goblin. But look at this curious horn;—I know, you know de curiosity of all de countries, and how de great Oldenburgh horn, as they keep still in the Museum at Copenhagen, was given to de Duke of Oldenburgh by one female spirit of de wood. Now I could not put one trick on you if I were willing—you who know all de curiosity so well—and dere it is de horn full of coins;—if it had been a box or case, I would have said nothing."
"Being a horn," said Oldbuck, "does indeed strengthen your argument. It was an implement of nature's fashioning, and therefore much used among rude nations, although, it may be, the metaphorical horn is more frequent in proportion to the progress of civilisation. And this present horn," he continued, rubbing it upon his sleeve, "is a curious and venerable relic, and no doubt was intended to prove a cornucopia, or horn of plenty, to some one or other; but whether to the adept or his patron, may be justly doubted."
"Well, Mr. Oldenbuck, I find you still hard of belief—but let me assure you, de monksh understood de magisterium."
"Let us leave talking of the magisterium, Mr. Dousterswivel, and think a little about the magistrate. Are you aware that this occupation of yours is against the law of Scotland, and that both Sir Arthur and myself are in the commission of the peace?"
"Mine heaven! and what is dat to de purpose when I am doing you all de goot I can?"
"Why, you must know that when the legislature abolished the cruel laws against witchcraft, they had no hope of destroying the superstitious feelings of humanity on which such chimeras had been founded; and to prevent those feelings from being tampered with by artful and designing persons, it is enacted by the ninth of George the Second, chap. 5, that whosoever shall pretend, by his alleged skill in any occult or crafty science, to discover such goods as are lost, stolen or concealed, he shall suffer punishment by pillory and imprisonment, as a common cheat and impostor."
"And is dat de laws?" asked Dousterswivel, with some agitation.
"Thyself shall see the act," replied the Antiquary.
"Den, gentlemens, I shall take my leave of you, dat is all; I do not like to stand on your what you call pillory—it is very bad way to take de air, I think; and I do not like your prisons no more, where one cannot take de air at all."
"If such be your taste, Mr. Dousterswivel," said the Antiquary, "I advise you to stay where you are, for I cannot let you go, unless it be in the society of a constable; and, moreover, I expect you will attend us just now to the ruins of St. Ruth, and point out the place where you propose to find this treasure."
"Mine heaven, Mr. Oldenbuck! what usage is this to your old friend, when I tell you so plain as I can speak, dat if you go now, you will not get so much treasure as one poor shabby sixpence?"
"I will try the experiment, however, and you shall be dealt with according to its success,—always with Sir Arthur's permission."
Sir Arthur, during this investigation, had looked extremely embarrassed, and, to use a vulgar but expressive phrase, chop-fallen. Oldbuck's obstinate disbelief led him strongly to suspect the imposture of Dousterswivel, and the adept's mode of keeping his ground was less resolute than he had expected. Yet he did not entirely give him up. "Mr. Oldbuck," said the Baronet, "you do Mr. Dousterswivel less than justice. He has undertaken to make this discovery by the use of his art, and by applying characters descriptive of the Intelligences presiding over the planetary hour in which the experiment is to be made; and you require him to proceed, under pain of punishment, without allowing him the use of any of the preliminaries which he considers as the means of procuring success."
"I did not say that exactly—I only required him to be present when we make the search, and not to leave us during the interval. I fear he may have some intelligence with the Intelligences you talk of, and that whatever may be now hidden at Saint Ruth may disappear before we get there."
"Well, gentlemens," said Dousterswivel, sullenly, "I will make no objections to go along with you but I tell you beforehand, you shall not find so much of anything as shall be worth your going twenty yard from your own gate."
"We will put that to a fair trial," said the Antiquary; and the Baronet's equipage being ordered, Miss Wardour received an intimation from her father, that she was to remain at Monkbarns until his return from an airing. The young lady was somewhat at a loss to reconcile this direction with the communication which she supposed must have passed between Sir Arthur and the Antiquary; but she was compelled, for the present, to remain in a most unpleasant state of suspense.
The journey of the treasure-seekers was melancholy enough. Dousterswivel maintained a sulky silence, brooding at once over disappointed expectation and the risk of punishment; Sir Arthur, whose golden dreams had been gradually fading away, surveyed, in gloomy prospect, the impending difficulties of his situation; and Oldbuck, who perceived that his having so far interfered in his neighbours affairs gave the Baronet a right to expect some actual and efficient assistance, sadly pondered to what extent it would be necessary to draw open the strings of his purse. Thus each being wrapped in his own unpleasant ruminations, there was hardly a word said on either side, until they reached the Four Horse-shoes, by which sign the little inn was distinguished. They procured at this place the necessary assistance and implements for digging, and, while they were busy about these preparations, were suddenly joined by the old beggar, Edie Ochiltree.
"The Lord bless your honour," began the Blue-Gown, with the genuine mendicant whine, "and long life to you!—weel pleased am I to hear that young Captain M'Intyre is like to be on his legs again sune—Think on your poor bedesman the day."
"Aha, old true-penny!" replied the Antiquary. "Why, thou hast never come to Monkbarns since thy perils by rock and flood—here's something for thee to buy snuff,"—and, fumbling for his purse, he pulled out at the same time the horn which enclosed the coins.
"Ay, and there's something to pit it in," said the mendicant, eyeing the ram's horn—"that loom's an auld acquaintance o' mine. I could take my aith to that sneeshing-mull amang a thousand—I carried it for mony a year, till I niffered it for this tin ane wi' auld George Glen, the dammer and sinker, when he took a fancy till't doun at Glen-Withershins yonder."
"Ay! indeed?" said Oldbuck;—"so you exchanged it with a miner? but I presume you never saw it so well filled before"—and opening it, he showed the coins.
"Troth, ye may swear that, Monkbarns: when it was mine it neer had abune the like o' saxpenny worth o' black rappee in't at ance. But I reckon ye'll be gaun to mak an antic o't, as ye hae dune wi' mony an orra thing besides. Od, I wish anybody wad mak an antic o' me; but mony ane will find worth in rousted bits o' capper and horn and airn, that care unco little about an auld carle o' their ain country and kind."
"You may now guess," said Oldbuck, turning to Sir Arthur, "to whose good offices you were indebted the other night. To trace this cornucopia of yours to a miner, is bringing it pretty near a friend of ours—I hope we shall be as successful this morning, without paying for it."
"And whare is your honours gaun the day," said the mendicant, "wi' a' your picks and shules?—Od, this will be some o' your tricks, Monkbarns: ye'll be for whirling some o' the auld monks down by yonder out o' their graves afore they hear the last call—but, wi' your leave, I'se follow ye at ony rate, and see what ye mak o't."
The party soon arrived at the ruins of the priory, and, having gained the chancel, stood still to consider what course they were to pursue next. The Antiquary, meantime, addressed the adept.
"Pray, Mr. Dousterswivel, what is your advice in this matter? Shall we have most likelihood of success if we dig from east to west, or from west to east?—or will you assist us with your triangular vial of May-dew, or with your divining-rod of witches-hazel?—or will you have the goodness to supply us with a few thumping blustering terms of art, which, if they fail in our present service, may at least be useful to those who have not the happiness to be bachelors, to still their brawling children withal?"
"Mr. Oldenbuck," said Dousterswivel, doggedly, "I have told you already that you will make no good work at all, and I will find some way of mine own to thank you for your civilities to me—yes, indeed."
"If your honours are thinking of tirling the floor," said old Edie, "and wad but take a puir body's advice, I would begin below that muckle stane that has the man there streekit out upon his back in the midst o't."
"I have some reason for thinking favourably of that plan myself," said the Baronet.
"And I have nothing to say against it," said Oldbuck: "it was not unusual to hide treasure in the tombs of the deceased—many instances might be quoted of that from Bartholinus and others."
The tombstone, the same beneath which the coins had been found by Sir Arthur and the German, was once more forced aside, and the earth gave easy way to the spade.
"It's travell'd earth that," said Edie, "it howks gae eithly—I ken it weel, for ance I wrought a simmer wi' auld Will Winnet, the bedral, and howkit mair graves than ane in my day; but I left him in winter, for it was unco cald wark; and then it cam a green Yule, and the folk died thick and fast—for ye ken a green Yule makes a fat kirkyard; and I never dowed to bide a hard turn o' wark in my life—sae aff I gaed, and left Will to delve his last dwellings by himsell for Edie."
The diggers were now so far advanced in their labours as to discover that the sides of the grave which they were clearing out had been originally secured by four walls of freestone, forming a parallelogram, for the reception, probably, of the coffin.
"It is worth while proceeding in our labours," said the Antiquary to Sir Arthur, "were it but for curiosity's sake. I wonder on whose sepulchre they have bestowed such uncommon pains."
"The arms on the shield," said Sir Arthur, and sighed as he spoke it, "are the same with those on Misticot's tower, supposed to have been built by Malcolm the usurper. No man knew where he was buried, and there is an old prophecy in our family, that bodes us no good when his grave shall be discovered."
"I wot," said the beggar, "I have often heard that when I was a bairn—
If Malcolm the Misticot's grave were fun', The lands of Knockwinnock were lost and won."
Oldbuck, with his spectacles on his nose, had already knelt down on the monument, and was tracing, partly with his eye, partly with his finger, the mouldered devices upon the effigy of the deceased warrior. "It is the Knockwinnock arms, sure enough," he exclaimed, "quarterly with the coat of Wardour."
"Richard, called the red-handed Wardour, married Sybil Knockwinnock, the heiress of the Saxon family, and by that alliance," said Sir Arthur, "brought the castle and estate into the name of Wardour, in the year of God 1150."
"Very true, Sir Arthur; and here is the baton-sinister, the mark of illegitimacy, extended diagonally through both coats upon the shield. Where can our eyes have been, that they did not see this curious monument before?"
"Na, whare was the through-stane, that it didna come before our een till e'enow?" said Ochiltree; "for I hae ken'd this auld kirk, man and bairn, for saxty lang years, and I neer noticed it afore; and it's nae sic mote neither, but what ane might see it in their parritch."
All were now induced to tax their memory as to the former state of the ruins in that corner of the chancel, and all agreed in recollecting a considerable pile of rubbish which must have been removed and spread abroad in order to make the tomb visible. Sir Arthur might, indeed, have remembered seeing the monument on the former occasion, but his mind was too much agitated to attend to the circumstance as a novelty.
While the assistants were engaged in these recollections and discussions, the workmen proceeded with their labour. They had already dug to the depth of nearly five feet, and as the flinging out the soil became more and more difficult, they began at length to tire of the job.
"We're down to the till now," said one of them, "and the neer a coffin or onything else is here—some cunninger chiel's been afore us, I reckon;"— and the labourer scrambled out of the grave.
"Hout, lad," said Edie, getting down in his room—"let me try my hand for an auld bedral;—ye're gude seekers, but ill finders."
So soon as he got into the grave, he struck his pike-staff forcibly down; it encountered resistance in its descent, and the beggar exclaimed, like a Scotch schoolboy when he finds anything, "Nae halvers and quarters— hale o' mine ain and 'nane o' my neighbour's."
Everybody, from the dejected Baronet to the sullen adept, now caught the spirit of curiosity, crowded round the grave, and would have jumped into it, could its space have contained them. The labourers, who had begun to flag in their monotonous and apparently hopeless task, now resumed their tools, and plied them with all the ardour of expectation. Their shovels soon grated upon a hard wooden surface, which, as the earth was cleared away, assumed the distinct form of a chest, but greatly smaller than that of a coffin. Now all hands were at work to heave it out of the grave, and all voices, as it was raised, proclaimed its weight and augured its value. They were not mistaken.
When the chest or box was placed on the surface, and the lid forced up by a pickaxe, there was displayed first a coarse canvas cover, then a quantity of oakum, and beneath that a number of ingots of silver. A general exclamation hailed a discovery so surprising and unexpected. The Baronet threw his hands and eyes up to heaven, with the silent rapture of one who is delivered from inexpressible distress of mind. Oldbuck, almost unable to credit his eyes, lifted one piece of silver after another. There was neither inscription nor stamp upon them, excepting one, which seemed to be Spanish. He could have no doubt of the purity and great value of the treasure before him. Still, however, removing piece by piece, he examined row by row, expecting to discover that the lower layers were of inferior value; but he could perceive no difference in this respect, and found himself compelled to admit, that Sir Arthur had possessed himself of bullion to the value, perhaps of a thousand pounds sterling. Sir Arthur now promised the assistants a handsome recompense for their trouble, and began to busy himself about the mode of conveying this rich windfall to the Castle of Knockwinnock, when the adept, recovering from his surprise, which had equalled that exhibited by any other individual of the party, twitched his sleeve, and having offered his humble congratulations, turned next to Oldbuck with an air of triumph.
"I did tell you, my goot friend, Mr. Oldenbuck, dat I was to seek opportunity to thank you for your civility; now do you not think I have found out vary goot way to return thank?"
"Why, Mr. Dousterswivel, do you pretend to have had any hand in our good success?—you forget you refused us all aid of your science, man; and you are here without your weapons that should have fought the battle which you pretend to have gained in our behalf: you have used neither charm, lamen, sigil, talisman, spell, crystal, pentacle, magic mirror, nor geomantic figure. Where be your periapts, and your abracadabras man? your Mayfern, your vervain,
Your toad, your crow, your dragon, and your panther, Your sun, your moon, your firmament, your adrop, Your Lato, Azoch, Zernich, Chibrit, Heautarit, With all your broths, your menstrues, your materials, Would burst a man to name?—
Ah! rare Ben Jonson! long peace to thy ashes for a scourge of the quacks of thy day!—who expected to see them revive in our own?"
The answer of the adept to the Antiquary's tirade we must defer to our next CHAPTER.
Clause.—You now shall know the king o' the beggars' treasure:— Yes—ere to-morrow you shall find your harbour Here,—fail me not, for if I live I'll fit you. The Beggar's Bush.
The German, determined, it would seem, to assert the vantage-ground on which the discovery had placed him, replied with great pomp and stateliness to the attack of the Antiquary.
"Maister Oldenbuck, all dis may be very witty and comedy, but I have nothing to say—nothing at all—to people dat will not believe deir own eye-sights. It is vary true dat I ave not any of de things of de art, and it makes de more wonder what I has done dis day. But I would ask of you, mine honoured and goot and generous patron, to put your hand into your right-hand waistcoat pocket, and show me what you shall find dere."
Sir Arthur obeyed his direction, and pulled out the small plate of silver which he had used under the adept's auspices upon the former occasion. "It is very true," said Sir Arthur, looking gravely at the Antiquary; "this is the graduated and calculated sigil by which Mr. Dousterswivel and I regulated our first discovery."
"Pshaw! pshaw! my dear friend," said Oldbuck, "you are too wise to believe in the influence of a trumpery crown-piece, beat out thin, and a parcel of scratches upon it. I tell thee, Sir Arthur, that if Dousterswivel had known where to get this treasure himself, you would not have been lord of the least share of it."
"In troth, please your honour," said Edie, who put in his word on all occasions, "I think, since Mr. Dunkerswivel has had sae muckle merit in discovering a' the gear, the least ye can do is to gie him that o't that's left behind for his labour; for doubtless he that kend where to find sae muckle will hae nae difficulty to find mair."
Dousterswivel's brow grew very dark at this proposal of leaving him to his "ain purchase," as Ochiltree expressed it; but the beggar, drawing him aside, whispered a word or two in his ear, to which he seemed to give serious attention,
Meanwhile Sir Arthur, his heart warm with his good fortune, said aloud, "Never mind our friend Monkbarns, Mr. Dousterswivel, but come to the Castle to-morrow, and I'll convince you that I am not ungrateful for the hints you have given me about this matter—and the fifty Fairport dirty notes, as you call them, are heartily at your service. Come, my lads, get the cover of this precious chest fastened up again."
But the cover had in the confusion fallen aside among the rubbish, or the loose earth which had been removed from the grave—in short, it was not to be seen.
"Never mind, my good lads, tie the tarpaulin over it, and get it away to the carriage.—Monkbarns, will you walk? I must go back your way to take up Miss Wardour."
"And, I hope, to take up your dinner also, Sir Arthur, and drink a glass of wine for joy of our happy adventure. Besides, you should write about the business to the Exchequer, in case of any interference on the part of the Crown. As you are lord of the manor, it will be easy to get a deed of gift, should they make any claim. We must talk about it, though."
"And I particularly recommend silence to all who are present," said Sir Arthur, looking round. All bowed and professed themselves dumb.
"Why, as to that," said Monkbarns, "recommending secrecy where a dozen of people are acquainted with the circumstance to be concealed, is only putting the truth in masquerade, for the story will be circulated under twenty different shapes. But never mind—we will state the true one to the Barons, and that is all that is necessary."
"I incline to send off an express to-night," said the Baronet.
"I can recommend your honour to a sure hand," said Ochiltree; "little Davie Mailsetter, and the butcher's reisting powny."
"We will talk over the matter as we go to Monkbarns," said Sir Arthur. "My lads" (to the work-people), "come with me to the Four Horse-shoes, that I may take down all your names.—Dousterswivel, I won't ask you to go down to Monkbarns, as the laird and you differ so widely in opinion; but do not fail to come to see me to-morrow."
Dousterswivel growled out an answer, in which the words, "duty,"—"mine honoured patron,"—and "wait upon Sir Arthurs,"—were alone distinguishable; and after the Baronet and his friend had left the ruins, followed by the servants and workmen, who, in hope of reward and whisky, joyfully attended their leader, the adept remained in a brown study by the side of the open grave.
"Who was it as could have thought this?" he ejaculated unconsciously. "Mine heiligkeit! I have heard of such things, and often spoken of such things—but, sapperment! I never, thought to see them! And if I had gone but two or dree feet deeper down in the earth—mein himmel! it had been all mine own—so much more as I have been muddling about to get from this fool's man."
Here the German ceased his soliloquy, for, raising his eyes, he encountered those of Edie Ochiltree, who had not followed the rest of the company, but, resting as usual on his pike-staff, had planted himself on the other side of the grave. The features of the old man, naturally shrewd and expressive almost to an appearance of knavery, seemed in this instance so keenly knowing, that even the assurance of Dousterswivel, though a professed adventurer, sunk beneath their glances. But he saw the necessity of an e'claircissement, and, rallying his spirits, instantly began to sound the mendicant on the occurrences of the day. "Goot Maister Edies Ochiltrees"—
"Edie Ochiltree, nae maister—your puir bedesman and the king's," answered the Blue-Gown.
"Awell den, goot Edie, what do you think of all dis?"
"I was just thinking it was very kind (for I darena say very simple) o' your honour to gie thae twa rich gentles, wha hae lands and lairdships, and siller without end, this grand pose o' silver and treasure (three times tried in the fire, as the Scripture expresses it), that might hae made yoursell and ony twa or three honest bodies beside, as happy and content as the day was lang."
"Indeed, Edie, mine honest friends, dat is very true; only I did not know, dat is, I was not sure, where to find the gelt myself."
"What! was it not by your honours advice and counsel that Monkbarns and the Knight of Knockwinnock came here then?"
"Aha—yes; but it was by another circumstance. I did not know dat dey would have found de treasure, mine friend; though I did guess, by such a tintamarre, and cough, and sneeze, and groan, among de spirit one other night here, dat there might be treasure and bullion hereabout. Ach, mein himmel! the spirit will hone and groan over his gelt, as if he were a Dutch Burgomaster counting his dollars after a great dinner at the Stadthaus."
"And do you really believe the like o' that, Mr. Dusterdeevil!—a skeelfu' man like you—hout fie!"
"Mein friend," answered the adept, foreed by circumstances to speak something nearer the truth than he generally used to do, "I believed it no more than you and no man at all, till I did hear them hone and moan and groan myself on de oder night, and till I did this day see de cause, which was an great chest all full of de pure silver from Mexico—and what would you ave nae think den?"
"And what wad ye gie to ony ane," said Edie, "that wad help ye to sic another kistfu' o' silver!"
"Give?—mein himmel!—one great big quarter of it."
"Now if the secret were mine," said the mendicant, "I wad stand out for a half; for you see, though I am but a puir ragged body, and couldna carry silver or gowd to sell for fear o' being taen up, yet I could find mony folk would pass it awa for me at unco muckle easier profit than ye're thinking on."
"Ach, himmel!—Mein goot friend, what was it I said?—I did mean to say you should have de tree quarter for your half, and de one quarter to be my fair half."
"No, no, Mr. Dusterdeevil, we will divide equally what we find, like brother and brother. Now, look at this board that I just flung into the dark aisle out o' the way, while Monkbarns was glowering ower a' the silver yonder. He's a sharp chiel Monkbarns—I was glad to keep the like o' this out o' his sight. Ye'll maybe can read the character better than me—I am nae that book learned, at least I'm no that muckle in practice."
With this modest declaration of ignorance, Ochiltree brought forth from behind a pillar the cover of the box or chest of treasure, which, when forced from its hinges, had been carelessly flung aside during the ardour of curiosity to ascertain the contents which it concealed, and had been afterwards, as it seems, secreted by the mendicant. There was a word and a number upon the plank, and the beggar made them more distinct by spitting upon his ragged blue handkerchief, and rubbing off the clay by which the inscription was obscured. It was in the ordinary black letter.
"Can ye mak ought o't?" said Edie to the adept.
"S," said the philosopher, like a child getting his lesson in the primer—"S, T, A, R, C, H,—Starch!—dat is what de woman-washers put into de neckerchers, and de shirt collar."
"Search!" echoed Ochiltree; "na, na, Mr. Dusterdeevil, ye are mair of a conjuror than a clerk—it's search, man, search—See, there's the Ye clear and distinct."
"Aha! I see it now—it is search—number one. Mein himmel! then there must be a number two, mein goot friend: for search is what you call to seek and dig, and this is but number one! Mine wort, there is one great big prize in de wheel for us, goot Maister Ochiltree."
"Aweel, it may be sae; but we canna howk fort enow—we hae nae shules, for they hae taen them a' awa—and it's like some o' them will be sent back to fling the earth into the hole, and mak a' things trig again. But an ye'll sit down wi' me a while in the wood, I'se satisfy your honour that ye hae just lighted on the only man in the country that could hae tauld about Malcolm Misticot and his hidden treasure—But first we'll rub out the letters on this board, for fear it tell tales."
And, by the assistance of his knife, the beggar erased and defaced the characters so as to make them quite unintelligible, and then daubed the board with clay so as to obliterate all traces of the erasure.
Dousterswivel stared at him in ambiguous silence. There was an intelligence and alacrity about all the old man's movements, which indicated a person that could not be easily overreached, and yet (for even rogues acknowledge in some degree the spirit of precedence) our adept felt the disgrace of playing a secondary part, and dividing winnings with so mean an associate. His appetite for gain, however, was sufficiently sharp to overpower his offended pride, and though far more an impostor than a dupe, he was not without a certain degree of personal faith even in the gross superstitions by means of which he imposed upon others. Still, being accustomed to act as a leader on such occasions, he felt humiliated at feeling himself in the situation of a vulture marshalled to his prey by a carrion-crow.—"Let me, however, hear this story to an end," thought Dousterswivel, "and it will be hard if I do not make mine account in it better as Maister Edie Ochiltrees makes proposes."
The adept, thus transformed into a pupil from a teacher of the mystic art, followed Ochiltree in passive acquiescence to the Prior's Oak—a spot, as the reader may remember, at a short distance from the ruins, where the German sat down, and silence waited the old man's communication.
"Maister Dustandsnivel," said the narrator, "it's an unco while since I heard this business treated anent;—for the lairds of Knockwinnock, neither Sir Arthur, nor his father, nor his grandfather—and I mind a wee bit about them a'—liked to hear it spoken about; nor they dinna like it yet—But nae matter; ye may be sure it was clattered about in the kitchen, like onything else in a great house, though it were forbidden in the ha'—and sae I hae heard the circumstance rehearsed by auld servants in the family; and in thir present days, when things o' that auld-warld sort arena keepit in mind round winter fire-sides as they used to be, I question if there's onybody in the country can tell the tale but mysell— aye out-taken the laird though, for there's a parchment book about it, as I have heard, in the charter-room at Knockwinnock Castle."
"Well, all dat is vary well—but get you on with your stories, mine goot friend," said Dousterswivel.
"Aweel, ye see," continued the mendicant, "this was a job in the auld times o' rugging and riving through the hale country, when it was ilka ane for himsell, and God for us a'—when nae man wanted property if he had strength to take it, or had it langer than he had power to keep it. It was just he ower her, and she ower him, whichever could win upmost, a' through the east country here, and nae doubt through the rest o' Scotland in the self and same manner.
"Sae in these days Sir Richard Wardour came into the land, and that was the first o' the name ever was in this country. There's been mony o' them sin' syne; and the maist, like him they ca'd Hell-in-Harness, and the rest o' them, are sleeping down in yon ruins. They were a proud dour set o' men, but unco brave, and aye stood up for the weel o' the country, God sain them a'—there's no muckle popery in that wish. They ca'd them the Norman Wardours, though they cam frae the south to this country. So this Sir Richard, that they ca'd Red-hand, drew up wi' the auld Knockwinnock o' that day—for then they were Knockwinnocks of that Ilk—and wad fain marry his only daughter, that was to have the castle and the land. Laith, laith was the lass—(Sybil Knockwinnock they ca'd her that tauld me the tale)—laith, laith was she to gie into the match, for she had fa'en a wee ower thick wi' a cousin o' her ain that her father had some ill-will to; and sae it was, that after she had been married to Sir Richard jimp four months—for marry him she maun, it's like—ye'll no hinder her gieing them a present o' a bonny knave bairn. Then there was siccan a ca'-thro', as the like was never seen; and she's be burnt, and he's be slain, was the best words o' their mouths. But it was a' sowdered up again some gait, and the bairn was sent awa, and bred up near the Highlands, and grew up to be a fine wanle fallow, like mony ane that comes o' the wrang side o' the blanket; and Sir Richard wi' the Red-hand, he had a fair offspring o'his ain, and a was lound and quiet till his head was laid in the ground. But then down came Malcolm Misticot—(Sir Arthur says it should be Misbegot, but they aye ca'd him Misticot that spoke o't lang syne)—down cam this Malcolm, the love-begot, frae Glen-isla, wi' a string o' lang-legged Highlanders at his heels, that's aye ready for onybody's mischief, and he threeps the castle and lands are his ain as his mother's eldest son, and turns a' the Wardours out to the hill. There was a sort of fighting and blude-spilling about it, for the gentles took different sides; but Malcolm had the uppermost for a lang time, and keepit the Castle of Knockwinnock, and strengthened it, and built that muckle tower that they ca' Misticot's tower to this day."
"Mine goot friend, old Mr. Edie Ochiltree." interrupted the German, "this is all as one like de long histories of a baron of sixteen quarters in mine countries; but I would as rather hear of de silver and gold."
"Why, ye see," continued the mendicant, "this Malcolm was weel helped by an uncle, a brother o' his father's, that was Prior o' St. Ruth here; and muckle treasure they gathered between them, to secure the succession of their house in the lands of Knockwinnock. Folk said that the monks in thae days had the art of multiplying metals—at ony rate, they were very rich. At last it came to this, that the young Wardour, that was Red-hand's son, challenged Misticot to fight with him in the lists as they ca'd them—that's no lists or tailor's runds and selvedges o' claith, but a palin'-thing they set up for them to fight in like game-cocks. Aweel, Misticot was beaten, and at his brother's mercy—but he wadna touch his life, for the blood of Knockwinnock that was in baith their veins: so Malcolm was compelled to turn a monk, and he died soon after in the priory, of pure despite and vexation. Naebody ever kenn'd whare his uncle the prior earded him, or what he did wi' his gowd and silver, for he stood on the right o' halie kirk, and wad gie nae account to onybody. But the prophecy gat abroad in the country, that whenever Misticot's grave was fund out, the estate of Knockwinnock should be lost and won."
"Ach! mine goot old friend, Maister Edie, and dat is not so very unlikely, if Sir Arthurs will quarrel wit his goot friends to please Mr. Oldenbuck.—And so you do tink dat dis golds and silvers belonged to goot Mr. Malcolm Mishdigoat?"
"Troth do I, Mr. Dousterdeevil."
"And you do believe dat dere is more of dat sorts behind?"
"By my certie do I—How can it be otherwise?—Search—No. I—that is as muckle as to say, search and ye'll find number twa. Besides, yon kist is only silver, and I aye heard that' Misticot's pose had muckle yellow gowd in't."
"Den, mine goot friends," said the adept, jumping up hastily, "why do we not set about our little job directly?"
"For twa gude reasons," answered the beggar, who quietly kept his sitting posture;—"first, because, as I said before, we have naething to dig wi', for they hae taen awa the picks and shules; and, secondly, because there will be a wheen idle gowks coming to glower at the hole as lang as it is daylight, and maybe the laird may send somebody to fill it up—and ony way we wad be catched. But if you will meet me on this place at twal o'clock wi' a dark lantern, I'll hae tools ready, and we'll gang quietly about our job our twa sells, and naebody the wiser for't."
"Be—be—but, mine goot friend," said Dousterswivel, from whose recollection his former nocturnal adventure was not to be altogether erased, even by the splendid hopes which Edie's narrative held forth, "it is not so goot or so safe, to be about goot Maister Mishdigoat's grabe at dat time of night—you have forgot how I told you de spirits did hone and mone dere. I do assure you, dere is disturbance dere."
"If ye're afraid of ghaists," answered the mendicant, coolly, "I'll do the job mysell, and bring your share o' the siller to ony place you like to appoint."
"No—no—mine excellent old Mr. Edie,—too much trouble for you—I will not have dat—I will come myself—and it will be bettermost; for, mine old friend, it was I, Herman Dousterswivel, discovered Maister Mishdigoat's grave when I was looking for a place as to put away some little trumpery coins, just to play one little trick on my dear friend Sir Arthur, for a little sport and pleasures. Yes, I did take some what you call rubbish, and did discover Maister Mishdigoat's own monumentsh— It's like dat he meant I should be his heirs—so it would not be civility in me not to come mineself for mine inheritance."
"At twal o'clock, then," said the mendicant, "we meet under this tree. I'll watch for a while, and see that naebody meddles wi' the grave—it's only saying the laird's forbade it—then get my bit supper frae Ringan the poinder up by, and leave to sleep in his barn; and I'll slip out at night, and neer be mist."
"Do so, mine goot Maister Edie, and I will meet you here on this very place, though all de spirits should moan and sneeze deir very brains out."
So saying he shook hands with the old man, and with this mutual pledge of fidelity to their appointment, they separated for the present.
—See thou shake the bags Of hoarding abbots; angels imprisoned Set thou at liberty— Bell, book, and candle, shall not drive me back, If gold and silver beckon to come on. King John.
The night set in stormy, with wind and occasional showers of rain. "Eh, sirs," said the old mendicant, as he took his place on the sheltered side of the large oak-tree to wait for his associate—"Eh, sirs, but human nature's a wilful and wilyard thing!—Is it not an unco lucre o' gain wad bring this Dousterdivel out in a blast o' wind like this, at twal o'clock at night, to thir wild gousty wa's?—and amna I a bigger fule than himsell to bide here waiting for him?"
Having made these sage reflections, he wrapped himself close in his cloak, and fixed his eye on the moon as she waded amid the stormy and dusky clouds, which the wind from time to time drove across her surface. The melancholy and uncertain gleams that she shot from between the passing shadows fell full upon the rifted arches and shafted windows of the old building, which were thus for an instant made distinctly visible in their ruinous state, and anon became again a dark, undistinguished, and shadowy mass. The little lake had its share of these transient beams of light, and showed its waters broken, whitened, and agitated under the passing storm, which, when the clouds swept over the moon, were only distinguished by their sullen and murmuring plash against the beach. The wooded glen repeated, to every successive gust that hurried through its narrow trough, the deep and various groan with which the trees replied to the whirlwind, and the sound sunk again, as the blast passed away, into a faint and passing murmur, resembling the sighs of an exhausted criminal after the first pangs of his torture are over. In these sounds, superstition might have found ample gratification for that State of excited terror which she fears and yet loves. But such feeling is made no part of Ochiltree's composition. His mind wandered back to the scenes of his youth.
"I have kept guard on the outposts baith in Germany and America," he said to himself, "in mony a waur night than this, and when I ken'd there was maybe a dozen o' their riflemen in the thicket before me. But I was aye gleg at my duty—naebody ever catched Edie sleeping."
As he muttered thus to himself, he instinctively shouldered his trusty pike-staff, assumed the port of a sentinel on duty, and, as a step advanced towards the tree, called, with a tone assorting better with his military reminiscences than his present state—"Stand! who goes there?"
"De devil, goot Edie," answered Dousterswivel, "why does you speak so loud as a baarenhauter, or what you call a factionary—I mean a sentinel?"
"Just because I thought I was a sentinel at that moment," answered the mendicant. "Here's an awsome night! Hae ye brought the lantern and a pock for the siller?"
"Ay-ay, mine goot friend," said the German, "here it is—my pair of what you call saddlebag; one side will be for you, one side for me;—I will put dem on my horse to save you de trouble, as you are old man."
"Have you a horse here, then?" asked Edie Ochiltree.
"O yes, mine friend—tied yonder by de stile," responded the adept.
"Weel, I hae just ae word to the bargain—there sall nane o' my gear gang on your beast's back."
"What was it as you would be afraid of?" said the foreigner.
"Only of losing sight of horse, man, and money," again replied the gaberlunzie.
"Does you know dat you make one gentlemans out to be one great rogue?"
"Mony gentlemen," replied Ochiltree, "can make that out for themselves— But what's the sense of quarrelling?—If ye want to gang on, gang on—if no—I'll gae back to the gude ait-straw in Ringan Aikwood's barn that I left wi' right ill-will e'now, and I'll pit back the pick and shule whar I got them."
Dousterswivel deliberated a moment, whether, by suffering Edie to depart, he might not secure the whole of the expected wealth for his own exclusive use. But the want of digging implements, the uncertainty whether, if he had them, he could clear out the grave to a sufficient depth without assistance, and, above all, the reluctance which he felt, owing to the experience of the former night, to venture alone on the terrors of Misticot's grave, satisfied him the attempt would be hazardous. Endeavouring, therefore, to assume his usual cajoling tone, though internally incensed, he begged "his goot friend Maister Edie Ochiltrees would lead the way, and assured him of his acquiescence in all such an excellent friend could propose."
"Aweel, aweel, then," said Edie, "tak gude care o' your feet amang the lang grass and the loose stones. I wish we may get the light keepit in neist, wi' this fearsome wind—but there's a blink o' moonlight at times."
Thus saying, old Edie, closely accompanied by the adept, led the way towards the ruins, but presently made a full halt in front of them.
"Ye're a learned man, Mr. Dousterdeevil, and ken muckle o' the marvellous works o' nature—Now, will ye tell me ae thing?—D'ye believe in ghaists and spirits that walk the earth?—d'ye believe in them, ay or no?"
"Now, goot Mr. Edie," whispered Dousterswivel, in an expostulatory tone of voice, "is this a times or a places for such a questions?"
"Indeed is it, baith the tane and the t'other, Mr. Dustanshovel; for I maun fairly tell ye, there's reports that auld Misticot walks. Now this wad be an uncanny night to meet him in, and wha kens if he wad be ower weel pleased wi' our purpose of visiting his pose?"
"Alle guten Geister"—muttered the adept, the rest of the conjuration being lost in a tremulous warble of his voice,—"I do desires you not to speak so, Mr. Edie; for, from all I heard dat one other night, I do much believes"—
"Now I," said Ochiltree, entering the chancel, and flinging abroad his arm with an air of defiance, "I wadna gie the crack o' my thumb for him were he to appear at this moment: he's but a disembodied spirit, as we are embodied anes."
"For the lofe of heavens," said Dousterswivel, "say nothing at all neither about somebodies or nobodies!"
"Aweel," said the beggar (expanding the shade of the lantern), "here's the stane, and, spirit or no spirit, I'se be a wee bit deeper in the grave;" and he jumped into the place from which the precious chest had that morning been removed. After striking a few strokes, he tired, or affected to tire, and said to his companion, "I'm auld and failed now, and canna keep at it—time about's fair play, neighbour; ye maun get in and tak the shule a bit, and shule out the loose earth, and then I'll tak turn about wi' you."
Dousterswivel accordingly took the place which the beggar had evacuated, and toiled with all the zeal that awakened avarice, mingled with the anxious wish to finish the undertaking and leave the place as soon as possible, could inspire in a mind at once greedy, suspicious, and timorous.
Edie, standing much at his ease by the side of the hole, contented himself with exhorting his associate to labour hard. "My certie! few ever wrought for siccan a day's wage; an it be but—say the tenth part o' the size o' the kist, No. I., it will double its value, being filled wi' gowd instead of silver. Od, ye work as if ye had been bred to pick and shule— ye could win your round half-crown ilka day. Tak care o' your taes wi' that stane!" giving a kick to a large one which the adept had heaved out with difficulty, and which Edie pushed back again to the great annoyance of his associate's shins.
Thus exhorted by the mendicant, Dousterswivel struggled and laboured among the stones and stiff clay, toiling like a horse, and internally blaspheming in German. When such an unhallowed syllable escaped his lips, Edie changed his battery upon him.
"O dinna swear! dinna swear! Wha kens whals listening!—Eh! gude guide us, what's yon!—Hout, it's just a branch of ivy flightering awa frae the wa'; when the moon was in, it lookit unco like a dead man's arm wi' a taper in't—I thought it was Misticot himsell. But never mind, work you away—fling the earth weel up by out o' the gate—Od, if ye're no as clean a worker at a grave as Win Winnet himsell! What gars ye stop now?— ye're just at the very bit for a chance."
"Stop!" said the German, in a tone of anger and disappointment, "why, I am down at de rocks dat de cursed ruins (God forgife me!) is founded upon."
"Weel," said the beggar, "that's the likeliest bit of ony. It will be but a muckle through-stane laid doun to kiver the gowd—tak the pick till't, and pit mair strength, man—ae gude down-right devvel will split it, I'se warrant ye—Ay, that will do Od, he comes on wi' Wallace's straiks!"
In fact, the adept, moved by Edie's exhortations, fetched two or three desperate blows, and succeeded in breaking, not indeed that against which he struck, which, as he had already conjectured, was the solid rock, but the implement which he wielded, jarring at the same time his arms up to the shoulder-blades.
"Hurra, boys!—there goes Ringan's pick-axe!" cried Edie "it's a shame o' the Fairport folk to sell siccan frail gear. Try the shule—at it again, Mr. Dusterdeevil."
The adept, without reply, scrambled out of the pit, which was now about six feet deep, and addressed his associate in a voice that trembled with anger. "Does you know, Mr. Edies Ochiltrees, who it is you put off your gibes and your jests upon?"
"Brawly, Mr. Dusterdeevil—brawly do I ken ye, and has done mony a day; but there's nae jesting in the case, for I am wearying to see ae our treasures; we should hae had baith ends o' the pockmanky filled by this time—I hope it's bowk eneugh to haud a' the gear?"
"Look you, you base old person," said the incensed philosopher, "if you do put another jest upon me, I will cleave your skull-piece with this shovels!"
"And whare wad my hands and my pike-staff be a' the time?" replied Edie, in a tone that indicated no apprehension. "Hout, tout, Maister Dusterdeevil, I haena lived sae lang in the warld neither, to be shuled out o't that gate. What ails ye to be cankered, man, wi' your friends? I'll wager I'll find out the treasure in a minute;" and he jumped into the pit, and took up the spade.
"I do swear to you," said the adept, whose suspicions were now fully awake, "that if you have played me one big trick, I will give you one big beating, Mr. Edies."
"Hear till him now!" said Ochiltree, "he kens how to gar folk find out the gear—Od, I'm thinking he's been drilled that way himsell some day."
At this insinuation, which alluded obviously to the former scene betwixt himself and Sir Arthur, the philosopher lost the slender remnant of patience he had left, and being of violent passions, heaved up the truncheon of the broken mattock to discharge it upon the old man's head. The blow would in all probability have been fatal, had not he at whom it was aimed exclaimed in a stern and firm voice, "Shame to ye, man!—do ye think Heaven or earth will suffer ye to murder an auld man that might be your father?—Look behind ye, man!"
Dousterswivel turned instinctively, and beheld, to his utter astonishment, a tall dark figure standing close behind him. The apparition gave him no time to proceed by exorcism or otherwise, but having instantly recourse to the voie de fait, took measure of the adept's shoulders three or four times with blows so substantial, that he fell under the weight of them, and remained senseless for some minutes between fear and stupefaction. When he came to himself, he was alone in the ruined chancel, lying upon the soft and damp earth which had been thrown out of Misticot's grave. He raised himself with a confused sensation of anger, pain, and terror, and it was not until he had sat upright for some minutes, that he could arrange his ideas sufficiently to recollect how he came there, or with what purpose. As his recollection returned, he could have little doubt that the bait held out to him by Ochiltree, to bring him to that solitary spot, the sarcasms by which he had provoked him into a quarrel, and the ready assistance which he had at hand for terminating it in the manner in which it had ended, were all parts of a concerted plan to bring disgrace and damage on Herman Dousterswivel. He could hardly suppose that he was indebted for the fatigue, anxiety, and beating which he had undergone, purely to the malice of Edie Ochiltree singly, but concluded that the mendicant had acted a part assigned to him by some person of greater importance. His suspicions hesitated between Oldbuck and Sir Arthur Wardour. The former had been at no pains to conceal a marked dislike of him—but the latter he had deeply injured; and although he judged that Sir Arthur did not know the extent of his wrongs towards him, yet it was easy to suppose he had gathered enough of the truth to make him desirous of revenge. Ochiltree had alluded to at least one circumstance which the adept had every reason to suppose was private between Sir Arthur and himself, and therefore must have been learned from the former. The language of Oldbuck also intimated a conviction of his knavery, which Sir Arthur heard without making any animated defence. Lastly, the way in which Dousterswivel supposed the Baronet to have exercised his revenge, was not inconsistent with the practice of other countries with which the adept was better acquainted than with those of North Britain. With him, as with many bad men, to suspect an injury, and to nourish the purpose of revenge, was one and the same movement. And before Dousterswivel had fairly recovered his legs, he had mentally sworn the ruin of his benefactor, which, unfortunately, he possessed too much the power of accelerating.
But although a purpose of revenge floated through his brain, it was no time to indulge such speculations. The hour, the place, his own situation, and perhaps the presence or near neighbourhood of his assailants, made self-preservation the adept's first object. The lantern had been thrown down and extinguished in the scuffle. The wind, which formerly howled so loudly through the aisles of the ruin, had now greatly fallen, lulled by the rain, which was descending very fast. The moon, from the same cause, was totally obscured, and though Dousterswivel had some experience of the ruins, and knew that he must endeavour to regain the eastern door of the chancel, yet the confusion of his ideas was such, that he hesitated for some time ere he could ascertain in what direction he was to seek it. In this perplexity, the suggestions of superstition, taking the advantage of darkness and his evil conscience, began again to present themselves to his disturbed imagination. "But bah!" quoth he valiantly to himself, "it is all nonsense all one part of de damn big trick and imposture. Devil! that one thick-skulled Scotch Baronet, as I have led by the nose for five year, should cheat Herman Dousterswivel!"
As he had come to this conclusion, an incident occurred which tended greatly to shake the grounds on which he had adopted it. Amid the melancholy sough of the dying wind, and the plash of the rain-drops on leaves and stones, arose, and apparently at no great distance from the listener, a strain of vocal music so sad and solemn, as if the departed spirits of the churchmen who had once inhabited these deserted ruins were mourning the solitude and desolation to which their hallowed precincts had been abandoned. Dousterswivel, who had now got upon his feet, and was groping around the wall of the chancel, stood rooted to the ground on the occurrence of this new phenomenon. Each faculty of his soul seemed for the moment concentred in the sense of hearing, and all rushed back with the unanimous information, that the deep, wild, and prolonged chant which he now heard, was the appropriate music of one of the most solemn dirges of the Church of Rome. Why performed in such a solitude, and by what class of choristers, were questions which the terrified imagination of the adept, stirred with all the German superstitions of nixies, oak-kings, wer-wolves, hobgoblins, black spirits and white, blue spirits and grey, durst not even attempt to solve.
Another of his senses was soon engaged in the investigation. At the extremity of one of the transepts of the church, at the bottom of a few descending steps, was a small iron-grated door, opening, as far as he recollected, to a sort of low vault or sacristy. As he cast his eye in the direction of the sound, he observed a strong reflection of red light glimmering through these bars, and against the steps which descended to them. Dousterswivel stood a moment uncertain what to do; then, suddenly forming a desperate resolution, he moved down the aisle to the place from which the light proceeded.
Fortified with the sign of the cross, and as many exorcisms as his memory could recover, he advanced to the grate, from which, unseen, he could see what passed in the interior of the vault. As he approached with timid and uncertain steps, the chant, after one or two wild and prolonged cadences, died away into profound silence. The grate, when he reached it, presented a singular spectacle in the interior of the sacristy. An open grave, with four tall flambeaus, each about six feet high, placed at the four corners—a bier, having a corpse in its shroud, the arms folded upon the breast, rested upon tressels at one side of the grave, as if ready to be interred—a priest, dressed in his cope and stole, held open the service book—another churchman in his vestments bore a holy-water sprinkler, and two boys in white surplices held censers with incense—a man, of a figure once tall and commanding, but now bent with age or infirmity, stood alone and nearest to the coffin, attired in deep mourning—such were the most prominent figures of the group. At a little distance were two or three persons of both sexes, attired in long mourning hoods and cloaks; and five or six others in the same lugubrious dress, still farther removed from the body, around the walls of the vault, stood ranged in motionless order, each bearing in his hand a huge torch of black wax. The smoky light from so many flambeaus, by the red and indistinct atmosphere which it spread around, gave a hazy, dubious, and as it were phantom-like appearance to the outlines of this singular apparition, The voice of the priest—loud, clear, and sonorous—now recited, from the breviary which he held in his hand, those solemn words which the ritual of the Catholic church has consecrated to the rendering of dust to dust. Meanwhile, Dousterswivel, the place, the hour, and the surprise considered, still remained uncertain whether what he saw was substantial, or an unearthly representation of the rites to which in former times these walls were familiar, but which are now rarely practised in Protestant countries, and almost never in Scotland. He was uncertain whether to abide the conclusion of the ceremony, or to endeavour to regain the chancel, when a change in his position made him visible through the grate to one of the attendant mourners. The person who first espied him indicated his discovery to the individual who stood apart and nearest the coffin, by a sign, and upon his making a sign in reply, two of the group detached themselves, and, gliding along with noiseless steps, as if fearing to disturb the service, unlocked and opened the grate which separated them from the adept. Each took him by an arm, and exerting a degree of force, which he would have been incapable of resisting had his fear permitted him to attempt opposition, they placed him on the ground in the chancel, and sat down, one on each side of him, as if to detain him. Satisfied he was in the power of mortals like himself, the adept would have put some questions to them; but while one pointed to the vault, from which the sound of the priest's voice was distinctly heard, the other placed his finger upon his lips in token of silence, a hint which the German thought it most prudent to obey. And thus they detained him until a loud Alleluia, pealing through the deserted arches of St. Ruth, closed the singular ceremony which it had been his fortune to witness.
When the hymn had died away with all its echoes, the voice of one of the sable personages under whose guard the adept had remained, said, in a familiar tone and dialect, "Dear sirs, Mr. Dousterswivel, is this you? could not ye have let us ken an ye had wussed till hae been present at the ceremony?—My lord couldna tak it weel your coming blinking and jinking in, in that fashion."
"In de name of all dat is gootness, tell me what you are?" interrupted the German in his turn.
"What I am? why, wha should I be but Ringan Aikwood, the Knockwinnock poinder?—and what are ye doing here at this time o' night, unless ye were come to attend the leddy's burial?"
"I do declare to you, mine goot Poinder Aikwood," said the German, raising himself up, "that I have been this vary nights murdered, robbed, and put in fears of my life."
"Robbed! wha wad do sic a deed here?—Murdered! od ye speak pretty blithe for a murdered man—Put in fear! what put you in fear, Mr. Dousterswivel?"
"I will tell you, Maister Poinder Aikwood Ringan, just dat old miscreant dog villain blue-gown, as you call Edie Ochiltrees."
"I'll neer believe that," answered Ringan;—"Edie was ken'd to me, and my father before me, for a true, loyal, and sooth-fast man; and, mair by token, he's sleeping up yonder in our barn, and has been since ten at e'en—Sae touch ye wha liket, Mr. Dousterswivel, and whether onybody touched ye or no, I'm sure Edie's sackless."
"Maister Ringan Aikwood Poinders, I do not know what you call sackless,— but let alone all de oils and de soot dat you say he has, and I will tell you I was dis night robbed of fifty pounds by your oil and sooty friend, Edies Ochiltree; and he is no more in your barn even now dan I ever shall be in de kingdom of heafen."
"Weel, sir, if ye will gae up wi' me, as the burial company has dispersed, we'se mak ye down a bed at the lodge, and we'se see if Edie's at the barn. There was twa wild-looking chaps left the auld kirk when we were coming up wi' the corpse, that's certain; and the priest, wha likes ill that ony heretics should look on at our church ceremonies, sent twa o' the riding saulies after them; sae we'll hear a' about it frae them."
Thus speaking, the kindly apparition, with the assistance of the mute personage, who was his son, disencumbered himself of his cloak, and prepared to escort Dousterswivel to the place of that rest which the adept so much needed.
"I will apply to the magistrates to-morrow," said the adept; "oder, I will have de law put in force against all the peoples."
While he thus muttered vengeance against the cause of his injury, he tottered from among the ruins, supporting himself on Ringan and his son, whose assistance his state of weakness rendered very necessary.
When they were clear of the priory, and had gained the little meadow in which it stands, Dousterswivel could perceive the torches which had caused him so much alarm issuing in irregular procession from the ruins, and glancing their light, like that of the ignis fatuus, on the banks of the lake. After moving along the path for some short space with a fluctuating and irregular motion, the lights were at once extinguished.
"We aye put out the torches at the Halie-cross Well on sic occasions," said the forester to his guest. And accordingly no farther visible sign of the procession offered itself to Dousterswivel, although his ear could catch the distant and decreasing echo of horses' hoofs in the direction towards which the mourners had bent their course.
O weel may the boatie row And better may she speed, And weel may the boatie row That earns the bairnies' bread! The boatie rows, the boatie rows, The boatie rows fu' weel, And lightsome be their life that bear The merlin and the creel! Old Ballad.
We must now introduce our reader to the interior of the fisher's cottage mentioned in CHAPTER eleventh of this edifying history. I wish I could say that its inside was well arranged, decently furnished, or tolerably clean. On the contrary, I am compelled to admit, there was confusion,— there was dilapidation,—there was dirt good store. Yet, with all this, there was about the inmates, Luckie Mucklebackit and her family, an appearance of ease, plenty, and comfort, that seemed to warrant their old sluttish proverb, "The clartier the cosier." A huge fire, though the season was summer, occupied the hearth, and served at once for affording light, heat, and the means of preparing food. The fishing had been successful, and the family, with customary improvidence, had, since unlading the cargo, continued an unremitting operation of broiling and frying that part of the produce reserved for home consumption, and the bones and fragments lay on the wooden trenchers, mingled with morsels of broken bannocks and shattered mugs of half-drunk beer. The stout and athletic form of Maggie herself, bustling here and there among a pack of half-grown girls and younger children, of whom she chucked one now here and another now there, with an exclamation of "Get out o' the gate, ye little sorrow!" was strongly contrasted with the passive and half-stupified look and manner of her husband's mother, a woman advanced to the last stage of human life, who was seated in her wonted chair close by the fire, the warmth of which she coveted, yet hardly seemed to be sensible of—now muttering to herself, now smiling vacantly to the children as they pulled the strings of her toy or close cap, or twitched her blue checked apron. With her distaff in her bosom, and her spindle in her hand, she plied lazily and mechanically the old-fashioned Scottish thrift, according to the old-fashioned Scottish manner. The younger children, crawling among the feet of the elder, watched the progress of grannies spindle as it twisted, and now and then ventured to interrupt its progress as it danced upon the floor in those vagaries which the more regulated spinning-wheel has now so universally superseded, that even the fated Princess in the fairy tale might roam through all Scotland without the risk of piercing her hand with a spindle, and dying of the wound. Late as the hour was (and it was long past midnight), the whole family were still on foot, and far from proposing to go to bed; the dame was still busy broiling car-cakes on the girdle, and the elder girl, the half-naked mermaid elsewhere commemorated, was preparing a pile of Findhorn haddocks (that is, haddocks smoked with green wood), to be eaten along with these relishing provisions.
While they were thus employed, a slight tap at the door, accompanied with the question, "Are ye up yet, sirs?" announced a visitor. The answer, "Ay, ay,—come your ways ben, hinny," occasioned the lifting of the latch, and Jenny Rintherout, the female domestic of our Antiquary, made her appearance.
"Ay, ay," exclaimed the mistress of the family—"Hegh, sirs! can this be you, Jenny?—a sight o' you's gude for sair een, lass."
"O woman, we've been sae ta'en up wi' Captain Hector's wound up by, that I havena had my fit out ower the door this fortnight; but he's better now, and auld Caxon sleeps in his room in case he wanted onything. Sae, as soon as our auld folk gaed to bed, I e'en snodded my head up a bit, and left the house-door on the latch, in case onybody should be wanting in or out while I was awa, and just cam down the gate to see an there was ony cracks amang ye."
"Ay, ay," answered Luckie Mucklebackit, "I see you hae gotten a' your braws on; ye're looking about for Steenie now—but he's no at hame the night; and ye'll no do for Steenie, lass—a feckless thing like you's no fit to mainteen a man."
"Steenie will no do for me," retorted Jenny, with a toss of her head that might have become a higher-born damsel; "I maun hae a man that can mainteen his wife."
"Ou ay, hinny—thae's your landward and burrows-town notions. My certie!—fisherwives ken better—they keep the man, and keep the house, and keep the siller too, lass."
"A wheen poor drudges ye are," answered the nymph of the land to the nymph of the sea. "As sune as the keel o' the coble touches the sand, deil a bit mair will the lazy fisher loons work, but the wives maun kilt their coats, and wade into the surf to tak the fish ashore. And then the man casts aff the wat and puts on the dry, and sits down wi' his pipe and his gill-stoup ahint the ingle, like ony auld houdie, and neer a turn will he do till the coble's afloat again! And the wife she maun get the scull on her back, and awa wi' the fish to the next burrows-town, and scauld and ban wi'ilka wife that will scauld and ban wi'her till it's sauld—and that's the gait fisher-wives live, puir slaving bodies."
"Slaves?—gae wa', lass!—ca' the head o' the house slaves? little ye ken about it, lass. Show me a word my Saunders daur speak, or a turn he daur do about the house, without it be just to tak his meat, and his drink, and his diversion, like ony o' the weans. He has mair sense than to ca' anything about the bigging his ain, frae the rooftree down to a crackit trencher on the bink. He kens weel eneugh wha feeds him, and cleeds him, and keeps a' tight, thack and rape, when his coble is jowing awa in the Firth, puir fallow. Na, na, lass!—them that sell the goods guide the purse—them that guide the purse rule the house. Show me ane o' yer bits o' farmer-bodies that wad let their wife drive the stock to the market, and ca' in the debts. Na, na."
"Aweel, aweel, Maggie, ilka land has its ain lauch—But where's Steenie the night, when a's come and gane? And where's the gudeman?"*
* Note G. Gynecocracy.
"I hae putten the gudeman to his bed, for he was e'en sair forfain; and Steenie's awa out about some barns-breaking wi' the auld gaberlunzie, Edie Ochiltree: they'll be in sune, and ye can sit doun."
"Troth, gudewife" (taking a seat), "I haena that muckle time to stop—but I maun tell ye about the news. Yell hae heard o' the muckle kist o' gowd that Sir Arthur has fund down by at St. Ruth?—He'll be grander than ever now—he'll no can haud down his head to sneeze, for fear o' seeing his shoon."
"Ou ay—a' the country's heard o' that; but auld Edie says that they ca' it ten times mair than ever was o't, and he saw them howk it up. Od, it would be lang or a puir body that needed it got sic a windfa'."
"Na, that's sure eneugh.—And yell hae heard o' the Countess o' Glenallan being dead and lying in state, and how she's to be buried at St. Ruth's as this night fa's, wi' torch-light; and a' the popist servants, and Ringan Aikwood, that's a papist too, are to be there, and it will be the grandest show ever was seen."
"Troth, hinny," answered the Nereid, "if they let naebody but papists come there, it'll no be muckle o' a show in this country, for the auld harlot, as honest Mr. Blattergowl ca's her, has few that drink o' her cup o' enchantments in this corner o' our chosen lands.—But what can ail them to bury the auld carlin (a rudas wife she was) in the night-time?—I dare say our gudemither will ken."
Here she exalted her voice, and exclaimed twice or thrice, "Gudemither! gudemither!" but, lost in the apathy of age and deafness, the aged sibyl she addressed continued plying her spindle without understanding the appeal made to her.
"Speak to your grandmither, Jenny—Od, I wad rather hail the coble half a mile aff, and the nor-wast wind whistling again in my teeth."
"Grannie," said the little mermaid, in a voice to which the old woman was better accustomed, "minnie wants to ken what for the Glenallan folk aye bury by candle-light in the ruing of St. Ruth!"
The old woman paused in the act of twirling the spindle, turned round to the rest of the party, lifted her withered, trembling, and clay-coloured hand, raised up her ashen-hued and wrinkled face, which the quick motion of two light-blue eyes chiefly distinguished from the visage of a corpse, and, as if catching at any touch of association with the living world, answered, "What gars the Glenallan family inter their dead by torchlight, said the lassie?—Is there a Glenallan dead e'en now?"
"We might be a' dead and buried too," said Maggie, "for onything ye wad ken about it;"—and then, raising her voice to the stretch of her mother-in-law's comprehension, she added,
"It's the auld Countess, gudemither."
"And is she ca'd hame then at last?" said the old woman, in a voice that seemed to be agitated with much more feeling than belonged to her extreme old age, and the general indifference and apathy of her manner—"is she then called to her last account after her lang race o' pride and power?— O God, forgie her!"
"But minnie was asking ye," resumed the lesser querist, "what for the Glenallan family aye bury their dead by torch-light?"
"They hae aye dune sae," said the grandmother, "since the time the Great Earl fell in the sair battle o' the Harlaw, when they say the coronach was cried in ae day from the mouth of the Tay to the Buck of the Cabrach, that ye wad hae heard nae other sound but that of lamentation for the great folks that had fa'en fighting against Donald of the Isles. But the Great Earl's mither was living—they were a doughty and a dour race, the women o' the house o' Glenallan—and she wad hae nae coronach cried for her son, but had him laid in the silence o' midnight in his place o' rest, without either drinking the dirge, or crying the lament. She said he had killed enow that day he died, for the widows and daughters o' the Highlanders he had slain to cry the coronach for them they had lost, and for her son too; and sae she laid him in his gave wi' dry eyes, and without a groan or a wail. And it was thought a proud word o' the family, and they aye stickit by it—and the mair in the latter times, because in the night-time they had mair freedom to perform their popish ceremonies by darkness and in secrecy than in the daylight—at least that was the case in my time; they wad hae been disturbed in the day-time baith by the law and the commons of Fairport—they may be owerlooked now, as I have heard: the warlds changed—I whiles hardly ken whether I am standing or sitting, or dead or living."
And looking round the fire, as if in a state of unconscious uncertainty of which she complained, old Elspeth relapsed into her habitual and mechanical occupation of twirling the spindle.
"Eh, sirs!" said Jenny Rintherout, under her breath to her gossip, "it's awsome to hear your gudemither break out in that gait—it's like the dead speaking to the living."
"Ye're no that far wrang, lass; she minds naething o' what passes the day—but set her on auld tales, and she can speak like a prent buke. She kens mair about the Glenallan family than maist folk—the gudeman's father was their fisher mony a day. Ye maun ken the papists make a great point o' eating fish—it's nae bad part o' their religion that, whatever the rest is—I could aye sell the best o' fish at the best o' prices for the Countess's ain table, grace be wi' her! especially on a Friday—But see as our gudemither's hands and lips are ganging—now it's working in her head like barm—she'll speak eneugh the night. Whiles she'll no speak a word in a week, unless it be to the bits o' bairns."
"Hegh, Mrs. Mucklebackit, she's an awsome wife!" said Jenny in reply. "D'ye think she's a'thegither right? Folk say she downa gang to the kirk, or speak to the minister, and that she was ance a papist but since her gudeman's been dead, naebody kens what she is. D'ye think yoursell that she's no uncanny?"
"Canny, ye silly tawpie! think ye ae auld wife's less canny than anither? unless it be Alison Breck—I really couldna in conscience swear for her; I have kent the boxes she set fill'd wi' partans, when"—
"Whisht, whisht, Maggie," whispered Jenny—"your gudemither's gaun to speak again."
"Wasna there some ane o' ye said," asked the old sibyl, "or did I dream, or was it revealed to me, that Joscelind, Lady Glenallan, is dead, an' buried this night?"
"Yes, gudemither," screamed the daughter-in-law, "it's e'en sae."
"And e'en sae let it be," said old Elspeth; "she's made mony a sair heart in her day—ay, e'en her ain son's—is he living yet?"
"Ay, he's living yet; but how lang he'll live—however, dinna ye mind his coming and asking after you in the spring, and leaving siller?"
"It may be sae, Magge—I dinna mind it—but a handsome gentleman he was, and his father before him. Eh! if his father had lived, they might hae been happy folk! But he was gane, and the lady carried it in—ower and out-ower wi' her son, and garr'd him trow the thing he never suld hae trowed, and do the thing he has repented a' his life, and will repent still, were his life as lang as this lang and wearisome ane o' mine."
"O what was it, grannie?"—and "What was it, gudemither?"—and "What was it, Luckie Elspeth?" asked the children, the mother, and the visitor, in one breath.
"Never ask what it was," answered the old sibyl, "but pray to God that ye arena left to the pride and wilfu'ness o' your ain hearts: they may be as powerful in a cabin as in a castle—I can bear a sad witness to that. O that weary and fearfu' night! will it never gang out o' my auld head!— Eh! to see her lying on the floor wi' her lang hair dreeping wi' the salt water!—Heaven will avenge on a' that had to do wi't. Sirs! is my son out wi' the coble this windy e'en?"
"Na, na, mither—nae coble can keep the sea this wind; he's sleeping in his bed out-ower yonder ahint the hallan."
"Is Steenie out at sea then?"
"Na, grannie—Steenie's awa out wi' auld Edie Ochiltree, the gaberlunzie; maybe they'll be gaun to see the burial."
"That canna be," said the mother of the family; "we kent naething o't till Jock Rand cam in, and tauld us the Aikwoods had warning to attend— they keep thae things unco private—and they were to bring the corpse a' the way frae the Castle, ten miles off, under cloud o' night. She has lain in state this ten days at Glenallan House, in a grand chamber a' hung wi' black, and lighted wi' wax cannle."
"God assoilzie her!" ejaculated old Elspeth, her head apparently still occupied by the event of the Countess's death; "she was a hard-hearted woman, but she's gaen to account for it a', and His mercy is infinite— God grant she may find it sae!" And she relapsed into silence, which she did not break again during the rest of the evening.
"I wonder what that auld daft beggar carle and our son Steenie can be doing out in sic a nicht as this," said Maggie Mucklebackit; and her expression of surprise was echoed by her visitor. "Gang awa, ane o' ye, hinnies, up to the heugh head, and gie them a cry in case they're within hearing; the car-cakes will be burnt to a cinder."
The little emissary departed, but in a few minutes came running back with the loud exclamation, "Eh, Minnie! eh, grannie! there's a white bogle chasing twa black anes down the heugh."
A noise of footsteps followed this singular annunciation, and young Steenie Mucklebackit, closely followed by Edie Ochiltree, bounced into the hut. They were panting and out of breath. The first thing Steenie did was to look for the bar of the door, which his mother reminded him had been broken up for fire-wood in the hard winter three years ago; "for what use," she said, "had the like o' them for bars?"
"There's naebody chasing us," said the beggar, after he had taken his breath: "we're e'en like the wicked, that flee when no one pursueth."
"Troth, but we were chased," said Steenie, "by a spirit or something little better."
"It was a man in white on horseback," said Edie, "for the soft grund that wadna bear the beast, flung him about, I wot that weel; but I didna think my auld legs could have brought me aff as fast; I ran amaist as fast as if I had been at Prestonpans."*
* [This refers to the flight of the government forces at the battle of Prestonpans, 1745.]
"Hout, ye daft gowks!" said Luckie Mucklebackit, "it will hae been some o' the riders at the Countess's burial."
"What!" said Edie, "is the auld Countess buried the night at St. Ruth's? Ou, that wad be the lights and the noise that scarr'd us awa; I wish I had ken'd—I wad hae stude them, and no left the man yonder—but they'll take care o' him. Ye strike ower hard, Steenie I doubt ye foundered the chield."
"Neer a bit," said Steenie, laughing; "he has braw broad shouthers, and I just took measure o' them wi' the stang. Od, if I hadna been something short wi' him, he wad hae knockit your auld hams out, lad."
"Weel, an I win clear o' this scrape," said Edie, "I'se tempt Providence nae mair. But I canna think it an unlawfu' thing to pit a bit trick on sic a landlouping scoundrel, that just lives by tricking honester folk."
"But what are we to do with this?" said Steenie, producing a pocket-book.
"Od guide us, man," said Edie in great alarm, "what garr'd ye touch the gear? a very leaf o' that pocket-book wad be eneugh to hang us baith."
"I dinna ken," said Steenie; "the book had fa'en out o' his pocket, I fancy, for I fand it amang my feet when I was graping about to set him on his logs again, and I just pat it in my pouch to keep it safe; and then came the tramp of horse, and you cried, Rin, rin,' and I had nae mair thought o' the book."
"We maun get it back to the loon some gait or other; ye had better take it yoursell, I think, wi' peep o' light, up to Ringan Aikwood's. I wadna for a hundred pounds it was fund in our hands."
Steenie undertook to do as he was directed.
"A bonny night ye hae made o't, Mr. Steenie," said Jenny Rintherout, who, impatient of remaining so long unnoticed, now presented herself to the young fisherman—"A bonny night ye hae made o't, tramping about wi' gaberlunzies, and getting yoursell hunted wi' worricows, when ye suld be sleeping in your bed, like your father, honest man."
This attack called forth a suitable response of rustic raillery from the young fisherman. An attack was now commenced upon the car-cakes and smoked fish, and sustained with great perseverance by assistance of a bicker or two of twopenny ale and a bottle of gin. The mendicant then retired to the straw of an out-house adjoining,—the children had one by one crept into their nests,—the old grandmother was deposited in her flock-bed,—Steenie, notwithstanding his preceding fatigue, had the gallantry to accompany Miss Rintherout to her own mansion, and at what hour he returned the story saith not,—and the matron of the family, having laid the gathering-coal upon the fire, and put things in some sort of order, retired to rest the last of the family.
—Many great ones Would part with half their states, to have the plan And credit to beg in the first style. Beggar's Bush.
Old Edie was stirring with the lark, and his first inquiry was after Steenie and the pocket-book. The young fisherman had been under the necessity of attending his father before daybreak, to avail themselves of the tide, but he had promised that, immediately on his return, the pocket-book, with all its contents, carefully wrapped up in a piece of sail-cloth, should be delivered by him to Ringan Aikwood, for Dousterswivel, the owner.
The matron had prepared the morning meal for the family, and, shouldering her basket of fish, tramped sturdily away towards Fairport. The children were idling round the door, for the day was fair and sun-shiney. The ancient grandame, again seated on her wicker-chair by the fire, had resumed her eternal spindle, wholly unmoved by the yelling and screaming of the children, and the scolding of the mother, which had preceded the dispersion of the family. Edie had arranged his various bags, and was bound for the renewal of his wandering life, but first advanced with due courtesy to take his leave of the ancient crone.
"Gude day to ye, cummer, and mony ane o' them. I will be back about the fore-end o'har'st, and I trust to find ye baith haill and fere."
"Pray that ye may find me in my quiet grave," said the old woman, in a hollow and sepulchral voice, but without the agitation of a single feature.
"Ye're auld, cummer, and sae am I mysell; but we maun abide His will— we'll no be forgotten in His good time."
"Nor our deeds neither," said the crone: "what's dune in the body maun be answered in the spirit."
"I wot that's true; and I may weel tak the tale hame to mysell, that hae led a misruled and roving life. But ye were aye a canny wife. We're a' frail—but ye canna hae sae muckle to bow ye down."
"Less than I might have had—but mair, O far mair, than wad sink the stoutest brig e'er sailed out o' Fairport harbour!—Didna somebody say yestreen—at least sae it is borne in on my mind, but auld folk hae weak fancies—did not somebody say that Joscelind, Countess of Glenallan, was departed frae life?"
"They said the truth whaever said it," answered old Edie; "she was buried yestreen by torch-light at St. Ruth's, and I, like a fule, gat a gliff wi' seeing the lights and the riders."
"It was their fashion since the days of the Great Earl that was killed at Harlaw;—they did it to show scorn that they should die and be buried like other mortals; the wives o' the house of Glenallan wailed nae wail for the husband, nor the sister for the brother.—But is she e'en ca'd to the lang account?"
"As sure," answered Edie, "as we maun a' abide it."
"Then I'll unlade my mind, come o't what will."
This she spoke with more alacrity than usually attended her expressions, and accompanied her words with an attitude of the hand, as if throwing something from her. She then raised up her form, once tall, and still retaining the appearance of having been so, though bent with age and rheumatism, and stood before the beggar like a mummy animated by some wandering spirit into a temporary resurrection. Her light-blue eyes wandered to and fro, as if she occasionally forgot and again remembered the purpose for which her long and withered hand was searching among the miscellaneous contents of an ample old-fashioned pocket. At length she pulled out a small chip-box, and opening it, took out a handsome ring, in which was set a braid of hair, composed of two different colours, black and light brown, twined together, encircled with brilliants of considerable value.
"Gudeman," she said to Ochiltree, "as ye wad e'er deserve mercy, ye maun gang my errand to the house of Glenallan, and ask for the Earl."
"The Earl of Glenallan, cummer! ou, he winna see ony o' the gentles o' the country, and what likelihood is there that he wad see the like o' an auld gaberlunzie?"
"Gang your ways and try;—and tell him that Elspeth o' the Craigburnfoot—he'll mind me best by that name—maun see him or she be relieved frae her lang pilgrimage, and that she sends him that ring in token of the business she wad speak o'."
Ochiltree looked on the ring with some admiration of its apparent value, and then carefully replacing it in the box, and wrapping it in an old ragged handkerchief, he deposited the token in his bosom.
"Weel, gudewife," he said, "I'se do your bidding, or it's no be my fault. But surely there was never sic a braw propine as this sent to a yerl by an auld fishwife, and through the hands of a gaberlunzie beggar."
With this reflection, Edie took up his pike-staff, put on his broad-brimmed bonnet, and set forth upon his pilgrimage. The old woman remained for some time standing in a fixed posture, her eyes directed to the door through which her ambassador had departed. The appearance of excitation, which the conversation had occasioned, gradually left her features; she sank down upon her accustomed seat, and resumed her mechanical labour of the distaff and spindle, with her wonted air of apathy.
Edie Ochiltree meanwhile advanced on his journey. The distance to Glenallan was ten miles, a march which the old soldier accomplished in about four hours. With the curiosity belonging to his idle trade and animated character, he tortured himself the whole way to consider what could be the meaning of this mysterious errand with which he was entrusted, or what connection the proud, wealthy, and powerful Earl of Glenallan could have with the crimes or penitence of an old doting woman, whose rank in life did not greatly exceed that of her messenger. He endeavoured to call to memory all that he had ever known or heard of the Glenallan family, yet, having done so, remained altogether unable to form a conjecture on the subject. He knew that the whole extensive estate of this ancient and powerful family had descended to the Countess, lately deceased, who inherited, in a most remarkable degree, the stern, fierce, and unbending character which had distinguished the house of Glenallan since they first figured in Scottish annals. Like the rest of her ancestors, she adhered zealously to the Roman Catholic faith, and was married to an English gentleman of the same communion, and of large fortune, who did not survive their union two years. The Countess was, therefore, left an early widow, with the uncontrolled management of the large estates of her two sons. The elder, Lord Geraldin, who was to succeed to the title and fortune of Glenallan, was totally dependent on his mother during her life. The second, when he came of age, assumed the name and arms of his father, and took possession of his estate, according to the provisions of the Countess's marriage-settlement. After this period, he chiefly resided in England, and paid very few and brief visits to his mother and brother; and these at length were altogether dispensed with, in consequence of his becoming a convert to the reformed religion.
But even before this mortal offence was given to its mistress, his residence at Glenallan offered few inducements to a gay young man like Edward Geraldin Neville, though its gloom and seclusion seemed to suit the retired and melancholy habits of his elder brother. Lord Geraldin, in the outset of life, had been a young man of accomplishment and hopes. Those who knew him upon his travels entertained the highest expectations of his future career. But such fair dawns are often strangely overcast. The young nobleman returned to Scotland, and after living about a year in his mother's society at Glenallan House, he seemed to have adopted all the stern gloom and melancholy of her character. Excluded from politics by the incapacities attached to those of his religion, and from all lighter avocationas by choice, Lord Geraldin led a life of the strictest retirement. His ordinary society was composed of the clergyman of his communion, who occasionally visited his mansion; and very rarely, upon stated occasions of high festival, one or two families who still professed the Catholic religion were formally entertained at Glenallan House. But this was all; their heretic neighbours knew nothing of the family whatever; and even the Catholics saw little more than the sumptuous entertainment and solemn parade which was exhibited on those formal occasions, from which all returned without knowing whether most to wonder at the stern and stately demeanour of the Countess, or the deep and gloomy dejection which never ceased for a moment to cloud the features of her son. The late event had put him in possession of his fortune and title, and the neighbourhood had already begun to conjecture whether gaiety would revive with independence, when those who had some occasional acquaintance with the interior of the family spread abroad a report, that the Earl's constitution was undermined by religious austerities, and that in all probability he would soon follow his mother to the grave. This event was the more probable, as his brother had died of a lingering complaint, which, in the latter years of his life, had affected at once his frame and his spirits; so that heralds and genealogists were already looking back into their records to discover the heir of this ill-fated family, and lawyers were talking with gleesome anticipation, of the probability of a "great Glenallan cause."
As Edie Ochiltree approached the front of Glenallan House,* an ancient building of great extent, the most modern part of which had been designed by the celebrated Inigo Jones, he began to consider in what way he should be most likely to gain access for delivery of his message; and, after much consideration, resolved to send the token to the Earl by one of the domestics.
* [Supposed to represent Glammis Castle, in Forfarshire, with which the Author was well acquainted.]
With this purpose he stopped at a cottage, where he obtained the means of making up the ring in a sealed packet like a petition, addressed, Forr his hounor the Yerl of Glenllan—These. But being aware that missives delivered at the doors of great houses by such persons as himself, do not always make their way according to address, Edie determined, like an old soldier, to reconnoitre the ground before he made his final attack. As he approached the porter's lodge, he discovered, by the number of poor ranked before it, some of them being indigent persons in the vicinity, and others itinerants of his own begging profession,—that there was about to be a general dole or distribution of charity.
"A good turn," said Edie to himself, "never goes unrewarded—I'll maybe get a good awmous that I wad hae missed but for trotting on this auld wife's errand."
Accordingly, he ranked up with the rest of this ragged regiment, assuming a station as near the front as possible,—a distinction due, as he conceived, to his blue gown and badge, no less than to his years and experience; but he soon found there was another principle of precedence in this assembly, to which he had not adverted.
"Are ye a triple man, friend, that ye press forward sae bauldly?—I'm thinking no, for there's nae Catholics wear that badge."
"Na, na, I am no a Roman," said Edie.
"Then shank yoursell awa to the double folk, or single folk, that's the Episcopals or Presbyterians yonder: it's a shame to see a heretic hae sic a lang white beard, that would do credit to a hermit."
Ochiltree, thus rejected from the society of the Catholic mendicants, or those who called themselves such, went to station himself with the paupers of the communion of the church of England, to whom the noble donor allotted a double portion of his charity. But never was a poor occasional conformist more roughly rejected by a High-church congregation, even when that matter was furiously agitated in the days of good Queen Anne.
"See to him wi' his badge!" they said;—"he hears ane o' the king's Presbyterian chaplains sough out a sermon on the morning of every birth-day, and now he would pass himsell for ane o' the Episcopal church! Na, na!—we'll take care o' that."
Edie, thus rejected by Rome and Prelacy, was fain to shelter himself from the laughter of his brethren among the thin group of Presbyterians, who had either disdained to disguise their religious opinions for the sake of an augmented dole, or perhaps knew they could not attempt the imposition without a certainty of detection.
The same degree of precedence was observed in the mode of distributing the charity, which consisted in bread, beef, and a piece of money, to each individual of all the three classes. The almoner, an ecclesiastic of grave appearance and demeanour, superintended in person the accommodation of the Catholic mendicants, asking a question or two of each as he delivered the charity, and recommending to their prayers the soul of Joscelind, late Countess of Glenallan, mother of their benefactor. The porter, distinguished by his long staff headed with silver, and by the black gown tufted with lace of the same colour, which he had assumed upon the general mourning in the family, overlooked the distribution of the dole among the prelatists. The less-favoured kirk-folk were committed to the charge of an aged domestic.
As this last discussed some disputed point with the porter, his name, as it chanced to be occasionally mentioned, and then his features, struck Ochiltree, and awakened recollections of former times. The rest of the assembly were now retiring, when the domestic, again approaching the place where Edie still lingered, said, in a strong Aberdeenshire accent, "Fat is the auld feel-body deeing, that he canna gang avay, now that he's gotten baith meat and siller?"
"Francis Macraw," answered Edie Ochiltree, "d'ye no mind Fontenoy, and keep thegither front and rear?'"
"Ohon! ohon!" cried Francie, with a true north-country yell of recognition, "naebody could hae said that word but my auld front-rank man, Edie Ochiltree! But I'm sorry to see ye in sic a peer state, man."
"No sae ill aff as ye may think, Francis. But I'm laith to leave this place without a crack wi' you, and I kenna when I may see you again, for your folk dinna mak Protestants welcome, and that's ae reason that I hae never been here before."
"Fusht, fusht," said Francie, "let that flee stick i' the wa'—when the dirt's dry it will rub out;—and come you awa wi' me, and I'll gie ye something better thau that beef bane, man."
Having then spoke a confidential word with the porter (probably to request his connivance), and having waited until the almoner had returned into the house with slow and solemn steps, Francie Macraw introduced his old comrade into the court of Glenallan House, the gloomy gateway of which was surmounted by a huge scutcheon, in which the herald and undertaker had mingled, as usual, the emblems of human pride and of human nothingness,—the Countess's hereditary coat-of-arms, with all its numerous quarterings, disposed in a lozenge, and surrounded by the separate shields of her paternal and maternal ancestry, intermingled with scythes, hour glasses, skulls, and other symbols of that mortality which levels all distinctions. Conducting his friend as speedily as possible along the large paved court, Macraw led the way through a side-door to a small apartment near the servants' hall, which, in virtue of his personal attendance upon the Earl of Glenallan, he was entitled to call his own. To produce cold meat of various kinds, strong beer, and even a glass of spirits, was no difficulty to a person of Francis's importance, who had not lost, in his sense of conscious dignity, the keen northern prudence which recommended a good understanding with the butler. Our mendicant envoy drank ale, and talked over old stories with his comrade, until, no other topic of conversation occurring, he resolved to take up the theme of his embassy, which had for some time escaped his memory.
"He had a petition to present to the Earl," he said;—for he judged it prudent to say nothing of the ring, not knowing, as he afterwards observed, how far the manners of a single soldier* might have been corrupted by service in a great house.
* A single soldier means, in Scotch, a private soldier.
"Hout, tout, man," said Francie, "the Earl will look at nae petitions— but I can gie't to the almoner."
"But it relates to some secret, that maybe my lord wad like best to see't himsell."
"I'm jeedging that's the very reason that the almoner will be for seeing it the first and foremost."
"But I hae come a' this way on purpose to deliver it, Francis, and ye really maun help me at a pinch."
"Neer speed then if I dinna," answered the Aberdeenshire man: "let them be as cankered as they like, they can but turn me awa, and I was just thinking to ask my discharge, and gang down to end my days at Inverurie."
With this doughty resolution of serving his friend at all ventures, since none was to be encountered which could much inconvenience himself, Francie Macraw left the apartment. It was long before he returned, and when he did, his manner indicated wonder and agitation.
"I am nae seer gin ye be Edie Ochiltree o' Carrick's company in the Forty-twa, or gin ye be the deil in his likeness!"
"And what makes ye speak in that gait?" demanded the astonished mendicant.
"Because my lord has been in sic a distress and surpreese as I neer saw a man in my life. But he'll see you—I got that job cookit. He was like a man awa frae himsell for mony minutes, and I thought he wad hae swarv't a'thegither,—and fan he cam to himsell, he asked fae brought the packet—and fat trow ye I said?"
"An auld soger," says Edie—"that does likeliest at a gentle's door; at a farmer's it's best to say ye're an auld tinkler, if ye need ony quarters, for maybe the gudewife will hae something to souther."
"But I said neer ane o' the twa," answered Francis; "my lord cares as little about the tane as the tother—for he's best to them that can souther up our sins. Sae I e'en said the bit paper was brought by an auld man wi' a long fite beard—he might be a capeechin freer for fat I ken'd, for he was dressed like an auld palmer. Sae ye'll be sent up for fanever he can find mettle to face ye."
"I wish I was weel through this business," thought Edie to himself; "mony folk surmise that the Earl's no very right in the judgment, and wha can say how far he may be offended wi' me for taking upon me sae muckle?"
But there was now no room for retreat—a bell sounded from a distant part of the mansion, and Macraw said, with a smothered accent, as if already in his master's presence, "That's my lord's bell!—follow me, and step lightly and cannily, Edie."
Edie followed his guide, who seemed to tread as if afraid of being overheard, through a long passage, and up a back stair, which admitted them into the family apartments. They were ample and extensive, furnished at such cost as showed the ancient importance and splendour of the family. But all the ornaments were in the taste of a former and distant period, and one would have almost supposed himself traversing the halls of a Scottish nobleman before the union of the crowns. The late Countess, partly from a haughty contempt of the times in which she lived, partly from her sense of family pride, had not permitted the furniture to be altered or modernized during her residence at Glenallan House. The most magnificent part of the decorations was a valuable collection of pictures by the best masters, whose massive frames were somewhat tarnished by time. In this particular also the gloomy taste of the family seemed to predominate. There were some fine family portraits by Vandyke and other masters of eminence; but the collection was richest in the Saints and Martyrdoms of Domenichino, Velasquez, and Murillo, and other subjects of the same kind, which had been selected in preference to landscapes or historical pieces. The manner in which these awful, and sometimes disgusting, subjects were represented, harmonized with the gloomy state of the apartments,—a circumstance which was not altogether lost on the old man, as he traversed them under the guidance of his quondam fellow-soldier. He was about to express some sentiment of this kind, but Francie imposed silence on him by signs, and opening a door at the end of the long picture-gallery, ushered him into a small antechamber hung with black. Here they found the almoner, with his ear turned to a door opposite that by which they entered, in the attitude of one who listens with attention, but is at the same time afraid of being detected in the act.
The old domestic and churchman started when they perceived each other. But the almoner first recovered his recollection, and advancing towards Macraw, said, under his breath, but with an authoritative tone, "How dare you approach the Earl's apartment without knocking? and who is this stranger, or what has he to do here?—Retire to the gallery, and wait for me there."
"It's impossible just now to attend your reverence," answered Macraw, raising his voice so as to be heard in the next room, being conscious that the priest would not maintain the altercation within hearing of his patron,—"the Earl's bell has rung."
He had scarce uttered the words, when it was rung again with greater violence than before; and the ecclesiastic, perceiving further expostulation impossible, lifted his finger at Macraw, with a menacing attitude, as he left the apartment.
"I tell'd ye sae," said the Aberdeen man in a whisper to Edie, and then proceeded to open the door near which they had observed the chaplain stationed.
—This ring.— This little ring, with necromantic force, Has raised the ghost of pleasure to my fears, Conjured the sense of honour and of love Into such shapes, they fright me from myself. The Fatal Marriage.
The ancient forms of mourning were observed in Glenallan House, notwithstanding the obduracy with which the members of the family were popularly supposed to refuse to the dead the usual tribute of lamentation. It was remarked, that when she received the fatal letter announcing the death of her second, and, as was once believed, her favourite son, the hand of the Countess did not shake, nor her eyelid twinkle, any more than upon perusal of a letter of ordinary business. Heaven only knows whether the suppression of maternal sorrow, which her pride commanded, might not have some effect in hastening her own death. It was at least generally supposed that the apoplectic stroke, which so soon afterwards terminated her existence, was, as it were, the vengeance of outraged Nature for the restraint to which her feelings had been subjected. But although Lady Glenallan forebore the usual external signs of grief, she had caused many of the apartments, amongst others her own and that of the Earl, to be hung with the exterior trappings of woe.
The Earl of Glenallan was therefore seated in an apartment hung with black cloth, which waved in dusky folds along its lofty walls. A screen, also covered with black baize, placed towards the high and narrow window, intercepted much of the broken light which found its way through the stained glass, that represented, with such skill as the fourteenth century possessed, the life and sorrows of the prophet Jeremiah. The table at which the Earl was seated was lighted with two lamps wrought in silver, shedding that unpleasant and doubtful light which arises from the mingling of artificial lustre with that of general daylight. The same table displayed a silver crucifix, and one or two clasped parchment books. A large picture, exquisitely painted by Spagnoletto, represented the martyrdom of St. Stephen, and was the only ornament of the apartment.
The inhabitant and lord of this disconsolate chamber was a man not past the prime of life, yet so broken down with disease and mental misery, so gaunt and ghastly, that he appeared but a wreck of manhood; and when he hastily arose and advanced towards his visitor, the exertion seemed almost to overpower his emaciated frame. As they met in the midst of the apartment, the contrast they exhibited was very striking. The hale cheek, firm step, erect stature, and undaunted presence and bearing of the old mendicant, indicated patience and content in the extremity of age, and in the lowest condition to which humanity can sink; while the sunken eye, pallid cheek, and tottering form of the nobleman with whom he was confronted, showed how little wealth, power, and even the advantages of youth, have to do with that which gives repose to the mind, and firmness to the frame.
The Earl met the old man in the middle of the room, and having commanded his attendant to withdraw into the gallery, and suffer no one to enter the antechamber till he rung the bell, awaited, with hurried yet fearful impatience, until he heard first the door of his apartment, and then that of the antechamber, shut and fastened by the spring-bolt. When he was satisfied with this security against being overheard, Lord Glenallan came close up to the mendicant, whom he probably mistook for some person of a religious order in disguise, and said, in a hasty yet faltering tone, "In the name of all our religion holds most holy, tell me, reverend father, what am I to expect from a communication opened by a token connected with such horrible recollections?"
The old man, appalled by a manner so different from what he had expected from the proud and powerful nobleman, was at a loss how to answer, and in what manner to undeceive him. "Tell me," continued the Earl, in a tone of increasing trepidation and agony—"tell me, do you come to say that all that has been done to expiate guilt so horrible, has been too little and too trivial for the offence, and to point out new and more efficacious modes of severe penance?—I will not blench from it, father—let me suffer the pains of my crime here in the body, rather than hereafter in the spirit!"
Edie had now recollection enough to perceive, that if he did not interrupt the frankness of Lord Glenallan's admissions, he was likely to become the confidant of more than might be safe for him to know. He therefore uttered with a hasty and trembling voice—"Your lordship's honour is mistaken—I am not of your persuasion, nor a clergyman, but, with all reverence, only puir Edie Ochiltree, the king's bedesman and your honour's."
This explanation he accompanied by a profound bow after his manner, and then, drawing himself up erect, rested his arm on his staff, threw back his long white hair, and fixed his eyes upon the Earl, as he waited for an answer.
"And you are not then," said Lord Glenallan, after a pause of surprise— "You are not then a Catholic priest?"
"God forbid!" said Edie, forgetting in his confusion to whom he was speaking; "I am only the king's bedesman and your honour's, as I said before."
The Earl turned hastily away, and paced the room twice or thrice, as if to recover the effects of his mistake, and then, coming close up to the mendicant, he demanded, in a stern and commanding tone, what he meant by intruding himself on his privacy, and from whence he had got the ring which he had thought proper to send him. Edie, a man of much spirit, was less daunted at this mode of interrogation than he had been confused by the tone of confidence in which the Earl had opened their conversation. To the reiterated question from whom he had obtained the ring, he answered composedly, "From one who was better known to the Earl than to him."
"Better known to me, fellow?" said Lord Glenallan: "what is your meaning?—explain yourself instantly, or you shall experience the consequence of breaking in upon the hours of family distress."
"It was auld Elspeth Mucklebackit that sent me here," said the beggar, "in order to say"—
"You dote, old man!" said the Earl; "I never heard the name—but this dreadful token reminds me"—
"I mind now, my lord," said Ochiltree, "she tauld me your lordship would be mair familiar wi' her, if I ca'd her Elspeth o' the Craigburnfoot—she had that name when she lived on your honour's land, that is, your honour's worshipful mother's that was then—Grace be wi' her!"
"Ay," said the appalled nobleman, as his countenance sunk, and his cheek assumed a hue yet more cadaverous; "that name is indeed written in the most tragic page of a deplorable history. But what can she desire of me? Is she dead or living?"
"Living, my lord; and entreats to see your lordship before she dies, for she has something to communicate that hangs upon her very soul, and she says she canna flit in peace until she sees you."
"Not until she sees me!—what can that mean? But she is doting with age and infirmity. I tell thee, friend, I called at her cottage myself, not a twelvemonth since, from a report that she was in distress, and she did not even know my face or voice."
"If your honour wad permit me," said Edie, to whom the length of the conference restored a part of his professional audacity and native talkativeness—"if your honour wad but permit me, I wad say, under correction of your lordship's better judgment, that auld Elspeth's like some of the ancient ruined strengths and castles that ane sees amang the hills. There are mony parts of her mind that appear, as I may say, laid waste and decayed, but then there's parts that look the steever, and the stronger, and the grander, because they are rising just like to fragments amaong the ruins o' the rest. She's an awful woman."
"She always was so," said the Earl, almost unconsciously echoing the observation of the mendicant; "she always was different from other women—likest perhaps to her who is now no more, in her temper and turn of mind.—She wishes to see me, then?"
"Before she dies," said Edie, "she earnestly entreats that pleasure."
"It will be a pleasure to neither of us," said the Earl, sternly, "yet she shall be gratified. She lives, I think, on the sea-shore to the southward of Fairport?"
"Just between Monkbarns and Knockwinnock Castle, but nearer to Monkbarns. Your lordship's honour will ken the laird and Sir Arthur, doubtless?"
A stare, as if he did not comprehend the question, was Lord Glenallan's answer. Edie saw his mind was elsewhere, and did not venture to repeat a query which was so little germain to the matter.
"Are you a Catholic, old man?" demanded the Earl.
"No, my lord," said Ochiltree stoutly; for the remembrance of the unequal division of the dole rose in his mind at the moment; "I thank Heaven I am a good Protestant."
"He who can conscientiously call himself good, has indeed reason to thank Heaven, be his form of Christianity what it will—But who is he that shall dare to do so!"
"Not I," said Edie; "I trust to beware of the sin of presumption."
"What was your trade in your youth?" continued the Earl.
"A soldier, my lord; and mony a sair day's kemping I've seen. I was to have been made a sergeant, but"—
"A soldier! then you have slain and burnt, and sacked and spoiled?"
"I winna say," replied Edie, "that I have been better than my neighbours;—it's a rough trade—war's sweet to them that never tried it."
"And you are now old and miserable, asking from precarious charity the food which in your youth you tore from the hand of the poor peasant?"
"I am a beggar, it is true, my lord; but I am nae just sae miserable neither. For my sins, I hae had grace to repent of them, if I might say sae, and to lay them where they may be better borne than by me; and for my food, naebody grudges an auld man a bit and a drink—Sae I live as I can, and am contented to die when I am ca'd upon."
"And thus, then, with little to look back upon that is pleasant or praiseworthy in your past life—with less to look forward to on this side of eternity, you are contented to drag out the rest of your existence? Go, begone! and in your age and poverty and weariness, never envy the lord of such a mansion as this, either in his sleeping or waking moments—Here is something for thee."
The Earl put into the old man's hand five or six guineas. Edie would perhaps have stated his scruples, as upon other occasions, to the amount of the benefaction, but the tone of Lord Glenallan was too absolute to admit of either answer or dispute. The Earl then called his servant—"See this old man safe from the castle—let no one ask him any questions—and you, friend, begone, and forget the road that leads to my house."
"That would be difficult for me," said Edie, looking at the gold which he still held in his hand, "that would be e'en difficult, since your honour has gien me such gade cause to remember it."
Lord Glenallan stared, as hardly comprehending the old man's boldness in daring to bandy words with him, and, with his hand, made him another signal of departure, which the mendicant instantly obeyed.
For he was one in all their idle sport, And like a monarch, ruled their little court The pliant bow he formed, the flying ball, The bat, the wicket, were his labours all. Crabbe's Village.
Francis Macraw, agreeably to the commands of his master, attended the mendicant, in order to see him fairly out of the estate, without permitting him to have conversation, or intercourse, with any of the Earl's dependents or domestics. But, judiciously considering that the restriction did not extend to himself, who was the person entrusted with the convoy, he used every measure in his power to extort from Edie the nature of his confidential and secret interview with Lord Glenallan. But Edie had been in his time accustomed to cross-examination, and easily evaded those of his quondam comrade. "The secrets of grit folk," said Ochiltree within himself, "are just like the wild beasts that are shut up in cages. Keep them hard and fast sneaked up, and it's a' very weel or better—but ance let them out, they will turn and rend you. I mind how ill Dugald Gunn cam aff for letting loose his tongue about the Major's leddy and Captain Bandilier."
Francis was therefore foiled in his assaults upon the fidelity of the mendicant, and, like an indifferent chess-player, became, at every unsuccessful movement, more liable to the counter-checks of his opponent.
"Sae ye uphauld ye had nae particulars to say to my lord but about yer ain matters?"
"Ay, and about the wee bits o' things I had brought frae abroad," said Edie. "I ken'd you popist folk are unco set on the relics that are fetched frae far-kirks and sae forth."
"Troth, my Lord maun be turned feel outright," said the domestic, "an he puts himsell into sic a carfuffle, for onything ye could bring him, Edie."
"I doubtna ye may say true in the main, neighbour," replied the beggar; "but maybe he's had some hard play in his younger days, Francis, and that whiles unsettles folk sair."
"Troth, Edie, and ye may say that—and since it's like yell neer come back to the estate, or, if ye dee, that ye'll no find me there, I'se e'en tell you he had a heart in his young time sae wrecked and rent, that it's a wonder it hasna broken outright lang afore this day."
"Ay, say ye sae?" said Ochiltree; "that maun hae been about a woman, I reckon?"
"Troth, and ye hae guessed it," said Francie—"jeest a cusin o' his nain—Miss Eveline Neville, as they suld hae ca'd her;—there was a sough in the country about it, but it was hushed up, as the grandees were concerned;—it's mair than twenty years syne—ay, it will be three-and-twenty."
"Ay, I was in America then," said the mendicant, "and no in the way to hear the country clashes."
"There was little clash about it, man," replied Macraw; "he liked this young leddy, ana suld hae married her, but his mother fand it out, and then the deil gaed o'er Jock Webster. At last, the peer lass clodded hersell o'er the scaur at the Craigburnfoot into the sea, and there was an end o't."
"An end ot wi' the puir leddy," said the mendicant, "but, as I reckon, nae end o't wi' the yerl."
"Nae end o't till his life makes an end," answered the Aberdonian.
"But what for did the auld Countess forbid the marriage?" continued the persevering querist.
"Fat for!—she maybe didna weel ken for fat hersell, for she gar'd a' bow to her bidding, right or wrang—But it was ken'd the young leddy was inclined to some o' the heresies of the country—mair by token, she was sib to him nearer than our Church's rule admits of. Sae the leddy was driven to the desperate act, and the yerl has never since held his head up like a man."
"Weel away!" replied Ochiltree:—"it's e'en queer I neer heard this tale afore."
"It's e'en queer that ye heard it now, for deil ane o' the servants durst hae spoken o't had the auld Countess been living. Eh, man, Edie! but she was a trimmer—it wad hae taen a skeely man to hae squared wi' her!—But she's in her grave, and we may loose our tongues a bit fan we meet a friend.—But fare ye weel, Edie—I maun be back to the evening-service. An' ye come to Inverurie maybe sax months awa, dinna forget to ask after Francie Macraw."
What one kindly pressed, the other as firmly promised; and the friends having thus parted, with every testimony of mutual regard, the domestic of Lord Glenallan took his road back to the seat of his master, leaving Ochiltree to trace onward his habitual pilgrimage.
It was a fine summer evening, and the world—that is, the little circle which was all in all to the individual by whom it was trodden, lay before Edie Ochiltree, for the choosing of his night's quarters. When he had passed the less hospitable domains of Glenallan, he had in his option so many places of refuge for the evening, that he was nice, and even fastidious in the choice. Ailie Sim's public was on the road-side about a mile before him, but there would be a parcel of young fellows there on the Saturday night, and that was a bar to civil conversation. Other "gudemen and gudewives," as the farmers and their dames are termed in Scotland, successively presented themselves to his imagination. But one was deaf, and could not hear him; another toothless, and could not make him hear; a third had a cross temper; and a fourth an ill-natured house-dog. At Monkbarns or Knockwinnock he was sure of a favourable and hospitable reception; but they lay too distant to be conveniently reached that night.
"I dinna ken how it is," said the old man, "but I am nicer about my quarters this night than ever I mind having been in my life. I think, having seen a' the braws yonder, and finding out ane may be happier without them, has made me proud o' my ain lot—But I wuss it bode me gude, for pride goeth before destruction. At ony rate, the warst barn e'er man lay in wad be a pleasanter abode than Glenallan House, wi' a' the pictures and black velvet, and silver bonny-wawlies belonging to it— Sae I'll e'en settle at ance, and put in for Ailie Sims."
As the old man descended the hill above the little hamlet to which he was bending his course, the setting sun had relieved its inmates from their labour, and the young men, availing themselves of the fine evening, were engaged in the sport of long-bowls on a patch of common, while the women and elders looked on. The shout, the laugh, the exclamations of winners and losers, came in blended chorus up the path which Ochiltree was descending, and awakened in his recollection the days when he himself had been a keen competitor, and frequently victor, in games of strength and agility. These remembrances seldom fail to excite a sigh, even when the evening of life is cheered by brighter prospects than those of our poor mendicant. "At that time of day," was his natural reflection, "I would have thought as little about ony auld palmering body that was coming down the edge of Kinblythemont, as ony o' thae stalwart young chiels does e'enow about auld Edie Ochiltree."
He was, however, presently cheered, by finding that more importance was attached to his arrival than his modesty had anticipated. A disputed cast had occurred between the bands of players, and as the gauger favoured the one party, and the schoolmaster the other, the matter might be said to be taken up by the higher powers. The miller and smith, also, had espoused different sides, and, considering the vivacity of two such disputants, there was reason to doubt whether the strife might be amicably terminated. But the first person who caught a sight of the mendicant exclaimed, "Ah! here comes auld Edie, that kens the rules of a' country games better than ony man that ever drave a bowl, or threw an axle-tree, or putted a stane either;—let's hae nae quarrelling, callants—we'll stand by auld Edie's judgment."
Edie was accordingly welcomed, and installed as umpire, with a general shout of gratulation. With all the modesty of a Bishop to whom the mitre is proffered, or of a new Speaker called to the chair, the old man declined the high trust and responsibility with which it was proposed to invest him, and, in requital for his self-denial and humility, had the pleasure of receiving the reiterated assurances of young, old, and middle-aged, that he was simply the best qualified person for the office of arbiter "in the haill country-side." Thus encouraged, he proceeded gravely to the execution of his duty, and, strictly forbidding all aggravating expressions on either side, he heard the smith and gauger on one side, the miller and schoolmaster on the other, as junior and senior counsel. Edie's mind, however, was fully made up on the subject before the pleading began; like that of many a judge, who must nevertheless go through all the forms, and endure in its full extent the eloquence and argumentation of the Bar. For when all had been said on both sides, and much of it said over oftener than once, our senior, being well and ripely advised, pronounced the moderate and healing judgment, that the disputed cast was a drawn one, and should therefore count to neither party. This judicious decision restored concord to the field of players; they began anew to arrange their match and their bets, with the clamorous mirth usual on such occasions of village sport, and the more eager were already stripping their jackets, and committing them, with their coloured handkerchiefs, to the care of wives, sisters, and mistresses. But their mirth was singularly interrupted.
On the outside of the group of players began to arise sounds of a description very different from those of sport—that sort of suppressed sigh and exclamation, with which the first news of calamity is received by the hearers, began to be heard indistinctly. A buzz went about among the women of "Eh, sirs! sae young and sae suddenly summoned!"—It then extended itself among the men, and silenced the sounds of sportive mirth.
All understood at once that some disaster had happened in the country, and each inquired the cause at his neighbour, who knew as little as the querist. At length the rumour reached, in a distinct shape, the ears of Edie Ochiltree, who was in the very centre of the assembly. The boat of Mucklebackit, the fisherman whom we have so often mentioned, had been swamped at sea, and four men had perished, it was affirmed, including Mucklebackit and his son. Rumour had in this, however, as in other cases, gone beyond the truth. The boat had indeed been overset; but Stephen, or, as he was called, Steenie Mucklebackit, was the only man who had been drowned. Although the place of his residence and his mode of life removed the young man from the society of the country folks, yet they failed not to pause in their rustic mirth to pay that tribute to sudden calamity which it seldom fails to receive in cases of infrequent occurrence. To Ochiltree, in particular, the news came like a knell, the rather that he had so lately engaged this young man's assistance in an affair of sportive mischief; and though neither loss nor injury was designed to the German adept, yet the work was not precisely one in which the latter hours of life ought to be occupied.
Misfortunes never come alone. While Ochiltree, pensively leaning upon his staff, added his regrets to those of the hamlet which bewailed the young man's sudden death, and internally blamed himself for the transaction in which he had so lately engaged him, the old man's collar was seized by a peace-officer, who displayed his baton in his right hand, and exclaimed, "In the king's name."
The gauger and schoolmaster united their rhetoric, to prove to the constable and his assistant that he had no right to arrest the king's bedesman as a vagrant; and the mute eloquence of the miller and smith, which was vested in their clenched fists, was prepared to give Highland bail for their arbiter; his blue gown, they said, was his warrant for travelling the country.
"But his blue gown," answered the officer, "is nae protection for assault, robbery, and murder; and my warrant is against him for these crimes."
"Murder!" said Edie, "murder! wha did I e'er murder?"
"Mr. German Doustercivil, the agent at Glen-Withershins mining-works."
"Murder Doustersnivel?—hout, he's living, and life-like, man."
"Nae thanks to you if he be; he had a sair struggle for his life, if a' be true he tells, and ye maun answer for't at the bidding of the law."
The defenders of the mendicant shrunk back at hearing the atrocity of the charges against him, but more than one kind hand thrust meat and bread and pence upon Edie, to maintain him in the prison, to which the officers were about to conduct him.
"Thanks to ye! God bless ye a', bairns!—I've gotten out o' mony a snare when I was waur deserving o' deliverance—I shall escape like a bird from the fowler. Play out your play, and never mind me—I am mair grieved for the puir lad that's gane, than for aught they can do to me."
Accordingly, the unresisting prisoner was led off, while he mechanically accepted and stored in his wallets the alms which poured in on every hand, and ere he left the hamlet, was as deep-laden as a government victualler. The labour of bearing this accumulating burden was, however, abridged, by the officer procuring a cart and horse to convey the old man to a magistrate, in order to his examination and committal.
The disaster of Steenie, and the arrest of Edie, put a stop to the sports of the village, the pensive inhabitants of which began to speculate upon the vicissitudes of human affairs, which had so suddenly consigned one of their comrades to the grave, and placed their master of the revels in some danger of being hanged. The character of Dousterswivel being pretty generally known, which was in his case equivalent to being pretty generally detested, there were many speculations upon the probability of the accusation being malicious. But all agreed, that if Edie Ochiltree behoved in all events to suffer upon this occasion, it was a great pity he had not better merited his fate by killing Dousterswivel outright.
Who is he?—One that for the lack of land Shall fight upon the water—he hath challenged Formerly the grand whale; and by his titles Of Leviathan, Behemoth, and so forth. He tilted with a sword-fish—Marry, sir, Th' aquatic had the best—the argument Still galls our champion's breech. Old Play.
"And the poor young fellow, Steenie Mucklebackit, is to be buried this morning," said our old friend the Antiquary, as he exchanged his quilted night-gown for an old-fashioned black coat in lieu of the snuff-coloured vestment which he ordinarily wore, "and, I presume, it is expected that I should attend the funeral?"
"Ou, ay," answered the faithful Caxon, officiously brushing the white threads and specks from his patron's habit. "The body, God help us! was sae broken against the rocks that they're fain to hurry the burial. The sea's a kittle cast, as I tell my daughter, puir thing, when I want her to get up her spirits; the sea, says I, Jenny, is as uncertain a calling"—
"As the calling of an old periwig-maker, that's robbed of his business by crops and the powder-tax. Caxon, thy topics of consolation are as ill chosen as they are foreign to the present purpose.Quid mihi cum faemina? What have I to do with thy womankind, who have enough and to spare of mine own?—I pray of you again, am I expected by these poor people to attend the funeral of their son?"
"Ou, doubtless, your honour is expected," answered Caxon; "weel I wot ye are expected. Ye ken, in this country ilka gentleman is wussed to be sae civil as to see the corpse aff his grounds; ye needna gang higher than the loan-head—it's no expected your honour suld leave the land; it's just a Kelso convoy, a step and a half ower the doorstane."
"A Kelso convoy!" echoed the inquisitive Antiquary; "and why a Kelso convoy more than any other?"
"Dear sir," answered Caxon, "how should I ken? it's just a by-word."
"Caxon," answered Oldbuck, "thou art a mere periwig-maker—Had I asked Ochiltree the question, he would have had a legend ready made to my hand."
"My business," replied Caxon, with more animation than he commonly displayed, "is with the outside of your honour's head, as ye are accustomed to say."
"True, Caxon, true; and it is no reproach to a thatcher that he is not an upholsterer."
He then took out his memorandum-book and wrote down "Kelso convoy—said to be a step and a half over the threshold. Authority—Caxon.—Quaere— Whence derived? Mem. To write to Dr. Graysteel upon the subject."
Having made this entry, he resumed—"And truly, as to this custom of the landlord attending the body of the peasant, I approve it, Caxon. It comes from ancient times, and was founded deep in the notions of mutual aid and dependence between the lord and cultivator of the soil. And herein I must say, the feudal system—(as also in its courtesy towards womankind, in which it exceeded)—herein, I say, the feudal usages mitigated and softened the sternness of classical times. No man, Caxon, ever heard of a Spartan attending the funeral of a Helot—yet I dare be sworn that John of the Girnel—ye have heard of him, Caxon?"
"Ay, ay, sir," answered Caxon; "naebody can hae been lang in your honour's company without hearing of that gentleman."
"Well," continued the Antiquary, "I would bet a trifle there was not a kolb kerl, or bondsman, or peasant, ascriptus glebae, died upon the monks' territories down here, but John of the Girnel saw them fairly and decently interred."
"Ay, but if it like your honour, they say he had mair to do wi' the births than the burials. Ha! ha! ha!" with a gleeful chuckle.
"Good, Caxon, very good!—why, you shine this morning."
"And besides," added Caxon, slyly, encouraged by his patron's approbation, "they say, too, that the Catholic priests in thae times gat something for ganging about to burials."
"Right, Caxon! right as my glove! By the by, I fancy that phrase comes from the custom of pledging a glove as the signal of irrefragable faith— right, I say, as my glove, Caxon—but we of the Protestant ascendency have the more merit in doing that duty for nothing, which cost money in the reign of that empress of superstition, whom Spenser, Caxon, terms in his allegorical phrase,
—The daughter of that woman blind, Abessa, daughter of Corecca slow—
But why talk I of these things to thee?—my poor Lovel has spoiled me, and taught me to speak aloud when it is much the same as speaking to myself. Where's my nephew, Hector M'Intyre?"
"He's in the parlour, sir, wi' the leddies."
"Very well," said the Antiquary, "I will betake me thither."
"Now, Monkbarns," said his sister, on his entering the parlour, "ye maunna be angry."
"My dear uncle!" began Miss M'Intyre.
"What's the meaning of all this?" said Oldbuck, in alarm of some impending bad news, and arguing upon the supplicating tone of the ladies, as a fortress apprehends an attack from the very first flourish of the trumpet which announces the summons—"what's all this?—what do you bespeak my patience for?"
"No particular matter, I should hope, sir," said Hector, who, with his arm in a sling, was seated at the breakfast table;—"however, whatever it may amount to I am answerable for it, as I am for much more trouble that I have occasioned, and for which I have little more than thanks to offer."
"No, no! heartily welcome, heartily welcome—only let it be a warning to you," said the Antiquary, "against your fits of anger, which is a short madness—Ira furor brevis—but what is this new disaster?"
"My dog, sir, has unfortunately thrown down"—
"If it please Heaven, not the lachrymatory from Clochnaben!" interjected Oldbuck.
"Indeed, uncle," said the young lady, "I am afraid—it was that which stood upon the sideboard—the poor thing only meant to eat the pat of fresh butter."
"In which she has fully succeeded, I presume, for I see that on the table is salted. But that is nothing—my lachrymatory, the main pillar of my theory on which I rested to show, in despite of the ignorant obstinacy of Mac-Cribb, that the Romans had passed the defiles of these mountains, and left behind them traces of their arts and arms, is gone—annihilated— reduced to such fragments as might be the shreds of a broken-flowerpot!
—Hector, I love thee, But never more be officer of mine."
"Why, really, sir, I am afraid I should make a bad figure in a regiment of your raising."
"At least, Hector, I would have you despatch your camp train, and travel expeditus, or relictis impedimentis. You cannot conceive how I am annoyed by this beast—she commits burglary, I believe, for I heard her charged with breaking into the kitchen after all the doors were locked, and eating up a shoulder of mutton. "—(Our readers, if they chance to remember Jenny Rintherout's precaution of leaving the door open when she went down to the fisher's cottage, will probably acquit poor Juno of that aggravation of guilt which the lawyers call a claustrum fregit, and which makes the distinction between burglary and privately stealing. )
"I am truly sorry, sir," said Hector, "that Juno has committed so much disorder; but Jack Muirhead, the breaker, was never able to bring her under command. She has more travel than any bitch I ever knew, but"—
"Then, Hector, I wish the bitch would travel herself out of my grounds."
"We will both of us retreat to-morrow, or to-day, but I would not willingly part from my mother's brother in unkindness about a paltry pipkin."
"O brother! brother!" ejaculated Miss M'Intyre, in utter despair at this vituperative epithet.
"Why, what would you have me call it?" continued Hector; "it was just such a thing as they use in Egypt to cool wine, or sherbet, or water;—I brought home a pair of them—I might have brought home twenty."
"What!" said Oldbuck, "shaped such as that your dog threw down?"
"Yes, sir, much such a sort of earthen jar as that which was on the sideboard. They are in my lodgings at Fairport; we brought a parcel of them to cool our wine on the passage—they answer wonderfully well. If I could think they would in any degree repay your loss, or rather that they could afford you pleasure, I am sure I should be much honoured by your accepting them."
"Indeed, my dear boy, I should be highly gratified by possessing them. To trace the connection of nations by their usages, and the similarity of the implements which they employ, has been long my favourite study. Everything that can illustrate such connections is most valuable to me."
"Well, sir, I shall be much gratified by your acceptance of them, and a few trifles of the same kind. And now, am I to hope you have forgiven me?"
"O, my dear boy, you are only thoughtless and foolish."
"But Juno—she is only thoughtless too, I assure you—the breaker tells me she has no vice or stubbornness."
"Well, I grant Juno also a free pardon—conditioned, that you will imitate her in avoiding vice and stubbornness, and that henceforward she banish herself forth of Monkbarns parlour."
"Then, uncle," said the soldier, "I should have been very sorry and ashamed to propose to you anything in the way of expiation of my own sins, or those of my follower, that I thought worth your acceptance; but now, as all is forgiven, will you permit the orphan-nephew, to whom you have been a father, to offer you a trifle, which I have been assured is really curious, and which only the cross accident of my wound has prevented my delivering to you before? I got it from a French savant, to whom I rendered some service after the Alexandria affair."
The captain put a small ring-case into the Antiquary's hands, which, when opened, was found to contain an antique ring of massive gold, with a cameo, most beautifully executed, bearing a head of Cleopatra. The Antiquary broke forth into unrepressed ecstasy, shook his nephew cordially by the hand, thanked him an hundred times, and showed the ring to his sister and niece, the latter of whom had the tact to give it sufficient admiration; but Miss Griselda (though she had the same affection for her nephew) had not address enough to follow the lead.
"It's a bonny thing," she said, "Monkbarns, and, I dare say, a valuable; but it's out o'my way—ye ken I am nae judge o' sic matters."
"There spoke all Fairport in one voice!" exclaimed Oldbuck "it is the very spirit of the borough has infected us all; I think I have smelled the smoke these two days, that the wind has stuck, like a remora, in the north-east—and its prejudices fly farther than its vapours. Believe me, my dear Hector, were I to walk up the High Street of Fairport, displaying this inestimable gem in the eyes of each one I met, no human creature, from the provost to the town-crier, would stop to ask me its history. But if I carried a bale of linen cloth under my arm, I could not penetrate to the Horsemarket ere I should be overwhelmed with queries about its precise texture and price. Oh, one might parody their brutal ignorance in the words of Gray:
Weave the warp and weave the woof, The winding-sheet of wit and sense, Dull garment of defensive proof, 'Gainst all that doth not gather pence."
The most remarkable proof of this peace-offering being quite acceptable was, that while the Antiquary was in full declamation, Juno, who held him in awe, according to the remarkable instinct by which dogs instantly discover those who like or dislike them, had peeped several times into the room, and encountering nothing very forbidding in his aspect, had at length presumed to introduce her full person; and finally, becoming bold by impunity, she actually ate up Mr. Oldbuck's toast, as, looking first at one then at another of his audience, he repeated, with self-complacency,
"Weave the warp and weave the woof,—
"You remember the passage in the Fatal Sisters, which, by the way, is not so fine as in the original—But, hey-day! my toast has vanished!—I see which way—Ah, thou type of womankind! no wonder they take offence at thy generic appellation!"—(So saying, he shook his fist at Juno, who scoured out of the parlour.)—"However, as Jupiter, according to Homer, could not rule Juno in heaven, and as Jack Muirhead, according to Hector M'Intyre, has been equally unsuccessful on earth, I suppose she must have her own way." And this mild censure the brother and sister justly accounted a full pardon for Juno's offences, and sate down well pleased to the morning meal.
When breakfast was over, the Antiquary proposed to his nephew to go down with him to attend the funeral. The soldier pleaded the want of a mourning habit.
"O, that does not signify—your presence is all that is requisite. I assure you, you will see something that will entertain—no, that's an improper phrase—but that will interest you, from the resemblances which I will point out betwixt popular customs on such occasions and those of the ancients."
"Heaven forgive me!" thought M'Intyre;—"I shall certainly misbehave, and lose all the credit I have so lately and accidentally gained."
When they set out, schooled as he was by the warning and entreating looks of his sister, the soldier made his resolution strong to give no offence by evincing inattention or impatience. But our best resolutions are frail, when opposed to our predominant inclinations. Our Antiquary,—to leave nothing unexplained, had commenced with the funeral rites of the ancient Scandinavians, when his nephew interrupted him, in a discussion upon the "age of hills," to remark that a large sea-gull, which flitted around them, had come twice within shot. This error being acknowledged and pardoned, Oldbuck resumed his disquisition.
"These are circumstances you ought to attend to and be familiar with, my dear Hector; for, in the strange contingencies of the present war which agitates every corner of Europe, there is no knowing where you may be called upon to serve. If in Norway, for example, or Denmark, or any part of the ancient Scania, or Scandinavia, as we term it, what could be more convenient than to have at your fingers' ends the history and antiquities of that ancient country, the officina gentium, the mother of modern Europe, the nursery of those heroes,
Stern to inflict, and stubborn to endure, Who smiled in death?—
How animating, for example, at the conclusion of a weary march, to find yourself in the vicinity of a Runic monument, and discover that you have pitched your tent beside the tomb of a hero!"
"I am afraid, sir, our mess would be better supplied if it chanced to be in the neighbourhood of a good poultry-yard."
"Alas, that you should say so! No wonder the days of Cressy and Agincourt are no more, when respect for ancient valour has died away in the breasts of the British soldiery."
"By no means, sir—by no manner of means. I dare say that Edward and Henry, and the rest of these heroes, thought of their dinner, however, before they thought of examining an old tombstone. But I assure you, we are by no means insensible to the memoir of our fathers' fame; I used often of an evening to get old Rory MAlpin to sing us songs out of Ossian about the battles of Fingal and Lamon Mor, and Magnus and the Spirit of Muirartach."
"And did you believe," asked the aroused Antiquary, "did you absolutely believe that stuff of Macpherson's to be really ancient, you simple boy?"
"Believe it, sir?—how could I but believe it, when I have heard the songs sung from my infancy?"
"But not the same as Macpherson's English Ossian—you're not absurd enough to say that, I hope?" said the Antiquary, his brow darkening with wrath.
But Hector stoutly abode the storm; like many a sturdy Celt, he imagined the honour of his country and native language connected with the authenticity of these popular poems, and would have fought knee-deep, or forfeited life and land, rather than have given up a line of them. He therefore undauntedly maintained, that Rory MAlpin could repeat the whole book from one end to another;—and it was only upon cross-examination that he explained an assertion so general, by adding "At least, if he was allowed whisky enough, he could repeat as long as anybody would hearken to him."
"Ay, ay," said the Antiquary; "and that, I suppose, was not very long."
"Why, we had our duty, sir, to attend to, and could not sit listening all night to a piper."
"But do you recollect, now," said Oldbuck, setting his teeth firmly together, and speaking without opening them, which was his custom when contradicted—"Do you recollect, now, any of these verses you thought so beautiful and interesting—being a capital judge, no doubt, of such things?"
"I don't pretend to much skill, uncle; but it's not very reasonable to be angry with me for admiring the antiquities of my own country more than those of the Harolds, Harfagers, and Hacos you are so fond of."
"Why, these, sir—these mighty and unconquered Goths—were your ancestors! The bare-breeched Celts whom theysubdued, and suffered only to exist, like a fearful people, in the crevices of the rocks, were but their Mancipia and Serfs!"
Hector's brow now grew red in his turn. "Sir," he said, "I don't understand the meaning of Mancipia and Serfs, but I conceive that such names are very improperly applied to Scotch Highlanders: no man but my mother's brother dared to have used such language in my presence; and I pray you will observe, that I consider it as neither hospitable, handsome, kind, nor generous usage towards your guest and your kinsman. My ancestors, Mr. Oldbuck"—
"Were great and gallant chiefs, I dare say, Hector; and really I did not mean to give you such immense offence in treating a point of remote antiquity, a subject on which I always am myself cool, deliberate, and unimpassioned. But you are as hot and hasty, as if you were Hector and Achilles, and Agamemnon to boot."
"I am sorry I expressed myself so hastily, uncle, especially to you, who have been so generous and good. But my ancestors"—
"No more about it, lad; I meant them no affront—none."
"I'm glad of it, sir; for the house of M'Intyre"—
"Peace be with them all, every man of them," said the Antiquary. "But to return to our subject—Do you recollect, I say, any of those poems which afforded you such amusement?"
"Very hard this," thought M'Intyre, "that he will speak with such glee of everything which is ancient, excepting my family. "—Then, after some efforts at recollection, he added aloud, "Yes, sir,—I think I do remember some lines; but you do not understand the Gaelic language."
"And will readily excuse hearing it. But you can give me some idea of the sense in our own vernacular idiom?"
"I shall prove a wretched interpreter," said M'Intyre, running over the original, well garnished with aghes, aughs, and oughs, and similar gutterals, and then coughing and hawking as if the translation stuck in his throat. At length, having premised that the poem was a dialogue between the poet Oisin, or Ossian, and Patrick, the tutelar Saint of Ireland, and that it was difficult, if not impossible, to render the exquisite felicity of the first two or three lines, he said the sense was to this purpose:
"Patrick the psalm-singer, Since you will not listen to one of my stories, Though you never heard it before, I am sorry to tell you You are little better than an ass"—
"Good! good!" exclaimed the Antiquary; "but go on. Why, this is, after all, the most admirable fooling—I dare say the poet was very right. What says the Saint?"
"He replies in character," said M'Intyre; "but you should hear MAlpin sing the original. The speeches of Ossian come in upon a strong deep bass—those of Patrick are upon a tenor key."
"Like MAlpin's drone and small pipes, I suppose," said Oldbuck. "Well? Pray go on."
"Well then, Patrick replies to Ossian:
Upon my word, son of Fingal, While I am warbling the psalms, The clamour of your old women's tales Disturbs my devotional exercises."
"Excellent!—why, this is better and better. I hope Saint Patrick sung better than Blattergowl's precentor, or it would be hang—choice between the poet and psalmist. But what I admire is the courtesy of these two eminent persons towards each other. It is a pity there should not be a word of this in Macpherson's translation."
"If you are sure of that," said M'Intyre, gravely, "he must have taken very unwarrantable liberties with his original."
"It will go near to be thought so shortly—but pray proceed."
"Then," said M'Intyre, "this is the answer of Ossian:
Dare you compare your psalms, You son of a—"
"Son of a what?" exclaimed Oldbuck.
"It means, I think," said the young soldier, with some reluctance, "son of a female dog:
Do you compare your psalms, To the tales of the bare-arm'd Fenians"
"Are you sure you are translating that last epithet correctly, Hector?"
"Quite sure, sir," answered Hector, doggedly.
"Because I should have thought the nudity might have been quoted as existing in a different part of the body."
Disdaining to reply to this insinuation, Hector proceeded in his recitation:
"I shall think it no great harm To wring your bald head from your shoulders—
But what is that yonder?" exclaimed Hector, interrupting himself.
"One of the herd of Proteus," said the Antiquary—"a phoca, or seal, lying asleep on the beach."
Upon which M'Intyre, with the eagerness of a young sportsman, totally forgot both Ossian, Patrick, his uncle, and his wound, and exclaiming—"I shall have her! I shall have her!" snatched the walking-stick out of the hand of the astonished Antiquary, at some risk of throwing him down, and set off at full speed to get between the animal and the sea, to which element, having caught the alarm, she was rapidly retreating.
Not Sancho, when his master interrupted his account of the combatants of Pentapolin with the naked arm, to advance in person to the charge of the flock of sheep, stood more confounded than Oldbuck at this sudden escapade of his nephew.
"Is the devil in him," was his first exclamation, "to go to disturb the brute that was never thinking of him!"—Then elevating his voice, "Hector—nephew—fool—let alone the Phoca—let alone the Phoca!— they bite, I tell you, like furies. He minds me no more than a post. There—there they are at it—Gad, the Phoca has the best of it! I am glad to see it," said he, in the bitterness of his heart, though really alarmed for his nephew's safety—"I am glad to see it, with all my heart and spirit."
In truth, the seal, finding her retreat intercepted by the light-footed soldier, confronted him manfully, and having sustained a heavy blow without injury, she knitted her brows, as is the fashion of the animal when incensed, and making use at once of her fore-paws and her unwieldy strength, wrenched the weapon out of the assailant's hand, overturned him on the sands, and scuttled away into the sea, without doing him any farther injury. Captain M'Intyre, a good deal out of countenance at the issue of his exploit, just rose in time to receive the ironical congratulations of his uncle, upon a single combat worthy to be commemorated by Ossian himself, "since," said the Antiquary, "your magnanimous opponent has fled, though not upon eagle's wings, from the foe that was low—Egad, she walloped away with all the grace of triumph, and has carried my stick off also, by way of spolia opima."
M'Intyre had little to answer for himself, except that a Highlander could never pass a deer, a seal, or a salmon, where there was a possibility of having a trial of skill with them, and that he had forgot one of his arms was in a sling. He also made his fall an apology for returning back to Monkbarns, and thus escape the farther raillery of his uncle, as well as his lamentations for his walking-stick.
"I cut it," he said, "in the classic woods of Hawthornden, when I did not expect always to have been a bachelor—I would not have given it for an ocean of seals—O Hector! Hector!—thy namesake was born to be the prop of Troy, and thou to be the plague of Monkbarns!"
Tell me not of it, friend—when the young weep, Their tears are luke-warm brine;—from your old eyes Sorrow falls down like hail-drops of the North, Chilling the furrows of our withered cheeks, Cold as our hopes, and hardened as our feeling— Theirs, as they fall, sink sightless—ours recoil, Heap the fair plain, and bleaken all before us. Old Play.
The Antiquary, being now alone, hastened his pace, which had been retarded by these various discussions, and the rencontre which had closed them, and soon arrived before the half-dozen cottages at Mussel-crag. They had now, in addition to their usual squalid and uncomfortable appearance, the melancholy attributes of the house of mourning. The boats were all drawn up on the beach; and, though the day was fine, and the season favourable, the chant, which is used by the fishers when at sea, was silent, as well as the prattle of the children, and the shrill song of the mother, as she sits mending her nets by the door. A few of the neighbours, some in their antique and well-saved suits of black, others in their ordinary clothes, but all bearing an expression of mournful sympathy with distress so sudden and unexpected, stood gathered around the door of Mucklebackit's cottage, waiting till "the body was lifted." As the Laird of Monkbarns approached, they made way for him to enter, doffing their hats and bonnets as he passed, with an air of melancholy courtesy, and he returned their salutes in the same manner.
In the inside of the cottage was a scene which our Wilkie alone could have painted, with that exquisite feeling of nature that characterises his enchanting productions,
The body was laid in its coffin within the wooden bedstead which the young fisher had occupied while alive. At a little distance stood the father, whose rugged weather-beaten countenance, shaded by his grizzled hair, had faced many a stormy night and night-like day. He was apparently revolving his loss in his mind, with that strong feeling of painful grief peculiar to harsh and rough characters, which almost breaks forth into hatred against the world, and all that remain in it, after the beloved object is withdrawn. The old man had made the most desperate efforts to save his son, and had only been withheld by main force from renewing them at a moment when, without the possibility of assisting the sufferer, he must himself have perished. All this apparently was boiling in his recollection. His glance was directed sidelong towards the coffin, as to an object on which he could not stedfastly look, and yet from which he could not withdraw his eyes. His answers to the necessary questions which were occasionally put to him, were brief, harsh, and almost fierce. His family had not yet dared to address to him a word, either of sympathy or consolation. His masculine wife, virago as she was, and absolute mistress of the family, as she justly boasted herself, on all ordinary occasions, was, by this great loss, terrified into silence and submission, and compelled to hide from her husband's observation the bursts of her female sorrow. As he had rejected food ever since the disaster had happened, not daring herself to approach him, she had that morning, with affectionate artifice, employed the youngest and favourite child to present her husband with some nourishment. His first action was to put it from him with an angry violence that frightened the child; his next, to snatch up the boy and devour him with kisses. "Yell be a bra' fallow, an ye be spared, Patie,—but ye'll never—never can be—what he was to me!—He has sailed the coble wi' me since he was ten years auld, and there wasna the like o' him drew a net betwixt this and Buchan-ness.—They say folks maun submit—I will try."
And he had been silent from that moment until compelled to answer the necessary questions we have already noticed. Such was the disconsolate state of the father.
In another corner of the cottage, her face covered by her apron, which was flung over it, sat the mother—the nature of her grief sufficiently indicated by the wringing of her hands, and the convulsive agitation of the bosom, which the covering could not conceal. Two of her gossips, officiously whispering into her ear the commonplace topic of resignation under irremediable misfortune, seemed as if they were endeavouring to stun the grief which they could not console.
The sorrow of the children was mingled with wonder at the preparations they beheld around them, and at the unusual display of wheaten bread and wine, which the poorest peasant, or fisher, offers to the guests on these mournful occasions; and thus their grief for their brother's death was almost already lost in admiration of the splendour of his funeral.
But the figure of the old grandmother was the most remarkable of the sorrowing group. Seated on her accustomed chair, with her usual air of apathy, and want of interest in what surrounded her, she seemed every now and then mechanically to resume the motion of twirling her spindle; then to look towards her bosom for the distaff, although both had been laid aside. She would then cast her eyes about, as if surprised at missing the usual implements of her industry, and appear struck by the black colour of the gown in which they had dressed her, and embarrassed by the number of persons by whom she was surrounded. Then, finally, she would raise her head with a ghastly look, and fix her eyes upon the bed which contained the coffin of her grandson, as if she had at once, and for the first time, acquired sense to comprehend her inexpressible calamity. These alternate feelings of embarrassment, wonder, and grief, seemed to succeed each other more than once upon her torpid features. But she spoke not a word—neither had she shed a tear—nor did one of the family understand, either from look or expression, to what extent she comprehended the uncommon bustle around her. Thus she sat among the funeral assembly like a connecting link between the surviving mourners and the dead corpse which they bewailed—a being in whom the light of existence was already obscured by the encroaching shadows of death.
When Oldbuck entered this house of mourning, he was received by a general and silent inclination of the head, and, according to the fashion of Scotland on such occasions, wine and spirits and bread were offered round to the guests. Elspeth, as these refreshments were presented, surprised and startled the whole company by motioning to the person who bore them to stop; then, taking a glass in her hand, she rose up, and, as the smile of dotage played upon her shrivelled features, she pronounced, with a hollow and tremulous voice, "Wishing a' your healths, sirs, and often may we hae such merry meetings!"
All shrunk from the ominous pledge, and set down the untasted liquor with a degree of shuddering horror, which will not surprise those who know how many superstitions are still common on such occasions among the Scottish vulgar. But as the old woman tasted the liquor, she suddenly exclaimed with a sort of shriek, "What's this?—this is wine—how should there be wine in my son's house?—Ay," she continued with a suppressed groan, "I mind the sorrowful cause now," and, dropping the glass from her hand, she stood a moment gazing fixedly on the bed in which the coffin of her grandson was deposited, and then sinking gradually into her seat, she covered her eyes and forehead with her withered and pallid hand.
At this moment the clergyman entered the cottage. Mr. Blattergowl, though a dreadful proser, particularly on the subject of augmentations, localities, teinds, and overtures in that session of the General Assembly, to which, unfortunately for his auditors, he chanced one year to act as moderator, was nevertheless a good man, in the old Scottish presbyterian phrase, God-ward and man-ward. No divine was more attentive in visiting the sick and afflicted, in catechising the youth, in instructing the ignorant, and in reproving the erring. And hence, notwithstanding impatience of his prolixity and prejudices, personal or professional, and notwithstanding, moreover, a certain habitual contempt for his understanding, especially on affairs of genius and taste, on which Blattergowl was apt to be diffuse, from his hope of one day fighting his way to a chair of rhetoric or belles lettres,— notwithstanding, I say, all the prejudices excited against him by these circumstances, our friend the Antiquary looked with great regard and respect on the said Blattergowl, though I own he could seldom, even by his sense of decency and the remonstrances of his womankind, be hounded out, as he called it, to hear him preach. But he regularly took shame to himself for his absence when Blattergowl came to Monkbarns to dinner, to which he was always invited of a Sunday, a mode of testifying his respect which the proprietor probably thought fully as agreeable to the clergyman, and rather more congenial to his own habits.
To return from a digression which can only serve to introduce the honest clergyman more particularly to our readers, Mr. Blattergowl had no sooner entered the hut, and received the mute and melancholy salutations of the company whom it contained, than he edged himself towards the unfortunate father, and seemed to endeavour to slide in a few words of condolence or of consolation. But the old man was incapable as yet of receiving either; he nodded, however, gruffly, and shook the clergyman's hand in acknowledgment of his good intentions, but was either unable or unwilling to make any verbal reply.
The minister next passed to the mother, moving along the floor as slowly, silently, and gradually, as if he had been afraid that the ground would, like unsafe ice, break beneath his feet, or that the first echo of a footstep was to dissolve some magic spell, and plunge the hut, with all its inmates, into a subterranean abyss. The tenor of what he had said to the poor woman could only be judged by her answers, as, half-stifled by sobs ill-repressed, and by the covering which she still kept over her countenance, she faintly answered at each pause in his speech—"Yes, sir, yes!—Ye're very gude—ye're very gude!—Nae doubt, nae doubt!—It's our duty to submit!—But, oh dear! my poor Steenie! the pride o' my very heart, that was sae handsome and comely, and a help to his family, and a comfort to us a', and a pleasure to a' that lookit on him!—Oh, my bairn! my bairn! my bairn! what for is thou lying there!—and eh! what for am I left to greet for ye!"
There was no contending with this burst of sorrow and natural affection. Oldbuck had repeated recourse to his snuff-box to conceal the tears which, despite his shrewd and caustic temper, were apt to start on such occasions. The female assistants whimpered, the men held their bonnets to their faces, and spoke apart with each other. The clergyman, meantime, addressed his ghostly consolation to the aged grandmother. At first she listened, or seemed to listen, to what he said, with the apathy of her usual unconsciousness. But as, in pressing this theme, he approached so near to her ear that the sense of his words became distinctly intelligible to her, though unheard by those who stood more distant, her countenance at once assumed that stern and expressive cast which characterized her intervals of intelligence. She drew up her head and body, shook her head in a manner that showed at least impatience, if not scorn of his counsel, and waved her hand slightly, but with a gesture so expressive, as to indicate to all who witnessed it a marked and disdainful rejection of the ghostly consolation proffered to her. The minister stepped back as if repulsed, and, by lifting gently and dropping his hand, seemed to show at once wonder, sorrow, and compassion for her dreadful state of mind. The rest of the company sympathized, and a stifled whisper went through them, indicating how much her desperate and determined manner impressed them with awe, and even horror.
In the meantime, the funeral company was completed, by the arrival of one or two persons who had been expected from Fairport. The wine and spirits again circulated, and the dumb show of greeting was anew interchanged. The grandame a second time took a glass in her hand, drank its contents, and exclaimed, with a sort of laugh,—"Ha! ha! I hae tasted wine twice in ae day—Whan did I that before, think ye, cummers?—Never since"—and the transient glow vanishing from her countenance, she set the glass down, and sunk upon the settle from whence she had risen to snatch at it.
As the general amazement subsided, Mr. Oldbuck, whose heart bled to witness what he considered as the errings of the enfeebled intellect struggling with the torpid chill of age and of sorrow, observed to the clergyman that it was time to proceed with the ceremony. The father was incapable of giving directions, but the nearest relation of the family made a sign to the carpenter, who in such cases goes through the duty of the undertaker, to proceed in his office. The creak of the screw-nails presently announced that the lid of the last mansion of mortality was in the act of being secured above its tenant. The last act which separates us for ever, even from the mortal relies of the person we assemble to mourn, has usually its effect upon the most indifferent, selfish, and hard-hearted. With a spirit of contradiction, which we may be pardoned for esteeming narrow-minded, the fathers of the Scottish kirk rejected, even on this most solemn occasion, the form of an address to the Divinity, lest they should be thought to give countenance to the rituals of Rome or of England. With much better and more liberal judgment, it is the present practice of most of the Scottish clergymen to seize this opportunity of offering a prayer, and exhortation, suitable to make an impression upon the living, while they are yet in the very presence of the relics of him whom they have but lately seen such as they themselves, and who now is such as they must in their time become. But this decent and praiseworthy practice was not adopted at the time of which I am treating, or at least, Mr. Blattergowl did not act upon it, and the ceremony proceeded without any devotional exercise.
The coffin, covered with a pall, and supported upon hand-spikes by the nearest relatives, now only waited the father to support the head, as is customary. Two or three of these privileged persons spoke to him, but he only answered by shaking his hand and his head in token of refusal. With better intention than judgment, the friends, who considered this as an act of duty on the part of the living, and of decency towards the deceased, would have proceeded to enforce their request, had not Oldbuck interfered between the distressed father and his well-meaning tormentors, and informed them, that he himself, as landlord and master to the deceased, "would carry his head to the grave." In spite of the sorrowful occasion, the hearts of the relatives swelled within them at so marked a distinction on the part of the laird; and old Alison Breck, who was present among other fish-women, swore almost aloud, "His honour Monkbarns should never want sax warp of oysters in the season" (of which fish he was understood to be fond), "if she should gang to sea and dredge for them hersell, in the foulest wind that ever blew." And such is the temper of the Scottish common people, that, by this instance of compliance with their customs, and respect for their persons, Mr. Oldbuck gained more popularity than by all the sums which he had yearly distributed in the parish for purposes of private or general charity.
The sad procession now moved slowly forward, preceded by the beadles, or saulies, with their batons,—miserable-looking old men, tottering as if on the edge of that grave to which they were marshalling another, and clad, according to Scottish guise, with threadbare black coats, and hunting-caps decorated with rusty crape. Monkbarns would probably have remonstrated against this superfluous expense, had he been consulted; but, in doing so, he would have given more offence than he gained popularity by condescending to perform the office of chief-mourner. Of this he was quite aware, and wisely withheld rebuke, where rebuke and advice would have been equally unavailing. In truth, the Scottish peasantry are still infected with that rage for funeral ceremonial, which once distinguished the grandees of the kingdom so much, that a sumptuary law was made by the Parliament of Scotland for the purpose of restraining it; and I have known many in the lowest stations, who have denied themselves not merely the comforts, but almost the necessaries of life, in order to save such a sum of money as might enable their surviving friends to bury them like Christians, as they termed it; nor could their faithful executors be prevailed upon, though equally necessitous, to turn to the use and maintenance of the living the money vainly wasted upon the interment of the dead.
The procession to the churchyard, at about half-a-mile's distance, was made with the mournful solemnity usual on these occasions,—the body was consigned to its parent earth,—and when the labour of the gravediggers had filled up the trench, and covered it with fresh sod, Mr. Oldbuck, taking his hat off, saluted the assistants, who had stood by in melancholy silence, and with that adieu dispersed the mourners.
The clergyman offered our Antiquary his company to walk homeward; but Mr. Oldbuck had been so much struck with the deportment of the fisherman and his mother, that, moved by compassion, and perhaps also, in some degree, by that curiosity which induces us to seek out even what gives us pain to witness, he preferred a solitary walk by the coast, for the purpose of again visiting the cottage as he passed.
What is this secret sin, this untold tale, That art cannot extract, nor penance cleanse? —Her muscles hold their place; Nor discomposed, nor formed to steadiness, No sudden flushing, and no faltering lip.— Mysterious Mother.
The coffin had been borne from the place where it rested. The mourners, in regular gradation, according to their rank or their relationship to the deceased, had filed from the cottage, while the younger male children were led along to totter after the bier of their brother, and to view with wonder a ceremonial which they could hardly comprehend. The female gossips next rose to depart, and, with consideration for the situation of the parents, carried along with them the girls of the family, to give the unhappy pair time and opportunity to open their hearts to each other and soften their grief by communicating it. But their kind intention was without effect. The last of them had darkened the entrance of the cottage, as she went out, and drawn the door softly behind her, when the father, first ascertaining by a hasty glance that no stranger remained, started up, clasped his hands wildly above his head, uttered a cry of the despair which he had hitherto repressed, and, in all the impotent impatience of grief, half rushed half staggered forward to the bed on which the coffin had been deposited, threw himself down upon it, and smothering, as it were, his head among the bed-clothes, gave vent to the full passion of his sorrow. It was in vain that the wretched mother, terrified by the vehemence of her husband's affliction—affliction still more fearful as agitating a man of hardened manners and a robust frame— suppressed her own sobs and tears, and, pulling him by the skirts of his coat, implored him to rise and remember, that, though one was removed, he had still a wife and children to comfort and support. The appeal came at too early a period of his anguish, and was totally unattended to; he continued to remain prostrate, indicating, by sobs so bitter and violent, that they shook the bed and partition against which it rested, by clenched hands which grasped the bed-clothes, and by the vehement and convulsive motion of his legs, how deep and how terrible was the agony of a father's sorrow.
"O, what a day is this! what a day is this!" said the poor mother, her womanish affliction already exhausted by sobs and tears, and now almost lost in terror for the state in which she beheld her husband—"O, what an hour is this! and naebody to help a poor lone woman—O, gudemither, could ye but speak a word to him!—wad ye but bid him be comforted!"
To her astonishment, and even to the increase of her fear, her husband's mother heard and answered the appeal. She rose and walked across the floor without support, and without much apparent feebleness, and standing by the bed on which her son had extended himself, she said, "Rise up, my son, and sorrow not for him that is beyond sin and sorrow and temptation. Sorrow is for those that remain in this vale of sorrow and darkness—I, wha dinna sorrow, and wha canna sorrow for ony ane, hae maist need that ye should a' sorrow for me."
The voice of his mother, not heard for years as taking part in the active duties of life, or offering advice or consolation, produced its effect upon her son. He assumed a sitting posture on the side of the bed, and his appearance, attitude, and gestures, changed from those of angry despair to deep grief and dejection. The grandmother retired to her nook, the mother mechanically took in her hand her tattered Bible, and seemed to read, though her eyes were drowned with tears.
They were thus occupied, when a loud knock was heard at the door.
"Hegh, sirs!" said the poor mother, "wha is that can be coming in that gate e'enow?—They canna hae heard o' our misfortune, I'm sure."
The knock being repeated, she rose and opened the door, saying querulously, "Whatna gait's that to disturb a sorrowfu' house?"
A tall man in black stood before her, whom she instantly recognised to be Lord Glenallan. "Is there not," he said, "an old woman lodging in this or one of the neighbouring cottages, called Elspeth, who was long resident at Craigburnfoot of Glenallan?"
"It's my gudemither, my lord," said Margaret; "but she canna see onybody e'enow—Ohon! we're dreeing a sair weird—we hae had a heavy dispensation!"
"God forbid," said Lord Glenallan, "that I should on light occasion disturb your sorrow;—but my days are numbered—your mother-in-law is in the extremity of age, and, if I see her not to-day, we may never meet on this side of time."
"And what," answered the desolate mother, "wad ye see at an auld woman, broken down wi' age and sorrow and heartbreak? Gentle or semple shall not darken my door the day my bairn's been carried out a corpse."
While she spoke thus, indulging the natural irritability of disposition and profession, which began to mingle itself with her grief when its first uncontrolled bursts were gone by, she held the door about one-third part open, and placed herself in the gap, as if to render the visitor's entrance impossible. But the voice of her husband was heard from within— "Wha's that, Maggie? what for are ye steaking them out?—let them come in; it doesna signify an auld rope's end wha comes in or wha gaes out o' this house frae this time forward."
The woman stood aside at her husband's command, and permitted Lord Glenallan to enter the hut. The dejection exhibited in his broken frame and emaciated countenance, formed a strong contrast with the effects of grief, as they were displayed in the rude and weatherbeaten visage of the fisherman, and the masculine features of his wife. He approached the old woman as she was seated on her usual settle, and asked her, in a tone as audible as his voice could make it, "Are you Elspeth of the Craigburnfoot of Glenallan?"
"Wha is it that asks about the unhallowed residence of that evil woman?" was the answer returned to his query.
"The unhappy Earl of Glenallan."
"Earl!—Earl of Glenallan!"
"He who was called William Lord Geraldin," said the Earl; "and whom his mother's death has made Earl of Glenallan."
"Open the bole," said the old woman firmly and hastily to her daughter-in-law, "open the bole wi' speed, that I may see if this be the right Lord Geraldin—the son of my mistress—him that I received in my arms within the hour after he was born—him that has reason to curse me that I didna smother him before the hour was past!"
The window, which had been shut in order that a gloomy twilight might add to the solemnity of the funeral meeting, was opened as she commanded, and threw a sudden and strong light through the smoky and misty atmosphere of the stifling cabin. Falling in a stream upon the chimney, the rays illuminated, in the way that Rembrandt would have chosen, the features of the unfortunate nobleman, and those of the old sibyl, who now, standing upon her feet, and holding him by one hand, peered anxiously in his features with her light-blue eyes, and holding her long and withered fore-finger within a small distance of his face, moved it slowly as if to trace the outlines and reconcile what she recollected with that she now beheld. As she finished her scrutiny, she said, with a deep sigh, "It's a sair—sair change; and wha's fault is it?—but that's written down where it will be remembered—it's written on tablets of brass with a pen of steel, where all is recorded that is done in the flesh.—And what," she said after a pause, "what is Lord Geraldin seeking from a poor auld creature like me, that's dead already, and only belongs sae far to the living that she isna yet laid in the moulds?"
"Nay," answered Lord Glenallan, "in the name of Heaven, why was it that you requested so urgently to see me?—and why did you back your request by sending a token which you knew well I dared not refuse?"
As he spoke thus, he took from his purse the ring which Edie Ochiltree had delivered to him at Glenallan House. The sight of this token produced a strange and instantaneous effect upon the old woman. The palsy of fear was immediately added to that of age, and she began instantly to search her pockets with the tremulous and hasty agitation of one who becomes first apprehensive of having lost something of great importance;—then, as if convinced of the reality of her fears, she turned to the Earl, and demanded, "And how came ye by it then?—how came ye by it? I thought I had kept it sae securely—what will the Countess say?"
"You know," said the Earl, "at least you must have heard, that my mother is dead."
"Dead! are ye no imposing upon me? has she left a' at last, lands and lordship and lineages?"
"All, all," said the Earl, "as mortals must leave all human vanities."
"I mind now," answered Elspeth—"I heard of it before but there has been sic distress in our house since, and my memory is sae muckle impaired— But ye are sure your mother, the Lady Countess, is gane hame?"
The Earl again assured her that her former mistress was no more.
"Then," said Elspeth, "it shall burden my mind nae langer!—When she lived, wha dared to speak what it would hae displeased her to hae had noised abroad? But she's gane—and I will confess all."
Then turning to her son and daughter-in-law, she commanded them imperatively to quit the house, and leave Lord Geraldin (for so she still called him) alone with her. But Maggie Mucklebackit, her first burst of grief being over, was by no means disposed in her own house to pay passive obedience to the commands of her mother-in-law, an authority which is peculiarly obnoxious to persons in her rank of life, and which she was the more astonished at hearing revived, when it seemed to have been so long relinquished and forgotten.
"It was an unco thing," she said, in a grumbling tone of voice,—for the rank of Lord Glenallan was somewhat imposing—"it was an unco thing to bid a mother leave her ain house wi' the tear in her ee, the moment her eldest son had been carried a corpse out at the door o't."
The fisherman, in a stubborn and sullen tone, added to the same purpose. "This is nae day for your auld-warld stories, mother. My lord, if he be a lord, may ca' some other day—or he may speak out what he has gotten to say if he likes it; there's nane here will think it worth their while to listen to him or you either. But neither for laird or loon, gentle or semple, will I leave my ain house to pleasure onybody on the very day my poor"—
Here his voice choked, and he could proceed no farther; but as he had risen when Lord Glenallan came in, and had since remained standing, he now threw himself doggedly upon a seat, and remained in the sullen posture of one who was determined to keep his word.
But the old woman, whom this crisis seemed to repossess in all those powers of mental superiority with which she had once been eminently gifted, arose, and advancing towards him, said, with a solemn voice, "My son, as ye wad shun hearing of your mother's shame—as ye wad not willingly be a witness of her guilt—as ye wad deserve her blessing and avoid her curse, I charge ye, by the body that bore and that nursed ye, to leave me at freedom to speak with Lord Geraldin, what nae mortal ears but his ain maun listen to. Obey my words, that when ye lay the moulds on my head—and, oh that the day were come!—ye may remember this hour without the reproach of having disobeyed the last earthly command that ever your mother wared on you."
The terms of this solemn charge revived in the fisherman's heart the habit of instinctive obedience in which his mother had trained him up, and to which he had submitted implicitly while her powers of exacting it remained entire. The recollection mingled also with the prevailing passion of the moment; for, glancing his eye at the bed on which the dead body had been laid, he muttered to himself, "He never disobeyed me, in reason or out o' reason, and what for should I vex her?" Then, taking his reluctant spouse by the arm, he led her gently out of the cottage, and latched the door behind them as he left it.
As the unhappy parents withdrew, Lord Glenallan, to prevent the old woman from relapsing into her lethargy, again pressed her on the subject of the communication which she proposed to make to him.
"Ye will have it sune eneugh," she replied;—"my mind's clear eneugh now, and there is not—I think there is not—a chance of my forgetting what I have to say. My dwelling at Craigburnfoot is before my een, as it were present in reality:—the green bank, with its selvidge, just where the burn met wi' the sea—the twa little barks, wi' their sails furled, lying in the natural cove which it formed—the high cliff that joined it with the pleasure-grounds of the house of Glenallan, and hung right ower the stream—Ah! yes—I may forget that I had a husband and have lost him— that I hae but ane alive of our four fair sons—that misfortune upon misfortune has devoured our ill-gotten wealth—that they carried the corpse of my son's eldest-born frae the house this morning—But I never can forget the days I spent at bonny Craigburnfoot!"
"You were a favourite of my mother," said Lord Glenallan, desirous to bring her back to the point, from which she was wandering.
"I was, I was,—ye needna mind me o' that. She brought me up abune my station, and wi' knowledge mair than my fellows—but, like the tempter of auld, wi' the knowledge of gude she taught me the knowledge of evil."
"For God's sake, Elspeth," said the astonished Earl, "proceed, if you can, to explain the dreadful hints you have thrown out! I well know you are confidant to one dreadful secret, which should split this roof even to hear it named—but speak on farther."
"I will," she said—"I will!—just bear wi' me for a little;"—and again she seemed lost in recollection, but it was no longer tinged with imbecility or apathy. She was now entering upon the topic which had long loaded her mind, and which doubtless often occupied her whole soul at times when she seemed dead to all around her. And I may add, as a remarkable fact, that such was the intense operation of mental energy upon her physical powers and nervous system, that, notwithstanding her infirmity of deafness, each word that Lord Glenallan spoke during this remarkable conference, although in the lowest tone of horror or agony, fell as full and distinct upon Elspeth's ear as it could have done at any period of her life. She spoke also herself clearly, distinctly, and slowly, as if anxious that the intelligence she communicated should be fully understood; concisely at the same time, and with none of the verbiage or circumlocutory additions natural to those of her sex and condition. In short, her language bespoke a better education, as well as an uncommonly firm and resolved mind, and a character of that sort from which great virtues or great crimes may be naturally expected. The tenor of her communication is disclosed in the following CHAPTER.
Remorse—she neer forsakes us— A bloodhound staunch—she tracks our rapid step Through the wild labyrinth of youthful frenzy, Unheard, perchance, until old age hath tamed us Then in our lair, when Time hath chilled our joints, And maimed our hope of combat, or of flight, We hear her deep-mouthed bay, announcing all Of wrath, and wo, and punishment that bides us. Old Play.
"I need not tell you," said the old woman, addressing the Earl of Glenallan, "that I was the favourite and confidential attendant of Joscelind, Countess of Glenallan, whom God assoilzie!"—(here she crossed herself)—"and I think farther, ye may not have forgotten that I shared her regard for mony years. I returned it by the maist sincere attachment, but I fell into disgrace frae a trifling act of disobedience, reported to your mother by ane that thought, and she wasna wrang, that I was a spy upon her actions and yours."
"I charge thee, woman," said the Earl, in a voice trembling with passion, "name not her name in my hearing!"
"I must," returned the penitent firmly and calmly, "or how can you understand me?"
The Earl leaned upon one of the wooden chairs of the hut, drew his hat over his face, clenched his hands together, set his teeth like one who summons up courage to undergo a painful operation, and made a signal to her to proceed.
"I say, then," she resumed, "that my disgrace with my mistress was chiefly owing to Miss Eveline Neville, then bred up in Glenallan House as the daughter of a cousin-german and intimate friend of your father that was gane. There was muckle mystery in her history,—but wha dared to inquire farther than the Countess liked to tell?—All in Glenallan House loved Miss Neville—all but twa, your mother and mysell—we baith hated her."
"God! for what reason, since a creature so mild, so gentle, so formed to inspire affection, never walked on this wretched world?"
"It may hae been sae," rejoined Elspeth, "but your mother hated a' that cam of your father's family—a' but himsell. Her reasons related to strife which fell between them soon after her marriage; the particulars are naething to this purpose. But oh! doubly did she hate Eveline Neville when she perceived that there was a growing kindness atween you and that unfortunate young leddy! Ye may mind that the Countess's dislike didna gang farther at first than just showing o' the cauld shouther—at least it wasna seen farther; but at the lang run it brak out into such downright violence that Miss Neville was even fain to seek refuge at Knockwinnock Castle with Sir Arthur's leddy, wha (God sain her!) was then wi' the living."
"You rend my heart by recalling these particulars—But go on,—and may my present agony be accepted as additional penance for the involuntary crime!"
"She had been absent some months," continued Elspeth, "when I was ae night watching in my hut the return of my husband from fishing, and shedding in private those bitter tears that my proud spirit wrung frae me whenever I thought on my disgrace. The sneck was drawn, and the Countess your mother entered my dwelling. I thought I had seen a spectre, for even in the height of my favour, this was an honour she had never done me, and she looked as pale and ghastly as if she had risen from the grave. She sat down, and wrung the draps from her hair and cloak,—for the night was drizzling, and her walk had been through the plantations, that were a' loaded with dew. I only mention these things that you may understand how weel that night lives in my memory,—and weel it may. I was surprised to see her, but I durstna speak first, mair than if I had seen a phantom— Na, I durst not, my lord, I that hae seen mony sights of terror, and never shook at them. Sae, after a silence, she said, Elspeth Cheyne (for she always gave me my maiden name), are not ye the daughter of that Reginald Cheyne who died to save his master, Lord Glenallan, on the field of Sheriffmuir?' And I answered her as proudly as hersell nearly—As sure as you are the daughter of that Earl of Glenallan whom my father saved that day by his own death.'"
Here she made a deep pause.
"And what followed?—what followed?—For Heaven's sake, good woman—But why should I use that word?—Yet, good or bad, I command you to tell me."
"And little I should value earthly command," answered Elspeth, "were there not a voice that has spoken to me sleeping and waking, that drives me forward to tell this sad tale. Aweel, my Lord—the Countess said to me, My son loves Eveline Neville—they are agreed—they are plighted: should they have a son, my right over Glenallan merges—I sink from that moment from a Countess into a miserable stipendiary dowager, I who brought lands and vassals, and high blood and ancient fame, to my husband, I must cease to be mistress when my son has an heir-male. But I care not for that—had he married any but one of the hated Nevilles, I had been patient. But for them—that they and their descendants should enjoy the right and honours of my ancestors, goes through my heart like a two-edged dirk. And this girl—I detest her!'—And I answered, for my heart kindled at her words, that her hate was equalled by mine."
"Wretch!" exclaimed the Earl, in spite of his determination to preserve silence—"wretched woman! what cause of hate could have arisen from a being so innocent and gentle?"
"I hated what my mistress hated, as was the use with the liege vassals of the house of Glenallan; for though, my Lord, I married under my degree, yet an ancestor of yours never went to the field of battle, but an ancestor of the frail, demented, auld, useless wretch wha now speaks with you, carried his shield before him. But that was not a'," continued the beldam, her earthly and evil passions rekindling as she became heated in her narration—"that was not a'; I hated Miss Eveline Neville for her ain sake, I brought her frae England, and, during our whole journey, she gecked and scorned at my northern speech and habit, as her southland leddies and kimmers had done at the boarding-school, as they cald it"— (and, strange as it may seem, she spoke of an affront offered by a heedless school-girl without intention, with a degree of inveteracy which, at such a distance of time, a mortal offence would neither have authorized or excited in any well-constituted mind)—"Yes, she scorned and jested at me—but let them that scorn the tartan fear the dirk!"
She paused, and then went on—"But I deny not that I hated her mair than she deserved. My mistress, the Countess, persevered and said, Elspeth Cheyne, this unruly boy will marry with the false English blood. Were days as they have been, I could throw her into the Massymore* of Glenallan, and fetter him in the Keep of Strathbonnel.
* Massa-mora, an ancient name for a dungeon, derived from the Moorish language, perhaps as far back as the time of the Crusades.
But these times are past, and the authority which the nobles of the land should exercise is delegated to quibbling lawyers and their baser dependants. Hear me, Elspeth Cheyne! if you are your father's daughter as I am mine, I will find means that they shall not marry. She walks often to that cliff that overhangs your dwelling to look for her lover's boat— (ye may remember the pleasure ye then took on the sea, my Lord)—let him find her forty fathom lower than he expects!'—Yes! ye may stare and frown and clench your hand; but, as sure as I am to face the only Being I ever feared—and, oh that I had feared him mair!—these were your mother's words. What avails it to me to lie to you?—But I wadna consent to stain my hand with blood.—Then she said, By the religion of our holy Church they are ower sibb thegither. But I expect nothing but that both will become heretics as well as disobedient reprobates;'—that was her addition to that argument. And then, as the fiend is ever ower busy wi' brains like mine, that are subtle beyond their use and station, I was unhappily permitted to add—But they might be brought to think themselves sae sibb as no Christian law will permit their wedlock.'"
Here the Earl of Glenallan echoed her words, with a shriek so piercing as almost to rend the roof of the cottage.—"Ah! then Eveline Neville was not the—the"—
"The daughter, ye would say, of your father?" continued Elspeth. "No—be it a torment or be it a comfort to you—ken the truth, she was nae mair a daughter of your father's house than I am."
"Woman, deceive me not!—make me not curse the memory of the parent I have so lately laid in the grave, for sharing in a plot the most cruel, the most infernal"—
"Bethink ye, my Lord Geraldin, ere ye curse the memory of a parent that's gane, is there none of the blood of Glenallan living, whose faults have led to this dreadfu' catastrophe?"
"Mean you my brother?—he, too, is gone," said the Earl.
"No," replied the sibyl, "I mean yoursell, Lord Geraldin. Had you not transgressed the obedience of a son by wedding Eveline Neville in secret while a guest at Knockwinnock, our plot might have separated you for a time, but would have left at least your sorrows without remorse to canker them. But your ain conduct had put poison in the weapon that we threw, and it pierced you with the mair force because ye cam rushing to meet it. Had your marriage been a proclaimed and acknowledged action, our stratagem to throw an obstacle into your way that couldna be got ower, neither wad nor could hae been practised against ye."
"Great Heaven!" said the unfortunate nobleman—"it is as if a film fell from my obscured eyes! Yes, I now well understand the doubtful hints of consolation thrown out by my wretched mother, tending indirectly to impeach the evidence of the horrors of which her arts had led me to believe myself guilty."
"She could not speak mair plainly," answered Elspeth, "without confessing her ain fraud,—and she would have submitted to be torn by wild horses, rather than unfold what she had done; and if she had still lived, so would I for her sake. They were stout hearts the race of Glenallan, male and female, and sae were a' that in auld times cried their gathering-word of Clochnaben—they stood shouther to shouther—nae man parted frae his chief for love of gold or of gain, or of right or of wrang. The times are changed, I hear, now."
The unfortunate nobleman was too much wrapped up in his own confused and distracted reflections, to notice the rude expressions of savage fidelity, in which, even in the latest ebb of life, the unhappy author of his misfortunes seemed to find a stern and stubborn source of consolation.
"Great Heaven!" he exclaimed, "I am then free from a guilt the most horrible with which man can be stained, and the sense of which, however involuntary, has wrecked my peace, destroyed my health, and bowed me down to an untimely grave. Accept," he fervently uttered, lifting his eyes upwards, "accept my humble thanks! If I live miserable, at least I shall not die stained with that unnatural guilt!—And thou—proceed if thou hast more to tell—proceed, while thou hast voice to speak it, and I have powers to listen."
"Yes," answered the beldam, "the hour when you shall hear, and I shall speak, is indeed passing rapidly away. Death has crossed your brow with his finger, and I find his grasp turning every day coulder at my heart. Interrupt me nae mair with exclamations and groans and accusations, but hear my tale to an end! And then—if ye be indeed sic a Lord of Glenallan as I hae heard of in my day—make your merrymen gather the thorn, and the brier, and the green hollin, till they heap them as high as the house-riggin', and burn! burn! burn! the auld witch Elspeth, and a' that can put ye in mind that sic a creature ever crawled upon the land!"
"Go on," said the Earl, "go on—I will not again interrupt you."
He spoke in a half-suffocated yet determined voice, resolved that no irritability on his part should deprive him of this opportunity of acquiring proofs of the wonderful tale he then heard. But Elspeth had become exhausted by a continuous narration of such unusual length; the subsequent part of her story was more broken, and though still distinctly intelligible in most parts, had no longer the lucid conciseness which the first part of her narrative had displayed to such an astonishing degree. Lord Glenallan found it necessary, when she had made some attempts to continue her narrative without success, to prompt her memory by demanding—"What proofs she could propose to bring of the truth of a narrative so different from that which she had originally told?"
"The evidence," she replied, "of Eveline Neville's real birth was in the Countess's possession, with reasons for its being for some time kept private;—they may yet be found, if she has not destroyed them, in the left hand drawer of the ebony cabinet that stood in the dressing-room. These she meant to suppress for the time, until you went abroad again, when she trusted, before your return, to send Miss Neville back to her ain country, or to get her settled in marriage."
"But did you not show me letters of my father's, which seemed to me, unless my senses altogether failed me in that horrible moment, to avow his relationship to—to the unhappy"—
"We did; and, with my testimony, how could you doubt the fact, or her either? But we suppressed the true explanation of these letters, and that was, that your father thought it right the young leddy should pass for his daughter for a while, on account o'some family reasons that were amang them."
"But wherefore, when you learned our union, was this dreadful artifice persisted in?"
"It wasna," she replied, "till Lady Glenallan had communicated this fause tale, that she suspected ye had actually made a marriage—nor even then did you avow it sae as to satisfy her whether the ceremony had in verity passed atween ye or no—But ye remember, O ye canna but remember weel, what passed in that awfu' meeting!"
"Woman! you swore upon the gospels to the fact which you now disavow."
"I did,—and I wad hae taen a yet mair holy pledge on it, if there had been ane—I wad not hae spared the blood of my body, or the guilt of my soul, to serve the house of Glenallan."
"Wretch! do you call that horrid perjury, attended with consequences yet more dreadful—do you esteem that a service to the house of your benefactors?"
"I served her, wha was then the head of Glenallan, as she required me to serve her. The cause was between God and her conscience—the manner between God and mine—She is gane to her account, and I maun follow. Have I taulds you a'?"
"No," answered Lord Glenallan—"you have yet more to tell—you have to tell me of the death of the angel whom your perjury drove to despair, stained, as she thought herself, with a crime so horrible. Speak truth— was that dreadful—was that horrible incident"—he could scarcely articulate the words—"was it as reported? or was it an act of yet further, though not more atrocious cruelty, inflicted by others?"
"I understand you," said Elspeth. "But report spoke truth;—our false witness was indeed the cause, but the deed was her ain distracted act. On that fearfu' disclosure, when ye rushed frae the Countess's presence and saddled your horse, and left the castle like a fire-flaught, the Countess hadna yet discovered your private marriage; she hadna fund out that the union, which she had framed this awfu' tale to prevent, had e'en taen place. Ye fled from the house as if the fire o' Heaven was about to fa' upon it, and Miss Neville, atween reason and the want o't, was put under sure ward. But the ward sleep't, and the prisoner waked—the window was open—the way was before her—there was the cliff, and there was the sea!—O, when will I forget that!"
"And thus died," said the Earl, "even so as was reported?"
"No, my lord. I had gane out to the cove—the tide was in, and it flowed, as ye'll remember, to the foot o' that cliff—it was a great convenience that for my husband's trade—Where am I wandering?—I saw a white object dart frae the tap o' the cliff like a sea-maw through the mist, and then a heavy flash and sparkle of the waters showed me it was a human creature that had fa'en into the waves. I was bold and strong, and familiar with the tide. I rushed in and grasped her gown, and drew her out and carried her on my shouthers—I could hae carried twa sic then—carried her to my hut, and laid her on my bed. Neighbours cam and brought help; but the words she uttered in her ravings, when she got back the use of speech, were such, that I was fain to send them awa, and get up word to Glenallan House. The Countess sent down her Spanish servant Teresa—if ever there was a fiend on earth in human form, that woman was ane. She and I were to watch the unhappy leddy, and let no other person approach.—God knows what Teresa's part was to hae been—she tauld it not to me—but Heaven took the conclusion in its ain hand. The poor leddy! she took the pangs of travail before her time, bore a male child, and died in the arms of me—of her mortal enemy! Ay, ye may weep—she was a sightly creature to see to—but think ye, if I didna mourn her then, that I can mourn her now? Na, na, I left Teresa wi' the dead corpse and new-born babe, till I gaed up to take the Countess's commands what was to be done. Late as it was, I ca'd her up, and she gar'd me ca' up your brother"—
"Yes, Lord Geraldin, e'en your brother, that some said she aye wished to be her heir. At ony rate, he was the person maist concerned in the succession and heritance of the house of Glenallan."
"And is it possible to believe, then, that my brother, out of avarice to grasp at my inheritance, would lend himself to such a base and dreadful stratagem?"
"Your mother believed it," said the old beldam with a fiendish laugh—"it was nae plot of my making; but what they did or said I will not say, because I did not hear. Lang and sair they consulted in the black wainscot dressing-room; and when your brother passed through the room where I was waiting, it seemed to me (and I have often thought sae since syne) that the fire of hell was in his cheek and een. But he had left some of it with his mother, at ony rate. She entered the room like a woman demented, and the first words she spoke were, Elspeth Cheyne, did you ever pull a new-budded flower?' I answered, as ye may believe, that I often had. Then,' said she, ye will ken the better how to blight the spurious and heretical blossom that has sprung forth this night to disgrace my father's noble house—See here;'—(and she gave me a golden bodkin)—nothing but gold must shed the blood of Glenallan. This child is already as one of the dead, and since thou and Teresa alone ken that it lives, let it be dealt upon as ye will answer to me!' and she turned away in her fury, and left me with the bodkin in my hand.—Here it is; that and the ring of Miss Neville, are a' I hae preserved of my ill-gotten gear—for muckle was the gear I got. And weel hae I keepit the secret, but no for the gowd or gear either."
Her long and bony hand held out to Lord Glenallan a gold bodkin, down which in fancy he saw the blood of his infant trickling.
"Wretch! had you the heart?"
"I kenna if I could hae had it or no. I returned to my cottage without feeling the ground that I trode on; but Teresa and the child were gane— a' that was alive was gane—naething left but the lifeless corpse."
"And did you never learn my infant's fate?"
"I could but guess. I have tauld ye your mother's purpose, and I ken Teresa was a fiend. She was never mair seen in Scotland, and I have heard that she returned to her ain land. A dark curtain has fa'en ower the past, and the few that witnessed ony part of it could only surmise something of seduction and suicide. You yourself"—
"I know—I know it all," answered the Earl.
"You indeed know all that I can say—And now, heir of Glenallan, can you forgive me?"
"Ask forgiveness of God, and not of man," said the Earl, turning away.
"And how shall I ask of the pure and unstained what is denied to me by a sinner like mysell? If I hae sinned, hae I not suffered?—Hae I had a day's peace or an hour's rest since these lang wet locks of hair first lay upon my pillow at Craigburnfoot?—Has not my house been burned, wi' my bairn in the cradle?—Have not my boats been wrecked, when a' others weather'd the gale?—Have not a' that were near and dear to me dree'd penance for my sin?—Has not the fire had its share o' them—the winds had their part—the sea had her part?—And oh!" she added, with a lengthened groan, looking first upwards towards Heaven, and then bending her eyes on the floor—"O that the earth would take her part, that's been lang lang wearying to be joined to it!"
Lord Glenallan had reached the door of the cottage, but the generosity of his nature did not permit him to leave the unhappy woman in this state of desperate reprobation. "May God forgive thee, wretched woman," he said, "as sincerely as I do!—Turn for mercy to Him who can alone grant mercy, and may your prayers be heard as if they were mine own!—I will send a religious man."
"Na, na—nae priest! nae priest!" she ejaculated; and the door of the cottage opening as she spoke, prevented her from proceeding.
Still in his dead hand clenched remain the strings That thrill his father's heart—e'en as the limb, Lopped off and laid in grave, retains, they tell us, Strange commerce with the mutilated stump, Whose nerves are twinging still in maimed existence. Old Play.
The Antiquary, as we informed the reader in the end of the thirty-first CHAPTER, [tenth] had shaken off the company of worthy Mr. Blattergowl, although he offered to entertain him with an abstract of the ablest speech he had ever known in the teind court, delivered by the procurator for the church in the remarkable case of the parish of Gatherem. Resisting this temptation, our senior preferred a solitary path, which again conducted him to the cottage of Mucklebackit. When he came in front of the fisherman's hut, he observed a man working intently, as if to repair a shattered boat which lay upon the beach, and going up to him was surprised to find it was Mucklebackit himself. "I am glad," he said in a tone of sympathy—"I am glad, Saunders, that you feel yourself able to make this exertion."
"And what would ye have me to do," answered the fisher gruffly, "unless I wanted to see four children starve, because ane is drowned? It's weel wi' you gentles, that can sit in the house wi' handkerchers at your een when ye lose a friend; but the like o' us maun to our wark again, if our hearts were beating as hard as my hammer."
Without taking more notice of Oldbuck, he proceeded in his labour; and the Antiquary, to whom the display of human nature under the influence of agitating passions was never indifferent, stood beside him, in silent attention, as if watching the progress of the work. He observed more than once the man's hard features, as if by the force of association, prepare to accompany the sound of the saw and hammer with his usual symphony of a rude tune, hummed or whistled,—and as often a slight twitch of convulsive expression showed, that ere the sound was uttered, a cause for suppressing it rushed upon his mind. At length, when he had patched a considerable rent, and was beginning to mend another, his feelings appeared altogether to derange the power of attention necessary for his work. The piece of wood which he was about to nail on was at first too long; then he sawed it off too short, then chose another equally ill adapted for the purpose. At length, throwing it down in anger, after wiping his dim eye with his quivering hand, he exclaimed, "There is a curse either on me or on this auld black bitch of a boat, that I have hauled up high and dry, and patched and clouted sae mony years, that she might drown my poor Steenie at the end of them, an' be d—d to her!" and he flung his hammer against the boat, as if she had been the intentional cause of his misfortune. Then recollecting himself, he added, "Yet what needs ane be angry at her, that has neither soul nor sense?—though I am no that muckle better mysell. She's but a rickle o' auld rotten deals nailed thegither, and warped wi' the wind and the sea—and I am a dour carle, battered by foul weather at sea and land till I am maist as senseless as hersell. She maun be mended though again the morning tide— that's a thing o' necessity."
Thus speaking, he went to gather together his instruments, and attempt to resume his labour,—but Oldbuck took him kindly by the arm. "Come, come," he said, "Saunders, there is no work for you this day—I'll send down Shavings the carpenter to mend the boat, and he may put the day's work into my account—and you had better not come out to-morrow, but stay to comfort your family under this dispensation, and the gardener will bring you some vegetables and meal from Monkbarns."
"I thank ye, Monkbarns," answered the poor fisher; "I am a plain-spoken man, and hae little to say for mysell; I might hae learned fairer fashions frae my mither lang syne, but I never saw muckle gude they did her; however, I thank ye. Ye were aye kind and neighbourly, whatever folk says o' your being near and close; and I hae often said, in thae times when they were ganging to raise up the puir folk against the gentles—I hae often said, neer a man should steer a hair touching to Monkbarns while Steenie and I could wag a finger—and so said Steenie too. And, Monkbarns, when ye laid his head in the grave (and mony thanks for the respect), ye, saw the mouls laid on an honest lad that likit you weel, though he made little phrase about it."
Oldbuck, beaten from the pride of his affected cynicism, would not willingly have had any one by on that occasion to quote to him his favourite maxims of the Stoic philosophy. The large drops fell fast from his own eyes, as he begged the father, who was now melted at recollecting the bravery and generous sentiments of his son, to forbear useless sorrow, and led him by the arm towards his own home, where another scene awaited our Antiquary.
As he entered, the first person whom he beheld was Lord Glenallan. Mutual surprise was in their countenances as they saluted each other—with haughty reserve on the part of Mr. Oldbuck, and embarrassment on that of the Earl.
"My Lord Glenallan, I think?" said Mr. Oldbuck.
"Yes—much changed from what he was when he knew Mr. Oldbuck."
"I do not mean," said the Antiquary, "to intrude upon your lordship—I only came to see this distressed family."
"And you have found one, sir, who has still greater claims on your compassion."
"My compassion? Lord Glenallan cannot need my compassion. If Lord Glenallan could need it, I think he would hardly ask it."
"Our former acquaintance," said the Earl—
"Is of such ancient date, my lord—was of such short duration, and was connected with circumstances so exquisitely painful, that I think we may dispense with renewing it."
So saying, the Antiquary turned away, and left the hut; but Lord Glenallan followed him into the open air, and, in spite of a hasty "Good morning, my lord," requested a few minutes' conversation, and the favour of his advice in an important matter.
"Your lordship will find many more capable to advise you, my lord, and by whom your intercourse will be deemed an honour. For me, I am a man retired from business and the world, and not very fond of raking up the past events of my useless life;—and forgive me if I say, I have particular pain in reverting to that period of it when I acted like a fool, and your lordship like"—He stopped short.
"Like a villain, you would say," said Lord Glenallan—"for such I must have appeared to you."
"My lord—my lord, I have no desire to hear your shrift," said the Antiquary.
"But, sir, if I can show you that I am more sinned against than sinning— that I have been a man miserable beyond the power of description, and who looks forward at this moment to an untimely grave as to a haven of rest, you will not refuse the confidence which, accepting your appearance at this critical moment as a hint from Heaven, I venture thus to press on you."
"Assuredly, my lord, I shall shun no longer the continuation of this extraordinary interview."
"I must then recall to you our occasional meetings upwards of twenty years since at Knockwinnock Castle,—and I need not remind you of a lady who was then a member of that family."
"The unfortunate Miss Eveline Neville, my lord; I remember it well."
"Towards whom you entertained sentiments"—
"Very different from those with which I before and since have regarded her sex. Her gentleness, her docility, her pleasure in the studies which I pointed out to her, attached my affections more than became my age though that was not then much advanced—or the solidity of my character. But I need not remind your lordship of the various modes in which you indulged your gaiety at the expense of an awkward and retired student, embarrassed by the expression of feelings so new to him, and I have no doubt that the young lady joined you in the well-deserved ridicule—it is the way of womankind. I have spoken at once to the painful circumstances of my addresses and their rejection, that your lordship may be satisfied everything is full in my memory, and may, so far as I am concerned, tell your story without scruple or needless delicacy."
"I will," said Lord Glenallan. "But first let me say, you do injustice to the memory of the gentlest and kindest, as well as to the most unhappy of women, to suppose she could make a jest of the honest affection of a man like you. Frequently did she blame me, Mr. Oldbuck, for indulging my levity at your expense—may I now presume you will excuse the gay freedoms which then offended you?—my state of mind has never since laid me under the necessity of apologizing for the inadvertencies of a light and happy temper."
"My lord, you are fully pardoned," said Mr. Oldbuck. "You should be aware, that, like all others, I was ignorant at the time that I placed myself in competition with your lordship, and understood that Miss Neville was in a state of dependence which might make her prefer a competent independence and the hand of an honest man—But I am wasting time—I would I could believe that the views entertained towards her by others were as fair and honest as mine!"
"Mr. Oldbuck, you judge harshly."
"Not without cause, my lord. When I only, of all the magistrates of this county—having neither, like some of them, the honour to be connected with your powerful family—nor, like others, the meanness to fear it,— when I made some inquiry into the manner of Miss Neville's death—I shake you, my lord, but I must be plain—I do own I had every reason to believe that she had met most unfair dealing, and had either been imposed upon by a counterfeit marriage, or that very strong measures had been adopted to stifle and destroy the evidence of a real union. And I cannot doubt in my own mind, that this cruelty on your lordship's part, whether coming of your own free will, or proceeding from the influence of the late Countess, hurried the unfortunate young lady to the desperate act by which her life was terminated."
"You are deceived, Mr. Oldbuck, into conclusions which are not just, however naturally they flow from the circumstances. Believe me, I respected you even when I was most embarrassed by your active attempts to investigate our family misfortunes. You showed yourself more worthy of Miss Neville than I, by the spirit with which you persisted in vindicating her reputation even after her death. But the firm belief that your well-meant efforts could only serve to bring to light a story too horrible to be detailed, induced me to join my unhappy mother in schemes to remove or destroy all evidence of the legal union which had taken place between Eveline and myself. And now let us sit down on this bank,— for I feel unable to remain longer standing,—and have the goodness to listen to the extraordinary discovery which I have this day made."
They sate down accordingly; and Lord Glenallan briefly narrated his unhappy family history—his concealed marriage—the horrible invention by which his mother had designed to render impossible that union which had already taken place. He detailed the arts by which the Countess, having all the documents relative to Miss Neville's birth in her hands, had produced those only relating to a period during which, for family reasons, his father had consented to own that young lady as his natural daughter, and showed how impossible it was that he could either suspect or detect the fraud put upon him by his mother, and vouched by the oaths of her attendants, Teresa and Elspeth. "I left my paternal mansion," he concluded, "as if the furies of hell had driven me forth, and travelled with frantic velocity I knew not whither. Nor have I the slightest recollection of what I did or whither I went, until I was discovered by my brother. I will not trouble you with an account of my sick-bed and recovery, or how, long afterwards, I ventured to inquire after the sharer of my misfortunes, and heard that her despair had found a dreadful remedy for all the ills of life. The first thing that roused me to thought was hearing of your inquiries into this cruel business; and you will hardly wonder, that, believing what I did believe, I should join in those expedients to stop your investigation, which my brother and mother had actively commenced. The information which I gave them concerning the circumstances and witnesses of our private marriage enabled them to baffle your zeal. The clergyman, therefore, and witnesses, as persons who had acted in the matter only to please the powerful heir of Glenallan, were accessible to his promises and threats, and were so provided for, that they had no objections to leave this country for another. For myself, Mr. Oldbuck," pursued this unhappy man, "from that moment I considered myself as blotted out of the book of the living, and as having nothing left to do with this world. My mother tried to reconcile me to life by every art—even by intimations which I can now interpret as calculated to produce a doubt of the horrible tale she herself had fabricated. But I construed all she said as the fictions of maternal affection. I will forbear all reproach. She is no more—and, as her wretched associate said, she knew not how the dart was poisoned, or how deep it must sink, when she threw it from her hand. But, Mr. Oldbuck, if ever, during these twenty years, there crawled upon earth a living being deserving of your pity, I have been that man. My food has not nourished me—my sleep has not refreshed me—my devotions have not comforted me— all that is cheering and necessary to man has been to me converted into poison. The rare and limited intercourse which I have held with others has been most odious to me. I felt as if I were bringing the contamination of unnatural and inexpressible guilt among the gay and the innocent. There have been moments when I had thoughts of another description—to plunge into the adventures of war, or to brave the dangers of the traveller in foreign and barbarous climates—to mingle in political intrigue, or to retire to the stern seclusion of the anchorites of our religion;—all these are thoughts which have alternately passed through my mind, but each required an energy, which was mine no longer, after the withering stroke I had received. I vegetated on as I could in the same spot—fancy, feeling, judgment, and health, gradually decaying, like a tree whose bark has been destroyed,—when first the blossoms fade, then the boughs, until its state resembles the decayed and dying trunk that is now before you. Do you now pity and forgive me?"
"My lord," answered the Antiquary, much affected, "my pity—my forgiveness, you have not to ask, for your dismal story is of itself not only an ample excuse for whatever appeared mysterious in your conduct, but a narrative that might move your worst enemies (and I, my lord, was never of the number) to tears and to sympathy. But permit me to ask what you now mean to do, and why you have honoured me, whose opinion can be of little consequence, with your confidence on this occasion?"
"Mr. Oldbuck," answered the Earl, "as I could never have foreseen the nature of that confession which I have heard this day, I need not say that I had no formed plan of consulting you, or any one, upon affairs the tendency of which I could not even have suspected. But I am without friends, unused to business, and, by long retirement, unacquainted alike with the laws of the land and the habits of the living generation; and when, most unexpectedly, I find myself immersed in the matters of which I know least, I catch, like a drowning man, at the first support that offers. You are that support, Mr. Oldbuck. I have always heard you mentioned as a man of wisdom and intelligence—I have known you myself as a man of a resolute and independent spirit;—and there is one circumstance," said he, "which ought to combine us in some degree—our having paid tribute to the same excellence of character in poor Eveline. You offered yourself to me in my need, and you were already acquainted with the beginning of my misfortunes. To you, therefore, I have recourse for advice, for sympathy, for support."
"You shall seek none of them in vain, my lord," said Oldbuck, "so far as my slender ability extends;—and I am honoured by the preference, whether it arises from choice, or is prompted by chance. But this is a matter to be ripely considered. May I ask what are your principal views at present?"
"To ascertain the fate of my child," said the Earl, "be the consequences what they may, and to do justice to the honour of Eveline, which I have only permitted to be suspected to avoid discovery of the yet more horrible taint to which I was made to believe it liable."
"And the memory of your mother?"
"Must bear its own burden," answered the Earl with a sigh: "better that she were justly convicted of deceit, should that be found necessary, than that others should be unjustly accused of crimes so much more dreadful."
"Then, my lord," said Oldbuck, "our first business must be to put the information of the old woman, Elspeth, into a regular and authenticated form."
"That," said Lord Glenallan, "will be at present, I fear, impossible. She is exhausted herself, and surrounded by her distressed family. To-morrow, perhaps, when she is alone—and yet I doubt, from her imperfect sense of right and wrong, whether she would speak out in any one's presence but my own. I am too sorely fatigued."
"Then, my lord," said the Antiquary, whom the interest of the moment elevated above points of expense and convenience, which had generally more than enough of weight with him, "I would propose to your lordship, instead of returning, fatigued as you are, so far as to Glenallan House, or taking the more uncomfortable alternative of going to a bad inn at Fairport, to alarm all the busybodies of the town—I would propose, I say, that you should be my guest at Monkbarns for this night. By to-morrow these poor people will have renewed their out-of-doors vocation—for sorrow with them affords no respite from labour,—and we will visit the old woman Elspeth alone, and take down her examination."
After a formal apology for the encroachment, Lord Glenallan agreed to go with him, and underwent with patience in their return home the whole history of John of the Girnel, a legend which Mr. Oldbuck was never known to spare any one who crossed his threshold.
The arrival of a stranger of such note, with two saddle-horses and a servant in black, which servant had holsters on his saddle-bow, and a coronet upon the holsters, created a general commotion in the house of Monkbarns. Jenny Rintherout, scarce recovered from the hysterics which she had taken on hearing of poor Steenie's misfortune, chased about the turkeys and poultry, cackled and screamed louder than they did, and ended by killing one-half too many. Miss Griselda made many wise reflections on the hot-headed wilfulness of her brother, who had occasioned such devastation, by suddenly bringing in upon them a papist nobleman. And she ventured to transmit to Mr. Blattergowl some hint of the unusual slaughter which had taken place in the basse-cour, which brought the honest clergyman to inquire how his friend Monkbarns had got home, and whether he was not the worse of being at the funeral, at a period so near the ringing of the bell for dinner, that the Antiquary had no choice left but to invite him to stay and bless the meat. Miss M'Intyre had on her part some curiosity to see this mighty peer, of whom all had heard, as an eastern caliph or sultan is heard of by his subjects, and felt some degree of timidity at the idea of encountering a person, of whose unsocial habits and stern manners so many stories were told, that her fear kept at least pace with her curiosity. The aged housekeeper was no less flustered and hurried in obeying the numerous and contradictory commands of her mistress, concerning preserves, pastry and fruit, the mode of marshalling and dishing the dinner, the necessity of not permitting the melted butter to run to oil, and the danger of allowing Juno—who, though formally banished from the parlour, failed not to maraud about the out-settlements of the family—to enter the kitchen.
The only inmate of Monkbarns who remained entirely indifferent on this momentous occasion was Hector M'Intyre, who cared no more for an Earl than he did for a commoner, and who was only interested in the unexpected visit, as it might afford some protection against his uncle's displeasure, if he harboured any, for his not attending the funeral, and still more against his satire upon the subject of his gallant but unsuccessful single combat with the phoca, or seal.
To these, the inmates of his household, Oldbuck presented the Earl of Glenallan, who underwent, with meek and subdued civility, the prosing speeches of the honest divine, and the lengthened apologies of Miss Griselda Oldbuck, which her brother in vain endeavoured to abridge. Before the dinner hour, Lord Glenallan requested permission to retire a while to his chamber. Mr. Oldbuck accompanied his guest to the Green Room, which had been hastily prepared for his reception. He looked around with an air of painful recollection.
"I think," at length he observed, "I think, Mr. Oldbuck, that I have been in this apartment before."
"Yes, my lord," answered Oldbuck, "upon occasion of an excursion hither from Knockwinnock—and since we are upon a subject so melancholy, you may perhaps remember whose taste supplied these lines from Chaucer, which now form the motto of the tapestry."
"I guess", said the Earl, "though I cannot recollect. She excelled me, indeed, in literary taste and information, as in everything else; and it is one of the mysterious dispensations of Providence, Mr. Oldbuck, that a creature so excellent in mind and body should have been cut off in so miserable a manner, merely from her having formed a fatal attachment to such a wretch as I am."
Mr. Oldbuck did not attempt an answer to this burst of the grief which lay ever nearest to the heart of his guest, but, pressing Lord Glenallan's hand with one of his own, and drawing the other across his shaggy eyelashes, as if to brush away a mist that intercepted his sight, he left the Earl at liberty to arrange himself previous to dinner.
—Life, with you, Glows in the brain and dances in the arteries; 'Tis like the wine some joyous guest hath quaffed, That glads the heart and elevates the fancy: Mine is the poor residuum of the cup, Vapid, and dull, and tasteless, only soiling, With its base dregs, the vessel that contains it. Old Play.
"Now, only think what a man my brother is, Mr. Blattergowl, for a wise man and a learned man, to bring this Yerl into our house without speaking a word to a body! And there's the distress of thae Mucklebackits—we canna get a fin o' fish—and we hae nae time to send ower to Fairport for beef, and the mutton's but new killed—and that silly fliskmahoy, Jenny Rintherout, has taen the exies, and done naething but laugh and greet, the skirl at the tail o' the guffaw, for twa days successfully—and now we maun ask that strange man, that's as grand and as grave as the Yerl himsell, to stand at the sideboard! and I canna gang into the kitchen to direct onything, for he's hovering there, making some pousowdie* for my Lord, for he doesna eat like ither folk neither—And how to sort the strange servant man at dinner time—I am sure, Mr. Blattergowl, a'thegither, it passes my judgment."
* Pousowdie,—Miscellaneous mess.
"Truly, Miss Griselda," replied the divine, "Monkbarns was inconsiderate. He should have taen a day to see the invitation, as they do wi' the titular's condescendence in the process of valuation and sale. But the great man could not have come on a sudden to ony house in this parish where he could have been better served with vivers—that I must say— and also that the steam from the kitchen is very gratifying to my nostrils;—and if ye have ony household affairs to attend to, Mrs. Griselda, never make a stranger of me—I can amuse mysell very weel with the larger copy of Erskine's Institutes."
And taking down from the window-seat that amusing folio, (the Scottish Coke upon Littleton), he opened it, as if instinctively, at the tenth title of Book Second, "of Teinds or Tythes," and was presently deeply wrapped up in an abstruse discussion concerning the temporality of benefices.
The entertainment, about which Miss Oldbuck expressed so much anxiety, was at length placed upon the table; and the Earl of Glenallan, for the first time since the date of his calamity, sat at a stranger's board, surrounded by strangers. He seemed to himself like a man in a dream, or one whose brain was not fully recovered from the effects of an intoxicating potion. Relieved, as he had that morning been, from the image of guilt which had so long haunted his imagination, he felt his sorrows as a lighter and more tolerable load, but was still unable to take any share in the conversation that passed around him. It was, indeed, of a cast very different from that which he had been accustomed to. The bluntness of Oldbuck, the tiresome apologetic harangues of his sister, the pedantry of the divine, and the vivacity of the young soldier, which savoured much more of the camp than of the court, were all new to a nobleman who had lived in a retired and melancholy state for so many years, that the manners of the world seemed to him equally strange and unpleasing. Miss M'Intyre alone, from the natural politeness and unpretending simplicity of her manners, appeared to belong to that class of society to which he had been accustomed in his earlier and better days.
Nor did Lord Glenallan's deportment less surprise the company. Though a plain but excellent family-dinner was provided (for, as Mr. Blattergowl had justly said, it was impossible to surprise Miss Griselda when her larder was empty), and though the Antiquary boasted his best port, and assimilated it to the Falernian of Horace, Lord Glenallan was proof to the allurements of both. His servant placed before him a small mess of vegetables, that very dish, the cooking of which had alarmed Miss Griselda, arranged with the most minute and scrupulous neatness. He ate sparingly of these provisions; and a glass of pure water, sparkling from the fountain-head, completed his repast. Such, his servant said, had been his lordship's diet for very many years, unless upon the high festivals of the Church, or when company of the first rank were entertained at Glenallan House, when he relaxed a little in the austerity of his diet, and permitted himself a glass or two of wine. But at Monkbarns, no anchoret could have made a more simple and scanty meal.
The Antiquary was a gentleman, as we have seen, in feeling, but blunt and careless in expression, from the habit of living with those before whom he had nothing to suppress. He attacked his noble guest without scruple on the severity of his regimen.
"A few half-cold greens and potatoes—a glass of ice-cold water to wash them down—antiquity gives no warrant for it, my lord. This house used to be accounted a hospitium, a place of retreat for Christians; but your lordship's diet is that of a heathen Pythagorean, or Indian Bramin—nay, more severe than either, if you refuse these fine apples."
"I am a Catholic, you are aware," said Lord Glenallan, wishing to escape from the discussion, "and you know that our church"——
"Lays down many rules of mortification," proceeded the dauntless Antiquary; "but I never heard that they were quite so rigorously practised—Bear witness my predecessor, John of the Girnel, or the jolly Abbot, who gave his name to this apple, my lord."
And as he pared the fruit, in spite of his sister's "O fie, Monkbarns!" and the prolonged cough of the minister, accompanied by a shake of his huge wig, the Antiquary proceeded to detail the intrigue which had given rise to the fame of the abbot's apple with more slyness and circumstantiality than was at all necessary. His jest (as may readily be conceived) missed fire, for this anecdote of conventual gallantry failed to produce the slightest smile on the visage of the Earl. Oldbuck then took up the subject of Ossian, Macpherson, and Mac-Cribb; but Lord Glenallan had never so much as heard of any of the three, so little conversant had he been with modern literature. The conversation was now in some danger of flagging, or of falling into the hands of Mr. Blattergowl, who had just pronounced the formidable word, "teind-free," when the subject of the French Revolution was started—a political event on which Lord Glenallan looked with all the prejudiced horror of a bigoted Catholic and zealous aristocrat. Oldbuck was far from carrying his detestation of its principles to such a length.
"There were many men in the first Constituent Assembly," he said, "who held sound Whiggish doctrines, and were for settling the Constitution with a proper provision for the liberties of the people. And if a set of furious madmen were now in possession of the government, it was," he continued, "what often happened in great revolutions, where extreme measures are adopted in the fury of the moment, and the State resembles an agitated pendulum which swings from side to side for some time ere it can acquire its due and perpendicular station. Or it might be likened to a storm or hurricane, which, passing over a region, does great damage in its passage, yet sweeps away stagnant and unwholesome vapours, and repays, in future health and fertility, its immediate desolation and ravage."
The Earl shook his head; but having neither spirit nor inclination for debate, he suffered the argument to pass uncontested.
This discussion served to introduce the young soldier's experiences; and he spoke of the actions in which he, had been engaged, with modesty, and at the same time with an air of spirit and zeal which delighted the Earl, who had been bred up, like others of his house, in the opinion that the trade of arms was the first duty of man, and believed that to employ them against the French was a sort of holy warfare.
"What would I give," said he apart to Oldbuck, as they rose to join the ladies in the drawing-room, "what would I give to have a son of such spirit as that young gentleman!—He wants something of address and manner, something of polish, which mixing in good society would soon give him; but with what zeal and animation he expresses himself—how fond of his profession—how loud in the praise of others—how modest when speaking of himself!"
"Hector is much obliged to you, my lord," replied his uncle, gratified, yet not so much so as to suppress his consciousness of his own mental superiority over the young soldier; "I believe in my heart nobody ever spoke half so much good of him before, except perhaps the sergeant of his company, when was wheedling a Highland recruit to enlist with him. He is a good lad notwithstanding, although he be not quite the hero your lordship supposes him, and although my commendations rather attest the kindness than the vivacity of his character. In fact, his high spirit is a sort of constitutional vehemence, which attends him in everything he sets about, and is often very inconvenient to his friends. I saw him to-day engage in an animated contest with a phoca, or seal (sealgh, our people more properly call them, retaining the Gothic guttural gh), with as much vehemence as if he had fought against Dumourier—Marry, my lord, the phoca had the better, as the said Dumourier had of some other folks. And he'll talk with equal if not superior rapture of the good behaviour of a pointer bitch, as of the plan of a campaign."
"He shall have full permission to sport over my grounds," said the Earl, "if he is so fond of that exercise."
"You will bind him to you, my lord," said Monkbarns, "body and soul: give him leave to crack off his birding-piece at a poor covey of partridges or moor-fowl, and he's yours for ever—I will enchant him by the intelligence. But O, my lord, that you could have seen my phoenix Lovel!—the very prince and chieftain of the youth of this age; and not destitute of spirit neither—I promise you he gave my termagant kinsman a quid pro quo—a Rowland for his Oliver, as the vulgar say, alluding to the two celebrated Paladins of Charlemagne."
After coffee, Lord Glenallan requested a private interview with the Antiquary, and was ushered to his library.
"I must withdraw you from your own amiable family," he said, "to involve you in the perplexities of an unhappy man. You are acquainted with the world, from which I have long been banished; for Glenallan House has been to me rather a prison than a dwelling, although a prison which I had neither fortitude nor spirit to break from."
"Let me first ask your lordship," said the Antiquary, "what are your own wishes and designs in this matter?"
"I wish most especially," answered Lord Glenallan, "to declare my luckless marriage, and to vindicate the reputation of the unhappy Eveline—that is, if you see a possibility of doing so without making public the conduct of my mother."
"Suum cuique tribuito," said the Antiquary; "do right to everyone. The memory of that unhappy young lady has too long suffered, and I think it might be cleared without further impeaching that of your mother, than by letting it be understood in general that she greatly disapproved and bitterly opposed the match. All—forgive me, my lord—all who ever heard of the late Countess of Glenallan, will learn that without much surprise."
"But you forget one horrible circumstance, Mr. Oldbuck," said the Earl, in an agitated voice.
"I am not aware of it," replied the Antiquary.
"The fate of the infant—its disappearance with the confidential attendant of my mother, and the dreadful surmises which may be drawn from my conversation with Elspeth."
"If you would have my free opinion, my lord," answered Mr. Oldbuck, "and will not catch too rapidly at it as matter of hope, I would say that it is very possible the child yet lives. For thus much I ascertained, by my former inquiries concerning the event of that deplorable evening, that a child and woman were carried that night from the cottage at the Craigburnfoot in a carriage and four by your brother Edward Geraldin Neville, whose journey towards England with these companions I traced for several stages. I believed then it was a part of the family compact to carry a child whom you meant to stigmatize with illegitimacy, out of that country where chance might have raised protectors and proofs of its rights. But I now think that your brother, having reason, like yourself, to believe the child stained with shame yet more indelible, had nevertheless withdrawn it, partly from regard to the honour of his house, partly from the risk to which it might have been exposed in the neighbourhood of the Lady Glenallan."
As he spoke, the Earl of Glenallan grew extremely pale, and had nearly fallen from his chair.—The alarmed Antiquary ran hither and thither looking for remedies; but his museum, though sufficiently well filled with a vast variety of useless matters, contained nothing that could be serviceable on the present or any other occasion. As he posted out of the room to borrow his sister's salts, he could not help giving a constitutional growl of chagrin and wonder at the various incidents which had converted his mansion, first into an hospital for a wounded duellist, and now into the sick chamber of a dying nobleman. "And yet," said he, "I have always kept aloof from the soldiery and the peerage. My coenobitium has only next to be made a lying-in hospital, and then, I trow, the transformation will be complete."
When he returned with the remedy, Lord Glenallan was much better. The new and unexpected light which Mr. Oldbuck had thrown upon the melancholy history of his family had almost overpowered him. "You think, then, Mr. Oldbuck—for you are capable of thinking, which I am not—you think, then, that it is possible—that is, not impossible—my child may yet live?"
"I think," said the Antiquary, "it is impossible that it could come to any violent harm through your brother's means. He was known to be a gay and dissipated man, but not cruel nor dishonourable; nor is it possible, that, if he had intended any foul play, he would have placed himself so forward in the charge of the infant, as I will prove to your lordship he did."
So saying, Mr. Oldbuck opened a drawer of the cabinet of his ancestor Aldobrand, and produced a bundle of papers tied with a black ribband, and labelled,—Examinations, etc., taken by Jonathan Oldbuck, J. P., upon the 18th of February, 17—; a little under was written, in a small hand, Eheu Evelina! The tears dropped fast from the Earl's eyes, as he endeavoured, in vain, to unfasten the knot which secured these documents.
"Your lordship," said Mr. Oldbuck, "had better not read these at present. Agitated as you are, and having much business before you, you must not exhaust your strength. Your brother's succession is now, I presume, your own, and it will be easy for you to make inquiry among his servants and retainers, so as to hear where the child is, if, fortunately, it shall be still alive."
"I dare hardly hope it," said the Earl, with a deep sigh. "Why should my brother have been silent to me?"
"Nay, my lord, why should he have communicated to your lordship the existence of a being whom you must have supposed the offspring of"—
"Most true—there is an obvious and a kind reason for his being silent. If anything, indeed, could have added to the horror of the ghastly dream that has poisoned my whole existence, it must have been the knowledge that such a child of misery existed."
"Then," continued the Antiquary, "although it would be rash to conclude, at the distance of more than twenty years, that your son must needs be still alive because he was not destroyed in infancy, I own I think you should instantly set on foot inquiries."
"It shall be done," replied Lord Glenallan, catching eagerly at the hope held out to him, the first he had nourished for many years;—"I will write to a faithful steward of my father, who acted in the same capacity under my brother Neville—But, Mr. Oldbuck, I am not my brother's heir."
"Indeed!—I am sorry for that, my lord—it is a noble estate, and the ruins of the old castle of Neville's-Burgh alone, which are the most superb relics of Anglo-Norman architecture in that part of the country, are a possession much to be coveted. I thought your father had no other son or near relative."
"He had not, Mr. Oldbuck," replied Lord Glenallan; "but my brother adopted views in politics, and a form of religion, alien from those which had been always held by our house. Our tempers had long differed, nor did my unhappy mother always think him sufficiently observant to her. In short, there was a family quarrel, and my brother, whose property was at his own free disposal, availed himself of the power vested in him to choose a stranger for his heir. It is a matter which never struck me as being of the least consequence—for if worldly possessions could alleviate misery, I have enough and to spare. But now I shall regret it, if it throws any difficulty in the way of our inquiries—and I bethink me that it may; for in case of my having a lawful son of my body, and my brother dying without issue, my father's possessions stood entailed upon my son. It is not therefore likely that this heir, be he who he may, will afford us assistance in making a discovery which may turn out so much to his own prejudice."
"And in all probability the steward your lordship mentions is also in his service," said the Antiquary.
"It is most likely; and the man being a Protestant—how far it is safe to entrust him"—
"I should hope, my lord," said Oldbuck gravely, "that a Protestant may be as trustworthy as a Catholic. I am doubly interested in the Protestant faith, my lord. My ancestor, Aldobrand Oldenbuck, printed the celebrated Confession of Augsburg, as I can show by the original edition now in this house."
"I have not the least doubt of what you say, Mr. Oldbuck," replied the Earl, "nor do I speak out of bigotry or intolerance; but probably the Protestant steward will favour the Protestant heir rather than the Catholic—if, indeed, my son has been bred in his father's faith—or, alas! if indeed he yet lives."
"We must look close into this," said Oldbuck, "before committing ourselves. I have a literary friend at York, with whom I have long corresponded on the subject of the Saxon horn that is preserved in the Minster there; we interchanged letters for six years, and have only as yet been able to settle the first line of the inscription. I will write forthwith to this gentleman, Dr. Dryasdust, and be particular in my inquiries concerning the character, etc., of your brother's heir, of the gentleman employed in his affairs, and what else may be likely to further your lordship's inquiries. In the meantime your lordship will collect the evidence of the marriage, which I hope can still be recovered?"
"Unquestionably," replied the Earl: "the witnesses, who were formerly withdrawn from your research, are still living. My tutor, who solemnized the marriage, was provided for by a living in France, and has lately returned to this country as an emigrant, a victim of his zeal for loyalty, legitimacy, and religion."
"That's one lucky consequence of the French, revolution, my lord—you must allow that, at least," said Oldbuck: "but no offence; I will act as warmly in your affairs as if I were of your own faith in politics and religion. And take my advice—If you want an affair of consequence properly managed, put it into the hands of an antiquary; for as they are eternally exercising their genius and research upon trifles, it is impossible they can be baffled in affairs of importance;—use makes perfect—and the corps that is most frequently drilled upon the parade, will be most prompt in its exercise upon the day of battle. And, talking upon that subject, I would willingly read to your lordship, in order to pass away the time betwixt and supper"—
"I beg I may not interfere with family arrangements," said Lord Glenallan, "but I never taste anything after sunset."
"Nor I either, my lord," answered his host, "notwithstanding it is said to have been the custom of the ancients. But then I dine differently from your lordship, and therefore am better enabled to dispense with those elaborate entertainments which my womankind (that is, my sister and niece, my lord) are apt to place on the table, for the display rather of their own house-wifery than the accommodation of our wants. However, a broiled bone, or a smoked haddock, or an oyster, or a slice of bacon of our own curing, with a toast and a tankard—or something or other of that sort, to close the orifice of the stomach before going to bed, does not fall under my restriction, nor, I hope, under your lordship's."
"My no-supper is literal, Mr. Oldbuck; but I will attend you at your meal with pleasure."
"Well, my lord," replied the Antiquary, "I will endeavour to entertain your ears at least, since I cannot banquet your palate. What I am about to read to your lordship relates to the upland glens."
Lord Glenallan, though he would rather have recurred to the subject of his own uncertainties, was compelled to make a sign of rueful civility and acquiescence.
The Antiquary, therefore, took out his portfolio of loose sheets, and after premising that the topographical details here laid down were designed to illustrate a slight essay upon castrametation, which had been read with indulgence at several societies of Antiquaries, he commenced as follows: "The subject, my lord, is the hill-fort of Quickens-bog, with the site of which your lordship is doubtless familiar—it is upon your store-farm of Mantanner, in the barony of Clochnaben."
"I think I have heard the names of these places," said the Earl, in answer to the Antiquary's appeal.
"Heard the name? and the farm brings him six hundred a-year—O Lord!"
Such was the scarce-subdued ejaculation of the Antiquary. But his hospitality got the better of his surprise, and he proceeded to read his essay with an audible voice, in great glee at having secured a patient, and, as he fondly hoped, an interested hearer.
"Quickens-bog may at first seem to derive its name from the plant Quicken, by which, Scottice, we understand couch-grass, dog-grass, or the Triticum repens of Linnaeus, and the common English monosyllable Bog, by which we mean, in popular language, a marsh or morass—in Latin, Palus. But it may confound the rash adopters of the more obvious etymological derivations, to learn that the couch-grass or dog-grass, or, to speak scientifically, the Triticum repens of Linnaeus, does not grow within a quarter of a mile of this castrum or hill-fort, whose ramparts are uniformly clothed with short verdant turf; and that we must seek a bog or palus at a still greater distance, the nearest being that of Gird-the-mear, a full half-mile distant. The last syllable, bog, is obviously, therefore, a mere corruption of the Saxon Burgh, which we find in the various transmutations of Burgh, Burrow, Brough, Bruff, Buff, and Boff, which last approaches very near the sound in question—since, supposing the word to have been originally borgh, which is the genuine Saxon spelling, a slight change, such as modern organs too often make upon ancient sounds, will produce first Bogh, and then, elisa H, or compromising and sinking the guttural, agreeable to the common vernacular practice, you have either Boff or Bog as it happens. The word Quickens requires in like manner to be altered,—decomposed, as it were,—and reduced to its original and genuine sound, ere we can discern its real meaning. By the ordinary exchange of the Qu into Wh, familiar to the rudest tyro who has opened a book of old Scottish poetry, we gain either Whilkens, or Whichensborgh—put we may suppose, by way of question, as if those who imposed the name, struck with the extreme antiquity of the place, had expressed in it an interrogation, To whom did this fortress belong?'—Or, it might be Whackens-burgh, from the Saxon Whacken, to strike with the hand, as doubtless the skirmishes near a place of such apparent consequence must have legitimated such a derivation," etc. etc. etc.
I will be more merciful to my readers than Oldbuck was to his guest; for, considering his opportunities of gaining patient attention from a person of such consequence as Lord Glenallan were not many, he used, or rather abused, the present to the uttermost.
Crabbed age and youth Cannot live together:— Youth is full of pleasance, Age is full of care; Youth like summer morn, Age like winter weather; Youth like summer brave, Age like winter bare. Shakspeare.
In the morning of the following day, the Antiquary, who was something of a sluggard, was summoned from his bed a full hour earlier than his custom by Caxon. "What's the matter now?" he exclaimed, yawning and stretching forth his hand to the huge gold repeater, which, bedded upon his India silk handkerchief, was laid safe by his pillow—"what's the matter now, Caxon?—it can't be eight o'clock yet."
"Na, sir,—but my lord's man sought me out, for he fancies me your honour's valley-de-sham,—and sae I am, there's nae doubt o't, baith your honour's and the minister's—at least ye hae nae other that I ken o'—and I gie a help to Sir Arthur too, but that's mair in the way o' my profession."
"Well, well—never mind that," said the Antiquary—"happy is he that is his own valley-de-sham, as you call it—But why disturb my morning's rest?"
"Ou, sir, the great man's been up since peep o' day, and he's steered the town to get awa an express to fetch his carriage, and it will be here briefly, and he wad like to see your honour afore he gaes awa."
"Gadso!" ejaculated Oldbuck, "these great men use one's house and time as if they were their own property. Well, it's once and away. Has Jenny come to her senses yet, Caxon?"
"Troth, sir, but just middling," replied the barber; "she's been in a swither about the jocolate this morning, and was like to hae toomed it a' out into the slap-bason, and drank it hersell in her ecstacies—but she's won ower wi't, wi' the help o' Miss M'Intyre."
"Then all my womankind are on foot and scrambling, and I must enjoy my quiet bed no longer, if I would have a well-regulated house—Lend me my gown. And what are the news at Fairport?"
"Ou, sir, what can they be about but this grand news o' my lord," answered the old man, "that hasna been ower the door-stane, they threep to me, for this twenty years—this grand news of his coming to visit your honour?"
"Aha!" said Monkbarns; "and what do they say of that, Caxon?"
"'Deed, sir, they hae various opinions. Thae fallows, that are the democraws, as they ca' them, that are again' the king and the law, and hairpowder and dressing o' gentlemen's wigs—a wheen blackguards—they say he's come doun to speak wi' your honour about bringing doun his hill lads and Highland tenantry to break up the meetings of the Friends o' the People;—and when I said your honour never meddled wi' the like o' sic things where there was like to be straiks and bloodshed, they said, if ye didna, your nevoy did, and that he was weel ken'd to be a kingsman that wad fight knee-deep, and that ye were the head and he was the hand, and that the Yerl was to bring out the men and the siller."
"Come," said the Antiquary, laughing—"I am glad the war is to cost me nothing but counsel."
"Na, na," said Caxon—"naebody thinks your honour wad either fight yoursell, or gie ony feck o' siller to ony side o' the question."
"Umph! well, that's the opinion of the democraws, as you call them—What say the rest o' Fairport?"
"In troth," said the candid reporter, "I canna say it's muckle better. Captain Coquet, of the volunteers—that's him that's to be the new collector,—and some of the other gentlemen of the Blue and a' Blue Club, are just saying it's no right to let popists, that hae sae mony French friends as the Yerl of Glenallan, gang through the country, and—but your honour will maybe be angry?"
"Not I, Caxon," said Oldbuck; "fire away as if you were Captain Coquet's whole platoon—I can stand it."
"Weel then, they say, sir, that as ye didna encourage the petition about the peace, and wadna petition in favour of the new tax, and as you were again' bringing in the yeomanry at the meal mob, but just for settling the folk wi' the constables—they say ye're no a gude friend to government; and that thae sort o' meetings between sic a powerfu' man as the Yerl, and sic a wise man as you,—Od they think they suld be lookit after; and some say ye should baith be shankit aff till Edinburgh Castle."
"On my word," said the Antiquary, "I am infinitely obliged to my neighbours for their good opinion of me! And so I, that have never interfered with their bickerings, but to recommend quiet and moderate measures, am given up on both sides as a man very likely to commit high treason, either against King or People?—Give me my coat, Caxon—give me my coat;—it's lucky I live not in their report. Have you heard anything of Taffril and his vessel?"
Caxon's countenance fell.—"Na, sir, and the winds hae been high, and this is a fearfu' coast to cruise on in thae eastern gales,—the headlands rin sae far out, that a veshel's embayed afore I could sharp a razor; and then there's nae harbour or city of refuge on our coast—a' craigs and breakers;—a veshel that rins ashore wi' us flees asunder like the powther when I shake the pluff—and it's as ill to gather ony o't again. I aye tell my daughter thae things when she grows wearied for a letter frae Lieutenant Taffril—It's aye an apology for him. Ye sudna blame him, says I, hinny, for ye little ken what may hae happened."
"Ay, ay, Caxon, thou art as good a comforter as a valet-de-chambre.—Give me a white stock, man,—dye think I can go down with a handkerchief about my neck when I have company?"
"Dear sir, the Captain says a three-nookit hankercher is the maist fashionable overlay, and that stocks belang to your honour and me that are auld warld folk. I beg pardon for mentioning us twa thegither, but it was what he said."
"The Captain's a puppy, and you are a goose, Caxon."
"It's very like it may be sae," replied the acquiescent barber: "I am sure your honour kens best."
Before breakfast, Lord Glenallan, who appeared in better spirits than he had evinced in the former evening, went particularly through the various circumstances of evidence which the exertions of Oldbuck had formerly collected; and pointing out the means which he possessed of completing the proof of his marriage, expressed his resolution instantly to go through the painful task of collecting and restoring the evidence concerning the birth of Eveline Neville, which Elspeth had stated to be in his mother's possession.
"And yet, Mr. Oldbuck," he said, "I feel like a man who receives important tidings ere he is yet fully awake, and doubt whether they refer to actual life, or are not rather a continuation of his dream. This woman—this Elspeth,—she is in the extremity of age, and approaching in many respects to dotage. Have I not—it is a hideous question—have I not been hasty in the admission of her present evidence, against that which she formerly gave me to a very—very different purpose?"
Mr. Oldbuck paused a moment, and then answered with firmness—"No, my lord; I cannot think you have any reason to suspect the truth of what she has told you last, from no apparent impulse but the urgency of conscience. Her confession was voluntary, disinterested, distinct, consistent with itself, and with all the other known circumstances of the case. I would lose no time, however, in examining and arranging the other documents to which she has referred; and I also think her own statement should be taken down, if possible in a formal manner. We thought of setting about this together. But it will be a relief to your lordship, and moreover have a more impartial appearance, were I to attempt the investigation alone in the capacity of a magistrate. I will do this—at least I will attempt it, so soon as I shall see her in a favourable state of mind to undergo an examination."
Lord Glenallan wrung the Antiquary's hand in token of grateful acquiescence. "I cannot express to you," he said, "Mr. Oldbuck, how much your countenance and cooperation in this dark and most melancholy business gives me relief and confidence. I cannot enough applaud myself for yielding to the sudden impulse which impelled me, as it were, to drag you into my confidence, and which arose from the experience I had formerly of your firmness in discharge of your duty as a magistrate, and as a friend to the memory of the unfortunate. Whatever the issue of these matters may prove,—and I would fain hope there is a dawn breaking on the fortunes of my house, though I shall not live to enjoy its light,—but whatsoever be the issue, you have laid my family and me under the most lasting obligation."
"My lord," answered the Antiquary, "I must necessarily have the greatest respect for your lordship's family, which I am well aware is one of the most ancient in Scotland, being certainly derived from Aymer de Geraldin, who sat in parliament at Perth, in the reign of Alexander II., and who by the less vouched, yet plausible tradition of the country, is said to have been descended from the Marmor of Clochnaben. Yet, with all my veneration for your ancient descent, I must acknowledge that I find myself still more bound to give your lordship what assistance is in my limited power, from sincere sympathy with your sorrows, and detestation at the frauds which have so long been practised upon you.—But, my lord, the matin meal is, I see, now prepared—Permit me to show your lordship the way through the intricacies of my cenobitium, which is rather a combination of cells, jostled oddly together, and piled one upon the top of the other, than a regular house. I trust you will make yourself some amends for the spare diet of yesterday."
But this was no part of Lord Glenallan's system. Having saluted the company with the grave and melancholy politeness which distinguished his manners, his servant placed before him a slice of toasted bread, with a glass of fair water, being the fare on which he usually broke his fast. While the morning's meal of the young soldier and the old Antiquary was despatched in much more substantial manner, the noise of wheels was heard.
"Your lordship's carriage, I believe," said Oldbuck, stepping to the window. "On my word, a handsome quadriga,—for such, according to the best scholium, was the vox signata of the Romans for a chariot which, like that of your lordship, was drawn by four horses."
"And I will venture to say," cried Hector, eagerly gazing from the window, "that four handsomer or better-matched bays never were put in harness—What fine forehands!—what capital chargers they would make!— Might I ask if they are of your lordship's own breeding?"
"I—I—rather believe so," said Lord Glenallan; "but I have been so negligent of my domestic matters, that I am ashamed to say I must apply to Calvert" (looking at the domestic).
"They are of your lordship's own breeding," said Calvert, "got by Mad Tom out of Jemina and Yarico, your lordship's brood mares."
"Are there more of the set?" said Lord Glenallan.
"Two, my lord,—one rising four, the other five off this grass, both very handsome."
"Then let Dawkins bring them down to Monkbarns to-morrow," said the Earl—"I hope Captain M'Intyre will accept them, if they are at all fit for service."
Captain M'Intyre's eyes sparkled, and he was profuse in grateful acknowledgments; while Oldbuck, on the other hand, seizing the Earl's sleeve, endeavoured to intercept a present which boded no good to his corn-chest and hay-loft.
"My lord—my lord—much obliged—much obliged—But Hector is a pedestrian, and never mounts on horseback in battle—he is a Highland soldier, moreover, and his dress ill adapted for cavalry service. Even Macpherson never mounted his ancestors on horseback, though he has the impudence to talk of their being car-borne—and that, my lord, is what is running in Hector's head—it is the vehicular, not the equestrian exercise, which he envies—
Sunt quos curriculo pulverem Olympicum Collegisse juvat.
His noddle is running on a curricle, which he has neither money to buy, nor skill to drive if he had it; and I assure your lordship, that the possession of two such quadrupeds would prove a greater scrape than any of his duels, whether with human foe or with my friend the phoca."
"You must command us all at present, Mr. Oldbuck," said the Earl politely; "but I trust you will not ultimately prevent my gratifying my young friend in some way that may afford him pleasure."
"Anything useful, my lord," said Oldbuck, "but no curriculum—I protest he might as rationally propose to keep a quadriga at once—And now I think of it, what is that old post-chaise from Fairport come jingling here for?—I did not send for it."
"I did, sir," said Hector, rather sulkily, for he was not much gratified by his uncle's interference to prevent the Earl's intended generosity, nor particularly inclined to relish either the disparagement which he cast upon his skill as a charioteer, or the mortifying allusion to his bad success in the adventures of the duel and the seal.
"You did, sir?" echoed the Antiquary, in answer to his concise information. "And pray, what may be your business with a post-chaise? Is this splendid equipage—this biga, as I may call it—to serve for an introduction to a quadriga or a curriculum?"
"Really, sir," replied the young soldier, "if it be necessary to give you such a specific explanation, I am going to Fairport on a little business."
"Will you permit me to inquire into the nature of that business, Hector?" answered his uncle, who loved the exercise of a little brief authority over his relative. "I should suppose any regimental affairs might be transacted by your worthy deputy the sergeant—an honest gentleman, who is so good as to make Monkbarns his home since his arrival among us—I should, I say, suppose that he may transact any business of yours, without your spending a day's pay on two dog-horses, and such a combination of rotten wood, cracked glass, and leather—such a skeleton of a post-chaise, as that before the door."
"It is not regimental business, sir, that calls me; and, since you insist upon knowing, I must inform you Caxon has brought word this morning that old Ochiltree, the beggar, is to be brought up for examination to-day, previous to his being committed for trial; and I'm going to see that the poor old fellow gets fair play—that's all."
"Ay?—I heard something of this, but could not think it serious. And pray, Captain Hector, who are so ready to be every man's second on all occasions of strife, civil or military, by land, by water, or on the sea-beach, what is your especial concern with old Edie Ochiltree?"
"He was a soldier in my father's company, sir," replied Hector; "and besides, when I was about to do a very foolish thing one day, he interfered to prevent me, and gave me almost as much good advice, sir, as you could have done yourself."
"And with the same good effect, I dare be sworn for it—eh, Hector?— Come, confess it was thrown away."
"Indeed it was, sir; but I see no reason that my folly should make me less grateful for his intended kindness."
"Bravo, Hector! that's the most sensible thing I ever heard you say. But always tell me your plans without reserve,—why, I will go with you myself, man. I am sure the old fellow is not guilty, and I will assist him in such a scrape much more effectually than you can do. Besides, it will save thee half-a-guinea, my lad—a consideration which I heartily pray you to have more frequently before your eyes."
Lord Glenallan's politeness had induced him to turn away and talk with the ladies, when the dispute between the uncle and nephew appeared to grow rather too animated to be fit for the ear of a stranger, but the Earl mingled again in the conversation when the placable tone of the Antiquary expressed amity. Having received a brief account of the mendicant, and of the accusation brought against him, which Oldbuck did not hesitate to ascribe to the malice of Dousterswivel, Lord Glenallan asked, whether the individual in question had not been a soldier formerly?—He was answered in the affirmative.
"Had he not," continued his Lordship, "a coarse blue coat, or gown, with a badge?—was he not a tall, striking-looking old man, with grey beard and hair, who kept his body remarkably erect, and talked with an air of ease and independence, which formed a strong contrast to his profession?"
"All this is an exact picture of the man," refumed Oldbuck.
"Why, then," continued Lord Glenallan, "although I fear I can be of no use to him in his present condition, yet I owe him a debt of gratitude for being the first person who brought me some tidings of the utmost importance. I would willingly offer him a place of comfortable retirement, when he is extricated from his present situation."
"I fear, my lord," said Oldbuck, "he would have difficulty in reconciling his vagrant habits to the acceptance of your bounty, at least I know the experiment has been tried without effect. To beg from the public at large he considers as independence, in comparison to drawing his whole support from the bounty of an individual. He is so far a true philosopher, as to be a contemner of all ordinary rules of hours and times. When he is hungry he eats; when thirsty he drinks; when weary he sleeps; and with such indifference with respect to the means and appliances about which we make a fuss, that I suppose he was never ill dined or ill lodged in his life. Then he is, to a certain extent, the oracle of the district through which he travels—their genealogist, their newsman, their master of the revels, their doctor at a pinch, or their divine;—I promise you he has too many duties, and is too zealous in performing them, to be easily bribed to abandon his calling. But I should be truly sorry if they sent the poor light-hearted old man to lie for weeks in a jail. I am convinced the confinement would break his heart."
Thus finished the conference. Lord Glenallan, having taken leave of the ladies, renewed his offer to Captain M'Intyre of the freedom of his manors for sporting, which was joyously accepted,
"I can only add," he said, "that if your spirits are not liable to be damped by dull company, Glenallan House is at all times open to you. On two days of the week, Friday and Saturday, I keep my apartment, which will be rather a relief to you, as you will be left to enjoy the society of my almoner, Mr. Gladsmoor, who is a scholar and a man of the world."
Hector, his heart exulting at the thoughts of ranging through the preserves of Glenallan House, and over the well-protected moors of Clochnaben—nay, joy of joys! the deer-forest of Strath-Bonnel—made many acknowledgements of the honour and gratitude he felt. Mr. Oldbuck was sensible of the Earl's attention to his nephew; Miss M'Intyre was pleased because her brother was gratified; and Miss Griselda Oldbuck looked forward with glee to the potting of whole bags of moorfowl and black-game, of which Mr. Blattergowl was a professed admirer. Thus,— which is always the case when a man of rank leaves a private family where he has studied to appear obliging,—all were ready to open in praise of the Earl as soon as he had taken his leave, and was wheeled off in his chariot by the four admired bays. But the panegyric was cut short, for Oldbuck and his nephew deposited themselves in the Fairport hack, which, with one horse trotting, and the other urged to a canter, creaked, jingled, and hobbled towards that celebrated seaport, in a manner that formed a strong contrast to the rapidity and smoothness with which Lord Glenallan's equipage had seemed to vanish from their eyes.
Yes! I love justice well—as well as you do— But since the good dame's blind, she shall excuse me If, time and reason fitting, I prove dumb;— The breath I utter now shall be no means To take away from me my breath in future. Old Play.
By dint of charity from the town's-people in aid of the load of provisions he had brought with him into durance, Edie Ochiltree had passed a day or two's confinement without much impatience, regretting his want of freedom the less, as the weather proved broken and rainy.
"The prison," he said, "wasna sae dooms bad a place as it was ca'd. Ye had aye a good roof ower your head to fend aff the weather, and, if the windows werena glazed, it was the mair airy and pleasant for the summer season. And there were folk enow to crack wi', and he had bread eneugh to eat, and what need he fash himsell about the rest o't?"
The courage of our philosophical mendicant began, however, to abate, when the sunbeams shone fair on the rusty bars of his grated dungeon, and a miserable linnet, whose cage some poor debtor had obtained permission to attach to the window, began to greet them with his whistle.
"Ye're in better spirits than I am," said Edie, addressing the bird, "for I can neither whistle nor sing for thinking o' the bonny burnsides and green shaws that I should hae been dandering beside in weather like this. But hae—there's some crumbs t'ye, an ye are sae merry; and troth ye hae some reason to sing an ye kent it, for your cage comes by nae faut o' your ain, and I may thank mysell that I am closed up in this weary place."
Ochiltree's soliloquy was disturbed by a peace-officer, who came to summon him to attend the magistrate. So he set forth in awful procession between two poor creatures, neither of them so stout as he was himself, to be conducted into the presence of inquisitorial justice. The people, as the aged prisoner was led along by his decrepit guards, exclaimed to each other, "Eh! see sic a grey-haired man as that is, to have committed a highway robbery, wi' ae fit in the grave!"—And the children congratulated the officers, objects of their alternate dread and sport, Puggie Orrock and Jock Ormston, on having a prisoner as old as themselves.
Thus marshalled forward, Edie was presented (by no means for the first time) before the worshipful Bailie Littlejohn, who, contrary to what his name expressed, was a tall portly magistrate, on whom corporation crusts had not been conferred in vain. He was a zealous loyalist of that zealous time, somewhat rigorous and peremptory in the execution of his duty, and a good deal inflated with the sense of his own power and importance;— otherwise an honest, well-meaning, and useful citizen.
"Bring him in! bring him in!" he exclaimed. "Upon my word these are awful and unnatural times! the very bedesmen and retainers of his Majesty are the first to break his laws. Here has been an old Blue-Gown committing robbery—I suppose the next will reward the royal charity which supplies him with his garb, pension, and begging license, by engaging in high-treason, or sedition at least—But bring him in."
Edie made his obeisance, and then stood, as usual, firm and erect, with the side of his face turned a little upward, as if to catch every word which the magistrate might address to him. To the first general questions, which respected only his name and calling, the mendicant answered with readiness and accuracy; but when the magistrate, having caused his clerk to take down these particulars, began to inquire whereabout the mendicant was on the night when Dousterswivel met with his misfortune, Edie demurred to the motion. "Can ye tell me now, Bailie, you that understands the law, what gude will it do me to answer ony o' your questions?"
"Good?—no good certainly, my friend, except that giving a true account of yourself, if you are innocent, may entitle me to set you at liberty."
"But it seems mair reasonable to me now, that you, Bailie, or anybody that has anything to say against me, should prove my guilt, and no to be bidding me prove my innocence."
"I don't sit here," answered the magistrate, "to dispute points of law with you. I ask you, if you choose to answer my question, whether you were at Ringan Aikwood, the forester's, upon the day I have specified?"
"Really, sir, I dinna feel myself called on to remember," replied the cautious bedesman.
"Or whether, in the course of that day or night," continued the magistrate, "you saw Steven, or Steenie, Mucklebackit?—you knew him, I suppose?"
"O, brawlie did I ken Steenie, puir fallow," replied the prisoner;—"but I canna condeshend on ony particular time I have seen him lately."
"Were you at the ruins of St. Ruth any time in the course of that evening?"
"Bailie Littlejohn," said the mendicant, "if it be your honour's pleasure, we'll cut a lang tale short, and I'll just tell ye, I am no minded to answer ony o' thae questions—I'm ower auld a traveller to let my tongue bring me into trouble."
"Write down," said the magistrate, "that he declines to answer all interrogatories, in respect that by telling the truth he might be brought to trouble."
"Na, na," said Ochiltree, "I'll no hae that set down as ony part o' my answer—but I just meant to say, that in a' my memory and practice, I never saw ony gude come o' answering idle questions."
"Write down," said the Bailie, "that, being acquainted with judicial interrogatories by long practice, and having sustained injury by answering questions put to him on such occasions, the declarant refuses"
"Na, na, Bailie," reiterated Edie, "ye are no to come in on me that gait neither."
"Dictate the answer yourself then, friend," said the magistrate, "and the clerk will take it down from your own mouth."
"Ay, ay," said Edie—"that's what I ca' fair play; I'se do that without loss o' time. Sae, neighbour, ye may just write down, that Edie Ochiltree, the declarant, stands up for the liberty—na, I maunna say that neither—I am nae liberty-boy—I hae fought again' them in the riots in Dublin—besides, I have ate the King's bread mony a day. Stay, let me see. Ay—write that Edie Ochiltree, the Blue-Gown, stands up for the prerogative—(see that ye spell that word right—it's a lang ane)—for the prerogative of the subjects of the land, and winna answer a single word that sall be asked at him this day, unless he sees a reason fort. Put down that, young man."
"Then, Edie," said the magistrate, "since you will give no information on the subject, I must send you back to prison till you shall be delivered in due course of law."
"Aweel, sir, if it's Heaven's will and man's will, nae doubt I maun submit," replied the mendicant. "I hae nae great objection to the prison, only that a body canna win out o't; and if it wad please you as weel, Bailie, I wad gie you my word to appear afore the Lords at the Circuit, or in ony other coart ye like, on ony day ye are pleased to appoint."
"I rather think, my good friend," answered Bailie Littlejohn, "your word might be a slender security where your neck may be in some danger. I am apt to think you would suffer the pledge to be forfeited. If you could give me sufficient security, indeed"—
At this moment the Antiquary and Captain M'Intyre entered the apartment.—"Good morning to you, gentlemen," said the magistrate; "you find me toiling in my usual vocation—looking after the iniquities of the people—labouring for the respublica, Mr. Oldbuck—serving the King our master, Captain M'Intyre,—for I suppose you know I have taken up the sword?"
"It is one of the emblems of justice, doubtless," answered the Antiquary;—"but I should have thought the scales would have suited you better, Bailie, especially as you have them ready in the warehouse."
"Very good, Monkbarns—excellent! But I do not take the sword up as justice, but as a soldier—indeed I should rather say the musket and bayonet—there they stand at the elbow of my gouty chair, for I am scarce fit for drill yet—a slight touch of our old acquaintance podagra; I can keep my feet, however, while our sergeant puts me through the manual. I should like to know, Captain M'Intyre, if he follows the regulations correctly—he brings us but awkwardly to the present." And he hobbled towards his weapon to illustrate his doubts and display his proficiency.
"I rejoice we have such zealous defenders, Bailie," replied Mr. Oldbuck; "and I dare say Hector will gratify you by communicating his opinion on your progress in this new calling. Why, you rival the Hecate' of the ancients, my good sir—a merchant on the Mart, a magistrate in the Townhouse, a soldier on the Links—quid non pro patria? But my business is with the justice; so let commerce and war go slumber."
"Well, my good sir," said the Bailie, "and what commands have you for me?"
"Why, here's an old acquaintance of mine, called Edie Ochiltree, whom some of your myrmidons have mewed up in jail on account of an alleged assault on that fellow Dousterswivel, of whose accusation I do not believe one word."
The magistrate here assumed a very grave countenance. "You ought to have been informed that he is accused of robbery, as well as assault—a very serious matter indeed; it is not often such criminals come under my cognizance."
"And," replied Oldbuck, "you are tenacious of the opportunity of making the very most of such as occur. But is this poor old man's case really so very bad?"
"It is rather out of rule," said the Bailie—"but as you are in the commission, Monkbarns, I have no hesitation to show you Dousterswivel's declaration, and the rest of the precognition." And he put the papers into the Antiquary's hands, who assumed his spectacles, and sat down in a corner to peruse them.
The officers, in the meantime, had directions to remove their prisoner into another apartment; but before they could do so, M'Intyre took an opportunity to greet old Edie, and to slip a guinea into his hand.
"Lord bless your honour!" said the old man; "it's a young soldier's gift, and it should surely thrive wi' an auld ane. I'se no refuse it, though it's beyond my rules; for if they steek me up here, my friends are like eneugh to forget me—out o'sight out o'mind, is a true proverb; and it wadna be creditable for me, that am the king's bedesman, and entitled to beg by word of mouth, to be fishing for bawbees out at the jail window wi' the fit o' a stocking, and a string." As he made this observation he was conducted out of the apartment.
Mr. Dousterswivel's declaration contained an exaggerated account of the violence he had sustained, and also of his loss.
"But what I should have liked to have asked him," said Monkbarns, "would have been his purpose in frequenting the ruins of St. Ruth, so lonely a place, at such an hour, and with such a companion as Edie Ochiltree. There is no road lies that way, and I do not conceive a mere passion for the picturesque would carry the German thither in such a night of storm and wind. Depend upon it, he has been about some roguery, and in all probability hath been caught in a trap of his own setting—Nec lex justitior ulla."
The magistrate allowed there was something mysterious in that circumstance, and apologized for not pressing Dousterswivel, as his declaration was voluntarily emitted. But for the support of the main charge, he showed the declaration of the Aikwoods concerning the state in which Dousterswivel was found, and establishing the important fact that the mendicant had left the barn in which he was quartered, and did not return to it again. Two people belonging to the Fairport undertaker, who had that night been employed in attending the funeral of Lady Glenallan, had also given declarations, that, being sent to pursue two suspicious persons who left the ruins of St. Ruth as the funeral approached, and who, it was supposed, might have been pillaging some of the ornaments prepared for the ceremony, they had lost and regained sight of them more than once, owing to the nature of the ground, which was unfavourable for riding, but had at length fairly lodged them both in Mucklebackit's cottage. And one of the men added, that "he, the declarant, having dismounted from his horse, and gone close up to the window of the hut, he saw the old Blue-Gown and young Steenie Mucklebackit, with others, eating and drinking in the inside, and also observed the said Steenie Mucklebackit show a pocket-book to the others;—and declarant has no doubt that Ochiltree and Steenie Mucklebackit were the persons whom he and his comrade had pursued, as above mentioned." And being interrogated why he did not enter the said cottage, declares, "he had no warrant so to do; and that as Mucklebackit and his family were understood to be rough-handed folk, he, the declarant, had no desire to meddle or make with their affairs, Causa scientiae patet. All which he declares to be truth," etc.
"What do you say to that body of evidence against your friend?" said the magistrate, when he had observed the Antiquary had turned the last leaf.
"Why, were it in the case of any other person, I own I should say it looked, prima facie, a little ugly; but I cannot allow anybody to be in the wrong for beating Dousterswivel—Had I been an hour younger, or had but one single flash of your warlike genius, Bailie, I should have done it myself long ago. He is nebulo nebulonum, an impudent, fraudulent, mendacious quack, that has cost me a hundred pounds by his roguery, and my neighbour Sir Arthur, God knows how much. And besides, Bailie, I do not hold him to be a sound friend to Government."
"Indeed?" said Bailie Littlejohn; "if I thought that, it would alter the question considerably."
"Right—for, in beating him," observed Oldbuck, "the bedesman must have shown his gratitude to the king by thumping his enemy; and in robbing him, he would only have plundered an Egyptian, whose wealth it is lawful to spoil. Now, suppose this interview in the ruins of St. Ruth had relation to politics,—and this story of hidden treasure, and so forth, was a bribe from the other side of the water for some great man, or the funds destined to maintain a seditious club?"
"My dear sir," said the magistrate, catching at the idea, "you hit my very thoughts! How fortunate should I be if I could become the humble means of sifting such a matter to the bottom!—Don't you think we had better call out the volunteers, and put them on duty?"
"Not just yet, while podagra deprives them of an essential member of their body. But will you let me examine Ochiltree?"
"Certainly; but you'll make nothing of him. He gave me distinctly to understand he knew the danger of a judicial declaration on the part of an accused person, which, to say the truth, has hanged many an honester man than he is."
"Well, but, Bailie," continued Oldbuck, "you have no objection to let me try him?"
"None in the world, Monkbarns. I hear the sergeant below—I'll rehearse the manual in the meanwhile. Baby, carry my gun and bayonet down to the room below—it makes less noise there when we ground arms." And so exit the martial magistrate, with his maid behind him bearing his weapons.
"A good squire that wench for a gouty champion," observed Oldbuck.— "Hector, my lad, hook on, hook on—Go with him, boy—keep him employed, man, for half-an-hour or so—butter him with some warlike terms—praise his dress and address."
Captain M'Intyre, who, like many of his profession, looked down with infinite scorn on those citizen soldiers who had assumed arms without any professional title to bear them, rose with great reluctance, observing that he should not know what to say to Mr. Littlejohn; and that to see an old gouty shop-keeper attempting the exercise and duties of a private soldier, was really too ridiculous.
"It may be so, Hector," said the Antiquary, who seldom agreed with any person in the immediate proposition which was laid down—"it may possibly be so in this and some other instances; but at present the country resembles the suitors in a small-debt court, where parties plead in person, for lack of cash to retain the professed heroes of the bar. I am sure in the one case we never regret the want of the acuteness and eloquence of the lawyers; and so, I hope, in the other, we may manage to make shift with our hearts and muskets, though we shall lack some of the discipline of you martinets."
"I have no objection, I am sure, sir, that the whole world should fight if they please, if they will but allow me to be quiet," said Hector, rising with dogged reluctance.
"Yes, you are a very quiet personage indeed," said his uncle, "whose ardour for quarrelling cannot pass so much as a poor phoca sleeping upon the beach!"
But Hector, who saw which way the conversation was tending, and hated all allusions to the foil he had sustained from the fish, made his escape before the Antiquary concluded the sentence.
Well, well, at worst, 'tis neither theft nor coinage, Granting I knew all that you charge me with. What though the tomb hath borne a second birth, And given the wealth to one that knew not on't, Yet fair exchange was never robbery, Far less pure bounty— Old Play.
The Antiquary, in order to avail himself of the permission given him to question the accused party, chose rather to go to the apartment in which Ochiltree was detained, than to make the examination appear formal by bringing him again into the magistrate's office. He found the old man seated by a window which looked out on the sea; and as he gazed on that prospect, large tears found their way, as if unconsciously, to his eye, and from thence trickled down his cheeks and white beard. His features were, nevertheless, calm and composed, and his whole posture and mien indicated patience and resignation. Oldbuck had approached him without being observed, and roused him out of his musing by saying kindly, "I am sorry, Edie, to see you so much cast down about this matter."
The mendicant started, dried his eyes very hastily with the sleeve of his gown, and endeavouring to recover his usual tone of indifference and jocularity, answered, but with a voice more tremulous than usual, "I might weel hae judged, Monkbarns, it was you, or the like o' you, was coming in to disturb me—for it's ae great advantage o' prisons and courts o' justice, that ye may greet your een out an ye like, and nane o' the folk that's concerned about them will ever ask you what it's for."
"Well, Edie," replied Oldbuck, "I hope your present cause of distress is not so bad but it may be removed."
"And I had hoped, Monkbarns," answered the mendicant, in a tone of reproach, "that ye had ken'd me better than to think that this bit trifling trouble o' my ain wad bring tears into my auld een, that hae seen far different kind o' distress.—Na, na!—But here's been the puir lass, Caxon's daughter, seeking comfort, and has gotten unco little— there's been nae speerings o' Taffril's gunbrig since the last gale; and folk report on the key that a king's ship had struck on the Reef of Rattray, and a' hands lost—God forbid! for as sure as you live, Monkbarns, the puir lad Lovel, that ye liked sae weel, must have perished."
"God forbid indeed!" echoed the Antiquary, turning pale—"I would rather Monkbarns House were on fire. My poor dear friend and coadjutor! I will down to the quay instantly."
"I'm sure yell learn naething mair than I hae tauld ye, sir," said Ochiltree, "for the officer-folk here were very civil (that is, for the like o' them), and lookit up ae their letters and authorities, and could throw nae light on't either ae way or another."
"It can't be true! it shall not be true!" said the Antiquary, "And I won't believe it if it were!—Taffril's an excellent sea man, and Lovel (my poor Lovel!) has all the qualities of a safe and pleasant companion by land or by sea—one, Edie, whom, from the ingenuousness of his disposition, I would choose, did I ever go a sea-voyage (which I never do, unless across the ferry), fragilem mecum solvere phaselum, to be the companion of my risk, as one against whom the elements could nourish no vengeance. No, Edie, it is not, and cannot be true—it is a fiction of the idle jade Rumour, whom I wish hanged with her trumpet about her neck, that serves only with its screech-owl tones to fright honest folks out of their senses.—Let me know how you got into this scrape of your own."
"Are ye axing me as a magistrate, Monkbarns, or is it just for your ain satisfaction!"
"For my own satisfaction solely," replied the Antiquary.
"Put up your pocket-book and your keelyvine pen then, for I downa speak out an ye hae writing materials in your hands—they're a scaur to unlearned folk like me—Od, ane o' the clerks in the neist room will clink down, in black and white, as muckle as wad hang a man, before ane kens what he's saying."
Monkbarns complied with the old man's humour, and put up his memorandum-book.
Edie then went with great frankness through the part of the story already known to the reader, informing the Antiquary of the scene which he had witnessed between Dousterswivel and his patron in the ruins of St. Ruth, and frankly confessing that he could not resist the opportunity of decoying the adept once more to visit the tomb of Misticot, with the purpose of taking a comic revenge upon him for his quackery. He had easily persuaded Steenie, who was a bold thoughtless young fellow, to engage in the frolic along with him, and the jest had been inadvertently carried a great deal farther than was designed. Concerning the pocket-book, he explained that he had expressed his surprise and sorrow as soon as he found it had been inadvertently brought off: and that publicly, before all the inmates of the cottage, Steenie had undertaken to return it the next day, and had only been prevented by his untimely fate.
The Antiquary pondered a moment, and then said, "Your account seems very probable, Edie, and I believe it from what I know of the parties. But I think it likely that you know a great deal more than you have thought it proper to tell me, about this matter of the treasure trove—I suspect you have acted the part of the Lar Familiaris in Plautus—a sort of Brownie, Edie, to speak to your comprehension, who watched over hidden treasures.—I do bethink me you were the first person we met when Sir Arthur made his successful attack upon Misticot's grave, and also that when the labourers began to flag, you, Edie. were again the first to leap into the trench, and to make the discovery of the treasure. Now you must explain all this to me, unless you would have me use you as ill as Euclio does Staphyla in the Aulularia."
"Lordsake, sir," replied the mendicant, "what do I ken about your Howlowlaria?—it's mair like a dog's language than a man's."
"You knew, however, of the box of treasure being there?" continued Oldbuck.
"Dear sir," answered Edie, assuming a countenance of great simplicity, "what likelihood is there o'that? d'ye think sae puir an auld creature as me wad hae kend o' sic a like thing without getting some gude out o't?— and ye wot weel I sought nane and gat nane, like Michael Scott's man. What concern could I hae wi't?"
"That's just what I want you to explain to me," said Oldbuck; "for I am positive you knew it was there."
"Your honour's a positive man, Monkbarns—and, for a positive man, I must needs allow ye're often in the right."
"You allow, then, Edie, that my belief is well founded?"
Edie nodded acquiescence.
"Then please to explain to me the whole affair from beginning to end," said the Antiquary.
"If it were a secret o' mine, Monkbarns," replied the beggar, "ye suldna ask twice; for I hae aye said ahint your back, that for a' the nonsense maggots that ye whiles take into your head, ye are the maist wise and discreet o' a' our country gentles. But I'se een be open-hearted wi' you, and tell you that this is a friend's secret, and that they suld draw me wi' wild horses, or saw me asunder, as they did the children of Ammon, sooner than I would speak a word mair about the matter, excepting this, that there was nae ill intended, but muckle gude, and that the purpose was to serve them that are worth twenty hundred o' me. But there's nae law, I trow, that makes it a sin to ken where ither folles siller is, if we didna pit hand til't oursell?"
Oldbuck walked once or twice up and down the room in profound thought, endeavouring to find some plausible reason for transactions of a nature so mysterious—but his ingenuity was totally at fault. He then placed himself before the prisoner.
"This story of yours, friend Edie, is an absolute enigma, and would require a second OEdipus to solve it—who OEdipus was, I will tell you some other time if you remind me—However, whether it be owing to the wisdom or to the maggots with which you compliment me, I am strongly disposed to believe that you have spoken the truth, the rather that you have not made any of those obtestations of the superior powers, which I observe you and your comrades always make use of when you mean to deceive folks." (Here Edie could not suppress a smile.) "If, therefore, you will answer me one question, I will endeavour to procure your liberation."
"If ye'll let me hear the question," said Edie, with the caution of a canny Scotchman, "I'll tell you whether I'll answer it or no."
"It is simply," said the Antiquary, "Did Dousterswivel know anything about the concealment of the chest of bullion?"
"He, the ill-fa'ard loon!" answered Edie, with much frankness of manner— "there wad hae been little speerings o't had Dustansnivel ken'd it was there—it wad hae been butter in the black dog's hause."
"I thought as much," said Oldbuck. "Well, Edie, if I procure your freedom, you must keep your day, and appear to clear me of the bail-bond, for these are not times for prudent men to incur forfeitures, unless you can point out another Aulam auri plenam quadrilibrem—another Search, No. I."
"Ah!" said the beggar, shaking his head, "I doubt the bird's flown that laid thae golden eggs—for I winna ca' her goose, though that's the gait it stands in the story-buick—But I'll keep my day, Monkbarns; ye'se no loss a penny by me—And troth I wad fain be out again, now the weather's fine—and then I hae the best chance o' hearing the first news o' my friends."
"Well, Edie, as the bouncing and thumping beneath has somewhat ceased, I presume Bailie Littlejohn has dismissed his military preceptor, and has retired from the labours of Mars to those of Themis—I will have some conversation with him—But I cannot and will not believe any of those wretched news you were telling me."
"God send your honour may be right!" said the mendicant, as Oldbuck left the room.
The Antiquary found the magistrate, exhausted with the fatigues of the drill, reposing in his gouty chair, humming the air, "How merrily we live that soldiers be!" and between each bar comforting himself with a spoonful of mock-turtle soup. He ordered a similar refreshment for Oldbuck, who declined it, observing, that, not being a military man, he did not feel inclined to break his habit of keeping regular hours for meals—"Soldiers like you, Bailie, must snatch their food as they find means and time. But I am sorry to hear ill news of young Taffril's brig."
"Ah, poor fellow!" said the bailie, "he was a credit to the town—much distinguished on the first of June."
"But," said Oldbuck, "I am shocked to hear you talk of him in the preterite tense."
"Troth, I fear there may be too much reason for it, Monkbarns;—and yet let us hope the best. The accident is said to have happened in the Rattray reef of rocks, about twenty miles to the northward, near Dirtenalan Bay—I have sent to inquire about it—and your nephew run out himself as if he had been flying to get the Gazette of a victory."
Here Hector entered, exclaiming as he came in, "I believe it's all a damned lie—I can't find the least authority for it, but general rumour."
"And pray, Mr. Hector," said his uncle, "if it had been true, whose fault would it have been that Lovel was on board?"
"Not mine, I am sure," answered Hector; "it would have been only my misfortune."
"Indeed!" said his uncle, "I should not have thought of that."
"Why, sir, with all your inclination to find me in the wrong," replied the young soldier, "I suppose you will own my intention was not to blame in this case. I did my best to hit Lovel, and if I had been successful, 'tis clear my scrape would have been his, and his scrape would have been mine."
"And whom or what do you intend to hit now, that you are lugging with you that leathern magazine there, marked Gunpowder?"
"I must be prepared for Lord Glenallan's moors on the twelfth, sir," said M'Intyre.
"Ah, Hector! thy great chasse, as the French call it, would take place best—
Omne cum Proteus pecus agitaret altos Visere montes—
Could you meet but with a martial phoca, instead of an unwarlike heath-bird."
"The devil take the seal, sir, or phoca, if you choose to call it so! It's rather hard one can never hear the end of a little piece of folly like that."
"Well, well," said Oldbuck, "I am glad you have the grace to be ashamed of it—as I detest the whole race of Nimrods, I wish them all as well matched. Nay, never start off at a jest, man—I have done with the phoca—though, I dare say, the Bailie could tell us the value of seal-skins just now."
"They are up," said the magistrate, "they are well up—the fishing has been unsuccessful lately."
"We can bear witness to that," said the tormenting Antiquary, who was delighted with the hank this incident had given him over the young sportsman: One word more, Hector, and
We'll hang a seal-skin on thy recreant limbs.
Aha, my boy! Come, never mind it; I must go to business.—Bailie, a word with you: you must take bail—moderate bail, you understand—for old Ochiltree's appearance."
"You don't consider what you ask," said the Bailie; "the offence is assault and robbery."
"Hush! not a word about it," said the Antiquary. "I gave you a hint before—I will possess you more fully hereafter—I promise you, there is a secret."
"But, Mr. Oldbuck, if the state is concerned, I, who do the whole drudgery business here, really have a title to be consulted, and until I am"—
"Hush! hush!" said the Antiquary, winking and putting his finger to his nose,—"you shall have the full credit, the entire management, whenever matters are ripe. But this is an obstinate old fellow, who will not hear of two people being as yet let into his mystery, and he has not fully acquainted me with the clew to Dousterswivel's devices."
"Aha! so we must tip that fellow the alien act, I suppose?"
"To say truth, I wish you would."
"Say no more," said the magistrate; "it shall forthwith be done—he shall be removed tanquam suspect—I think that's one of your own phrases, Monkbarns?"
"It is classical, Bailie—you improve."
"Why, public business has of late pressed upon me so much, that I have been obliged to take my foreman into partnership. I have had two several correspondences with the Under Secretary of State—one on the proposed tax on Riga hemp-seed, and the other on putting down political societies. So you might as well communicate to me as much as you know of this old fellow's discovery of a plot against the state."
"I will, instantly, when I am master of it," replied Oldbuck—-"I hate the trouble of managing such matters myself. Remember, however, I did not say decidedly a plot against the state I only say I hope to discover, by this man's means, a foul plot."
"If it be a plot at all, there must be treason in it, or sedition at least," said the Bailie—"Will you bail him for four hundred merks?"
"Four hundred merks for an old Blue-Gown! Think on the act 1701 regulating bail-bonds!—Strike off a cipher from the sum—I am content to bail him for forty merks."
"Well, Mr. Oldbuck, everybody in Fairport is always willing to oblige you—and besides, I know that you are a prudent man, and one that would be as unwilling to lose forty, as four hundred merks. So I will accept your bail, meo periculo—what say you to that law phrase again? I had it from a learned counsel. I will vouch it, my lord, he said, meo periculo."
"And I will vouch for Edie Ochiltree, meo periculo, in like manner," said Oldbuck. "So let your clerk draw out the bail-bond, and I will sign it."
When this ceremony had been performed, the Antiquary communicated to Edie the joyful tidings that he was once more at liberty, and directed him to make the best of his way to Monkbarns House, to which he himself returned with his nephew, after having perfected their good work.
Full of wise saws and modern instances. As You Like It.
"I wish to Heaven, Hector," said the Antiquary, next morning after breakfast, "you would spare our nerves, and not be keeping snapping that arquebuss of yours."
"Well, sir, I'm sure I'm sorry to disturb you," said his nephew, still handling his fowling-piece;—"but it's a capital gun—it's a Joe Manton, that cost forty guineas."
"A fool and his money are soon parted, nephew—there is a Joe Miller for your Joe Manton," answered the Antiquary; "I am glad you have so many guineas to throw away."
"Every one has their fancy, uncle,—you are fond of books."
"Ay, Hector," said the uncle, "and if my collection were yours, you would make it fly to the gunsmith, the horse-market, the dog-breaker,— Coemptos undique nobiles libros—mutare loricis Iberis."
"I could not use your books, my dear uncle," said the young soldier, "that's true; and you will do well to provide for their being in better hands. But don't let the faults of my head fall on my heart—I would not part with a Cordery that belonged to an old friend, to get a set of horses like Lord Glenallan's."
"I don't think you would, lad—I don't think you would," said his softening relative. "I love to tease you a little sometimes; it keeps up the spirit of discipline and habit of subordination—You will pass your time happily here having me to command you, instead of Captain, or Colonel, or Knight in Arms,' as Milton has it; and instead of the French," he continued, relapsing into his ironical humour, "you have the Gens humida ponti—for, as Virgil says,
Sternunt se somno diversae in littore phocae;
which might be rendered,
Here phocae slumber on the beach, Within our Highland Hector's reach.
Nay, if you grow angry, I have done. Besides, I see old Edie in the court-yard, with whom I have business. Good-bye, Hector—Do you remember how she splashed into the sea like her master Proteus, et se jactu dedit aequor in altum?"
M'Intyre,—waiting, however, till the door was shut,—then gave way to the natural impatience of his temper.
"My uncle is the best man in the world, and in his way the kindest; but rather than hear any more about that cursed phoca, as he is pleased to call it, I would exchange for the West Indies, and never see his face again."
Miss M'Intyre, gratefully attached to her uncle, and passionately fond of her brother, was, on such occasions, the usual envoy of reconciliation. She hastened to meet her uncle on his return, before he entered the parlour.
"Well, now, Miss Womankind, what is the meaning of that imploring countenance?—has Juno done any more mischief?"
"No, uncle; but Juno's master is in such fear of your joking him about the seal—I assure you, he feels it much more than you would wish;—it's very silly of him, to be sure; but then you can turn everybody so sharply into ridicule"—
"Well, my dear," answered Oldbuck, propitiated by the compliment, "I will rein in my satire, and, if possible, speak no more of the phoca—I will not even speak of sealing a letter, but say umph, and give a nod to you when I want the wax-light—I am not monitoribus asper, but, Heaven knows, the most mild, quiet, and easy of human beings, whom sister, niece, and nephew, guide just as best pleases them."
With this little panegyric on his own docility, Mr. Oldbuck entered the parlour, and proposed to his nephew a walk to the Mussel-crag. "I have some questions to ask of a woman at Mucklebackit's cottage," he observed, "and I would willingly have a sensible witness with me—so, for fault of a better, Hector, I must be contented with you."
"There is old Edie, sir, or Caxon—could not they do better than me?" answered M'Intyre, feeling somewhat alarmed at the prospect of a long tete-a-tete with his uncle.
"Upon my word, young man, you turn me over to pretty companions, and I am quite sensible of your politeness," replied Mr. Oldbuck. "No, sir, I intend the old Blue-Gown shall go with me—not as a competent witness, for he is, at present, as our friend Bailie Littlejohn says (blessings on his learning!) tanquam suspectus, and you are suspicione major, as our law has it."
"I wish I were a major, sir," said Hector, catching only the last, and, to a soldier's ear, the most impressive word in the sentence,—"but, without money or interest, there is little chance of getting the step."
"Well, well, most doughty son of Priam," said the Antiquary, "be ruled by your friends, and there's no saying what may happen—Come away with me, and you shall see what may be useful to you should you ever sit upon a court-martial, sir."
"I have been on many a regimental court-martial, sir," answered Captain M'Intyre. "But here's a new cane for you."
"Much obliged, much obliged."
"I bought it from our drum-major," added M'Intyre, "who came into our regiment from the Bengal army when it came down the Red Sea. It was cut on the banks of the Indus, I assure you."
"Upon my word, 'tis a fine ratan, and well replaces that which the ph— Bah! what was I going to say?"
The party, consisting of the Antiquary, his nephew, and the old beggar, now took the sands towards Mussel-crag—the former in the very highest mood of communicating information, and the others, under a sense of former obligation, and some hope for future favours, decently attentive to receive it. The uncle and nephew walked together, the mendicant about a step and a half behind, just near enough for his patron to speak to him by a slight inclination of his neck, and without the trouble of turning round. (Petrie, in his Essay on Good-breeding, dedicated to the magistrates of Edinburgh, recommends, upon his own experience, as tutor in a family of distinction, this attitude to all led captains, tutors, dependants, and bottle-holders of every description. ) Thus escorted, the Antiquary moved along full of his learning, like a lordly man of war, and every now and then yawing to starboard and larboard to discharge a broadside upon his followers.
"And so it is your opinion," said he to the mendicant, "that this windfall—this arca auri, as Plautus has it, will not greatly avail Sir Arthur in his necessities?"
"Unless he could find ten times as much," said the beggar, "and that I am sair doubtful of;—I heard Puggie Orrock, and the tother thief of a sheriff-officer, or messenger, speaking about it—and things are ill aff when the like o' them can speak crousely about ony gentleman's affairs. I doubt Sir Arthur will be in stane wa's for debt, unless there's swift help and certain."
"You speak like a fool," said the Antiquary.—"Nephew, it is a remarkable thing, that in this happy country no man can be legally imprisoned for debt."
"Indeed, sir?" said M'Intyre; "I never knew that before—that part of our law would suit some of our mess well."
"And if they arena confined for debt," said Ochiltree, "what is't that tempts sae mony puir creatures to bide in the tolbooth o' Fairport yonder?—they a' say they were put there by their creditors—Od! they maun like it better than I do, if they're there o' free will."
"A very natural observation, Edie, and many of your betters would make the same; but it is founded entirely upon ignorance of the feudal system. Hector, be so good as to attend, unless you are looking out for another— Ahem!" (Hector compelled himself to give attention at this hint. ) "And you, Edie, it may be useful to you reram cognoscere causas. The nature and origin of warrant for caption is a thing haud alienum a Scaevolae studiis.—You must know then, once more, that nobody can be arrested in Scotland for debt."
"I haena muckle concern wi' that, Monkbarns," said the old man, "for naebody wad trust a bodle to a gaberlunzie."
"I pr'ythee, peace, man—As a compulsitor, therefore, of payment, that being a thing to which no debtor is naturally inclined, as I have too much reason to warrant from the experience I have had with my own,—we had first the letters of four forms, a sort of gentle invitation, by which our sovereign lord the king, interesting himself, as a monarch should, in the regulation of his subjects' private affairs, at first by mild exhortation, and afterwards by letters of more strict enjoinment and more hard compulsion—What do you see extraordinary about that bird, Hector?—it's but a seamaw."
"It's a pictarnie, sir," said Edie.
"Well, what an if it were—what does that signify at present?—But I see you're impatient; so I will waive the letters of four forms, and come to the modern process of diligence.—You suppose, now, a man's committed to prison because he cannot pay his debt? Quite otherwise: the truth is, the king is so good as to interfere at the request of the creditor, and to send the debtor his royal command to do him justice within a certain time—fifteen days, or six, as the case may be. Well, the man resists and disobeys: what follows? Why, that he be lawfully and rightfully declared a rebel to our gracious sovereign, whose command he has disobeyed, and that by three blasts of a horn at the market-place of Edinburgh, the metropolis of Scotland. And he is then legally imprisoned, not on account of any civil debt, but because of his ungrateful contempt of the royal mandate. What say you to that, Hector?—there's something you never knew before."*
* The doctrine of Monkbarns on the origin of imprisonment for civil debt in Scotland, may appear somewhat whimsical, but was referred to, and admitted to be correct, by the Bench of the Supreme Scottish Court, on 5th December 1828, in the case of Thom v. Black. In fact, the Scottish law is in this particular more jealous of the personal liberty of the subject than any other code in Europe.
"No, uncle; but, I own, if I wanted money to pay my debts, I would rather thank the king to send me some, than to declare me a rebel for not doing what I could not do."
"Your education has not led you to consider these things," replied his uncle; "you are incapable of estimating the elegance of the legal fiction, and the manner in which it reconciles that duress, which, for the protection of commerce, it has been found necessary to extend towards refractory debtors, with the most scrupulous attention to the liberty of the subject."
"I don't know, sir," answered the unenlightened Hector; "but if a man must pay his debt or go to jail, it signifies but little whether he goes as a debtor or a rebel, I should think. But you say this command of the king's gives a license of so many days—Now, egad, were I in the scrape, I would beat a march and leave the king and the creditor to settle it among themselves before they came to extremities."
"So wad I," said Edie; "I wad gie them leg-bail to a certainty."
"True," replied Monkbarns; "but those whom the law suspects of being unwilling to abide her formal visit, she proceeds with by means of a shorter and more unceremonious call, as dealing with persons on whom patience and favour would be utterly thrown away."
"Ay," said Ochiltree, "that will be what they ca' the fugie-warrants—I hae some skeel in them. There's Border-warrants too in the south country, unco rash uncanny things;—I was taen up on ane at Saint James's Fair, and keepit in the auld kirk at Kelso the haill day and night; and a cauld goustie place it was, I'se assure ye.—But whatna wife's this, wi' her creel on her back? It's puir Maggie hersell, I'm thinking."
It was so. The poor woman's sense of her loss, if not diminished, was become at least mitigated by the inevitable necessity of attending to the means of supporting her family; and her salutation to Oldbuck was made in an odd mixture between the usual language of solicitation with which she plied her customers, and the tone of lamentation for her recent calamity.
"How's a' wi' ye the day, Monkbarns? I havena had the grace yet to come down to thank your honour for the credit ye did puir Steenie, wi' laying his head in a rath grave, puir fallow. "—Here she whimpered and wiped her eyes with the corner of her blue apron—"But the fishing comes on no that ill, though the gudeman hasna had the heart to gang to sea himsell— Atweel I would fain tell him it wad do him gude to put hand to wark—but I'm maist fear'd to speak to him—and it's an unco thing to hear ane o' us speak that gate o' a man—However, I hae some dainty caller haddies, and they sall be but three shillings the dozen, for I hae nae pith to drive a bargain ennow, and maun just tak what ony Christian body will gie, wi' few words and nae flyting."
"What shall we do, Hector?" said Oldbuck, pausing: "I got into disgrace with my womankind for making a bad bargain with her before. These maritime animals, Hector, are unlucky to our family."
"Pooh, sir, what would you do?—give poor Maggie what she asks, or allow me to send a dish of fish up to Monkbarns."
And he held out the money to her; but Maggie drew back her hand. "Na, na, Captain; ye're ower young and ower free o' your siller—ye should never tak a fish-wife's first bode; and troth I think maybe a flyte wi' the auld housekeeper at Monkbarns, or Miss Grizel, would do me some gude—And I want to see what that hellicate quean Jenny Ritherout's doing—folk said she wasna weel—She'll be vexing hersell about Steenie, the silly tawpie, as if he wad ever hae lookit ower his shouther at the like o'her!—Weel, Monkbarns, they're braw caller haddies, and they'll bid me unco little indeed at the house if ye want crappit-heads the day."
And so on she paced with her burden,—grief, gratitude for the sympathy of her betters, and the habitual love of traffic and of gain, chasing each other through her thoughts.
"And now that we are before the door of their hut," said Ochiltree, "I wad fain ken, Monkbarns, what has gar'd ye plague yoursell wi' me a' this length? I tell ye sincerely I hae nae pleasure in ganging in there. I downa bide to think how the young hae fa'en on a' sides o' me, and left me an useless auld stump wi' hardly a green leaf on't."
"This old woman," said Oldbuck, "sent you on a message to the Earl of Glenallan, did she not?"
"Ay!" said the surprised mendicant; "how ken ye that sae weel?"
"Lord Glenallan told me himself," answered the Antiquary; "so there is no delation—no breach of trust on your part; and as he wishes me to take her evidence down on some important family matters, I chose to bring you with me, because in her situation, hovering between dotage and consciousness, it is possible that your voice and appearance may awaken trains of recollection which I should otherwise have no means of exciting. The human mind—what are you about, Hector?"
"I was only whistling for the dog, sir," replied the Captain "she always roves too wide—I knew I should be troublesome to you."
"Not at all, not at all," said Oldbuck, resuming the subject of his disquisition—"the human mind is to be treated like a skein of ravelled silk, where you must cautiously secure one free end before you can make any progress in disentangling it."
"I ken naething about that," said the gaberlunzie; "but an my auld acquaintance be hersell, or anything like hersell, she may come to wind us a pirn. It's fearsome baith to see and hear her when she wampishes about her arms, and gets to her English, and speaks as if she were a prent book, let a-be an auld fisher's wife. But, indeed, she had a grand education, and was muckle taen out afore she married an unco bit beneath hersell. She's aulder than me by half a score years—but I mind weel eneugh they made as muckle wark about her making a half-merk marriage wi' Simon Mucklebackit, this Saunders's father, as if she had been ane o' the gentry. But she got into favour again, and then she lost it again, as I hae heard her son say, when he was a muckle chield; and then they got muckle siller, and left the Countess's land, and settled here. But things never throve wi' them. Howsomever, she's a weel-educate woman, and an she win to her English, as I hae heard her do at an orra time, she may come to fickle us a'."
Life ebbs from such old age, unmarked and silent, As the slow neap-tide leaves yon stranded galley.— Late she rocked merrily at the least impulse That wind or wave could give; but now her keel Is settling on the sand, her mast has ta'en An angle with the sky, from which it shifts not. Each wave receding shakes her less and less, Till, bedded on the strand, she shall remain Useless as motionless. Old Play.
As the Antiquary lifted the latch of the hut, he was surprised to hear the shrill tremulous voice of Elspeth chanting forth an old ballad in a wild and doleful recitative.
"The herring loves the merry moonlight, The mackerel loves the wind, But the oyster loves the dredging sang, For they come of a gentle kind."
A diligent collector of these legendary scraps of ancient poetry, his foot refused to cross the threshold when his ear was thus arrested, and his hand instinctively took pencil and memorandum-book. From time to time the old woman spoke as if to the children—"Oh ay, hinnies, whisht! whisht! and I'll begin a bonnier ane than that—
"Now haud your tongue, baith wife and carle, And listen, great and sma', And I will sing of Glenallan's Earl That fought on the red Harlaw. "The cronach's cried on Bennachie, And doun the Don and a', And hieland and lawland may mournfu' be For the sair field of Harlaw.—
I dinna mind the neist verse weel—my memory's failed, and theres unco thoughts come ower me—God keep us frae temptation!"
Here her voice sunk in indistinct muttering.
"It's a historical ballad," said Oldbuck, eagerly, "a genuine and undoubted fragment of minstrelsy! Percy would admire its simplicity— Ritson could not impugn its authenticity."
"Ay, but it's a sad thing," said Ochiltree, "to see human nature sae far owertaen as to be skirling at auld sangs on the back of a loss like hers."
"Hush! hush!" said the Antiquary—"she has gotten the thread of the story again. "—And as he spoke, she sung—
"They saddled a hundred milk-white steeds, They hae bridled a hundred black, With a chafron of steel on each horse's head, And a good knight upon his back. "—
"Chafron!" exclaimed the Antiquary,—"equivalent, perhaps, to cheveron;—the word's worth a dollar,"—and down it went in his red book.
"They hadna ridden a mile, a mile, A mile, but barely ten, When Donald came branking down the brae Wi' twenty thousand men. "Their tartans they were waving wide, Their glaives were glancing clear, Their pibrochs rung frae side to side, Would deafen ye to hear. "The great Earl in his stirrups stood That Highland host to see: Now here a knight that's stout and good May prove a jeopardie: "What wouldst thou do, my squire so gay, That rides beside my reyne, Were ye Glenallan's Earl the day, And I were Roland Cheyne? "To turn the rein were sin and shame, To fight were wondrous peril, What would ye do now, Roland Cheyne, Were ye Glenallan's Earl?'
Ye maun ken, hinnies, that this Roland Cheyne, for as poor and auld as I sit in the chimney-neuk, was my forbear, and an awfu' man he was that dayin the fight, but specially after the Earl had fa'en, for he blamed himsell for the counsel he gave, to fight before Mar came up wi' Mearns, and Aberdeen, and Angus."
Her voice rose and became more animated as she recited the warlike counsel of her ancestor—
"Were I Glenallan's Earl this tide, And ye were Roland Cheyne, The spur should be in my horse's side, And the bridle upon his mane. "If they hae twenty thousand blades, And we twice ten times ten, Yet they hae but their tartan plaids, And we are mail-clad men. "My horse shall ride through ranks sae rude, As through the moorland fern, Then neer let the gentle Norman blude Grow cauld for Highland kerne.'"
"Do you hear that, nephew?" said Oldbuck;—"you observe your Gaelic ancestors were not held in high repute formerly by the Lowland warriors."
"I hear," said Hector, "a silly old woman sing a silly old song. I am surprised, sir, that you, who will not listen to Ossian's songs of Selma, can be pleased with such trash. I vow, I have not seen or heard a worse halfpenny ballad; I don't believe you could match it in any pedlar's pack in the country. I should be ashamed to think that the honour of the Highlands could be affected by such doggrel. "—And, tossing up his head, he snuffed the air indignantly.
Apparently the old woman heard the sound of their voices; for, ceasing her song, she called out, "Come in, sirs, come in—good-will never halted at the door-stane."
They entered, and found to their surprise Elspeth alone, sitting "ghastly on the hearth," like the personification of Old Age in the Hunter's song of the Owl,* "wrinkled, tattered, vile, dim-eyed, discoloured, torpid."
* See Mrs. Grant on the Highland Superstitions, vol. ii. p. 260, for this fine translation from the Gaelic.
"They're a' out," she said, as they entered; "but an ye will sit a blink, somebody will be in. If ye hae business wi' my gude-daughter, or my son, they'll be in belyve,—I never speak on business mysell. Bairns, gie them seats—the bairns are a' gane out, I trow,"—looking around her;—"I was crooning to keep them quiet a wee while since; but they hae cruppen out some gate. Sit down, sirs, they'll be in belyve;" and she dismissed her spindle from her hand to twirl upon the floor, and soon seemed exclusively occupied in regulating its motion, as unconscious of the presence of the strangers as she appeared indifferent to their rank or business there.
"I wish," said Oldbuck, "she would resume that canticle, or legendary fragment. I always suspected there was a skirmish of cavalry before the main battle of the Harlaw."*
* Note H. Battle of Harlaw.
"If your honour pleases," said Edie, "had ye not better proceed to the business that brought us a' here? I'se engage to get ye the sang ony time."
"I believe you are right, Edie—Do manus—I submit. But how shall we manage? She sits there the very image of dotage. Speak to her, Edie—try if you can make her recollect having sent you to Glenallan House."
Edie rose accordingly, and, crossing the floor, placed himself in the same position which he had occupied during his former conversation with her. "I'm fain to see ye looking sae weel, cummer; the mair, that the black ox has tramped on ye since I was aneath your roof-tree."
"Ay," said Elspeth; but rather from a general idea of misfortune, than any exact recollection of what had happened,—"there has been distress amang us of late—I wonder how younger folk bide it—I bide it ill. I canna hear the wind whistle, and the sea roar, but I think I see the coble whombled keel up, and some o' them struggling in the waves!—Eh, sirs; sic weary dreams as folk hae between sleeping and waking, before they win to the lang sleep and the sound! I could amaist think whiles my son, or else Steenie, my oe, was dead, and that I had seen the burial. Isna that a queer dream for a daft auld carline? What for should ony o' them dee before me?—it's out o' the course o' nature, ye ken."
"I think you'll make very little of this stupid old woman," said Hector,—who still nourished, perhaps, some feelings of the dislike excited by the disparaging mention of his countrymen in her lay—"I think you'll make but little of her, sir; and it's wasting our time to sit here and listen to her dotage."
"Hector," said the Antiquary, indignantly, "if you do not respect her misfortunes, respect at least her old age and grey hairs: this is the last stage of existence, so finely treated by the Latin poet—
—Omni Membrorum damno major dementia, quae nec Nomina, servorum, nec vultus agnoscit amici, Cum queis preterita coenavit nocte, nec illos Quos genuit, quos eduxit."
"That's Latin!" said Elspeth, rousing herself as if she attended to the lines, which the Antiquary recited with great pomp of diction—"that's Latin!" and she cast a wild glance around her—"Has there a priest fund me out at last?"
"You see, nephew, her comprehension is almost equal to your own of that fine passage."
"I hope you think, sir, that I knew it to be Latin as well as she did?"
"Why, as to that—But stay, she is about to speak."
"I will have no priest—none," said the beldam, with impotent vehemence; "as I have lived I will die—none shall say that I betrayed my mistress, though it were to save my soul!"
"That bespoke a foul conscience," said the mendicant;—"I wuss she wad mak a clean breast, an it were but for her sake;" and he again assailed her.
"Weel, gudewife, I did your errand to the Yerl."
"To what Earl? I ken nae Earl;—I ken'd a Countess ance—I wish to Heaven I had never ken'd her! for by that acquaintance, neighbour, their cam,"— and she counted her withered fingers as she spoke "first Pride, then Malice, then Revenge, then False Witness; and Murder tirl'd at the door-pin, if he camna ben. And werena thae pleasant guests, think ye, to take up their quarters in ae woman's heart? I trow there was routh o' company."
"But, cummer," continued the beggar, "it wasna the Countess of Glenallan I meant, but her son, him that was Lord Geraldin."
"I mind it now," she said; "I saw him no that langsyne, and we had a heavy speech thegither. Eh, sirs! the comely young lord is turned as auld and frail as I am: it's muckle that sorrow and heartbreak, and crossing of true love, will do wi' young blood. But suldna his mither hae lookit to that hersell?—we were but to do her bidding, ye ken. I am sure there's naebody can blame me—he wasna my son, and she was my mistress. Ye ken how the rhyme says—I hae maist forgotten how to sing, or else the tune's left my auld head—
"He turn'd him right and round again, Said, Scorn na at my mither; Light loves I may get mony a ane, But minnie neer anither.
Then he was but of the half blude, ye ken, and her's was the right Glenallan after a'. Na, na, I maun never maen doing and suffering for the Countess Joscelin—never will I maen for that."
Then drawing her flax from the distaff, with the dogged air of one who is resolved to confess nothing, she resumed her interrupted occupation.
"I hae heard," said the mendicant, taking his cue from what Oldbuck had told him of the family history—"I hae heard, cummer, that some ill tongue suld hae come between the Earl, that's Lord Geraldin, and his young bride."
"Ill tongue?" she said in hasty alarm; "and what had she to fear frae an ill tongue?—she was gude and fair eneugh—at least a' body said sae. But had she keepit her ain tongue aff ither folk, she might hae been living like a leddy for a' that's come and gane yet."
"But I hae heard say, gudewife," continued Ochiltree, "there was a clatter in the country, that her husband and her were ower sibb when they married."
"Wha durst speak o' that?" said the old woman hastily; "wha durst say they were married?—wha ken'd o' that?—Not the Countess—not I. If they wedded in secret, they were severed in secret—They drank of the fountains of their ain deceit."
"No, wretched beldam!" exclaimed Oldbuck, who could keep silence no longer, "they drank the poison that you and your wicked mistress prepared for them."
"Ha, ha!" she replied, "I aye thought it would come to this. It's but sitting silent when they examine me—there's nae torture in our days; and if there is, let them rend me!—It's ill o' the vassal's mouth that betrays the bread it eats."
"Speak to her, Edie," said the Antiquary; "she knows your voice, and answers to it most readily."
"We shall mak naething mair out o' her," said Ochiltree. "When she has clinkit hersell down that way, and faulded her arms, she winna speak a word, they say, for weeks thegither. And besides, to my thinking, her face is sair changed since we cam in. However, I'se try her ance mair to satisfy your honour.—So ye canna keep in mind, cummer, that your auld mistress, the Countess Joscelin, has been removed?"
"Removed!" she exclaimed; for that name never failed to produce its usual effect upon her; "then we maun a' follow—a' maun ride when she is in the saddle. Tell them to let Lord Geraldin ken we're on before them. Bring my hood and scarf—ye wadna hae me gang in the carriage wi' my leddy, and my hair in this fashion?"
She raised her shrivelled arms, and seemed busied like a woman who puts on her cloak to go abroad, then dropped them slowly and stiffly; and the same idea of a journey still floating apparently through her head, she proceeded, in a hurried and interrupted manner,—"Call Miss Neville—What do you mean by Lady Geraldin? I said Eveline Neville, not Lady Geraldin— there's no Lady Geraldin; tell her that, and bid her change her wet gown, and no' look sae pale. Bairn! what should she do wi' a bairn?—maidens hae nane, I trow.—Teresa—Teresa—my lady calls us!—Bring a candle;— the grand staircase is as mirk as a Yule midnight—We are coming, my lady!"—With these words she sunk back on the settle, and from thence sidelong to the floor. *
* Note I. Elspeth's death.
Edie ran to support her, but hardly got her in his arms, before he said, "It's a' ower—she has passed away even with that last word."
"Impossible," said Oldbuck, hastily advancing, as did his nephew. But nothing was more certain. She had expired with the last hurried word that left her lips; and all that remained before them were the mortal relics of the creature who had so long struggled with an internal sense of concealed guilt, joined to all the distresses of age and poverty.
"God grant that she be gane to a better place!" said Edie, as he looked on the lifeless body; "but oh! there was something lying hard and heavy at her heart. I have seen mony a ane dee, baith in the field o' battle, and a fair-strae death at hame; but I wad rather see them a' ower again, as sic a fearfu' flitting as hers!"
"We must call in the neighbours," said Oldbuck, when he had somewhat recovered his horror and astonishment, "and give warning of this additional calamity. I wish she could have been brought to a confession. And, though of far less consequence, I could have wished to transcribe that metrical fragment. But Heaven's will must be done!"
They left the hut accordingly, and gave the alarm in the hamlet, whose matrons instantly assembled to compose the limbs and arrange the body of her who might be considered as the mother of their settlement. Oldbuck promised his assistance for the funeral.
"Your honour," said Alison Breck, who was next in age to the deceased, "suld send doun something to us for keeping up our hearts at the lykewake, for a' Saunders's gin, puir man, was drucken out at the burial o' Steenie, and we'll no get mony to sit dry-lipped aside the corpse. Elspeth was unco clever in her young days, as I can mind right weel, but there was aye a word o' her no being that chancy. Ane suldna speak ill o' the dead—mair by token, o' ane's cummer and neighbour—but there was queer things said about a leddy and a bairn or she left the Craigburnfoot. And sae, in gude troth, it will be a puir lykewake, unless your honour sends us something to keep us cracking."
"You shall have some whisky," answered Oldbuck, "the rather that you have preserved the proper word for that ancient custom of watching the dead.— You observe, Hector, this is genuine Teutonic, from the Gothic Leichnam, a corpse. It is quite erroneously called Late-wake, though Brand favours that modern corruption and derivation."
"I believe," said Hector to himself, "my uncle would give away Monkbarns to any one who would come to ask it in genuine Teutonic! Not a drop of whisky would the old creatures have got, had their president asked it for the use of the Late-wake."
While Oldbuck was giving some farther directions, and promising assistance, a servant of Sir Arthur's came riding very hard along the sands, and stopped his horse when he saw the Antiquary. "There had something," he said, "very particular happened at the Castle"—(he could not, or would not, explain what)—"and Miss Wardour had sent him off express to Monkbarns, to beg that Mr. Oldbuck would come to them without a moment's delay."
"I am afraid," said the Antiquary, "his course also is drawing to a close. What can I do?"
"Do, sir?" exclaimed Hector, with his characteristic impatience,—"get on the horse, and turn his head homeward—you will be at Knockwinnock Castle in ten minutes."
"He is quite a free goer," said the servant, dismounting to adjust the girths and stirrups,—"he only pulls a little if he feels a dead weight on him."
"I should soon be a dead weight off him, my friend," said the Antiquary.—"What the devil, nephew, are you weary of me? or do you suppose me weary of my life, that I should get on the back of such a Bucephalus as that? No, no, my friend, if I am to be at Knockwinnock to-day, it must be by walking quietly forward on my own feet, which I will do with as little delay as possible. Captain M'Intyre may ride that animal himself, if he pleases."
"I have little hope I could be of any use, uncle, but I cannot think of their distress without wishing to show sympathy at least—so I will ride on before, and announce to them that you are coming.—I'll trouble you for your spurs, my friend."
"You will scarce need them, sir," said the man, taking them off at the same time, and buckling them upon Captain Mlntyre's heels, "he's very frank to the road."
Oldbuck stood astonished at this last act of temerity, "are you mad, Hector?" he cried, "or have you forgotten what is said by Quintus Curtius, with whom, as a soldier, you must needs be familiar,—Nobilis equus umbra quidem virgae regitur; ignavus ne calcari quidem excitari potest; which plainly shows that spurs are useless in every case, and, I may add, dangerous in most."
But Hector, who cared little for the opinion of either Quintus Curtius or of the Antiquary, upon such a topic, only answered with a heedless "Never fear—never fear, sir."
With that he gave his able horse the head, And, bending forward, struck his armed heels Against the panting sides of his poor jade, Up to the rowel-head; and starting so, He seemed in running to devour the way, Staying no longer question.
"There they go, well matched," said Oldbuck, looking after them as they started—"a mad horse and a wild boy, the two most unruly creatures in Christendom! and all to get half an hour sooner to a place where nobody wants him; for I doubt Sir Arthur's griefs are beyond the cure of our light horseman. It must be the villany of Dousterswivel, for whom Sir Arthur has done so much; for I cannot help observing, that, with some natures, Tacitus's maxim holdeth good: Beneficia eo usque laeta sunt dum videntur exsolvi posse; ubi multum antevenere, pro gratia odium redditur,—from which a wise man might take a caution, not to oblige any man beyond the degree in which he may expect to be requited, lest he should make his debtor a bankrupt in gratitude."
Murmuring to himself such scraps of cynical philosophy, our Antiquary paced the sands towards Knockwinnock; but it is necessary we should outstrip him, for the purpose of explaining the reasons of his being so anxiously summoned thither.
So, while the Goose, of whom the fable told, Incumbent, brooded o'er her eggs of gold, With hand outstretched, impatient to destroy, Stole on her secret nest the cruel Boy, Whose gripe rapacious changed her splendid dream, —For wings vain fluttering, and for dying scream. The Loves of the Sea-weeds.
From the time that Sir Arthur Wardour had become possessor of the treasure found in Misticot's grave, he had been in a state of mind more resembling ecstasy than sober sense. Indeed, at one time his daughter had become seriously apprehensive for his intellect; for, as he had no doubt that he had the secret of possessing himself of wealth to an unbounded extent, his language and carriage were those of a man who had acquired the philosopher's stone. He talked of buying contiguous estates, that would have led him from one side of the island to the other, as if he were determined to brook no neighbour save the sea. He corresponded with an architect of eminence, upon a plan of renovating the castle of his forefathers on a style of extended magnificence that might have rivalled that of Windsor, and laying out the grounds on a suitable scale. Troops of liveried menials were already, in fancy, marshalled in his halls, and—for what may not unbounded wealth authorize its possessor to aspire to?—the coronet of a marquis, perhaps of a duke, was glittering before his imagination. His daughter—to what matches might she not look forward? Even an alliance with the blood-royal was not beyond the sphere of his hopes. His son was already a general—and he himself whatever ambition could dream of in its wildest visions.
In this mood, if any one endeavoured to bring Sir Arthur down to the regions of common life, his replies were in the vein of Ancient Pistol—
A fico for the world, and worldlings base I speak of Africa and golden joys!
The reader may conceive the amazement of Miss Wardour, when, instead of undergoing an investigation concerning the addresses of Lovel, as she had expected from the long conference of her father with Mr. Oldbuck, upon the morning of the fated day when the treasure was discovered, the conversation of Sir Arthur announced an imagination heated with the hopes of possessing the most unbounded wealth. But she was seriously alarmed when Dousterswivel was sent for to the Castle, and was closeted with her father—his mishap condoled with—his part taken, and his loss compensated. All the suspicions which she had long entertained respecting this man became strengthened, by observing his pains to keep up the golden dreams of her father, and to secure for himself, under various pretexts, as much as possible out of the windfall which had so strangely fallen to Sir Arthur's share.
Other evil symptoms began to appear, following close on each other. Letters arrived every post, which Sir Arthur, as soon as he had looked at the directions, flung into the fire without taking the trouble to open them. Miss Wardour could not help suspecting that these epistles, the contents of which seemed to be known to her father by a sort of intuition, came from pressing creditors. In the meanwhile, the temporary aid which he had received from the treasure dwindled fast away. By far the greater part had been swallowed up by the necessity of paying the bill of six hundred pounds, which had threatened Sir Arthur with instant distress. Of the rest, some part was given to the adept, some wasted upon extravagances which seemed to the poor knight fully authorized by his full-blown hopes,—and some went to stop for a time the mouths of such claimants as, being weary of fair promises, had become of opinion with Harpagon, that it was necessary to touch something substantial. At length circumstances announced but too plainly, that it was all expended within two or three days after its discovery; and there appeared no prospect of a supply. Sir Arthur, naturally impatient, now taxed Dousterswivel anew with breach of those promises through which he had hoped to convert all his lead into gold. But that worthy gentleman's turn was now served; and as he had grace enough to wish to avoid witnessing the fall of the house which he had undermined, he was at the trouble of bestowing a few learned terms of art upon Sir Arthur, that at least he might not be tormented before his time. He took leave of him, with assurances that he would return to Knockwinnock the next morning, with such information as would not fail to relieve Sir Arthur from all his distresses.
"For, since I have consulted in such matters, I ave never," said Mr. Herman Dousterswivel, "approached so near de arcanum, what you call de great mystery,—de Panchresta—de Polychresta—I do know as much of it as Pelaso de Taranta, or Basilius—and either I will bring you in two and tree days de No. III. of Mr. Mishdigoat, or you shall call me one knave myself, and never look me in de face again no more at all."
The adept departed with this assurance, in the firm resolution of making good the latter part of the proposition, and never again appearing before his injured patron. Sir Arthur remained in a doubtful and anxious state of mind. The positive assurances of the philosopher, with the hard words Panchresta, Basilius, and so forth, produced some effect on his mind. But he had been too often deluded by such jargon, to be absolutely relieved of his doubt, and he retired for the evening into his library, in the fearful state of one who, hanging over a precipice, and without the means of retreat, perceives the stone on which he rests gradually parting from the rest of the crag, and about to give way with him.
The visions of hope decayed, and there increased in proportion that feverish agony of anticipation with which a man, educated in a sense of consequence, and possessed of opulence,—the supporter of an ancient name, and the father of two promising children,—foresaw the hour approaching which should deprive him of all the splendour which time had made familiarly necessary to him, and send him forth into the world to struggle with poverty, with rapacity, and with scorn. Under these dire forebodings, his temper, exhausted by the sickness of delayed hope, became peevish and fretful, and his words and actions sometimes expressed a reckless desperation, which alarmed Miss Wardour extremely. We have seen, on a former occasion, that Sir Arthur was a man of passions lively and quick, in proportion to the weakness of his character in other respects; he was unused to contradiction, and if he had been hitherto, in general, good-humoured and cheerful, it was probably because the course of his life had afforded no such frequent provocation as to render his irritability habitual.
On the third morning after Dousterswivel's departure, the servant, as usual, laid on the breakfast table the newspaper and letters of the day. Miss Wardour took up the former to avoid the continued ill-humour of her father, who had wrought himself into a violent passion, because the toast was over-browned.
"I perceive how it is," was his concluding speech on this interesting subject,—"my servants, who have had their share of my fortune, begin to think there is little to be made of me in future. But while I am the scoundrel's master I will be so, and permit no neglect—no, nor endure a hair's-breadth diminution of the respect I am entitled to exact from them."
"I am ready to leave your honour's service this instant," said the domestic upon whom the fault had been charged, "as soon as you order payment of my wages."
Sir Arthur, as if stung by a serpent, thrust his hand into his pocket, and instantly drew out the money which it contained, but which was short of the man's claim. "What money have you got, Miss Wardour?" he said, in a tone of affected calmness, but which concealed violent agitation.
Miss Wardour gave him her purse; he attempted to count the bank notes which it contained, but could not reckon them. After twice miscounting the sum, he threw the whole to his daughter, and saying, in a stern voice, "Pay the rascal, and let him leave the house instantly!" he strode out of the room.
The mistress and servant stood alike astonished at the agitation and vehemence of his manner.
"I am sure, ma'am, if I had thought I was particularly wrang, I wadna hae made ony answer when Sir Arthur challenged me. I hae been lang in his service, and he has been a kind master, and you a kind mistress, and I wad like ill ye should think I wad start for a hasty word. I am sure it was very wrang o' me to speak about wages to his honour, when maybe he has something to vex him. I had nae thoughts o' leaving the family in this way."
"Go down stair, Robert," said his mistress—"something has happened to fret my father—go down stairs, and let Alick answer the bell."
When the man left the room, Sir Arthur re-entered, as if he had been watching his departure. "What's the meaning of this?" he said hastily, as he observed the notes lying still on the table—"Is he not gone? Am I neither to be obeyed as a master or a father?"
"He is gone to give up his charge to the housekeeper, sir,—I thought there was not such instant haste."
"There is haste, Miss Wardour," answered her father, interrupting her;—"What I do henceforth in the house of my forefathers, must be done speedily, or never."
He then sate down, and took up with a trembling hand the basin of tea prepared for him, protracting the swallowing of it, as if to delay the necessity of opening the post-letters which lay on the table, and which he eyed from time to time, as if they had been a nest of adders ready to start into life and spring upon him.
"You will be happy to hear," said Miss Wardour, willing to withdraw her father's mind from the gloomy reflections in which he appeared to be plunged, "you will be happy to hear, sir, that Lieutenant Taffril's gun-brig has got safe into Leith Roads—I observe there had been apprehensions for his safety—I am glad we did not hear them till they were contradicted."
"And what is Taffril and his gun-brig to me?"
"Sir!" said Miss Wardour in astonishment; for Sir Arthur, in his ordinary state of mind, took a fidgety sort of interest in all the gossip of the day and country.
"I say," he repeated in a higher and still more impatient key, "what do I care who is saved or lost? It's nothing to me, I suppose?"
"I did not know you were busy, Sir Arthur; and thought, as Mr. Taffril is a brave man, and from our own country, you would be happy to hear"—
"Oh, I am happy—as happy as possible—and, to make you happy too, you shall have some of my good news in return." And he caught up a letter. "It does not signify which I open first—they are all to the same tune."
He broke the seal hastily, ran the letter over, and then threw it to his daughter. "Ay—I could not have lighted more happily!—this places the copestone."
Miss Wardour, in silent terror, took up the letter. "Read it—read it aloud!" said her father; "it cannot be read too often; it will serve to break you in for other good news of the same kind."
She began to read with a faltering voice, "Dear Sir."
"He dears me too, you see, this impudent drudge of a writer's office, who, a twelvemonth since, was not fit company for my second table—I suppose I shall be dear Knight' with him by and by."
"Dear Sir," resumed Miss Wardour; but, interrupting herself, "I see the contents are unpleasant, sir—it will only vex you my reading them aloud."
"If you will allow me to know my own pleasure, Miss Wardour, I entreat you to go on—I presume, if it were unnecessary, I should not ask you to take the trouble."
"Having been of late taken into copartnery," continued Miss Wardour, reading the letter, "by Mr. Gilbert Greenhorn, son of your late correspondent and man of business, Girnigo Greenhorn, Esq., writer to the signet, whose business I conducted as parliament-house clerk for many years, which business will in future be carried on under the firm of Greenhorn and Grinderson (which I memorandum for the sake of accuracy in addressing your future letters), and having had of late favours of yours, directed to my aforesaid partner, Gilbert Greenhorn, in consequence of his absence at the Lamberton races, have the honour to reply to your said favours."
"You see my friend is methodical, and commences by explaining the causes which have procured me so modest and elegant a correspondent. Go on—I can bear it."
And he laughed that bitter laugh which is perhaps the most fearful expression of mental misery. Trembling to proceed, and yet afraid to disobey, Miss Wardour continued to read—"I am for myself and partner, sorry we cannot oblige you by looking out for the sums you mention, or applying for a suspension in the case of Goldiebirds' bond, which would be more inconsistent, as we have been employed to act as the said Goldiebirds' procurators and attorneys, in which capacity we have taken out a charge of horning against you, as you must be aware by the schedule left by the messenger, for the sum of four thousand seven hundred and fifty-six pounds five shillings and sixpence one-fourth of a penny sterling, which, with annual-rent and expenses effeiring, we presume will be settled during the currency of the charge, to prevent further trouble. Same time, I am under the necessity to observe our own account, amounting to seven hundred and sixty-nine pounds ten shillings and sixpence, is also due, and settlement would be agreeable; but as we hold your rights, title-deeds, and documents in hypothec, shall have no objection to give reasonable time—say till the next money term. I am, for myself and partner, concerned to add, that Messrs. Goldiebirds' instructions to us are to proceed peremptorie and sine mora, of which I have the pleasure to advise you, to prevent future mistakes, reserving to ourselves otherwise to age' as accords. I am, for self and partner, dear sir, your obliged humble servant, Gabriel Grinderson, for Greenhorn and Grinderson."
"Ungrateful villain!" said Miss Wardour.
"Why, no—it's in the usual rule, I suppose; the blow could not have been perfect if dealt by another hand—it's all just as it should be," answered the poor Baronet, his affected composure sorely belied by his quivering lip and rolling eye—"But here's a postscript I did not notice—come, finish the epistle."
"I have to add (not for self but partner) that Mr. Greenhorn will accommodate you by taking your service of plate, or the bay horses, if sound in wind and limb, at a fair appreciation, in part payment of your accompt."
"G—d confound him!" said Sir Arthur, losing all command of himself at this condescending proposal: "his grandfather shod my father's horses, and this descendant of a scoundrelly blacksmith proposes to swindle me out of mine! But I will write him a proper answer."
And he sate down and began to write with great vehemence, then stopped and read aloud:—"Mr. Gilbert Greenhorn,—in answer to two letters of a late date, I received a letter from a person calling himself Grinderson, and designing himself as your partner. When I address any one, I do not usually expect to be answered by deputy—I think I have been useful to your father, and friendly and civil to yourself, and therefore am now surprised—And yet," said he, stopping short, "why should I be surprised at that or anything else? or why should I take up my time in writing to such a scoundrel?—I shan't be always kept in prison, I suppose; and to break that puppy's bones when I get out, shall be my first employment."
"In prison, sir?" said Miss Wardour, faintly.
"Ay, in prison to be sure. Do you make any question about that? Why, Mr. what's his name's fine letter for self and partner seems to be thrown away on you, or else you have got four thousand so many hundred pounds, with the due proportion of shillings, pence, and half-pence, to pay that aforesaid demand, as he calls it."
"I, sir? O if I had the means!—But where's my brother?—why does he not come, and so long in Scotland? He might do something to assist us."
"Who, Reginald?—I suppose he's gone with Mr. Gilbert Greenhorn, or some such respectable person, to the Lamberton races—I have expected him this week past; but I cannot wonder that my children should neglect me as well as every other person. But I should beg your pardon, my love, who never either neglected or offended me in your life."
And kissing her cheek as she threw her arms round his neck, he experienced that consolation which a parent feels, even in the most distressed state, in the assurance that he possesses the affection of a child.
Miss Wardour took the advantage of this revulsion of feeling, to endeavour to soothe her father's mind to composure. She reminded him that he had many friends.
"I had many once," said Sir Arthur; "but of some I have exhausted their kindness with my frantic projects; others are unable to assist me—others are unwilling. It is all over with me. I only hope Reginald will take example by my folly."
"Should I not send to Monkbarns, sir?" said his daughter.
"To what purpose? He cannot lend me such a sum, and would not if he could, for he knows I am otherwise drowned in debt; and he would only give me scraps of misanthropy and quaint ends of Latin."
"But he is shrewd and sensible, and was bred to business, and, I am sure, always loved this family."
"Yes, I believe he did. It is a fine pass we are come to, when the affection of an Oldbuck is of consequence to a Wardour! But when matters come to extremity, as I suppose they presently will—it may be as well to send for him. And now go take your walk, my dear—my mind is more composed than when I had this cursed disclosure to make. You know the worst, and may daily or hourly expect it. Go take your walk—I would willingly be alone for a little while."
When Miss Wardour left the apartment, her first occupation was to avail herself of the half permission granted by her father, by despatching to Monkbarns the messenger, who, as we have already seen, met the Antiquary and his nephew on the sea-beach.
Little recking, and indeed scarce knowing, where she was wandering, chance directed her into the walk beneath the Briery Bank, as it was called. A brook, which in former days had supplied the castle-moat with water, here descended through a narrow dell, up which Miss Wardour's taste had directed a natural path, which was rendered neat and easy of ascent, without the air of being formally made and preserved. It suited well the character of the little glen, which was overhung with thickets and underwood, chiefly of larch and hazel, intermixed with the usual varieties of the thorn and brier. In this walk had passed that scene of explanation between Miss Wardour and Lovel which was overheard by old Edie Ochiltree. With a heart softened by the distress which approached her family, Miss Wardour now recalled every word and argument which Lovel had urged in support of his suit, and could not help confessing to herself, it was no small subject of pride to have inspired a young man of his talents with a passion so strong and disinterested. That he should have left the pursuit of a profession in which he was said to be rapidly rising, to bury himself in a disagreeable place like Fairport, and brood over an unrequited passion, might be ridiculed by others as romantic, but was naturally forgiven as an excess of affection by the person who was the object of his attachment. Had he possessed an independence, however moderate, or ascertained a clear and undisputed claim to the rank in society he was well qualified to adorn, she might now have had it in her power to offer her father, during his misfortunes, an asylum in an establishment of her own. These thoughts, so favourable to the absent lover, crowded in, one after the other, with such a minute recapitulation of his words, looks, and actions, as plainly intimated that his former repulse had been dictated rather by duty than inclination. Isabella was musing alternately upon this subject, and upon that of her father's misfortunes, when, as the path winded round a little hillock covered with brushwood, the old Blue-Gown suddenly met her.
With an air as if he had something important and mysterious to communicate, he doffed his bonnet, and assumed the cautious step and voice of one who would not willingly be overheard. "I hae been wishing muckle to meet wi' your leddyship—for ye ken I darena come to the house for Dousterswivel."
"I heard indeed," said Miss Wardour, dropping an alms into the bonnet—"I heard that you had done a very foolish, if not a very bad thing, Edie— and I was sorry to hear it."
"Hout, my bonny leddy—fulish? A' the world's fules—and how should auld Edie Ochiltree be aye wise?—And for the evil—let them wha deal wi' Dousterswivel tell whether he gat a grain mair than his deserts."
"That may be true, Edie, and yet," said Miss Wardour, "you may have been very wrong."
"Weel, weel, we'se no dispute that e'ennow—it's about yoursell I'm gaun to speak. Div ye ken what's hanging ower the house of Knockwinnock?"
"Great distress, I fear, Edie," answered Miss Wardour; "but I am surprised it is already so public."
"Public!—Sweepclean, the messenger, will be there the day wi' a' his tackle. I ken it frae ane o' his concurrents, as they ca' them, that's warned to meet him; and they'll be about their wark belyve; whare they clip, there needs nae kame—they shear close eneugh."
"Are you sure this bad hour, Edie, is so very near?—come, I know, it will."
"It's e'en as I tell you, leddy. But dinna be cast down—there's a heaven ower your head here, as weel as in that fearful night atween the Ballyburghness and the Halket-head. D'ye think He, wha rebuked the waters, canna protect you against the wrath of men, though they be armed with human authority?"
"It is indeed all we have to trust to."
"Ye dinna ken—ye dinna ken: when the night's darkest, the dawn's nearest. If I had a gude horse, or could ride him when I had him, I reckon there wad be help yet. I trusted to hae gotten a cast wi' the Royal Charlotte, but she's coupit yonder, it's like, at Kittlebrig. There was a young gentleman on the box, and he behuved to drive; and Tam Sang, that suld hae mair sense, he behuved to let him, and the daft callant couldna tak the turn at the corner o' the brig; and od! he took the curbstane, and he's whomled her as I wad whomle a toom bicker—it was a luck I hadna gotten on the tap o' her. Sae I came down atween hope and despair, to see if ye wad send me on."
"And, Edie—where would ye go?" said the young lady.
"To Tannonburgh, my leddy" (which was the first stage from Fairport, but a good deal nearer to Knockwinnock), "and that without delay—it's a' on your ain business."
"Our business, Edie? Alas! I give you all credit for your good meaning; but"—
"There's nae buts about it, my leddy, for gang I maun," said the persevering Blue-Gown.
"But what is it that you would do at Tannonburgh?—or how can your going there benefit my father's affairs?"
"Indeed, my sweet leddy," said the gaberlunzie, "ye maun just trust that bit secret to auld Edie's grey pow, and ask nae questions about it. Certainly if I wad hae wared my life for you yon night, I can hae nae reason to play an ill pliskie t'ye in the day o' your distress."
"Well, Edie, follow me then," said Miss Wardour, "and I will try to get you sent to Tannonburgh."
"Mak haste then, my bonny leddy—mak haste, for the love o' goodness!"— and he continued to exhort her to expedition until they reached the Castle.
Let those go see who will—I like it not— For, say he was a slave to rank and pomp, And all the nothings he is now divorced from By the hard doom of stern necessity: Yet it is sad to mark his altered brow, Where Vanity adjusts her flimsy veil O'er the deep wrinkles of repentant anguish. Old Play.
When Miss Wardour arrived in the court of the Castle, she was apprized by the first glance that the visit of the officers of the law had already taken place. There was confusion, and gloom and sorrow, and curiosity among the domestics, while the retainers of the law went from place to place, making an inventory of the goods and chattels falling under their warrant of distress, or poinding, as it is called in the law of Scotland. Captain M'Intyre flew to her, as, struck dumb with the melancholy conviction of her father's ruin, she paused upon the threshold of the gateway.
"Dear Miss Wardour," he said, "do not make yourself uneasy; my uncle is coming immediately, and I am sure he will find some way to clear the house of these rascals."
"Alas! Captain M'Intyre, I fear it will be too late."
"No," answered Edie, impatiently—"could I but get to Tannonburgh. In the name of Heaven, Captain, contrive some way to get me on, and ye'll do this poor ruined family the best day's doing that has been done them since Redhand's days—for as sure as e'er an auld saw came true, Knockwinnock house and land will be lost and won this day."
"Why, what good can you do, old man?" said Hector.
But Robert, the domestic with whom Sir Arthur had been so much displeased in the morning, as if he had been watching for an opportunity to display his zeal, stepped hastily forward and said to his mistress, "If you please, ma'am, this auld man, Ochiltree, is very skeely and auld-farrant about mony things, as the diseases of cows and horse, and sic like, and I am sure be disna want to be at Tannonburgh the day for naething, since he insists on't this gate; and, if your leddyship pleases, I'll drive him there in the taxed-cart in an hour's time. I wad fain be of some use—I could bite my very tongue out when I think on this morning."
"I am obliged to you, Robert," said Miss Wardour; "and if you really think it has the least chance of being useful"—
"In the name of God," said the old man, "yoke the cart, Robie, and if I am no o' some use, less or mair, I'll gie ye leave to fling me ower Kittlebrig as ye come back again. But, O man, haste ye, for time's precious this day."
Robert looked at his mistress as she retired into the house, and seeing he was not prohibited, flew to the stable-yard, which was adjacent to the court, in order to yoke the, carriage; for, though an old beggar was the personage least likely to render effectual assistance in a case of pecuniary distress, yet there was among the common people of Edie's circle, a general idea of his prudence and sagacity, which authorized Robert's conclusion that he would not so earnestly have urged the necessity of this expedition had he not been convinced of its utility. But so soon as the servant took hold of a horse to harness him for the taxed-cart, an officer touched him on the shoulder—"My friend, you must let that beast alone—he's down in the schedule."
"What!" said Robert, "am I not to take my master's horse to go my young leddy's errand?"
"You must remove nothing here," said the man of office, "or you will be liable for all consequences."
"What the devil, sir," said Hector, who having followed to examine Ochiltree more closely on the nature of his hopes and expectations, already began to bristle like one of the terriers of his own native mountains, and sought but a decent pretext for venting his displeasure, "have you the impudence to prevent the young lady's servant from obeying her orders?"
There was something in the air and tone of the young soldier, which seemed to argue that his interference was not likely to be confined to mere expostulation; and which, if it promised finally the advantages of a process of battery and deforcement, would certainly commence with the unpleasant circumstances necessary for founding such a complaint. The legal officer, confronted with him of the military, grasped with one doubtful hand the greasy bludgeon which was to enforce his authority, and with the other produced his short official baton, tipped with silver, and having a movable ring upon it—"Captain M'Intyre,—Sir, I have no quarrel with you,—but if you interrupt me in my duty, I will break the wand of peace, and declare myself deforced."
"And who the devil cares," said Hector, totally ignorant of the words of judicial action, "whether you declare yourself divorced or married? And as to breaking your wand, or breaking the peace, or whatever you call it, all I know is, that I will break your bones if you prevent the lad from harnessing the horses to obey his mistress's orders."
"I take all who stand here to witness," said the messenger, "that I showed him my blazon, and explained my character. He that will to Cupar maun to Cupar,"—and he slid his enigmatical ring from one end of the baton to the other, being the appropriate symbol of his having been forcibly interrupted in the discharge of his duty.
Honest Hector, better accustomed to the artillery of the field than to that of the law, saw this mystical ceremony with great indifference; and with like unconcern beheld the messenger sit down to write out an execution of deforcement. But at this moment, to prevent the well-meaning hot-headed Highlander from running the risk of a severe penalty, the Antiquary arrived puffing and blowing, with his handkerchief crammed under his hat, and his wig upon the end of his stick.
"What the deuce is the matter here?" he exclaimed, hastily adjusting his head-gear; "I have been following you in fear of finding your idle loggerhead knocked against one rock or other, and here I find you parted with your Bucephalus, and quarrelling with Sweepclean. A messenger, Hector, is a worse foe than a phoca, whether it be the phoca barbata, or the phoca vitulina of your late conflict."
"D—n the phoca, sir," said Hector, "whether it be the one or the other—I say d—n them both particularly! I think you would not have me stand quietly by and see a scoundrel like this, because he calls himself a king's messenger, forsooth—(I hope the king has many better for his meanest errands)—insult a young lady of family and fashion like Miss Wardour?"
"Rightly argued, Hector," said the Antiquary; "but the king, like other people, has now and then shabby errands, and, in your ear, must have shabby fellows to do them. But even supposing you unacquainted with the statutes of William the Lion, in which capite quarto versu quinto, this crime of deforcement is termed despectus Domini Regis—a contempt, to wit, of the king himself, in whose name all legal diligence issues,— could you not have inferred, from the information I took so much pains to give you to-day, that those who interrupt officers who come to execute letters of caption, are tanquam participes criminis rebellionis? seeing that he who aids a rebel, is himself, quodammodo, an accessory to rebellion—But I'll bring you out of this scrape."
He then spoke to the messenger, who, upon his arrival, had laid aside all thoughts of making a good by-job out of the deforcement, and accepted Mr. Oldbuck's assurances that the horse and taxed-cart should be safely returned in the course of two or three hours.
"Very well, sir," said the Antiquary, "since you are disposed to be so civil, you shall have another job in your own best way—a little cast of state politics—a crime punishable per Legem Juliam, Mr. Sweepclean— Hark thee hither."
And after a whisper of five minutes, he gave him a slip of paper, on receiving which, the messenger mounted his horse, and, with one of his assistants, rode away pretty sharply. The fellow who remained seemed to delay his operations purposely, proceeded in the rest of his duty very slowly, and with the caution and precision of one who feels himself overlooked by a skilful and severe inspector.
In the meantime, Oldbuck, taking his nephew by the arm, led him into the house, and they were ushered into the presence of Sir Arthur Wardour, who, in a flutter between wounded pride, agonized apprehension, and vain attempts to disguise both under a show of indifference, exhibited a spectacle of painful interest.
"Happy to see you, Mr. Oldbuck—always happy to see my friends in fair weather or foul," said the poor Baronet, struggling not for composure, but for gaiety—an affectation which was strongly contrasted by the nervous and protracted grasp of his hand, and the agitation of his whole demeanour—"I am happy to see you. You are riding, I see—I hope in this confusion your horses are taken good care of—I always like to have my friend's horses looked after—Egad! they will have all my care now, for you see they are like to leave me none of my own—he! he! he! eh, Mr. Oldbuck?"
This attempt at a jest was attended by a hysterical giggle, which poor Sir Arthur intended should sound as an indifferent laugh.
"You know I never ride, Sir Arthur," said the Antiquary.
"I beg your pardon; but sure I saw your nephew arrive on horseback a short time since. We must look after officers' horses, and his was as handsome a grey charger as I have seen."
Sir Arthur was about to ring the bell, when Mr. Oldbuck said, "My nephew came on your own grey horse, Sir Arthur."
"Mine!" said the poor Baronet; "mine was it? then the sun had been in my eyes. Well, I'm not worthy having a horse any longer, since I don't know my own when I see him."
"Good Heaven!" thought Oldbuck, "how is this man altered from the formal stolidity of his usual manner!—he grows wanton under adversity—Sed pereunti mille figurae."—He then proceeded aloud—"Sir Arthur, we must necessarily speak a little on business."
"To be sure," said Sir Arthur; "but it was so good that I should not know the horse I have ridden these five years—ha! ha! ha!"
"Sir Arthur," said the Antiquary, "don't let us waste time which is precious; we shall have, I hope, many better seasons for jesting— desipere in loco is the maxim of Horace. I more than suspect this has been brought on by the villany of Dousterswivel."
"Don't mention his name, sir!" said Sir Arthur; and his manner entirely changed from a fluttered affectation of gaiety to all the agitation of fury; his eyes sparkled, his mouth foamed, his hands were clenched— "don't mention his name, sir," he vociferated, "unless you would see me go mad in your presence! That I should have been such a miserable dolt— such an infatuated idiot—such a beast endowed with thrice a beast's stupidity, to be led and driven and spur-galled by such a rascal, and under such ridiculous pretences!—Mr. Oldbuck, I could tear myself when I think of it."
"I only meant to say," answered the Antiquary, "that this fellow is like to meet his reward; and I cannot but think we shall frighten something out of him that may be of service to you. He has certainly had some unlawful correspondence on the other side of the water."
"Has he?—has he?—has he indeed?—then d—n the house-hold goods, horses, and so forth—I will go to prison a happy man, Mr. Oldbuck. I hope in heaven there's a reasonable chance of his being hanged?"
"Why, pretty fair," said Oldbuck, willing to encourage this diversion, in hopes it might mitigate the feelings which seemed like to overset the poor man's understanding; "honester men have stretched a rope, or the law has been sadly cheated—But this unhappy business of yours—can nothing be done? Let me see the charge."
He took the papers; and, as he read them, his countenance grew hopelessly dark and disconsolate. Miss Wardour had by this time entered the apartment, and fixing her eyes on Mr. Oldbuck, as if she meant to read her fate in his looks, easily perceived, from the change in his eye, and the dropping of his nether-jaw, how little was to be hoped.
"We are then irremediably ruined, Mr. Oldbuck?" said the young lady.
"Irremediably?—I hope not—but the instant demand is very large, and others will, doubtless, pour in."
"Ay, never doubt that, Monkbarns," said Sir Arthur; "where the slaughter is, the eagles will be gathered together. I am like a sheep which I have seen fall down a precipice, or drop down from sickness—if you had not seen a single raven or hooded crow for a fortnight before, he will not lie on the heather ten minutes before half-a-dozen will be picking out his eyes (and he drew his hand over his own), and tearing at his heartstrings before the poor devil has time to die. But that d—d long-scented vulture that dogged me so long—you have got him fast, I hope?"
"Fast enough," said the Antiquary; "the gentleman wished to take the wings of the morning, and bolt in the what d'ye call it,—the coach and four there. But he would have found twigs limed for him at Edinburgh. As it is, he never got so far, for the coach being overturned—as how could it go safe with such a Jonah?—he has had an infernal tumble, is carried into a cottage near Kittlebrig, and to prevent all possibility of escape, I have sent your friend Sweepclean to bring him back to Fairport in nomine regis, or to act as his sick-nurse at Kittlebrig, as is most fitting. And now, Sir Arthur, permit me to have some conversation with you on the present unpleasant state of your affairs, that we may see what can be done for their extrication;" and the Antiquary led the way into the library, followed by the unfortunate gentleman.
They had been shut up together for about two hours, when Miss Wardour interrupted them with her cloak on as if prepared for a journey. Her countenance was very pale, yet expressive of the composure which characterized her disposition.
"The messenger is returned, Mr. Oldbuck."
"Returned?—What the devil! he has not let the fellow go?"
"No—I understand he has carried him to confinement; and now he is returned to attend my father, and says he can wait no longer."
A loud wrangling was now heard on the staircase, in which the voice of Hector predominated. "You an officer, sir, and these ragamuffins a party! a parcel of beggarly tailor fellows—tell yourselves off by nine, and we shall know your effective strength."
The grumbling voice of the man of law was then heard indistinctly muttering a reply, to which Hector retorted—"Come, come, sir, this won't do;—march your party, as you call them, out of this house directly, or I'll send you and them to the right about presently."
"The devil take Hector," said the Antiquary, hastening to the scene of action; "his Highland blood is up again, and we shall have him fighting a duel with the bailiff. Come, Mr. Sweepclean, you must give us a little time—I know you would not wish to hurry Sir Arthur."
"By no means, sir," said the messenger, putting his hat off, which he had thrown on to testify defiance of Captain M'Intyre's threats; "but your nephew, sir, holds very uncivil language, and I have borne too much of it already; and I am not justified in leaving my prisoner any longer after the instructions I received, unless I am to get payment of the sums contained in my diligence." And he held out the caption, pointing with the awful truncheon, which he held in his right hand, to the formidable line of figures jotted upon the back thereof.
Hector, on the other hand, though silent from respect to his uncle, answered this gesture by shaking his clenched fist at the messenger with a frown of Highland wrath.
"Foolish boy, be quiet," said Oldbuck, "and come with me into the room— the man is doing his miserable duty, and you will only make matters worse by opposing him.—I fear, Sir Arthur, you must accompany this man to Fairport; there is no help for it in the first instance—I will accompany you, to consult what further can be done—My nephew will escort Miss Wardour to Monkbarns, which I hope she will make her residence until these unpleasant matters are settled."
"I go with my father, Mr. Oldbuck," said Miss Wardour firmly—"I have prepared his clothes and my own—I suppose we shall have the use of the carriage?"
"Anything in reason, madam," said the messenger; "I have ordered it out, and it's at the door—I will go on the box with the coachman—I have no desire to intrude—but two of the concurrents must attend on horseback."
"I will attend too," said Hector, and he ran down to secure a horse for himself.
"We must go then," said the Antiquary.
"To jail," said the Baronet, sighing involuntarily. "And what of that?" he resumed, in a tone affectedly cheerful—"it is only a house we can't get out of, after all—Suppose a fit of the gout, and Knockwinnock would be the same—Ay, ay, Monkbarns—we'll call it a fit of the gout without the d—d pain."
But his eyes swelled with tears as he spoke, and his faltering accent marked how much this assumed gaiety cost him. The Antiquary wrung his hand, and, like the Indian Banians, who drive the real terms of an important bargain by signs, while they are apparently talking of indifferent matters, the hand of Sir Arthur, by its convulsive return of the grasp, expressed his sense of gratitude to his friend, and the real state of his internal agony.—They stepped slowly down the magnificent staircase—every well-known object seeming to the unfortunate father and daughter to assume a more prominent and distinct appearance than usual, as if to press themselves on their notice for the last time.
At the first landing-place, Sir Arthur made an agonized pause; and as he observed the Antiquary look at him anxiously, he said with assumed dignity—"Yes, Mr. Oldbuck, the descendant of an ancient line—the representative of Richard Redhand and Gamelyn de Guardover, may be pardoned a sigh when he leaves the castle of his fathers thus poorly escorted. When I was sent to the Tower with my late father, in the year 1745, it was upon a charge becoming our birth—upon an accusation of high treason, Mr. Oldbuck;—we were escorted from Highgate by a troop of life-guards, and committed upon a secretary of state's warrant; and now, here I am, in my old age, dragged from my household by a miserable creature like that" (pointing to the messenger), "and for a paltry concern of pounds, shillings, and pence."
"At least," said Oldbuck, "you have now the company of a dutiful daughter, and a sincere friend, if you will permit me to say so, and that may be some consolation, even without the certainty that there can be no hanging, drawing, or quartering, on the present occasion. But I hear that choleric boy as loud as ever. I hope to God he has got into no new broil!—it was an accursed chance that brought him here at all."
In fact, a sudden clamour, in which the loud voice and somewhat northern accent of Hector was again preeminently distinguished, broke off this conversation. The cause we must refer to the next CHAPTER.
Fortune, you say, flies from us—She but circles, Like the fleet sea-bird round the fowler's skiff,— Lost in the mist one moment, and the next Brushing the white sail with her whiter wing, As if to court the aim.—Experience watches, And has her on the wheel— Old Play.
The shout of triumph in Hector's warlike tones was not easily distinguished from that of battle. But as he rushed up stairs with a packet in his hand, exclaiming, "Long life to an old soldier! here comes Edie with a whole budget of good news!" it became obvious that his present cause of clamour was of an agreeable nature. He delivered the letter to Oldbuck, shook Sir Arthur heartily by the hand, and wished Miss Wardour joy, with all the frankness of Highland congratulation. The messenger, who had a kind of instinctive terror for Captain M'Intyre, drew towards his prisoner, keeping an eye of caution on the soldier's motions.
"Don't suppose I shall trouble myself about you, you dirty fellow," said the soldier; "there's a guinea for the fright I have given you; and here comes an old forty-two man, who is a fitter match for you than I am."
The messenger (one of those dogs who are not too scornful to eat dirty puddings) caught in his hand the guinea which Hector chucked at his face; and abode warily and carefully the turn which matters were now to take. All voices meanwhile were loud in inquiries, which no one was in a hurry to answer.
"What is the matter, Captain M'Intyre?" said Sir Arthur.
"Ask old Edie," said Hector;—"I only know all's safe and well."
"What is all this, Edie?" said Miss Wardour to the mendicant.
"Your leddyship maun ask Monkbarns, for he has gotten the yepistolary correspondensh."
"God save the king!" exclaimed the Antiquary at the first glance at the contents of his packet, and, surprised at once out of decorum, philosophy, and phlegm, he skimmed his cocked hat in the air, from which it descended not again, being caught in its fall by a branch of the chandelier. He next, looking joyously round, laid a grasp on his wig, which he perhaps would have sent after the beaver, had not Edie stopped his hand, exclaiming "Lordsake! he's gaun gyte!—mind Caxon's no here to repair the damage."
Every person now assailed the Antiquary, clamouring to know the cause of so sudden a transport, when, somewhat ashamed of his rapture, he fairly turned tail, like a fox at the cry of a pack of hounds, and ascending the stair by two steps at a time, gained the upper landing-place, where, turning round, he addressed the astonished audience as follows:—
"My good friends, favete linguis—To give you information, I must first, according to logicians, be possessed of it myself; and, therefore, with your leaves, I will retire into the library to examine these papers—Sir Arthur and Miss Wardour will have the goodness to step into the parlour—Mr. Sweepclean, secede paulisper, or, in your own language, grant us a supersedere of diligence for five minutes—Hector, draw off your forces, and make your bear-garden flourish elsewhere—and, finally, be all of good cheer till my return, which will be instanter."
The contents of the packet were indeed so little expected, that the Antiquary might be pardoned, first his ecstasy, and next his desire of delaying to communicate the intelligence they conveyed, until it was arranged and digested in his own mind.
Within the envelope was a letter addressed to Jonathan Oldbuck, Esq. of Monkbarns, of the following purport:—
"Dear Sir,—To you, as my father's proved and valued friend, I venture to address myself, being detained here by military duty of a very pressing nature. You must by this time be acquainted with the entangled state of our affairs; and I know it will give you great pleasure to learn, that I am as fortunately as unexpectedly placed in a situation to give effectual assistance for extricating them. I understand Sir Arthur is threatened with severe measures by persons who acted formerly as his agents; and, by advice of a creditable man of business here, I have procured the enclosed writing, which I understand will stop their proceedings until their claim shall be legally discussed, and brought down to its proper amount. I also enclose bills to the amount of one thousand pounds to pay any other pressing demands, and request of your friendship to apply them according to your discretion. You will be surprised I give you this trouble, when it would seem more natural to address my father directly in his own affairs. But I have yet had no assurance that his eyes are opened to the character of a person against whom you have often, I know, warned him, and whose baneful influence has been the occasion of these distresses. And as I owe the means of relieving Sir Arthur to the generosity of a matchless friend, it is my duty to take the most certain measures for the supplies being devoted to the purpose for which they were destined,—and I know your wisdom and kindness will see that it is done. My friend, as he claims an interest in your regard, will explain some views of his own in the enclosed letter. The state of the post-office at Fairport being rather notorious, I must send this letter to Tannonburgh; but the old man Ochiltree, whom particular circumstances have recommended as trustworthy, has information when the packet is likely to reach that place, and will take care to forward it. I expect to have soon an opportunity to apologize in person for the trouble I now give, and have the honour to be your very faithful servant,
"Reginald Gamelyn Wardour." "Edinburgh, 6th August, 179-."
The Antiquary hastily broke the seal of the enclosure, the contents of which gave him equal surprise and pleasure. When he had in some measure composed himself after such unexpected tidings, he inspected the other papers carefully, which all related to business—put the bills into his pocket-book, and wrote a short acknowledgment to be despatched by that day's post, for he was extremely methodical in money matters—and lastly, fraught with all the importance of disclosure, he descended to the parlour.
"Sweepclean," said he, as he entered, to the officer who stood respectfully at the door, "you must sweep yourself clean out of Knockwinnock Castle, with all your followers, tag-rag and bob-tail. Seest thou this paper, man?"
"A sist on a bill o' suspension," said the messenger, with a disappointed look;—"I thought it would be a queer thing if ultimate diligence was to be done against sic a gentleman as Sir Arthur—Weel, sir, I'se go my ways with my party—And who's to pay my charges?"
"They who employed thee," replied Oldbuck, "as thou full well dost know.—But here comes another express: this is a day of news, I think."
This was Mr. Mailsetter on his mare from Fairport, with a letter for Sir Arthur, another to the messenger, both of which, he said, he was directed to forward instantly. The messenger opened his, observing that Greenhorn and Grinderson were good enough men for his expenses, and here was a letter from them desiring him to stop the diligence. Accordingly, he immediately left the apartment, and staying no longer than to gather his posse together, he did then, in the phrase of Hector, who watched his departure as a jealous mastiff eyes the retreat of a repulsed beggar, evacuate Flanders.
Sir Arthur's letter was from Mr. Greenhorn, and a curiosity in its way. We give it, with the worthy Baronet's comments.
"Sir—[Oh! I am dear sir no longer; folks are only dear to Messrs. Greenhorn and Grinderson when they are in adversity]—Sir, I am much concerned to learn, on my return from the country, where I was called on particular business [a bet on the sweepstakes, I suppose], that my partner had the impropriety, in my absence, to undertake the concerns of Messrs. Goldiebirds in preference to yours, and had written to you in an unbecoming manner. I beg to make my most humble apology, as well as Mr. Grindersons—[come, I see he can write for himself and partner too]—and trust it is impossible you can think me forgetful of, or ungrateful for, the constant patronage which my family [his family! curse him for a puppy!] have uniformly experienced from that of Knockwinnock. I am sorry to find, from an interview I had this day with Mr. Wardour, that he is much irritated, and, I must own, with apparent reason. But in order to remedy as much as in me lies the mistake of which he complains [pretty mistake, indeed! to clap his patron into jail], I have sent this express to discharge all proceedings against your person or property; and at the same time to transmit my respectful apology. I have only to add, that Mr. Grinderson is of opinion, that if restored to your confidence, he could point out circumstances connected with Messrs. Goldiebirds' present claim which would greatly reduce its amount [so, so, willing to play the rogue on either side]; and that there is not the slightest hurry in settling the balance of your accompt with us; and that I am, for Mr. G. as well as myself, Dear Sir [O ay, he has written himself into an approach to familiarity], your much obliged and most humble servant,
"Well said, Mr. Gilbert Greenhorn," said Monkbarns; "I see now there is some use in having two attorneys in one firm. Their movements resemble those of the man and woman in a Dutch baby-house. When it is fair weather with the client, out comes the gentleman partner to fawn like a spaniel; when it is foul, forth bolts the operative brother to pin like a bull-dog. Well, I thank God that my man of business still wears an equilateral cocked hat, has a house in the Old Town, is as much afraid of a horse as I am myself, plays at golf of a Saturday, goes to the kirk of a Sunday, and, in respect he has no partner, hath only his own folly to apologize for."
"There are some writers very honest fellows," said Hector; "I should like to hear any one say that my cousin, Donald M'Intyre, Strathtudlem's seventh son (the other six are in the army), is not as honest a fellow"—
"No doubt, no doubt, Hector, all the M'Intyres are so; they have it by patent, man—But I was going to say, that in a profession where unbounded trust is necessarily reposed, there is nothing surprising that fools should neglect it in their idleness, and tricksters abuse it in their knavery. But it is the more to the honour of those (and I will vouch for many) who unite integrity with skill and attention, and walk honourably upright where there are so many pitfalls and stumbling-blocks for those of a different character. To such men their fellow citizens may safely entrust the care of protecting their patrimonial rights, and their country the more sacred charge of her laws and privileges."
"They are best aff, however, that hae least to do with them," said Ochiltree, who had stretched his neck into the parlour door; for the general confusion of the family not having yet subsided, the domestics, like waves after the fall of a hurricane, had not yet exactly regained their due limits, but were roaming wildly through the house.
"Aha, old Truepenny, art thou there?" said the Antiquary. "Sir Arthur, let me bring in the messenger of good luck, though he is but a lame one. You talked of the raven that scented out the slaughter from afar; but here's a blue pigeon (somewhat of the oldest and toughest, I grant) who smelled the good news six or seven miles off, flew thither in the taxed-cart, and returned with the olive branch."
"Ye owe it o' to puir Robie that drave me;—puir fallow," said the beggar, "he doubts he's in disgrace wi' my leddy and Sir Arthur."
Robert's repentant and bashful face was seen over the mendicant's shoulder.
"In disgrace with me?" said Sir Arthur—"how so?"—for the irritation into which he had worked himself on occasion of the toast had been long forgotten. "O, I recollect—Robert, I was angry, and you were wrong;—go about your work, and never answer a master that speaks to you in a passion."
"Nor any one else," said the Antiquary; "for a soft answer turneth away wrath."
"And tell your mother, who is so ill with the rheumatism, to come down to the housekeeper to-morrow," said Miss Wardour, "and we will see what can be of service to her."
"God bless your leddyship," said poor Robert, "and his honour Sir Arthur, and the young laird, and the house of Knockwinnock in a' its branches, far and near!—it's been a kind and gude house to the puir this mony hundred years."
"There"—said the Antiquary to Sir Arthur—"we won't dispute—but there you see the gratitude of the poor people naturally turns to the civil virtues of your family. You don't hear them talk of Redhand, or Hell-in-Harness. For me, I must say, Odi accipitrem qui semper vivit in armis—so let us eat and drink in peace, and be joyful, Sir Knight."
A table was quickly covered in the parlour, where the party sat joyously down to some refreshment. At the request of Oldbuck, Edie Ochiltree was permitted to sit by the sideboard in a great leathern chair, which was placed in some measure behind a screen.
"I accede to this the more readily," said Sir Arthur, "because I remember in my fathers days that chair was occupied by Ailshie Gourlay, who, for aught I know, was the last privileged fool, or jester, maintained by any family of distinction in Scotland."
"Aweel, Sir Arthur," replied the beggar, who never hesitated an instant between his friend and his jest, "mony a wise man sits in a fule's seat, and mony a fule in a wise man's, especially in families o' distinction."
Miss Wardour, fearing the effect of this speech (however worthy of Ailsbie Gourlay, or any other privileged jester) upon the nerves of her father, hastened to inquire whether ale and beef should not be distributed to the servants and people whom the news had assembled round the Castle.
"Surely, my love," said her father; "when was it ever otherwise in our families when a siege had been raised?"
"Ay, a siege laid by Saunders Sweepclean the bailiff, and raised by Edie Ochiltree the gaberlunzie, par nobile fratrum," said Oldbuck, "and well pitted against each other in respectability. But never mind, Sir Arthur— these are such sieges and such reliefs as our time of day admits of—and our escape is not less worth commemorating in a glass of this excellent wine—Upon my credit, it is Burgundy, I think."
"Were there anything better in the cellar," said Miss Wardour, "it would be all too little to regale you after your friendly exertions."
"Say you so?" said the Antiquary: "why, then, a cup of thanks to you, my fair enemy, and soon may you be besieged as ladies love best to be, and sign terms of capitulation in the chapel of Saint Winnox!"
Miss Wardour blushed—Hector coloured, and then grew pale.
Sir Arthur answered, "My daughter is much obliged to you, Monkbarns; but unless you'll accept of her yourself, I really do not know where a poor knight's daughter is to seek for an alliance in these mercenary times."
"Me, mean ye, Sir Arthur? No, not I! I will claim privilege of the duello, and, as being unable to encounter my fair enemy myself, I will appear by my champion—But of this matter hereafter. What do you find in the papers there, Hector, that you hold your head down over them as if your nose were bleeding?"
"Nothing particular, sir; but only that, as my arm is now almost quite well, I think I shall relieve you of my company in a day or two, and go to Edinburgh. I see Major Neville is arrived there. I should like to see him."
"Major whom?" said his uncle.
"Major Neville, sir," answered the young soldier.
"And who the devil is Major Neville?" demanded the Antiquary.
"O, Mr. Oldbuck," said Sir Arthur, "you must remember his name frequently in the newspapers—a very distinguished young officer indeed. But I am happy to say that Mr. M'Intyre need not leave Monkbarns to see him, for my son writes that the Major is to come with him to Knockwinnock, and I need not say how happy I shall be to make the young gentlemen acquainted,—unless, indeed, they are known to each other already."
"No, not personally," answered Hector, "but I have had occasion to hear a good deal of him, and we have several mutual friends—your son being one of them. But I must go to Edinburgh; for I see my uncle is beginning to grow tired of me, and I am afraid"—
"That you will grow tired of him?" interrupted Oldbuck,—"I fear that's past praying for. But you have forgotten that the ecstatic twelfth of August approaches, and that you are engaged to meet one of Lord Glenallan's gamekeepers, God knows where, to persecute the peaceful feathered creation."
"True, true, uncle—I had forgot that," exclaimed the volatile Hector; "but you said something just now that put everything out of my head."
"An it like your honours," said old Edie, thrusting his white head from behind the screen, where he had been plentifully regaling himself with ale and cold meat—"an it like your honours, I can tell ye something that will keep the Captain wi' us amaist as weel as the pouting—Hear ye na the French are coming?"
"The French, you blockhead?" answered Oldbuck—"Bah!"
"I have not had time," said Sir Arthur Wardour, "to look over my lieutenancy correspondence for the week—indeed, I generally make a rule to read it only on Wednesdays, except in pressing cases,—for I do everything by method; but from the glance I took of my letters, I observed some alarm was entertained."
"Alarm?" said Edie, "troth there's alarm, for the provost's gar'd the beacon light on the Halket-head be sorted up (that suld hae been sorted half a year syne) in an unco hurry, and the council hae named nae less a man than auld Caxon himsell to watch the light. Some say it was out o' compliment to Lieutenant Taffril,—for it's neist to certain that he'll marry Jenny Caxon,—some say it's to please your honour and Monkbarns that wear wigs—and some say there's some auld story about a periwig that ane o' the bailies got and neer paid for—Onyway, there he is, sitting cockit up like a skart upon the tap o' the craig, to skirl when foul weather comes."
"On mine honour, a pretty warder," said Monkbarns; "and what's my wig to do all the while?"
"I asked Caxon that very question," answered Ochiltree, "and he said he could look in ilka morning, and gie't a touch afore he gaed to his bed, for there's another man to watch in the day-time, and Caxon says he'll friz your honour's wig as weel sleeping as wauking."
This news gave a different turn to the conversation, which ran upon national defence, and the duty of fighting for the land we live in, until it was time to part. The Antiquary and his nephew resumed their walk homeward, after parting from Knockwinnock with the warmest expressions of mutual regard, and an agreement to meet again as soon as possible.
Nay, if she love me not, I care not for her: Shall I look pale because the maiden blooms Or sigh because she smiles, and smiles on others Not I, by Heaven!—I hold my peace too dear, To let it, like the plume upon her cap, Shake at each nod that her caprice shall dictate. Old Play.
"Hector," said his uncle to Captain M'Intyre, in the course of their walk homeward, "I am sometimes inclined to suspect that, in one respect, you are a fool."
"If you only think me so in one respect, sir, I am sure you do me more grace than I expected or deserve."
"I mean in one particular par excellence," answered the Antiquary. "I have sometimes thought that you have cast your eyes upon Miss Wardour."
"Well, sir," said M'Intyre, with much composure.
"Well, sir," echoed his uncle—"Deuce take the fellow! he answers me as if it were the most reasonable thing in the world, that he, a captain in the army, and nothing at all besides, should marry the daughter of a baronet."
"I presume to think, sir," said the young Highlander, "there would be no degradation on Miss Wardour's part in point of family."
"O, Heaven forbid we should come on that topic!—No, no, equal both—both on the table-land of gentility, and qualified to look down on every roturier in Scotland."
"And in point of fortune we are pretty even, since neither of us have got any," continued Hector. "There may be an error, but I cannot plead guilty to presumption."
"But here lies the error, then, if you call it so," replied his uncle: "she won't have you, Hector."
"It is very sure, Hector; and to make it double sure, I must inform you that she likes another man. She misunderstood some words I once said to her, and I have since been able to guess at the interpretation she put on them. At the time I was unable to account for her hesitation and blushing; but, my poor Hector, I now understand them as a death-signal to your hopes and pretensions. So I advise you to beat your retreat and draw off your forces as well as you can, for the fort is too well garrisoned for you to storm it."
"I have no occasion to beat any retreat, uncle," said Hector, holding himself very upright, and marching with a sort of dogged and offended solemnity; "no man needs to retreat that has never advanced. There are women in Scotland besides Miss Wardour, of as good family"—
"And better taste," said his uncle; "doubtless there are, Hector; and though I cannot say but that she is one of the most accomplished as well as sensible girls I have seen, yet I doubt, much of her merit would be cast away on you. A showy figure, now, with two cross feathers above her noddle—one green, one blue; who would wear a riding-habit of the regimental complexion, drive a gig one day, and the next review the regiment on the grey trotting pony which dragged that vehicle, hoc erat in votis;—these are the qualities that would subdue you, especially if she had a taste for natural history, and loved a specimen of a phoca."
"It's a little hard, sir," said Hector, "I must have that cursed seal thrown into my face on all occasions—but I care little about it—and I shall not break my heart for Miss Wardour. She is free to choose for herself, and I wish her all happiness."
"Magnanimously resolved, thou prop of Troy! Why, Hector, I was afraid of a scene. Your sister told me you were desperately in love with Miss Wardour."
"Sir," answered the young man, "you would not have me desperately in love with a woman that does not care about me?"
"Well, nephew," said the Antiquary, more seriously, "there is doubtless much sense in what you say; yet I would have given a great deal, some twenty or twenty-five years since, to have been able to think as you do."
"Anybody, I suppose, may think as they please on such subjects," said Hector.
"Not according to the old school," said Oldbuck; "but, as I said before, the practice of the modern seems in this case the most prudential, though, I think, scarcely the most interesting. But tell me your ideas now on this prevailing subject of an invasion. The cry is still, They come."
Hector, swallowing his mortification, which he was peculiarly anxious to conceal from his uncle's satirical observation, readily entered into a conversation which was to turn the Antiquary's thoughts from Miss Wardour and the seal. When they reached Monkbarns, the communicating to the ladies the events which had taken place at the castle, with the counter-information of how long dinner had waited before the womankind had ventured to eat it in the Antiquary's absence, averted these delicate topics of discussion.
The next morning the Antiquary arose early, and, as Caxon had not yet made his appearance, he began mentally to feel the absence of the petty news and small talk of which the ex-peruquier was a faithful reporter, and which habit had made as necessary to the Antiquary as his occasional pinch of snuff, although he held, or affected to hold, both to be of the same intrinsic value. The feeling of vacuity peculiar to such a deprivation, was alleviated by the appearance of old Ochiltree, sauntering beside the clipped yew and holly hedges, with the air of a person quite at home. Indeed, so familiar had he been of late, that even Juno did not bark at him, but contented herself with watching him with a close and vigilant eye. Our Antiquary stepped out in his night-gown, and instantly received and returned his greeting.
"They are coming now, in good earnest, Monkbarns. I just cam frae Fairport to bring ye the news, and then I'll step away back again. The Search has just come into the bay, and they say she's been chased by a French fleet.
"The Search?" said Oldbuck, reflecting a moment. "Oho!"
"Ay, ay, Captain Taffril's gun-brig, the Search."
"What? any relation to Search, No. II.?" said Oldbuck, catching at the light which the name of the vessel seemed to throw on the mysterious chest of treasure.
The mendicant, like a man detected in a frolic, put his bonnet before his face, yet could not help laughing heartily.—"The deil's in you, Monkbarns, for garring odds and evens meet. Wha thought ye wad hae laid that and that thegither? Od, I am clean catch'd now."
"I see it all," said Oldbuck, "as plain as the legend on a medal of high preservation—the box in which the' bullion was found belonged to the gun-brig, and the treasure to my phoenix?"—(Edie nodded assent),—"and was buried there that Sir Arthur might receive relief in his difficulties?"
"By me," said Edie, "and twa o' the brig's men—but they didna ken its contents, and thought it some bit smuggling concern o' the Captain's. I watched day and night till I saw it in the right hand; and then, when that German deevil was glowering at the lid o' the kist (they liked mutton weel that licked where the yowe lay), I think some Scottish deevil put it into my head to play him yon ither cantrip. Now, ye see, if I had said mair or less to Bailie Littlejohn, I behoved till hae come out wi' a' this story; and vexed would Mr. Lovel hae been to have it brought to light—sae I thought I would stand to onything rather than that."
"I must say he has chosen his confidant well," said Oldbuck, "though somewhat strangely."
"I'll say this for mysell, Monkbarns," answered the mendicant, "that I am the fittest man in the haill country to trust wi' siller, for I neither want it, nor wish for it, nor could use it if I had it. But the lad hadna muckle choice in the matter, for he thought he was leaving the country for ever (I trust he's mistaen in that though); and the night was set in when we learned, by a strange chance, Sir Arthur's sair distress, and Lovel was obliged to be on board as the day dawned. But five nights afterwards the brig stood into the bay, and I met the boat by appointment, and we buried the treasure where ye fand it."
"This was a very romantic, foolish exploit," said Oldbuck: "why not trust me, or any other friend?"
"The blood o' your sister's son," replied Edie, "was on his hands, and him maybe dead outright—what time had he to take counsel?—or how could he ask it of you, by onybody?"
"You are right. But what if Dousterswivel had come before you?"
"There was little fear o' his coming there without Sir Arthur: he had gotten a sair gliff the night afore, and never intended to look near the place again, unless he had been brought there sting and ling. He ken'd weel the first pose was o' his ain hiding, and how could he expect a second? He just havered on about it to make the mair o' Sir Arthur."
"Then how," said Oldbuck, "should Sir Arthur have come there unless the German had brought him?"
"Umph!" answered Edie drily. "I had a story about Misticot wad hae brought him forty miles, or you either. Besides, it was to be thought he would be for visiting the place he fand the first siller in—he ken'd na the secret o' that job. In short, the siller being in this shape, Sir Arthur in utter difficulties, and Lovel determined he should never ken the hand that helped him,—for that was what he insisted maist upon,—we couldna think o' a better way to fling the gear in his gate, though we simmered it and wintered it e'er sae lang. And if by ony queer mischance Doustercivil had got his claws on't, I was instantly to hae informed you or the Sheriff o' the haill story."
"Well, notwithstanding all these wise precautions, I think your contrivance succeeded better than such a clumsy one deserved, Edie. But how the deuce came Lovel by such a mass of silver ingots?"
"That's just what I canna tell ye—But they were put on board wi' his things at Fairport, it's like, and we stowed them into ane o' the ammunition-boxes o' the brig, baith for concealment and convenience of carriage."
"Lord!" said Oldbuck, his recollection recurring to the earlier part of his acquaintance with Lovel; "and this young fellow, who was putting hundreds on so strange a hazard, I must be recommending a subscription to him, and paying his bill at the Ferry! I never will pay any person's bill again, that's certain.—And you kept up a constant correspondence with Lovel, I suppose?"
"I just gat ae bit scrape o' a pen frae him, to say there wad, as yesterday fell, be a packet at Tannonburgh, wi' letters o' great consequence to the Knockwinnock folk; for they jaloused the opening of our letters at Fairport—And that's a's true; I hear Mrs. Mailsetter is to lose her office for looking after other folk's business and neglecting her ain."
"And what do you expect now, Edie, for being the adviser, and messenger, and guard, and confidential person in all these matters?"
"Deil haet do I expect—excepting that a' the gentles will come to the gaberlunzie's burial; and maybe ye'll carry the head yoursell, as ye did puir Steenie Mucklebackit's.—What trouble was't to me? I was ganging about at ony rate—Oh, but I was blythe when I got out of Prison, though; for I thought, what if that weary letter should come when I am closed up here like an oyster, and a' should gang wrang for want o't? and whiles I thought I maun mak a clean breast and tell you a' about it; but then I couldna weel do that without contravening Mr. Lovel's positive orders; and I reckon he had to see somebody at Edinburgh afore he could do what he wussed to do for Sir Arthur and his family."
"Well, and to your public news, Edie—So they are still coming are they?"
"Troth they say sae, sir; and there's come down strict orders for the forces and volunteers to be alert; and there's a clever young officer to come here forthwith, to look at our means o' defence—I saw the Bailies lass cleaning his belts and white breeks—I gae her a hand, for ye maun think she wasna ower clever at it, and sae I gat a' the news for my pains."
"And what think you, as an old soldier?"
"Troth I kenna—an they come so mony as they speak o', they'll be odds against us. But there's mony yauld chields amang thae volunteers; and I mauna say muckle about them that's no weel and no very able, because I am something that gate mysell—But we'se do our best."
"What! so your martial spirit is rising again, Edie?
Even in our ashes glow their wonted fires!
I would not have thought you, Edie, had so much to fight for?"
"Me no muckle to fight for, sir?—isna there the country to fight for, and the burnsides that I gang daundering beside, and the hearths o'the gudewives that gie me my bit bread, and the bits o' weans that come toddling to play wi' me when I come about a landward town?—Deil!" he continued, grasping his pike-staff with great emphasis, "an I had as gude pith as I hae gude-will, and a gude cause, I should gie some o' them a day's kemping."
"Bravo, bravo, Edie! The country's in little ultimate danger, when the beggar's as ready to fight for his dish as the laird for his land."
Their further conversation reverted to the particulars of the night passed by the mendicant and Lovel in the ruins of St. Ruth; by the details of which the Antiquary was highly amused.
"I would have given a guinea," he said, "to have seen the scoundrelly German under the agonies of those terrors, which it is part of his own quackery to inspire into others; and trembling alternately for the fury of his patron, and the apparition of some hobgoblin."
"Troth," said the beggar, "there was time for him to be cowed; for ye wad hae thought the very spirit of Hell-in-Harness had taken possession o' the body o' Sir Arthur. But what will come o' the land-louper?"
"I have had a letter this morning, from which I understand he has acquitted you of the charge he brought against you, and offers to make such discoveries as will render the settlement of Sir Arthur's affairs a more easy task than we apprehended—So writes the Sheriff; and adds, that he has given some private information of importance to Government, in consideration of which, I understand he will be sent back to play the knave in his own country."
"And a' the bonny engines, and wheels, and the coves, and sheughs, doun at Glenwithershins yonder, what's to come o' them?" said Edie.
"I hope the men, before they are dispersed, will make a bonfire of their gimcracks, as an army destroy their artillery when forced to raise a siege. And as for the holes, Edie, I abandon them as rat-traps, for the benefit of the next wise men who may choose to drop the substance to snatch at a shadow."
"Hech, sirs! guide us a'! to burn the engines? that's a great waste—Had ye na better try to get back part o' your hundred pounds wi' the sale o' the materials?" he continued, with a tone of affected condolence.
"Not a farthing," said the Antiquary, peevishly, taking a turn from him, and making a step or two away. Then returning, half-smiling at his own pettishness, he said, "Get thee into the house, Edie, and remember my counsel, never speak to me about a mine, nor to my nephew Hector about a phoca, that is a sealgh, as you call it."
"I maun be ganging my ways back to Fairport," said the wanderer; "I want to see what they're saying there about the invasion;—but I'll mind what your honour says, no to speak to you about a sealgh, or to the Captain about the hundred pounds that you gied to Douster"—
"Confound thee!—I desired thee not to mention that to me."
"Dear me!" said Edie, with affected surprise; "weel, I thought there was naething but what your honour could hae studden in the way o' agreeable conversation, unless it was about the Praetorian yonder, or the bodle that the packman sauld to ye for an auld coin."
"Pshaw! pshaw!" said the Antiquary, turning from him hastily, and retreating into the house.
The mendicant looked after him a moment, and with a chuckling laugh, such as that with which a magpie or parrot applauds a successful exploit of mischief, he resumed once more the road to Fairport. His habits had given him a sort of restlessness, much increased by the pleasure he took in gathering news; and in a short time he had regained the town which he left in the morning, for no reason that he knew himself, unless just to "hae a bit crack wi' Monkbarns."
Red glared the beacon on Pownell On Skiddaw there were three; The bugle horn on moor and fell Was heard continually. James Hogg.
The watch who kept his watch on the hill, and looked towards Birnam, probably conceived himself dreaming when he first beheld the fated grove put itself into motion for its march to Dunsinane. Even so old Caxon, as perched in his hut, he qualified his thoughts upon the approaching marriage of his daughter, and the dignity of being father-in-law to Lieutenant Taffril, with an occasional peep towards the signal-post with which his own corresponded, was not a little surprised by observing a light in that direction. He rubbed his eyes, looked again, adjusting his observation by a cross-staff which had been placed so as to bear upon the point. And behold, the light increased, like a comet to the eye of the astronomer, "with fear of change perplexing nations."
"The Lord preserve us!" said Caxon, "what's to be done now? But there will be wiser heads than mine to look to that, sae I'se e'en fire the beacon."
And he lighted the beacon accordingly, which threw up to the sky a long wavering train of light, startling the sea-fowl from their nests, and reflected far beneath by the reddening billows of the sea. The brother warders of Caxon being equally diligent, caught, and repeated his signal. The lights glanced on headlands and capes and inland hills, and the whole district was alarmed by the signal of invasion. *
* Note J. Alarms of Invasion.
Our Antiquary, his head wrapped warm in two double night-caps, was quietly enjoying his repose, when it was suddenly broken by the screams of his sister, his niece, and two maid-servants.
"What the devil is the matter?" said he, starting up in his bed— "womankind in my room at this hour of night!—are ye all mad?"
"The beacon, uncle!" said Miss M'Intyre.
"The French coming to murder us!" screamed Miss Griselda.
"The beacon! the beacon!—the French! the French!—murder! murder! and waur than murder!"—cried the two handmaidens, like the chorus of an opera.
"The French?" said Oldbuck, starting up—"get out of the room, womankind that you are, till I get my things on—And hark ye, bring me my sword."
"Whilk o' them, Monkbarns?" cried his sister, offering a Roman falchion of brass with the one hand, and with the other an Andrea Ferrara without a handle.
"The langest, the langest," cried Jenny Rintherout, dragging in a two-handed sword of the twelfth century.
"Womankind," said Oldbuck in great agitation, "be composed, and do not give way to vain terror—Are you sure they are come?"
"Sure, sure!" exclaimed Jenny—"ower sure!—a' the sea fencibles, and the land fencibles, and the volunteers and yeomanry, are on fit, and driving to Fairport as hard as horse and man can gang—and auld Mucklebackit's gane wi' the lave—muckle gude he'll do!—Hech, sirs!—he'll be missed the morn wha wad hae served king and country weel!"
"Give me," said Oldbuck, "the sword which my father wore in the year forty-five—it hath no belt or baldrick—but we'll make shift."
So saying he thrust the weapon through the cover of his breeches pocket. At this moment Hector entered, who had been to a neighbouring height to ascertain whether the alarm was actual.
"Where are your arms, nephew?" exclaimed Oldbuck—"where is your double-barrelled gun, that was never out of your hand when there was no occasion for such vanities?"
"Pooh! pooh! sir," said Hector, "who ever took a fowling-piece on action? I have got my uniform on, you see—I hope I shall be of more use if they will give me a command than I could be with ten double-barrels. And you, sir, must get to Fairport, to give directions for quartering and maintaining the men and horses, and preventing confusion."
"You are right, Hector,—l believe I shall do as much with my head as my hand too. But here comes Sir Arthur Wardour, who, between ourselves, is not fit to accomplish much either one way or the other."
Sir Arthur was probably of a different opinion; for, dressed in his lieutenancy uniform, he was also on the road to Fairport, and called in his way to take Mr. Oldbuck with him, having had his original opinion of his sagacity much confirmed by late events. And in spite of all the entreaties of the womankind that the Antiquary would stay to garrison Monkbarns, Mr. Oldbuck, with his nephew, instantly accepted Sir Arthur's offer.
Those who have witnessed such a scene can alone conceive the state of bustle in Fairport. The windows were glancing with a hundred lights, which, appearing and disappearing rapidly, indicated the confusion within doors. The women of lower rank assembled and clamoured in the market-place. The yeomanry, pouring from their different glens, galloped through the streets, some individually, some in parties of five or six, as they had met on the road. The drums and fifes of the volunteers beating to arms, were blended with the voice of the officers, the sound of the bugles, and the tolling of the bells from the steeple. The ships in the harbour were lit up, and boats from the armed vessels added to the bustle, by landing men and guns destined to assist in the defence of the place. This part of the preparations was superintended by Taffril with much activity. Two or three light vessels had already slipped their cables and stood out to sea, in order to discover the supposed enemy.
Such was the scene of general confusion, when Sir Arthur Wardour, Oldbuck, and Hector, made their way with difficulty into the principal square, where the town-house is situated. It was lighted up, and the magistracy, with many of the neighbouring gentlemen, were assembled. And here, as upon other occasions of the like kind in Scotland, it was remarkable how the good sense and firmness of the people supplied almost all the deficiencies of inexperience.
The magistrates were beset by the quarter-masters of the different corps for billets for men and horses. "Let us," said Bailie Littlejohn, "take the horses into our warehouses, and the men into our parlours—share our supper with the one, and our forage with the other. We have made ourselves wealthy under a free and paternal government, and now is the time to show we know its value."
A loud and cheerful acquiescence was given by all present, and the substance of the wealthy, with the persons of those of all ranks, were unanimously devoted to the defence of the country.
Captain M'Intyre acted on this occasion as military adviser and aide-de-camp to the principal magistrate, and displayed a degree of presence of mind, and knowledge of his profession, totally unexpected by his uncle, who, recollecting his usual insouciance and impetuosity, gazed at him with astonishment from time to time, as he remarked the calm and steady manner in which he explained the various measures of precaution that his experience suggested, and gave directions for executing them. He found the different corps in good order, considering the irregular materials of which they were composed, in great force of numbers and high confidence and spirits. And so much did military experience at that moment overbalance all other claims to consequence, that even old Edie, instead of being left, like Diogenes at Sinope, to roll his tub when all around were preparing for defence, had the duty assigned him of superintending the serving out of the ammunition, which he executed with much discretion.
Two things were still anxiously expected—the presence of the Glenallan volunteers, who, in consideration of the importance of that family, had been formed into a separate corps, and the arrival of the officer before announced, to whom the measures of defence on that coast had been committed by the commander-in-chief, and whose commission would entitle him to take upon himself the full disposal of the military force.
At length the bugles of the Glenallan yeomanry were heard, and the Earl himself, to the surprise of all who knew his habits and state of health, appeared at their head in uniform. They formed a very handsome and well-mounted squadron, formed entirely out of the Earl's Lowland tenants, and were followed by a regiment of five hundred men, completely equipped in the Highland dress, whom he had brought down from the upland glens, with their pipes playing in the van. The clean and serviceable appearance of this band of feudal dependants called forth the admiration of Captain M'Intyre; but his uncle was still more struck by the manner in which, upon this crisis, the ancient military spirit of his house seemed to animate and invigorate the decayed frame of the Earl, their leader. He claimed, and obtained for himself and his followers, the post most likely to be that of danger, displayed great alacrity in making the necessary dispositions, and showed equal acuteness in discussing their propriety. Morning broke in upon the military councils of Fairport, while all concerned were still eagerly engaged in taking precautions for their defence.
At length a cry among the people announced, "There's the brave Major Neville come at last, with another officer;" and their post-chaise and four drove into the square, amidst the huzzas of the volunteers and inhabitants. The magistrates, with their assessors of the lieutenancy, hastened to the door of their town-house to receive him; but what was the surprise of all present, but most especially that of the Antiquary, when they became aware, that the handsome uniform and military cap disclosed the person and features of the pacific Lovel! A warm embrace, and a hearty shake of the hand, were necessary to assure him that his eyes were doing him justice. Sir Arthur was no less surprised to recognise his son, Captain Wardour, in Lovel's, or rather Major Neville's company. The first words of the young officers were a positive assurance to all present, that the courage and zeal which they had displayed were entirely thrown away, unless in so far as they afforded an acceptable proof of their spirit and promptitude.
"The watchman at Halket-head," said Major Neville, "as we discovered by an investigation which we made in our route hither, was most naturally misled by a bonfire which some idle people had made on the hill above Glenwithershins, just in the line of the beacon with which his corresponded."
Oldbuck gave a conscious look to Sir Arthur, who returned it with one equally sheepish, and a shrug of the shoulders,
"It must have been the machinery which we condemned to the flames in our wrath," said the Antiquary, plucking up heart, though not a little ashamed of having been the cause of so much disturbance—"The devil take Dousterswivel with all my heart!—I think he has bequeathed us a legacy of blunders and mischief, as if he had lighted some train of fireworks at his departure. I wonder what cracker will go off next among our shins. But yonder comes the prudent Caxon.—Hold up your head, you ass—your betters must bear the blame for you—And here, take this what-d'ye-call it"—(giving him his sword)—"I wonder what I would have said yesterday to any man that would have told me I was to stick such an appendage to my tail."
Here he found his arm gently pressed by Lord Glenallan, who dragged him into a separate apartment. "For God's sake, who is that young gentleman who is so strikingly like"—
"Like the unfortunate Eveline," interrupted Oldbuck. "I felt my heart warm to him from the first, and your lordship has suggested the very cause."
"But who—who is he?" continued Lord Glenallan, holding the Antiquary with a convulsive grasp.
"Formerly I would have called him Lovel, but now he turns out to be Major Neville."
"Whom my brother brought up as his natural son—whom he made his heir— Gracious Heaven! the child of my Eveline!"
"Hold, my lord—hold!" said Oldbuck, "do not give too hasty way to such a presumption;—what probability is there?"
"Probability? none! There is certainty! absolute certainty! The agent I mentioned to you wrote me the whole story—I received it yesterday, not sooner. Bring him, for God's sake, that a father's eyes may bless him before he departs."
"I will; but for your own sake and his, give him a few moments for preparation."
And, determined to make still farther investigation before yielding his entire conviction to so strange a tale, he sought out Major Neville, and found him expediting the necessary measures for dispersing the force which had been assembled.
"Pray, Major Neville, leave this business for a moment to Captain Wardour and to Hector, with whom, I hope, you are thoroughly reconciled" (Neville laughed, and shook hands with Hector across the table), "and grant me a moment's audience."
"You have a claim on me, Mr. Oldbuck, were my business more urgent," said Neville, "for having passed myself upon you under a false name, and rewarding your hospitality by injuring your nephew."
"You served him as he deserved," said Oldbuck—"though, by the way, he showed as much good sense as spirit to-day—Egad! if he would rub up his learning, and read Caesar and Polybus, and the Stratagemata Polyaeni, I think he would rise in the army—and I will certainly lend him a lift."
"He is heartily deserving of it," said Neville; "and I am glad you excuse me, which you may do the more frankly, when you know that I am so unfortunate as to have no better right to the name of Neville, by which I have been generally distinguished, than to that of Lovel, under which you knew me."
"Indeed! then, I trust, we shall find out one for you to which you shall have a firm and legal title."
"Sir!—I trust you do not think the misfortune of my birth a fit subject"—
"By no means, young man," answered the Antiquary, interrupting him;—"I believe I know more of your birth than you do yourself—and, to convince you of it, you were educated and known as a natural son of Geraldin Neville of Neville's-Burgh, in Yorkshire, and I presume, as his destined heir?"
"Pardon me—no such views were held out to me. I was liberally educated, and pushed forward in the army by money and interest; but I believe my supposed father long entertained some ideas of marriage, though he never carried them into effect."
"You say your supposed father?—What leads you to suppose Mr. Geraldin Neville was not your real father?"
"I know, Mr. Oldbuck, that you would not ask these questions on a point of such delicacy for the gratification of idle curiosity. I will therefore tell you candidly, that last year, while we occupied a small town in French Flanders, I found in a convent, near which I was quartered, a woman who spoke remarkably good English—She was a Spaniard—her name Teresa D'Acunha. In the process of our acquaintance, she discovered who I was, and made herself known to me as the person who had charge of my infancy. She dropped more than one hint of rank to which I was entitled, and of injustice done to me, promising a more full disclosure in case of the death of a lady in Scotland, during whose lifetime she was determined to keep the secret. She also intimated that Mr. Geraldin Neville was not my father. We were attacked by the enemy, and driven from the town, which was pillaged with savage ferocity by the republicans. The religious orders were the particular objects of their hate and cruelty. The convent was burned, and several nuns perished— among others Teresa; and with her all chance of knowing the story of my birth: tragic by all accounts it must have been."
"Raro antecedentem scelestum, or, as I may here say, scelestam," said Oldbuck, "deseruit poena—even Epicureans admitted that. And what did you do upon this?"
"I remonstrated with Mr. Neville by letter, and to no purpose. I then obtained leave of absence, and threw myself at his feet, conjuring him to complete the disclosure which Teresa had begun. He refused, and, on my importunity, indignantly upbraided me with the favours he had already conferred. I thought he abused the power of a benefactor, as he was compelled to admit he had no title to that of a father, and we parted in mutual displeasure. I renounced the name of Neville, and assumed that under which you knew me. It was at this time, when residing with a friend in the north of England who favoured my disguise, that I became acquainted with Miss Wardour, and was romantic enough to follow her to Scotland. My mind wavered on various plans of life, when I resolved to apply once more to Mr. Neville for an explanation of the mystery of my birth. It was long ere I received an answer; you were present when it was put into my hands. He informed me of his bad state of health, and conjured me, for my own sake, to inquire no farther into the nature of his connection with me, but to rest satisfied with his declaring it to be such and so intimate, that he designed to constitute me his heir. When I was preparing to leave Fairport to join him, a second express brought me word that he was no more. The possession of great wealth was unable to suppress the remorseful feelings with which I now regarded my conduct to my benefactor, and some hints in his letter appearing to intimate there was on my birth a deeper stain than that of ordinary illegitimacy, I remembered certain prejudices of Sir Arthur."
"And you brooded over these melancholy ideas until you were ill, instead of coming to me for advice, and telling me the whole story?" said Oldbuck.
"Exactly; then came my quarrel with Captain M'Intyre, and my compelled departure from Fairport and its vicinity."
"From love and from poetry—Miss Wardour and the Caledoniad?"
"And since that time you have been occupied, I suppose, with plans for Sir Arthur's relief?"
"Yes, sir; with the assistance of Captain Wardour at Edinburgh."
"And Edie Ochiltree here—you see I know the whole story. But how came you by the treasure?"
"It was a quantity of plate which had belonged to my uncle, and was left in the custody of a person at Fairport. Some time before his death he had sent orders that it should be melted down. He perhaps did not wish me to see the Glenallan arms upon it."
"Well, Major Neville—or let me say, Lovel, being the name in which I rather delight—you must, I believe, exchange both of your alias's for the style and title of the Honourable William Geraldin, commonly called Lord Geraldin."
The Antiquary then went through the strange and melancholy circumstances concerning his mother's death.
"I have no doubt," he said, "that your uncle wished the report to be believed, that the child of this unhappy marriage was no more—perhaps he might himself have an eye to the inheritance of his brother—he was then a gay wild young man—But of all intentions against your person, however much the evil conscience of Elspeth might lead her to inspect him from the agitation in which he appeared, Teresa's story and your own fully acquit him. And now, my dear sir, let me have the pleasure of introducing a son to a father."
We will not attempt to describe such a meeting. The proofs on all sides were found to be complete, for Mr. Neville had left a distinct account of the whole transaction with his confidential steward in a sealed packet, which was not to be opened until the death of the old Countess; his motive for preserving secrecy so long appearing to have been an apprehension of the effect which the discovery, fraught with so much disgrace, must necessarily produce upon her haughty and violent temper.
In the evening of that day, the yeomanry and volunteers of Glenallan drank prosperity to their young master. In a month afterwards Lord Geraldin was married to Miss Wardour, the Antiquary making the lady a present of the wedding ring—a massy circle of antique chasing, bearing the motto of Aldobrand Oldenbuck, Kunst macht gunst.
Old Edie, the most important man that ever wore a blue gown, bowls away easily from one friend's house to another, and boasts that he never travels unless on a sunny day. Latterly, indeed, he has given some symptoms of becoming stationary, being frequently found in the corner of a snug cottage between Monkbarns and Knockwinnock, to which Caxon retreated upon his daughter's marriage, in order to be in the neighbourhood of the three parochial wigs, which he continues to keep in repair, though only for amusement. Edie has been heard to say, "This is a gey bein place, and it's a comfort to hae sic a corner to sit in in a bad day." It is thought, as he grows stiffer in the joints, he will finally settle there.
The bounty of such wealthy patrons as Lord and Lady Geraldin flowed copiously upon Mrs. Hadoway and upon the Mucklebackits. By the former it was well employed, by the latter wasted. They continue, however, to receive it, but under the administration of Edie Ochiltree; and they do not accept it without grumbling at the channel through which it is conveyed.
Hector is rising rapidly in the army, and has been more than once mentioned in the Gazette, and rises proportionally high in his uncle's favour; and what scarcely pleases the young soldier less, he has also shot two seals, and thus put an end to the Antiquary's perpetual harping upon the story of the phoca.People talk of a marriage between Miss M'Intyre and Captain Wardour; but this wants confirmation.
The Antiquary is a frequent visitor at Knockwinnock and Glenallan House, ostensibly for the sake of completing two essays, one on the mail-shirt of the Great Earl, and the other on the left-hand gauntlet of Hell-in-Harness. He regularly inquires whether Lord Geraldin has commenced the Caledoniad, and shakes his head at the answers he receives.En attendant, however, he has completed his notes, which, we believe, will be at the service of any one who chooses to make them public without risk or expense to THE ANTIQUARY.
Note A, p. #.—Mottoes.
["It was in correcting the proof-sheets of this novel that Scott first took to equipping his chapters with mottoes of his own fabrication. On one occasion he happened to ask John Ballantyne, who was sitting by him, to hunt for a particular passage in Beaumont and Fletcher. John did as he was bid, but did not succeed in discovering the lines. 'Hang it, Johnnie,' cried Scott, 'I believe I can make a motto sooner than you will find one.' He did so accordingly; and from that hour, whenever memory failed to suggest an appropriate epigraph, he had recourse to the inexhaustible mines of "old play" or "old ballad," to which we owe some of the most exquisite verses that ever flowed from his pen."—J. G. Lockhart.
See also the Introduction to "Chronicles of the Canongate," vol. xix.]
Note B, p. #.—Sandy Gordon's Itinerarium.
[This well-known work, the "Itinerarium Septentrionale, or a Journey thro' most of the Counties of Scotland, and those in the North of England," was published at London in 1727, folio. The author states, that in prosecuting his work he "made a pretty laborious progress through almost every part of Scotland for three years successively." Gordon was a native of Aberdeenshire, and had previously spent some years in travelling abroad, probably as a tutor. He became Secretary to the London Society of Antiquaries in 1736. This office he resigned in 1741, and soon after went out to South Carolina with Governor Glen, where he obtained a considerable grant of land. On his death, about the year 1753, he is said to have left "a handsome estate to his family."—See Literary Anecdotes of Bowyer, by John Nichols, vol. v., p. 329, etc.]
Note C, p. #.—Praetorium.
It may be worth while to mention that the incident of the supposed Praetorium actually happened to an antiquary of great learning and acuteness, Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, one of the Barons of the Scottish Court of Exchequer, and a parliamentary commissioner for arrangement of the Union between England and Scotland. As many of his writings show, Sir John was much attached to the study of Scottish antiquities. He had a small property in Dumfriesshire, near the Roman station on the hill called Burrenswark. Here he received the distinguished English antiquarian Roger Gale, and of course conducted him to see this remarkable spot, where the lords of the world have left such decisive marks of their martial labours.
An aged shepherd whom they had used as a guide, or who had approached them from curiosity, listened with mouth agape to the dissertations on foss and vellum, ports dextra, sinistra, and decumana, which Sir John Clerk delivered ex cathedra, and his learned visitor listened with the deference to the dignity of a connoisseur on his own ground. But when the cicerone proceeded to point out a small hillock near the centre of the enclosure as the Praetorium, Corydon's patience could hold no longer, and, like Edie Ochiltree, he forgot all reverence, and broke in with nearly the same words—"Praetorium here, Praetorium there, I made the bourock mysell with a flaughter-spade." The effect of this undeniable evidence on the two lettered sages may be left to the reader's imagination.
The late excellent and venerable John Clerk of Eldin, the celebrated author of Naval Tactics, used to tell this story with glee, and being a younger son of Sir John's was perhaps present on the occasion.
Note D, p. #.—Mr. Rutherfurd's Dream
The legend of Mrs. Grizel Oldbuck was partly taken from an extraordinary story which happened about seventy years since, in the South of Scotland, so peculiar in its circumstances that it merits being mentioned in this place. Mr. Rutherfurd of Bowland, a gentleman of landed property in the vale of Gala, was prosecuted for a very considerable sum, the accumulated arrears of teind (or tithe) for which he was said to be indebted to a noble family, the titulars (lay impropriators of the tithes). Mr. Rutherfurd was strongly impressed with the belief that his father had, by a form of process peculiar to the law of Scotland, purchased these lands from the titular, and therefore that the present prosecution was groundless. But, after an industrious search among his father's papers, an investigation of the public records, and a careful inquiry among all persons who had transacted law business for his father, no evidence could be recovered to support his defence. The period was now near at hand when he conceived the loss of his lawsuit to be inevitable, and he had formed his determination to ride to Edinburgh next day, and make the best bargain he could in the way of compromise. He went to bed with this resolution and, with all the circumstances of the case floating upon his mind, had a dream to the following purpose:—His father, who had been many years dead, appeared to him, he thought, and asked him why he was disturbed in his mind. In dreams men are not surprised at such apparitions. Mr. Rutherfurd thought that he informed his father of the cause of his distress, adding that the payment of a considerable sum of money was the more unpleasant to him, because he had a strong consciousness that it was not due, though he was unable to recover any evidence in support of his belief, "You are right, my son," replied the paternal shade; "I did acquire right to these teinds, for payment of which you are now prosecuted. The papers relating to the transaction are in the hands of Mr.—, a writer (or attorney), who is now retired from professional business, and resides at Inveresk, near Edinburgh. He was a person whom I employed on that occasion for a particular reason, but who never on any other occasion transacted business on my account. It is very possible," pursued the vision, "that Mr.—may have forgotten a matter which is now of a very old date; but you may call it to his recollection by this token, that when I came to pay his account, there was difficulty in getting change for a Portugal piece of gold, and that we were forced to drink out the balance at a tavern."
Mr. Rutherfurd awakened in the morning with all the words of the vision imprinted on his mind, and thought it worth while to ride across the country to Inveresk, instead of going straight to Edinburgh. When he came there he waited on the gentleman mentioned in the dream, a very old man; without saying anything of the vision, he inquired whether he remembered having conducted such a matter for his deceased father. The old gentleman could not at first bring the circumstance to his recollection, but on mention of the Portugal piece of gold, the whole returned upon his memory; he made an immediate search for the papers, and recovered them,— so that Mr. Rutherfurd carried to Edinburgh the documents necessary to gain the cause which he was on the verge of losing.
The author has often heard this story told by persons who had the best access to know the facts, who were not likely themselves to be deceived, and were certainly incapable of deception. He cannot therefore refuse to give it credit, however extraordinary the circumstances may appear. The circumstantial character of the information given in the dream, takes it out of the general class of impressions of the kind which are occasioned by the fortuitous coincidence of actual events with our sleeping thoughts. On the other hand, few will suppose that the laws of nature were suspended, and a special communication from the dead to the living permitted, for the purpose of saving Mr. Rutherfurd a certain number of hundred pounds. The author's theory is, that the dream was only the recapitulation of information which Mr. Rutherfurd had really received from his father while in life, but which at first he merely recalled as a general impression that the claim was settled. It is not uncommon for persons to recover, during sleep, the thread of ideas which they have lost during their waking hours.
It may be added, that this remarkable circumstance was attended with bad consequences to Mr. Rutherfurd; whose health and spirits were afterwards impaired by the attention which he thought himself obliged to pay to the visions of the night.
Note E, p. #.—Nick-sticks.
A sort of tally generally used by bakers of the olden time in settling with their customers. Each family had its own nick-stick, and for each loaf as delivered a notch was made on the stick. Accounts in Exchequer, kept by the same kind of check, may have occasioned the Antiquary's partiality. In Prior's time the English bakers had the same sort of reckoning.
Have you not seen a baker's maid, Between two equal panniers sway'd? Her tallies useless lie and idle, If placed exactly in the middle.
Note F, p. #.—Witchcraft.
A great deal of stuff to the same purpose with that placed in the mouth of the German adept, may be found in Reginald Scott's Discovery of Witchcraft, Third Edition, folio, London, 1665. The Appendix is entitled, "An Excellent Discourse of the Nature and Substances of Devils and Spirits, in two Books; the first by the aforesaid author (Reginald Scott), the Second now added in this Third Edition as succedaneous to the former, and conducing to the completing of the whole work." This Second Book, though stated as succedaneous to the first, is, in fact, entirely at variance with it; for the work of Reginald Scott is a compilation of the absurd and superstitious ideas concerning witches so generally entertained at the time, and the pretended conclusion is a serious treatise on the various means of conjuring astral spirits.
[Scott's Discovery of Witchcraft was first published in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, London, 1584.]
Note G, p. #.—Gynecocracy.
In the fishing villages on the Firths of Forth and Tay, as well as elsewhere in Scotland, the government is gynecocracy, as described in the text. In the course of the late war, and during the alarm of invasion, a fleet of transports entered the Firth of Forth under the convoy of some ships of war, which would reply to no signals. A general alarm was excited, in consequence of which, all the fishers, who were enrolled as sea-fencibles, got on board the gun-boats which they were to man as occasion should require, and sailed to oppose the supposed enemy. The foreigners proved to be Russians, with whom we were then at peace. The county gentlemen of Mid-Lothian, pleased with the zeal displayed by the sea-fencibles at a critical moment, passed a vote for presenting the community of fishers with a silver punch-bowl, to be used on occasions of festivity. But the fisher-women, on hearing what was intended, put in their claim to have some separate share in the intended honorary reward. The men, they said, were their husbands; it was they who would have been sufferers if their husbands had been killed, and it was by their permission and injunctions that they embarked on board the gun-boats for the public service. They therefore claimed to share the reward in some manner which should distinguish the female patriotism which they had shown on the occasion. The gentlemen of the county willingly admitted the claim; and without diminishing the value of their compliment to the men, they made the females a present of a valuable broach, to fasten the plaid of the queen of the fisher-women for the time.
It may be further remarked, that these Nereids are punctilious among themselves, and observe different ranks according to the commodities they deal in. One experienced dame was heard to characterise a younger damsel as "a puir silly thing, who had no ambition, and would never," she prophesied, "rise above the mussel-line of business."
Note H, p. #.—Battle of Harlaw.
The great battle of Harlaw, here and formerly referred to, might be said to determine whether the Gaelic or the Saxon race should be predominant in Scotland. Donald, Lord of the Isles, who had at that period the power of an independent sovereign, laid claim to the Earldom of Ross during the Regency of Robert, Duke of Albany. To enforce his supposed right, he ravaged the north with a large army of Highlanders and Islesmen. He was encountered at Harlaw, in the Garioch, by Alexander, Earl of Mar, at the head of the northern nobility and gentry of Saxon and Norman descent. The battle was bloody and indecisive; but the invader was obliged to retire in consequence of the loss he sustained, and afterwards was compelled to make submission to the Regent, and renounce his pretensions to Ross; so that all the advantages of the field were gained by the Saxons. The battle of Harlaw was fought 24th July 1411.
Note I, p. #.—Elspeth's death.
The concluding circumstance of Elspeth's death is taken from an incident said to have happened at the funeral of John, Duke of Roxburghe. All who were acquainted with that accomplished nobleman must remember that he was not more remarkable for creating and possessing a most curious and splendid library, than for his acquaintance with the literary treasures it contained. In arranging his books, fetching and replacing the volumes which he wanted, and carrying on all the necessary intercourse which a man of letters holds with his library, it was the Duke's custom to employ, not a secretary or librarian, but a livery servant, called Archie, whom habit had made so perfectly acquainted with the library, that he knew every book, as a shepherd does the individuals of his flock, by what is called head-mark, and could bring his master whatever volume he wanted, and afford all the mechanical aid the Duke required in his literary researches. To secure the attendance of Archie, there was a bell hung in his room, which was used on no occasion except to call him individually to the Duke's study.
His Grace died in Saint James's Square, London, in the year 1804; the body was to be conveyed to Scotland, to lie in state at his mansion of Fleurs, and to be removed from thence to the family burial-place at Bowden.
At this time, Archie, who had been long attacked by a liver-complaint, was in the very last stage of that disease. Yet he prepared himself to accompany the body of the master whom he had so long and so faithfully waited upon. The medical persons assured him he could not survive the journey. It signified nothing, he said, whether he died in England or Scotland; he was resolved to assist in rendering the last honours to the kind master from whom he had been inseparable for so many years, even if he should expire in the attempt. The poor invalid was permitted to attend the Duke's body to Scotland; but when they reached Fleurs he was totally exhausted, and obliged to keep his bed, in a sort of stupor which announced speedy dissolution. On the morning of the day fixed for removing the dead body of the Duke to the place of burial, the private bell by which he was wont to summon his attendant to his study was rung violently. This might easily happen in the confusion of such a scene, although the people of the neighbourhood prefer believing that the bell sounded of its own accord. Ring, however, it did; and Archie, roused by the well-known summons, rose up in his bed, and faltered, in broken accents, "Yes, my Lord Duke—yes—I will wait on your Grace instantly;" and with these words on his lips he is said to have fallen back and expired.
Note J, p. #.—Alarm of invasion.
The story of the false alarm at Fairport, and the consequences, are taken from a real incident. Those who witnessed the state of Britain, and of Scotland in particular, from the period that succeeded the war which commenced in 1803 to the battle of Trafalgar, must recollect those times with feelings which we can hardly hope to make the rising generation comprehend. Almost every individual was enrolled either in a military or civil capacity, for the purpose of contributing to resist the long-suspended threats of invasion, which were echoed from every quarter. Beacons were erected along the coast, and all through the country, to give the signal for every one to repair to the post where his peculiar duty called him, and men of every description fit to serve held themselves in readiness on the shortest summons. During this agitating period, and on the evening of the 2d February 1804, the person who kept watch on the commanding station of Home Castle, being deceived by some accidental fire in the county of Northumberland, which he took for the corresponding signal-light in that county with which his orders were to communicate, lighted up his own beacon. The signal was immediately repeated through all the valleys on the English Border. If the beacon at Saint Abb's Head had been fired, the alarm would have run northward, and roused all Scotland. But the watch at this important point judiciously considered, that if there had been an actual or threatened descent on our eastern sea-coast, the alarm would have come along the coast and not from the interior of the country.
Through the Border counties the alarm spread with rapidity, and on no occasion when that country was the scene of perpetual and unceasing war, was the summons to arms more readily obeyed. In Berwickshire, Roxburghshire, and Selkirkshire, the volunteers and militia got under arms with a degree of rapidity and alacrity which, considering the distance individuals lived from each other, had something in it very surprising—they poured to the alarm-posts on the sea-coast in a state so well armed and so completely appointed, with baggage, provisions, etc., as was accounted by the best military judges to render them fit for instant and effectual service.
There were some particulars in the general alarm which are curious and interesting. The men of Liddesdale, the most remote point to the westward which the alarm reached, were so much afraid of being late in the field, that they put in requisition all the horses they could find, and when they had thus made a forced march out of their own country, they turned their borrowed steeds loose to find their way back through the hills, and they all got back safe to their own stables. Another remarkable circumstance was, the general cry of the inhabitants of the smaller towns for arms, that they might go along with their companions. The Selkirkshire Yeomanry made a remarkable march, for although some of the individuals lived at twenty and thirty miles' distance from the place where they mustered, they were nevertheless embodied and in order in so short a period, that they were at Dalkeith, which was their alarm-post, about one o'clock on the day succeeding the first signal, with men and horses in good order, though the roads were in a bad state, and many of the troopers must have ridden forty or fifty miles without drawing bridle. Two members of the corps chanced to be absent from their homes, and in Edinburgh on private business. The lately married wife of one of these gentlemen, and the widowed mother of the other, sent the arms, uniforms, and chargers of the two troopers, that they might join their companions at Dalkeith. The author was very much struck by the answer made to him by the last-mentioned lady, when he paid her some compliment on the readiness which she showed in equipping her son with the means of meeting danger, when she might have left him a fair excuse for remaining absent. "Sir," she replied, with the spirit of a Roman matron, "none can know better than you that my son is the only prop by which, since his father's death, our family is supported. But I would rather see him dead on that hearth, than hear that he had been a horse's length behind his companions in the defence of his king and country." The author mentions what was immediately under his own eye, and within his own knowledge; but the spirit was universal, wherever the alarm reached, both in Scotland and England.
The account of the ready patriotism displayed by the country on this occasion, warmed the hearts of Scottishmen in every corner of the world. It reached the ears of the well-known Dr. Leyden, whose enthusiastic love of Scotland, and of his own district of Teviotdale, formed a distinguished part of his character. The account which was read to him when on a sick-bed, stated (very truly) that the different corps, on arriving at their alarm-posts, announced themselves by their music playing the tunes peculiar to their own districts, many of which have been gathering-signals for centuries. It was particularly remembered, that the Liddesdale men, before mentioned, entered Kelso playing the lively tune—
O wha dare meddle wi' me, And wha dare meddle wi' me! My name it is little Jock Elliot, And wha dare meddle wi' me!
The patient was so delighted with this display of ancient Border spirit, that he sprung up in his bed, and began to sing the old song with such vehemence of action and voice, that his attendants, ignorant of the cause of excitation, concluded that the fever had taken possession of his brain; and it was only the entry of another Borderer, Sir John Malcolm, and the explanation which he was well qualified to give, that prevented them from resorting to means of medical coercion.
The circumstances of this false alarm and its consequences may be now held of too little importance even for a note upon a work of fiction; but, at the period when it happened, it was hailed by the country as a propitious omen, that the national force, to which much must naturally have been trusted, had the spirit to look in the face the danger which they had taken arms to repel; and every one was convinced, that on whichever side God might bestow the victory, the invaders would meet with the most determined opposition from the children of the soil.