The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Antiquary, Volume 1, 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 1 Author: Sir Walter Scott Release Date: August 16, 2004 [EBook #7003] Last Updated: February 22, 2010 [Last Updated: March 17, 2012] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE ANTIQUARY, VOLUME 1 *** Produced by David Widger
Subject or Title
|The Antiquary and Lovel—Kinpurnes||J. B. MacDonald||T. J. Dagleish|
|The Antiquary and Lovel—The Sanctum||Robert Herdman||B. Dammon|
|Sir Arthur and Miss Wardour||J. MacWhirter||Alex Ansted|
|Rescue of Sir Arthur and Miss Wardour||Sam Bough||C. de Billy|
|Edie Ochiltree visits Miss Wardour||W. McTaggart||C. O. Murray|
|Mrs. Heukbane and Mrs. Shortcake||Original Etching by:||George Cruikshank|
|St. Ruth (Arbroath Abbey)||Photo Etching by:||John Andrew & Son Co.|
|Ruins of St. Ruth||Original Etching by:||J. Moyr Smith|
I knew Anselmo. He was shrewd and prudent, Wisdom and cunning had their shares of him; But he was shrewish as a wayward child, And pleased again by toys which childhood please; As—-book of fables, graced with print of wood, Or else the jingling of a rusty medal, Or the rare melody of some old ditty, That first was sung to please King Pepin's cradle
The present work completes a series of fictitious narratives, intended to illustrate the manners of Scotland at three different periods. Waverley embraced the age of our fathers, Guy Mannering that of our own youth, and the Antiquary refers to the last ten years of the eighteenth century. I have, in the two last narratives especially, sought my principal personages in the class of society who are the last to feel the influence of that general polish which assimilates to each other the manners of different nations. Among the same class I have placed some of the scenes in which I have endeavoured to illustrate the operation of the higher and more violent passions; both because the lower orders are less restrained by the habit of suppressing their feelings, and because I agree, with my friend Wordsworth, that they seldom fail to express them in the strongest and most powerful language. This is, I think, peculiarly the case with the peasantry of my own country, a class with whom I have long been familiar. The antique force and simplicity of their language, often tinctured with the Oriental eloquence of Scripture, in the mouths of those of an elevated understanding, give pathos to their grief, and dignity to their resentment.
I have been more solicitous to describe manners minutely than to arrange in any case an artificial and combined narrative, and have but to regret that I felt myself unable to unite these two requisites of a good Novel.
The knavery of the adept in the following sheets may appear forced and improbable; but we have had very late instances of the force of superstitious credulity to a much greater extent, and the reader may be assured, that this part of the narrative is founded on a fact of actual occurrence.
I have now only to express my gratitude to the Public for the distinguished reception which, they have given to works, that have little more than some truth of colouring to recommend them, and to take my respectful leave, as one who is not likely again to solicit their favour.
To the above advertisement, which was prefixed to the first edition of the Antiquary, it is necessary in the present edition to add a few words, transferred from the Introduction to the Chronicles of the Canongate, respecting the character of Jonathan Oldbuck.
"I may here state generally, that although I have deemed historical personages free subjects of delineation, I have never on any occasion violated the respect due to private life. It was indeed impossible that traits proper to persons, both living and dead, with whom I have had intercourse in society, should not have risen to my pen in such works as Waverley, and those which, followed it. But I have always studied to generalise the portraits, so that they should still seem, on the whole, the productions of fancy, though possessing some resemblance to real individuals. Yet I must own my attempts have not in this last particular been uniformly successful. There are men whose characters are so peculiarly marked, that the delineation of some leading and principal feature, inevitably places the whole person before you in his individuality. Thus the character of Jonathan Oldbuck in the Antiquary, was partly founded on that of an old friend of my youth, to whom I am indebted for introducing me to Shakspeare, and other invaluable favours; but I thought I had so completely disguised the likeness, that it could not be recognised by any one now alive. I was mistaken, however, and indeed had endangered what I desired should be considered as a secret; for I afterwards learned that a highly respectable gentleman, one of the few surviving friends of my father, and an acute critic, had said, upon the appearance of the work, that he was now convinced who was the author of it, as he recognised, in the Antiquary, traces of the character of a very intimate friend* of my father's family."
* [The late George Constable of Wallace Craigie, near Dundee.]
I have only farther to request the reader not to suppose that my late respected friend resembled Mr. Oldbuck, either in his pedigree, or the history imputed to the ideal personage. There is not a single incident in the Novel which is borrowed from his real circumstances, excepting the fact that he resided in an old house near a flourishing seaport, and that the author chanced to witness a scene betwixt him and the female proprietor of a stage-coach, very similar to that which commences the history of the Antiquary. An excellent temper, with a slight degree of subacid humour; learning, wit, and drollery, the more poignant that they were a little marked by the peculiarities of an old bachelor; a soundness of thought, rendered more forcible by an occasional quaintness of expression, were, the author conceives, the only qualities in which the creature of his imagination resembled his benevolent and excellent old friend.
The prominent part performed by the Beggar in the following narrative, induces the author to prefix a few remarks of that character, as it formerly existed in Scotland, though it is now scarcely to be traced.
Many of the old Scottish mendicants were by no means to be confounded with the utterly degraded class of beings who now practise that wandering trade. Such of them as were in the habit of travelling through a particular district, were usually well received both in the farmer's ha', and in the kitchens of the country gentlemen. Martin, author of the Reliquiae Divi Sancti Andreae, written in 1683, gives the following account of one class of this order of men in the seventeenth century, in terms which would induce an antiquary like Mr. Oldbuck to regret its extinction. He conceives them to be descended from the ancient bards, and proceeds:—-"They are called by others, and by themselves, Jockies, who go about begging; and use still to recite the Sloggorne (gathering-words or war-cries) of most of the true ancient surnames of Scotland, from old experience and observation. Some of them I have discoursed, and found to have reason and discretion. One of them told me there were not now above twelve of them in the whole isle; but he remembered when they abounded, so as at one time he was one of five that usually met at St. Andrews."
The race of Jockies (of the above description) has, I suppose, been long extinct in Scotland; but the old remembered beggar, even in my own time, like the Baccoch, or travelling cripple of Ireland, was expected to merit his quarters by something beyond an exposition of his distresses. He was often a talkative, facetious fellow, prompt at repartee, and not withheld from exercising his powers that way by any respect of persons, his patched cloak giving him the privilege of the ancient jester. To be a gude crack, that is, to possess talents for conversation, was essential to the trade of a "puir body" of the more esteemed class; and Burns, who delighted in the amusement their discourse afforded, seems to have looked forward with gloomy firmness to the possibility of himself becoming one day or other a member of their itinerant society. In his poetical works, it is alluded to so often, as perhaps to indicate that he considered the consummation as not utterly impossible. Thus in the fine dedication of his works to Gavin Hamilton, he says,—
And when I downa yoke a naig, Then, Lord be thankit, I can beg.
Again, in his Epistle to Davie, a brother Poet, he states, that in their closing career—
The last o't, the warst o't, Is only just to beg.
And after having remarked, that
To lie in kilns and barns at e'en, When banes are crazed and blude is thin,
Is doubtless great distress; the bard reckons up, with true poetical spirit, the free enjoyment of the beauties of nature, which might counterbalance the hardship and uncertainty of the life, even of a mendicant. In one of his prose letters, to which I have lost the reference, he details this idea yet more seriously, and dwells upon it, as not ill adapted to his habits and powers.
As the life of a Scottish mendicant of the eighteenth century seems to have been contemplated without much horror by Robert Burns, the author can hardly have erred in giving to Edie Ochiltree something of poetical character and personal dignity, above the more abject of his miserable calling. The class had, intact, some privileges. A lodging, such as it was, was readily granted to them in some of the out-houses, and the usual awmous (alms) of a handful of meal (called a gowpen) was scarce denied by the poorest cottager. The mendicant disposed these, according to their different quality, in various bags around his person, and thus carried about with him the principal part of his sustenance, which he literally received for the asking. At the houses of the gentry, his cheer was mended by scraps of broken meat, and perhaps a Scottish "twalpenny," or English penny, which was expended in snuff or whiskey. In fact, these indolent peripatetics suffered much less real hardship and want of food, than the poor peasants from whom they received alms.
If, in addition to his personal qualifications, the mendicant chanced to be a King's Bedesman, or Blue-Gown, he belonged, in virtue thereof, to the aristocracy of his order, and was esteemed a parson of great importance.
These Bedesmen are an order of paupers to whom the Kings of Scotland were in the custom of distributing a certain alms, in conformity with the ordinances of the Catholic Church, and who where expected in return to pray for the royal welfare and that of the state. This order is still kept up. Their number is equal to the number of years which his Majesty has lived; and one Blue-Gown additional is put on the roll for every returning royal birth-day. On the same auspicious era, each Bedesman receives a new cloak, or gown of coarse cloth, the colour light blue, with a pewter badge, which confers on them the general privilege of asking alms through all Scotland,—all laws against sorning, masterful beggary, and every other species of mendicity, being suspended in favour of this privileged class. With his cloak, each receives a leathern purse, containing as many shillings Scots (videlicet, pennies sterling) as the sovereign is years old; the zeal of their intercession for the king's long life receiving, it is to be supposed, a great stimulus from their own present and increasing interest in the object of their prayers. On the same occasion one of the Royal Chaplains preaches a sermon to the Bedesmen, who (as one of the reverend gentlemen expressed himself) are the most impatient and inattentive audience in the world. Something of this may arise from a feeling on the part of the Bedesmen, that they are paid for their own devotions, not for listening to those of others. Or, more probably, it arises from impatience, natural, though indecorous in men bearing so venerable a character, to arrive at the conclusion of the ceremonial of the royal birth-day, which, so far as they are concerned, ends in a lusty breakfast of bread and ale; the whole moral and religious exhibition terminating in the advice of Johnson's "Hermit hoar" to his proselyte,
Come, my lad, and drink some beer.
Of the charity bestowed on these aged Bedesmen in money and clothing, there are many records in the Treasurer's accompts. The following extract, kindly supplied by Mr. Macdonald of the Register House, may interest those whose taste is akin to that of Jonathan Oldbuck of Monkbarns.
In the Account of Sir Robert Melvill of Murdocarney, Treasurer-Depute of King James VI., there are the following Payments:— "Junij 1590. "Item, to Mr. Peter Young, Elimosinar, twentie four gownis of blew clayth, to be gevin to xxiiij auld men, according to the yeiris of his hienes age, extending to viii xx viii elnis clayth; price of the elne xxiiij s. Inde, ij cj li. xij s. "Item, for sextene elnis bukrum to the saidis gownis, price of the elne x s. Inde,viij li. "Item, twentie four pursis, and in ilk purse twentie four schelling Inde, xxciij li. xvj s. "Item, the price of ilk purse iiij d. Inde, viij s. "Item, for making of the saidis gownis viij li. " In the Account of John, Earl of Mar, Great Treasurer of Scotland, and of Sir Gideon Murray of Enbank, Treasurer-Depute, the Blue-Gowns also appear thus:— "Junij 1617. "Item, to James Murray, merchant, for fyftene scoir sex elnis and aine half elne of blew claith to be gownis to fyftie ane aigeit men, according to the yeiris of his Majesteis age, at xl s. the elne Inde,vj c xiij li. "Item, to workmen for careing the blewis to James Aikman, tailyeour, his hous xiij s. iiij d. "Item, for sex elnis and ane half of harden to the saidis gownis, at vj s. viij d. the elne Inde,xliij s. iiij d. "Item, to the said workmen for careing of the gownis fra the said James Aikman's hous to the palace of Halyrudehous xviij s. "Item, for making the saidis fyftie ane gownis, at xij s. the peice Inde,xxx li. xij s. "Item, for fyftie ane pursis to the said puire menlj s. "Item, to Sir Peter Young,li s. to be put in everie ane of the saidis ljpursis to the said poore men j cxxxl jj s. "Item, to the said Sir Peter, to buy breid and drink to the said puir men vj li. xiij s. iiij d. "Item, to the said Sir Peter, to be delt amang uther puire folk j cli. "Item, upoun the last day of Junii to Doctor Young, Deane of Winchester, Elimozinar Deput to his Majestic, twentie fyve pund sterling, to be gevin to the puir be the way in his Majesteis progress Inde,iij c li. "
I have only to add, that although the institution of King's Bedesmen still subsists, they are now seldom to be seen on the streets of Edinburgh, of which their peculiar dress made them rather a characteristic feature.
Having thus given an account of the genus and species to which Edie Ochiltree appertains, the author may add, that the individual he had in his eye was Andrew Gemmells, an old mendicant of the character described, who was many years since well known, and must still be remembered, in the vales of Gala, Tweed, Ettrick, Yarrow, and the adjoining country.
The author has in his youth repeatedly seen and conversed with Andrew, but cannot recollect whether he held the rank of Blue-Gown. He was a remarkably fine old figure, very tall, and maintaining a soldierlike or military manner and address. His features were intelligent, with a powerful expression of sarcasm. His motions were always so graceful, that he might almost have been suspected of having studied them; for he might, on any occasion, have, served as a model for an artist, so remarkably striking were his ordinary attitudes. Andrew Gemmells had little of the cant of his calling; his wants were food and shelter, or a trifle of money, which he always claimed, and seemed to receive as his due. He, sung a good song, told a good story, and could crack a severe jest with all the acumen of Shakespeare's jesters, though without using, like them, the cloak of insanity. It was some fear of Andrew's satire, as much as a feeling of kindness or charity, which secured him the general good reception which he enjoyed everywhere. In fact, a jest of Andrew Gemmells, especially at the expense of a person of consequence, flew round the circle which he frequented, as surely as the bon-mot of a man of established character for wit glides through the fashionable world, Many of his good things are held in remembrance, but are generally too local and personal to be introduced here.
Andrew had a character peculiar to himself among his tribe for aught I ever heard. He was ready and willing to play at cards or dice with any one who desired such amusement. This was more in the character of the Irish itinerant gambler, called in that country a "carrow," than of the Scottish beggar. But the late Reverend Doctor Robert Douglas, minister of Galashiels, assured the author, that the last time he saw Andrew Gemmells, he was engaged in a game at brag with a gentleman of fortune, distinction, and birth. To preserve the due gradations of rank, the party was made at an open window of the chateau, the laird sitting on his chair in the inside, the beggar on a stool in the yard; and they played on the window-sill. The stake was a considerable parcel of silver. The author expressing some surprise, Dr. Douglas observed, that the laird was no doubt a humourist or original; but that many decent persons in those times would, like him, have thought there was nothing extraordinary in passing an hour, either in card-playing or conversation, with Andrew Gemmells.
This singular mendicant had generally, or was supposed to have, much money about his person, as would have been thought the value of his life among modern foot-pads. On one occasion, a country gentleman, generally esteemed a very narrow man, happening to meet Andrew, expressed great regret that he had no silver in his pocket, or he would have given him sixpence.—"I can give you change for a note, laird," replied Andrew.
Like most who have arisen to the head of their profession, the modern degradation which mendicity has undergone was often the subject of Andrew's lamentations. As a trade, he said, it was forty pounds a-year worse since he had first practised it. On another occasion he observed, begging was in modern times scarcely the profession of a gentleman; and that, if he had twenty sons, he would not easily be induced to breed one of them up in his own line. When or where this laudator temporis acti closed his wanderings, the author never heard with certainty; but most probably, as Burns says,
—he died a cadger-powny's death, At some dike side.
The author may add another picture of the same kind as Edie Ochiltree and Andrew Gemmells; considering these illustrations as a sort of gallery, open to the reception of anything which may elucidate former manners, or amuse the reader.
The author's contemporaries at the university of Edinburgh will probably remember the thin, wasted form of a venerable old Bedesman, who stood by the Potterrow-Port, now demolished, and, without speaking a syllable, gently inclined his head, and offered his hat, but with the least possible degree of urgency, towards each individual who passed. This man gained, by silence and the extenuated and wasted appearance of a palmer from a remote country, the same tribute which was yielded to Andrew Gemmells' sarcastic humour and stately deportment. He was understood to be able to maintain a son a student in the theological classes of the University, at the gate of which the father was a mendicant. The young man was modest and inclined to learning, so that a student of the same age, and whose parents where rather of the lower order, moved by seeing him excluded from the society of other scholars when the secret of his birth was suspected, endeavoured to console him by offering him some occasional civilities. The old mendicant was grateful for this attention to his son, and one day, as the friendly student passed, he stooped forward more than usual, as if to intercept his passage. The scholar drew out a halfpenny, which he concluded was the beggar's object, when he was surprised to receive his thanks for the kindness he had shown to Jemmie, and at the same time a cordial invitation to dine with them next Saturday, "on a shoulder of mutton and potatoes," adding, "ye'll put on your clean sark, as I have company." The student was strongly tempted to accept this hospitable proposal, as many in his place would probably have done; but, as the motive might have been capable of misrepresentation, he thought it most prudent, considering the character and circumstances of the old man, to decline the invitation.
Such are a few traits of Scottish mendicity, designed to throw light on a Novel in which a character of that description plays a prominent part. We conclude, that we have vindicated Edie Ochiltree's right to the importance assigned him; and have shown, that we have known one beggar take a hand at cards with a person of distinction, and another give dinner parties.
I know not if it be worth while to observe, that the Antiquary,* was not so well received on its first appearance as either of its predecessors, though in course of time it rose to equal, and, with some readers, superior popularity.
* Note A. Mottoes.
"THE ANTIQUARY" was begun in 1815; the bargain for its publication by Constable was made in the October of that year. On December 22 Scott wrote to Morritt: "I shall set myself seriously to 'The Antiquary,' of which I have only a very general sketch at present; but when once I get my pen to the paper it will walk fast enough. I am sometimes tempted to leave it alone, and try whether it will not write as well without the assistance of my head as with it,—a hopeful prospect for the reader!'" It is amazing enough that he even constructed "a general sketch," for to such sketches he confesses that he never could keep constant. "I have generally written to the middle of one of these novels without having the least idea how it was to end,—in short, in the hab nab at a venture style of composition" (Journal, Feb. 24, 1828). Yet it is almost impossible but that the plot of "The Antiquary" should have been duly considered. Scott must have known from the first who Lovel was to turn out to be, and must have recognised in the hapless bride of Lord Glenallan the object of the Antiquary's solitary and unfortunate passion. To introduce another Wandering Heir immediately after the Harry Bertram of "Guy Mannering" was rather audacious. But that old favourite, the Lost Heir, is nearly certain to be popular. For the Antiquary's immortal sorrow Scott had a model in his own experience. "What a romance to tell!—and told, I fear, it will one day be. And then my three years of dreaming and my two years of wakening will be chronicled doubtless. But the dead will feel no pain." The dead, as Aristotle says, if they care for such things at all, care no more than we do for what has passed in a dream.
The general sketch probably began to take full shape about the last day of 1815. On December 29 Scott wrote to Ballantyne:—
DEAR JAMES,— I've done, thank'God, with the long yarns Of the most prosy of Apostles—Paul,1 And now advance, sweet heathen of Monkbarns, Step out, old quizz, as fast as I can scrawl.
In "The Antiquary" Scott had a subject thoroughly to his mind. He had been an antiquary from his childhood. His earliest pence had been devoted to that collection of printed ballads which is still at Abbotsford. These he mentions in the unfinished fragment of his "Reliquiae Trotcosienses," in much the same words as in his manuscript note on one of the seven volumes.
"This little collection of Stall tracts and ballads was formed by me, when a boy, from the baskets of the travelling pedlars. Until put into its present decent binding it had such charms for the servants that it was repeatedly, and with difficulty, recovered from their clutches. It contains most of the pieces that were popular about thirty years since, and, I dare say, many that could not now be procured for any price (1810)."
Nor did he collect only—
"The rare melody of some old ditties That first were sung to please King Pepin's cradle.
"Walter had soon begun to gather out-of-the-way things of all sorts. He had more books than shelves [sic]; a small painted cabinet with Scotch and Roman coins in it, and so forth. A claymore and Lochaber axe, given him by old Invernahyle, mounted guard on a little print of Prince Charlie; and Broughton's Saucer was hooked up on the wall below it." He had entered literature through the ruined gateway of archleology, in the "Border Minstrelsy," and his last project was an edition of Perrault's "Contes de Ma Mere l'Oie." As pleasant to him as the purchase of new lands like Turn Again, bought dearly, as in Monkbarns's case, from "bonnet lauds," was a fresh acquisition of an old book or of old armour. Yet, with all his enthusiasm, he did not please the antiquaries of his own day. George Chalmers, in Constable's "Life and Correspondence" (i. 431), sneers at his want of learning. "His notes are loose and unlearned, as they generally are." Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, his friend in life, disported himself in jealous and ribald mockery of Scott's archaeological knowledge, when Scott was dead. In a letter of the enigmatic Thomas Allen, or James Stuart Hay, father of John Sobieski and Charles Edward Stuart, this mysterious person avers that he never knew Scott's opinion to be held as of any value by antiquaries (1829). They probably missed in him "a sort of pettifogging intimacy with dates, names, and trifling matters of fact,—a tiresome and frivolous accuracy of memory" which Sir Arthur Wardour reproves in Monkbarns. Scott, in brief, was not as Dry-as-dust; all the dead bones that he touches come to life. He was as great an archeologist as a poet can be, and, with Virgil, was the greatest antiquary among poets. Like Monkbarns, he was not incapable of being beguiled. As Oldbuck bought the bodle from the pedlar at the price of a rare coin, so Scott took Surtees's "Barthram's Dirge," and his Latin legend of the tourney with the spectre knight, for genuine antiquities. No Edie Ochiltree ever revealed to him the truth about these forgeries, and the spectre knight, with the ballad of "Anthony Featherstonhaugh," hold their own in "Marmion," to assure the world that this antiquary was gullible when the sleight was practised by a friend. "Non est tanti," he would have said, had he learned the truth; for he was ever conscious of the humorous side of the study of the mouldering past. "I do not know anything which relieves the mind so much from the sullens as a trifling discourse about antiquarian oldwomanries. It is like knitting a stocking,—diverting the mind without occupying it." ("Journal," March 9, 1828).
Begun about Jan. 1, 1816, "The Antiquary" was published before May 16, 1816, when Scott writes to say that he has sent Mr. Morritt the novel "some time since." "It is not so interesting as its predecessors; the period does not admit of so much romantic situation. But it has been more fortunate than any of them in the sale, for six thousand went off in the first six days, and it is now at press again." The Preface of the first edition ends with the melancholy statement that the author "takes his respectful leave, as one who is not likely again to solicit favour." Apparently Scott had already determined not to announce his next novels ("The Black Dwarf" and "Old Mortality") as "by the Author of Waverley." Mr. Constable, in the biography of his father, says (iii. 84): "Even before the publication of 'The Antiquary,' John Ballantyne had been impowered by the Author to negotiate with Mr. Murray and Mr. Blackwood for the first series of the 'Tales of my Landlord.'" The note of withdrawal from the stage, in the first edition of "The Antiquary," was probably only a part of another experiment on public sagacity. As Lockhart says, Mr. Murray and Mr. Blackwood thought that the consequent absence of the Author of "Waverley's" name from the "Tales of my Landlord" would "check very much the first success of the book;" but they risked this, "to disturb Constable's tenure."
Scott's temporary desertion of Constable in the "Tales of my Landlord" may have had various motives. There was a slight grudge against Constable, born of some complications of the Ballantynes' affairs. Perhaps the mere amusement of the experiment on public sagacity was one of the more powerful reasons for the change. In our day Lord Lytton and Mr. Trollope made similar trials of their popularity when anonymous, the former author with the greater success. The idea of these masquerades and veils of the incognito appears to have bewitched Constable. William Godwin was writing for him his novel "Mandeville," and Godwin had obviously been counselled to try a disguise. He says (Jan. 30, 1816) "I have amused my imagination a thousand times since last we parted with the masquerade you devised for me. The world is full of wonder. An old favourite is always reviewed with coldness. . . . 'Pooh,' they say; 'Godwin has worn his pen to the stump!' . . . But let me once be equipped with a significant mask and an unknown character from your masquerade shop, and admitted to figure in with the 'Last Minstrel,' the 'Lady of the Lake,' and 'Guy Mannering' in the Scottish carnival, Gods! how the boys and girls will admire me! 'Here is a new wonder!' they will say. 'Ah, this is something like! Here is Godwin beaten on his own ground. . . Here is for once a Scottish writer that they cannot say has anything of the Scotchman about him.'"
However, Mr. Godwin did not don the mask and domino. "Mandeville" came out about the same time as "Rob Roy;" but the "craziness of the public" for the Author of "Waverley" was not changed into a passion for the father-in-law of Shelley.
"'The Antiquary,' after a little pause of hesitation, attained popularity not inferior to 'Guy Mannering,' and though the author appears for a moment to have shared the doubts which he read in the countenance of James Ballantyne, it certainly was, in the sequel, his chief favourite among all his novels.'"
As Scott said to Terry, "If a man will paint from nature, he will be likely to amuse those who are daily looking at it." The years which saw the first appearance of "Guy Mannering" also witnessed that of "Emma." By the singular chance, or law, which links great authors closely in time, giving us novelists in pairs, Miss Austen was "drawing from nature" at the very moment when Scott was wedding nature with romance. How generously and wisely he admired her is familiar, and it may, to some, seem curious that he never deliberately set himself to a picture of ordinary life, free from the intrusion of the unusual, of the heroic. Once, looking down at the village which lies on the Tweed, opposite Melrose, he remarked that under its roofs tragedies and tales were doubtless being lived. 'I undertake to say there is some real romance at this moment going on down there, that, if it could have justice done to it, would be well worth all the fiction that was ever spun out of human brains.' But the example he gave was terrible,—"anything more dreadful was never conceived by Crabbe;" yet, adds Lockhart, "it would never have entered into his head to elaborate such a tale." He could not dwell in the unbroken gloom dear to some modern malingerers. But he could easily have made a tale of common Scotch life, dark with the sorrow of Mucklebackit, and bright with the mirth of Cuddie Headrigg. There was, however, this difficulty,—that Scott cared not to write a story of a single class. "From the peer to the ploughman," all society mingles in each of his novels. A fiction of middle-class life did not allure him, and he was not at the best, but at his worst, as Sydney Smith observed, in the light talk of society. He could admire Miss Austen, and read her novels again and again; but had he attempted to follow her, by way of variety, then inevitably wild as well as disciplined humour would have kept breaking in, and his fancy would have wandered like the old knights of Arthur's Court, "at adventure." "St. Ronan's Well" proved the truth of all this. Thus it happens that, in "The Antiquary," with all his sympathy for the people, with all his knowledge of them, he does not confine himself to their cottages. As Lockhart says, in his admirable piece of criticism, he preferred to choose topics in which he could display "his highest art, that of skilful contrast."
Even the tragic romance of "Waverley" does not set off its Macwheebles and Callum Begs better than the oddities of Jonathan Oldbuck and his circle are relieved, on the one hand by the stately gloom of the Glenallans, on the other by the stern affliction of the poor fisherman, who, when discovered repairing "the auld black bitch of a boat," in which his boy had been lost, and congratulated by his visitors on being capable of the exertion, makes answer, "And what would you have me to do, unless I wanted to see four children starve, because one is drowned? It 's weel with you gentles, that can sit in the house with handkerchers at your een, when ye lose a friend; but the like o' us maun to our work again, if our hearts were beating as hard as ony hammer." And to his work again Scott had to go when he lost the partner of his life.
The simple unsought charm which Lockhart notes in "The Antiquary" may have passed away in later works, when what had been the amusement of happy days became the task of sadness. But this magic "The Antiquary" keeps perhaps beyond all its companions,—the magic of pleasant memories and friendly associations. The sketches of the epoch of expected invasion, with its patriotic musters and volunteer drillings, are pictures out of that part in the author's life which, with his early Highland wanderings ("Waverley") and his Liddesdale raids ("Guy Mannering"), was most dear to him. In "Redgauntlet," again, he makes, as Alan Fairford, a return on his youth and his home, and in "Rob Roy" he revives his Highland recollections, his Highland lairds of "the blawing, bleezing stories." None of the rest of the tales are so intimate in their connection with Scott's own personal history. "The Antiquary" has always, therefore, been held in the very first rank of his novels.
As far as plot goes, though Godwin denied that it had any story, "The Antiquary" may be placed among the most careful. The underplot of the Glenallans, gloomy almost beyond endurance, is very ingeniously made to unravel the mystery of Lovel. The other side-narrative, that of Dousterswivel, is the weak point of the whole; but this Scott justifies by "very late instances of the force of superstitious credulity, to a much greater extent." Some occurrence of the hour may have suggested the knavish adept with his divining-rod. But facts are never a real excuse for the morally incredible, or all but incredible, in fiction. On the wealth and vraisemblance and variety of character it were superfluous to dilate. As in Shakspeare, there is not even a minor person but lives and is of flesh and blood, if we except, perhaps, Dousterswivel and Sir Arthur Wardour. Sir Arthur is only Sir Robert Hazlewood over again, with a slightly different folly and a somewhat more amiable nature. Lovel's place, as usual, is among the shades of heroes, and his love-affair is far less moving, far more summarily treated, than that of Jenny Caxon. The skilful contrasts are perhaps most remarkable when we compare Elspeth of the Burnfoot with the gossiping old women in the post-office at Fairport,—a town studied perhaps from Arbroath. It was the opinion of Sydney Smith that every one of the novels, before "The Fortunes of Nigel," contained a Meg Merrilies and a Dominie Sampson. He may have recognized a male Meg in Edie Ochiltree,—the invaluable character who is always behind a wall, always overhears everything, and holds the threads of the plot. Or he may have been hypercritical enough to think that Elspeth of the Burnfoot is the Meg of the romance. Few will agree with him that Meg Merrilies, in either of these cases, is "good, but good too often."
The supposed "originals" of certain persons in the tale have been topics of discussion. The character of Oldbuck, like most characters in fiction, is a combination of traits observed in various persons. Scott says, in a note to the Ashiestiel fragment of Autobiography, that Mr. George Constable, an old friend of his father's, "had many of those peculiarities of character which long afterwards I tried to develop in the character of Jonathan Oldbuck." Sir Walter, when a child, made Mr. Constable's acquaintance at Prestonpans in 1777, where he explored the battle-field "under the learned guidance of Dalgetty." Mr. Constable first introduced him to Shakspeare's plays, and gave him his first German dictionary. Other traits may have been suggested by John Clerk of Eldin, whose grandfather was the hero of the story "Praetorian here, Praetorian there, I made it wi' a flaughter spade." Lockhart is no doubt right in thinking that Oldbuck is partly a caricature of Oldbuck's creator,—Sir Walter indeed frankly accepted the kinship; and the book which he began on his own collection he proposed to style "Reliquim Trotcosienses; or, the Gabions of Jonathan Oldbuck."
Another person who added a few points to Oldbuck was "Sandy Gordon," author of the "Itinerarium Septentrionale" (1726), the very folio which Monkbarns carried in the dilatory coach to Queensferry. Gordon had been a student in the University of Aberdeen; he was an amateur in many arts, but antiquarianism was his favourite hobby. He was an acquaintance of Sir John Clerk of Eldin, the hero of the Praetorium. The words of Gordon in his "Itinerarium," where he describes the battle of the Grampians, have supplied, or suggested, the speech of Monkbarns at the Kaim of Kinprunes. The great question was, Where is the Mons Grampius of Tacitus? Dismissing Camden's Grantsbain, because he does not know where it is, Gordon says, "As for our Scotch Antiquaries, they are so divided that some will have it to be in the shire of Angus, or in the Mearns, some at the Blair of Athol in Perthshire, or Ardoch in Strathallan, and others at Inverpeffery." Gordon votes for Strathern, "half a mile short of the Kirk of Comrie." This spot is both at the foot of the Montes Grampii, "and boasts a Roman camp capable of holding an army fit to encounter so formidable a number as thirty thousand Caledonians. . . . Here is the Porta Decumana, opposite the Prcetoria, together with the dextra and sinistra gates," all discovered by Sandy Gordon. "Moreover, the situation of the ground is so very exact with the description given by Tacitus, that in all my travels through Britain I never beheld anything with more pleasure. . . . Nor is it difficult, in viewing this ground, to say where the Covinarii, or Charioteers, stood. In fine, to an Antiquary, this is a ravishing scene." He adds the argument "that Galgacus's name still remains on this ground, for the moor on which the camp stood is called to this day Galdachan, or Galgachan Rosmoor." All this lore Gordon illustrates by an immense chart of a camp, and a picture of very small Montes Grampii, about the size and shape of buns. The plate is dedicated to his excellency General Wade.
In another point Monkbapns borrows from Gordon. Sandy has a plate (page 20) of "The Roman Sacellum of Mars Signifer, vulgarly called 'Arthur's Oon.' With regard to its shape, it is not unlike the famous Pantheon at Rome before the noble Portico was added to it by Marcus Agrippa." Gordon agrees with Stukeley in attributing Arthur's Oon to Agricola, and here Monkbarns and Lovel adopt almost his words. "Time has left Julius Agricola's very name on the place; . . . and if ever those initial letters J. A. M. P. M. P. T., mentioned by Sir Robert Sibbald, were engraven on a stone in this building, it may not be reckoned altogether absurd that they should bear this reading, JULIUS AGRICOLA MAGNUS PIETATIS MONUMENTUM POSUIT TEMPLUM; but this my reader may either accept or reject as he pleases. However, I think it may be as probably received as that inscription on Caligula's Pharos in Holland, which having these following letters, C. C. P. F., is read Caius Caligula Pharum Fecit." "This," Monkbarns adds, "has ever been recorded as a sound exposition."
The character of Edie Ochiltree, Scott himself avers to have been suggested by Andrew Gemmells, pleasantly described in the Introduction. Mr. Chambers, in "Illustrations of the Author of 'Waverley," clears up a point doubtful in Scott's memory, by saying that Geimells really was a Blue-Gown. He rode a horse of his own, and at races was a bookmaker. He once dropped at Rutherford, in Teviotdale, a clue of yarn containing twenty guineas. Like Edie Ochiltree, he had served at Fontenoy. He died at Roxburgh Newton in 1793, at the age of one hundred and five, according to his own reckoning. "His wealth was the means of enriching a nephew in Ayrshire, who is now (1825) a considerable landholder there, and belongs to a respectable class of society."
An old Irus of similar character patrolled Teviotdale, while Andrew Gemmells was attached to Ettrick and Yarrow. This was Blind Willie Craw. Willie was the Society Journal of Hawick, and levied blackmail on the inhabitants. He is thus described by Mr. Grieve, in the Diary already quoted: "He lived at Branxholme Town, in a free house set apart for the gamekeeper, and for many a year carried all the bread from Hawick used in my father's family. He came in that way at breakfast-time, and got a wallet which he put it in, and returned at dinner-time with the 'bawbee rows' and two loaves. He laid the town of Hawick under contribution for bawbees, and he knew the history of every individual, and went rhyming through the town from door to door; and as he knew something against every one which they would rather wish should not be rehearsed, a bawbee put a stop to the paragraph which they wished suppressed. Willie Craw was the son of a gamekeeper of the duke's, and enjoyed a free house at Branxholme Town as long as he lived."
Had Burns ever betaken himself to the gaberlunzie's life, which he speaks of in one of his poems as "the last o't, the worst o't," he would have proved a much more formidable satirist than poor Willie Craw, the last of the "blind crowders." Burns wrote, of course, in a spirit of reckless humour; but he could not, even in sport, have alluded to the life as "suited to his habits and powers," had gaberlunzies been mere mendicants. In Herd's collection of Ballads is one on the ancient Scottish beggar:—
In Scotland there lived a humble beggar, He had nor house, nor hald, nor hame; But he was well liked by ilk a body, And they gave him sunkets to rax his wame. A sieve fu' o' meal, a handfu' o' groats, A dad o' a bannock, or pudding bree, Cauld porridge, or the lickings o' plates, Wad make him as blythe as a body could be.
The dress and trade of the beggar are said to have been adopted by James V. in his adventures, and tradition attributes to him a song, "The Gaberlunzie Man."
One of Edie's most charming traits is his readiness to "fight for his dish, like the laird for his land," when a French invasion was expected. Scott places the date of "The False Alarm," when he himself rode a hundred miles to join his regiment, on Feb. 2, 1804.
Lockhart gives it as an event of 1805 (vol. ii. p. 275). The occasion gave great pleasure to Scott, on account of the patriotism and courage displayed by all classes. "Me no muckle to fight for?" says Edie. "Isna there the country to fight for, and the burns I gang dandering 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?" Edie had fought at Fontenoy, and was of the old school. Scott would have been less pleased with a recruit from St. Boswells, on the Tweed. This man was a shoemaker, John Younger, a very intelligent and worthy person, famous as an angler and writer on angling, who has left an account of the "False Alarm" in his memoirs. His view was that the people, unlike Edie, had nothing to fight for, that only the rich had any reason to be patriotic, that the French had no quarrel with the poor. In fact, Mr. Younger was a cosmopolitan democrat, and sneered at the old Border glories of the warlike days. Probably, however, he would have done his duty, had the enemy landed, and, like Edie, might have remembered the "burns he dandered beside," always with a fishingrod in his hand.
The Editor cannot resist the temptation to add that the patriotic lady mentioned in Scott's note, who "would rather have seen her son dead on that hearth than hear that he had been a horse's length behind his companions," was his paternal great-grandmother, Mrs. John Lang. Her husband, who died shortly afterwards, so that she was a widow when Scott conversed with her, chanced to be chief magistrate of Selkirk. His family was aroused late one night by the sound of a carriage hurrying down the steep and narrow street. Lord Napier was bringing, probably from Hawick, the tidings that the beacons were ablaze. The town-bell was instantly rung, the inhabitants met in the marketplace, where Scott's statue now stands, and the whole force, with one solitary exception, armed and marched to Dalkeith. According to the gentleman whose horse and arms were sent on to meet him, it was intended, if the French proved victorious, that the population of the Border towns should abandon their homes and retire to the hills.
No characters in the "Antiquary," except Monkbarns and Edie Ochiltree, seem to have been borrowed from notable originals. The frauds of Dousterswivel, Scott says, are rendered plausible by "very late instances of the force of superstitious credulity to a much greater extent." He can hardly be referring to the career of Cagliostro, but he may have had in his memory some unsuccessful mining speculations by Charles Earl of Traquair, who sought for lead and found little or none in Traquair hills. The old "Statistical Account of Scotland" (vol. xii. p. 370) says nothing about imposture, and merely remarks that "the noble family of Traquair have made several attempts to discover lead mines, and have found quantities of the ore of that metal, though not adequate to indemnify the expenses of working, and have therefore given up the attempt." This was published in 1794, so twenty years had passed when "The Antiquary" was written. If there was here an "instance of superstitious credulity," it was not "a very late instance." The divining, or "dowsing," rod of Dousterswivel still keeps its place in mining superstition and in the search for wells.
With "The Antiquary" most contemporary reviews of the novels lose their interest. Their author had firmly established his position, at least till "The Monastery" caused some murmurings. Even the "Quarterly Review" was infinitely more genial in its reception of "The Antiquary" than of "Guy Mannering." The critic only grumbled at Lovel's feverish dreams, which, he thought, showed an intention to introduce the marvellous. He complained of "the dark dialect of Anglified Erse," but found comfort in the glossary appended. The "Edinburgh Review" pronounced the chapter on the escape from the tide to be "I the very best description we have ever met, inverse or in prose, in ancient or in modern writing." No reviewer seems to have noticed that the sun is made to set in the sea, on the east coast of Scotland. The "Edinburgh," however, declared that the Antiquary, "at least in so far as he is an Antiquary," was the chief blemish on the book. The "sweet heathen of Monkbarns" has not suffered from this disparagement. The "British Critic" pledged its reputation that Scott was the author. If an argument were wanted, "it would be that which has been applied to prove the authenticity of the last book of the Iliad,—that Homer must have written it, because no one else could." Alas! that argument does not convince German critics. ANDREW LANG.
Go call a coach, and let a coach be called, And let the man who calleth be the caller; And in his calling let him nothing call, But Coach! Coach! Coach! O for a coach, ye gods! Chrononhotonthologos.
It was early on a fine summer's day, near the end of the eighteenth century, when a young man, of genteel appearance, journeying towards the north-east of Scotland, provided himself with a ticket in one of those public carriages which travel between Edinburgh and the Queensferry, at which place, as the name implies, and as is well known to all my northern readers, there is a passage-boat for crossing the Firth of Forth. The coach was calculated to carry six regular passengers, besides such interlopers as the coachman could pick up by the way, and intrude upon those who were legally in possession. The tickets, which conferred right to a seat in this vehicle, of little ease, were dispensed by a sharp-looking old dame, with a pair of spectacles on a very thin nose, who inhabited a "laigh shop," anglice, a cellar, opening to the High Street by a straight and steep stair, at the bottom of which she sold tape, thread, needles, skeins of worsted, coarse linen cloth, and such feminine gear, to those who had the courage and skill to descend to the profundity of her dwelling, without falling headlong themselves, or throwing down any of the numerous articles which, piled on each side of the descent, indicated the profession of the trader below.
The written hand-bill, which, pasted on a projecting board, announced that the Queensferry Diligence, or Hawes Fly, departed precisely at twelve o'clock on Tuesday, the fifteenth July 17—, in order to secure for travellers the opportunity of passing the Firth with the flood-tide, lied on the present occasion like a bulletin; for although that hour was pealed from Saint Giles's steeple, and repeated by the Tron, no coach appeared upon the appointed stand. It is true, only two tickets had been taken out, and possibly the lady of the subterranean mansion might have an understanding with her Automedon, that, in such cases, a little space was to be allowed for the chance of filling up the vacant places—or the said Automedon might have been attending a funeral, and be delayed by the necessity of stripping his vehicle of its lugubrious trappings—or he might have staid to take a half-mutchkin extraordinary with his crony the hostler—or—in short, he did not make his appearance.
The young gentleman, who began to grow somewhat impatient, was now joined by a companion in this petty misery of human life—the person who had taken out the other place. He who is bent upon a journey is usually easily to be distinguished from his fellow-citizens. The boots, the great-coat, the umbrella, the little bundle in his hand, the hat pulled over his resolved brows, the determined importance of his pace, his brief answers to the salutations of lounging acquaintances, are all marks by which the experienced traveller in mail-coach or diligence can distinguish, at a distance, the companion of his future journey, as he pushes onward to the place of rendezvous. It is then that, with worldly wisdom, the first comer hastens to secure the best berth in the coach for himself, and to make the most convenient arrangement for his baggage before the arrival of his competitors. Our youth, who was gifted with little prudence, of any sort, and who was, moreover, by the absence of the coach, deprived of the power of availing himself of his priority of choice, amused himself, instead, by speculating upon the occupation and character of the personage who was now come to the coach office.
He was a good-looking man of the age of sixty, perhaps older,—but his hale complexion and firm step announced that years had not impaired his strength or health. His countenance was of the true Scottish cast, strongly marked, and rather harsh in features, with a shrewd and penetrating eye, and a countenance in which habitual gravity was enlivened by a cast of ironical humour. His dress was uniform, and of a colour becoming his age and gravity; a wig, well dressed and powdered, surmounted by a slouched hat, had something of a professional air. He might be a clergyman, yet his appearance was more that of a man of the world than usually belongs to the kirk of Scotland, and his first ejaculation put the matter beyond question.
He arrived with a hurried pace, and, casting an alarmed glance towards the dial-plate of the church, then looking at the place where the coach should have been, exclaimed, "Deil's in it—I am too late after all!"
The young man relieved his anxiety, by telling him the coach had not yet appeared. The old gentleman, apparently conscious of his own want of punctuality, did not at first feel courageous enough to censure that of the coachman. He took a parcel, containing apparently a large folio, from a little boy who followed him, and, patting him on the head, bid him go back and tell Mr. B——, that if he had known he was to have had so much time, he would have put another word or two to their bargain,—then told the boy to mind his business, and he would be as thriving a lad as ever dusted a duodecimo. The boy lingered, perhaps in hopes of a penny to buy marbles; but none was forthcoming. Our senior leaned his little bundle upon one of the posts at the head of the staircase, and, facing the traveller who had first arrived, waited in silence for about five minutes the arrival of the expected diligence.
At length, after one or two impatient glances at the progress of the minute-hand of the clock, having compared it with his own watch, a huge and antique gold repeater, and having twitched about his features to give due emphasis to one or two peevish pshaws, he hailed the old lady of the cavern.
"Good woman,—what the d—l is her name?—Mrs. Macleuchar!"
Mrs. Macleuchar, aware that she had a defensive part to sustain in the encounter which was to follow, was in no hurry to hasten the discussion by returning a ready answer.
"Mrs. Macleuchar,—Good woman" (with an elevated voice)—then apart, "Old doited hag, she's as deaf as a post—I say, Mrs. Macleuchar!"
"I am just serving a customer.—Indeed, hinny, it will no be a bodle cheaper than I tell ye."
"Woman," reiterated the traveller, "do you think we can stand here all day till you have cheated that poor servant wench out of her half-year's fee and bountith?"
"Cheated!" retorted Mrs. Macleuchar, eager to take up the quarrel upon a defensible ground; "I scorn your words, sir: you are an uncivil person, and I desire you will not stand there, to slander me at my ain stair-head."
"The woman," said the senior, looking with an arch glance at his destined travelling companion, "does not understand the words of action.—Woman," again turning to the vault, "I arraign not thy character, but I desire to know what is become of thy coach?"
"What's your wull?" answered Mrs. Macleuchar, relapsing into deafness.
"We have taken places, ma'am," said the younger stranger, "in your diligence for Queensferry"——"Which should have been half-way on the road before now," continued the elder and more impatient traveller, rising in wrath as he spoke: "and now in all likelihood we shall miss the tide, and I have business of importance on the other side—and your cursed coach"—
"The coach?—Gude guide us, gentlemen, is it no on the stand yet?" answered the old lady, her shrill tone of expostulation sinking into a kind of apologetic whine. "Is it the coach ye hae been waiting for?"
"What else could have kept us broiling in the sun by the side of the gutter here, you—you faithless woman, eh?"
Mrs. Macleuchar now ascended her trap stair (for such it might be called, though constructed of stone), until her nose came upon a level with the pavement; then, after wiping her spectacles to look for that which she well knew was not to be found, she exclaimed, with well-feigned astonishment, "Gude guide us—saw ever onybody the like o' that?"
"Yes, you abominable woman," vociferated the traveller, "many have seen the like of it, and all will see the like of it that have anything to do with your trolloping sex;" then pacing with great indignation before the door of the shop, still as he passed and repassed, like a vessel who gives her broadside as she comes abreast of a hostile fortress, he shot down complaints, threats, and reproaches, on the embarrassed Mrs. Macleuchar. He would take a post-chaise—he would call a hackney coach—he would take four horses—he must—he would be on the north side, to-day—and all the expense of his journey, besides damages, direct and consequential, arising from delay, should be accumulated on the devoted head of Mrs. Macleuchar.
There, was something so comic in his pettish resentment, that the younger traveller, who was in no such pressing hurry to depart, could not help being amused with it, especially as it was obvious, that every now and then the old gentleman, though very angry, could not help laughing at his own vehemence. But when Mrs. Macleuchar began also to join in the laughter, he quickly put a stop to her ill-timed merriment.
"Woman," said he, "is that advertisement thine?" showing a bit of crumpled printed paper: "Does it not set forth, that, God willing, as you hypocritically express it, the Hawes Fly, or Queensferry Diligence, would set forth to-day at twelve o'clock; and is it not, thou falsest of creatures, now a quarter past twelve, and no such fly or diligence to be seen?—Dost thou know the consequence of seducing the lieges by false reports?—dost thou know it might be brought under the statute of leasing-making? Answer—and for once in thy long, useless, and evil life, let it be in the words of truth and sincerity,—hast thou such a coach?—is it in rerum natura?—or is this base annunciation a mere swindle on the incautious to beguile them of their time, their patience, and three shillings of sterling money of this realm?—Hast thou, I say, such a coach? ay or no?"
"O dear, yes, sir; the neighbours ken the diligence weel, green picked oat wi' red—three yellow wheels and a black ane."
"Woman, thy special description will not serve—it may be only a lie with a circumstance."
"O, man, man!" said the overwhelmed Mrs. Macleuchar, totally exhausted at having been so long the butt of his rhetoric, "take back your three shillings, and make me quit o' ye."
"Not so fast, not so fast, woman—Will three shillings transport me to Queensferry, agreeably to thy treacherous program?—or will it requite the damage I may sustain by leaving my business undone, or repay the expenses which I must disburse if I am obliged to tarry a day at the South Ferry for lack of tide?—Will it hire, I say, a pinnace, for which alone the regular price is five shillings?"
Here his argument was cut short by a lumbering noise, which proved to be the advance of the expected vehicle, pressing forward with all the dispatch to which the broken-winded jades that drew it could possibly be urged. With ineffable pleasure, Mrs. Macleuchar saw her tormentor deposited in the leathern convenience; but still, as it was driving off, his head thrust out of the window reminded her, in words drowned amid the rumbling of the wheels, that, if the diligence did not attain the Ferry in time to save the flood-tide, she, Mrs. Macleuchar, should be held responsible for all the consequences that might ensue.
The coach had continued in motion for a mile or two before the stranger had completely repossessed himself of his equanimity, as was manifested by the doleful ejaculations, which he made from time to time, on the too great probability, or even certainty, of their missing the flood-tide. By degrees, however, his wrath subsided; he wiped his brows, relaxed his frown, and, undoing the parcel in his hand, produced his folio, on which he gazed from time to time with the knowing look of an amateur, admiring its height and condition, and ascertaining, by a minute and individual inspection of each leaf, that the, volume was uninjured and entire from title-page to colophon. His fellow-traveller took the liberty of inquiring the subject of his studies. He lifted up his eyes with something of a sarcastic glance, as if he supposed the young querist would not relish, or perhaps understand, his answer, and pronounced the book to be Sandy Gordon's Itinerarium Septentrionale,* a book illustrative of the Roman remains in Scotland.
* Note B. Sandy Gordon's Itinerarium.
The querist, unappalled by this learned title, proceeded to put several questions, which indicated that he had made good use of a good education, and, although not possessed of minute information on the subject of antiquities, had yet acquaintance enough with the classics to render him an interested and intelligent auditor when they were enlarged upon. The elder traveller, observing with pleasure the capacity of his temporary companion to understand and answer him, plunged, nothing loath, into a sea of discussion concerning urns, vases, votive, altars, Roman camps, and the rules of castrametation.
The pleasure of this discourse had such a dulcifying tendency, that, although two causes of delay occurred, each of much more serious duration than that which had drawn down his wrath upon the unlucky Mrs. Macleuchar, our =Antiquary= only bestowed on the delay the honour of a few episodical poohs and pshaws, which rather seemed to regard the interruption of his disquisition than the retardation of his journey.
The first of these stops was occasioned by the breaking of a spring, which half an hour's labour hardly repaired. To the second, the Antiquary was himself accessory, if not the principal cause of it; for, observing that one of the horses had cast a fore-foot shoe, he apprized the coachman of this important deficiency. "It's Jamie Martingale that furnishes the naigs on contract, and uphauds them," answered John, "and I am not entitled to make any stop, or to suffer prejudice by the like of these accidents."
"And when you go to—I mean to the place you deserve to go to, you scoundrel,—who do you think will uphold you on contract? If you don't stop directly and carry the poor brute, to the next smithy, I'll have you punished, if there's a justice of peace in Mid-Lothian;" and, opening the coach-door, out he jumped, while the coachman obeyed his orders, muttering, that "if the gentlemen lost the tide now, they could not say but it was their ain fault, since he was willing to get on."
I like so little to analyze the complication of the causes which influence actions, that I will not venture to ascertain whether our Antiquary's humanity to the poor horse was not in some degree aided by his desire of showing his companion a Pict's camp, or Round-about, a subject which he had been elaborately discussing, and of which a specimen, "very curious and perfect indeed," happened to exist about a hundred yards distant from the spot where this interruption took place. But were I compelled to decompose the motives of my worthy friend (for such was the gentleman in the sober suit, with powdered wig and slouched hat), I should say, that, although he certainly would not in any case have suffered the coachman to proceed while the horse was unfit for service, and likely to suffer by being urged forward, yet the man of whipcord escaped some severe abuse and reproach by the agreeable mode which the traveller found out to pass the interval of delay.
So much time was consumed by these interruptions of their journey, that when they descended the hill above the Hawes (for so the inn on the southern side of the Queensferry is denominated), the experienced eye of the Antiquary at once discerned, from the extent of wet sand, and the number of black stones and rocks, covered with sea-weed, which were visible along the skirts of the shore, that the hour of tide was past. The young traveller expected a burst of indignation; but whether, as Croaker says in "The Good-natured Man," our hero had exhausted himself in fretting away his misfortunes beforehand, so that he did not feel them when they actually arrived, or whether he found the company in which he was placed too congenial to lead him to repine at anything which delayed his journey, it is certain that he submitted to his lot with much resignation.
"The d—l's in the diligence and the old hag, it belongs to!—Diligence, quoth I? Thou shouldst have called it the Sloth—Fly, quoth she? why, it moves like a fly through a glue-pot, as the Irishman says. But, however, time and tide tarry for no man, and so, my young friend, we'll have a snack here at the Hawes, which is a very decent sort of a place, and I'll be very happy to finish the account I was giving you of the difference between the mode of entrenching castra stativa and castra aestiva, things confounded by too many of our historians. Lack-a-day, if they had ta'en the pains to satisfy their own eyes, instead of following each other's blind guidance!—Well! we shall be pretty comfortable at the Hawes; and besides, after all, we must have dined somewhere, and it will be pleasanter sailing with the tide of ebb and the evening breeze."
In this Christian temper of making the best of all occurrences, our travellers alighted at the Hawes.
Sir, they do scandal me upon the road here! A poor quotidian rack of mutton roasted Dry to be grated! and that driven down With beer and butter-milk, mingled together. It is against my freehold, my inheritance. Wine is the word that glads the heart of man, And mine's the house of wine. Sack, says my bush, Be merry and drink Sherry, that's my posie. Ben Jonson's New Inn.
As the senior traveller descended the crazy steps of the diligence at the inn, he was greeted by the fat, gouty, pursy landlord, with that mixture of familiarity and respect which the Scotch innkeepers of the old school used to assume towards their more valued customers.
"Have a care o' us, Monkbarns (distinguishing him by his territorial epithet, always most agreeable to the ear of a Scottish proprietor), is this you? I little thought to have seen your honour here till the summer session was ower."
"Ye donnard auld deevil," answered his guest, his Scottish accent predominating when in anger though otherwise not particularly remarkable,—"ye donnard auld crippled idiot, what have I to do with the session, or the geese that flock to it, or the hawks that pick their pinions for them?"
"Troth, and that's true," said mine host, who, in fact, only spoke upon a very general recollection of the stranger's original education, yet would have been sorry not to have been supposed accurate as to the station and profession of him, or any other occasional guest—"That's very true,—but I thought ye had some law affair of your ain to look after—I have ane mysell—a ganging plea that my father left me, and his father afore left to him. It's about our back-yard—ye'll maybe hae heard of it in the Parliament-house, Hutchison against Mackitchinson—it's a weel-kenn'd plea—its been four times in afore the fifteen, and deil ony thing the wisest o' them could make o't, but just to send it out again to the outer-house.—O it's a beautiful thing to see how lang and how carefully justice is considered in this country!"
"Hold your tongue, you fool," said the traveller, but in great good-humour, "and tell us what you can give this young gentleman and me for dinner."
"Ou, there's fish, nae doubt,—that's sea-trout and caller haddocks," said Mackitchinson, twisting his napkin; "and ye'll be for a mutton-chop, and there's cranberry tarts, very weel preserved, and—and there's just ony thing else ye like."
"Which is to say, there is nothing else whatever? Well, well, the fish and the chop, and the tarts, will do very well. But don't imitate the cautious delay that you praise in the courts of justice. Let there be no remits from the inner to the outer house, hear ye me?"
"Na, na," said Mackitchinson, whose long and heedful perusal of volumes of printed session papers had made him acquainted with some law phrases—"the denner shall be served quam primum and that peremptorie." And with the flattering laugh of a promising host, he left them in his sanded parlour, hung with prints of the Four Seasons.
As, notwithstanding his pledge to the contrary, the glorious delays of the law were not without their parallel in the kitchen of the inn, our younger traveller had an opportunity to step out and make some inquiry of the people of the house concerning the rank and station of his companion. The information which he received was of a general and less authentic nature, but quite sufficient to make him acquainted with the name, history, and circumstances of the gentleman, whom we shall endeavour, in a few words, to introduce more accurately to our readers.
Jonathan Oldenbuck, or Oldinbuck, by popular contraction Oldbuck, of Monkbarns, was the second son of a gentleman possessed of a small property in the neighbourhood of a thriving seaport town on the north-eastern coast of Scotland, which, for various reasons, we shall denominate Fairport. They had been established for several generations, as landholders in the county, and in most shires of England would have been accounted a family of some standing But the shire of——was filled with gentlemen of more ancient descent and larger fortune. In the last generation, also, the neighbouring gentry had been almost uniformly Jacobites, while the proprietors of Monkbarns, like the burghers of the town near which they were settled, were steady assertors of the Protestant succession. The latter had, however, a pedigree of their own, on which they prided themselves as much as those who despised them valued their respective Saxon, Norman, or Celtic genealogies. The first Oldenbuck, who had settled in their family mansion shortly after the Reformation, was, they asserted, descended from one of the original printers of Germany, and had left his country in consequence of the persecutions directed against the professors of the Reformed religion. He had found a refuge in the town near which his posterity dwelt, the more readily that he was a sufferer in the Protestant cause, and certainly not the less so, that he brought with him money enough to purchase the small estate of Monkbarns, then sold by a dissipated laird, to whose father it had been gifted, with other church lands, on the dissolution of the great and wealthy monastery to which it had belonged. The Oldenbucks were therefore, loyal subjects on all occasions of insurrection; and, as they kept up a good intelligence with the borough, it chanced that the Laird of Monkbarns, who flourished in 1745, was provost of the town during that ill-fated year, and had exerted himself with much spirit in favour of King George, and even been put to expenses on that score, which, according to the liberal conduct of the existing government towards their friends, had never been repaid him. By dint of solicitation, however, and borough interest, he contrived to gain a place in the customs, and, being a frugal, careful man, had found himself enabled to add considerably to his paternal fortune. He had only two sons, of whom, as we have hinted, the present laird was the younger, and two daughters, one of whom still flourished in single blessedness, and the other, who was greatly more juvenile, made a love-match with a captain in the Forty-twa, who had no other fortune but his commission and a Highland pedigree. Poverty disturbed a union which love would otherwise have made happy, and Captain M'Intyre, in justice to his wife and two children, a boy and girl, had found himself obliged to seek his fortune in the East Indies. Being ordered upon an expedition against Hyder Ally, the detachment to which he belonged was cut off, and no news ever reached his unfortunate wife, whether he fell in battle, or was murdered in prison, or survived in what the habits of the Indian tyrant rendered a hopeless captivity. She sunk under the accumulated load of grief and uncertainty, and left a son and daughter to the charge of her brother, the existing Laird of Monkbarns.
The history of that proprietor himself is soon told. Being, as we have said, a second son, his father destined him to a share in a substantial mercantile concern, carried on by some of his maternal relations. From this Jonathan's mind revolted in the most irreconcilable manner. He was then put apprentice to the profession of a writer, or attorney, in which he profited so far, that he made himself master of the whole forms of feudal investitures, and showed such pleasure in reconciling their incongruities, and tracing their origin, that his master had great hope he would one day be an able conveyancer. But he halted upon the threshold, and, though he acquired some knowledge of the origin and system of the law of his country, he could never be persuaded to apply it to lucrative and practical purposes. It was not from any inconsiderate neglect of the advantages attending the possession of money that he thus deceived the hopes of his master. "Were he thoughtless or light-headed, or rei suae prodigus," said his instructor, "I would know what to make of him. But he never pays away a shilling without looking anxiously after the change, makes his sixpence go farther than another lad's half-crown, and wilt ponder over an old black-letter copy of the acts of parliament for days, rather than go to the golf or the change-house; and yet he will not bestow one of these days on a little business of routine, that would put twenty shillings in his pocket—a strange mixture of frugality and industry, and negligent indolence—I don't know what to make of him."
But in process of time his pupil gained the means of making what he pleased of himself; for his father having died, was not long survived by his eldest son, an arrant fisher and fowler, who departed this life, in consequence of a cold caught in his vocation, while shooting ducks in the swamp called Kittlefittingmoss, notwithstanding his having drunk a bottle of brandy that very night to keep the cold out of his stomach. Jonathan, therefore, succeeded to the estate, and with it to the means of subsisting without the hated drudgery of the law. His wishes were very moderate; and as the rent of his small property rose with the improvement of the country, it soon greatly exceeded his wants and expenditure; and though too indolent to make money, he was by no means insensible to the pleasure of beholding it accumulate. The burghers of the town near which he lived regarded him with a sort of envy, as one who affected to divide himself from their rank in society, and whose studies and pleasures seemed to them alike incomprehensible. Still, however, a sort of hereditary respect for the Laird of Monkbarns, augmented by the knowledge of his being a ready-money man, kept up his consequence with this class of his neighbours. The country gentlemen were generally above him in fortune, and beneath him in intellect, and, excepting one with whom he lived in habits of intimacy, had little intercourse with Mr. Oldbuck of Monkbarns. He, had, however, the usual resources, the company of the clergyman, and of the doctor, when he chose to request it, and also his own pursuits and pleasures, being in correspondence with most of the virtuosi of his time, who, like himself, measured decayed entrenchments, made plans of ruined castles, read illegible inscriptions, and wrote essays on medals in the proportion of twelve pages to each letter of the legend. Some habits of hasty irritation he had contracted, partly, it was said in the borough of Fairport, from an early disappointment in love in virtue of which he had commenced misogynist, as he called it, but yet more by the obsequious attention paid to him by his maiden sister and his orphan niece, whom he had trained to consider him as the greatest man upon earth, and whom he used to boast of as the only women he had ever seen who were well broke in and bitted to obedience; though, it must be owned, Miss Grizzy Oldbuck was sometimes apt to jibb when he pulled the reins too tight. The rest of his character must be gathered from the story, and we dismiss with pleasure the tiresome task of recapitulation.
During the time of dinner, Mr. Oldbuck, actuated by the same curiosity which his fellow-traveller had entertained on his account, made some advances, which his age and station entitled him to do in a more direct manner, towards ascertaining the name, destination, and quality of his young companion.
His name, the young gentleman said, was Lovel.
"What! the cat, the rat, and Lovel our dog? Was he descended from King Richard's favourite?"
"He had no pretensions," he said, "to call himself a whelp of that litter; his father was a north-of-England gentleman. He was at present travelling to Fairport (the town near to which Monkbarns was situated), and, if he found the place agreeable, might perhaps remain there for some weeks."
"Was Mr. Lovel's excursion solely for pleasure?"
"Perhaps on business with some of the commercial people of Fairport?"
"It was partly on business, but had no reference to commerce."
Here he paused; and Mr. Oldbuck, having pushed his inquiries as far as good manners permitted, was obliged to change the conversation. The Antiquary, though by no means an enemy to good cheer, was a determined foe to all unnecessary expense on a journey; and upon his companion giving a hint concerning a bottle of port wine, he drew a direful picture of the mixture, which, he said, was usually sold under that denomination, and affirming that a little punch was more genuine and better suited for the season, he laid his hand upon the bell to order the materials. But Mackitchinson had, in his own mind, settled their beverage otherwise, and appeared bearing in his hand an immense double quart bottle, or magnum, as it is called in Scotland, covered with saw-dust and cobwebs, the warrants of its antiquity.
"Punch!" said he, catching that generous sound as he entered the parlour, "the deil a drap punch ye'se get here the day, Monkbarns, and that ye may lay your account wi'."
"What do you mean, you impudent rascal?"
"Ay, ay, it's nae matter for that—but do you mind the trick ye served me the last time ye were here!"
"I trick you!"
"Ay, just yoursell, Monkbarns. The Laird o' Tamlowrie and Sir Gilbert Grizzlecleuch, and Auld Rossballoh, and the Bailie, were just setting in to make an afternoon o't, and you, wi' some o' your auld-warld stories, that the mind o' man canna resist, whirl'd them to the back o' beyont to look at the auld Roman camp—Ah, sir!" turning to Lovel, "he wad wile the bird aff the tree wi' the tales he tells about folk lang syne—and did not I lose the drinking o' sax pints o' gude claret, for the deil ane wad hae stirred till he had seen that out at the least?"
"D'ye hear the impudent scoundrel!" said Monkbarns, but laughing at the same time; for the worthy landlord, as he used to boast, know the measure of a guest's foot as well as e'er a souter on this side Solway; "well, well, you may send us in a bottle of port."
"Port! na, na! ye maun leave port and punch to the like o' us, it's claret that's fit for you lairds; and, I dare say, nane of the folk ye speak so much o' ever drank either of the twa."
"Do you hear how absolute the knave is? Well, my young friend, we must for once prefer the Falernian to the vile Sabinum."
The ready landlord had the cork instantly extracted, decanted the wine into a vessel of suitable capaciousness, and, declaring it parfumed the very room, left his guests to make the most of it.
Mackitchinson's wine was really good, and had its effect upon the spirits of the elder guest, who told some good stories, cut some sly jokes, and at length entered into a learned discussion concerning the ancient dramatists; a ground on which he found his new acquaintance so strong, that at length he began to suspect he had made them his professional study. "A traveller partly for business and partly for pleasure?—why, the stage partakes of both; it is a labour to the performers, and affords, or is meant to afford, pleasure to the spectators. He seems, in manner and rank, above the class of young men who take that turn; but I remember hearing them say, that the little theatre at Fairport was to open with the performance of a young gentleman, being his first appearance on any stage.—If this should be thee, Lovel!—Lovel? yes, Lovel or Belville are just the names which youngsters are apt to assume on such occasions—on my life, I am sorry for the lad."
Mr. Oldbuck was habitually parsimonious, but in no respects mean; his first thought was to save his fellow-traveller any part of the expense of the entertainment, which he supposed must be in his situation more or less inconvenient. He therefore took an opportunity of settling privately with Mr. Mackitchinson. The young traveller remonstrated against his liberality, and only acquiesced in deference to his years and respectability.
The mutual satisfaction which they found in each other's society induced Mr. Oldbuck to propose, and Lovel willingly to accept, a scheme for travelling together to the end of their journey. Mr. Oldbuck intimated a wish to pay two-thirds of the hire of a post-chaise, saying, that a proportional quantity of room was necessary to his accommodation; but this Mr. Lovel resolutely declined. Their expense then was mutual, unless when Lovel occasionally slipt a shilling into the hand of a growling postilion; for Oldbuck, tenacious of ancient customs, never extended his guerdon beyond eighteen-pence a stage. In this manner they travelled, until they arrived at Fairport* about two o'clock on the following day.
* [The "Fairport" of this novel is supposed to refer to the town of * Arbroath, in Forfarshire, and "Musselcrag," post, to the fishing village of * Auchmithie, in the same county.]
Lovel probably expected that his travelling companion would have invited him to dinner on his arrival; but his consciousness of a want of ready preparation for unexpected guests, and perhaps some other reasons, prevented Oldbuck from paying him that attention. He only begged to see him as early as he could make it convenient to call in a forenoon, recommended him to a widow who had apartments to let, and to a person who kept a decent ordinary; cautioning both of them apart, that he only knew Mr. Lovel as a pleasant companion in a post-chaise, and did not mean to guarantee any bills which he might contract while residing at Fairport. The young gentleman's figure and manners; not to mention a well-furnished trunk, which soon arrived by sea, to his address at Fairport, probably went as far in his favour as the limited recommendation of his fellow-traveller.
He had a routh o' auld nick-nackets, Rusty airn caps, and jinglin-jackets, Would held the Loudons three in tackets, A towmond gude; And parritch-pats, and auld sayt-backets, Afore the flude. Burns.
After he had settled himself in his new apartments at Fairport, Mr. Lovel bethought him of paying the requested visit to his fellow-traveller. He did not make it earlier, because, with all the old gentleman's good-humour and information, there had sometimes glanced forth in his language and manner towards him an air of superiority, which his companion considered as being fully beyond what the difference of age warranted. He therefore waited the arrival of his baggage from Edinburgh, that he might arrange his dress according to the fashion of the day, and make his exterior corresponding to the rank in society which he supposed or felt himself entitled to hold.
It was the fifth day after his arrival, that, having made the necessary inquiries concerning the road, he went forth to pay his respects at Monkbarns. A footpath leading over a heathy hill, and through two or three meadows, conducted him to this mansion, which stood on the opposite side of the hill aforesaid, and commanded a fine prospect of the bay and shipping. Secluded from the town by the rising ground, which also screened it from the north-west wind, the house had a solitary, and sheltered appearance. The exterior had little to recommend it. It was an irregular old-fashioned building, some part of which had belonged to a grange, or solitary farm-house, inhabited by the bailiff, or steward, of the monastery, when the place was in possession of the monks. It was here that the community stored up the grain, which they received as ground-rent from their vassals; for, with the prudence belonging to their order, all their conventional revenues were made payable in kind, and hence, as the present proprietor loved to tell, came the name of Monkbarns. To the remains of the bailiff's house, the succeeding lay inhabitants had made various additions in proportion to the accommodation required by their families; and, as this was done with an equal contempt of convenience within and architectural regularity without, the whole bore the appearance of a hamlet which had suddenly stood still when in the act of leading down one of Amphion's, or Orpheus's, country dances. It was surrounded by tall clipped hedges of yew and holly, some of which still exhibited the skill of the topiarian artist,* and presented curious arm-chairs, towers, and the figures of Saint George and the Dragon.
* Ars Topiaria, the art of clipping yew-hedges into fantastic figures. A Latin poem, entitled Ars Topiaria, contains a curious account of the process.
The taste of Mr. Oldbuck did not disturb these monuments of an art now unknown, and he was the less tempted so to do, as it must necessarily have broken the heart of the old gardener. One tall embowering holly was, however, sacred from the shears; and, on a garden seat beneath its shade, Lovel beheld his old friend with spectacles on nose, and pouch on side, busily employed in perusing the London Chronicle, soothed by the summer breeze through the rustling leaves, and the distant dash of the waves as they rippled upon the sand.
Mr. Oldbuck immediately rose, and advanced to greet his travelling acquaintance with a hearty shake of the hand. "By my faith," said he, "I began to think you had changed your mind, and found the stupid people of Fairport so tiresome, that you judged them unworthy of your talents, and had taken French leave, as my old friend and brother-antiquary Mac-Cribb did, when he went off with one of my Syrian medals."
"I hope, my good sir, I should have fallen under no such imputation."
"Quite as bad, let me tell you, if you had stolen yourself away without giving me the pleasure of seeing you again. I had rather you had taken my copper Otho himself.—But come, let me show you the way into my sanctum sanctorum—my cell I may call it, for, except two idle hussies of womankind," (by this contemptuous phrase, borrowed from his brother-antiquary, the cynic Anthony a-Wood, Mr. Oldbuck was used to denote the fair sex in general, and his sister and niece in particular), "that, on some idle pretext of relationship, have established themselves in my premises, I live here as much a Coenobite as my predecessor, John o' the Girnell, whose grave I will show you by and by."
Thus speaking the old gentleman led the way through a low door; but before entrance, suddenly stopped short to point out some vestiges of what he called an inscription, and, shaking his head as he pronounced it totally illegible, "Ah! if you but knew, Mr. Lovel, the time and trouble that these mouldering traces of letters have cost me! No mother ever travailed so for a child—and all to no purpose—although I am almost positive that these two last marks imply the figures, or letters, LV, and may give us a good guess at the real date of the building, since we know, aliunde, that it was founded by Abbot Waldimir about the middle of the fourteenth century—and, I profess, I think that centre ornament might be made out by better eyes than mine."
"I think," answered Lovel, willing to humour the old man, "it has something the appearance of a mitre."
"I protest you are right! you are right! it never struck me before—see what it is to have younger eyes—A mitre—a mitre—it corresponds in every respect."
The resemblance was not much nearer than that of Polonius's cloud to a whale, or an owzel; it was sufficient, however, to set the Antiquary's brains to work. "A mitre, my dear sir," continued he, as he led the way through a labyrinth of inconvenient and dark passages, and accompanied his disquisition with certain necessary cautions to his guest—"A mitre, my dear sir, will suit our abbot as well as a bishop—he was a mitred abbot, and at the very top of the roll—take care of these three steps—I know Mac-Cribb denies this, but it is as certain as that he took away my Antigonus, no leave asked—you'll see the name of the Abbot of Trotcosey, Abbas Trottocosiensis, at the head of the rolls of parliament in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries—there is very little light here, and these cursed womankind always leave their tubs in the passage—now take, care of the corner—ascend twelve steps, and ye are safe!"
Mr. Oldbuck had by this time attained the top of the winding stair which led to his own apartment, and opening a door, and pushing aside a piece of tapestry with which it was covered, his first exclamation was, "What are you about here, you sluts?" A dirty barefooted chambermaid threw down her duster, detected in the heinous fact of arranging the sanctum sanctorum, and fled out of an opposite door from the face of her incensed master. A genteel-looking young woman, who was superintending the operation, stood her ground, but with some timidity.
"Indeed, uncle, your room was not fit to be seen, and I just came to see that Jenny laid everything down where she took it up."
"And how dare you, or Jenny either, presume to meddle with my private matters?" (Mr. Oldbuck hated puttting to rights as much as Dr. Orkborne, or any other professed student.) "Go, sew your sampler, you monkey, and do not let me find you here again, as you value your ears.—I assure you, Mr. Lovel, that the last inroad of these pretended friends to cleanliness was almost as fatal to my collection as Hudibras's visit to that of Sidrophel; and I have ever since missed
My copperplate, with almanacks Engraved upon't and other knacks My moon-dial, with Napier's bones, And several constellation Stones; My flea, my morpeon, and punaise, I purchased for my proper ease.
And so forth, as old Butler has it."
The young lady, after courtesying to Lovel, had taken the opportunity to make her escape during this enumeration of losses. "You'll be poisoned here with the volumes of dust they have raised," continued the Antiquary; "but I assure you the dust was very ancient, peaceful, quiet dust, about an hour ago, and would have remained so for a hundred years, had not these gipsies disturbed it, as they do everything else in the world."
It was indeed some time before Lovel could, through the thick atmosphere, perceive in what sort of den his friend had constructed his retreat. It was a lofty room of middling size, obscurely lighted by high narrow latticed windows. One end was entirely occupied by book-shelves, greatly too limited in space for the number of volumes placed upon them, which were, therefore, drawn up in ranks of two or three files deep, while numberless others littered the floor and the tables, amid a chaos of maps, engraving, scraps of parchment, bundles of papers, pieces of old armour, swords, dirks, helmets, and Highland targets. Behind Mr. Oldbuck's seat (which was an ancient leathern-covered easy-chair, worn smooth by constant use) was a huge oaken cabinet, decorated at each corner with Dutch cherubs, having their little duck-wings displayed, and great jolter-headed visages placed between them. The top of this cabinet was covered with busts, and Roman lamps and paterae, intermingled with one or two bronze figures. The walls of the apartment were partly clothed with grim old tapestry, representing the memorable story of Sir Gawaine's wedding, in which full justice was done to the ugliness of the Lothely Lady; although, to judge from his own looks, the gentle knight had less reason to be disgusted with the match on account of disparity of outward favour, than the romancer has given us to understand. The rest of the room was panelled, or wainscotted, with black oak, against which hung two or three portraits in armour, being characters in Scottish history, favourites of Mr. Oldbuck, and as many in tie-wigs and laced coats, staring representatives of his own ancestors. A large old-fashioned oaken table was covered with a profusion of papers, parchments, books, and nondescript trinkets and gewgaws, which seemed to have little to recommend them, besides rust and the antiquity which it indicates. In the midst of this wreck of ancient books and utensils, with a gravity equal to Marius among the ruins of Carthage, sat a large black cat, which, to a superstitious eye, might have presented the genius loci, the tutelar demon of the apartment. The floor, as well as the table and chairs, was overflowed by the same mare magnum of miscellaneous trumpery, where it would have been as impossible to find any individual article wanted, as to put it to any use when discovered.
Amid this medley, it was no easy matter to find one's way to a chair, without stumbling over a prostrate folio, or the still more awkward mischance of overturning some piece of Roman or ancient British pottery. And, when the chair was attained, it had to be disencumbered, with a careful hand, of engravings which might have received damage, and of antique spurs and buckles, which would certainly have occasioned it to any sudden occupant. Of this the Antiquary made Lovel particularly aware, adding, that his friend, the Rev. Doctor Heavysterne from the Low Countries, had sustained much injury by sitting down suddenly and incautiously on three ancient calthrops, or craw-taes, which had been lately dug up in the bog near Bannockburn, and which, dispersed by Robert Bruce to lacerate the feet of the English chargers, came thus in process of time to endamage the sitting part of a learned professor of Utrecht.
Having at length fairly settled himself, and being nothing loath to make inquiry concerning the strange objects around him, which his host was equally ready, as far as possible, to explain, Lovel was introduced to a large club, or bludgeon, with an iron spike at the end of it, which, it seems, had been lately found in a field on the Monkbarns property, adjacent to an old burying-ground. It had mightily the air of such a stick as the Highland reapers use to walk with on their annual peregrinations from their mountains; but Mr. Oldbuck was strongly tempted to believe, that, as its shape was singular, it might have been one of the clubs with which the monks armed their peasants in lieu of more martial weapons,—whence, he observed, the villains were called Colve-carles, or Kolb-kerls, that is, Clavigeri, or club-bearers. For the truth of this custom, he quoted the chronicle of Antwerp and that of St. Martin; against which authorities Lovel had nothing to oppose, having never heard of them till that moment.
Mr. Oldbuck next exhibited thumb-screws, which had given the Covenanters of former days the cramp in their joints, and a collar with the name of a fellow convicted of theft, whose services, as the inscription bore, had been adjudged to a neighbouring baron, in lieu of the modern Scottish punishment, which, as Oldbuck said, sends such culprits to enrich England by their labour, and themselves by their dexterity. Many and various were the other curiosities which he showed;—but it was chiefly upon his books that he prided himself, repeating, with a complacent air, as he led the way to the crowded and dusty shelves, the verses of old Chaucer—
For he would rather have, at his bed-head, A twenty books, clothed in black or red, Of Aristotle, or his philosophy, Than robes rich, rebeck, or saltery.
This pithy motto he delivered, shaking his head, and giving each guttural the true Anglo-Saxon enunciation, which is now forgotten in the southern parts of this realm.
The collection was indeed a curious one, and might well be envied by an amateur. Yet it was not collected at the enormous prices of modern times, which are sufficient to have appalled the most determined as well as earliest bibliomaniac upon record, whom we take to have been none else than the renowned Don Quixote de la Mancha, as, among other slight indications of an infirm understanding, he is stated, by his veracious historian, Cid Hamet Benengeli, to have exchanged fields and farms for folios and quartos of chivalry. In this species of exploit, the good knight-errant has been imitated by lords, knights, and squires of our own day, though we have not yet heard of any that has mistaken an inn for a castle, or laid his lance in rest against a windmill. Mr. Oldbuck did not follow these collectors in such excess of expenditure; but, taking a pleasure in the personal labour of forming his library, saved his purse at the expense of his time and toil, He was no encourager of that ingenious race of peripatetic middle-men, who, trafficking between the obscure keeper of a stall and the eager amateur, make their profit at once of the ignorance of the former, and the dear-bought skill and taste of the latter. When such were mentioned in his hearing, he seldom failed to point out how necessary it was to arrest the object of your curiosity in its first transit, and to tell his favourite story of Snuffy Davie and Caxton's Game at Chess.—"Davy Wilson," he said, "commonly called Snuffy Davy, from his inveterate addiction to black rappee, was the very prince of scouts for searching blind alleys, cellars, and stalls for rare volumes. He had the scent of a slow-hound, sir, and the snap of a bull-dog. He would detect you an old black-letter ballad among the leaves of a law-paper, and find an editio princeps under the mask of a school Corderius. Snuffy Davy bought the Game of Chess, 1474, the first book ever printed in England, from a stall in Holland, for about two groschen, or twopence of our money. He sold it to Osborne for twenty pounds, and as many books as came to twenty pounds more. Osborne resold this inimitable windfall to Dr. Askew for sixty guineas. At Dr. Askew's sale," continued the old gentleman, kindling as he spoke, "this inestimable treasure blazed forth in its full value, and was purchased by Royalty itself for one hundred and seventy pounds!—Could a copy now occur, Lord only knows," he ejaculated, with a deep sigh and lifted-up hands—"Lord only knows what would be its ransom; and yet it was originally secured, by skill and research, for the easy equivalent of two-pence sterling. * Happy, thrice happy, Snuffy Davie!—and blessed were the times when thy industry could be so rewarded!
* This bibliomaniacal anecdote is literally true; and David Wilson, the author need not tell his brethren of the Roxburghe and Bannatyne Clubs, was a real personage.
"Even I, sir," he went on, "though far inferior in industry and discernment and presence of mind, to that great man, can show you a few—a very few things, which I have collected, not by force of money, as any wealthy man might,—although, as my friend Lucian says, he might chance to throw away his coin only to illustrate his ignorance,—but gained in a manner that shows I know something of the matter. See this bundle of ballads, not one of them later than 1700, and some of them an hundred years older. I wheedled an old woman out of these, who loved them better than her psalm-book. Tobacco, sir, snuff, and the Complete Syren, were the equivalent! For that, mutilated copy of the Complaynt of Scotland, I sat out the drinking of two dozen bottles of strong ale with the late learned proprietor, who, in gratitude, bequeathed it to me by his last will. These little Elzevirs are the memoranda and trophies of many a walk by night and morning through the Cowgate, the Canongate, the Bow, St. Mary's Wynd,—wherever, in fine, there were to be found brokers and trokers, those miscellaneous dealers in things rare and curious. How often have I stood haggling on a halfpenny, lest, by a too ready acquiescence in the dealer's first price, he should be led to suspect the value I set upon the article!—how have I trembled, lest some passing stranger should chop in between me and the prize, and regarded each poor student of divinity that stopped to turn over the books at the stall, as a rival amateur, or prowling bookseller in disguise!—And then, Mr. Lovel, the sly satisfaction with which one pays the consideration, and pockets the article, affecting a cold indifference, while the hand is trembling with pleasure!—Then to dazzle the eyes of our wealthier and emulous rivals by showing them such a treasure as this" (displaying a little black smoked book about the size of a primer); "to enjoy their surprise and envy, shrouding meanwhile, under a veil of mysterious consciousness, our own superior knowledge and dexterity these, my young friend, these are the white moments of life, that repay the toil, and pains, and sedulous attention, which our profession, above all others, so peculiarly demands!"
Lovel was not a little amused at hearing the old gentleman run on in this manner, and, however incapable of entering into the full merits of what he beheld, he admired, as much as could have been expected, the various treasures which Oldbuck exhibited. Here were editions esteemed as being the first, and there stood those scarcely less regarded as being the last and best; here was a book valued because it had the author's final improvements, and there another which (strange to tell!) was in request because it had them not. One was precious because it was a folio, another because it was a duodecimo; some because they were tall, some because they were short; the merit of this lay in the title-page—of that in the arrangement of the letters in the word Finis. There was, it seemed, no peculiar distinction, however trifling or minute, which might not give value to a volume, providing the indispensable quality of scarcity, or rare occurrence, was attached to it.
Not the least fascinating was the original broadside,—the Dying Speech, Bloody Murder, or Wonderful Wonder of Wonders,—in its primary tattered guise, as it was hawked through the streets, and sold for the cheap and easy price of one penny, though now worth the weight of that penny in gold. On these the Antiquary dilated with transport, and read, with a rapturous voice, the elaborate titles, which bore the same proportion to the contents that the painted signs without a showman's booth do to the animals within. Mr. Oldbuck, for example, piqued himself especially in possessing an unique broadside, entitled and called "Strange and Wonderful News from Chipping-Norton, in the County of Oxon, of certain dreadful Apparitions which were seen in the Air on the 26th of July 1610, at Half an Hour after Nine o'Clock at Noon, and continued till Eleven, in which Time was seen Appearances of several flaming Swords, strange Motions of the superior Orbs; with the unusual Sparkling of the Stars, with their dreadful Continuations; With the Account of the Opening of the Heavens, and strange Appearances therein disclosing themselves, with several other prodigious Circumstances not heard of in any Age, to the great Amazement of the Beholders, as it was communicated in a Letter to one Mr. Colley, living in West Smithfield, and attested by Thomas Brown, Elizabeth Greenaway, and Anne Gutheridge, who were Spectators of the dreadful Apparitions: And if any one would be further satisfied of the Truth of this Relation, let them repair to Mr. Nightingale's at the Bear Inn, in West Smithfield, and they may be satisfied."*
* Of this thrice and four times rare broadside, the author possesses an exemplar.
"You laugh at this," said the proprietor of the collection, "and I forgive you. I do acknowledge that the charms on which we doat are not so obvious to the eyes of youth as those of a fair lady; but you will grow wiser, and see more justly, when you come to wear spectacles.—Yet stay, I have one piece of antiquity, which you, perhaps, will prize more highly."
So saying, Mr. Oldbuck unlocked a drawer, and took out a bundle of keys, then pulled aside a piece of the tapestry which concealed the door of a small closet, into which he descended by four stone steps, and, after some tinkling among bottles and cans, produced two long-stalked wine-glasses with bell mouths, such as are seen in Teniers' pieces, and a small bottle of what he called rich racy canary, with a little bit of diet cake, on a small silver server of exquisite old workmanship. "I will say nothing of the server," he remarked, "though it is said to have been wrought by the old mad Florentine, Benvenuto Cellini. But, Mr. Lovel, our ancestors drank sack—you, who admire the drama, know where that's to be found.—Here's success to your exertions at Fairport, sir!"
"And to you, sir, and an ample increase to your treasure, with no more trouble on your part than is just necessary to make the acquisitions valuable."
After a libation so suitable to the amusement in which they had been engaged, Lovel rose to take his leave, and Mr. Oldbuck prepared to give him his company a part of the way, and show him something worthy of his curiosity on his return to Fairport.
The pawkie auld carle cam ower the lea, Wi' mony good-e'ens and good-morrows to me, Saying, Kind Sir, for your courtesy, Will ye lodge a silly puir man? The Gaberlunzie Man.
Our two friends moved through a little orchard, where the aged apple-trees, well loaded with fruit, showed, as is usual in the neighbourhood of monastic buildings, that the days of the monks had not always been spent in indolence, but often dedicated to horticulture and gardening. Mr. Oldbuck failed not to make Lovel remark, that the planters of those days were possessed of the modern secret of preventing the roots of the fruit-trees from penetrating the till, and compelling them to spread in a lateral direction, by placing paving-stones beneath the trees when first planted, so as to interpose between their fibres and the subsoil. "This old fellow," he said, "which was blown down last summer, and still, though half reclined on the ground, is covered with fruit, has been, as you may see, accommodated with such a barrier between his roots and the unkindly till. That other tree has a story:—the fruit is called the Abbot's Apple; the lady of a neighbouring baron was so fond of it, that she would often pay a visit to Monkbarns, to have the pleasure of gathering it from the tree. The husband, a jealous man, belike, suspected that a taste so nearly resembling that of Mother Eve prognosticated a similar fall. As the honour of a noble family is concerned, I will say no more on the subject, only that the lands of Lochard and Cringlecut still pay a fine of six bolls of barley annually, to atone the guilt of their audacious owner, who intruded himself and his worldly suspicions upon the seclusion of the Abbot and his penitent.—Admire the little belfry rising above the ivy-mantled porch—there was here a hospitium, hospitale, or hospitamentum (for it is written all these various ways in the old writings and evidents), in which the monks received pilgrims. I know our minister has said, in the Statistical Account, that the hospitium was situated either in the lands of Haltweary or upon those of Half-starvet; but he is incorrect, Mr. Lovel—that is the gate called still the Palmer's Port, and my gardener found many hewn stones, when he was trenching the ground for winter celery, several of which I have sent as specimens to my learned friends, and to the various antiquarian societies of which I am an unworthy member. But I will say no more at present; I reserve something for another visit, and we have an object of real curiosity before us."
While he was thus speaking, he led the way briskly through one or two rich pasture-meadows, to an open heath or common, and so to the top of a gentle eminence. "Here," he said, "Mr. Lovel, is a truly remarkable spot."
"It commands a fine view," said his companion, looking around him.
"True: but it is not for the prospect I brought you hither; do you see nothing else remarkable?—nothing on the surface of the ground?"
"Why, yes; I do see something like a ditch, indistinctly marked."
"Indistinctly!—pardon me, sir, but the indistinctness must be in your powers of vision. Nothing can be more plainly traced—a proper agger or vallum, with its corresponding ditch or fossa. Indistinctly! why, Heaven help you, the lassie, my niece, as light-headed a goose as womankind affords, saw the traces of the ditch at once. Indistinct!—why, the great station at Ardoch, or that at Burnswark in Annandale, may be clearer, doubtless, because they are stative forts, whereas this was only an occasional encampment. Indistinct!—why, you must suppose that fools, boors, and idiots, have ploughed up the land, and, like beasts and ignorant savages, have thereby obliterated two sides of the square, and greatly injured the third; but you see, yourself, the fourth side is quite entire!"
Lovel endeavoured to apologize, and to explain away his ill-timed phrase, and pleaded his inexperience. But he was not at once quite successful. His first expression had come too frankly and naturally not to alarm the Antiquary, and he could not easily get over the shock it had given him.
"My dear sir," continued the senior, "your eyes are not inexperienced: you know a ditch from level ground, I presume, when you see them? Indistinct! why, the very common people, the very least boy that can herd a cow, calls it the Kaim of Kinprunes; and if that does not imply an ancient camp, I am ignorant what does."
Lovel having again acquiesced, and at length lulled to sleep the irritated and suspicious vanity of the Antiquary, he proceeded in his task of cicerone. "You must know," he said, "our Scottish antiquaries have been greatly divided about the local situation of the final conflict between Agricola and the Caledonians; some contend for Ardoch in Strathallan, some for Innerpeffry, some for the Raedykes in the Mearns, and some are for carrying the scene of action as far north as Blair in Athole. Now, after all this discussion," continued the old gentleman, with one of his slyest and most complacent looks, "what would you think, Mr. Lovel,—I say, what would you think,—if the memorable scene of conflict should happen to be on the very spot called the Kaim of Kinprunes, the property of the obscure and humble individual who now speaks to you?" Then, having paused a little, to suffer his guest to digest a communication so important, he resumed his disquisition in a higher tone. "Yes, my good friend, I am indeed greatly deceived if this place does not correspond with all the marks of that celebrated place of action. It was near to the Grampian mountains—lo! yonder they are, mixing and contending with the sky on the skirts of the horizon! It was in conspectu classis—in sight of the Roman fleet; and would any admiral, Roman or British, wish a fairer bay to ride in than that on your right hand? It is astonishing how blind we professed antiquaries sometimes are! Sir Robert Sibbald, Saunders Gordon, General Roy, Dr. Stokely,—why, it escaped all of them. I was unwilling to say a word about it till I had secured the ground, for it belonged to auld Johnnie Howie, a bonnet-laird* hard by, and many a communing we had before he and I could agree.
* A bonnet-laird signifies a petty proprietor, wearing the dress, along with the habits of a yeoman.
At length—I am almost ashamed to say it—but I even brought my mind to give acre for acre of my good corn-land for this barren spot. But then it was a national concern; and when the scene of so celebrated an event became my own, I was overpaid.—Whose patriotism would not grow warmer, as old Johnson says, on the plains of Marathon? I began to trench the ground, to see what might be discovered; and the third day, sir, we found a stone, which I have transported to Monkbarns, in order to have the sculpture taken off with plaster of Paris; it bears a sacrificing vessel, and the letters A. D. L. L. which may stand, without much violence, for Agricola Dicavit Libens Lubens."
"Certainly, sir; for the Dutch Antiquaries claim Caligula as the founder of a light-house, on the sole authority of the letters C. C. P. F., which they interpret Caius Caligula Pharum Fecit."
"True, and it has ever been recorded as a sound exposition. I see we shall make something of you even before you wear spectacles, notwithstanding you thought the traces of this beautiful camp indistinct when you first observed them."
"In time, sir, and by good instruction"—
"—You will become more apt—I doubt it not. You shall peruse, upon your next visit to Monkbarns, my trivial Essay upon Castrametation, with some particular Remarks upon the Vestiges of Ancient Fortifications lately discovered by the Author at the Kaim of Kinprunes. I think I have pointed out the infallible touchstone of supposed antiquity. I premise a few general rules on that point, on the nature, namely, of the evidence to be received in such cases. Meanwhile be pleased to observe, for example, that I could press into my service Claudian's famous line,
Ille Caledoniis posuit qui castra pruinis.
For pruinis, though interpreted to mean hoar frosts, to which I own we are somewhat subject in this north-eastern sea-coast, may also signify a locality, namely, Prunes; the Castra Pruinis posita would therefore be the Kaim of Kinprunes. But I waive this, for I am sensible it might be laid hold of by cavillers as carrying down my Castra to the time of Theodosius, sent by Valentinian into Britain as late as the year 367, or thereabout. No, my good friend, I appeal to people's eye-sight. Is not here the Decuman gate? and there, but for the ravage of the horrid plough, as a learned friend calls it, would be the Praetorian gate. On the left hand you may see some slight vestiges of the porta sinistra, and on the right, one side of the porta dextra wellnigh entire. Here, then, let us take our stand, on this tumulus, exhibiting the foundation of ruined buildings,—the central point—the praetorium, doubtless, of the camp. From this place, now scarce to be distinguished but by its slight elevation and its greener turf from the rest of the fortification, we may suppose Agricola to have looked forth on the immense army of Caledonians, occupying the declivities of yon opposite hill,—the infantry rising rank over rank, as the form of ground displayed their array to its utmost advantage,—the cavalry and covinarii, by which I understand the charioteers—another guise of folks from your Bond-street four-in-hand men, I trow—scouring the more level space below—
—See, then, Lovel—See— See that huge battle moving from the mountains! Their gilt coats shine like dragon scales;—their march Like a rough tumbling storm.—See them, and view them, And then see Rome no more!—
Yes, my dear friend, from this stance it is probable—nay, it is nearly certain, that Julius Agricola beheld what our Beaumont has so admirably described!—From this very Praetorium"—
A voice from behind interrupted his ecstatic description—"Praetorian here, Praetorian there, I mind the bigging o't."
Both at once turned round, Lovel with surprise, and Oldbuck with mingled surprise and indignation, at so uncivil an interruption. An auditor had stolen upon them, unseen and unheard, amid the energy of the Antiquary's enthusiastic declamation, and the attentive civility of Lovel. He had the exterior appearance of a mendicant. A slouched hat of huge dimensions; a long white beard which mingled with his grizzled hair; an aged but strongly marked and expressive countenance, hardened, by climate and exposure, to a right brick-dust complexion; a long blue gown, with a pewter badge on the right arm; two or three wallets, or bags, slung across his shoulder, for holding the different kinds of meal, when he received his charity in kind from those who were but a degree richer than himself:—all these marked at once a beggar by profession, and one of that privileged class which are called in Scotland the King's Bedesmen, or, vulgarly, Blue-Gowns.
"What is that you say, Edie?" said Oldbuck, hoping, perhaps, that his ears had betrayed their duty—"what were you speaking about!"
"About this bit bourock, your honour," answered the undaunted Edie; "I mind the bigging o't."
"The devil you do! Why, you old fool, it was here before you were born, and will be after you are hanged, man!"
"Hanged or drowned, here or awa, dead or alive, I mind the bigging o't."
"You—you—you—," said the Antiquary, stammering between confusion and anger, "you strolling old vagabond, what the devil do you know about it?"
"Ou, I ken this about it, Monkbarns—and what profit have I for telling ye a lie?—l just ken this about it, that about twenty years syne, I, and a wheen hallenshakers like mysell, and the mason-lads that built the lang dike that gaes down the loaning, and twa or three herds maybe, just set to wark, and built this bit thing here that ye ca' the—the—Praetorian, and a' just for a bield at auld Aiken Drum's bridal, and a bit blithe gae-down wi' had in't, some sair rainy weather. Mair by token, Monkbarns, if ye howk up the bourock, as ye seem to have began, yell find, if ye hae not fund it already, a stane that ane o' the mason-callants cut a ladle on to have a bourd at the bridegroom, and he put four letters on't, that's A. D. L. L.—Aiken Drum's Lang Ladle—for Aiken was ane o' the kale-suppers o' Fife."
"This," thought Lovel to himself, "is a famous counterpart to the story of Keip on this syde." He then ventured to steal a glance at our Antiquary, but quickly withdrew it in sheer compassion. For, gentle reader, if thou hast ever beheld the visage of a damsel of sixteen, whose romance of true love has been blown up by an untimely discovery, or of a child of ten years, whose castle of cards has been blown down by a malicious companion, I can safely aver to you, that Jonathan Oldbuck of Monkbarns looked neither more wise nor less disconcerted.
"There is some mistake about this," he said, abruptly turning away from the mendicant.
"Deil a bit on my side o' the wa'," answered the sturdy beggar; "I never deal in mistakes, they aye bring mischances.—Now, Monkbarns, that young gentleman, that's wi' your honour, thinks little of a carle like me; and yet, I'll wager I'll tell him whar he was yestreen at the gloamin, only he maybe wadna like to hae't spoken o' in company."
Lovel's soul rushed to his cheeks, with the vivid blush of two-and-twenty.
"Never mind the old rogue," said Mr. Oldbuck; "don't suppose I think the worse of you for your profession; they are only prejudiced fools and coxcombs that do so. You remember what old Tully says in his oration, pro Archia poeta, concerning one of your confraternity—quis nostrum tam anino agresti ac duro fuit—ut—ut—I forget the Latin—the meaning is, which of us was so rude and barbarous as to remain unmoved at the death of the great Roscius, whose advanced age was so far from preparing us for his death, that we rather hoped one so graceful, so excellent in his art, ought to be exempted from the common lot of mortality? So the Prince of Orators spoke of the stage and its professor."
The words of the old man fell upon Lovel's ears, but without conveying any precise idea to his mind, which was then occupied in thinking by what means the old beggar, who still continued to regard him with a countenance provokingly sly and intelligent, had contrived to thrust himself into any knowledge of his affairs. He put his hand in his pocket as the readiest mode of intimating his desire of secrecy, and securing the concurrence of the person whom he addressed; and while he bestowed on him an alms, the amount of which rather bore proportion to his fears than to his charity, looked at him with a marked expression, which the mendicant, a physiognomist by profession, seemed perfectly to understand.—"Never mind me, sir—I am no tale-pyet; but there are mair een in the warld than mine," answered he as he pocketed Lovel's bounty, but in a tone to be heard by him alone, and with an expression which amply filled up what was left unspoken. Then turning to Oldbuck—"I am awa' to the manse, your honour. Has your honour ony word there, or to Sir Arthur, for I'll come in by Knockwinnock Castle again e'en?"
Oldbuck started as from a dream; and, in a hurried tone, where vexation strove with a wish to conceal it, paying, at the same time, a tribute to Edie's smooth, greasy, unlined hat, he said, "Go down, go down to Monkbarns—let them give you some dinner—Or stay; if you do go to the manse, or to Knockwinnock, ye need say nothing about that foolish story of yours."
"Who, I?" said the mendicant—"Lord bless your honour, naebody sall ken a word about it frae me, mair than if the bit bourock had been there since Noah's flood. But, Lord, they tell me your honour has gien Johnnie Howie acre for acre of the laigh crofts for this heathery knowe! Now, if he has really imposed the bourock on ye for an ancient wark, it's my real opinion the bargain will never haud gude, if you would just bring down your heart to try it at the law, and say that he beguiled ye."
"Provoking scoundrel!" muttered the indignant Antiquary between his teeths—"I'll have the hangman's lash and his back acquainted for this." And then, in a louder tone,—"Never mind, Edie—it is all a mistake."
"Troth, I am thinking sae," continued his tormentor, who seemed to have pleasure in rubbing the galled wound, "troth, I aye thought sae; and it's no sae lang since I said to Luckie Gemmers, Never think you, luckie' said I, that his honour Monkbarns would hae done sic a daft-like thing as to gie grund weel worth fifty shillings an acre, for a mailing that would be dear o'a pund Scots. Na, na,' quo' I, depend upon't the lard's been imposed upon wi that wily do-little deevil, Johnnie Howie.' But Lord haud a care o' us, sirs, how can that be,' quo' she again, when the laird's sae book-learned, there's no the like o' him in the country side, and Johnnie Howie has hardly sense eneugh to ca' the cows out o' his kale-yard?' Aweel, aweel,' quo' I, but ye'll hear he's circumvented him with some of his auld-warld stories,'—for ye ken, laird, yon other time about the bodle that ye thought was an auld coin"—
"Go to the devil!" said Oldbuck; and then in a more mild tone, as one that was conscious his reputation lay at the mercy of his antagonist, he added—"Away with you down to Monkbarns, and when I come back, I'll send ye a bottle of ale to the kitchen."
"Heaven reward your honour!" This was uttered with the true mendicant whine, as, setting his pike-staff before him, he began to move in the direction of Monkbarns.—"But did your honour," turning round, "ever get back the siller ye gae to the travelling packman for the bodle?"
"Curse thee, go about thy business!"
"Aweel, aweel, sir, God bless your honour! I hope ye'll ding Johnnie Howie yet, and that I'll live to see it." And so saying, the old beggar moved off, relieving Mr. Oldbuck of recollections which were anything rather than agreeable.
"Who is this familiar old gentleman?" said Lovel, when the mendicant was out of hearing.
"O, one of the plagues of the country—I have been always against poor's-rates and a work-house—I think I'll vote for them now, to have that scoundrel shut up. O, your old-remembered guest of a beggar becomes as well acquainted with you as he is with his dish—as intimate as one of the beasts familiar to man which signify love, and with which his own trade is especially conversant. Who is he?—why, he has gone the vole— has been soldier, ballad-singer, travelling tinker, and is now a beggar. He is spoiled by our foolish gentry, who laugh at his jokes, and rehearse Edie Ochiltree's good thing's as regularly as Joe Miller's."
"Why, he uses freedom apparently, which is the, soul of wit," answered Lovel.
"O ay, freedom enough," said the Antiquary; "he generally invents some damned improbable lie or another to provoke you, like that nonsense he talked just now—not that I'll publish my tract till I have examined the thing to the bottom."
"In England," said Lovel, "such a mendicant would get a speedy check."
"Yes, your churchwardens and dog-whips would make slender allowance for his vein of humour! But here, curse him! he is a sort of privileged nuisance—one of the last specimens of the old fashioned Scottish mendicant, who kept his rounds within a particular space, and was the news-carrier, the minstrel, and sometimes the historian of the district. That rascal, now, knows more old ballads and traditions than any other man in this and the four next parishes. And after all," continued he, softening as he went on describing Edie's good gifts, "the dog has some good humour. He has borne his hard fate with unbroken spirits, and it's cruel to deny him the comfort of a laugh at his betters. The pleasure of having quizzed me, as you gay folk would call it, will be meat and drink to him for a day or two. But I must go back and look after him, or he will spread his d—d nonsensical story over half the country."*
* Note C. Praetorium.
So saying our heroes parted, Mr. Oldbuck to return to his hospitium at Monkbarns, and Lovel to pursue his way to Fairport, where he arrived without farther adventure.
Launcelot Gobbo. Mark me now: Now will I raise the waters. Merchant of Venice.
The theatre at Fairport had opened, but no Mr. Lovel appeared on the boards, nor was there anything in the habits or deportment of the young gentleman so named, which authorised Mr. Oldbuck's conjecture that his fellow-traveller was a candidate for the public favour. Regular were the Antiquary's inquiries at an old-fashioned barber who dressed the only three wigs in the parish which, in defiance of taxes and times, were still subjected to the operation of powdering and frizzling, and who for that purpose divided his time among the three employers whom fashion had yet left him; regular, I say, were Mr. Oldbuck's inquiries at this personage concerning the news of the little theatre at Fairport, expecting every day to hear of Mr. Lovel's appearance; on which occasion the old gentleman had determined to put himself to charges in honour of his young friend, and not only to go to the play himself, but to carry his womankind along with him. But old Jacob Caxon conveyed no information which warranted his taking so decisive a step as that of securing a box.
He brought information, on the contrary, that there was a young man residing at Fairport, of whom the town (by which he meant all the gossips, who, having no business of their own, fill up their leisure moments by attending to that of other people) could make nothing. He sought no society, but rather avoided that which the apparent gentleness of his manners, and some degree of curiosity, induced many to offer him. Nothing could be more regular, or less resembling an adventurer, than his mode of living, which was simple, but so completely well arranged, that all who had any transactions with him were loud in their approbation.
"These are not the virtues of a stage-struck hero," thought Oldbuck to himself; and, however habitually pertinacious in his opinions, he must have been compelled to abandon that which he had formed in the present instance, but for a part of Caxon's communication. "The young gentleman," he said, "was sometimes heard speaking to himsell, and rampauging about in his room, just as if he was ane o' the player folk."
Nothing, however, excepting this single circumstance, occurred to confirm Mr. Oldbuck's supposition; and it remained a high and doubtful question, what a well-informed young man, without friends, connections, or employment of any kind, could have to do as a resident at Fairport. Neither port wine nor whist had apparently any charms for him. He declined dining with the mess of the volunteer cohort which had been lately embodied, and shunned joining the convivialities of either of the two parties which then divided Fairport, as they did more important places. He was too little of an aristocrat to join the club of Royal True Blues, and too little of a democrat to fraternise with an affiliated society of the soi-disant Friends of the People, which the borough had also the happiness of possessing. A coffee-room was his detestation; and, I grieve to say it, he had as few sympathies with the tea-table.—In short, since the name was fashionable in novel-writing, and that is a great while agone, there was never a Master Lovel of whom so little positive was known, and who was so universally described by negatives.
One negative, however, was important—nobody knew any harm of Lovel. Indeed, had such existed, it would have been speedily made public; for the natural desire of speaking evil of our neighbour could in his case have been checked by no feelings of sympathy for a being so unsocial. On one account alone he fell somewhat under suspicion. As he made free use of his pencil in his solitary walks, and had drawn several views of the harbour, in which the signal tower, and even the four-gun battery, were introduced, some zealous friends of the public sent abroad a whisper, that this mysterious stranger must certainly be a French spy. The Sheriff paid his respects to Mr. Lovel accordingly; but in the interview which followed, it would seem that he had entirely removed that magistrate's suspicions, since he not only suffered him to remain undisturbed in his retirement, but it was credibly reported, sent him two invitations to dinner-parties, both which were civilly declined. But what the nature of the explanation was, the magistrate kept a profound secret, not only from the public at large, but from his substitute, his clerk, his wife and his two daughters, who formed his privy council on all questions of official duty.
All these particulars being faithfully reported by Mr. Caxon to his patron at Monkbarns, tended much to raise Lovel in the opinion of his former fellow-traveller. "A decent sensible lad," said he to himself, "who scorns to enter into the fooleries and nonsense of these idiot people at Fairport—I must do something for him—I must give him a dinner;—and I will write Sir Arthur to come to Monkbarns to meet him. I must consult my womankind."
Accordingly, such consultation having been previously held, a special messenger, being no other than Caxon himself, was ordered to prepare for a walk to Knockwinnock Castle with a letter, "For the honoured Sir Arthur Wardour, of Knockwinnock, Bart." The contents ran thus:
"Dear Sir Arthur,
"On Tuesday the 17th curt.stilo novo, I hold a coenobitical symposion at Monkbarns, and pray you to assist thereat, at four o'clock precisely. If my fair enemy, Miss Isabel, can and will honour us by accompanying you, my womankind will be but too proud to have the aid of such an auxiliary in the cause of resistance to awful rule and right supremacy. If not, I will send the womankind to the manse for the day. I have a young acquaintance to make known to you, who is touched with some strain of a better spirit than belongs to these giddy-paced times—reveres his elders, and has a pretty notion of the classics—and, as such a youth must have a natural contempt for the people about Fairport, I wish to show him some rational as well as worshipful society.—I am, Dear Sir Arthur, etc. etc. etc."
"Fly with this letter, Caxon," said the senior, holding out his missive, signatum atque sigillatum, "fly to Knockwinnock, and bring me back an answer. Go as fast as if the town-council were met and waiting for the provost, and the provost was waiting for his new-powdered wig."
"Ah sir," answered the messenger, with a deep sigh, "thae days hae lang gane by. Deil a wig has a provost of Fairport worn sin' auld Provost Jervie's time—and he had a quean of a servant-lass that dressed it herself, wi' the doup o' a candle and a drudging-box. But I hae seen the day, Monkbarns, when the town-council of Fairport wad hae as soon wanted their town-clerk, or their gill of brandy ower-head after the haddies, as they wad hae wanted ilk ane a weel-favoured, sonsy, decent periwig on his pow. Hegh, sirs! nae wonder the commons will be discontent and rise against the law, when they see magistrates and bailies, and deacons, and the provost himsell, wi' heads as bald and as bare as ane o' my blocks!"
"And as well furnished within, Caxon. But away with you!—you have an excellent view of public affairs, and, I dare say, have touched the cause of our popular discontent as closely as the provost could have done himself. But away with you, Caxon!"
And off went Caxon upon his walk of three miles—
He hobbled—but his heart was good! Could he go faster than he could?—
While he is engaged in his journey and return, it may not be impertinent to inform the reader to whose mansion he was bearing his embassy.
We have said that Mr. Oldbuck kept little company with the surrounding gentlemen, excepting with one person only. This was Sir Arthur Wardour, a baronet of ancient descent, and of a large but embarrassed fortune. His father, Sir Anthony, had been a Jacobite, and had displayed all the enthusiasm of that party, while it could be served with words only. No man squeezed the orange with more significant gesture; no one could more dexterously intimate a dangerous health without coming under the penal statutes; and, above all, none drank success to the cause more deeply and devoutly. But, on the approach of the Highland army in 1745, it would appear that the worthy baronet's zeal became a little more moderate just when its warmth was of most consequence. He talked much, indeed, of taking the field for the rights of Scotland and Charles Stuart; but his demi-pique saddle would suit only one of his horses; and that horse could by no means be brought to stand fire. Perhaps the worshipful owner sympathized in the scruples of this sagacious quadruped, and began to think, that what was so much dreaded by the horse could not be very wholesome for the rider. At any rate, while Sir Anthony Wardour talked, and drank, and hesitated, the Sturdy provost of Fairport (who, as we before noticed, was the father of our Antiquary) sallied from his ancient burgh, heading a body of whig-burghers, and seized at once, in the name of George II., upon the Castle of Knockwinnock, and on the four carriage-horses, and person of the proprietor. Sir Anthony was shortly after sent off to the Tower of London by a secretary of state's warrant, and with him went his son, Arthur, then a youth. But as nothing appeared like an overt act of treason, both father and son were soon set at liberty, and returned to their own mansion of Knockwinnock, to drink healths five fathoms deep, and talk of their sufferings in the royal cause. This became so much a matter of habit with Sir Arthur, that, even after his father's death, the non-juring chaplain used to pray regularly for the restoration of the rightful sovereign, for the downfall of the usurper, and for deliverance from their cruel and bloodthirsty enemies; although all idea of serious opposition to the House of Hanover had long mouldered away, and this treasonable liturgy was kept up rather as a matter of form than as conveying any distinct meaning. So much was this the case, that, about the year 1770, upon a disputed election occurring in the county, the worthy knight fairly gulped down the oaths of abjuration and allegiance, in order to serve a candidate in whom he was interested;—thus renouncing the heir for whose restoration he weekly petitioned Heaven, and acknowledging the usurper whose dethronement he had never ceased to pray for. And to add to this melancholy instance of human inconsistency, Sir Arthur continued to pray for the House of Stuart even after the family had been extinct, and when, in truth, though in his theoretical loyalty he was pleased to regard them as alive, yet, in all actual service and practical exertion, he was a most zealous and devoted subject of George III.
In other respects, Sir Arthur Wardour lived like most country gentlemen in Scotland, hunted and fished—gave and received dinners—attended races and county meetings—was a deputy-lieutenant and trustee upon turnpike acts. But, in his more advanced years, as he became too lazy or unwieldy for field-sports, he supplied them by now and then reading Scottish history; and, having gradually acquired a taste for antiquities, though neither very deep nor very correct, he became a crony of his neighbour, Mr. Oldbuck of Monkbarns, and a joint-labourer with him in his antiquarian pursuits.
There were, however, points of difference between these two humourists, which sometimes occasioned discord. The faith of Sir Arthur, as an antiquary, was boundless, and Mr. Oldbuck (notwithstanding the affair of the Praetorium at the Kaim of Kinprunes) was much more scrupulous in receiving legends as current and authentic coin. Sir Arthur would have deemed himself guilty of the crime of leze-majesty had he doubted the existence of any single individual of that formidable head-roll of one hundred and four kings of Scotland, received by Boethius, and rendered classical by Buchanan, in virtue of whom James VI. claimed to rule his ancient kingdom, and whose portraits still frown grimly upon the walls of the gallery of Holyrood. Now Oldbuck, a shrewd and suspicious man, and no respecter of divine hereditary right, was apt to cavil at this sacred list, and to affirm, that the procession of the posterity of Fergus through the pages of Scottish history, was as vain and unsubstantial as the gleamy pageant of the descendants of Banquo through the cavern of Hecate.
Another tender topic was the good fame of Queen Mary, of which the knight was a most chivalrous assertor, while the esquire impugned it, in spite both of her beauty and misfortunes. When, unhappily, their conversation turned on yet later times, motives of discord occurred in almost every page of history. Oldbuck was, upon principle, a staunch Presbyterian, a ruling elder of the kirk, and a friend to revolution principles and Protestant succession, while Sir Arthur was the very reverse of all this. They agreed, it is true, in dutiful love and allegiance to the sovereign who now fills* the throne; but this was their only point of union.
* The reader will understand that this refers to the reign of our late gracious Sovereign, George the Third.
It therefore often happened, that bickerings hot broke out between them, in which Oldbuck was not always able to suppress his caustic humour, while it would sometimes occur to the Baronet that the descendant of a German printer, whose sires had "sought the base fellowship of paltry burghers," forgot himself, and took an unlicensed freedom of debate, considering the rank and ancient descent of his antagonist. This, with the old feud of the coach-horses, and the seizure of his manor-place and tower of strength by Mr. Oldbuck's father, would at times rush upon his mind, and inflame at once his cheeks and his arguments. And, lastly, as Mr. Oldbuck thought his worthy friend and compeer was in some respects little better than a fool, he was apt to come more near communicating to him that unfavourable opinion, than the rules of modern politeness warrant. In such cases they often parted in deep dudgeon, and with something like a resolution to forbear each other's company in future:
But with the morning calm reflection came; and as each was sensible that the society of the other had become, through habit, essential to his comfort, the breach was speedily made up between them. On such occasions, Oldbuck, considering that the Baronet's pettishness resembled that of a child, usually showed his superior sense by compassionately making the first advances to reconciliation. But it once or twice happened that the aristocratic pride of the far-descended knight took a flight too offensive to the feelings of the representative of the typographer. In these cases, the breach between these two originals might have been immortal, but for the kind exertion and interposition of the Baronet's daughter, Miss Isabella Wardour, who, with a son, now absent upon foreign and military service, formed his whole surviving family. She was well aware how necessary Mr. Oldbuck was to her father's amusement and comfort, and seldom failed to interpose with effect, when the office of a mediator between them was rendered necessary by the satirical shrewdness of the one, or the assumed superiority of the other. Under Isabella's mild influence, the wrongs of Queen Mary were forgotten by her father, and Mr. Oldbuck forgave the blasphemy which reviled the memory of King William. However, as she used in general to take her father's part playfully in these disputes, Oldbuck was wont to call Isabella his fair enemy, though in fact he made more account of her than any other of her sex, of whom, as we have seen, he, was no admirer.
There existed another connection betwixt these worthies, which had alternately a repelling and attractive influence upon their intimacy. Sir Arthur always wished to borrow; Mr. Oldbuck was not always willing to lend. Mr. Oldbuck, per contra, always wished to be repaid with regularity; Sir Arthur was not always, nor indeed often, prepared to gratify this reasonable desire; and, in accomplishing an arrangement between tendencies so opposite, little miffs would occasionally take place. Still there was a spirit of mutual accommodation upon the whole, and they dragged on like dogs in couples, with some difficulty and occasional snarling, but without absolutely coming to a stand-still or throttling each other.
Some little disagreement, such as we have mentioned, arising out of business, or politics, had divided the houses of Knockwinnock and Monkbarns, when the emissary of the latter arrived to discharge his errand. In his ancient Gothic parlour, whose windows on one side looked out upon the restless ocean, and, on the other, upon the long straight avenue, was the Baronet seated, now turning over the leaves of a folio, now casting a weary glance where the sun quivered on the dark-green foliage and smooth trunks of the large and branching limes with which the avenue was planted. At length, sight of joy! a moving object is seen, and it gives rise to the usual inquiries, Who is it? and what can be his errand? The old whitish-grey coat, the hobbling gait, the hat half-slouched, half-cocked, announced the forlorn maker of periwigs, and left for investigation only the second query. This was soon solved by a servant entering the parlour,—"A letter from Monkbarns, Sir Arthur."
Sir Arthur took the epistle with a due assumption of consequential dignity.
"Take the old man into the kitchen, and let him get some refreshment," said the young lady, whose compassionate eye had remarked his thin grey hair and wearied gait.
"Mr. Oldbuck, my love, invites us to dinner on Tuesday the 17th," said the Baronet, pausing;—"he really seems to forget that he has not of late conducted himself so civilly towards me as might have been expected."
"Dear sir, you have so many advantages over poor Mr. Oldbuck, that no wonder it should put him a little out of humour; but I know he has much respect for your person and your conversation;—nothing would give him more pain than to be wanting in any real attention."
"True, true, Isabella; and one must allow for the original descent;—something of the German boorishness still flows in the blood; something of the whiggish and perverse opposition to established rank and privilege. You may observe that he never has any advantage of me in dispute, unless when he avails himself of a sort of pettifogging intimacy with dates, names, and trifling matters of fact—a tiresome and frivolous accuracy of memory, which is entirely owing to his mechanical descent."
"He must find it convenient in historical investigation, I should think, sir?" said the young lady.
"It leads to an uncivil and positive mode of disputing; and nothing seems more unreasonable than to hear him impugn even Bellenden's rare translation of Hector Boece, which I have the satisfaction to possess, and which is a black-letter folio of great value, upon the authority of some old scrap of parchment which he has saved from its deserved destiny of being cut up into tailor's measures. And besides, that habit of minute and troublesome accuracy leads to a mercantile manner of doing business, which ought to be beneath a landed proprietor whose family has stood two or three generations. I question if there's a dealer's clerk in Fairport that can sum an account of interest better than Monkbarns."
"But you'll accept his invitation, sir?"
"Why, ye—yes; we have no other engagement on hand, I think. Who can the young man be he talks of?—he seldom picks up new acquaintance; and he has no relation that I ever heard of."
"Probably some relation of his brother-in-law Captain M'Intyre."
"Very possibly—yes, we will accept—the M'Intyres are of a very ancient Highland family. You may answer his card in the affirmative, Isabella; I believe I have, no leisure to be Dear Sirring myself."
So this important matter being adjusted, Miss Wardour intimated "her own and Sir Arthur's compliments, and that they would have the honour of waiting upon Mr. Oldbuck. Miss Wardour takes this opportunity to renew her hostility with Mr. Oldbuck, on account of his late long absence from Knockwinnock, where his visits give so much pleasure." With this placebo she concluded her note, with which old Caxon, now refreshed in limbs and wind, set out on his return to the Antiquary's mansion.
Moth. By Woden, God of Saxons, From whence comes Wensday, that is, Wodnesday, Truth is a thing that I will ever keep Unto thylke day in which I creep into My sepulcre— Cartwright's Ordinary.
Our young friend Lovel, who had received a corresponding invitation, punctual to the hour of appointment, arrived at Monkbarns about five minutes before four o'clock on the 17th of July. The day had been remarkably sultry, and large drops of rain had occasionally fallen, though the threatened showers had as yet passed away.
Mr. Oldbuck received him at the Palmer's-port in his complete brown suit, grey silk stockings, and wig powdered with all the skill of the veteran Caxon, who having smelt out the dinner, had taken care not to finish his job till the hour of eating approached.
"You are welcome to my symposion, Mr. Lovel. And now let me introduce you to my Clogdogdo's, as Tom Otter calls them—my unlucky and good-for-nothing womankind—malae bestiae, Mr. Lovel."
"I shall be disappointed, sir, if I do not find the ladies very undeserving of your satire."
"Tilley-valley, Mr. Lovel,—which, by the way, one commentator derives from tittivillitium, and another from talley-ho—but tilley-valley, I say—a truce with your politeness. You will find them but samples of womankind—But here they be, Mr. Lovel. I present to you in due order, my most discreet sister Griselda, who disdains the simplicity, as well as patience annexed to the poor old name of Grizzel; and my most exquisite niece Maria, whose mother was called Mary, and sometimes Molly."
The elderly lady rustled in silks and satins, and bore upon her head a structure resembling the fashion in the ladies' memorandum-book for the year 1770—a superb piece of architecture, not much less than a modern Gothic castle, of which the curls might represent the turrets, the black pins the chevaux de frise, and the lappets the banners.
The face, which, like that of the ancient statues of Vesta, was thus crowned with towers, was large and long, and peaked at nose and chin, and bore, in other respects, such a ludicrous resemblance to the physiognomy of Mr. Jonathan Oldbuck, that Lovel, had they not appeared at once, like Sebastian and Viola in the last scene of the "Twelfth Night," might have supposed that the figure before him was his old friend masquerading in female attire. An antique flowered silk gown graced the extraordinary person to whom belonged this unparalleled tete, which her brother was wont to say was fitter for a turban for Mahound or Termagant, than a head-gear for a reasonable creature, or Christian gentlewoman. Two long and bony arms were terminated at the elbows by triple blond ruffles, and being, folded saltire-ways in front of her person, and decorated with long gloves of a bright vermilion colour, presented no bad resemblance to a pair of gigantic lobsters. High-heeled shoes, and a short silk cloak, thrown in easy negligence over her shoulders, completed the exterior of Miss Griselda Oldbuck.
Her niece, the same whom Lovel had seen transiently during his first visit, was a pretty young woman, genteelly dressed according to the fashion of the day, with an air of espieglerie which became her very well, and which was perhaps derived from the caustic humour peculiar to her uncle's family, though softened by transmission.
Mr. Lovel paid his respects to both ladies, and was answered by the elder with the prolonged courtesy of 1760, drawn from the righteous period,
When folks conceived a grace Of half an hour's space, And rejoiced in a Friday's capon,
and by the younger with a modern reverence, which, like the festive benediction of a modern divine, was of much shorter duration.
While this salutation was exchanging, Sir Arthur, with his fair daughter hanging upon his arm, having dismissed his chariot, appeared at the garden door, and in all due form paid his respects to the ladies.
"Sir Arthur," said the Antiquary, "and you, my fair foe, let me make known to you my young friend Mr. Lovel, a gentleman who, during the scarlet-fever which is epidemic at present in this our island, has the virtue and decency to appear in a coat of a civil complexion. You see, however, that the fashionable colour has mustered in his cheeks which appears not in his garments. Sir Arthur, let me present to you a young gentleman, whom your farther knowledge will find grave, wise, courtly, and scholar-like, well seen, deeply read, and thoroughly grounded in all the hidden mysteries of the green-room and stage, from the days of Davie Lindsay down to those of Dibdin—he blushes again, which is a sign of grace."
"My brother," said Miss Griselda, addressing Lovel, "has a humorous way of expressing himself, sir; nobody thinks anything of what Monkbarns says—so I beg you will not be so confused for the matter of his nonsense; but you must have had a warm walk beneath this broiling sun—would you take anything?—a glass of balm-wine?"
Ere Lovel could answer, the Antiquary interposed. "Aroint thee, witch! wouldst thou poison my guests with thy infernal decoctions? Dost thou not remember how it fared with the clergyman whom you seduced to partake of that deceitful beverage?"
"O fy, fy, brother!—Sir Arthur, did you ever hear the like?—he must have everything his ain way, or he will invent such stories—But there goes Jenny to ring the old bell to tell us that the dinner is ready."
Rigid in his economy, Mr. Oldbuck kept no male servant. This he disguised under the pretext that the masculine sex was too noble to be employed in those acts of personal servitude, which, in all early periods of society, were uniformly imposed on the female. "Why," would he say, "did the boy, Tam Rintherout, whom, at my wise sister's instigation, I, with equal wisdom, took upon trial—why did he pilfer apples, take birds' nests, break glasses, and ultimately steal my spectacles, except that he felt that noble emulation which swells in the bosom of the masculine sex, which has conducted him to Flanders with a musket on his shoulder, and doubtless will promote him to a glorious halbert, or even to the gallows? And why does this girl, his full sister, Jenny Rintherout, move in the same vocation with safe and noiseless step—shod, or unshod—soft as the pace of a cat, and docile as a spaniel—Why? but because she is in her vocation. Let them minister to us, Sir Arthur,—let them minister, I say,—it's the only thing they are fit for. All ancient legislators, from Lycurgus to Mahommed, corruptly called Mahomet, agree in putting them in their proper and subordinate rank, and it is only the crazy heads of our old chivalrous ancestors that erected their Dulcineas into despotic princesses."
Miss Wardour protested loudly against this ungallant doctrine; but the bell now rung for dinner.
"Let me do all the offices of fair courtesy to so fair an antagonist," said the old gentleman, offering his arm. "I remember, Miss Wardour, Mahommed (vulgarly Mahomet) had some hesitation about the mode of summoning his Moslemah to prayer. He rejected bells as used by Christians, trumpets as the summons of the Guebres, and finally adopted the human voice. I have had equal doubt concerning my dinner-call. Gongs, now in present use, seemed a newfangled and heathenish invention, and the voice of the female womankind I rejected as equally shrill and dissonant; wherefore, contrary to the said Mahommed, or Mahomet, I have resumed the bell. It has a local propriety, since it was the conventual signal for spreading the repast in their refectory, and it has the advantage over the tongue of my sister's prime minister, Jenny, that, though not quite so loud and shrill, it ceases ringing the instant you drop the bell-rope: whereas we know, by sad experience, that any attempt to silence Jenny, only wakes the sympathetic chime of Miss Oldbuck and Mary M'Intyre to join in chorus."
With this discourse he led the way to his dining-parlour, which Lovel had not yet seen;—it was wainscotted, and contained some curious paintings. The dining-table was attended by Jenny; but an old superintendent, a sort of female butler, stood by the sideboard, and underwent the burden of bearing several reproofs from Mr. Oldbuck, and inuendos, not so much marked, but not less cutting, from his sister.
The dinner was such as suited a professed antiquary, comprehending many savoury specimens of Scottish viands, now disused at the tables of those who affect elegance. There was the relishing Solan goose, whose smell is so powerful that he is never cooked within doors. Blood-raw he proved to be on this occasion, so that Oldbuck half threatened to throw the greasy sea-fowl at the head of the negligent housekeeper, who acted as priestess in presenting this odoriferous offering. But, by good-hap, she had been most fortunate in the hotch-potch, which was unanimously pronounced to be inimitable. "I knew we should succeed here," said Oldbuck exultingly, "for Davie Dibble, the gardener (an old bachelor like myself), takes care the rascally women do not dishonour our vegetables. And here is fish and sauce, and crappit-heads—I acknowledge our womankind excel in that dish—it procures them the pleasure of scolding, for half an hour at least, twice a-week, with auld Maggy Mucklebackit, our fish-wife. The chicken-pie, Mr. Lovel, is made after a recipe bequeathed to me by my departed grandmother of happy memory—And if you will venture on a glass of wine, you will find it worthy of one who professes the maxim of King Alphonso of Castile,—Old wood to burn—old books to read—old wine to drink—and old friends, Sir Arthur—ay, Mr. Lovel, and young friends too, to converse with."
"And what news do you bring us from Edinburgh, Monkbarns?" said Sir Arthur; "how wags the world in Auld Reekie?"
"Mad, Sir Arthur, mad—irretrievably frantic—far beyond dipping in the sea, shaving the crown, or drinking hellebore. The worst sort of frenzy, a military frenzy, hath possessed man, woman, and child."
"And high time, I think," said Miss Wardour, "when we are threatened with invasion from abroad and insurrection at home."
"O, I did not doubt you would join the scarlet host against me—women, like turkeys, are always subdued by a red rag—But what says Sir Arthur, whose dreams are of standing armies and German oppression?"
"Why, I say, Mr. Oldbuck," replied the knight, "that so far as I am capable of judging, we ought to resist cum toto corpore regni—as the phrase is, unless I have altogether forgotten my Latin—an enemy who comes to propose to us a Whiggish sort of government, a republican system, and who is aided and abetted by a sort of fanatics of the worst kind in our own bowels. I have taken some measures, I assure you, such as become my rank in the community; for I have directed the constables to take up that old scoundrelly beggar, Edie Ochiltree, for spreading disaffection against church and state through the whole parish. He said plainly to old Caxon, that Willie Howie's Kilmarnock cowl covered more sense than all the three wigs in the parish—I think it is easy to make out that inuendo—But the rogue shall be taught better manners."
"O no, my dear sir," exclaimed Miss Wardour, "not old Edie, that we have known so long;—I assure you no constable shall have my good graces that executes such a warrant."
"Ay, there it goes," said the Antiquary; "you, to be a staunch Tory, Sir Arthur, have nourished a fine sprig of Whiggery in your bosom—Why, Miss Wardour is alone sufficient to control a whole quarter-session—a quarter-session? ay, a general assembly or convocation to boot—a Boadicea she—an Amazon, a Zenobia."
"And yet, with all my courage, Mr. Oldbuck, I am glad to hear our people are getting under arms."
"Under arms, Lord love thee! didst thou ever read the history of Sister Margaret, which flowed from a head, that, though now old and somedele grey, has more sense and political intelligence than you find now-a-days in the whole synod? Dost thou remember the Nurse's dream in that exquisite work, which she recounts in such agony to Hubble Bubble?—When she would have taken up a piece of broad-cloth in her vision, lo! it exploded like a great iron cannon; when she put out her hand to save a pirn, it perked up in her face in the form of a pistol. My own vision in Edinburgh has been something similar. I called to consult my lawyer; he was clothed in a dragoon's dress, belted and casqued, and about to mount a charger, which his writing-clerk (habited as a sharp-shooter) walked to and fro before his door. I went to scold my agent for having sent me to advise with a madman; he had stuck into his head the plume, which in more sober days he wielded between his fingers, and figured as an artillery officer. My mercer had his spontoon in his hand, as if he measured his cloth by that implement, instead of a legitimate yard. The, banker's clerk, who was directed to sum my cash-account, blundered it three times, being disordered by the recollection of his military tellings-off at the morning-drill. I was ill, and sent for a surgeon—
He came—but valour so had fired his eye, And such a falchion glittered on his thigh, That, by the gods, with such a load of steel, I thought he came to murder,—not to heal.
I had recourse to a physician, but he also was practising a more wholesale mode of slaughter than that which his profession had been supposed at all times to open to him. And now, since I have returned here, even our wise neighbours of Fairport have caught the same valiant humour. I hate a gun like a hurt wild duck—I detest a drum like a quaker;—and they thunder and rattle out yonder upon the town's common, so that every volley and roll goes to my very heart."
"Dear brother, dinna speak that gate o' the gentlemen volunteers—I am sure they have a most becoming uniform—Weel I wot they have been wet to the very skin twice last week—I met them marching in terribly doukit, an mony a sair hoast was amang them—And the trouble they take, I am sure it claims our gratitude."
"And I am sure," said Miss M'Intyre, "that my uncle sent twenty guineas to help out their equipments."
"It was to buy liquorice and sugar-candy," said the cynic, "to encourage the trade of the place, and to refresh the throats of the officers who had bawled themselves hoarse in the service of their country."
"Take care, Monkbarns! we shall set you down among the black-nebs by and by."
"No Sir Arthur—a tame grumbler I. I only claim the privilege of croaking in my own corner here, without uniting my throat to the grand chorus of the marsh—Ni quito Rey, ni pongo Rey—I neither make king nor mar king, as Sancho says, but pray heartily for our own sovereign, pay scot and lot, and grumble at the exciseman—But here comes the ewe-milk cheese in good time; it is a better digestive than politics."
When dinner was over, and the decanters placed on the table, Mr. Oldbuck proposed the King's health in a bumper, which was readily acceded to both by Lovel and the Baronet, the Jacobitism of the latter being now a sort of speculative opinion merely,—the shadow of a shade.
After the ladies had left the apartment, the landlord and Sir Arthur entered into several exquisite discussions, in which the younger guest, either on account of the abstruse erudition which they involved, or for some other reason, took but a slender share, till at length he was suddenly started out of a profound reverie by an unexpected appeal to his judgment.
"I will stand by what Mr. Lovel says; he was born in the north of England, and may know the very spot."
Sir Arthur thought it unlikely that so young a gentleman should have paid much attention to matters of that sort.
"I am avised of the contrary," said Oldbuck.
"How say you, Mr. Lovel?—speak up for your own credit, man."
Lovel was obliged to confess himself in the ridiculous situation of one alike ignorant of the subject of conversation and controversy which had engaged the company for an hour.
"Lord help the lad, his head has been wool-gathering!—I thought how it would be when the womankind were admitted—no getting a word of sense out of a young fellow for six hours after.—Why, man, there was once a people called the Piks"—
"More properly Picts," interrupted the Baronet.
"I say the Pikar, Pihar, Piochtar, Piaghter, or Peughtar," vociferated Oldbuck; "they spoke a Gothic dialect"—
"Genuine Celtic," again asseverated the knight.
"Gothic! Gothic! I'll go to death upon it!" counter-asseverated the squire.
"Why, gentlemen," sad Lovel, "I conceive that is a dispute which may be easily settled by philologists, if there are any remains of the language."
"There is but one word," said the Baronet, "but, in spite of Mr. Oldbuck's pertinacity, it is decisive of the question."
"Yes, in my favour," said Oldbuck: "Mr. Lovel, you shall be judge—I have the learned Pinkerton on my side."
"I, on mine, the indefatigable and erudite Chalmers."
"Gordon comes into my opinion."
"Sir Robert Sibbald holds mine."
"Innes is with me!" vociferated Oldbuck.
"Riston has no doubt!" shouted the Baronet.
"Truly, gentlemen," said Lovel, "before you muster your forces and overwhelm me with authorities, I should like to know the word in dispute."
"Benval" said both the disputants at once.
"Which signifies caput valli," said Sir Arthur.
"The head of the wall," echoed Oldbuck.
There was a deep pause.—"It is rather a narrow foundation to build a hypothesis upon," observed the arbiter.
"Not a whit, not a whit," said Oldbuck; "men fight best in a narrow ring—an inch is as good as a mile for a home-thrust."
"It is decidedly Celtic," said the Baronet; "every hill in the Highlands begins with Ben."
"But what say you to Val, Sir Arthur; is it not decidedly the Saxon wall?"
"It is the Roman vallum," said Sir Arthur;—"the Picts borrowed that part of the word."
"No such thing; if they borrowed anything, it must have been your Ben, which they might have from the neighbouring Britons of Strath Cluyd."
"The Piks, or Picts," said Lovel, "must have been singularly poor in dialect, since, in the only remaining word of their vocabulary, and that consisting only of two syllables, they have been confessedly obliged to borrow one of them from another language; and, methinks, gentlemen, with submission, the controversy is not unlike that which the two knights fought, concerning the shield that had one side white and the other black. Each of you claim one-half of the word, and seem to resign the other. But what strikes me most, is the poverty of the language which has left such slight vestiges behind it."
"You are in an error," said Sir Arthur; "it was a copious language, and they were a great and powerful people; built two steeples—one at Brechin, one at Abernethy. The Pictish maidens of the blood-royal were kept in Edinburgh Castle, thence called Castrum Puellarum."
"A childish legend," said Oldbuck, "invented to give consequence to trumpery womankind. It was called the Maiden Castle, quasi lucus a non lucendo, because it resisted every attack, and women never do."
"There is a list of the Pictish kings," persisted Sir Arthur, "well authenticated from Crentheminachcryme (the, date of whose reign is somewhat uncertain) down to Drusterstone, whose death concluded their dynasty. Half of them have the Celtic patronymic Mac prefixed—Mac, id est filius;—what do you say to that, Mr. Oldbuck? There is Drust Macmorachin, Trynel Maclachlin (first of that ancient clan, as it may be judged), and Gormach Macdonald, Alpin Macmetegus, Drust Mactallargam" (here he was interrupted by a fit of coughing)—"ugh, ugh, ugh—Golarge Macchan—ugh, ugh—Macchanan—ugh—Macchananail, Kenneth—ugh—ugh— Macferedith, Eachan Macfungus—and twenty more, decidedly Celtic names, which I could repeat, if this damned cough would let me."
"Take a glass of wine, Sir Arthur, and drink down that bead-roll of unbaptized jargon, that would choke the devil—why, that last fellow has the only intelligible name you have repeated—they are all of the tribe of Macfungus—mushroom monarchs every one of them; sprung up from the fumes of conceit, folly, and falsehood, fermenting in the brains of some mad Highland seannachie."
"I am surprised to hear you, Mr. Oldbuck: you know, or ought to know, that the list of these potentates was copied by Henry Maule of Melguin, from the Chronicles of Loch Leven and St. Andrews, and put forth by him in his short but satisfactory history of the Picts, printed by Robert Freebairn of Edinburgh, and sold by him at his shop in the Parliament Close, in the, year of God seventeen hundred and five, or six, I am not precisely certain which—but I have a copy at home that stands next to my twelvemo copy of the Scots Acts, and ranges on the shelf with them very well. What say you to that, Mr. Oldbuck?"
"Say?—why, I laugh at Harry Maule and his history," answered Oldbuck, "and thereby comply with his request, of giving it entertainment according to its merits."
"Do not laugh at a better man than yourself," said Sir Arthur, somewhat scornfully.
"I do not conceive I do, Sir Arthur, in laughing either at him or his history,"
"Henry Maule of Melgum was a gentleman, Mr. Oldbuck."
"I presume he had no advantage of me in that particular," replied the Antiquary, somewhat tartly.
"Permit me, Mr. Oldbuck—he was a gentleman of high family, and ancient descent, and therefore"—
"The descendant of a Westphalian printer should speak of him with deference? Such may be your opinion, Sir Arthur—it is not mine. I conceive that my descent from that painful and industrious typographer, Wolfbrand Oldenbuck, who, in the month of December 1493, under the patronage, as the colophon tells us, of Sebaldus Scheyter and Sebastian Kammermaister, accomplished the printing of the great Chronicle of Nuremberg—I conceive, I say, that my descent from that great restorer of learning is more creditable to me as a man of letters, than if I had numbered in my genealogy all the brawling, bullet-headed, iron-fisted, old Gothic barons since the days of Crentheminachcryme—not one of whom, I suppose, could write his own name."
"If you mean the observation as a sneer at my ancestry," said the knight, with an assumption of dignified superiority and composure, "I have the pleasure to inform you, that the name of my ancestor, Gamelyn de Guardover, Miles, is written fairly with his own hand in the earliest copy of the Ragman-roll."
"Which only serves to show that he was one of the earliest who set the mean example of submitting to Edward I. What have, you to say for the stainless loyalty of your family, Sir Arthur, after such a backsliding as that?"
"It's enough, sir," said Sir Arthur, starting up fiercely, and pushing back his chair; "I shall hereafter take care how I honour with my company one who shows himself so ungrateful for my condescension."
"In that you will do as you find most agreeable, Sir Arthur;—I hope, that as I was not aware of the extent of the obligation which you have done me by visiting my poor house, I may be excused for not having carried my gratitude to the extent of servility."
"Mighty well—mighty well, Mr. Oldbuck—I wish you a good evening—Mr. a—a—a—Shovel—I wish you a very good evening."
Out of the parlour door flounced the incensed Sir Arthur, as if the spirit of the whole Round Table inflamed his single bosom, and traversed with long strides the labyrinth of passages which conducted to the drawing-room.
"Did you ever hear such an old tup-headed ass?" said Oldbuck, briefly apostrophizing Lovel. "But I must not let him go in this mad-like way neither."
So saying, he pushed off after the retreating Baronet, whom he traced by the clang of several doors which he opened in search of the apartment for tea, and slammed with force behind him at every disappointment. "You'll do yourself a mischief," roared the Antiquary; "Qui ambulat in tenebris, nescit quo vadit—You'll tumble down the back-stair."
Sir Arthur had now got involved in darkness, of which the sedative effect is well known to nurses and governesses who have to deal with pettish children. It retarded the pace of the irritated Baronet, if it did not abate his resentment, and Mr. Oldbuck, better acquainted with the locale, got up with him as he had got his grasp upon the handle of the drawing-room door.
"Stay a minute, Sir Arthur," said Oldbuck, opposing his abrupt entrance; "don't be quite so hasty, my good old friend. I was a little too rude with you about Sir Gamelyn—why, he is an old acquaintance of mine, man, and a favourite; he kept company with Bruce and Wallace—and, I'll be sworn on a black-letter Bible, only subscribed the Ragman-roll with the legitimate and justifiable intention of circumventing the false Southern—'twas right Scottish craft, my good knight—hundreds did it. Come, come, forget and forgive—confess we have given the young fellow here a right to think us two testy old fools."
"Speak for yourself, Mr. Jonathan Oldbuck," said Sir Arthur with much majesty.
"A-well, a-well—a wilful man must have his way."
With that the door opened, and into the drawing-room marched the tall gaunt form of Sir Arthur, followed by Lovel and Mr. Oldbuck, the countenances of all the three a little discomposed.
"I have been waiting for you, sir," said Miss Wardour, "to propose we should walk forward to meet the carriage, as the evening is so fine."
Sir Arthur readily assented to this proposal, which suited the angry mood in which he found himself; and having, agreeable to the established custom in cases of pet, refused the refreshment of tea and coffee, he tucked his daughter under his arm; and after taking a ceremonious leave of the ladies, and a very dry one of Oldbuck—off he marched.
"I think Sir Arthur has got the black dog on his back again," said Miss Oldbuck.
"Black dog!—black devil!—he's more absurd than womankind—What say you, Lovel?—Why, the lad's gone too."
"He took his leave, uncle, while Miss Wardour was putting on her things; but I don't think you observed him."
"The devil's in the people! This is all one gets by fussing and bustling, and putting one's self out of one's way in order to give dinners, besides all the charges they are put to!—O Seged, Emperor of Ethiopia!" said he, taking up a cup of tea in the one hand, and a volume of the Rambler in the other,—for it was his regular custom to read while he was eating or drinking in presence of his sister, being a practice which served at once to evince his contempt for the society of womankind, and his resolution to lose no moment of instruction,—"O Seged, Emperor of Ethiopia! well hast thou spoken—No man should presume to say, This shall be a day of happiness."
Oldbuck proceeded in his studies for the best part of an hour, uninterrupted by the ladies, who each, in profound silence, pursued some female employment. At length, a light and modest tap was heard at the parlour door. "Is that you, Caxon?—come in, come in, man."
The old man opened the door, and thrusting in his meagre face, thatched with thin grey locks, and one sleeve of his white coat, said in a subdued and mysterious tone of voice, "I was wanting to speak to you, sir."
"Come in then, you old fool, and say what you have got to say."
"I'll maybe frighten the ladies," said the ex-friseur.
"Frighten!" answered the Antiquary,—"what do you mean?—never mind the ladies. Have you seen another ghaist at the Humlock-knowe?"
"Na, sir—it's no a ghaist this turn," replied Caxton;—"but I'm no easy in my mind."
"Did you ever hear of any body that was?" answered Oldbuck;—"what reason has an old battered powder-puff like you to be easy in your mind, more than all the rest of the world besides?"
"It's no for mysell, sir; but it threatens an awfu' night; and Sir Arthur, and Miss Wardour, poor thing"—
"Why, man, they must have met the carriage at the head of the loaning, or thereabouts; they must be home long ago."
"Na, sir; they didna gang the road by the turnpike to meet the carriage, they gaed by the sands."
The word operated like electricity on Oldbuck. "The sands!" he exclaimed; "impossible!"
"Ou, sir, that's what I said to the gardener; but he says he saw them turn down by the Mussel-craig. In troth, says I to him, an that be the case, Davie, I am misdoubting"—
"An almanac! an almanac!" said Oldbuck, starting up in great alarm—"not that bauble!" flinging away a little pocket almanac which his niece offered him.—"Great God! my poor dear Miss Isabella!—Fetch me instantly the Fairport Almanac."—It was brought, consulted, and added greatly to his agitation. "I'll go myself—call the gardener and ploughman—bid them bring ropes and ladders—bid them raise more help as they come along—keep the top of the cliffs, and halloo down to them—I'll go myself."
"What is the matter?" inquired Miss Oldbuck and Miss M'Intyre.
"The tide!—the tide!" answered the alarmed Antiquary.
"Had not Jenny better—but no, I'll run myself," said the younger lady, partaking in all her uncle's terrors—"I'll run myself to Saunders Mucklebackit, and make him get out his boat."
"Thank you, my dear, that's the wisest word that has been spoken yet—Run! run!—To go by the sands!" seizing his hat and cane; "was there ever such madness heard of!"
—Pleased awhile to view The watery waste, the prospect wild and new; The now receding waters gave them space, On either side, the growing shores to trace And then returning, they contract the scene, Till small and smaller grows the walk between. Crabbe.
The information of Davie Dibble, which had spread such general alarm at Monkbarns, proved to be strictly correct. Sir Arthur and his daughter had set out, according to their first proposal, to return to Knockwinnock by the turnpike road; but when they reached the head of the loaning, as it was called, or great lane, which on one side made a sort of avenue to the house of Monkbarns, they discerned, a little way before them, Lovel, who seemed to linger on the way as if to give him an opportunity to join them. Miss Wardour immediately proposed to her father that they should take another direction; and, as the weather was fine, walk home by the sands, which, stretching below a picturesque ridge of rocks, afforded at almost all times a pleasanter passage between Knockwinnock and Monkbarns than the high-road.
Sir Arthur acquiesced willingly. "It would be unpleasant," he said, "to be joined by that young fellow, whom Mr. Oldbuck had taken the freedom to introduce them to." And his old-fashioned politeness had none of the ease of the present day which permits you, if you have a mind, to cut the person you have associated with for a week, the instant you feel or suppose yourself in a situation which makes it disagreeable to own him. Sir Arthur only stipulated, that a little ragged boy, for the guerdon of one penny sterling, should run to meet his coachman, and turn his equipage back to Knockwinnock.
When this was arranged, and the emissary despatched, the knight and his daughter left the high-road, and following a wandering path among sandy hillocks, partly grown over with furze and the long grass called bent, soon attained the side of the ocean. The tide was by no means so far out as they had computed but this gave them no alarm;—there were seldom ten days in the year when it approached so near the cliffs as not to leave a dry passage. But, nevertheless, at periods of spring-tide, or even when the ordinary flood was accelerated by high winds, this road was altogether covered by the sea; and tradition had recorded several fatal accidents which had happened on such occasions. Still, such dangers were considered as remote and improbable; and rather served, with other legends, to amuse the hamlet fireside, than to prevent any one from going between Knockwinnock and Monkbarns by the sands.
As Sir Arthur and Miss Wardour paced along, enjoying the pleasant footing afforded by the cool moist hard sand, Miss Wardour could not help observing that the last tide had risen considerably above the usual water-mark. Sir Arthur made the same observation, but without its occurring to either of them to be alarmed at the circumstance. The sun was now resting his huge disk upon the edge of the level ocean, and gilded the accumulation of towering clouds through which he had travelled the livelong day, and which now assembled on all sides, like misfortunes and disasters around a sinking empire and falling monarch. Still, however, his dying splendour gave a sombre magnificence to the massive congregation of vapours, forming out of their unsubstantial gloom the show of pyramids and towers, some touched with gold, some with purple, some with a hue of deep and dark red. The distant sea, stretched beneath this varied and gorgeous canopy, lay almost portentously still, reflecting back the dazzling and level beams of the descending luminary, and the splendid colouring of the clouds amidst which he was setting. Nearer to the beach the tide rippled onward in waves of sparkling silver, that imperceptibly, yet rapidly, gained upon the sand.
With a mind employed in admiration of the romantic scene, or perhaps on some more agitating topic, Miss Wardour advanced in silence by her father's side, whose recently offended dignity did not stoop to open any conversation. Following the windings of the beach, they passed one projecting point of headland or rock after another, and now found themselves under a huge and continued extent of the precipices by which that iron-bound coast is in most places defended. Long projecting reefs of rock, extending under water and only evincing their existence by here and there a peak entirely bare, or by the breakers which foamed over those that were partially covered, rendered Knockwinnock bay dreaded by pilots and ship-masters. The crags which rose between the beach and the mainland, to the height of two or three hundred feet, afforded in their crevices shelter for unnumbered sea-fowl, in situations seemingly secured by their dizzy height from the rapacity of man. Many of these wild tribes, with the instinct which sends them to seek the land before a storm arises, were now winging towards their nests with the shrill and dissonant clang which announces disquietude and fear. The disk of the sun became almost totally obscured ere he had altogether sunk below the horizon, and an early and lurid shade of darkness blotted the serene twilight of a summer evening. The wind began next to arise; but its wild and moaning sound was heard for some time, and its effects became visible on the bosom of the sea, before the gale was felt on shore. The mass of waters, now dark and threatening, began to lift itself in larger ridges, and sink in deeper furrows, forming waves that rose high in foam upon the breakers, or burst upon the beach with a sound resembling distant thunder.
Appalled by this sudden change of weather, Miss Wardour drew close to her father, and held his arm fast. "I wish," at length she said, but almost in a whisper, as if ashamed to express her increasing apprehensions, "I wish we had kept the road we intended, or waited at Monkbarns for the carriage."
Sir Arthur looked round, but did not see, or would not acknowledge, any signs of an immediate storm. They would reach Knockwinnock, he said, long before the tempest began. But the speed with which he walked, and with which Isabella could hardly keep pace, indicated a feeling that some exertion was necessary to accomplish his consolatory prediction.
They were now near the centre of a deep but narrow bay or recess, formed by two projecting capes of high and inaccessible rock, which shot out into the sea like the horns of a crescent;—and neither durst communicate the apprehension which each began to entertain, that, from the unusually rapid advance of the tide, they might be deprived of the power of proceeding by doubling the promontory which lay before them, or of retreating by the road which brought them thither.
As they thus pressed forward, longing doubtless to exchange the easy curving line, which the sinuosities of the bay compelled them to adopt, for a straighter and more expeditious path, Sir Arthur observed a human figure on the beach advancing to meet them. "Thank God," he exclaimed, "we shall get round Halket-head!—that person must have passed it;" thus giving vent to the feeling of hope, though he had suppressed that of apprehension.
"Thank God, indeed!" echoed his daughter, half audibly, half internally, as expressing the gratitude which she strongly felt.
The figure which advanced to meet them made many signs, which the haze of the atmosphere, now disturbed by wind and by a drizzling rain, prevented them from seeing or comprehending distinctly.—Some time before they met, Sir Arthur could recognise the old blue-gowned beggar, Edie Ochiltree. It is said that even the brute creation lay aside their animosities and antipathies when pressed by an instant and common danger. The beach under Halket-head, rapidly diminishing in extent by the encroachments of a spring-tide and a north-west wind, was in like manner a neutral field, where even a justice of peace and a strolling mendicant might meet upon terms of mutual forbearance.
"Turn back! turn back!" exclaimed the vagrant; "why did ye not turn when I waved to you?"
"We thought," replied Sir Arthur, in great agitation, "we thought we could get round Halket-head."
"Halket-head!—the tide will be running on Halket-head by this time like the Fall of Fyers!—it was a' I could do to get round it twenty minutes since—it was coming in three feet abreast. We will maybe get back by Bally-burgh Ness Point yet. The Lord help us!—it's our only chance. We can but try."
"My God, my child!"—"My father! my dear father!" exclaimed the parent and daughter, as, fear lending them strength and speed, they turned to retrace their steps, and endeavoured to double the point, the projection of which formed the southern extremity of the bay.
"I heard ye were here frae the bit callant ye sent to meet your carriage," said the beggar, as he trudged stoutly on a step or two behind Miss Wardour; "and I couldna bide to think o' the dainty young leddy's peril, that has aye been kind to ilka forlorn heart that cam near her. Sae I lookit at the lift and the rin o' the tide, till I settled it that if I could get down time eneugh to gie you warning, we wad do weel yet. But I doubt, I doubt, I have been beguiled! for what mortal ee ever saw sic a race as the tide is risening e'en now? See, yonder's the Ratton's Skerry—he aye held his neb abune the water in my day—but he's aneath it now."
Sir Arthur cast a look in the direction in which the old man pointed. A huge rock, which in general, even in spring-tides, displayed a hulk like the keel of a large vessel, was now quite under water, and its place only indicated by the boiling and breaking of the eddying waves which encountered its submarine resistance.
"Mak haste, mak haste, my bonny leddy," continued the old man—"mak haste, and we may do yet! Take haud o' my arm—an auld and frail arm it's now, but it's been in as sair stress as this is yet. Take haud o' my arm, my winsome leddy! D'ye see yon wee black speck amang the wallowing waves yonder? This morning it was as high as the mast o' a brig—it's sma' eneugh now—but, while I see as muckle black about it as the crown o' my hat, I winna believe but we'll get round the Ballyburgh Ness, for a' that's come and gane yet."
Isabella, in silence, accepted from the old man the assistance which Sir Arthur was less able to afford her. The waves had now encroached so much upon the beach, that the firm and smooth footing which they had hitherto had on the sand must be exchanged for a rougher path close to the foot of the precipice, and in some places even raised upon its lower ledges. It would have been utterly impossible for Sir Arthur Wardour, or his daughter, to have found their way along these shelves without the guidance and encouragement of the beggar, who had been there before in high tides, though never, he acknowledged, "in sae awsome a night as this."
It was indeed a dreadful evening. The howling of the storm mingled with the shrieks of the sea-fowl, and sounded like the dirge of the three devoted beings, who, pent between two of the most magnificent, yet most dreadful objects of nature—a raging tide and an insurmountable precipice—toiled along their painful and dangerous path, often lashed by the spray of some giant billow, which threw itself higher on the beach than those that had preceded it. Each minute did their enemy gain ground perceptibly upon them! Still, however, loth to relinquish the last hopes of life, they bent their eyes on the black rock pointed out by Ochiltree. It was yet distinctly visible among the breakers, and continued to be so, until they came to a turn in their precarious path, where an intervening projection of rock hid it from their sight. Deprived of the view of the beacon on which they had relied, they now experienced the double agony of terror and suspense. They struggled forward, however; but, when they arrived at the point from which they ought to have seen the crag, it was no longer visible: the signal of safety was lost among a thousand white breakers, which, dashing upon the point of the promontory, rose in prodigious sheets of snowy foam, as high as the mast of a first-rate man-of-war, against the dark brow of the precipice.
The countenance of the old man fell. Isabella gave a faint shriek, and, "God have mercy upon us!" which her guide solemnly uttered, was piteously echoed by Sir Arthur—"My child! my child!—to die such a death!"
"My father! my dear father!" his daughter exclaimed, clinging to him—"and you too, who have lost your own life in endeavouring to save ours!"
"That's not worth the counting," said the old man. "I hae lived to be weary o' life; and here or yonder—at the back o' a dyke, in a wreath o' snaw, or in the wame o' a wave, what signifies how the auld gaberlunzie dies?"
"Good man," said Sir Arthur, "can you think of nothing?—of no help?—I'll make you rich—I'll give you a farm—I'll"—
"Our riches will be soon equal," said the beggar, looking out upon the strife of the waters—"they are sae already; for I hae nae land, and you would give your fair bounds and barony for a square yard of rock that would be dry for twal hours."
While they exchanged these words, they paused upon the highest ledge of rock to which they could attain; for it seemed that any further attempt to move forward could only serve to anticipate their fate. Here, then, they were to await the sure though slow progress of the raging element, something in the situation of the martyrs of the early church, who, exposed by heathen tyrants to be slain by wild beasts, were compelled for a time to witness the impatience and rage by which the animals were agitated, while awaiting the signal for undoing their grates, and letting them loose upon the victims.
Yet even this fearful pause gave Isabella time to collect the powers of a mind naturally strong and courageous, and which rallied itself at this terrible juncture. "Must we yield life," she said, "without a struggle? Is there no path, however dreadful, by which we could climb the crag, or at least attain some height above the tide, where we could remain till morning, or till help comes? They must be aware of our situation, and will raise the country to relieve us."
Sir Arthur, who heard, but scarcely comprehended, his daughter's question, turned, nevertheless, instinctively and eagerly to the old man, as if their lives were in his gift. Ochiltree paused—"I was a bauld craigsman," he said, "ance in my life, and mony a kittywake's and lungie's nest hae I harried up amang thae very black rocks; but it's lang, lang syne, and nae mortal could speel them without a rope—and if I had ane, my ee-sight, and my footstep, and my hand-grip, hae a' failed mony a day sinsyne—And then, how could I save you? But there was a path here ance, though maybe, if we could see it, ye would rather bide where we are—His name be praised!" he ejaculated suddenly, "there's ane coming down the crag e'en now!"—Then, exalting his voice, he hilloa'd out to the daring adventurer such instructions as his former practice, and the remembrance of local circumstances, suddenly forced upon his mind:—"Ye're right!—ye're right!—that gate—that gate!—fasten the rope weel round Crummies-horn, that's the muckle black stane—cast twa plies round it—that's it!—now, weize yoursell a wee easel-ward—a wee mair yet to that ither stane—we ca'd it the Cat's-lug—there used to be the root o' an aik tree there—that will do!—canny now, lad—canny now—tak tent and tak time—Lord bless ye, tak time—Vera weel!—Now ye maun get to Bessy's apron, that's the muckle braid flat blue stane—and then, I think, wi' your help and the tow thegither, I'll win at ye, and then we'll be able to get up the young leddy and Sir Arthur."
The adventurer, following the directions of old Edie, flung him down the end of the rope, which he secured around Miss Wardour, wrapping her previously in his own blue gown, to preserve her as much as possible from injury. Then, availing himself of the rope, which was made fast at the other end, he began to ascend the face of the crag—a most precarious and dizzy undertaking, which, however, after one or two perilous escapes, placed him safe on the broad flat stone beside our friend Lovel. Their joint strength was able to raise Isabella to the place of safety which they had attained. Lovel then descended in order to assist Sir Arthur, around whom he adjusted the rope; and again mounting to their place of refuge, with the assistance of old Ochiltree, and such aid as Sir Arthur himself could afford, he raised himself beyond the reach of the billows.
The sense of reprieve from approaching and apparently inevitable death, had its usual effect. The father and daughter threw themselves into each other's arms, kissed and wept for joy, although their escape was connected with the prospect of passing a tempestuous night upon a precipitous ledge of rock, which scarce afforded footing for the four shivering beings, who now, like the sea-fowl around them, clung there in hopes of some shelter from the devouring element which raged beneath. The spray of the billows, which attained in fearful succession the foot of the precipice, overflowing the beach on which they so lately stood, flew as high as their place of temporary refuge; and the stunning sound with which they dashed against the rocks beneath, seemed as if they still demanded the fugitives in accents of thunder as their destined prey. It was a summer night, doubtless; yet the probability was slender, that a frame so delicate as that of Miss Wardour should survive till morning the drenching of the spray; and the dashing of the rain, which now burst in full violence, accompanied with deep and heavy gusts of wind, added to the constrained and perilous circumstances of their situation.
"The lassie!—the puir sweet, lassie!" said the old man: "mony such a night have I weathered at hame and abroad, but, God guide us, how can she ever win through it!"
His apprehension was communicated in smothered accents to Lovel; for with the sort of freemasonry by which bold and ready spirits correspond in moments of danger, and become almost instinctively known to each other, they had established a mutual confidence.—"I'll climb up the cliff again," said Lovel—there's daylight enough left to see my footing; I'll climb up, and call for more assistance."
"Do so, do so, for Heaven's sake!" said Sir Arthur eagerly.
"Are ye mad?" said the mendicant: "Francie o' Fowlsheugh, and he was the best craigsman that ever speel'd heugh (mair by token, he brake his neck upon the Dunbuy of Slaines), wodna hae ventured upon the Halket-head craigs after sun-down—It's God's grace, and a great wonder besides, that ye are not in the middle o' that roaring sea wi' what ye hae done already—I didna think there was the man left alive would hae come down the craigs as ye did. I question an I could hae done it mysell, at this hoar and in this weather, in the youngest and yaldest of my strength—But to venture up again—it's a mere and a clear tempting o' Providence,"
"I have no fear," answered Lovel; "I marked all the stations perfectly as I came down, and there is still light enough left to see them quite well—I am sure I can do it with perfect safety. Stay here, my good friend, by Sir Arthur and the young lady."
"Dell be in my feet then," answered the bedesman sturdily; "if ye gang, I'll gang too; for between the twa o' us, we'll hae mair than wark eneugh to get to the tap o' the heugh."
"No, no—stay you here and attend to Miss Wardour—you see Sir Arthur is quite exhausted."
"Stay yoursell then, and I'll gae," said the old man;—"let death spare the green corn and take the ripe."
"Stay both of you, I charge you," said Isabella, faintly; "I am well, and can spend the night very well here—I feel quite refreshed." So saying, her voice failed her—she sunk down, and would have fallen from the crag, had she not been supported by Lovel and Ochiltree, who placed her in a posture half sitting, half reclining, beside her father, who, exhausted by fatigue of body and mind so extreme and unusual, had already sat down on a stone in a sort of stupor.
"It is impossible to leave them," said Lovel—"What is to be done?—Hark! hark!—did I not hear a halloo?"
"The skreigh of a Tammie Norie," answered Ochiltree—"I ken the skirl weel."
"No, by Heaven!" replied Lovel, "it was a human voice."
A distant hail was repeated, the sound plainly distinguishable among the various elemental noises, and the clang of the sea-mews by which they were surrounded. The mendicant and Lovel exerted their voices in a loud halloo, the former waving Miss Wardour's handkerchief on the end of his staff to make them conspicuous from above. Though the shouts were repeated, it was some time before they were in exact response to their own, leaving the unfortunate sufferers uncertain whether, in the darkening twilight and increasing storm, they had made the persons who apparently were traversing the verge of the precipice to bring them assistance, sensible of the place in which they had found refuge. At length their halloo was regularly and distinctly answered, and their courage confirmed, by the assurance that they were within hearing, if not within reach, of friendly assistance.
There is a cliff, whose high and bending head Looks fearfully on the confined deep; Bring me but to the very brim of it, And I'll repair the misery thou dost bear. King Lear.
The shout of human voices from above was soon augmented, and the gleam of torches mingled with those lights of evening which still remained amidst the darkness of the storm. Some attempt was made to hold communication between the assistants above and the sufferers beneath, who were still clinging to their precarious place of safety; but the howling of the tempest limited their intercourse to cries as inarticulate as those of the winged denizens of the crag, which shrieked in chorus, alarmed by the reiterated sound of human voices, where they had seldom been heard.
On the verge of the precipice an anxious group had now assembled. Oldbuck was the foremost and most earnest, pressing forward with unwonted desperation to the very brink of the crag, and extending his head (his hat and wig secured by a handkerchief under his chin) over the dizzy height, with an air of determination which made his more timorous assistants tremble.
"Haud a care, haud a care, Monkbarns!" cried Caxon, clinging to the skirts of his patron, and withholding him from danger as far as his strength permitted—"God's sake, haud a care!—Sir Arthur's drowned already, and an ye fa' over the cleugh too, there will be but ae wig left in the parish, and that's the minister's."
"Mind the peak there," cried Mucklebackit, an old fisherman and smuggler—"mind the peak—Steenie, Steenie Wilks, bring up the tackle—I'se warrant we'll sune heave them on board, Monkbarns, wad ye but stand out o' the gate."
"I see them," said Oldbuck—"I see them low down on that flat stone—Hilli-hilloa, hilli-ho-a!"
"I see them mysell weel eneugh," said Mucklebackit; "they are sitting down yonder like hoodie-craws in a mist; but d'yo think ye'll help them wi' skirling that gate like an auld skart before a flaw o' weather?—Steenie, lad, bring up the mast—Od, I'se hae them up as we used to bouse up the kegs o' gin and brandy lang syne—Get up the pickaxe, make a step for the mast—make the chair fast with the rattlin—haul taught and belay!"
The fishers had brought with them the mast of a boat, and as half of the country fellows about had now appeared, either out of zeal or curiosity, it was soon sunk in the ground, and sufficiently secured. A yard across the upright mast, and a rope stretched along it, and reeved through a block at each end, formed an extempore crane, which afforded the means of lowering an arm-chair, well secured and fastened, down to the flat shelf on which the sufferers had roosted. Their joy at hearing the preparations going on for their deliverance was considerably qualified when they beheld the precarious vehicle by means of which they were to be conveyed to upper air. It swung about a yard free of the spot which they occupied, obeying each impulse of the tempest, the empty air all around it, and depending upon the security of a rope, which, in the increasing darkness, had dwindled to an almost imperceptible thread. Besides the hazard of committing a human being to the vacant atmosphere in such a slight means of conveyance, there was the fearful danger of the chair and its occupant being dashed, either by the wind or the vibrations of the cord, against the rugged face of the precipice. But to diminish the risk as much as possible, the experienced seaman had let down with the chair another line, which, being attached to it, and held by the persons beneath, might serve by way of gy, as Mucklebackit expressed it, to render its descent in some measure steady and regular. Still, to commit one's self in such a vehicle, through a howling tempest of wind and rain, with a beetling precipice above and a raging abyss below, required that courage which despair alone can inspire. Yet, wild as the sounds and sights of danger were, both above, beneath, and around, and doubtful and dangerous as the mode of escaping appeared to be, Lovel and the old mendicant agreed, after a moment's consultation, and after the former, by a sudden strong pull, had, at his own imminent risk, ascertained the security of the rope, that it would be best to secure Miss Wardour in the chair, and trust to the tenderness and care of those above for her being safely craned up to the top of the crag.
"Let my father go first," exclaimed Isabella; "for God's sake, my friends, place him first in safety!"
"It cannot be, Miss Wardour," said Lovel;—"your life must be first secured—the rope which bears your weight may"—
"I will not listen to a reason so selfish!"
"But ye maun listen to it, my bonnie lassie," said Ochiltree, "for a' our lives depend on it—besides, when ye get on the tap o' the heugh yonder, ye can gie them a round guess o' what's ganging on in this Patmos o' ours—and Sir Arthur's far by that, as I'm thinking."
Struck with the truth of this reasoning, she exclaimed, "True, most true; I am ready and willing to undertake the first risk—What shall I say to our friends above?"
"Just to look that their tackle does not graze on the face o' the crag, and to let the chair down and draw it up hooly and fairly;—we will halloo when we are ready."
With the sedulous attention of a parent to a child, Lovel bound Miss Wardour with his handkerchief, neckcloth, and the mendicant's leathern belt, to the back and arms of the chair, ascertaining accurately the security of each knot, while Ochiltree kept Sir Arthur quiet. "What are ye doing wi' my bairn?—what are ye doing?—She shall not be separated from me—Isabel, stay with me, I command you!"
"Lordsake, Sir Arthur, haud your tongue, and be thankful to God that there's wiser folk than you to manage this job," cried the beggar, worn out by the unreasonable exclamations of the poor Baronet.
"Farewell, my father!" murmured Isabella—"farewell, my—my friends!" and shutting her eyes, as Edie's experience recommended, she gave the signal to Lovel, and he to those who were above. She rose, while the chair in which she sate was kept steady by the line which Lovel managed beneath. With a beating heart he watched the flutter of her white dress, until the vehicle was on a level with the brink of the precipice.
"Canny now, lads, canny now!" exclaimed old Mucklebackit, who acted as commodore; "swerve the yard a bit—Now—there! there she sits safe on dry land."
A loud shout announced the successful experiment to her fellow-sufferers beneath, who replied with a ready and cheerful halloo. Monkbarns, in his ecstasy of joy, stripped his great-coat to wrap up the young lady, and would have pulled off his coat and waistcoat for the same purpose, had he not been withheld by the cautious Caxon. "Haud a care o' us! your honour will be killed wi' the hoast—ye'll no get out o'your night-cowl this fortnight—and that will suit us unco ill.—Na, na—there's the chariot down by; let twa o' the folk carry the young leddy there."
"You're right," said the Antiquary, readjusting the sleeves and collar of his coat, "you're right, Caxon; this is a naughty night to swim in.—Miss Wardour, let me convey you to the chariot."
"Not for worlds till I see my father safe."
In a few distinct words, evincing how much her resolution had surmounted even the mortal fear of so agitating a hazard, she explained the nature of the situation beneath, and the wishes of Lovel and Ochiltree.
"Right, right, that's right too—I should like to see the son of Sir Gamelyn de Guardover on dry land myself—I have a notion he would sign the abjuration oath, and the Ragman-roll to boot, and acknowledge Queen Mary to be nothing better than she should be, to get alongside my bottle of old port that he ran away from, and left scarce begun. But he's safe now, and here a' comes"—(for the chair was again lowered, and Sir Arthur made fast in it, without much consciousness on his own part)—"here a' comes—Bowse away, my boys! canny wi' him—a pedigree of a hundred links is hanging on a tenpenny tow—the whole barony of Knockwinnock depends on three plies of hemp—respice finem, respice funem—look to your end—look to a rope's end.—Welcome, welcome, my good old friend, to firm land, though I cannot say to warm land or to dry land. A cord for ever against fifty fathom of water, though not in the sense of the base proverb—a fico for the phrase,—better sus. per funem, than sus. per coll."
While Oldbuck ran on in this way, Sir Arthur was safely wrapped in the close embraces of his daughter, who, assuming that authority which the circumstances demanded, ordered some of the assistants to convey him to the chariot, promising to follow in a few minutes, She lingered on the cliff, holding an old countryman's arm, to witness probably the safety of those whose dangers she had shared.
"What have we here?" said Oldbuck, as the vehicle once more ascended—"what patched and weather-beaten matter is this?" Then as the torches illumed the rough face and grey hairs of old Ochiltree,—"What! is it thou?—Come, old Mocker, I must needs be friends with thee—but who the devil makes up your party besides?"
"Ane that's weel worth ony twa o' us, Monkbarns;—it's the young stranger lad they ca' Lovel—and he's behaved this blessed night as if he had three lives to rely on, and was willing to waste them a' rather than endanger ither folk's. Ca' hooly, sirs, as ye, wad win an auld man's blessing!—mind there's naebody below now to haud the gy—Hae a care o' the Cat's-lug corner—bide weel aff Crummie's-horn!"
"Have a care indeed," echoed Oldbuck. "What! is it my rara avis—my black swan—my phoenix of companions in a post-chaise?—take care of him, Mucklebackit."
"As muckle care as if he were a graybeard o' brandy; and I canna take mair if his hair were like John Harlowe's.—Yo ho, my hearts! bowse away with him!"
Lovel did, in fact, run a much greater risk than any of his precursors. His weight was not sufficient to render his ascent steady amid such a storm of wind, and he swung like an agitated pendulum at the mortal risk of being dashed against the rocks. But he was young, bold, and active, and, with the assistance of the beggar's stout piked staff, which he had retained by advice of the proprietor, contrived to bear himself from the face of the precipice, and the yet more hazardous projecting cliffs which varied its surface. Tossed in empty space, like an idle and unsubstantial feather, with a motion that agitated the brain at once with fear and with dizziness, he retained his alertness of exertion and presence of mind; and it was not until he was safely grounded upon the summit of the cliff, that he felt temporary and giddy sickness. As he recovered from a sort of half swoon, he cast his eyes eagerly around. The object which they would most willingly have sought, was already in the act of vanishing. Her white garment was just discernible as she followed on the path which her father had taken. She had lingered till she saw the last of their company rescued from danger, and until she had been assured by the hoarse voice of Mucklebackit, that "the callant had come off wi' unbrizzed banes, and that he was but in a kind of dwam." But Lovel was not aware that she had expressed in his fate even this degree of interest,—which, though nothing more than was due to a stranger who had assisted her in such an hour of peril, he would have gladly purchased by braving even more imminent danger than he had that evening been exposed to. The beggar she had already commanded to come to Knockwinnock that night. He made an excuse.—"Then to-morrow let me see you."
The old man promised to obey. Oldbuck thrust something into his hand—Ochiltree looked at it by the torchlight, and returned it—"Na, na! I never tak gowd—besides, Monkbarns, ye wad maybe be rueing it the morn." Then turning to the group of fishermen and peasants—"Now, sirs, wha will gie me a supper and some clean pease-strae?"
"I," "and I," "and I," answered many a ready voice.
"Aweel, since sae it is, and I can only sleep in ae barn at ance, I'll gae down with Saunders Mucklebackit—he has aye a soup o' something comfortable about his begging—and, bairns, I'll maybe live to put ilka ane o' ye in mind some ither night that ye hae promised me quarters and my awmous;" and away he went with the fisherman.
Oldbuck laid the band of strong possession on Lovel—"Deil a stride ye's go to Fairport this night, young man—you must go home with me to Monkbarns. Why, man, you have been a hero—a perfect Sir William Wallace, by all accounts. Come, my good lad, take hold of my arm;—I am not a prime support in such a wind—but Caxon shall help us out—Here, you old idiot, come on the other side of me.—And how the deil got you down to that infernal Bessy's-apron, as they call it? Bess, said they? Why, curse her, she has spread out that vile pennon or banner of womankind, like all the rest of her sex, to allure her votaries to death and headlong ruin."
"I have been pretty well accustomed to climbing, and I have long observed fowlers practise that pass down the cliff."
"But how, in the name of all that is wonderful, came you to discover the danger of the pettish Baronet and his far more deserving daughter?"
"I saw them from the verge of the precipice."
"From the verge!—umph—And what possessed you dumosa pendere procul de rupe?—though dumosa is not the appropriate epithet—what the deil, man, tempted ye to the verge of the craig?"
"Why—I like to see the gathering and growling of a coming storm—or, in your own classical language, Mr. Oldbuck, suave mari magno—and so forth—but here we reach the turn to Fairport. I must wish you good-night."
"Not a step, not a pace, not an inch, not a shathmont, as I may say,—the meaning of which word has puzzled many that think themselves antiquaries. I am clear we should read salmon-length for shathmont's-length. You are aware that the space allotted for the passage of a salmon through a dam, dike, or weir, by statute, is the length within which a full-grown pig can turn himself round. Now I have a scheme to prove, that, as terrestrial objects were thus appealed to for ascertaining submarine measurement, so it must be supposed that the productions of the water were established as gauges of the extent of land.—Shathmont— salmont—you see the close alliance of the sounds; dropping out two h's, and a t, and assuming an l, makes the whole difference—I wish to heaven no antiquarian derivation had demanded heavier concessions."
"But, my dear sir, I really must go home—I am wet to the skin."
"Shalt have my night-gown, man, and slippers, and catch the antiquarian fever as men do the plague, by wearing infected garments. Nay, I know what you would be at—you are afraid to put the old bachelor to charges. But is there not the remains of that glorious chicken-pie—which, meo arbitrio, is better cold than hot—and that bottle of my oldest port, out of which the silly brain-sick Baronet (whom I cannot pardon, since he has escaped breaking his neck) had just taken one glass, when his infirm noddle went a wool-gathering after Gamelyn de Guardover?"
So saying he dragged Lovel forward, till the Palmer's-port of Monkbarns received them. Never, perhaps, had it admitted two pedestrians more needing rest for Monkbarns's fatigue had been in a degree very contrary to his usual habits, and his more young and robust companion had that evening undergone agitation of mind which had harassed and wearied him even more than his extraordinary exertions of body.
"Be brave," she cried, "you yet may be our guest, Our haunted room was ever held the best. If, then, your valour can the sight sustain Of rustling curtains and the clinking chain If your courageous tongue have powers to talk, When round your bed the horrid ghost shall walk If you dare ask it why it leaves its tomb, I'll see your sheets well air'd, and show the Room." True Story.
They reached the room in which they had dined, and were clamorously welcomed by Miss Oldbuck.
"Where's the younger womankind?" said the Antiquary.
"Indeed, brother, amang a' the steery, Maria wadna be guided by me she set away to the Halket-craig-head—I wonder ye didna see her."
"Eh!—what—what's that you say, sister?—did the girl go out in a night like this to the Halket-head?—Good God! the misery of the night is not ended yet!"
"But ye winna wait, Monkbarns—ye are so imperative and impatient"—
"Tittle-tattle, woman," said the impatient and agitated Antiquary, "where is my dear Mary?"
"Just where ye suld be yoursell, Monkbarns—up-stairs, and in her warm bed."
"I could have sworn it," said Oldbuck laughing, but obviously much relieved—"I could have sworn it;—the lazy monkey did not care if we were all drowned together. Why did you say she went out?"
"But ye wadna wait to hear out my tale, Monkbarns—she gaed out, and she came in again with the gardener sae sune as she saw that nane o' ye were clodded ower the Craig, and that Miss Wardour was safe in the chariot; she was hame a quarter of an hour syne, for it's now ganging ten—sair droukit was she, puir thing, sae I e'en put a glass o' sherry in her water-gruel."
"Right, Grizel, right—let womankind alone for coddling each other. But hear me, my venerable sister—start not at the word venerable; it implies many praiseworthy qualities besides age; though that too is honourable, albeit it is the last quality for which womankind would wish to be honoured—But perpend my words: let Lovel and me have forthwith the relics of the chicken-pie, and the reversion of the port."
"The chicken-pie! the port!—ou dear! brother—there was but a wheen banes, and scarce a drap o' the wine."
The Antiquary's countenance became clouded, though he was too well bred to give way, in the presence of a stranger, to his displeased surprise at the, disappearance of the viands on which he had reckoned with absolute certainty. But his sister understood these looks of ire. "Ou dear! Monkbarns, what's the use of making a wark?"
"I make no wark, as ye call it, woman."
"But what's the use o' looking sae glum and glunch about a pickle banes?—an ye will hae the truth, ye maun ken the minister came in, worthy man—sair distressed he was, nae doubt, about your precarious situation, as he ca'd it (for ye ken how weel he's gifted wi' words), and here he wad bide till he could hear wi' certainty how the matter was likely to gang wi' ye a'—He said fine things on the duty of resignation to Providence's will, worthy man! that did he."
Oldbuck replied, catching the same tone, "Worthy man!—he cared not how soon Monkbarns had devolved on an heir-female, I've a notion;—and while he was occupied in this Christian office of consolation against impending evil, I reckon that the chicken-pie and my good port disappeared?"
"Dear brother, how can you speak of sic frivolities, when you have had sic an escape from the craig?"
"Better than my supper has had from the minister's craig, Grizzle—it's all discussed, I suppose?"
"Hout, Monkbarns, ye speak as if there was nae mair meat in the house—wad ye not have had me offer the honest man some slight refreshment after his walk frae the manse?"
Oldbuck half-whistled, half-hummed, the end of the old Scottish ditty,
O, first they eated the white puddings, And then they eated the black, O, And thought the gudeman unto himsell, The deil clink down wi' that, O!
His sister hastened to silence his murmurs, by proposing some of the relies of the dinner. He spoke of another bottle of wine, but recommended in preference a glass of brandy which was really excellent. As no entreaties could prevail on Lovel to indue the velvet night-cap and branched morning-gown of his host, Oldbuck, who pretended to a little knowledge of the medical art, insisted on his going to bed as soon as possible, and proposed to despatch a messenger (the indefatigable Caxon) to Fairport early in the morning, to procure him a change of clothes.
This was the first intimation Miss Oldbuck had received that the young stranger was to be their guest for the night; and such was the surprise with which she was struck by a proposal so uncommon, that, had the superincumbent weight of her head-dress, such as we before described, been less preponderant, her grey locks must have started up on end, and hurled it from its position.
"Lord haud a care o' us!" exclaimed the astounded maiden.
"What's the matter now, Grizel?"
"Wad ye but just speak a moment, Monkbarns?"
"Speak!—what should I speak about? I want to get to my bed—and this poor young fellow—let a bed be made ready for him instantly."
"A bed?—The Lord preserve us!" again ejaculated Grizel.
"Why, what's the matter now?—are there not beds and rooms enough in the house?—was it not an ancient hospitium, in which, I am warranted to say, beds were nightly made down for a score of pilgrims?"
"O dear, Monkbarns! wha kens what they might do lang syne?—but in our time—beds—ay, troth, there's beds enow sic as they are—and rooms enow too—but ye ken yoursell the beds haena been sleepit in, Lord kens the time, nor the rooms aired.—If I had kenn'd, Mary and me might hae gaen down to the manse—Miss Beckie is aye fond to see us—(and sae is the minister, brother)—But now, gude save us!"—
"Is there not the Green Room, Grizel?"
"Troth is there, and it is in decent order too, though naebody has sleepit there since Dr. Heavysterne, and"—
"And what! I am sure ye ken yoursell what a night he had—ye wadna expose the young gentleman to the like o' that, wad ye?"
Lovel interfered upon hearing this altercation, and protested he would far rather walk home than put them to the least inconvenience—that the exercise would be of service to him—that he knew the road perfectly, by night or day, to Fairport—that the storm was abating, and so forth—adding all that civility could suggest as an excuse for escaping from a hospitality which seemed more inconvenient to his host than he could possibly have anticipated. But the howling of the wind, and the pattering of the rain against the windows, with his knowledge of the preceding fatigues of the evening, must have prohibited Oldbuck, even had he entertained less regard for his young friend than he really felt, from permitting him to depart. Besides, he was piqued in honour to show that he himself was not governed by womankind—"Sit ye down, sit ye down, sit ye down, man," he reiterated;—"an ye part so, I would I might never draw a cork again, and here comes out one from a prime bottle of—strong ale—right anno domini—none of your Wassia Quassia decoctions, but brewed of Monkbarns barley—John of the Girnel never drew a better flagon to entertain a wandering minstrel, or palmer, with the freshest news from Palestine.—And to remove from your mind the slightest wish to depart, know, that if you do so, your character as a gallant knight is gone for ever. Why, 'tis an adventure, man, to sleep in the Green Room at Monkbarns.—Sister, pray see it got ready—And, although the bold adventurer, Heavysterne, dree'd pain and dolour in that charmed apartment, it is no reason why a gallant knight like you, nearly twice as tall, and not half so heavy, should not encounter and break the spell."
"What! a haunted apartment, I suppose?"
"To be sure, to be sure—every mansion in this country of the slightest antiquity has its ghosts and its haunted chamber, and you must not suppose us worse off than our neighbours. They are going, indeed, somewhat out of fashion. I have seen the day, when if you had doubted the reality of a ghost in an old manor-house you ran the risk of being made a ghost yourself, as Hamlet says.—Yes, if you had challenged the existence of Redcowl in the Castle of Glenstirym, old Sir Peter Pepperbrand would have had ye out to his court-yard, made you betake yourself to your weapon, and if your trick of fence were not the better, would have sticked you like a paddock, on his own baronial midden-stead. I once narrowly escaped such an affray—but I humbled myself, and apologised to Redcowl; for, even in my younger days, I was no friend to the monomachia, or duel, and would rather walk with Sir Priest than with Sir Knight—I care not who knows so much of my valour. Thank God, I am old now, and can indulge my irritabilities without the necessity of supporting them by cold steel."
Here Miss Oldbuck re-entered, with a singularly sage expression of countenance.—"Mr. Lovel's bed's ready, brother—clean sheets—weel aired—a spunk of fire in the chimney—I am sure, Mr. Lovel," (addressing him), "it's no for the trouble—and I hope you will have a good night's rest—But"—
"You are resolved," said the Antiquary, "to do what you can to prevent it."
"Me?—I am sure I have said naething, Monkbarns."
"My dear madam," said Lovel, "allow me to ask you the meaning of your obliging anxiety on my account."
"Ou, Monkbarns does not like to hear of it—but he kens himsell that the room has an ill name. It's weel minded that it was there auld Rab Tull the town-clerk was sleeping when he had that marvellous communication about the grand law-plea between us and the feuars at the Mussel-craig. —It had cost a hantle siller, Mr. Lovel; for law-pleas were no carried on without siller lang syne mair than they are now—and the Monkbarns of that day—our gudesire, Mr. Lovel, as I said before—was like to be waured afore the Session for want of a paper—Monkbarns there kens weel what paper it was, but I'se warrant he'll no help me out wi' my tale—but it was a paper of great significance to the plea, and we were to be waured for want o't. Aweel, the cause was to come on before the fifteen —in presence, as they ca't—and auld Rab Tull, the town-clerk, he cam ower to make a last search for the paper that was wanting, before our gudesire gaed into Edinburgh to look after his plea—so there was little time to come and gang on. He was but a doited snuffy body, Rab, as I've heard —but then he was the town-clerk of Fairport, and the Monkbarns heritors aye employed him on account of their connection wi' the burgh, ye ken."
"Sister Grizel, this is abominable," interrupted Oldbuck; "I vow to Heaven ye might have raised the ghosts of every abbot of Trotcosey, since the days of Waldimir, in the time you have been detailing the introduction to this single spectre.—Learn to be succinct in your narrative.—Imitate the concise style of old Aubrey, an experienced ghost-seer, who entered his memoranda on these subjects in a terse business-like manner; exempli gratia—At Cirencester, 5th March, 1670, was an apparition.—Being demanded whether good spirit or bad, made no answer, but instantly disappeared with a curious perfume, and a melodious twang'—Vide his Miscellanies, p. eighteen, as well as I can remember, and near the middle of the page."
"O, Monkbarns, man! do ye think everybody is as book-learned as yoursell?—But ye like to gar folk look like fools—ye can do that to Sir Arthur, and the minister his very sell."
"Nature has been beforehand with me, Grizel, in both these instances, and in another which shall be nameless—but take a glass of ale, Grizel, and proceed with your story, for it waxes late."
"Jenny's just warming your bed, Monkbarns, and ye maun e'en wait till she's done.—Weel, I was at the search that our gudesire, Monkbarns that then was, made wi' auld Rab Tull's assistance;—but ne'er-be-licket could they find that was to their purpose. Aud sae, after they bad touzled out mony a leather poke-full o' papers, the town-clerk had his drap punch at e'en to wash the dust out of his throat—we never were glass-breakers in this house, Mr. Lovel, but the body bad got sic a trick of sippling and tippling wi' the bailies and deacons when they met (which was amaist ilka night) concerning the common gude o' the burgh, that he couldna weel sleep without it—But his punch he gat, and to bed he gaed; and in the middle of the night he got a fearfu' wakening!—he was never just himsell after it, and he was strucken wi' the dead palsy that very day four years. He thought, Mr. Lovel, that he heard the curtains o' his bed fissil, and out he lookit, fancying, puir man, it might hae been the cat—But he saw—God hae a care o' us! it gars my flesh aye creep, though I hae tauld the story twenty times—he saw a weel-fa'ard auld gentleman standing by his bedside, in the moonlight, in a queer-fashioned dress, wi' mony a button and band-string about it, and that part o' his garments which it does not become a leddy to particulareeze, was baith side and wide, and as mony plies o't as of ony Hamburgh skipper's—He had a beard too, and whiskers turned upwards on his upper-lip, as lang as baudrons'—and mony mair particulars there were that Rab Tull tauld o', but they are forgotten now—it's an auld story. Aweel, Rab was a just-living man for a country writer—and he was less feared than maybe might just hae been expected; and he asked in the name o' goodness what the apparition wanted—and the spirit answered in an unknown tongue. Then Rab said he tried him wi' Erse, for he cam in his youth frae the braes of Glenlivat—but it wadna do. Aweel, in this strait, he bethought him of the twa or three words o' Latin that he used in making out the town's deeds, and he had nae sooner tried the spirit wi' that, than out cam sic a blatter o' Latin about his lugs, that poor Rab Tull, wha was nae great scholar, was clean overwhelmed. Od, but he was a bauld body, and he minded the Latin name for the deed that he was wanting. It was something about a cart, I fancy, for the ghaist cried aye, Carter, carter—"
"Carta, you transformer of languages!" cried Oldbuck;—"if my ancestor had learned no other language in the other world, at least he would not forget the Latinity for which he was so famous while in this."
"Weel, weel, carta be it then, but they ca'd it carter that tell'd me the story. It cried aye carta, if sae be that it was carta, and made a sign to Rab to follow it. Rab Tull keepit a Highland heart, and banged out o' bed, and till some of his readiest claes—and he did follow the thing up stairs and down stairs to the place we ca' the high dow-cot—(a sort of a little tower in the corner of the auld house, where there was a Rickle o' useless boxes and trunks)—and there the ghaist gae Rab a kick wi' the tae foot, and a kick wi' the tother, to that very auld east-country tabernacle of a cabinet that my brother has standing beside his library table, and then disappeared like a fuff o' tobacco, leaving Rab in a very pitiful condition."
"Tenues secessit in auras," quoth Oldbuck. "Marry, sir, mansit odor—But, sure enough, the deed was there found in a drawer of this forgotten repository, which contained many other curious old papers, now properly labelled and arranged, and which seemed to have belonged to my ancestor, the first possessor of Monkbarns. The deed, thus strangely recovered, was the original Charter of Erection of the Abbey, Abbey Lands, and so forth, of Trotcosey, comprehending Monkbarns and others, into a Lordship of Regality in favour of the first Earl of Glengibber, a favourite of James the Sixth. It is subscribed by the King at Westminster, the seventeenth day of January, A. D. one thousand six hundred and twelve—thirteen. It's not worth while to repeat the witnesses' names."
"I would rather," said Lovel with awakened curiosity, "I would rather hear your opinion of the way in which the deed was discovered."
"Why, if I wanted a patron for my legend, I could find no less a one than Saint Augustine, who tells the story of a deceased person appearing to his son, when sued for a debt which had been paid, and directing him where, to find the discharge.*
*Note D. Mr. Rutherford's dream.
But I rather opine with Lord Bacon, who says that imagination is much akin to miracle-working faith. There was always some idle story of the room being haunted by the spirit of Aldobrand Oldenbuck, my great-great-great-grandfather—it's a shame to the English language that, we have not a less clumsy way of expressing a relationship of which we have occasion to think and speak so frequently. He was a foreigner, and wore his national dress, of which tradition had preserved an accurate description; and indeed there is a print of him, supposed to be by Reginald Elstracke, pulling the press with his own hand, as it works off the sheets of his scarce edition of the Augsburg Confession. He was a chemist as well as a good mechanic, and either of these qualities in this country was at that time sufficient to constitute a white witch at least. This superstitious old writer had heard all this, and probably believed it, and in his sleep the image and idea of my ancestor recalled that of his cabinet, which, with the grateful attention to antiquities and the memory of our ancestors not unusually met with, had been pushed into the pigeon-house to be out of the way—Add a quantum sufficit of exaggeration, and you have a key to the whole mystery."
"O brother! brother! but Dr. Heavysterne, brother—whose sleep was so sore broken, that he declared he wadna pass another night in the Green Room to get all Monkbarns, so that Mary and I were forced to yield our"—
"Why, Grizel, the doctor is a good, honest, pudding-headed German, of much merit in his own way, but fond of the mystical, like many of his countrymen. You and he had a traffic the whole evening in which you received tales of Mesmer, Shropfer, Cagliostro, and other modern pretenders to the mystery of raising spirits, discovering hidden treasure, and so forth, in exchange for your legends of the green bedchamber;—and considering that the Illustrissimus ate a pound and a half of Scotch collops to supper, smoked six pipes, and drank ale and brandy in proportion, I am not surprised at his having a fit of the night-mare. But everything is now ready. Permit me to light you to your apartment, Mr. Lovel—I am sure you have need of rest—and I trust my ancestor is too sensible of the duties of hospitality to interfere with the repose which you have so well merited by your manly and gallant behaviour."
So saying, the Antiquary took up a bedroom candlestick of massive silver and antique form, which, he observed, was wrought out of the silver found in the mines of the Harz mountains, and had been the property of the very personage who had supplied them with a subject for conversation. And having so said, he led the way through many a dusky and winding passage, now ascending, and anon descending again, until he came to the apartment destined for his young guest.
When midnight o'er the moonless skies Her pall of transient death has spread, When mortals sleep, when spectres rise, And none are wakeful but the dead; No bloodless shape my way pursues, No sheeted ghost my couch annoys, Visions more sad my fancy views,— Visions of long departed joys. W. R. Spenser.
When they reached the Green Room, as it was called, Oldbuck placed the candle on the toilet table, before a huge mirror with a black japanned frame, surrounded by dressing-boxes of the same, and looked around him with something of a disturbed expression of countenance. "I am seldom in this apartment," he said, "and never without yielding to a melancholy feeling—not, of course, on account of the childish nonsense that Grizel was telling you, but owing to circumstances of an early and unhappy attachment. It is at such moments as these, Mr. Lovel, that we feel the changes of time. The, same objects are before us—those inanimate things which we have gazed on in wayward infancy and impetuous youth, in anxious and scheming manhood—they are permanent and the same; but when we look upon them in cold unfeeling old age, can we, changed in our temper, our pursuits, our feelings—changed in our form, our limbs, and our strength,—can we be ourselves called the same? or do we not rather look back with a sort of wonder upon our former selves, as being separate and distinct from what we now are? The philosopher who appealed from Philip inflamed with wine to Philip in his hours of sobriety, did not choose a judge so different, as if he had appealed from Philip in his youth to Philip in his old age. I cannot but be touched with the feeling so beautifully expressed in a poem which I have heard repeated:*
*Probably Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads had not as yet been published.
My eyes are dim with childish tears, My heart is idly stirred, For the same sound is in my ears Which in those days I heard. Thus fares it still in our decay; And yet the wiser mind Mourns less for what time takes away, Than what he leaves behind.
Well, time cures every wound, and though the scar may remain and occasionally ache, yet the earliest agony of its recent infliction is felt no more."—So saying, he shook Lovel cordially by the hand, wished him good-night, and took his leave.
Step after step Lovel could trace his host's retreat along the various passages, and each door which he closed behind him fell with a sound more distant and dead. The guest, thus separated from the living world, took up the candle and surveyed the apartment.
The fire blazed cheerfully. Mrs. Grizel's attention had left some fresh wood, should he choose to continue it, and the apartment had a comfortable, though not a lively appearance. It was hung with tapestry, which the looms of Arras had produced in the sixteenth century, and which the learned typographer, so often mentioned, had brought with him as a sample of the arts of the Continent. The subject was a hunting-piece; and as the leafy boughs of the forest-trees, branching over the tapestry, formed the predominant colour, the apartment had thence acquired its name of the Green Chamber. Grim figures in the old Flemish dress, with slashed doublets covered with ribbands, short cloaks, and trunk-hose, were engaged in holding grey-hounds, or stag-hounds, in the leash, or cheering them upon the objects of their game. Others, with boar-spears, swords, and old-fashioned guns, were attacking stags or boars whom they had brought to bay. The branches of the woven forest were crowded with fowls of various kinds, each depicted with its proper plumage. It seemed as if the prolific and rich invention of old Chaucer had animated the Flemish artist with its profusion, and Oldbuck had accordingly caused the following verses, from that ancient and excellent poet, to be embroidered in Gothic letters, on a sort of border which he had added to the tapestry:-
Lo! here be oakis grete, streight as a line, Under the which the grass, so fresh of line, Be'th newly sprung—at eight foot or nine. Everich tree well from his fellow grew, With branches broad laden with leaves new, That sprongen out against the sonne sheene, Some golden red and some a glad bright green.
And in another canton was the following similar legend:—
And many an hart and many an hind, Was both before me, and behind. Of fawns, sownders, bucks and does, Was full the wood and many roes, And many squirrels that ysate High on the trees and nuts ate.
The bed was of a dark and faded green, wrought to correspond with the tapestry, but by a more modern and less skilful hand. The large and heavy stuff-bottomed chairs, with black ebony backs, were embroidered after the same pattern, and a lofty mirror, over the antique chimney-piece, corresponded in its mounting with that on the old-fashioned toilet.
"I have heard," muttered Lovel, as he took a cursory view of the room and its furniture, "that ghosts often chose the best room in the mansion to which they attached themselves; and I cannot disapprove of the taste of the disembodied printer of the Augsburg Confession." But he found it so difficult to fix his mind upon the stories which had been told him of an apartment with which they seemed so singularly to correspond, that he almost regretted the absence of those agitated feelings, half fear half curiosity, which sympathise with the old legends of awe and wonder, from which the anxious reality of his own hopeless passion at present detached him. For he now only felt emotions like those expressed in the lines,—
Ah! cruel maid, how hast thou changed The temper of my mind! My heart, by thee from all estranged, Becomes like thee unkind.
He endeavoured to conjure up something like the feelings which would, at another time, have been congenial to his situation, but his heart had no room for these vagaries of imagination. The recollection of Miss Wardour, determined not to acknowledge him when compelled to endure his society, and evincing her purpose to escape from it, would have alone occupied his imagination exclusively. But with this were united recollections more agitating if less painful,—her hair-breadth escape—the fortunate assistance which he had been able to render her—Yet what was his requital? She left the cliff while his fate was yet doubtful—while it was uncertain whether her preserver had not lost the life which he had exposed for her so freely. Surely gratitude, at least, called for some little interest in his fate—But no—she could not be selfish or unjust—it was no part of her nature. She only desired to shut the door against hope, and, even in compassion to him, to extinguish a passion which she could never return.
But this lover-like mode of reasoning was not likely to reconcile him to his fate, since the more amiable his imagination presented Miss Wardour, the more inconsolable he felt he should be rendered by the extinction of his hopes. He was, indeed, conscious of possessing the power of removing her prejudices on some points; but, even in extremity, he determined to keep the original determination which he had formed, of ascertaining that she desired an explanation, ere he intruded one upon her. And, turn the matter as he would, he could not regard his suit as desperate. There was something of embarrassment as well as of grave surprise in her look when Oldbuck presented him—and, perhaps, upon second thoughts, the one was assumed to cover the other. He would not relinquish a pursuit which had already cost him such pains. Plans, suiting the romantic temper of the brain that entertained them, chased each other through his head, thick and irregular as the motes of the sun-beam, and, long after he had laid himself to rest, continued to prevent the repose which he greatly needed. Then, wearied by the uncertainty and difficulties with which each scheme appeared to be attended, he bent up his mind to the strong effort of shaking off his love, "like dew-drops from the lion's mane," and resuming those studies and that career of life which his unrequited affection had so long and so fruitlessly interrupted. In this last resolution he endeavoured to fortify himself by every argument which pride, as well as reason, could suggest. "She shall not suppose," he said, "that, presuming on an accidental service to her or to her father, I am desirous to intrude myself upon that notice, to which, personally, she considered me as having no title. I will see her no more. I will return to the land which, if it affords none fairer, has at least many as fair, and less haughty than Miss Wardour. Tomorrow I will bid adieu to these northern shores, and to her who is as cold and relentless as her climate." When he had for some time brooded over this sturdy resolution, exhausted nature at length gave way, and, despite of wrath, doubt, and anxiety, he sank into slumber.
It is seldom that sleep, after such violent agitation, is either sound or refreshing. Lovel's was disturbed by a thousand baseless and confused visions. He was a bird—he was a fish—or he flew like the one, and swam like the other,—qualities which would have been very essential to his safety a few hours before. Then Miss Wardour was a syren, or a bird of Paradise; her father a triton, or a sea-gull; and Oldbuck alternately a porpoise and a cormorant. These agreeable imaginations were varied by all the usual vagaries of a feverish dream;—the air refused to bear the visionary, the water seemed to burn him—the rocks felt like down pillows as he was dashed against them—whatever he undertook, failed in some strange and unexpected manner—and whatever attracted his attention, underwent, as he attempted to investigate it, some wild and wonderful metamorphosis, while his mind continued all the while in some degree conscious of the delusion, from which it in vain struggled to free itself by awaking;—feverish symptoms all, with which those who are haunted by the night-hag, whom the learned call Ephialtes, are but too well acquainted. At length these crude phantasmata arranged themselves into something more regular, if indeed the imagination of Lovel, after he awoke (for it was by no means the faculty in which his mind was least rich), did not gradually, insensibly, and unintentionally, arrange in better order the scene of which his sleep presented, it may be, a less distinct outline. Or it is possible that his feverish agitation may have assisted him in forming the vision.
Leaving this discussion to the learned, we will say, that after a succession of wild images, such as we have above described, our hero, for such we must acknowledge him, so far regained a consciousness of locality as to remember where he was, and the whole furniture of the Green Chamber was depicted to his slumbering eye. And here, once more, let me protest, that if there should be so much old-fashioned faith left among this shrewd and sceptical generation, as to suppose that what follows was an impression conveyed rather by the eye than by the imagination, I do not impugn their doctrine. He was, then, or imagined himself, broad awake in the Green Chamber, gazing upon the flickering and occasional flame which the unconsumed remnants of the faggots sent forth, as, one by one, they fell down upon the red embers, into which the principal part of the boughs to which they belonged had crumbled away. Insensibly the legend of Aldobrand Oldenbuck, and his mysterious visits to the inmates of the chamber, awoke in his mind, and with it, as we often feel in dreams, an anxious and fearful expectation, which seldom fails instantly to summon up before our mind's eye the object of our fear. Brighter sparkles of light flashed from the chimney, with such intense brilliancy as to enlighten all the room. The tapestry waved wildly on the wall, till its dusky forms seemed to become animated. The hunters blew their horns—the stag seemed to fly, the boar to resist, and the hounds to assail the one and pursue the other; the cry of deer, mangled by throttling dogs—the shouts of men, and the clatter of horses' hoofs, seemed at once to surround him—while every group pursued, with all the fury of the chase, the employment in which the artist had represented them as engaged. Lovel looked on this strange scene devoid of wonder (which seldom intrudes itself upon the sleeping fancy), but with an anxious sensation of awful fear. At length an individual figure among the tissued huntsmen, as he gazed upon them more fixedly, seemed to leave the arras and to approach the bed of the slumberer. As he drew near, his figure appeared to alter. His bugle-horn became a brazen clasped volume; his hunting-cap changed to such a furred head-gear as graces the burgomasters of Rembrandt; his Flemish garb remained but his features, no longer agitated with the fury of the chase, were changed to such a state of awful and stern composure, as might best portray the first proprietor of Monkbarns, such as he had been described to Lovel by his descendants in the course of the preceding evening. As this metamorphosis took place, the hubbub among the other personages in the arras disappeared from the imagination of the dreamer, which was now exclusively bent on the single figure before him. Lovel strove to interrogate this awful person in the form of exorcism proper for the occasion; but his tongue, as is usual in frightful dreams, refused its office, and clung, palsied, to the roof of his mouth. Aldobrand held up his finger, as if to impose silence upon the guest who had intruded on his apartment, and began deliberately to unclasp the venerable, volume which occupied his left hand. When it was unfolded, he turned over the leaves hastily for a short space, and then raising his figure to its full dimensions, and holding the book aloft in his left hand, pointed to a passage in the page which he thus displayed. Although the language was unknown to our dreamer, his eye and attention were both strongly caught by the line which the figure seemed thus to press upon his notice, the words of which appeared to blaze with a supernatural light, and remained riveted upon his memory. As the vision shut his volume, a strain of delightful music seemed to fill the apartment—Lovel started, and became completely awake. The music, however, was still in his ears, nor ceased till he could distinctly follow the measure of an old Scottish tune.
He sate up in bed, and endeavoured to clear his brain of the phantoms which had disturbed it during this weary night. The beams of the morning sun streamed through the half-closed shutters, and admitted a distinct light into the apartment. He looked round upon the hangings,—but the mixed groups of silken and worsted huntsmen were as stationary as tenter-hooks could make them, and only trembled slightly as the early breeze, which found its way through an open crevice of the latticed window, glided along their surface. Lovel leapt out of bed, and, wrapping himself in a morning-gown, that had been considerately laid by his bedside, stepped towards the window, which commanded a view of the sea, the roar of whose billows announced it still disquieted by the storm of the preceding evening, although the morning was fair and serene. The window of a turret, which projected at an angle with the wall, and thus came to be very near Lovel's apartment, was half-open, and from that quarter he heard again the same music which had probably broken short his dream. With its visionary character it had lost much of its charms—it was now nothing more than an air on the harpsichord, tolerably well performed—such is the caprice of imagination as affecting the fine arts. A female voice sung, with some taste and great simplicity, something between a song and a hymn, in words to the following effect:—
"Why sitt'st thou by that ruin'd hall, Thou aged carle so stern and grey? Dost thou its former pride recall, Or ponder how it passed away? "Know'st thou not me!" the Deep Voice cried, "So long enjoyed, so oft misused— Alternate, in thy fickle pride, Desired, neglected, and accused? "Before my breath, like, blazing flax, Man and his marvels pass away; And changing empires wane and wax, Are founded, flourish and decay. "Redeem mine hours—the space is brief— While in my glass the sand-grains shiver, And measureless thy joy or grief, When Time and thou shalt part for ever!"
While the verses were yet singing, Lovel had returned to his bed; the train of ideas which they awakened was romantic and pleasing, such as his soul delighted in, and, willingly adjourning till more broad day the doubtful task of determining on his future line of conduct, he abandoned himself to the pleasing languor inspired by the music, and fell into a sound and refreshing sleep, from which he was only awakened at a late hour by old Caxon, who came creeping into the room to render the offices of a valet-de-chambre.
"I have brushed your coat, sir," said the old man, when he perceived Lovel was awake; "the callant brought it frae Fairport this morning, for that ye had on yesterday is scantly feasibly dry, though it's been a' night at the kitchen fire; and I hae cleaned your shoon. I doubt ye'll no be wanting me to tie your hair, for" (with a gentle sigh) "a' the young gentlemen wear crops now; but I hae the curling tangs here to gie it a bit turn ower the brow, if ye like, before ye gae down to the leddies."
Lovel, who was by this time once more on his legs, declined the old man's professional offices, but accompanied the refusal with such a douceur as completely sweetened Caxon's mortification.
"It's a pity he disna get his hair tied and pouthered," said the ancient friseur, when he had got once more into the kitchen, in which, on one pretence or other, he spent three parts of his idle time—that is to say, of his whole time—"it's a great pity, for he's a comely young gentleman."
"Hout awa, ye auld gowk," said Jenny Rintherout, "would ye creesh his bonny brown hair wi' your nasty ulyie, and then moust it like the auld minister's wig? Ye'll be for your breakfast, I'se warrant?—hae, there's a soup parritch for ye—it will set ye better tae be slaistering at them and the lapper-milk than meddling wi' Mr. Lovel's head—ye wad spoil the maist natural and beautifaest head o' hair in a' Fairport, baith burgh and county."
The poor barber sighed over the disrespect into which his art had so universally fallen, but Jenny was a person too important to offend by contradiction; so, sitting quietly down in the kitchen, he digested at once his humiliation, and the contents of a bicker which held a Scotch pint of substantial oatmeal porridge.
Sometimes he thinks that Heaven this pageant sent, And ordered all the pageants as they went; Sometimes that only 'twas wild Fancy's play,— The loose and scattered relics of the day.
We must now request our readers to adjourn to the breakfast parlour of Mr. Oldbuck, who, despising the modern slops of tea and coffee, was substantially regaling himself, more majorum, with cold roast-beef, and a glass of a sort of beverage called mum—a species of fat ale, brewed from wheat and bitter herbs, of which the present generation only know the name by its occurrence in revenue acts of parliament, coupled with cider, perry, and other excisable commodities. Lovel, who was seduced to taste it, with difficulty refrained from pronouncing it detestable, but did refrain, as he saw he should otherwise give great offence to his host, who had the liquor annually prepared with peculiar care, according to the approved recipe bequeathed to him by the so-often mentioned Aldobrand Oldenbuck. The hospitality of the ladies offered Lovel a breakfast more suited to modern taste, and while he was engaged in partaking of it, he was assailed by indirect inquiries concerning the manner in which he had passed the night.
"We canna compliment Mr. Lovel on his looks this morning, brother—but he winna condescend on any ground of disturbance he has had in the night time. I am certain he looks very pale, and when he came here he was as fresh as a rose."
"Why, sister, consider this rose of yours has been knocked about by sea and wind all yesterday evening, as if he had been a bunch of kelp or tangle, and how the devil would you have him retain his colour?"
"I certainly do still feel somewhat fatigued," said Lovel, "notwithstanding the excellent accommodations with which your hospitality so amply supplied me."
"Ah, sir!" said Miss Oldbuck looking at him with a knowing smile, or what was meant to be one, "ye'll not allow of ony inconvenience, out of civility to us."
"Really, madam," replied Lovel, "I had no disturbance; for I cannot term such the music with which some kind fairy favoured me."
"I doubted Mary wad waken you wi' her skreighing; she dinna ken I had left open a chink of your window, for, forbye the ghaist, the Green Room disna vent weel in a high wind—But I am judging ye heard mair than Mary's lilts yestreen. Weel, men are hardy creatures—they can gae through wi' a' thing. I am sure, had I been to undergo ony thing of that nature,—that's to say that's beyond nature—I would hae skreigh'd out at once, and raised the house, be the consequence what liket—and, I dare say, the minister wad hae done as mickle, and sae I hae tauld him,—I ken naebody but my brother, Monkbarns himsell, wad gae through the like o't, if, indeed, it binna you, Mr. Lovel."
"A man of Mr. Oldbuck's learning, madam," answered the questioned party, "would not be exposed to the inconvenience sustained by the Highland gentleman you mentioned last night."
"Ay, ay—ye understand now where the difficulty lies. Language? he has ways o' his ain wad banish a' thae sort o' worricows as far as the hindermost parts of Gideon" (meaning possibly Midian), "as Mr. Blattergowl says—only ane widna be uncivil to ane's forbear, though he be a ghaist. I am sure I will try that receipt of yours, brother, that ye showed me in a book, if onybody is to sleep in that room again, though I think, in Christian charity, ye should rather fit up the matted-room—it's a wee damp and dark, to be sure, but then we hae sae seldom occasion for a spare bed."
"No, no, sister;—dampness and darkness are worse than spectres—ours are spirits of light, and I would rather have you try the spell."
"I will do that blythely, Monkbarns, an I had the ingredients, as my cookery book ca's them—There was vervain and dill—I mind that—Davie Dibble will ken about them, though, maybe, he'll gie them Latin names—and Peppercorn, we hae walth o' them, for"—
"Hypericon, thou foolish woman!" thundered Oldbuck; "d'ye suppose you're making a haggis—or do you think that a spirit, though he be formed of air, can be expelled by a receipt against wind?—This wise Grizel of mine, Mr. Lovel, recollects (with what accuracy you may judge) a charm which I once mentioned to her, and which, happening to hit her superstitious noddle, she remembers better than anything tending to a useful purpose, I may chance to have said for this ten years. But many an old woman besides herself"—
"Auld woman, Monkbarns!" said Miss Oldbuck, roused something above her usual submissive tone; "ye really are less than civil to me."
"Not less than just, Grizel: however, I include in the same class many a sounding name, from Jamblichus down to Aubrey, who have wasted their time in devising imaginary remedies for non-existing diseases.—But I hope, my young friend, that, charmed or uncharmed—secured by the potency of Hypericon,
With vervain and with dill, That hinder witches of their will,
or left disarmed and defenceless to the inroads of the invisible world, you will give another night to the terrors of the haunted apartment, and another day to your faithful and feal friends."
"I heartily wish I could, but"—
"Nay, but me no buts—I have set my heart upon it."
"I am greatly obliged, my dear sir, but"—
"Look ye there, now—but again!—I hate but; I know no form of expression in which he can appear, that is amiable, excepting as a butt of sack. But is to me a more detestable combination of letters than no itself.No is a surly, honest fellow—speaks his mind rough and round at once.But is a sneaking, evasive, half-bred, exceptuous sort of a conjunction, which comes to pull away the cup just when it is at your lips—
—it does allay The good precedent—fie upon but yet! But yet is as a jailor to bring forth Some monstrous malefactor."
"Well, then," answered Lovel, whose motions were really undetermined at the moment, "you shall not connect the recollection of my name with so churlish a particle. I must soon think of leaving Fairport, I am afraid—and I will, since you are good enough to wish it, take this opportunity of spending another day here."
"And you shall be rewarded, my boy. First, you shall see John o' the Girnel's grave, and then we'll walk gently along the sands, the state of the tide being first ascertained (for we will have no more Peter Wilkins' adventures, no more Glum and Gawrie work), as far as Knockwinnock Castle, and inquire after the old knight and my fair foe—which will but be barely civil, and then"—
"I beg pardon, my dear sir; but, perhaps, you had better adjourn your visit till to-morrow—I am a stranger, you know."
"And are, therefore, the more bound to show civility, I should suppose. But I beg your pardon for mentioning a word that perhaps belongs only to a collector of antiquities—I am one of the old school,
When courtiers galloped o'er four counties The ball's fair partner to behold, And humbly hope she caught no cold."
"Why, if—if—if you thought it would be expected—but I believe I had better stay."
"Nay, nay, my good friend, I am not so old-fashioned as to press you to what is disagreeable, neither—it is sufficient that I see there is some remora, some cause of delay, some mid impediment, which I have no title to inquire into. Or you are still somewhat tired, perhaps;—I warrant I find means to entertain your intellects without fatiguing your limbs—I am no friend to violent exertion myself—a walk in the garden once a-day is exercise, enough for any thinking being—none but a fool or a fox-hunter would require more. Well, what shall we set about?—my Essay on Castrametation—but I have that in petto for our afternoon cordial;—or I will show you the controversy upon Ossian's Poems between Mac-Cribb and me. I hold with the acute Orcadian—he with the defenders of the authenticity;—the controversy began in smooth, oily, lady-like terms, but is now waxing more sour and eager as we get on—it already partakes somewhat of old Scaliger's style. I fear the rogue will get some scent of that story of Ochiltree's—but at worst, I have a hard repartee for him on the affair of the abstracted Antigonus—I will show you his last epistle and the scroll of my answer—egad, it is a trimmer!"
So saying, the Antiquary opened a drawer, and began rummaging among a quantity of miscellaneous papers, ancient and modern. But it was the misfortune of this learned gentleman, as it may be that of many learned and unlearned, that he frequently experienced, on such occasions, what Harlequin calls l'embarras des richesses; in other words, the abundance of his collection often prevented him from finding the article he sought for. "Curse the papers!—I believe," said Oldbuck, as he shuffled them to and fro—"I believe they make themselves wings like grasshoppers, and fly away bodily—but here, in the meanwhile, look at that little treasure." So saying, he put into his hand a case made of oak, fenced at the corner with silver roses and studs—"Pr'ythee, undo this button," said he, as he observed Lovel fumbling at the clasp. He did so,—the lid opened, and discovered a thin quarto, curiously bound in black shagreen—"There, Mr. Lovel—there is the work I mentioned to you last night—the rare quarto of the Augsburg Confession, the foundation at once and the bulwark of the Reformation drawn up by the learned and venerable Melancthon, defended by the Elector of Saxony, and the other valiant hearts who stood up for their faith, even against the front of a powerful and victorious emperor, and imprinted by the scarcely less venerable and praiseworthy Aldobrand Oldenbuck, my happy progenitor, during the yet more tyrannical attempts of Philip II. to suppress at once civil and religious liberty. Yes, sir—for printing this work, that eminent man was expelled from his ungrateful country, and driven to establish his household gods even here at Monkbarns, among the ruins of papal superstition and domination.—Look upon his venerable effigies, Mr. Lovel, and respect the honourable occupation in which it presents him, as labouring personally at the press for the diffusion of Christian and political knowledge.—And see here his favourite motto, expressive of his independence and self- reliance, which scorned to owe anything to patronage that was not earned by desert—expressive also of that firmness of mind and tenacity of purpose recommended by Horace. He was indeed a man who would have stood firm, had his whole printing-house, presses, fonts, forms, great and small pica, been shivered to pieces around him—Read, I say, his motto,—for each printer had his motto, or device, when that illustrious art was first practised. My ancestor's was expressed, as you see, in the Teutonic phrase, Kunst macht Gunst—that is, skill, or prudence, in availing ourselves of our natural talents and advantages, will compel favour and patronage, even where it is withheld from prejudice or ignorance."
"And that," said Lovel, after a moment's thoughtful silence—"that, then, is the meaning of these German words?"
"Unquestionably. You perceive the appropriate application to a consciousness of inward worth, and of eminence in a useful and honourable art.—Each printer in those days, as I have already informed you, had his device, his impresa, as I may call it, in the same manner as the doughty chivalry of the age, who frequented tilt and tournament. My ancestor boasted as much in his, as if he had displayed it over a conquered field of battle, though it betokened the diffusion of knowledge, not the effusion of blood. And yet there is a family tradition which affirms him to have chosen it from a more romantic circumstance."
"And what is that said to have been, my good sir?" inquired his young friend.
"Why, it rather encroaches on my respected predecessor's fame for prudence and wisdom—Sed semel insanivimus omnes—everybody has played the fool in their turn. It is said, my ancestor, during his apprenticeship with the descendant of old Faust, whom popular tradition hath sent to the devil under the name of Faustus, was attracted by a paltry slip of womankind, his master's daughter, called Bertha—they broke rings, or went through some idiotical ceremony, as is usual on such idle occasions as the plighting of a true-love troth, and Aldobrand set out on his journey through Germany, as became an honest hand-werker; for such was the custom of mechanics at that time, to make a tour through the empire, and work at their trade for a time in each of the most eminent towns, before they finally settled themselves for life. It was a wise custom; for, as such travellers were received like brethren in each town by those of their own handicraft, they were sure, in every case, to have the means either of gaining or communicating knowledge. When my ancestor returned to Nuremburg, he is said to have found his old master newly dead, and two or three gallant young suitors, some of them half-starved sprigs of nobility forsooth, in pursuit of the Yung-fraw Bertha, whose father was understood to have bequeathed her a dowry which might weigh against sixteen armorial quarters. But Bertha, not a bad sample of womankind, had made a vow she would only marry that man who would work her father's press. The skill, at that time, was as rare as wonderful; besides that the expedient rid her at once of most of her gentle suitors, who would have as soon wielded a conjuring wand as a composing stick. Some of the more ordinary typographers made the attempt: but none were sufficiently possessed of the mystery—But I tire you."
"By no means; pray, proceed, Mr. Oldbuck—I listen with uncommon interest."
"Ah! it is all folly. However—Aldobrand arrived in the ordinary dress, as we would say, of a journeyman printer—the same in which he had traversed Germany, and conversed with Luther, Melancthon, Erasmus, and other learned men, who disdained not his knowledge, and the power he possessed of diffusing it, though hid under a garb so homely. But what appeared respectable in the eyes of wisdom, religion, learning, and philosophy, seemed mean, as might readily be supposed, and disgusting, in those of silly and affected womankind, and Bertha refused to acknowledge her former lover, in the torn doublet, skin cap, clouted shoes, and leathern apron, of a travelling handicraftsman or mechanic. He claimed his privilege, however, of being admitted to a trial; and when the rest of the suitors had either declined the contest, or made such work as the devil could not read if his pardon depended on it, all eyes were bent on the stranger. Aldobrand stepped gracefully forward, arranged the types without omission of a single letter, hyphen, or comma, imposed them without deranging a single space, and pulled off the first proof as clear and free from errors, as if it had been a triple revise! All applauded the worthy successor of the immortal Faustus—the blushing maiden acknowledged her error in trusting to the eye more than the intellect—and the elected bridegroom thenceforward chose for his impress or device the appropriate words, Skill wins favour.'—But what is the matter with you?—you are in a brown study! Come, I told you this was but trumpery conversation for thinking people—and now I have my hand on the Ossianic Controversy."
"I beg your pardon," said Lovel; "I am going to appear very silly and changeable in your eyes, Mr. Oldbuck—but you seemed to think Sir Arthur might in civility expect a call from me?"
"Psha! psha! I can make your apology; and if you must leave us so soon as you say, what signifies how you stand in his honours good graces?—And I warn you that the Essay on Castrametation is something prolix, and will occupy the time we can spare after dinner, so you may lose the Ossianic Controversy if we do not dedicate this morning to it. We will go out to my ever-green bower, my sacred holly-tree yonder, and have it fronde super viridi.
Sing heigh-ho! heigh-ho! for the green holly, Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly.
But, egad," continued the old gentleman, "when I look closer at you, I begin to think you may be of a different opinion. Amen with all my heart—I quarrel with no man's hobby, if he does not run it a tilt against mine, and if he does—let him beware his eyes. What say you?—in the language of the world and worldlings base, if you can condescend to so mean a sphere, shall we stay or go?"
"In the language of selfishness, then, which is of course the language of the world—let us go by all means."
"Amen, amen, quo' the Earl Marshall," answered Oldbuck, as he exchanged his slippers for a pair of stout walking shoes, with cutikins, as he called them, of black cloth. He only interrupted the walk by a slight deviation to the tomb of John o' the Girnel, remembered as the last bailiff of the abbey who had resided at Monkbarns. Beneath an old oak-tree upon a hillock, sloping pleasantly to the south, and catching a distant view of the sea over two or three rich enclosures, and the Mussel-crag, lay a moss-grown stone, and, in memory of the departed worthy, it bore an inscription, of which, as Mr. Oldbuck affirmed (though many doubted), the defaced characters could be distinctly traced to the following effect:—
Here lyeth John o' ye Girnell; Erth has ye nit, and heuen ye kirnell. In hys tyme ilk wyfe's hennis clokit, Ilka gud mannis herth wi' bairnis was stokit. He deled a boll o' bear in firlottis fyve, Four for ye halie kirke, and ane for puir mennis wyvis.
"You see how modest the author of this sepulchral commendation was;—he tells us that honest John could make five firlots, or quarters, as you would say, out of the boll, instead of four,—that he gave the fifth to the wives of the parish, and accounted for the other four to the abbot and CHAPTER—that in his time the wives' hens always laid eggs—and devil thank them, if they got one-fifth of the abbey rents; and that honest men's hearths were never unblest with offspring—an addition to the miracle, which they, as well as I, must have considered as perfectly unaccountable. But come on—leave we Jock o' the Girnel, and let us jog on to the yellow sands, where the sea, like a repulsed enemy, is now retreating from the ground on which he gave us battle last night."
Thus saying, he led the way to the sands. Upon the links or downs close to them, were seen four or five huts inhabited by fishers, whose boats, drawn high upon the beach, lent the odoriferous vapours of pitch melting under a burning sun, to contend with those of the offals of fish and other nuisances usually collected round Scottish cottages. Undisturbed by these complicated steams of abomination, a middle-aged woman, with a face which had defied a thousand storms, sat mending a net at the door of one of the cottages. A handkerchief close bound about her head, and a coat which had formerly been that of a man, gave her a masculine air, which was increased by her strength, uncommon stature, and harsh voice. "What are ye for the day, your honour?" she said, or rather screamed, to Oldbuck; "caller haddocks and whitings—a bannock-fluke and a cock-padle."
"How much for the bannock-fluke and cock-padle?" demanded the Antiquary.
"Four white shillings and saxpence," answered the Naiad.
"Four devils and six of their imps!" retorted the Antiquary; "do you think I am mad, Maggie?"
"And div ye think," rejoined the virago, setting her arms akimbo, "that my man and my sons are to gae to the sea in weather like yestreen and the day—sic a sea as it's yet outby—and get naething for their fish, and be misca'd into the bargain, Monkbarns? It's no fish ye're buying—it's men's lives."
"Well, Maggie, I'll bid you fair—I'll bid you a shilling for the fluke and the cock-padle, or sixpence separately—and if all your fish are as well paid, I think your man, as you call him, and your sons, will make a good voyage."
"Deil gin their boat were knockit against the Bell-Rock rather! it wad be better, and the bonnier voyage o' the twa. A shilling for thae twa bonnie fish! Od, that's ane indeed!"
"Well, well, you old beldam, carry your fish up to Monkbarns, and see what my sister will give you for them."
"Na, na, Monkbarns, deil a fit—I'll rather deal wi' yoursell; for though you're near enough, yet Miss Grizel has an unco close grip—I'll gie ye them" (in a softened tone) "for three-and-saxpence."
"Eighteen-pence, or nothing!"
"Eighteen-pence!!!" (in a loud tone of astonishment, which declined into a sort of rueful whine, when the dealer turned as if to walk away)—"Yell no be for the fish then?"—(then louder, as she saw him moving off)—"I'll gie ye them—and—and—and a half-a-dozen o' partans to make the sauce, for three shillings and a dram."
"Half-a-crown then, Maggie, and a dram."
"Aweel, your honour maun hae't your ain gate, nae doubt; but a dram's worth siller now—the distilleries is no working."
"And I hope they'll never work again in my time," said Oldbuck.
"Ay, ay—it's easy for your honour, and the like o' you gentle-folks to say sae, that hae stouth and routh, and fire and fending and meat and claith, and sit dry and canny by the fireside—but an ye wanted fire, and meat, and dry claes, and were deeing o' cauld, and had a sair heart, whilk is warst ava', wi' just tippence in your pouch, wadna ye be glad to buy a dram wi't, to be eilding and claes, and a supper and heart's ease into the bargain, till the morn's morning?"
"It's even too true an apology, Maggie. Is your goodman off to sea this morning, after his exertions last night?"
"In troth is he, Monkbarns; he was awa this morning by four o'clock, when the sea was working like barm wi' yestreen's wind, and our bit coble dancing in't like a cork."
"Well, he's an industrious fellow. Carry the fish up to Monkbarns."
"That I will—or I'll send little Jenny, she'll rin faster; but I'll ca' on Miss Grizzy for the dram mysell, and say ye sent me."
A nondescript animal, which might have passed for a mermaid, as it was paddling in a pool among the rocks, was summoned ashore by the shrill screams of its dam; and having been made decent, as her mother called it, which was performed by adding a short red cloak to a petticoat, which was at first her sole covering, and which reached scantily below her knee, the child was dismissed with the fish in a basket, and a request on the part of Monkbarns that they might be prepared for dinner. "It would have been long," said Oldbuck, with much self-complacency, "ere my womankind could have made such a reasonable bargain with that old skin-flint, though they sometimes wrangle with her for an hour together under my study window, like three sea-gulls screaming and sputtering in a gale of wind. But come, wend we on our way to Knockwinnock."
Beggar?—the only freeman of your commonwealth; Free above Scot-free, that observe no laws, Obey no governor, use no religion But what they draw from their own ancient custom, Or constitute themselves, yet they are no rebels. Brome.
With our reader's permission, we will outstep the slow, though sturdy pace of the Antiquary, whose halts, as he, turned round to his companion at every moment to point out something remarkable in the landscape, or to enforce some favourite topic more emphatically than the exercise of walking permitted, delayed their progress considerably.
Notwithstanding the fatigues and dangers of the preceding evening, Miss Wardour was able to rise at her usual hour, and to apply herself to her usual occupations, after she had first satisfied her anxiety concerning her father's state of health. Sir Arthur was no farther indisposed than by the effects of great agitation and unusual fatigue, but these were sufficient to induce him to keep his bedchamber.
To look back on the events of the preceding day, was, to Isabella, a very unpleasing retrospect. She owed her life, and that of her father, to the very person by whom, of all others, she wished least to be obliged, because she could hardly even express common gratitude towards him without encouraging hopes which might be injurious to them both. "Why should it be my fate to receive such benefits, and conferred at so much personal risk, from one whose romantic passion I have so unceasingly laboured to discourage? Why should chance have given him this advantage over me? and why, oh why, should a half-subdued feeling in my own bosom, in spite of my sober reason, almost rejoice that he has attained it?"
While Miss Wardour thus taxed herself with wayward caprice, she, beheld advancing down the avenue, not her younger and more dreaded preserver, but the old beggar who had made such a capital figure in the melodrama of the preceding evening.
She rang the bell for her maid-servant. "Bring the old man up stairs."
The servant returned in a minute or two—"He will come up at no rate, madam;—he says his clouted shoes never were on a carpet in his life, and that, please God, they never shall.—Must I take him into the servants' hall?"
"No; stay, I want to speak with him—Where is he?" for she had lost sight of him as he approached the house.
"Sitting in the sun on the stone-bench in the court, beside the window of the flagged parlour."
"Bid him stay there—I'll come down to the parlour, and speak with him at the window."
She came down accordingly, and found the mendicant half-seated, half-reclining, upon the bench beside the window. Edie Ochiltree, old man and beggar as he was, had apparently some internal consciousness of the favourable, impressions connected with his tall form, commanding features, and long white beard and hair. It used to be remarked of him, that he was seldom seen but in a posture which showed these personal attributes to advantage. At present, as he lay half-reclined, with his wrinkled yet ruddy cheek, and keen grey eye turned up towards the sky, his staff and bag laid beside him, and a cast of homely wisdom and sarcastic irony in the expression of his countenance, while he gazed for a moment around the court-yard, and then resumed his former look upward, he might have been taken by an artist as the model of an old philosopher of the Cynic school, musing upon the frivolity of mortal pursuits, and the precarious tenure of human possessions, and looking up to the source from which aught permanently good can alone be derived. The young lady, as she presented her tall and elegant figure at the open window, but divided from the court-yard by a grating, with which, according to the fashion of ancient times, the lower windows of the castle were secured, gave an interest of a different kind, and might be supposed, by a romantic imagination, an imprisoned damsel communicating a tale of her durance to a palmer, in order that he might call upon the gallantry of every knight whom he should meet in his wanderings, to rescue her from her oppressive thraldom.
After Miss Wardour had offered, in the terms she thought would be most acceptable, those thanks which the beggar declined as far beyond his merit, she began to express herself in a manner which she supposed would speak more feelingly to his apprehension. "She did not know," she said, "what her father intended particularly to do for their preserver, but certainly it would be something that would make him easy for life; if he chose to reside at the castle, she would give orders"—
The old man smiled, and shook his head. "I wad be baith a grievance and a disgrace to your fine servants, my leddy, and I have never been a disgrace to onybody yet, that I ken of."
"Sir Arthur would give strict orders"—
"Ye're very kind—I doubtna, I doubtna; but there are some things a master can command, and some he canna—I daresay he wad gar them keep hands aff me—(and troth, I think they wad hardly venture on that ony gate)—and he wad gar them gie me my soup parritch and bit meat. But trow ye that Sir Arthur's command could forbid the gibe o' the tongue or the blink o' the ee, or gar them gie me my food wi' the look o' kindness that gars it digest sae weel, or that he could make them forbear a' the slights and taunts that hurt ane's spirit mair nor downright misca'ing?—Besides, I am the idlest auld carle that ever lived; I downa be bound down to hours o' eating and sleeping; and, to speak the honest truth, I wad be a very bad example in ony weel regulated family."
"Well, then, Edie, what do you think of a neat cottage and a garden, and a daily dole, and nothing to do but to dig a little in your garden when you pleased yourself?"
"And how often wad that be, trow ye, my leddy? maybe no ance atween Candlemas and Yule and if a' thing were done to my hand, as if I was Sir Arthur himsell, I could never bide the staying still in ae place, and just seeing the same joists and couples aboon my head night after night.- -And then I have a queer humour o' my ain, that sets a strolling beggar weel eneugh, whase word naebody minds—but ye ken Sir Arthur has odd sort o' ways—and I wad be jesting or scorning at them—and ye wad be angry, and then I wad be just fit to hang mysell."
"O, you are a licensed man," said Isabella; "we shall give you all reasonable scope: So you had better be ruled, and remember your age."
"But I am no that sair failed yet," replied the mendicant. "Od, ance I gat a wee soupled yestreen, I was as yauld as an eel. And then what wad a' the country about do for want o' auld Edie Ochiltree, that brings news and country cracks frae ae farm-steading to anither, and gingerbread to the lasses, and helps the lads to mend their fiddles, and the gudewives to clout their pans, and plaits rush-swords and grenadier caps for the weans, and busks the laird's flees, and has skill o' cow-ills and horse-ills, and kens mair auld sangs and tales than a' the barony besides, and gars ilka body laugh wherever he comes? Troth, my leddy, I canna lay down my vocation; it would be a public loss."
"Well, Edie, if your idea of your importance is so strong as not to be shaken by the prospect of independence"—
"Na, na, Miss—it's because I am mair independent as I am," answered the old man; "I beg nae mair at ony single house than a meal o' meat, or maybe but a mouthfou o't—if it's refused at ae place, I get it at anither—sae I canna be said to depend on onybody in particular, but just on the country at large."
"Well, then, only promise me that you will let me know should you ever wish to settle as you turn old, and more incapable of making your usual rounds; and, in the meantime, take this."
"Na, na, my leddy: I downa take muckle siller at ance—it's against our rule; and—though it's maybe no civil to be repeating the like o' that—they say that siller's like to be scarce wi' Sir Arthur himsell, and that he's run himsell out o' thought wi' his honkings and minings for lead and copper yonder."
Isabella had some anxious anticipations to the same effect, but was shocked to hear that her father's embarrassments were such public talk; as if scandal ever failed to stoop upon so acceptable a quarry as the failings of the good man, the decline of the powerful, or the decay of the prosperous.—Miss Wardour sighed deeply—"Well, Edie, we have enough to pay our debts, let folks say what they will, and requiting you is one of the foremost—let me press this sum upon you."
"That I might be robbed and murdered some night between town and town? or, what's as bad, that I might live in constant apprehension o't?—I am no"—(lowering his voice to a whisper, and looking keenly around him)—"I am no that clean unprovided for neither; and though I should die at the back of a dyke, they'll find as muckle quilted in this auld blue gown as will bury me like a Christian, and gie the lads and lasses a blythe lykewake too; sae there's the gaberlunzie's burial provided for, and I need nae mair. Were the like o' me ever to change a note, wha the deil d'ye think wad be sic fules as to gie me charity after that?—it wad flee through the country like wildfire, that auld Edie suld hae done siccan a like thing, and then, I'se warrant, I might grane my heart out or onybody wad gie me either a bane or a bodle."
"Is there nothing, then, that I can do for you?"
"Ou ay—I'll aye come for my awmous as usual,—and whiles I wad be fain o' a pickle sneeshin, and ye maun speak to the constable and ground-officer just to owerlook me; and maybe ye'll gie a gude word for me to Sandie Netherstanes, the miller, that he may chain up his muckle dog—I wadna hae him to hurt the puir beast, for it just does its office in barking at a gaberlunzie like me. And there's ae thing maybe mair,—but ye'll think it's very bald o' the like o' me to speak o't."
"What is it, Edie?—if it respects you it shall be done if it is in my power."
"It respects yoursell, and it is in your power, and I maun come out wi't. Ye are a bonny young leddy, and a gude ane, and maybe a weel-tochered ane—but dinna ye sneer awa the lad Lovel, as ye did a while sinsyne on the walk beneath the Briery-bank, when I saw ye baith, and heard ye too, though ye saw nae me. Be canny wi' the lad, for he loes ye weel, and it's to him, and no to anything I could have done for you, that Sir Arthur and you wan ower yestreen."
He uttered these words in a low but distinct tone of voice; and without waiting for an answer, walked towards a low door which led to the apartments of the servants, and so entered the house.
Miss Wardour remained for a moment or two in the situation in which she had heard the old man's last extraordinary speech, leaning, namely, against the bars of the window; nor could she determine upon saying even a single word, relative to a subject so delicate, until the beggar was out of sight. It was, indeed, difficult to determine what to do. That her having had an interview and private conversation with this young and unknown stranger, should be a secret possessed by a person of the last class in which a young lady would seek a confidant, and at the mercy of one who was by profession gossip-general to the whole neighbourhood, gave her acute agony. She had no reason, indeed, to suppose that the old man would wilfully do anything to hurt her feelings, much less to injure her; but the mere freedom of speaking to her upon such a subject, showed, as might have been expected, a total absence of delicacy; and what he might take it into his head to do or say next, that she was pretty sure so professed an admirer of liberty would not hesitate to do or say without scruple. This idea so much hurt and vexed her, that she half-wished the officious assistance of Lovel and Ochiltree had been absent upon the preceding evening.
While she was in this agitation of spirits, she suddenly observed Oldbuck and Lovel entering the court. She drew instantly so far back from the window, that she could without being seen, observe how the Antiquary paused in front of the building, and pointing to the various scutcheons of its former owners, seemed in the act of bestowing upon Lovel much curious and erudite information, which, from the absent look of his auditor, Isabella might shrewdly guess was entirely thrown away. The necessity that she should take some resolution became instant and pressing;—she rang, therefore, for a servant, and ordered him to show the visitors to the drawing-room, while she, by another staircase, gained her own apartment, to consider, ere she made her appearance, what line of conduct were fittest for her to pursue. The guests, agreeably to her instructions, were introduced into the room where company was usually received.
—The time was that I hated thee, And yet it is not that I bear thee love. Thy company, which erst was irksome to me, I will endure— But do not look for further recompense. As You Like It.
Miss Isabella Wardour's complexion was considerably heightened, when, after the delay necessary to arrange her ideas, she presented herself in the drawing-room.
"I am glad you are come, my fair foe," said the Antiquary greeting her with much kindness, "for I have had a most refractory, or at least negligent auditor, in my young friend here, while I endeavoured to make him acquainted with the history of Knockwinnock Castle. I think the danger of last night has mazed the poor lad. But you, Miss Isabel,—why, you look as if flying through the night air had been your natural and most congenial occupation; your colour is even better than when you honoured my hospitium yesterday. And Sir Arthur—how fares my good old friend?"
"Indifferently well, Mr. Oldbuck; but I am afraid, not quite able to receive your congratulations, or to pay—to pay—Mr. Lovel his thanks for his unparalleled exertions."
"I dare say not—A good down pillow for his good white head were more meet than a couch so churlish as Bessy's-apron, plague on her!"
"I had no thought of intruding," said Lovel, looking upon the ground, and speaking with hesitation and suppressed emotion; "I did not—did not mean to intrude upon Sir Arthur or Miss Wardour the presence of one who—who must necessarily be unwelcome—as associated, I mean, with painful reflections."
"Do not think my father so unjust and ungrateful," said Miss Wardour. "I dare say," she continued, participating in Lovel's embarrassment—"I dare say—I am certain—that my father would be happy to show his gratitude—in any way—that is, which Mr. Lovel could consider it as proper to point out."
"Why the deuce," interrupted Oldbuck, "what sort of a qualification is that?—On my word, it reminds me of our minister, who, choosing, like a formal old fop as he is, to drink to my sister's inclinations, thought it necessary to add the saving clause, Provided, madam, they be virtuous. Come, let us have no more of this nonsense—I dare say Sir Arthur will bid us welcome on some future day. And what news from the kingdom of subterranean darkness and airy hope?—What says the swart spirit of the mine? Has Sir Arthur had any good intelligence of his adventure lately in Glen-Withershins?"
Miss Wardour shook her head—"But indifferent, I fear, Mr. Oldbuck; but there lie some specimens which have lately been sent down."
"Ah! my poor dear hundred pounds, which Sir Arthur persuaded me to give for a share in that hopeful scheme, would have bought a porter's load of mineralogy—But let me see them."
And so saying, he sat down at the table in the recess, on which the mineral productions were lying, and proceeded to examine them, grumbling and pshawing at each which he took up and laid aside.
In the meantime, Lovel, forced as it were by this secession of Oldbuck, into a sort of tete-a'-tete with Miss Wardour, took an opportunity of addressing her in a low and interrupted tone of voice. "I trust Miss Wardour will impute, to circumstances almost irresistible, this intrusion of a person who has reason to think himself—so unacceptable a visitor."
"Mr. Lovel," answered Miss Wardour, observing the same tone of caution, "I trust you will not—I am sure you are incapable of abusing the advantages given to you by the services you have rendered us, which, as they affect my father, can never be sufficiently acknowledged or repaid. Could Mr. Lovel see me without his own peace being affected—could he see me as a friend—as a sister—no man will be—and, from all I have ever heard of Mr. Lovel, ought to be, more welcome but"—
Oldbuck's anathema against the preposition but was internally echoed by Lovel. "Forgive me if I interrupt you, Miss Wardour; you need not fear my intruding upon a subject where I have been already severely repressed;—but do not add to the severity of repelling my sentiments the rigour of obliging me to disavow them."
"I am much embarrassed, Mr. Lovel," replied the young lady, "by your—I would not willingly use a strong word—your romantic and hopeless pertinacity. It is for yourself I plead, that you would consider the calls which your country has upon your talents—that you will not waste, in an idle and fanciful indulgence of an ill-placed predilection, time, which, well redeemed by active exertion, should lay the foundation of future distinction. Let me entreat that you would form a manly resolution"—
"It is enough, Miss Wardour;—I see plainly that"—
"Mr. Lovel, you are hurt—and, believe me, I sympathize in the pain which I inflict; but can I, in justice to myself, in fairness to you, do otherwise? Without my father's consent, I never will entertain the addresses of any one, and how totally impossible it is that he should countenance the partiality with which you honour me, you are yourself fully aware; and, indeed"—
"No, Miss Wardour," answered Lovel, in a tone of passionate entreaty; "do not go farther—is it not enough to crush every hope in our present relative situation?—do not carry your resolutions farther—why urge what would be your conduct if Sir Arthur's objections could be removed?"
"It is indeed vain, Mr. Lovel," said Miss Wardour, "because their removal is impossible; and I only wish, as your friend, and as one who is obliged to you for her own and her father's life, to entreat you to suppress this unfortunate attachment—to leave a country which affords no scope for your talents, and to resume the honourable line of the profession which you seem to have abandoned."
"Well, Miss Wardour, your wishes shall be obeyed;—have patience with me one little month, and if, in the course of that space, I cannot show you such reasons for continuing my residence at Fairport, as even you shall approve of, I will bid adieu to its vicinity, and, with the same breath, to all my hopes of happiness."
"Not so, Mr. Lovel; many years of deserved happiness, founded on a more rational basis than your present wishes, are, I trust, before, you. But it is full time, to finish this conversation. I cannot force you to adopt my advice—I cannot shut the door of my father's house against the preserver of his life and mine; but the sooner Mr. Lovel can teach his mind to submit to the inevitable disappointment of wishes which have been so rashly formed, the more highly he will rise in my esteem—and, in the meanwhile, for his sake as well as mine, he must excuse my putting an interdict upon conversation on a subject so painful."
A servant at this moment announced that Sir Arthur desired to speak to Mr. Oldbuck in his dressing-room.
"Let me show you the way," said Miss Wardour, who apparently dreaded a continuation of her tete-a-tete with Lovel, and she conducted the Antiquary accordingly to her father's apartment.
Sir Arthur, his legs swathed in flannel, was stretched on the couch. "Welcome, Mr. Oldbuck," he said; "I trust you have come better off than I have done from the inclemency of yesterday evening?"
"Truly, Sir Arthur, I was not so much exposed to it—I kept terra firma—you fairly committed yourself to the cold night-air in the most literal of all senses. But such adventures become a gallant knight better than a humble esquire,—to rise on the wings of the night-wind—to dive into the bowels of the earth. What news from our subterranean Good Hope!—the terra incognita of Glen-Withershins?"
"Nothing good as yet," said the Baronet, turning himself hastily, as if stung by a pang of the gout; "but Dousterswivel does not despair."
"Does he not?" quoth Oldbuck; "I do though, under his favour. Why, old Dr. H—n* told me, when I was in Edinburgh, that we should never find copper enough, judging from the specimens I showed him, to make a pair of sixpenny knee-buckles—and I cannot see that those samples on the table below differ much in quality."
* Probably Dr. Hutton, the celebrated geologist.
"The learned doctor is not infallible, I presume?"
"No; but he is one of our first chemists; and this tramping philosopher of yours—this Dousterswivel—is, I have a notion, one, of those learned adventurers described by Kirchner, Artem habent sine arte, partem sine parte, quorum medium est mentiri, vita eorum mendicatum ire; that is to say, Miss Wardour"—
"It is unnecessary to translate," said Miss Wardour—"I comprehend your general meaning; but I hope Mr. Dousterswivel will turn out a more trustworthy character."
"I doubt it not a little," said the Antiquary,—"and we are a foul way out if we cannot discover this infernal vein that he has prophesied about these two years."
"You have no great interest in the matter, Mr. Oldbuck," said the Baronet.
"Too much, too much, Sir Arthur; and yet, for the sake of my fair foe here, I would consent to lose it all so you had no more on the venture."
There was a painful silence of a few moments, for Sir Arthur was too proud to acknowledge the downfall of his golden dreams, though he could no longer disguise to himself that such was likely to be the termination of the adventure. "I understand," he at length said, "that the young gentleman, to whose gallantry and presence of mind we were so much indebted last night, has favoured me with a visit—I am distressed that I am unable to see him, or indeed any one, but an old friend like you, Mr. Oldbuck."
A declination of the Antiquary's stiff backbone acknowledged the preference.
"You made acquaintance with this young gentleman in Edinburgh, I suppose?"
Oldbuck told the circumstances of their becoming known to each other.
"Why, then, my daughter is an older acquaintance, of Mr. Lovel than you are," said the Baronet.
"Indeed! I was not aware of that," answered Oldbuck somewhat surprised.
"I met Mr. Lovel," said Isabella, slightly colouring, "when I resided this last spring with my aunt, Mrs. Wilmot."
"In Yorkshire?—and what character did he bear then, or how was he engaged?" said Oldbuck,—"and why did not you recognise him when I introduced you?"
Isabella answered the least difficult question, and passed over the other—"He had a commission in the army, and had, I believe, served with reputation; he was much respected, as an amiable and promising young man."
"And pray, such being the case," replied the Antiquary, not disposed to take one reply in answer to two distinct questions, "why did you not speak to the lad at once when you met him at my house? I thought you had less of the paltry pride of womankind about you, Miss Wardour."
"There was a reason for it," said Sir Arthur with dignity; "you know the opinions—prejudices, perhaps you will call them—of our house concerning purity of birth. This young gentleman is, it seems, the illegitimate son of a man of fortune; my daughter did not choose to renew their acquaintance till she should know whether I approved of her holding any intercourse with him."
"If it had been with his mother instead of himself," answered Oldbuck, with his usual dry causticity of humour, "I could see an excellent reason for it. Ah, poor lad! that was the cause, then, that he seemed so absent and confused while I explained to him the reason of the bend of bastardy upon the shield yonder under the corner turret!"
"True," said the Baronet, with complacency—"it is the shield of Malcolm the Usurper, as he is called. The tower which he built is termed, after him, Malcolm's Tower, but more frequently Misticot's Tower, which I conceive to be a corruption for Misbegot. He is denominated, in the Latin pedigree of our family, Milcolumbus Nothus; and his temporary seizure of our property, and most unjust attempt to establish his own illegitimate line in the estate of Knockwinnock, gave rise to such family feuds and misfortunes, as strongly to found us in that horror and antipathy to defiled blood and illegitimacy which has been handed down to me from my respected ancestry."
"I know the story," said Oldbuck, "and I was telling it to Lovel this moment, with some of the wise maxims and consequences which it has engrafted on your family politics. Poor fellow! he must have been much hurt: I took the wavering of his attention for negligence, and was something piqued at it, and it proves to be only an excess of feeling. I hope, Sir Arthur, you will not think the less of your life because it has been preserved by such assistance?"
"Nor the less of my assistant either," said the Baronet; "my doors and table shall be equally open to him as if he had descended of the most unblemished lineage."
"Come, I am glad of that—he'll know where he can get a dinner, then, if he wants one. But what views can he have in this neighbourhood? I must catechise him; and if I find he wants it—or, indeed, whether he does or not—he shall have my best advice." As the Antiquary made this liberal promise, he took his leave of Miss Wardour and her father, eager to commence operations upon Mr. Lovel. He informed him abruptly that Miss Wardour sent her compliments, and remained in attendance on her father, and then, taking him by the arm, he led him out of the castle.
Knockwinnock still preserved much of the external attributes of a baronial castle. It had its drawbridge, though now never drawn up, and its dry moat, the sides of which had been planted with shrubs, chiefly of the evergreen tribes. Above these rose the old building, partly from a foundation of red rock scarped down to the sea-beach, and partly from the steep green verge of the moat. The trees of the avenue have been already mentioned, and many others rose around of large size,—as if to confute the prejudice that timber cannot be raised near to the ocean. Our walkers paused, and looked back upon the castle, as they attained the height of a small knoll, over which lay their homeward road; for it is to be supposed they did not tempt the risk of the tide by returning along the sands. The building flung its broad shadow upon the tufted foliage of the shrubs beneath it, while the front windows sparkled in the sun. They were viewed by the gazers with very different feelings. Lovel, with the fond eagerness of that passion which derives its food and nourishment from trifles, as the chameleon is said to live on the air, or upon the invisible insects which it contains, endeavoured to conjecture which of the numerous windows belonged to the apartment now graced by Miss Wardour's presence. The speculations of the Antiquary were of a more melancholy cast, and were partly indicated by the ejaculation of cito peritura! as he turned away from the prospect. Lovel, roused from his reverie, looked at him as if to inquire the meaning of an exclamation so ominous. The old man shook his head. "Yes, my young friend," said he, "I doubt greatly—and it wrings my heart to say it—this ancient family is going fast to the ground!"
"Indeed!" answered Lovel—"you surprise me greatly."
"We harden ourselves in vain," continued the Antiquary, pursuing his own train of thought and feeling—"we harden ourselves in vain to treat with the indifference they deserve, the changes of this trumpery whirligig world. We strive ineffectually to be the self-sufficing invulnerable being, the teres atque rotundus of the poet;—the stoical exemption which philosophy affects to give us over the pains and vexations of human life, is as imaginary as the state of mystical quietism and perfection aimed at by some crazy enthusiasts."
"And Heaven forbid that it should be otherwise!" said Lovel, warmly—"Heaven forbid that any process of philosophy were capable so to sear and indurate our feelings, that nothing should agitate them but what arose instantly and immediately out of our own selfish interests! I would as soon wish my hand to be as callous as horn, that it might escape an occasional cut or scratch, as I would be ambitious of the stoicism which should render my heart like a piece of the nether millstone."
The Antiquary regarded his youthful companion with a look half of pity, half of sympathy, and shrugged up his shoulders as he replied—"Wait, young man—wait till your bark has been battered by the storm of sixty years of mortal vicissitude: you will learn by that time, to reef your sails, that she may obey the helm;—or, in the language of this world, you will find distresses enough, endured and to endure, to keep your feelings and sympathies in full exercise, without concerning yourself more in the fate of others than you cannot possibly avoid."
"Well, Mr. Oldbuck, it may be so;—but as yet I resemble you more in your practice than in your theory, for I cannot help being deeply interested in the fate of the family we have just left."
"And well you may," replied Oldbuck. "Sir Arthur's embarrassments have of late become so many and so pressing, that I am surprised you have not heard of them. And then his absurd and expensive operations carried on by this High-German landlouper, Dousterswivel"—
"I think I have seen that person, when, by some rare chance, I happened to be in the coffee-room at Fairport;—a tall, beetle-browed, awkward-built man, who entered upon scientific subjects, as it appeared to my ignorance at least, with more assurance than knowledge—was very arbitrary in laying down and asserting his opinions, and mixed the terms of science with a strange jargon of mysticism. A simple youth whispered me that he was an Illumine', and carried on an intercourse with the invisible world."
"O, the same—the same. He has enough of practical knowledge to speak scholarly and wisely to those of whose intelligence he stands in awe; and, to say the truth, this faculty, joined to his matchless impudence, imposed upon me for some time when I first knew him. But I have since understood, that when he is among fools and womankind, he exhibits himself as a perfect charlatan—talks of the magisterium—of sympathies and antipathies—of the cabala—of the divining-rod—and all the trumpery with which the Rosicrucians cheated a darker age, and which, to our eternal disgrace, has in some degree revived in our own. My friend Heavysterne knew this fellow abroad, and unintentionally (for he, you must know, is, God bless the mark! a sort of believer) let me into a good deal of his real character. Ah! were I caliph for a day, as Honest Abon Hassan wished to be, I would scourge me these jugglers out of the commonwealth with rods of scorpions. They debauch the spirit of the ignorant and credulous with mystical trash, as effectually as if they had besotted their brains with gin, and then pick their pockets with the same facility. And now has this strolling blackguard and mountebank put the finishing blow to the ruin of an ancient and honourable family!"
"But how could he impose upon Sir Arthur to any ruinous extent?"
"Why, I don't know. Sir Arthur is a good honourable gentleman; but, as you may see from his loose ideas concerning the Pikish language, he is by no means very strong in the understanding. His estate is strictly entailed, and he has been always an embarrassed man. This rapparee promised him mountains of wealth, and an English company was found to advance large sums of money—I fear on Sir Arthur's guarantee. Some gentlemen—I was ass enough to be one—took small shares in the concern, and Sir Arthur himself made great outlay; we were trained on by specious appearances and more specious lies; and now, like John Bunyan, we awake, and behold it is a dream!"
"I am surprised that you, Mr. Oldbuck, should have encouraged Sir Arthur by your example."
"Why," said Oldbuck, dropping his large grizzled eyebrow, "I am something surprised and ashamed at it myself; it was not the lucre of gain—nobody cares less for money (to be a prudent man) than I do—but I thought I might risk this small sum. It will be expected (though I am sure I cannot see why) that I should give something to any one who will be kind enough to rid me of that slip of womankind, my niece, Mary M'Intyre; and perhaps it may be thought I should do something to get that jackanapes, her brother, on in the army. In either case, to treble my venture, would have helped me out. And besides, I had some idea that the Phoenicians had in former times wrought copper in that very spot. That cunning scoundrel, Dousterswivel, found out my blunt side, and brought strange tales (d—n him) of appearances of old shafts, and vestiges of mining operations, conducted in a manner quite different from those of modern times; and I—in short, I was a fool, and there is an end. My loss is not much worth speaking about; but Sir Arthur's engagements are, I understand, very deep, and my heart aches for him and the poor young lady who must share his distress."
Here the conversation paused, until renewed in the next CHAPTER.
If I may trust the flattering eye of sleep, My dreams presage some joyful news at hand: My bosom's lord sits lightly on his throne, And all this day, an unaccustomed spirit Lifts me above the ground with cheerful thoughts. Romeo and Juliet.
The account of Sir Arthur's unhappy adventure had led Oldbuck somewhat aside from his purpose of catechising Lovel concerning the cause of his residence at Fairport. He was now, however, resolved to open the subject. "Miss Wardour was formerly known to you, she tells me, Mr. Lovel?"
"He had had the pleasure," Lovel answered, to see her at Mrs. Wilmot's, in Yorkshire."
"Indeed! you never mentioned that to me before, and you did not accost her as an old acquaintance."
"I—I did not know," said Lovel, a good deal embarrassed, "it was the same lady, till we met; and then it was my duty to wait till she should recognise me."
"I am aware of your delicacy: the knight's a punctilious old fool, but I promise you his daughter is above all nonsensical ceremony and prejudice. And now, since you have, found a new set of friends here, may I ask if you intend to leave Fairport as soon as you proposed?"
"What if I should answer your question by another," replied Lovel, "and ask you what is your opinion of dreams?"
"Of dreams, you foolish lad!—why, what should I think of them but as the deceptions of imagination when reason drops the reins? I know no difference betwixt them and the hallucinations of madness—the unguided horses run away with the carriage in both cases, only in the one the coachman is drunk, and in the other he slumbers. What says our Marcus Tullius—Si insanorum visis fides non est habenda, cur credatur somnientium visis, quae multo etiam perturbatiora sunt, non intelligo."
"Yes, sir; but Cicero also tells us, that as he who passes the whole day in darting the javelin must sometimes hit the mark, so, amid the cloud of nightly dreams, some may occur consonant to future events."
"Ay—that is to say, you have hit the mark in your own sage opinion? Lord! Lord! how this world is given to folly! Well, I will allow for once the Oneirocritical science—I will give faith to the exposition of dreams, and say a Daniel hath arisen to interpret them, if you can prove to me that that dream of yours has pointed to a prudent line of conduct."
"Tell me, then," answered Lovel, "why when I was hesitating whether to abandon an enterprise, which I have perhaps rashly undertaken, I should last night dream I saw your ancestor pointing to a motto which encouraged me to perseverance?—why should I have thought of those words which I cannot remember to have heard before, which are in a language unknown to me, and which yet conveyed, when translated, a lesson which I could so plainly apply to my own circumstances?"
The Antiquary burst into a fit of laughing. "Excuse me, my young friend—but it is thus we silly mortals deceive ourselves, and look out of doors for motives which originate in our own wilful will. I think I can help out the cause of your vision. You were so abstracted in your contemplations yesterday after dinner, as to pay little attention to the discourse between Sir Arthur and me, until we fell upon the controversy concerning the Piks, which terminated so abruptly;—but I remember producing to Sir Arthur a book printed by my ancestor, and making him observe the motto; your mind was bent elsewhere, but your ear had mechanically received and retained the sounds, and your busy fancy, stirred by Grizel's legend I presume, had introduced this scrap of German into your dream. As for the waking wisdom which seized on so frivolous a circumstance as an apology for persevering in some course which it could find no better reason to justify, it is exactly one of those juggling tricks which the sagest of us play off now and then, to gratify our inclination at the expense of our understanding."
"I own it," said Lovel, blushing deeply;—"I believe you are right, Mr. Oldbuck, and I ought to sink in your esteem for attaching a moment's consequence to such a frivolity;—but I was tossed by contradictory wishes and resolutions, and you know how slight a line will tow a boat when afloat on the billows, though a cable would hardly move her when pulled up on the beach."
"Right, right," exclaimed the Antiquary. "Fall in my opinion!—not a whit—I love thee the better, man;—why, we have story for story against each other, and I can think with less shame on having exposed myself about that cursed Praetorium—though I am still convinced Agricola's camp must have been somewhere in this neighbourhood. And now, Lovel, my good lad, be sincere with me—What make you from Wittenberg?—why have you left your own country and professional pursuits, for an idle residence in such a place as Fairport? A truant disposition, I fear."
"Even so," replied Lovel, patiently submitting to an interrogatory which he could not well evade. "Yet I am so detached from all the world, have so few in whom I am interested, or who are interested in me, that my very state of destitution gives me independence. He whose good or evil fortune affects himself alone, has the best right to pursue it according to his own fancy."
"Pardon me, young man," said Oldbuck, laying his hand kindly on his shoulder, and making a full halt—"sufflamina—a little patience, if you please. I will suppose that you have no friends to share or rejoice in your success in life—that you cannot look back to those to whom you owe gratitude, or forward to those to whom you ought to afford protection; but it is no less incumbent on you to move steadily in the path of duty—for your active exertions are due not only to society, but in humble gratitude to the Being who made you a member of it, with powers to serve yourself and others."
"But I am unconscious of possessing such powers," said Lovel, somewhat impatiently. "I ask nothing of society but the permission of walking innoxiously through the path of life, without jostling others, or permitting myself to be jostled. I owe no man anything—I have the means of maintaining, myself with complete independence; and so moderate are my wishes in this respect, that even these means, however limited, rather exceed than fall short of them."
"Nay, then," said Oldbuck, removing his hand, and turning again to the road, "if you are so true a philosopher as to think you have money enough, there's no more to be said—I cannot pretend to be entitled to advise you;—you have attained the acme'—the summit of perfection. And how came Fairport to be the selected abode of so much self-denying philosophy? It is as if a worshipper of the true religion had set up his staff by choice among the multifarious idolaters of the land of Egypt. There is not a man in Fairport who is not a devoted worshipper of the Golden Calf—the mammon of unrighteousness. Why, even I, man, am so infected by the bad neighbourhood, that I feel inclined occasionally to become an idolater myself."
"My principal amusements being literary," answered Lovel, "and circumstances which I cannot mention having induced me, for a time at least, to relinquish the military service, I have pitched on Fairport as a place where I might follow my pursuits without any of those temptations to society which a more elegant circle might have presented to me."
"Aha!" replied Oldbuck, knowingly,—"I begin to understand your application of my ancestor's motto. You are a candidate for public favour, though not in the way I first suspected,—you are ambitious to shine as a literary character, and you hope to merit favour by labour and perseverance?"
Lovel, who was rather closely pressed by the inquisitiveness of the old gentleman, concluded it would be best to let him remain in the error which he had gratuitously adopted.
"I have been at times foolish enough," he replied, "to nourish some thoughts of the kind."
"Ah, poor fellow! nothing can be more melancholy; unless, as young men sometimes do, you had fancied yourself in love with some trumpery specimen of womankind, which is indeed, as Shakspeare truly says, pressing to death, whipping, and hanging all at once."
He then proceeded with inquiries, which he was sometimes kind enough to answer himself. For this good old gentleman had, from his antiquarian researches, acquired a delight in building theories out of premises which were often far from affording sufficient ground for them; and being, as the reader must have remarked, sufficiently opinionative, he did not readily brook being corrected, either in matter of fact or judgment, even by those who were principally interested in the subjects on which he speculated. He went on, therefore, chalking out Lovel's literary career for him.
"And with what do you propose to commence your debut as a man of letters?—But I guess—poetry—poetry—the soft seducer of youth. Yes! there is an acknowledging modesty of confusion in your eye and manner. And where lies your vein?—are you inclined to soar to the, higher regions of Parnassus, or to flutter around the base of the hill?"
"I have hitherto attempted only a few lyrical pieces," said Lovel.
"Just as I supposed—pruning your wing, and hopping from spray to spray. But I trust you intend a bolder flight. Observe, I would by no means recommend your persevering in this unprofitable pursuit—but you say you are quite independent of the public caprice?"
"Entirely so," replied Lovel.
"And that you are determined not to adopt a more active course of life?"
"For the present, such is my resolution," replied the young man.
"Why, then, it only remains for me to give you my best advice and assistance in the object of your pursuit. I have myself published two essays in the Antiquarian Repository,—and therefore am an author of experience, There was my Remarks on Hearne's edition of Robert of Gloucester, signed Scrutator; and the other signed Indagator, upon a passage in Tacitus. I might add, what attracted considerable notice at the time, and that is my paper in the Gentleman's Magazine, upon the inscription of OElia Lelia, which I subscribed OEdipus.So you see I am not an apprentice in the mysteries of author-craft, and must necessarily understand the taste and temper of the times. And now, once more, what do you intend to commence with?"
"I have no instant thoughts of publishing."
"Ah! that will never do; you must have the fear of the public before your eyes in all your undertakings. Let us see now: A collection of fugitive pieces; but no—your fugitive poetry is apt to become stationary with the bookseller. It should be something at once solid and attractive—none of your romances or anomalous novelties—I would have you take high ground at once. Let me see: What think you of a real epic?—the grand old-fashioned historical poem which moved through twelve or twenty-four books. We'll have it so—I'll supply you with a subject—The battle between the Caledonians and Romans—The Caledoniad; or, Invasion Repelled;—let that be the title—it will suit the present taste, and you may throw in a touch of the times."
"But the invasion of Agricola was not repelled."
"No; but you are a poet—free of the corporation, and as little bound down to truth or probability as Virgil himself—You may defeat the Romans in spite of Tacitus."
"And pitch Agricola's camp at the Kaim of—what do you call it," answered Lovel, "in defiance of Edie Ochiltree?"
"No more of that, an thou lovest me—And yet, I dare say, ye may unwittingly speak most correct truth in both instances, in despite of the toga of the historian and the blue gown of the mendicant."
"Gallantly counselled!—Well, I will do my best—your kindness will assist me with local information."
"Will I not, man?—why, I will write the critical and historical notes on each canto, and draw out the plan of the story myself. I pretend to some poetical genius, Mr. Lovel, only I was never able to write verses."
"It is a pity, sir, that you should have failed in a qualification somewhat essential to the art."
"Essential?—not a whit—it is the mere mechanical department. A man may be a poet without measuring spondees and dactyls like the ancients, or clashing the ends of lines into rhyme like the moderns, as one may be an architect though unable to labour like a stone-mason—Dost think Palladio or Vitruvius ever carried a hod?"
"In that case, there should be two authors to each poem—one to think and plan, another to execute."
"Why, it would not be amiss; at any rate, we'll make the experiment;—not that I would wish to give my name to the public—assistance from a learned friend might be acknowledged in the preface after what flourish your nature will—I am a total stranger to authorial vanity."
Lovel was much entertained by a declaration not very consistent with the eagerness wherewith his friend seemed to catch at an opportunity of coming before the public, though in a manner which rather resembled stepping up behind a carriage than getting into one. The Antiquary was indeed uncommonly delighted; for, like many other men who spend their lives in obscure literary research, he had a secret ambition to appear in print, which was checked by cold fits of diffidence, fear of criticism, and habits of indolence and procrastination. "But," thought he, "I may, like a second Teucer, discharge my shafts from behind the shield of my ally; and, admit that he should not prove to be a first-rate poet, I am in no shape answerable for his deficiencies, and the good notes may very probably help off an indifferent text. But he is—he must be a good poet; he has the real Parnassian abstraction—seldom answers a question till it is twice repeated—drinks his tea scalding, and eats without knowing what he is putting into his mouth. This is the real aestus, the awen of the Welsh bards, the divinus afflatus that transports the poet beyond the limits of sublunary things. His visions, too, are very symptomatical of poetic fury—I must recollect to send Caxon to see he puts out his candle to-night—poets and visionaries are apt to be negligent in that respect." Then, turning to his companion, he expressed himself aloud in continuation—
"Yes, my dear Lovel, you shall have full notes; and, indeed, think we may introduce the whole of the Essay on Castrametation into the appendix—it will give great value to the work. Then we will revive the good old forms so disgracefully neglected in modern times. You shall invoke the Muse—and certainly she ought to be propitious to an author who, in an apostatizing age, adheres with the faith of Abdiel to the ancient form of adoration.—Then we must have a vision—in which the Genius of Caledonia shall appear to Galgacus, and show him a procession of the real Scottish monarchs:—and in the notes I will have a hit at Boethius—No; I must not touch that topic, now that Sir Arthur is likely to have vexation enough besides—but I'll annihilate Ossian, Macpherson, and Mac-Cribb."
"But we must consider the expense of publication," said Lovel, willing to try whether this hint would fall like cold water on the blazing zeal of his self-elected coadjutor.
"Expense!" said Mr. Oldbuck, pausing, and mechanically fumbling in his pocket—"that is true;—I would wish to do something—but you would not like to publish by subscription?"
"By no means," answered Lovel.
"No, no!" gladly acquiesced the Antiquary—"it is not respectable. I'll tell you what: I believe I know a bookseller who has a value for my opinion, and will risk print and paper, and I will get as many copies sold for you as I can."
"O, I am no mercenary author," answered Lovel, smiling; "I only wish to be out of risk of loss."
"Hush! hush! we'll take care of that—throw it all on the publishers. I do long to see your labours commenced. You will choose blank verse, doubtless?—it is more grand and magnificent for an historical subject; and, what concerneth you, my friend, it is, I have an idea, more easily written."
This conversation brought them to Monkbarns, where the Antiquary had to undergo a chiding from his sister, who, though no philosopher, was waiting to deliver a lecture to him in the portico. "Guide us, Monkbarns! are things no dear eneugh already, but ye maun be raising the very fish on us, by giving that randy, Luckie Mucklebackit, just what she likes to ask?"
"Why, Grizel," said the sage, somewhat abashed at this unexpected attack, "I thought I made a very fair bargain."
"A fair bargain! when ye gied the limmer a full half o' what she seekit!—An ye will be a wife-carle, and buy fish at your ain hands, ye suld never bid muckle mair than a quarter. And the impudent quean had the assurance to come up and seek a dram—But I trow, Jenny and I sorted her!"
"Truly," said Oldbuck (with a sly look to his companion), "I think our estate was gracious that kept us out of hearing of that controversy.—Well, well, Grizel, I was wrong for once in my life ultra crepidam—I fairly admit. But hang expenses!—care killed a cat—we'll eat the fish, cost what it will.—And then, Lovel, you must know I pressed you to stay here to-day, the rather because our cheer will be better than usual, yesterday having been a gaude' day—I love the reversion of a feast better than the feast itself. I delight in the analecta, the collectanea, as I may call them, of the preceding day's dinner, which appear on such occasions—And see, there is Jenny going to ring the dinner-bell."
Be this letter delivered with haste—haste—post-haste! Ride, villain, ride,—for thy life—for thy life—for thy life. Ancient Indorsation of Letters of Importance.
Leaving Mr. Oldbuck and his friend to enjoy their hard bargain of fish, we beg leave to transport the reader to the back-parlour of the post-master's house at Fairport, where his wife, he himself being absent, was employed in assorting for delivery the letters which had come by the Edinburgh post. This is very often in country towns the period of the day when gossips find it particularly agreeable to call on the man or woman of letters, in order, from the outside of the epistles, and, if they are not belied, occasionally from the inside also, to amuse themselves with gleaning information, or forming conjectures about the correspondence and affairs of their neighbours. Two females of this description were, at the time we mention, assisting, or impeding, Mrs. Mailsetter in her official duty.
"Eh, preserve us, sirs!" said the butcher's wife, "there's ten— eleven—twall letters to Tennant and Co.—thae folk do mair business than a' the rest o' the burgh."
"Ay; but see, lass," answered the baker's lady, "there's twa o' them faulded unco square, and sealed at the tae side—I doubt there will be protested bills in them."
"Is there ony letters come yet for Jenny Caxon?" inquired the woman of joints and giblets; "the lieutenant's been awa three weeks."
"Just ane on Tuesday was a week," answered the dame of letters.
"Wast a ship-letter?" asked the Fornerina.
"In troth wast."
"It wad be frae the lieutenant then," replied the mistress of the rolls, somewhat disappointed—"I never thought he wad hae lookit ower his shouther after her."
"Od, here's another," quoth Mrs. Mailsetter. "A ship-letter—post-mark, Sunderland." All rushed to seize it.—"Na, na, leddies," said Mrs. Mailsetter, interfering; "I hae had eneugh o' that wark—Ken ye that Mr. Mailsetter got an unco rebuke frae the secretary at Edinburgh, for a complaint that was made about the letter of Aily Bisset's that ye opened, Mrs. Shortcake?"
"Me opened!" answered the spouse of the chief baker of Fairport; "ye ken yoursell, madam, it just cam open o' free will in my hand—what could I help it?—folk suld seal wi' better wax."
"Weel I wot that's true, too," said Mrs. Mailsetter, who kept a shop of small wares, "and we have got some that I can honestly recommend, if ye ken onybody wanting it. But the short and the lang o't is, that we'll lose the place gin there's ony mair complaints o' the kind."
"Hout, lass—the provost will take care o' that."
"Na, na, I'll neither trust to provost nor bailier" said the postmistress,—"but I wad aye be obliging and neighbourly, and I'm no again your looking at the outside of a letter neither—See, the seal has an anchor on't—he's done't wi' ane o' his buttons, I'm thinking."
"Show me! show me!" quoth the wives of the chief butcher and chief baker; and threw themselves on the supposed love-letter, like the weird sisters in Macbeth upon the pilot's thumb, with curiosity as eager and scarcely less malignant. Mrs. Heukbane was a tall woman—she held the precious epistle up between her eyes and the window. Mrs. Shortcake, a little squat personage, strained and stood on tiptoe to have her share of the investigation.
"Ay, it's frae him, sure eneugh," said the butcher's lady;—"I can read Richard Taffril on the corner, and it's written, like John Thomson's wallet, frae end to end."
"Haud it lower down, madam," exclaimed Mrs. Shortcake, in a tone above the prudential whisper which their occupation required—"haud it lower down—Div ye think naebody can read hand o' writ but yoursell?"
"Whist, whist, sirs, for God's sake!" said Mrs. Mailsetter, "there's somebody in the shop,"—then aloud—"Look to the customers, Baby!"—Baby answered from without in a shrill tone—"It's naebody but Jenny Caxon, ma'am, to see if there's ony letters to her."
"Tell her," said the faithful postmistress, winking to her compeers, "to come back the morn at ten o'clock, and I'll let her ken—we havena had time to sort the mail letters yet—she's aye in sic a hurry, as if her letters were o' mair consequence than the best merchant's o' the town."
Poor Jenny, a girl of uncommon beauty and modesty, could only draw her cloak about her to hide the sigh of disappointment and return meekly home to endure for another night the sickness of the heart occasioned by hope delayed.
"There's something about a needle and a pole," said Mrs. Shortcake, to whom her taller rival in gossiping had at length yielded a peep at the subject of their curiosity.
"Now, that's downright shamefu'," said Mrs. Heukbane, "to scorn the poor silly gait of a lassie after he's keepit company wi' her sae lang, and had his will o' her, as I make nae doubt he has."
"It's but ower muckle to be doubted," echoed Mrs. Shortcake;—"to cast up to her that her father's a barber and has a pole at his door, and that she's but a manty-maker hersell! Hout fy for shame!"
"Hout tout, leddies," cried Mrs. Mailsetter, "ye're clean wrang—It's a line out o' ane o' his sailors' sangs that I have heard him sing, about being true like the needle to the pole."
"Weel, weel, I wish it may be sae," said the charitable Dame Heukbane,—"but it disna look weel for a lassie like her to keep up a correspondence wi' ane o' the king's officers."
"I'm no denying that," said Mrs. Mailsetter; "but it's a great advantage to the revenue of the post-office thae love-letters. See, here's five or six letters to Sir Arthur Wardour—maist o' them sealed wi' wafers, and no wi' wax. There will be a downcome, there, believe me."
"Ay; they will be business letters, and no frae ony o' his grand friends, that seals wi' their coats of arms, as they ca' them," said Mrs. Heukbane;—"pride will hae a fa'—he hasna settled his account wi' my gudeman, the deacon, for this twalmonth—he's but slink, I doubt."
"Nor wi' huz for sax months," echoed Mrs. Shortcake—"He's but a brunt crust."
"There's a letter," interrupted the trusty postmistress, "from his son, the captain, I'm thinking—the seal has the same things wi' the Knockwinnock carriage. He'll be coming hame to see what he can save out o' the fire."
The baronet thus dismissed, they took up the esquire—"Twa letters for Monkbarns—they're frae some o' his learned friends now; see sae close as they're written, down to the very seal—and a' to save sending a double letter—that's just like Monkbarns himsell. When he gets a frank he fills it up exact to the weight of an unce, that a carvy-seed would sink the scale—but he's neer a grain abune it. Weel I wot I wad be broken if I were to gie sic weight to the folk that come to buy our pepper and brimstone, and suchlike sweetmeats."
"He's a shabby body the laird o' Monkbarns," said Mrs. Heukbane; "he'll make as muckle about buying a forequarter o' lamb in August as about a back sey o' beef. Let's taste another drop of the sinning" (perhaps she meant cinnamon) "waters, Mrs. Mailsetter, my dear. Ah, lasses! an ye had kend his brother as I did—mony a time he wad slip in to see me wi' a brace o' wild deukes in his pouch, when my first gudeman was awa at the Falkirk tryst—weel, weel—we'se no speak o' that e'enow."
"I winna say ony ill o'this Monkbarns," said Mrs. Shortcake; "his brother neer brought me ony wild-deukes, and this is a douce honest man; we serve the family wi' bread, and he settles wi' huz ilka week—only he was in an unco kippage when we sent him a book instead o' the nick-sticks,* whilk, he said, were the true ancient way o' counting between tradesmen and customers; and sae they are, nae doubt."
* Note E. Nick-sticks.
"But look here, lasses," interrupted Mrs. Mailsetter, "here's a sight for sair e'en! What wad ye gie to ken what's in the inside o' this letter? This is new corn—I haena seen the like o' this—For William Lovel, Esquire, at Mrs. Hadoway's, High Street, Fairport, by Edinburgh, N. B. This is just the second letter he has had since he was here."
"Lord's sake, let's see, lass!—Lord's sake, let's see!—that's him that the hale town kens naething about—and a weel-fa'ard lad he is; let's see, let's see!" Thus ejaculated the two worthy representatives of mother Eve.
"Na, na, sirs," exclaimed Mrs. Mailsetter; "haud awa—bide aff, I tell you; this is nane o' your fourpenny cuts that we might make up the value to the post-office amang ourselves if ony mischance befell it;—the postage is five-and-twenty shillings—and here's an order frae the Secretary to forward it to the young gentleman by express, if he's no at hame. Na, na, sirs, bide aff;—this maunna be roughly guided."
"But just let's look at the outside o't, woman."
Nothing could be gathered from the outside, except remarks on the various properties which philosophers ascribe to matter,—length, breadth, depth, and weight, The packet was composed of strong thick paper, imperviable by the curious eyes of the gossips, though they stared as if they would burst from their sockets. The seal was a deep and well-cut impression of arms, which defied all tampering.
"Od, lass," said Mrs. Shortcake, weighing it in her hand, and wishing, doubtless, that the too, too solid wax would melt and dissolve itself, "I wad like to ken what's in the inside o' this, for that Lovel dings a' that ever set foot on the plainstanes o' Fairport—naebody kens what to make o' him."
"Weel, weel, leddies," said the postmistress, "we'se sit down and crack about it.—Baby, bring ben the tea-water—Muckle obliged to ye for your cookies, Mrs. Shortcake—and we'll steek the shop, and cry ben Baby, and take a hand at the cartes till the gudeman comes hame—and then we'll try your braw veal sweetbread that ye were so kind as send me, Mrs. Heukbane."
"But winna ye first send awa Mr. Lovel's letter?" said Mrs. Heukbane.
"Troth I kenna wha to send wi't till the gudeman comes hame, for auld Caxon tell'd me that Mr. Lovel stays a' the day at Monkbarns—he's in a high fever, wi' pu'ing the laird and Sir Arthur out o' the sea."
"Silly auld doited carles!" said Mrs. Shortcake; "what gar'd them gang to the douking in a night like yestreen!"
"I was gi'en to understand it was auld Edie that saved them," said Mrs. Heukbane—"Edie Ochiltree, the Blue-Gown, ye ken; and that he pu'd the hale three out of the auld fish-pound, for Monkbarns had threepit on them to gang in till't to see the wark o' the monks lang syne."
"Hout, lass, nonsense!" answered the postmistress; "I'll tell ye, a' about it, as Caxon tell'd it to me. Ye see, Sir Arthur and Miss Wardour, and Mr. Lovel, suld hae dined at Monkbarns"—
"But, Mrs. Mailsetter," again interrupted Mrs. Heukbane, "will ye no be for sending awa this letter by express?—there's our powny and our callant hae gane express for the office or now, and the powny hasna gane abune thirty mile the day;—Jock was sorting him up as I came ower by."
"Why, Mrs. Heukbane," said the woman of letters, pursing up her mouth, "ye ken my gudeman likes to ride the expresses himsell—we maun gie our ain fish-guts to our ain sea-maws—it's a red half-guinea to him every time he munts his mear; and I dare say he'll be in sune—or I dare to say, it's the same thing whether the gentleman gets the express this night or early next morning."
"Only that Mr. Lovel will be in town before the express gaes aff," said Mrs. Heukbane; "and where are ye then, lass? But ye ken yere ain ways best."
"Weel, weel, Mrs. Heukbane," answered Mrs. Mailsetter, a little out of humour, and even out of countenance, "I am sure I am never against being neighbour-like, and living and letting live, as they say; and since I hae been sic a fule as to show you the post-office order—ou, nae doubt, it maun be obeyed. But I'll no need your callant, mony thanks to ye—I'll send little Davie on your powny, and that will be just five-and- threepence to ilka ane o' us, ye ken."
"Davie! the Lord help ye, the bairn's no ten year auld; and, to be plain wi' ye, our powny reists a bit, and it's dooms sweer to the road, and naebody can manage him but our Jock."
"I'm sorry for that," answered the postmistress, gravely; "it's like we maun wait then till the gudeman comes hame, after a'—for I wadna like to be responsible in trusting the letter to sic a callant as Jock—our Davie belangs in a manner to the office."
"Aweel, aweel, Mrs. Mailsetter, I see what ye wad be at—but an ye like to risk the bairn, I'll risk the beast."
Orders were accordingly given. The unwilling pony was brought out of his bed of straw, and again equipped for service—Davie (a leathern post-bag strapped across his shoulders) was perched upon the saddle, with a tear in his eye, and a switch in his hand. Jock good-naturedly led the animal out of town, and, by the crack of his whip, and the whoop and halloo of his too well-known voice, compelled it to take the road towards Monkbarns.
Meanwhile the gossips, like the sibyls after consulting their leaves, arranged and combined the information of the evening, which flew next morning through a hundred channels, and in a hundred varieties, through the world of Fairport. Many, strange, and inconsistent, were the rumours to which their communications and conjectures gave rise. Some said Tennant and Co. were broken, and that all their bills had come back protested—others that they had got a great contract from Government, and letters from the principal merchants at Glasgow, desiring to have shares upon a premium. One report stated, that Lieutenant Taffril had acknowledged a private marriage with Jenny Caxon—another, that he had sent her a letter upbraiding her with the lowness of her birth and education, and bidding her an eternal adieu. It was generally rumoured that Sir Arthur Wardour's affairs had fallen into irretrievable confusion, and this report was only doubted by the wise, because it was traced to Mrs. Mailsetter's shop,—a source more famous for the circulation of news than for their accuracy. But all agreed that a packet from the Secretary of State's office, had arrived, directed for Mr. Lovel, and that it had been forwarded by an orderly dragoon, despatched from the head-quarters at Edinburgh, who had galloped through Fairport without stopping, except just to inquire the way to Monkbarns. The reason of such an extraordinary mission to a very peaceful and retired individual, was variously explained. Some said Lovel was an emigrant noble, summoned to head an insurrection that had broken out in La Vende'e—others that he was a spy—others that he was a general officer, who was visiting the coast privately—others that he was a prince of the blood, who was travelling incognito.
Meanwhile the progress of the packet which occasioned so much speculation, towards its destined owner at Monkbarns, had been perilous and interrupted. The bearer, Davie Mailsetter, as little resembling a bold dragoon as could well be imagined, was carried onwards towards Monkbarns by the pony, so long as the animal had in his recollection the crack of his usual instrument of chastisement, and the shout of the butcher's boy. But feeling how Davie, whose short legs were unequal to maintain his balance, swung to and fro upon his back, the pony began to disdain furthur compliance with the intimations he had received. First, then, he slackened his pace to a walk This was no point of quarrel between him and his rider, who had been considerably discomposed by the rapidity of his former motion, and who now took the opportunity of his abated pace to gnaw a piece of gingerbread, which had been thrust into his hand by his mother in order to reconcile this youthful emissary of the post-office to the discharge of his duty. By and by, the crafty pony availed himself of this surcease of discipline to twitch the rein out of Davies hands, and applied himself to browse on the grass by the side of the lane. Sorely astounded by these symptoms of self-willed rebellion, and afraid alike to sit or to fall, poor Davie lifted up his voice and wept aloud. The pony, hearing this pudder over his head, began apparently to think it would be best both for himself and Davie to return from whence they came, and accordingly commenced a retrograde movement towards Fairport. But, as all retreats are apt to end in utter rout, so the steed, alarmed by the boy's cries, and by the flapping of the reins, which dangled about his forefeet—finding also his nose turned homeward, began to set off at a rate which, if Davie kept the saddle (a matter extremely dubious), would soon have presented him at Heukbane's stable-door,—when, at a turn of the road, an intervening auxiliary, in the shape of old Edie Ochiltree, caught hold of the rein, and stopped his farther proceeding. "Wha's aught ye, callant? whaten a gate's that to ride?"
"I canna help it!" blubbered the express; "they ca' me little Davie."
"And where are ye gaun?"
"I'm gaun to Monkbarns wi' a letter."
"Stirra, this is no the road to Monkbarns."
But Davie could oinly answer the expostulation with sighs and tears.
Old Edie was easily moved to compassion where childhood was in the case.- -"I wasna gaun that gate," he thought, "but it's the best o' my way o' life that I canna be weel out o' my road. They'll gie me quarters at Monkbarns readily eneugh, and I'll e'en hirple awa there wi' the wean, for it will knock its hams out, puir thing, if there's no somebody to guide the pony.—Sae ye hae a letter, hinney? will ye let me see't?"
"I'm no gaun to let naebody see the letter," sobbed the boy, "till I gie't to Mr. Lovel, for I am a faithfu' servant o' the office—if it werena for the powny."
"Very right, my little man," said Ochiltree, turning the reluctant pony's head towards Monkbarns; "but we'll guide him atween us, if he's no a' the sweerer."
Upon the very height of Kinprunes, to which Monkbarns had invited Lovel after their dinner, the Antiquary, again reconciled to the once degraded spot, was expatiating upon the topics the scenery afforded for a description of Agricola's camp at the dawn of morning, when his eye was caught by the appearance of the mendicant and his protegee. "What the devil!—here comes Old Edie, bag and baggage, I think."
The beggar explained his errand, and Davie, who insisted upon a literal execution of his commission by going on to Monkbarns, was with difficulty prevailed upon to surrender the packet to its proper owner, although he met him a mile nearer than the place he bad been directed to. "But my minnie said, I maun be sure to get twenty shillings and five shillings for the postage, and ten shillings and sixpence for the express—there's the paper."
"Let me see—let me see," said Oldbuck, putting on his spectacles, and examining the crumpled copy of regulations to which Davie appealed. "Express, per man and horse, one day, not to exceed ten shillings and sixpence. One day? why, it's not an hour—Man and horse? why, 'tis a monkey on a starved cat!"
"Father wad hae come himsell," said Davie, "on the muckle red mear, an ye wad hae bidden till the morn's night."
"Four-and-twenty hours after the regular date of delivery! You little cockatrice egg, do you understand the art of imposition so early?"
"Hout Monkbarns! dinna set your wit against a bairn," said the beggar; "mind the butcher risked his beast, and the wife her wean, and I am sure ten and sixpence isna ower muckle. Ye didna gang sae near wi' Johnnie Howie, when"—
Lovel, who, sitting on the supposed Praetorium, had glanced over the contents of the packet, now put an end to the altercation by paying Davies demand; and then turning to Mr. Oldbuck, with a look of much agitation, he excused himself from returning with him to Monkbarns' that evening.—"I must instantly go to Fairport, and perhaps leave it on a moment's notice;—your kindness, Mr. Oldbuck, I can never forget."
"No bad news, I hope?" said the Antiquary.
"Of a very chequered complexion," answered his friend. "Farewell—in good or bad fortune I will not forget your regard."
"Nay, nay—stop a moment. If—if—" (making an effort)—"if there be any pecuniary inconvenience—I have fifty—or a hundred guineas at your service—till—till Whitsunday—or indeed as long as you please."
"I am much obliged, Mr. Oldbuck, but I am amply provided," said his mysterious young friend. "Excuse me—I really cannot sustain further conversation at present. I will write or see you, before I leave Fairport—that is, if I find myself obliged to go."
So saying, he shook the Antiquary's hand warmly, turned from him, and walked rapidly towards the town, "staying no longer question."
"Very extraordinary indeed!" said Oldbuck;—"but there's something about this lad I can never fathom; and yet I cannot for my heart think ill of him neither. I must go home and take off the fire in the Green Room, for none of my womankind will venture into it after twilight."
"And how am I to win hame?" blubbered the disconsolate express.
"It's a fine night," said the Blue-Gown, looking up to the skies; "I had as gude gang back to the town, and take care o' the wean."
"Do so, do so, Edie;" and rummaging for some time in his huge waistcoat pocket till he found the object of his search, the Antiquary added, "there's sixpence to ye to buy sneeshin."
"I am bewitched with the rogue's company. If the rascal has not given me medicines to make me love him, I'll be hanged; it could not be else. I have drunk medicines." Second Part of Henry IV.
Regular for a fortnight were the inquiries of the Antiquary at the veteran Caxon, whether he had heard what Mr. Lovel was about; and as regular were Caxon's answers, "that the town could learn naething about him whatever, except that he had received anither muckle letter or twa frae the south, and that he was never seen on the plainstanes at a'."
"How does he live, Caxon?"
"Ou, Mrs. Hadoway just dresses him a beefsteak or a muttonchop, or makes him some Friar's chicken, or just what she likes hersell, and he eats it in the little red parlour off his bedroom. She canna get him to say that he likes ae thing better than anither; and she makes him tea in a morning, and he settles honourably wi' her every week."
"But does he never stir abroad?"
"He has clean gi'en up walking, and he sits a' day in his room reading or writing; a hantle letters he has written, but he wadna put them into our post-house, though Mrs. Hadoway offered to carry them hersell, but sent them a' under ae cover to the sheriff; and it's Mrs. Mailsetter's belief, that the sheriff sent his groom to put them into the post-office at Tannonburgh; it's my puir thought, that he jaloused their looking into his letters at Fairport; and weel had he need, for my puir daughter Jenny"—
"Tut, don't plague me with your womankind, Caxon. About this poor young lad.—Does he write nothing but letters?"
"Ou, ay—hale sheets o' other things, Mrs. Hadoway says. She wishes muckle he could be gotten to take a walk; she thinks he's but looking very puirly, and his appetite's clean gane; but he'll no hear o' ganging ower the door-stane—him that used to walk sae muckle too."
"That's wrong—I have a guess what he's busy about; but he must not work too hard neither. I'll go and see him this very day—he's deep, doubtless, in the Caledoniad."
Having formed this manful resolution, Mr. Oldbuck equipped himself for the expedition with his thick walking-shoes and gold-headed cane, muttering the while the words of Falstaff which we have chosen for the motto of this CHAPTER; for the Antiquary was himself rather surprised at the degree of attachment which he could not but acknowledge be entertained for this stranger. The riddle was notwithstanding easily solved. Lovel had many attractive qualities, but he won our Antiquary's heart by being on most occasions an excellent listener.
A walk to Fairport had become somewhat of an adventure with Mr. Oldbuck, and one which he did not often care to undertake. He hated greetings in the market-place; and there were generally loiterers in the streets to persecute him, either about the news of the day, or about some petty pieces of business. So, on this occasion, he had no sooner entered the streets of Fairport, than it was "Good-morrow, Mr. Oldbuck—a sight o' you's gude, for sair een: what d'ye think of the news in the Sun the day?—they say the great attempt will be made in a fortnight."
"I wish to the Lord it were made and over, that I might hear no more about it."
"Monkbarns, your honour," said the nursery and seedsman, "I hope the plants gied satisfaction?—and if ye wanted ony flower-roots fresh frae Holland, or" (this in a lower key) "an anker or twa o' Cologne gin, ane o' our brigs cam in yestreen."
"Thank ye, thank ye,—no occasion at present, Mr. Crabtree," said the Antiquary, pushing resolutely onward.
"Mr. Oldbuck," said the town-clerk (a more important person, who came in front and ventured to stop the old gentleman), "the provost, understanding you were in town, begs on no account that you'll quit it without seeing him; he wants to speak to ye about bringing the water frae the Fairwell-spring through a part o' your lands."
"What the deuce!—have they nobody's land but mine to cut and carve on?—I won't consent, tell them."
"And the provost," said the clerk, going on, without noticing the rebuff, "and the council, wad be agreeable that you should hae the auld stones at Donagild's chapel, that ye was wussing to hae."
"Eh!—what?—Oho! that's another story—Well, well, I'll call upon the provost, and we'll talk about it."
"But ye maun speak your mind on't forthwith, Monkbarns, if ye want the stones; for Deacon Harlewalls thinks the carved through-stanes might be put with advantage on the front of the new council-house—that is, the twa cross-legged figures that the callants used to ca' Robin and Bobbin, ane on ilka door-cheek; and the other stane, that they ca'd Ailie Dailie, abune the door. It will be very tastefu', the Deacon says, and just in the style of modern Gothic."
"Lord deliver me from this Gothic generation!" exclaimed the Antiquary,—"A monument of a knight-templar on each side of a Grecian porch, and a Madonna on the top of it!—O crimini!—Well, tell the provost I wish to have the stones, and we'll not differ about the water-course. It's lucky I happened to come this way to-day."
They parted mutually satisfied; but the wily clerk had most reason to exult in the dexterity he had displayed, since the whole proposal of an exchange between the monuments (which the council had determined to remove as a nuisance, because they encroached three feet upon the public road), and the privilege of conveying the water to the burgh through the estate of Monkbarns, was an idea which had originated with himself upon the pressure of the moment.
Through these various entanglements, Monkbarns (to use the phrase by which he was distinguished in the country) made his way at length to Mrs. Hadoway's. This good woman was the widow of a late clergyman at Fairport, who had been reduced by her husband's untimely death, to that state of straitened and embarrassed circumstances in which the widows of the Scotch clergy are too often found. The tenement which she occupied, and the furniture of which she was possessed, gave her the means of letting a part of her house; and as Lovel had been a quiet, regular, and profitable lodger, and had qualified the necessary intercourse which they had together with a great deal of gentleness and courtesy, Mrs. Hadoway, not, perhaps, much used to such kindly treatment, had become greatly attached to her lodger, and was profuse in every sort of personal attention which circumstances permitted her to render him. To cook a dish somewhat better than ordinary for "the poor young gentleman's dinner;" to exert her interest with those who remembered her husband, or loved her for her own sake and his, in order to procure scarce vegetables, or something which her simplicity supposed might tempt her lodger's appetite, was a labour in which she delighted, although she anxiously concealed it from the person who was its object. She did not adopt this secrecy of benevolence to avoid the laugh of those who might suppose that an oval face and dark eyes, with a clear brown complexion, though belonging to a woman of five-and-forty, and enclosed within a widow's close-drawn pinners, might possibly still aim at making conquests; for, to say truth, such a ridiculous suspicion having never entered into her own head, she could not anticipate its having birth in that of any one else. But she concealed her attentions solely out of delicacy to her guest, whose power of repaying them she doubted as much as she believed in his inclination to do so, and in his being likely to feel extreme pain at leaving any of her civilities unrequited. She now opened the door to Mr. Oldbuck, and her surprise at seeing him brought tears into her eyes, which she could hardly restrain.
"I am glad to see you, sir—I am very glad to see you. My poor gentleman is, I am afraid, very unwell; and oh, Mr. Oldbuck, he'll see neither doctor, nor minister, nor writer! And think what it would be, if, as my poor Mr. Hadoway used to say, a man was to die without advice of the three learned faculties!"
"Greatly better than with them," grumbled the cynical Antiquary. "I tell you, Mrs. Hadoway, the clergy live by our sins, the medical faculty by our diseases, and the law gentry by our misfortunes."
"O fie, Monkbarns!—to hear the like o' that frae you!—But yell walk up and see the poor young lad?—Hegh sirs? sae young and weel-favoured—and day by day he has eat less and less, and now he hardly touches onything, only just pits a bit on the plate to make fashion—and his poor cheek has turned every day thinner and paler, sae that he now really looks as auld as me, that might be his mother—no that I might be just that neither, but something very near it."
"Why does he not take some exercise?" said Oldbuck.
"I think we have persuaded him to do that, for he has bought a horse from Gibbie Golightly, the galloping groom. A gude judge o' horse-flesh Gibbie tauld our lass that he was—for he offered him a beast he thought wad answer him weel eneugh, as he was a bookish man, but Mr. Lovel wadna look at it, and bought ane might serve the Master o' Morphie—they keep it at the Graeme's Arms, ower the street;—and he rode out yesterday morning and this morning before breakfast—But winna ye walk up to his room?"
"Presently, presently. But has he no visitors?"
"O dear, Mr. Oldbuck, not ane; if he wadna receive them when he was weel and sprightly, what chance is there of onybody in Fairport looking in upon him now?"
"Ay, ay, very true,—I should have been surprised had it been otherwise—Come, show me up stairs, Mrs. Hadoway, lest I make a blunder, and go where I should not."
The good landlady showed Mr. Oldbuck up her narrow staircase, warning him of every turn, and lamenting all the while that he was laid under the necessity of mounting up so high. At length she gently tapped at the door of her guest's parlour. "Come in," said Lovel; and Mrs. Hadoway ushered in the Laird of Monkbarns.
The little apartment was neat and clean, and decently furnished—ornamented, too, by such relics of her youthful arts of sempstress-ship as Mrs. Hadoway had retained; but it was close, overheated, and, as it appeared to Oldbuck, an unwholesome situation for a young person in delicate health,—an observation which ripened his resolution touching a project that had already occurred to him in Lovel's behalf. With a writing-table before him, on which lay a quantity of books and papers, Lovel was seated on a couch, in his night-gown and slippers. Oldbuck was shocked at the change which had taken place in his personal appearance. His cheek and brow had assumed a ghastly white, except where a round bright spot of hectic red formed a strong and painful contrast, totally different from the general cast of hale and hardy complexion which had formerly overspread and somewhat embrowned his countenance. Oldbuck observed, that the dress he wore belonged to a deep mourning suit, and a coat of the same colour hung on a chair near to him. As the Antiquary entered, Lovel arose and came forward to welcome him.
"This is very kind," he said, shaking him by the hand, and thanking him warmly for his visit—"this is very kind, and has anticipated a visit with which I intended to trouble you. You must know I have become a horseman lately."
"I understand as much from Mrs. Hadoway—I only hope, my good young friend, you have been fortunate in a quiet horse. I myself inadvertently bought one from the said Gibbie Golightly, which brute ran two miles on end with me after a pack of hounds, with which I had no more to do than the last year's snow; and after affording infinite amusement, I suppose, to the whole hunting field, he was so good as to deposit me in a dry ditch—I hope yours is a more peaceful beast?"
"I hope, at least, we shall make our excursions on a better plan of mutual understanding."
"That is to say, you think yourself a good horseman?"
"I would not willingly," answered Lovel, "confess myself a very bad one."
"No—all you young fellows think that would be equal to calling yourselves tailors at once—But have you had experience? for, crede experto, a horse in a passion is no joker."
"Why, I should be sorry to boast myself as a great horseman; but when I acted as aide-de-camp to Sir——in the cavalry action at—, last year, I saw many better cavaliers than myself dismounted."
"Ah! you have looked in the face of the grisly god of arms then?—you are acquainted with the frowns of Mars armipotent? That experience fills up the measure of your qualifications for the epopea! The Britons, however, you will remember, fought in chariots—covinarii is the phrase of Tacitus;—you recollect the fine description of their dashing among the Roman infantry, although the historian tells us how ill the rugged face of the ground was calculated for equestrian combat; and truly, upon the whole, what sort of chariots could be driven in Scotland anywhere but on turnpike roads, has been to me always matter of amazement. And well now—has the Muse visited you?—have you got anything to show me?"
"My time," said Lovel, with a glance at his black dress, "has been less pleasantly employed."
"The death of a friend?" said the Antiquary.
"Yes, Mr. Oldbuck—of almost the only friend I could ever boast of possessing."
"Indeed? Well, young man," replied his visitor, in a tone of seriousness very different from his affected gravity, "be comforted. To have lost a friend by death while your mutual regard was warm and unchilled, while the tear can drop unembittered by any painful recollection of coldness or distrust or treachery, is perhaps an escape from a more heavy dispensation. Look round you—how few do you see grow old in the affections of those with whom their early friendships were formed! Our sources of common pleasure gradually dry up as we journey on through the vale of Bacha, and we hew out to ourselves other reservoirs, from which the first companions of our pilgrimage are excluded;—jealousies, rivalries, envy, intervene to separate others from our side, until none remain but those who are connected with us rather by habit than predilection, or who, allied more in blood than in disposition, only keep the old man company in his life, that they may not be forgotten at his death—
Haec data poena diu viventibus.
Ah, Mr. Lovel! if it be your lot to reach the chill, cloudy, and comfortless evening of life, you will remember the sorrows of your youth as the light shadowy clouds that intercepted for a moment the beams of the sun when it was rising. But I cram these words into your ears against the stomach of your sense."
"I am sensible of your kindness," answered the youth; "but the wound that is of recent infliction must always smart severely, and I should be little comforted under my present calamity—forgive me for saying so—by the conviction that life had nothing in reserve for me but a train of successive sorrows. And permit me to add, you, Mr. Oldbuck, have least reason of many men to take so gloomy a view of life. You have a competent and easy fortune—are generally respected—may, in your own phrase, vacare musis, indulge yourself in the researches to which your taste addicts you; you may form your own society without doors—and within you have the affectionate and sedulous attention of the nearest relatives."
"Why, yes—the womankind, for womankind, are, thanks to my training, very civil and tractable—do not disturb me in my morning studies—creep across the floor with the stealthy pace of a cat, when it suits me to take a nap in my easy-chair after dinner or tea. All this is very well; but I want something to exchange ideas with—something to talk to."
"Then why do you not invite your nephew, Captain M'Intyre, who is mentioned by every one as a fine spirited young fellow, to become a member of your family?"
"Who?" exclaimed Monkbarns, "my nephew Hector?—the Hotspur of the North? Why, Heaven love you, I would as soon invite a firebrand into my stackyard. He's an Almanzor, a Chamont—has a Highland pedigree as long as his claymore, and a claymore as long as the High Street of Fairport, which he unsheathed upon the surgeon the last time he was at Fairport. I expect him here one of these days; but I will keep him at staff's end, I promise you. He an inmate of my house! to make my very chairs and tables tremble at his brawls. No, no—I'll none of Hector M'Intyre. But hark ye, Lovel;—you are a quiet, gentle-tempered lad; had not you better set up your staff at Monkbarns for a month or two, since I conclude you do not immediately intend to leave this country?—I will have a door opened out to the garden—it will cost but a trifle—there is the space for an old one which was condemned long ago—by which said door you may pass and repass into the Green Chamber at pleasure, so you will not interfere with the old man, nor he with you. As for your fare, Mrs. Hadoway tells me you are, as she terms it, very moderate of your mouth, so you will not quarrel with my humble table. Your washing"—
"Hold, my dear Mr. Oldbuck," interposed Lovel, unable to repress a smile; "and before your hospitality settles all my accommodations, let me thank you most sincerely for so kind an offer—it is not at present in my power to accept of it; but very likely, before I bid adieu to Scotland, I shall find an opportunity to pay you a visit of some length."
Mr. Oldbuck's countenance fell. "Why, I thought I had hit on the very arrangement that would suit us both,—and who knows what might happen in the long run, and whether we might ever part? Why, I am master of my acres, man—there is the advantage of being descended from a man of more sense than pride—they cannot oblige me to transmit my goods chattels, and heritages, any way but as I please. No string of substitute heirs of entail, as empty and unsubstantial as the morsels of paper strung to the train of a boy's kite, to cumber my flights of inclination, and my humours of predilection. Well,—I see you won't be tempted at present—but Caledonia goes on I hope?"
"O certainly," said Lovel; "I cannot think of relinquishing a plan so hopeful."
"It is indeed," said the Antiquary, looking gravely upward,—for, though shrewd and acute enough in estimating the variety of plans formed by others, he had a very natural, though rather disproportioned good opinion of the importance of those which originated with himself—"it is indeed one of those undertakings which, if achieved with spirit equal to that which dictates its conception, may redeem from the charge of frivolity the literature of the present generation."
Here he was interrupted by a knock at the room door, which introduced a letter for Mr. Lovel. The servant waited, Mrs. Hadoway said, for an answer. "You are concerned in this matter, Mr. Oldbuck," said Lovel, after glancing over the billet, and handing it to the Antiquary as he spoke.
It was a letter from Sir Arthur Wardour, couched in extremely civil language, regetting that a fit of the gout had prevented his hitherto showing Mr. Lovel the attentions to which his conduct during a late perilous occasion had so well entitled him—apologizing for not paying his respects in person, but hoping Mr. Lovel would dispense with that ceremony, and be a member of a small party which proposed to visit the ruins of Saint Ruth's priory on the following day, and afterwards to dine and spend the evening at Knockwinnock Castle. Sir Arthur concluded with saying, that he had sent to request the Monkbarns family to join the party of pleasure which he thus proposed. The place of rendezvous was fixed at a turnpike-gate, which was about an equal distance from all the points from which the company were to assemble.
"What shall we do?" said Lovel, looking at the Antiquary, but pretty certain of the part he would take.
"Go, man—we'll go, by all means. Let me see—it will cost a post-chaise though, which will hold you and me, and Mary M'Intyre, very well—and the other womankind may go to the manse—and you can come out in the chaise to Monkbarns, as I will take it for the day."
"Why, I rather think I had better ride."
"True, true, I forgot your Bucephalus. You are a foolish lad, by the by, for purchasing the brute outright; you should stick to eighteenpence a side, if you will trust any creature's legs in preference to your own."
"Why, as the horse's have the advantage of moving considerably faster, and are, besides, two pair to one, I own I incline"—
"Enough said—enough said—do as you please. Well then, I'll bring either Grizel or the minister, for I love to have my full pennyworth out of post-horses—and we meet at Tirlingen turnpike on Friday, at twelve o'clock precisely. "—And with this ageement the friends separated.
Of seats they tell, where priests, 'mid tapers dim, Breathed the warm prayer, or tuned the midnight hymn To scenes like these the fainting soul retired; Revenge and Anger in these cells expired: By Pity soothed, Remorse lost half her fears, And softened Pride dropped penitential tears. Crabbe's Borough.
The morning of Friday was as serene and beautiful as if no pleasure party had been intended; and that is a rare event, whether in novel-writing or real life. Lovel, who felt the genial influence of the weather, and rejoiced at the prospect of once more meeting with Miss Wardour, trotted forward to the place of rendezvous with better spirits than he had for some time enjoyed. His prospects seemed in many respects to open and brighten before him—and hope, although breaking like the morning sun through clouds and showers, appeared now about to illuminate the path before him. He was, as might have been expected from this state of spirits, first at the place of meeting,—and, as might also have been anticipated, his looks were so intently directed towards the road from Knockwinnock Castles that he was only apprized of the arrival of the Monkbarns division by the gee-hupping of the postilion, as the post-chaise lumbered up behind him. In this vehicle were pent up, first, the stately figure of Mr. Oldbuck himself; secondly, the scarce less portly person of the Reverend Mr. Blattergowl, minister of Trotcosey, the parish in which Monkbarns and Knockwinnock were both situated. The reverend gentleman was equipped in a buzz wig, upon the top of which was an equilateral cocked hat. This was the paragon of the three yet remaining wigs of the parish, which differed, as Monkbarns used to remark, like the three degrees of comparison—Sir Arthur's ramilies being the positive, his own bob-wig the comparative, and the overwhelming grizzle of the worthy clergyman figuring as the superlative. The superintendent of these antique garnitures, deeming, or affecting to deem, that he could not well be absent on an occasion which assembled all three together, had seated himself on the board behind the carriage, "just to be in the way in case they wanted a touch before the gentlemen sat down to dinner." Between the two massive figures of Monkbarns and the clergyman was stuck, by way of bodkin, the slim form of Mary M'Intyre, her aunt having preferred a visit to the manse, and a social chat with Miss Beckie Blattergowl, to investigating the ruins of the priory of Saint Ruth.
As greetings passed between the members of the Monkbarns party and Mr. Lovel, the Baronet's carriage, an open barouche, swept onward to the place of appointment, making, with its smoking bays, smart drivers, arms, blazoned panels, and a brace of outriders, a strong contrast with the battered vehicle and broken-winded hacks which had brought thither the Antiquary and his followers. The principal seat of the carriage was occupied by Sir Arthur and his daughter. At the first glance which passed betwixt Miss Wardour and Lovel, her colour rose considerably;—but she had apparently made up her mind to receive him as a friend, and only as such, and there was equal composure and courtesy in the mode of her reply to his fluttered salutation. Sir Arthur halted the barouche to shake his preserver kindly by the hand, and intimate the pleasure he had on this opportunity of returning him his personal thanks; then mentioned to him, in a tone of slight introduction, "Mr. Dousterswivel, Mr. Lovel."
Lovel took the necessary notice of the German adept, who occupied the front seat of the carriage, which is usually conferred upon dependants or inferiors. The ready grin and supple inclination with which his salutation, though slight, was answered by the foreigner, increased the internal dislike which Lovel had already conceived towards him; and it was plain, from the lower of the Antiquary's shaggy eye-brow, that he too looked with displeasure on this addition to the company. Little more than distant greeting passed among the members of the party, until, having rolled on for about three miles beyond the place at which they met, the carriages at length stopped at the sign of the Four Horse-shoes, a small hedge inn, where Caxon humbly opened the door, and let down the step of the hack-chaise, while the inmates of the barouche were, by their more courtly attendants, assisted to leave their equipage.
Here renewed greetings passed: the young ladies shook hands; and Oldbuck, completely in his element, placed himself as guide and cicerone at the head of the party, who were now to advance on foot towards the object of their curiosity. He took care to detain Lovel close beside him as the best listener of the party, and occasionally glanced a word of explanation and instruction to Miss Wardour and Mary M'Intyre, who followed next in order. The Baronet and the clergyman he rather avoided, as he was aware both of them conceived they understood such matters as well, or better than he did; and Dousterswivel, besides that he looked on him as a charlatan, was so nearly connected with his apprehended loss in the stock of the mining company, that he could not abide the sight of him. These two latter satellites, therefore, attended upon the orb of Sir Arthur, to whom, moreover, as the most important person of the society, they were naturally induced to attach themselves.
It frequently happens that the most beautiful points of Scottish scenery lie hidden in some sequestered dell, and that you may travel through the country in every direction without being aware of your vicinity to what is well worth seeing, unless intention or accident carry you to the very spot. This is particularly the case in the country around Fairport, which is, generally speaking, open, unenclosed, and bare. But here and there the progress of rills, or small rivers, has formed dells, glens, or as they are provincially termed, dens, on whose high and rocky banks trees and shrubs of all kinds find a shelter, and grow with a luxuriant profusion, which is the more gratifying, as it forms an unexpected contrast with the general face of the country. This was eminently the case with the approach to the ruins of Saint Ruth, which was for some time merely a sheep-track, along the side of a steep and bare hill. By degrees, however, as this path descended, and winded round the hillside, trees began to appear, at first singly, stunted, and blighted, with locks of wool upon their trunks, and their roots hollowed out into recesses, in which the sheep love to repose themselves—a sight much more gratifying to the eye of an admirer of the picturesque than to that of a planter or forester. By and by the trees formed groups, fringed on the edges, and filled up in the middle, by thorns and hazel bushes; and at length these groups closed so much together, that although a broad glade opened here and there under their boughs, or a small patch of bog or heath occurred which had refused nourishment to the seed which they sprinkled round, and consequently remained open and waste, the scene might on the whole be termed decidedly woodland. The sides of the valley began to approach each other more closely; the rush of a brook was heard below, and between the intervals afforded by openings in the natural wood, its waters were seen hurling clear and rapid under their silvan canopy.
Oldbuck now took upon himself the full authority of cicerone, and anxiously directed the company not to go a foot-breadth off the track which he pointed out to them, if they wished to enjoy in full perfection what they came to see. "You are happy in me for a guide, Miss Wardour," exclaimed the veteran, waving his hand and head in cadence as he repeated with emphasis,
I know each lane, and every alley green, Dingle, or bushy dell, of this wild wood, And every bosky bower from side to side. *
* (Milton's Comus.)
Ah! deuce take it!—that spray of a bramble has demolished all Caxon's labours, and nearly canted my wig into the stream—so much for recitations, hors de propos."
"Never mind, my dear sir," said Miss Wardour; "you have your faithful attendant ready to repair such a disaster when it happens, and when you appear with it as restored to its original splendour, I will carry on the quotation:
So sinks the day-star in the ocean bed, And yet anon repairs his drooping head, And tricks his beams, and with new-spangled ore Flames on the forehead"—*
"O! enough, enough!" answered Oldbuck; "I ought to have known what it was to give you advantage over me—But here is what will stop your career of satire, for you are an admirer of nature, I know." In fact, when they had followed him through a breach in a low, ancient, and ruinous wall, they came suddenly upon a scene equally unexpected and interesting.
They stood pretty high upon the side of the glen, which had suddenly opened into a sort of amphitheatre to give room for a pure and profound lake of a few acres extent, and a space of level ground around it. The banks then arose everywhere steeply, and in some places were varied by rocks—in others covered with the copse, which run up, feathering their sides lightly and irregularly, and breaking the uniformity of the green pasture-ground.—Beneath, the lake discharged itself into the huddling and tumultuous brook, which had been their companion since they had entered the glen. At the point at which it issued from "its parent lake," stood the ruins which they had come to visit. They were not of great extent; but the singular beauty, as well as the wild and sequestered character of the spot on which they were situated, gave them an interest and importance superior to that which attaches itself to architectural remains of greater consequence, but placed near to ordinary houses, and possessing less romantic accompaniments. The eastern window of the church remained entire, with all its ornaments and tracery work; and the sides, upheld by flying buttresses whose airy support, detached from the wall against which they were placed, and ornamented with pinnacles and carved work, gave a variety and lightness to the building. The roof and western end of the church were completely ruinous; but the latter appeared to have made one side of a square, of which the ruins of the conventual buildings formed other two, and the gardens a fourth. The side of these buildings which overhung the brook, was partly founded on a steep and precipitous rock; for the place had been occasionally turned to military purposes, and had been taken with great slaughter during Montrose's wars. The ground formerly occupied by the garden was still marked by a few orchard trees. At a greater distance from the buildings were detached oaks and elms and chestnuts, growing singly, which had attained great size. The rest of the space between the ruins and the hill was a close-cropt sward, which the daily pasture of the sheep kept in much finer order than if it had been subjected to the scythe and broom. The whole scene had a repose, which was still and affecting without being monotonous. The dark, deep basin, in which the clear blue lake reposed, reflecting the water lilies which grew on its surface, and the trees which here and there threw their arms from the banks, was finely contrasted with the haste and tumult of the brook which broke away from the outlet, as if escaping from confinement and hurried down the glen, wheeling around the base of the rock on which the ruins were situated, and brawling in foam and fury with every shelve and stone which obstructed its passage. A similar contrast was seen between the level green meadow, in which the ruins were situated, and the large timber-trees which were scattered over it, compared with the precipitous banks which arose at a short distance around, partly fringed with light and feathery underwood, partly rising in steeps clothed with purple heath, and partly more abruptly elevated into fronts of grey rock, chequered with lichen, and with those hardy plants which find root even in the most arid crevices of the crags.
"There was the retreat of learning in the days of darkness, Mr. Lovel!" said Oldbuck,—around whom the company had now grouped themselves while they admired the unexpected opening of a prospect so romantic;—"there reposed the sages who were aweary of the world, and devoted either to that which was to come, or to the service of the generations who should follow them in this. I will show you presently the library;—see that stretch of wall with square-shafted windows—there it existed, stored, as an old manuscript in my possession assures me, with five thousand volumes. And here I might well take up the lamentation of the learned Leland, who, regretting the downfall of the conventual libraries, exclaims, like Rachel weeping for her children, that if the Papal laws, decrees, decretals, clementines, and other such drugs of the devil—yea, if Heytesburg's sophisms, Porphyry's universals, Aristotle's logic, and Dunse's divinity, with such other lousy legerdemains (begging your pardon, Miss Wardour) and fruits of the bottomless pit,—had leaped out of our libraries, for the accommodation of grocers, candlemakers, soapsellers, and other worldly occupiers, we might have been therewith contented. But to put our ancient chronicles, our noble histories, our learned commentaries, and national muniments, to such offices of contempt and subjection, has greatly degraded our nation, and showed ourselves dishonoured in the eyes of posterity to the utmost stretch of time—O negligence most unfriendly to our land!"
"And, O John Knox" said the Baronet, "through whose influence, and under whose auspices, the patriotic task was accomplished!"
The Antiquary, somewhat in the situation of a woodcock caught in his own springe, turned short round and coughed, to excuse a slight blush as he mustered his answer—"as to the Apostle of the Scottish Reformation"—
But Miss Wardour broke in to interrupt a conversation so dangerous. "Pray, who was the author you quoted, Mr. Oldbuck?"
"The learned Leland, Miss Wardour, who lost his senses on witnessing the destruction of the conventual libraries in England."
"Now, I think," replied the young lady, "his misfortune may have saved the rationality of some modern antiquaries, which would certainly have been drowned if so vast a lake of learning had not been diminished by draining."
"Well, thank Heaven, there is no danger now—they have hardly left us a spoonful in which to perform the dire feat."
So saying, Mr. Oldbuck led the way down the bank, by a steep but secure path, which soon placed them on the verdant meadow where the ruins stood. "There they lived," continued the Antiquary, "with nought to do but to spend their time in investigating points of remote antiquity, transcribing manuscripts, and composing new works for the information of posterity."
"And," added the Baronet, "in exercising the rites of devotion with a pomp and ceremonial worthy of the office of the priesthood."
"And if Sir Arthur's excellence will permit," said the German, with a low bow, "the monksh might also make de vary curious experiment in deir laboraties, both in chemistry and magia naturalis."
"I think," said the clergyman, "they would have enough to do in collecting the teinds of the parsonage and vicarage of three good parishes."
"And all," added Miss Wardour, nodding to the Antiquary, "without interruption from womankind."
"True, my fair foe," said Oldbuck; "this was a paradise where no Eve was admitted, and we may wonder the rather by what chance the good fathers came to lose it."
With such criticisms on the occupations of those by whom the ruins had been formerly possessed, they wandered for some time from one moss-grown shrine to another, under the guidance of Oldbuck, who explained, with much plausibility, the ground-plan of the edifice, and read and expounded to the company the various mouldering inscriptions which yet were to be traced upon the tombs of the dead, or under the vacant niches of the sainted images.
"What is the reason," at length Miss Wardour asked the Antiquary, "why tradition has preserved to us such meagre accounts of the inmates of these stately edifices, raised with such expense of labour and taste, and whose owners were in their times personages of such awful power and importance? The meanest tower of a freebooting baron or squire who lived by his lance and broadsword, is consecrated by its appropriate legend, and the shepherd will tell you with accuracy the names and feats of its inhabitants;—but ask a countryman concerning these beautiful and extensive remains—these towers, these arches, and buttresses, and shafted windows, reared at such cost,—three words fill up his answer—they were made up by the monks lang syne.'"
The question was somewhat puzzling. Sir Arthur looked upward, as if hoping to be inspired with an answer—Oldbuck shoved back his wig—the clergyman was of opinion that his parishioners were too deeply impressed with the true presbyterian doctrine to preserve any records concerning the papistical cumberers of the land, offshoots as they were of the great overshadowing tree of iniquity, whose roots are in the bowels of the seven hills of abomination—Lovel thought the question was best resolved by considering what are the events which leave the deepest impression on the minds of the common people—"These," he contended, "were not such as resemble the gradual progress of a fertilizing river, but the headlong and precipitous fury of some portentous flood. The eras by which the vulgar compute time, have always reference to some period of fear and tribulation, and they date by a tempest, an earthquake, or burst of civil commotion. When such are the facts most alive, in the memory of the common people, we cannot wonder," he concluded, "that the ferocious warrior is remembered, and the peaceful abbots are abandoned to forgetfulness and oblivion."
"If you pleashe, gentlemans and ladies, and ashking pardon of Sir Arthur and Miss Wardour, and this worthy clergymansh, and my goot friend Mr. Oldenbuck, who is my countrymansh, and of goot young Mr. Lofel also, I think it is all owing to de hand of glory."
"The hand of what?" exclaimed Oldbuck.
"De hand of glory, my goot Master Oldenbuck, which is a vary great and terrible secrets—which de monksh used to conceal their treasures when they were triven from their cloisters by what you call de Reform."
"Ay, indeed! tell us about that," said Oldbuck, "for these are secrets worth knowing."
"Why, my goot Master Oldenbuck, you will only laugh at me—But de hand of glory is vary well known in de countries where your worthy progenitors did live—and it is hand cut off from a dead man, as has been hanged for murther, and dried very nice in de shmoke of juniper wood; and if you put a little of what you call yew wid your juniper, it will not be any better—that is, it will not be no worse—then you do take something of de fatsh of de bear, and of de badger, and of de great eber, as you call de grand boar, and of de little sucking child as has not been christened (for dat is very essentials), and you do make a candle, and put it into de hand of glory at de proper hour and minute, with de proper ceremonish, and he who seeksh for treasuresh shall never find none at all,"
"I dare take my corporal oath of that conclusion," said the Antiquary. "And was it the custom, Mr. Dousterswivel, in Westphalia, to make use of this elegant candelabrum?"
"Alwaysh, Mr. Oldenbuck, when you did not want nobody to talk of nothing you wash doing about—And the monksh alwaysh did this when they did hide their church-plates, and their great chalices, and de rings, wid very preshious shtones and jewels."
"But, notwithstanding, you knights of the Rosy Cross have means, no doubt, of breaking the spell, and discovering what the poor monks have put themselves to so much trouble to conceal?"
"Ah! goot Mr. Oldenbuck," replied the adept, shaking his head mysteriously, "you was very hard to believe; but if you had seen de great huge pieces of de plate so massive, Sir Arthur,—so fine fashion, Miss Wardour—and de silver cross dat we did find (dat was Schroepfer and my ownself) for de Herr Freygraf, as you call de Baron Von Blunderhaus, I do believe you would have believed then."
"Seeing is believing indeed. But what was your art—what was your mystery, Mr. Dousterswivel?"
"Aha, Mr. Oldenbuck! dat is my little secret, mine goot sir—you sall forgife me that I not tell that. But I will tell you dere are various ways—yes, indeed, dere is de dream dat you dream tree times—dat is a vary goot way."
"I am glad of that," said Oldbuck; "I have a friend" (with a side-glance to Lovel) "who is peculiarly favoured by the visits of Queen Mab."
"Den dere is de sympathies, and de antipathies, and de strange properties and virtues natural of divers herb, and of de little divining-rod."
"I would gladly rather see some of these wonders than hear of them," said Miss Wardour.
"Ah, but, my much-honoured young lady, this is not de time or de way to do de great wonder of finding all de church's plate and treasure; but to oblige you, and Sir Arthur my patron, and de reverend clergymans, and goot Mr. Oldenbuck, and young Mr. Lofel, who is a very goot young gentleman also, I will show you dat it is possible, a vary possible, to discover de spring, of water, and de little fountain hidden in de ground, without any mattock, or spade, or dig at all."
"Umph!" quoth the Antiquary, "I have heard of that conundrum. That will be no very productive art in our country;—you should carry that property to Spain or Portugal, and turn it to good account."
"Ah! my goot Master Oldenbuck, dere is de Inquisition and de Auto-da-fe—they would burn me, who am but a simple philosopher, for one great conjurer."
"They would cast away their coals then," said Oldbuck; "but," continued he, in a whisper to Lovel, "were they to pillory him for one of the most impudent rascals that ever wagged a tongue, they would square the punishment more accurately with his deserts. But let us see: I think he is about to show us some of his legerdemain."
In truth, the German was now got to a little copse-thicket at some distance from the ruins, where he affected busily to search for such a wand as would suit the purpose of his mystery: and after cutting and examining, and rejecting several, he at length provided himself with a small twig of hazel terminating in a forked end, which he pronounced to possess the virtue proper for the experiment that he was about to exhibit. Holding the forked ends of the wand, each between a finger and thumb, and thus keeping the rod upright, he proceeded to pace the ruined aisles and cloisters, followed by the rest of the company in admiring procession. "I believe dere was no waters here," said the adept, when he had made the round of several of the buildings, without perceiving any of those indications which he pretended to expect—"I believe those Scotch monksh did find de water too cool for de climate, and alwaysh drank de goot comfortable, Rhinewine. But, aha!—see there!" Accordingly, the assistants observed the rod to turn in his fingers, although he pretended to hold it very tight.—"Dere is water here about, sure enough," and, turning this way and that way, as the agitation of the divining-rod seemed to increase or diminish, he at length advanced into the midst of a vacant and roofless enclosure which had been the kitchen of the priory, when the rod twisted itself so as to point almost straight downwards. "Here is de place," said the adept, "and if you do not find de water here, I will give you all leave to call me an impudent knave."
"I shall take that license," whispered the Antiquary to Lovel, "whether the water is discovered or no."
A servant, who had come up with a basket of cold refreshments, was now despatched to a neighbouring forester's hut for a mattock and pick-axe. The loose stones and rubbish being removed from the spot indicated by the German, they soon came to the sides of a regularly-built well; and when a few feet of rubbish were cleared out by the assistance of the forester and his sons, the water began to rise rapidly, to the delight of the philosopher, the astonishment of the ladies, Mr. Blattergowl, and Sir Arthur, the surprise of Lovel, and the confusion of the incredulous Antiquary. He did not fail, however, to enter his protest in Lovers ear against the miracle. "This is a mere trick," he said; "the rascal had made himself sure of the existence of this old well, by some means or other, before he played off this mystical piece of jugglery. Mark what he talks of next. I am much mistaken if this is not intended as a prelude to some more serious fraud. See how the rascal assumes consequence, and plumes himself upon the credit of his success, and how poor Sir Arthur takes in the tide of nonsense which he is delivering to him as principles of occult science!"
"You do see, my goot patron, you do see, my goot ladies, you do see, worthy Dr. Bladderhowl, and even Mr. Lofel and Mr. Oldenbuck may see, if they do will to see, how art has no enemy at all but ignorance. Look at this little slip of hazel nuts—it is fit for nothing at all but to whip de little child"—("I would choose a cat and nine tails for your occasions," whispered Oldbuck apart)—"and you put it in the hands of a philosopher—paf! it makes de grand discovery. But this is nothing, Sir Arthur,—nothing at all, worthy Dr. Botherhowl—nothing at all, ladies—nothing at all, young Mr. Lofel and goot Mr. Oldenbuck, to what art can do. Ah! if dere was any man that had de spirit and de courage, I would show him better things than de well of water—I would show him"—
"And a little money would be necessary also, would it not?" said the Antiquary.
"Bah! one trifle, not worth talking about, maight be necessaries," answered the adept.
"I thought as much," rejoined the Antiquary, drily; "and I, in the meanwhile, without any divining-rod, will show you an excellent venison pasty, and a bottle of London particular Madeira, and I think that will match all that Mr. Dousterswivel's art is like to exhibit."
The feast was spread fronde super viridi, as Oldbuck expressed himself, under a huge old tree called the Prior's Oak, and the company, sitting down around it, did ample honour to the, contents of the basket.
As when a Gryphon through the wilderness, With winged course, o'er hill and moory dale, Pursues the Arimaspian, who by stealth Had from his wakeful custody purloined The guarded gold: So eagerly the Fiend— Paradise Lost.
When their collation was ended, Sir Arthur resumed the account of the mysteries of the divining-rod, as a subject on which he had formerly conversed with Dousterswivel. "My friend Mr. Oldbuck will now be prepared, Mr. Dousterswivel, to listen with more respect to the stories you have told us of the late discoveries in Germany by the brethren of your association."
"Ah, Sir Arthur, that was not a thing to speak to those gentlemans, because it is want of credulity—what you call faith—that spoils the great enterprise."
"At least, however, let my daughter read the narrative she has taken down of the story of Martin Waldeck."
"Ah! that was vary true story—but Miss Wardour, she is so sly and so witty, that she has made it just like one romance—as well as Goethe or Wieland could have done it, by mine honest wort."
"To say the truth, Mr. Dousterswivel," answered Miss Wardour, "the romantic predominated in the legend so much above the probable, that it was impossible for a lover of fairyland like me to avoid lending a few touches to make it perfect in its kind. But here it is, and if you do not incline to leave this shade till the heat of the day has somewhat declined, and will have sympathy with my bad composition, perhaps Sir Arthur or Mr. Oldbuck will read it to us."
"Not I," said Sir Arthur; "I was never fond of reading aloud."
"Nor I," said Oldbuck, "for I have forgot my spectacles. But here is Lovel, with sharp eyes and a good voice; for Mr. Blattergowl, I know, never reads anything, lest he should be suspected of reading his sermons."
The task was therefore imposed upon Lovel, who received, with some trepidation, as Miss Wardour delivered, with a little embarrassment, a paper containing the lines traced by that fair hand, the possession of which he coveted as the highest blessing the earth could offer to him. But there was a necessity of suppressing his emotions; and after glancing over the manuscript, as if to become acquainted with the character, he collected himself, and read the company the following tale:—
[The outline of this story is taken from the German, though the Author is at present unable to say in which of the various collections of the popular legends in that language the original is to be found.]
The occupation of the inhabitants, who are either miners or foresters, is of a kind that renders them peculiarly prone to superstition, and the natural phenomena which they witness in pursuit of their solitary or subterraneous profession, are often set down by them to the interference of goblins or the power of magic. Among the various legends current in that wild country, there is a favourite one, which supposes the Harz to be haunted by a sort of tutelar demon, in the shape of a wild man, of huge stature, his head wreathed with oak leaves, and his middle cinctured with the same, bearing in his hand a pine torn up by the roots. It is certain that many persons profess to have seen such a form traversing, with huge strides, in a line parallel to their own course, the opposite ridge of a mountain, when divided from it by a narrow glen; and indeed the fact of the apparition is so generally admitted, that modern scepticism has only found refuge by ascribing it to optical deception. *
*The shadow of the person who sees the phantom, being reflected upon a cloud of mist, like the image of the magic lantern upon a white sheet, is supposed to have formed the apparition.
In elder times, the intercourse of the demon with the inhabitants was more familiar, and, according to the traditions of the Harz, he was wont, with the caprice usually ascribed to these earth-born powers, to interfere with the affairs of mortals, sometimes for their weal, sometimes for their wo. But it was observed that even his gifts often turned out, in the long run, fatal to those on whom they were bestowed, and it was no uncommon thing for the pastors, in their care of their flocks, to compose long sermons, the burden whereof was a warning against having any intercourse, direct or indirect, with the Harz demon. The fortunes of Martin Waldeck have been often quoted by the aged to their giddy children, when they were heard to scoff at a danger which appeared visionary.
A travelling capuchin had possessed himself of the pulpit of the thatched church at a little hamlet called Morgenbrodt, lying in the Harz district, from which he declaimed against the wickedness of the inhabitants, their communication with fiends, witches, and fairies, and, in particular, with the woodland goblin of the Harz. The doctrines of Luther had already begun to spread among the peasantry (for the incident is placed under the reign of Charles V. ), and they laughed to scorn the zeal with which the venerable man insisted upon his topic. At length, as his vehemence increased with opposition, so their opposition rose in proportion to his vehemence. The inhabitants did not like to hear an accustomed quiet demon, who had inhabited the Brockenberg for so many ages, summarily confounded with Baal-peor, Ashtaroth, and Beelzebub himself, and condemned without reprieve to the bottomless Tophet. The apprehensions that the spirit might avenge himself on them for listening to such an illiberal sentence, added to their national interest in his behalf. A travelling friar, they said, that is here to-day and away to-morrow, may say what he pleases: but it is we, the ancient and constant inhabitants of the country, that are left at the mercy of the insulted demon, and must, of course, pay for all. Under the irritation occasioned by these reflections, the peasants from injurious language betook themselves to stones, and having pebbled the priest pretty handsomely, they drove him out of the parish to preach against demons elsewhere.
Three young men, who had been present and assisting on this occasion were upon their return to the hut where they carried on the laborious and mean occupation of preparing charcoal for the smelting furnaces. On the way, their conversation naturally turned upon the demon of the Harz and the doctrine of the capuchin. Max and George Waldeck, the two elder brothers, although they allowed the language of the capuchin to have been indiscreet and worthy of censure, as presuming to determine upon the precise character and abode of the spirit, yet contended it was dangerous, in the highest degree, to accept of his gifts, or hold any communication with him, He was powerful, they allowed, but wayward and capricious, and those who had intercourse with him seldom came to a good end. Did he not give the brave knight, Ecbert of Rabenwald, that famous black steed, by means of which he vanquished all the champions at the great tournament at Bremen? and did not the same steed afterwards precipitate itself with its rider into an abyss so steep and fearful, that neither horse nor man were ever seen more? Had he not given to Dame Gertrude Trodden a curious spell for making butter come? and was she not burnt for a witch by the grand criminal judge of the Electorate, because she availed herself of his gift? But these, and many other instances which they quoted, of mischance and ill-luck ultimately attending on the apparent benefits conferred by the Harz spirit, failed to make any impression upon Martin Waldeck, the youngest of the brothers.
Martin was youthful, rash, and impetuous; excelling in all the exercises which distinguish a mountaineer, and brave and undaunted from his familiar intercourse with the dangers that attend them. He laughed at the timidity of his brothers. "Tell me not of such folly," he said; "the demon is a good demon—he lives among us as if he were a peasant like ourselves—haunts the lonely crags and recesses of the mountains like a huntsman or goatherd—and he who loves the Harz forest and its wild scenes cannot be indifferent to the fate of the hardy children of the soil. But, if the demon were as malicious as you would make him, how should he derive power over mortals, who barely avail themselves of his gifts, without binding themselves to submit to his pleasure? When you carry your charcoal to the furnace, is not the money as good that is paid you by blaspheming Blaize, the old reprobate overseer, as if you got it from the pastor himself? It is not the goblins gifts which can endanger you, then, but it is the use you shall make of them that you must account for. And were the demon to appear to me at this moment, and indicate to me a gold or silver mine, I would begin to dig away even before his back were turned,—and I would consider myself as under protection of a much Greater than he, while I made a good use of the wealth he pointed out to me."
To this the elder brother replied, that wealth ill won was seldom well spent; while Martin presumptuously declared, that the possession of all the treasures of the Harz would not make the slightest alteration on his habits, morals, or character.
His brother entreated Martin to talk less wildly upon the subject, and with some difficulty contrived to withdraw his attention, by calling it to the consideration of the approaching boar-chase. This talk brought them to their hut, a wretched wigwam, situated upon one side of a wild, narrow, and romantic dell, in the recesses of the Brockenberg. They released their sister from attending upon the operation of charring the wood, which requires constant attention, and divided among themselves the duty of watching it by night, according to their custom, one always waking, while his brothers slept.
Max Waldeck, the eldest, watched during the first two hours of the night, and was considerably alarmed by observing, upon the opposite bank of the glen, or valley, a huge fire surrounded by some figures that appeared to wheel around it with antic gestures. Max at first bethought him of calling up his brothers; but recollecting the daring character of the youngest, and finding it impossible to wake the elder without also disturbing Martin—conceiving also what he saw to be an illusion of the demon, sent perhaps in consequence of the venturous expressions used by Martin on the preceding evening, he thought it best to betake himself to the safeguard of such prayers as he could murmur over, and to watch in great terror and annoyance this strange and alarming apparition. After blazing for some time, the fire faded gradually away into darkness, and the rest of Max's watch was only disturbed by the remembrance of its terrors.
George now occupied the place of Max, who had retired to rest. The phenomenon of a huge blazing fire, upon the opposite bank of the glen, again presented itself to the eye of the watchman. It was surrounded as before by figures, which, distinguished by their opaque forms, being between the spectator and the red glaring light, moved and fluctuated around it as if engaged in some mystical ceremony. George, though equally cautious, was of a bolder character than his elder brother. He resolved to examine more nearly the object of his wonder; and, accordingly after crossing the rivulet which divided the glen, he climbed up the opposite bank, and approached within an arrow's flight of the fire, which blazed apparently with the same fury as when he first witnessed it.
The appearance, of the assistants who surrounded it resembled those phantoms which are seen in a troubled dream, and at once confirmed the idea he had entertained from the first, that they did not belong to the human world. Amongst these strange unearthly forms, George Waldeck distinguished that of a giant overgrown with hair, holding an uprooted fir in his hand, with which, from time to time, he seemed to stir the blazing fire, and having no other clothing than a wreath of oak leaves around his forehead and loins. George's heart sunk within him at recognising the well-known apparition of the Harz demon, as he had been often described to him by the ancient shepherds and huntsmen who had seen his form traversing the mountains. He turned, and was about to fly; but upon second thoughts, blaming his own cowardice, he recited mentally the verse of the Psalmist, "All good angels, praise the Lord!" which is in that country supposed powerful as an exorcism, and turned himself once more towards the place where he had seen the fire. But it was no longer visible.
The pale moon alone enlightened the side of the valley; and when George, with trembling steps, a moist brow, and hair bristling upright under his collier's cap, came to the spot on which the fire had been so lately visible, marked as it was by a scathed oak-tree, there appeared not on the heath the slightest vestiges of what he had seen. The moss and wild flowers were unscorched, and the branches of the oak-tree, which had so lately appeared enveloped in wreaths of flame and smoke, were moist with the dews of midnight.
George returned to his hut with trembling steps, and, arguing like his elder brother, resolved to say nothing of what he had seen, lest he should awake in Martin that daring curiosity which he almost deemed to be allied with impiety.
It was now Martin's turn to watch. The household cock had given his first summons, and the night was well-nigh spent. Upon examining the state of the furnace in which the wood was deposited in order to its being coked or charred, he was surprised to find that the fire had not been sufficiently maintained; for in his excursion and its consequences, George had forgot the principal object of his watch. Martin's first thought was to call up the slumberers; but observing that both his brothers slept unwontedly deep and heavily, he respected their repose, and set himself to supply the furnace with fuel without requiring their aid. What he heaped upon it was apparently damp and unfit for the purpose, for the fire seemed rather to decay than revive. Martin next went to collect some boughs from a stack which had been carefully cut and dried for this purpose; but, when he returned, he found the fire totally extinguished. This was a serious evil, and threatened them with loss of their trade for more than one day. The vexed and mortified watchman set about to strike a light in order to rekindle the fire but the tinder was moist, and his labour proved in this respect also ineffectual. He was now about to call up his brothers, for circumstances seemed to be pressing, when flashes of light glimmered not only through the window, but through every crevice of the rudely built hut, and summoned him to behold the same apparition which had before alarmed the successive watches of his brethren. His first idea was, that the Muhllerhaussers, their rivals in trade, and with whom they had had many quarrels, might have encroached upon their bounds for the purpose of pirating their wood; and he resolved to awake his brothers, and be revenged on them for their audacity. But a short reflection and observation on the gestures and manner of those who seemed to "work in the fire," induced him to dismiss this belief, and although rather sceptical in such matters, to conclude that what he saw was a supernatural phenomenon. "But be they men or fiends," said the undaunted forester, "that busy themselves yonder with such fantastical rites and gestures, I will go and demand a light to rekindle our furnace." He, relinquished at the same time the idea of awaking his brethren. There was a belief that such adventures as he was about to undertake were accessible only to one person at a time; he feared also that his brothers, in their scrupulous timidity, might interfere to prevent his pursuing the investigation he had resolved to commence; and, therefore, snatching his boar-spear from the wall, the undaunted Martin Waldeck set forth on the adventure alone.
With the same success as his brother George, but with courage far superior, Martin crossed the brook, ascended the hill, and approached so near the ghostly assembly, that he could recognise, in the presiding figure, the attributes of the Harz demon. A cold shuddering assailed him for the first time in his life; but the recollection that he had at a distance dared and even courted the intercourse which was now about to take place, confirmed his staggering courage; and pride supplying what he wanted in resolution, he advanced with tolerable firmness towards the fire, the figures which surrounded it appearing still more wild, fantastical, and supernatural, the more near he approached to the assembly. He was received with a loud shout of discordant and unnatural laughter, which, to his stunned ears, seemed more alarming than a combination of the most dismal and melancholy sounds that could be imagined. "Who art thou?" said the giant, compressing his savage and exaggerated features into a sort of forced gravity, while they were occasionally agitated by the convulsion of the laughter which he seemed to suppress.
"Martin Waldeck, the forester," answered the hardy youth;—"and who are you?"
"The King of the Waste and of the Mine," answered the spectre;—"and why hast thou dared to encroach on my mysteries?"
"I came in search of light to rekindle my fire," answered Martin, hardily, and then resolutely asked in his turn, "What mysteries are those that you celebrate here?"
"We celebrate," answered the complaisant demon, "the wedding of Hermes with the Black Dragon—But take thy fire that thou camest to seek, and begone! no mortal may look upon us and live."
The peasant struck his spear-point into a large piece of blazing wood, which he heaved up with some difficulty, and then turned round to regain his hut, the, shouts of laughter being renewed behind him with treble violence, and ringing far down the narrow valley. When Martin returned to the hut, his first care, however much astonished with what he had seen, was to dispose the kindled coal among the fuel so as might best light the fire of his furnace; but after many efforts, and all exertions of bellows and fire-prong, the coal he had brought from the demon's fire became totally extinct without kindling any of the others. He turned about, and observed the fire still blazing on the hill, although those who had been busied around it had disappeared. As he conceived the spectre had been jesting with him, he gave way to the natural hardihood of his temper, and, determining to see the adventure to an end, resumed the road to the fire, from which, unopposed by the demon, he brought off in the same manner a blazing piece of charcoal, but still without being able to succeed in lighting his fire. Impunity having increased his rashness, he resolved upon a third experiment, and was as successful as before in reaching the fire; but when he had again appropriated a piece of burning coal, and had turned to depart, he heard the harsh and supernatural voice which had before accosted him, pronounce these words, "Dare not return hither a fourth time!"
The attempt to kindle the fire with this last coal having proved as ineffectual as on the former occasions, Martin relinquished the hopeless attempt, and flung himself on his bed of leaves, resolving to delay till the next morning the communication of his supernatural adventure to his brothers. He was awakened from a heavy sleep into which he had sunk, from fatigue of body and agitation of mind, by loud exclamations of surprise and joy. His brothers, astonished at finding the fire extinguished when they awoke, had proceeded to arrange the fuel in order to renew it, when they found in the ashes three huge metallic masses, which their skill (for most of the peasants in the Harz are practical mineralogists) immediately ascertained to be pure gold.
It was some damp upon their joyful congratulations when they learned from Martin the mode in which he had obtained this treasure, to which their own experience of the nocturnal vision induced them to give full credit. But they were unable to resist the temptation of sharing in their brother's wealth. Taking now upon him as head of the house, Martin Waldeck bought lands and forests, built a castle, obtained a patent of nobility, and, greatly to the indignation of the ancient aristocracy of the neighbourhood, was invested with all the privileges of a man of family. His courage in public war, as well as in private feuds, together with the number of retainers whom he kept in pay, sustained him for some time against the odium which was excited by his sudden elevation, and the arrogance of his pretensions.
And now it was seen in the instance of Martin Waldeck, as it has been in that of many others, how little mortals can foresee the effect of sudden prosperity on their own disposition. The evil propensities in his nature, which poverty had checked and repressed, ripened and bore their unhallowed fruit under the influence of temptation and the means of indulgence. As Deep calls unto Deep, one bad passion awakened another the fiend of avarice invoked that of pride, and pride was to be supported by cruelty and oppression. Waldeck's character, always bold and daring but rendered harsh and assuming by prosperity, soon made him odious, not to the nobles only, but likewise to the lower ranks, who saw, with double dislike, the oppressive rights of the feudal nobility of the empire so remorselessly exercised by one who had risen from the very dregs of the people. His adventure, although carefully concealed, began likewise to be whispered abroad, and the clergy already stigmatized as a wizard and accomplice of fiends, the wretch, who, having acquired so huge a treasure in so strange a manner, had not sought to sanctify it by dedicating a considerable portion to the use of the church. Surrounded by enemies, public and private, tormented by a thousand feuds, and threatened by the church with excommunication, Martin Waldeck, or, as we must now call him, the Baron von Waldeck, often regretted bitterly the labours and sports of his unenvied poverty. But his courage failed him not under all these difficulties, and seemed rather to augment in proportion to the danger which darkened around him, until an accident precipitated his fall.
A proclamation by the reigning Duke of Brunswick had invited to a solemn tournament all German nobles of free and honourable descent; and Martin Waldeck, splendidly armed, accompanied by his two brothers, and a gallantly-equipped retinue, had the arrogance to appear among the chivalry of the province, and demand permission to enter the lists. This was considered as filling up the measure of his presumption. A thousand voices exclaimed, "We will have no cinder-sifter mingle in our games of chivalry." Irritated to frenzy, Martin drew his sword and hewed down the herald, who, in compliance with the general outcry, opposed his entry into the lists. An hundred swords were unsheathed to avenge what was in those days regarded as a crime only inferior to sacrilege or regicide. Waldeck, after defending himself like a lion, was seized, tried on the spot by the judges of the lists, and condemned, as the appropriate punishment for breaking the peace of his sovereign, and violating the sacred person of a herald-at-arms, to have his right hand struck from his body, to be ignominiously deprived of the honour of nobility, of which he was unworthy, and to be expelled from the city. When he had been stripped of his arms, and sustained the mutilation imposed by this severe sentence, the unhappy victim of ambition was abandoned to the rabble, who followed him with threats and outcries levelled alternately against the necromancer and oppressor, which at length ended in violence. His brothers (for his retinue were fled and dispersed) at length succeeded in rescuing him from the hands of the populace, when, satiated with cruelty, they had left him half dead through loss of blood, and through the outrages he had sustained. They were not permitted, such was the ingenious cruelty of their enemies, to make use of any other means of removing him, excepting such a collier's cart as they had themselves formerly used, in which they deposited their brother on a truss of straw, scarcely expecting to reach any place of shelter ere death should release him from his misery.
When the Waldecks, journeying in this miserable manner, had approached the verge of their native country, in a hollow way, between two mountains, they perceived a figure advancing towards them, which at first sight seemed to be an aged man. But as he approached, his limbs and stature increased, the cloak fell from his shoulders, his pilgrim's staff was changed into an uprooted pine-tree, and the gigantic figure of the Harz demon passed before them in his terrors. When he came opposite to the cart which contained the miserable Waldeck, his huge features dilated into a grin of unutterable contempt and malignity, as he asked the sufferer, "How like you the fire my coals have kindled?" The power of motion, which terror suspended in his two brothers, seemed to be restored to Martin by the energy of his courage. He raised himself on the cart, bent his brows, and, clenching his fist, shook it at the spectre with a ghastly look of hate and defiance. The goblin vanished with his usual tremendous and explosive laugh, and left Waldeck exhausted with this effort of expiring nature.
The terrified brethren turned their vehicle toward the towers of a convent, which arose in a wood of pine-trees beside the road. They were charitably received by a bare-footed and long-bearded capuchin, and Martin survived only to complete the first confession he had made since the day of his sudden prosperity, and to receive absolution from the very priest whom, precisely on that day three years, he had assisted to pelt out of the hamlet of Morgenbrodt. The three years of precarious prosperity were supposed to have a mysterious correspondence with the number of his visits to the spectral fire upon the bill.
The body of Martin Waldeck was interred in the convent where he expired, in which his brothers, having assumed the habit of the order, lived and died in the performance of acts of charity and devotion. His lands, to which no one asserted any claim, lay waste until they were reassumed by the emperor as a lapsed fief, and the ruins of the castle, which Waldeck had called by his own name, are still shunned by the miner and forester as haunted by evil spirits. Thus were the miseries attendant upon wealth, hastily attained and ill employed, exemplified in the fortunes of Martin Waldeck.
Here has been such a stormy encounter Betwixt my cousin Captain, and this soldier, About I know not what!—nothing, indeed; Competitions, degrees, and comparatives Of soldiership!— A Faire Qurrell.
The attentive audience gave the fair transcriber of the foregoing legend the thanks which politeness required. Oldbuck alone curled up his nose, and observed, that Miss Wardour's skill was something like that of the alchemists, for she had contrived to extract a sound and valuable moral out of a very trumpery and ridiculous legend. "It is the fashion, as I am given to understand, to admire those extravagant fictions—for me,
—I bear an English heart, Unused at ghosts and rattling bones to start."
"Under your favour, my goot Mr. Oldenbuck," said the German, "Miss Wardour has turned de story, as she does every thing as she touches, very pretty indeed; but all the history of de Harz goblin, and how he walks among de desolate mountains wid a great fir-tree for his walking cane, and wid de great green bush around his head and his waist—that is as true as I am an honest man."
"There is no disputing any proposition so well guaranteed," answered the Antiquary, drily. But at this moment the approach of a stranger cut short the conversation.
The new comer was a handsome young man, about five-and-twenty, in a military undress, and bearing, in his look and manner, a good deal of the, martial profession—nay, perhaps a little more than is quite consistent with the ease of a man of perfect good-breeding, in whom no professional habit ought to predominate. He was at once greeted by the greater part of the company. "My dear Hector!" said Miss M'Intyre, as she rose to take his hand—
"Hector, son of Priam, whence comest thou?" said the Antiquary.
"From Fife, my liege," answered the young soldier, and continued, when he had politely saluted the rest of the company, and particularly Sir Arthur and his daughter—"I learned from one of the servants, as I rode towards Monkbarns to pay my respects to you, that I should find the present company in this place, and I willingly embrace the opportunity to pay my respects to so many of my friends at once."
"And to a new one also, my trusty Trojan," said Oldbuck. "Mr. Lovel, this is my nephew, Captain M'Intyre—Hector, I recommend Mr. Lovel to your acquaintance."
The young soldier fixed his keen eye upon Lovel, and paid his compliment with more reserve than cordiality and as our acquaintance thought his coldness almost supercilious, he was equally frigid and haughty in making the necessary return to it; and thus a prejudice seemed to arise between them at the very commencement of their acquaintance.
The observations which Lovel made during the remainder of this pleasure party did not tend to reconcile him with this addition to their society. Captain M'Intyre, with the gallantry to be expected from his age and profession, attached himself to the service of Miss Wardour, and offered her, on every possible opportunity, those marks of attention which Lovel would have given the world to have rendered, and was only deterred from offering by the fear of her displeasure. With forlorn dejection at one moment, and with irritated susceptibility at another, he saw this handsome young soldier assume and exercise all the privileges of a cavaliere servente. He handed Miss Wardour's gloves, he assisted her in putting on her shawl, he attached himself to her in the walks, had a hand ready to remove every impediment in her path, and an arm to support her where it was rugged or difficult; his conversation was addressed chiefly to her, and, where circumstances permitted, it was exclusively so. All this, Lovel well knew, might be only that sort of egotistical gallantry which induces some young men of the present day to give themselves the air of engrossing the attention of the prettiest women in company, as if the others were unworthy of their notice. But he thought he observed in the conduct of Captain M'Intyre something of marked and peculiar tenderness, which was calculated to alarm the jealousy of a lover. Miss Wardour also received his attentions; and although his candour allowed they were of a kind which could not be repelled without some strain of affectation, yet it galled him to the heart to witness that she did so.
The heart-burning which these reflections occasioned proved very indifferent seasoning to the dry antiquarian discussions with which Oldbuck, who continued to demand his particular attention, was unremittingly persecuting him; and he underwent, with fits of impatience that amounted almost to loathing, a course of lectures upon monastic architecture, in all its styles, from the massive Saxon to the florid Gothic, and from that to the mixed and composite architecture of James the First's time, when, according to Oldbuck, all orders were confounded, and columns of various descriptions arose side by side, or were piled above each other, as if symmetry had been forgotten, and the elemental principles of art resolved into their primitive confusion. "What can be more cutting to the heart than the sight of evils," said Oldbuck, in rapturous enthusiasm, "which we are compelled to behold, while we do not possess the power of remedying them?" Lovel answered by an involulatary groan. "I see, my dear young friend, and most congenial spirit, that you feel these enormities almost as much as I do. Have you ever approached them, or met them, without longing to tear, to deface, what is so dishonourable?"
"Dishonourable!" echoed Lovel—"in what respect dishonourable?"
"I mean, disgraceful to the arts."
"Upon the portico, for example, of the schools of Oxford, where, at immense expense, the barbarous, fantastic, and ignorant architect has chosen to represent the whole five orders of architecture on the front of one building."
By such attacks as these, Oldbuck, unconscious of the torture he was giving, compelled Lovel to give him a share of his attention,—as a skilful angler, by means of his line, maintains an influence over the most frantic movements of his agonized prey.
They were now on their return to the spot where they had left the carriages; and it is inconceivable how often, in the course of that short walk, Lovel, exhausted by the unceasing prosing of his worthy companion, mentally bestowed on the devil, or any one else that would have rid him of hearing more of them, all the orders and disorders of architecture which had been invented or combined from the building of Solomon's temple downwards. A slight incident occurred, however, which sprinkled a little patience on the heat of his distemperature.
Miss Wardour, and her self-elected knight companion, rather preceded the others in the narrow path, when the young lady apparently became desirous to unite herself with the rest of the party, and, to break off her tete-a-tete with the young officer, fairly made a pause until Mr. Oldbuck came up. "I wished to ask you a question, Mr. Oldbuck, concerning the date of these interesting ruins."
It would be doing injustice to Miss Wardour's savoir faire, to suppose she was not aware that such a question would lead to an answer of no limited length. The Antiquary, starting like a war-horse at the trumpet sound, plunged at once into the various arguments for and against the date of 1273, which had been assigned to the priory of St. Ruth by a late publication on Scottish architectural antiquities. He raked up the names of all the priors who had ruled the institution, of the nobles who had bestowed lands upon it, and of the monarchs who had slept their last sleep among its roofless courts. As a train which takes fire is sure to light another, if there be such in the vicinity, the Baronet, catching at the name of one of his ancestors which occurred in Oldbuck's disquisition, entered upon an account of his wars, his conquests, and his trophies; and worthy Dr. Blattergowl was induced, from the mention of a grant of lands, cum decimis inclusis tam vicariis quam garbalibus, et nunquan antea separatis, to enter into a long explanation concerning the interpretation given by the Teind Court in the consideration of such a clause, which had occurred in a process for localling his last augmentation of stipend. The orators, like three racers, each pressed forward to the goal, without much regarding how each crossed and jostled his competitors. Mr. Oldbuck harangued, the Baronet declaimed, Mr. Blattergowl prosed and laid down the law, while the Latin forms of feudal grants were mingled with the jargon of blazonry, and the yet more barbarous phraseology of the Teind Court of Scotland. "He was," exclaimed Oldbuck, speaking of the Prior Adhemar, "indeed an exemplary prelate; and, from his strictness of morals, rigid execution of penance, joined to the charitable disposition of his mind, and the infirmities endured by his great age and ascetic habits"—
Here he chanced to cough, and Sir Arthur burst in, or rather continued—"was called popularly Hell-in-Harness; he carried a shield, gules with a sable fess, which we have since disused, and was slain at the battle of Vernoil, in France, after killing six of the English with his own"—
"Decreet of certification," proceeded the clergyman, in that prolonged, steady, prosing tone, which, however overpowered at first by the vehemence of competition, promised, in the long run, to obtain the ascendancy in this strife of narrators;—"Decreet of certification having gone out, and parties being held as confessed, the proof seemed to be held as concluded, when their lawyer moved to have it opened up, on the allegation that they had witnesses to bring forward, that they had been in the habit of carrying the ewes to lamb on the teind-free land; which was a mere evasion, for"—
But here the, Baronet and Mr. Oldbuck having recovered their wind, and continued their respective harangues, the three strands of the conversation, to speak the language of a rope-work, were again twined together into one undistinguishable string of confusion.
Yet, howsoever uninteresting this piebald jargon might seem, it was obviously Miss Wardour's purpose to give it her attention, in preference to yielding Captain M'Intyre an opportunity of renewing their private conversation. So that, after waiting for a little time with displeasure, ill concealed by his haughty features, he left her to enjoy her bad taste, and taking his sister by the arm, detained her a little behind the rest of the party.
"So I find, Mary, that your neighbour has neither become more lively nor less learned during my absence."
"We lacked your patience and wisdom to instruct us, Hector."
"Thank you, my dear sister. But you have got a wiser, if not so lively an addition to your society, than your unworthy brother—Pray, who is this Mr. Lovel, whom our old uncle has at once placed so high in his good graces?—he does not use to be so accessible to strangers."
"Mr. Lovel, Hector, is a very gentleman-like young man."
"Ay,—that is to say, he bows when he comes into a room, and wears a coat that is whole at the elbows."
"No, brother; it says a great deal more. It says that his manners and discourse express the feelings and education of the higher class."
"But I desire to know what is his birth and his rank in society, and what is his title to be in the circle in which I find him domesticated?"
"If you mean, how he comes to visit at Monkbarns, you must ask my uncle, who will probably reply, that he invites to his own house such company as he pleases; and if you mean to ask Sir Arthur, you must know that Mr. Lovel rendered Miss Wardour and him a service of the most important kind."
"What! that romantic story is true, then?—And pray, does the valorous knight aspire, as is befitting on such occasions, to the hand of the young lady whom he redeemed from peril? It is quite in the rule of romance, I am aware; and I did think that she was uncommonly dry to me as we walked together, and seemed from time to time as if she watched whether she was not giving offence to her gallant cavalier."
"Dear Hector," said his sister, "if you really continue to nourish any affection for Miss Wardour"—
"If, Mary?—what an if was there!"
"—I own I consider your perseverance as hopeless."
"And why hopeless, my sage sister?" asked Captain M'Intyre: "Miss Wardour, in the state of her father's affairs, cannot pretend to much fortune;—and, as to family, I trust that of Mlntyre is not inferior."
"But, Hector," continued his sister, "Sir Arthur always considers us as members of the Monkbarns family."
"Sir Arthur may consider what he pleases," answered the Highlander scornfully; "but any one with common sense will consider that the wife takes rank from the husband, and that my father's pedigree of fifteen unblemished descents must have ennobled my mother, if her veins had been filled with printer's ink."
"For God's sake, Hector," replied his anxious sister, "take care of yourself! a single expression of that kind, repeated to my uncle by an indiscreet or interested eavesdropper, would lose you his favour for ever, and destroy all chance of your succeeding to his estate."
"Be it so," answered the heedless young man; "I am one of a profession which the world has never been able to do without, and will far less endure to want for half a century to come; and my good old uncle may tack his good estate and his plebeian name to your apron-string if he pleases, Mary, and you may wed this new favourite of his if you please, and you may both of you live quiet, peaceable, well-regulated lives, if it pleases Heaven. My part is taken—I'll fawn on no man for an inheritance which should be mine by birth."
Miss M'Intyre laid her hand on her brother's arm, and entreated him to suppress his vehemence. "Who," she said, "injures or seeks to injure you, but your own hasty temper?—what dangers are you defying, but those you have yourself conjured up?—Our uncle has hitherto been all that is kind and paternal in his conduct to us, and why should you suppose he will in future be otherwise than what he has ever been, since we were left as orphans to his care?"
"He is an excellent old gentleman, I must own," replied M'Intyre, "and I am enraged at myself when I chance to offend him; but then his eternal harangues upon topics not worth the spark of a flint—his investigations about invalided pots and pans and tobacco-stoppers past service—all these things put me out of patience. I have something of Hotspur in me, sister, I must confess."
"Too much, too much, my dear brother! Into how many risks, and, forgive me for saying, some of them little creditable, has this absolute and violent temper led you! Do not let such clouds darken the time you are now to pass in our neighbourhood, but let our old benefactor see his kinsman as he is—generous, kind, and lively, without being rude, headstrong, and impetuous."
"Well," answered Captain M'Intyre, "I am schooled—good-manners be my speed! I'll do the civil thing by your new friend—I'll have some talk with this Mr. Lovel."
With this determination, in which he was for the time perfectly sincere, he joined the party who were walking before them. The treble disquisition was by this time ended; and Sir Arthur was speaking on the subject of foreign news, and the political and military situation of the country, themes upon which every man thinks himself qualified to give an opinion. An action of the preceding year having come upon the tapis, Lovel, accidentally mingling in the conversation, made some assertion concerning it, of the accuracy of which Captain M'Intyre seemed not to be convinced, although his doubts were politely expressed.
"You must confess yourself in the wrong here, Hector," said his uncle, "although I know no man less willing to give up an argument; but you were in England at the time, and Mr. Lovel was probably concerned in the affair."
"I am speaking to a military man, then?" said M'Intyre; "may I inquire to what regiment Mr. Lovel belongs?"—Mr. Lovel gave him the number of the regiment. "It happens strangely that we should never have met before, Mr. Lovel. I know your regiment very well, and have served along with them at different times."
A blush crossed Lovel's countenance. "I have not lately been with my regiment," he replied; "I served the last campaign upon the staff of General Sir——."
"Indeed! that is more wonderful than the other circumstance!—for although I did not serve with General Sir——, yet I had an opportunity of knowing the names of the officers who held situations in his family, and I cannot recollect that of Lovel."
At this observation Lovel again blushed so deeply as to attract the attention of the whole company, while, a scornful laugh seemed to indicate Captain M'Intyre's triumph. "There is something strange in this," said Oldbuck to himself; "but I will not readily give up my phoenix of post-chaise companions—all his actions, language, and bearing, are those of a gentleman."
Lovel in the meanwhile had taken out his pocket-book, and selecting a letter, from which he took off the envelope, he handed it to Mlntyre. "You know the General's hand, in all probability—I own I ought not to show these exaggerated expressions of his regard and esteem for me." The letter contained a very handsome compliment from the officer in question for some military service lately performed. Captain M'Intyre, as he glanced his eye over it, could not deny that it was written in the General's hand, but drily observed, as he returned it, that the address was wanting. "The address, Captain M'Intyre," answered Lovel, in the same tone, "shall be at your service whenever you choose to inquire after it!"
"I certainly shall not fail to do so," rejoined the soldier.
"Come, come," exclaimed Oldbuck, "what is the meaning of all this? Have we got Hiren here?—We'll have no swaggering youngsters. Are you come from the wars abroad, to stir up domestic strife in our peaceful land? Are you like bull-dog puppies, forsooth, that when the bull, poor fellow, is removed from the ring, fall to brawl among themselves, worry each other, and bite honest folk's shins that are standing by?"
Sir Arthur trusted, he said, the young gentlemen would not so far forget themselves as to grow warm upon such a trifling subject as the back of a letter.
Both the disputants disclaimed any such intention, and, with high colour and flashing eyes, protested they were never so cool in their lives. But an obvious damp was cast over the party;—they talked in future too much by the rule to be sociable, and Lovel, conceiving himself the object of cold and suspicious looks from the rest of the company, and sensible that his indirect replies had given them permission to entertain strange opinions respecting him, made a gallant determination to sacrifice the pleasure he had proposed in spending the day at Knockwinnock.
He affected, therefore, to complain of a violent headache, occasioned by the heat of the day, to which he had not been exposed since his illness, and made a formal apology to Sir Arthur, who, listening more to recent suspicion than to the gratitude due for former services, did not press him to keep his engagement more than good-breeding exactly demanded.
When Lovel took leave of the ladies, Miss Wardour's manner seemed more anxious than he had hitherto remarked it. She indicated by a glance of her eye towards Captain M'Intyre, perceptible only by Lovel, the subject of her alarm, and hoped, in a voice greatly under her usual tone, it was not a less pleasant engagement which deprived them of the pleasure of Mr. Lovel's company. "No engagement had intervened," he assured her; "it was only the return of a complaint by which he had been for some time occasionally attacked."
"The best remedy in such a case is prudence, and I—every friend of Mr. Lovel's will expect him to employ it."
Lovel bowed low and coloured deeply, and Miss Wardour, as if she felt that she had said too much, turned and got into the carriage. Lovel had next to part with Oldbuck, who, during this interval, had, with Caxon's assistance, been arranging his disordered periwig, and brushing his coat, which exhibited some marks of the rude path they had traversed. "What, man!" said Oldbuck, "you are not going to leave us on account of that foolish Hector's indiscreet curiosity and vehemence? Why, he is a thoughtless boy—a spoiled child from the time he was in the nurse's arms—he threw his coral and bells at my head for refusing him a bit of sugar; and you have too much sense to mind such a shrewish boy: aequam servare mentem is the motto of our friend Horace. I'll school Hector by and by, and put it all to rights." But Lovel persisted in his design of returning to Fairport.
The Antiquary then assumed a graver tone.—"Take heed, young man, to your present feelings. Your life has been given you for useful and valuable purposes, and should be reserved to illustrate the literature of your country, when you are not called upon to expose it in her defence, or in the rescue of the innocent. Private war, a practice unknown to the civilised ancients, is, of all the absurdities introduced by the Gothic tribes, the most gross, impious, and cruel. Let me hear no more of these absurd quarrels, and I will show you the treatise upon the duello, which I composed when the town-clerk and provost Mucklewhame chose to assume the privileges of gentlemen, and challenged each other. I thought of printing my Essay, which is signed Pacificator; but there was no need, as the matter was taken up by the town-council of the borough."
"But I assure you, my dear sir, there is nothing between Captain M'Intyre and me that can render such respectable interference necessary."
"See it be so; for otherwise, I will stand second to both parties."
So saying, the old gentleman got into the chaise, close to which Miss M'Intyre had detained her brother, upon the same principle that the owner of a quarrelsome dog keeps him by his side to prevent his fastening upon another. But Hector contrived to give her precaution the slip, for, as he was on horseback, he lingered behind the carriages until they had fairly turned the corner in the road to Knockwinnock, and then, wheeling his horse's head round, gave him the spur in the opposite direction.
A very few minutes brought him up with Lovel, who, perhaps anticipating his intention, had not put his horse beyond a slow walk, when the clatter of hoofs behind him announced Captain Mlntyre. The young soldier, his natural heat of temper exasperated by the rapidity of motion, reined his horse up suddenly and violently by Lovel's side, and touching his hat slightly, inquired, in a very haughty tone of voice, "What am I to understand, sir, by your telling me that your address was at my service?"
"Simply, sir," replied Lovel, "that my name is Lovel, and that my residence is, for the present, Fairport, as you will see by this card."
"And is this all the information you are disposed to give me?"
"I see no right you have to require more."
"I find you, sir, in company with my sister," said the young soldier, "and I have a right to know who is admitted into Miss M'Intyre's society."
"I shall take the liberty of disputing that right," replied Lovel, with a manner as haughty as that of the young soldier;—"you find me in society who are satisfied with the degree of information on my affairs which I have thought proper to communicate, and you, a mere stranger, have no right to inquire further."
"Mr. Lovel, if you served as you say you have"—
"If!" interrupted Lovel,—"if I have served as I say I have?"
"Yes, sir, such is my expression—if you have so served, you must know that you owe me satisfaction either in one way or other."
"If that be your opinion, I shall be proud to give it to you, Captain M'Intyre, in the way in which the word is generally used among gentlemen."
"Very well, sir," rejoined Hector, and, turning his horse round, galloped off to overtake his party.
His absence had already alarmed them, and his sister, having stopped the carriage, had her neck stretched out of the window to see where he was.
"What is the matter with you now?" said the Antiquary, "riding to and fro as your neck were upon the wager—why do you not keep up with the carriage?"
"I forgot my glove, sir," said Hector.
"Forgot your glove!—I presume you meant to say you went to throw it down—But I will take order with you, my young gentleman—you shall return with me this night to Monkbarns." So saying, he bid the postilion go on.
—If you fail Honour here, Never presume to serve her any more; Bid farewell to the integrity of armes; And the honourable name of soldier Fall from you, like a shivered wreath of laurel By thunder struck from a desertlesse forehead. A Faire Quarrell.
Early the next morning, a gentleman came to wait upon Mr. Lovel, who was up and ready to receive him. He was a military gentleman, a friend of Captain M'Intyre's, at present in Fairport on the recruiting service. Lovel and he were slightly known to each other. "I presume, sir," said Mr. Lesley (such was the name of the visitor), "that you guess the occasion of my troubling you so early?"
"A message from Captain M'Intyre, I presume?"
"The same. He holds himself injured by the manner in which you declined yesterday to answer certain inquiries which he conceived himself entitled to make respecting a gentleman whom he found in intimate society with his family."
"May I ask, if you, Mr. Lesley, would have inclined to satisfy interrogatories so haughtily and unceremoniously put to you?"
"Perhaps not;—and therefore, as I know the warmth of my friend M'Intyre on such occasions, I feel very desirous of acting as peacemaker. From Mr. Lovel's very gentleman-like manners, every one must strongly wish to see him repel all that sort of dubious calumny which will attach itself to one whose situation is not fully explained. If he will permit me, in friendly conciliation, to inform Captain M'Intyre of his real name, for we are led to conclude that of Lovel is assumed"—
"I beg your pardon, sir, but I cannot admit that inference."
"—Or at least," said Lesley, proceeding, "that it is not the name by which Mr. Lovel has been at all times distinguished—if Mr. Lovel will have the goodness to explain this circumstance, which, in my opinion, he should do in justice to his own character, I will answer for the amicable arrangement of this unpleasant business."
"Which is to say, Mr. Lesley, that if I condescend to answer questions which no man has a right to ask, and which are now put to me under penalty of Captain M'Intyre's resentment, Captain MIntyre will condescend to rest satisfied? Mr. Lesley, I have just one word to say on this subject—I have no doubt my secret, if I had one, might be safely entrusted to your honour, but I do not feel called upon to satisfy the curiosity of any one. Captain M'Intyre met me in society which of itself was a warrant to all the world, and particularly ought to be such to him, that I was a gentleman. He has, in my opinion, no right to go any further, or to inquire the pedigree, rank, or circumstances, of a stranger, who, without seeking any intimate connection with him, or his, chances to dine with his uncle, or walk in company with his sister."
"In that case, Captain M'Intyre requests you to be informed, that your farther visits at Monkbarns, and all connection with Miss M'Intyre, must be dropt, as disagreeable to him."
"I shall certainly," said Lovel, "visit Mr. Oldbuck when it suits me, without paying the least respect to his nephew's threats or irritable feelings. I respect the young lady's name too much (though nothing can be slighter than our acquaintance) to introduce it into such a discussion."
"Since that is your resolution, sir," answered Lesley, "Captain M'Intyre requests that Mr. Lovel, unless he wishes to be announced as a very dubious character, will favour him with a meeting this evening, at seven, at the thorn-tree in the little valley close by the ruins of St. Ruth."
"Most unquestionably, I will wait upon him. There is only one difficulty—I must find a friend to accompany me, and where to seek one on this short notice, as I have no acquaintance in Fairport—I will be on the spot, however—Captain M'Intyre may be assured of that."
Lesley had taken his hat, and was as far as the door of the apartment, when, as if moved by the peculiarity of Lovel's situation, he returned, and thus addressed him: "Mr. Lovel, there is something so singular in all this, that I cannot help again resuming the argument. You must be yourself aware at this moment of the inconvenience of your preserving an incognito, for which, I am convinced, there can be no dishonourable reason. Still, this mystery renders it difficult for you to procure the assistance of a friend in a crisis so delicate—nay, let me add, that many persons will even consider it as a piece of Quixotry in M'Intyre to give you a meeting, while your character and circumstances are involved in such obscurity."
"I understand your innuendo, Mr. Lesley," rejoined Lovel; and though I might be offended at its severity, I am not so, because it is meant kindly. But, in my opinion, he is entitled to all the privileges of a gentleman, to whose charge, during the time he has been known in the society where he happens to move, nothing can be laid that is unhandsome or unbecoming. For a friend, I dare say I shall find some one or other who will do me that good turn; and if his experience be less than I could wish, I am certain not to suffer through that circumstance when you are in the field for my antagonist."
"I trust you will not," said Lesley; "but as I must, for my own sake, be anxious to divide so heavy a responsibility with a capable assistant, allow me to say, that Lieutenant Taffril's gun-brig is come into the roadstead, and he himself is now at old Caxon's, where he lodges. I think you have the same degree of acquaintance with him as with me, and, as I am sure I should willingly have rendered you such a service were I not engaged on the other side, I am convinced he will do so at your first request."
"At the thorn-tree, then, Mr. Lesley, at seven this evening—the arms, I presume, are pistols?"
"Exactly. M'Intyre has chosen the hour at which he can best escape from Monkbarns—he was with me this morning by five, in order to return and present himself before his uncle was up. Good-morning to you, Mr. Lovel." And Lesley left the apartment.
Lovel was as brave as most men; but none can internally regard such a crisis as now approached, without deep feelings of awe and uncertainty. In a few hours he might be in another world to answer for an action which his calmer thought told him was unjustifiable in a religious point of view, or he might be wandering about in the present like Cain, with the blood of his brother on his head. And all this might be saved by speaking a single word. Yet pride whispered, that to speak that word now, would be ascribed to a motive which would degrade him more low than even the most injurious reasons that could be assigned for his silence. Every one, Miss Wardour included, must then, he thought, account him a mean dishonoured poltroon, who gave to the fear of meeting Captain M'Intyre the explanation he had refused to the calm and handsome expostulations of Mr. Lesley. M'Intyre's insolent behaviour to himself personally, the air of pretension which he assumed towards Miss Wardour, and the extreme injustice, arrogance, and incivility of his demands upon a perfect stranger, seemed to justify him in repelling his rude investigation. In short, he formed the resolution which might have been expected from so young a man,—to shut the eyes, namely, of his calmer reason, and follow the dictates of his offended pride. With this purpose he sought Lieutenant Taffril.
The lieutenant received him with the good breeding of a gentleman and the frankness of a sailor, and listened with no small surprise to the detail which preceded his request that he might be favoured with his company at his meeting with Captain M'Intyre. When he had finished, Taffril rose up and walked through his apartment once or twice. "This is a most singular circumstance," he said, "and really"—
"I am conscious, Mr. Taffril, how little I am entitled to make my present request, but the urgency of circumstances hardly leaves me an alternative."
"Permit me to ask you one question," asked the sailor;—"is there anything of which you are ashamed in the circumstances which you have declined to communicate."
"Upon my honour, no; there is nothing but what, in a very short time, I trust I may publish to the whole world."
"I hope the mystery arises from no false shame at the lowness of your friends perhaps, or connections?"
"No, on my word," replied Lovel.
"I have little sympathy for that folly," said Taffril—"indeed I cannot be supposed to have any; for, speaking of my relations, I may be said to have come myself from before the mast, and I believe I shall very soon form a connection, which the world will think low enough, with a very amiable girl, to whom I have been attached since we were next-door neighbours, at a time when I little thought of the good fortune which has brought me forward in the service."
"I assure you, Mr. Taffril," replied Lovel, "whatever were the rank of my parents, I should never think of concealing it from a spirit of petty pride. But I am so situated at present, that I cannot enter on the subject of my family with any propriety."
"It is quite enough," said the honest sailor—"give me your hand; I'll see you as well through this business as I can, though it is but an unpleasant one after all—But what of that? our own honour has the next call on us after our country;—you are a lad of spirit, and I own I think Mr. Hector M'Intyre, with his long pedigree and his airs of family, very much of a jackanapes. His father was a soldier of fortune as I am a sailor—he himself, I suppose, is little better, unless just as his uncle pleases; and whether one pursues fortune by land, or sea, makes no great difference, I should fancy."
"None in the universe, certainly," answered Lovel.
"Well," said his new ally, "we will dine together and arrange matters for this rencounter. I hope you understand the use of the weapon?"
"Not particularly," Lovel replied.
"I am sorry for that—M'Intyre is said to be a marksman."
"I am sorry for it also," said Lovel, "both for his sake and my own: I must then, in self-defence, take my aim as well as I can."
"Well," added Taffril, "I will have our surgeon's mate on the field—a good clever young fellow at caulking a shot-hole. I will let Lesley, who is an honest fellow for a landsman, know that he attends for the benefit of either party. Is there anything I can do for you in case of an accident?"
"I have but little occasion to trouble you," said Lovel. "This small billet contains the key of my escritoir, and my very brief secret. There is one letter in the escritoir" (digesting a temporary swelling of the heart as he spoke), "which I beg the favour of you to deliver with your own hand."
"I understand," said the sailor. "Nay, my friend, never be ashamed for the matter—an affectionate heart may overflow for an instant at the eyes, if the ship were clearing for action; and, depend on it, whatever your injunctions are, Dan Taffril will regard them like the bequest of a dying brother. But this is all stuff;—we must get our things in fighting order, and you will dine with me and my little surgeon's mate, at the Graeme's-Arms over the way, at four o'clock."
"Agreed," said Lovel.
"Agreed," said Taffril; and the whole affair was arranged.
It was a beautiful summer evening, and the shadow of the solitary thorn-tree was lengthening upon the short greensward of the narrow valley, which was skirted by the woods that closed around the ruins of St. Ruth. *
* [Supposed to have been suggested by the old Abbey of Arbroath in * Forfarshire.]
Lovel and Lieutenant Taffril, with the surgeon, came upon the ground with a purpose of a nature very uncongenial to the soft, mild, and pacific character of the hour and scene. The sheep, which during the ardent heat of the day had sheltered in the breaches and hollows of the gravelly bank, or under the roots of the aged and stunted trees, had now spread themselves upon the face of the hill to enjoy their evening's pasture, and bleated, to each other with that melancholy sound which at once gives life to a landscape, and marks its solitude.—Taffril and Lovel came on in deep conference, having, for fear of discovery, sent their horses back to the town by the Lieutenant's servant. The opposite party had not yet appeared on the field. But when they came upon the ground, there sat upon the roots of the old thorn a figure as vigorous in his decay as the moss-grown but strong and contorted boughs which served him for a canopy. It was old Ochiltree. "This is embarrassing enough," said Lovel:—"How shall we get rid of this old fellow?"
"Here, father Adam," cried Taffril, who knew the mendicant of yore—"here's half-a-crown for you. You must go to the Four Horse-shoes yonder—the little inn, you know, and inquire for a servant with blue and yellow livery. If he is not come, you'll wait for him, and tell him we shall be with his master in about an hour's time. At any rate, wait there till we come back,—and—Get off with you—Come, come, weigh anchor."
"I thank ye for your awmous," said Ochiltree, pocketing the piece of money; "but I beg your pardon, Mr. Taffril—I canna gang your errand e'en now."
"Why not, man? what can hinder you?"
"I wad speak a word wi' young Mr. Lovel."
"With me?" answered Lovel: "what would you say with me? Come, say on, and be brief."
The mendicant led him a few paces aside. "Are ye indebted onything to the Laird o' Monkbarns?"
"Indebted!—no, not I—what of that?—what makes you think so?"
"Ye maun ken I was at the shirra's the day; for, God help me, I gang about a' gates like the troubled spirit; and wha suld come whirling there in a post-chaise, but Monkbarns in an unco carfuffle—now, it's no a little thing that will make his honour take a chaise and post-horse twa days rinnin'."
"Well, well; but what is all this to me?"
"Ou, ye'se hear, ye'se hear. Weel, Monkbarns is closeted wi' the shirra whatever puir folk may be left thereout—ye needna doubt that—the gentlemen are aye unco civil amang themsells."
"For heaven's sake, my old friend"—
"Canna ye bid me gang to the deevil at ance, Mr. Lovel? it wad be mair purpose fa'ard than to speak o' heaven in that impatient gate."
"But I have private business with Lieutenant Taffril here."
"Weel, weel, a' in gude time," said the beggar—"I can use a little wee bit freedom wi' Mr. Daniel Taffril;—mony's the peery and the tap I worked for him langsyne, for I was a worker in wood as weel as a tinkler."
"You are either mad, Adam, or have a mind to drive me mad."
"Nane o' the twa," said Edie, suddenly changing his manner from the protracted drawl of the mendicant to a brief and decided tone. "The shirra sent for his clerk, and as the lad is rather light o' the tongue, I fand it was for drawing a warrant to apprehend you—I thought it had been on a fugie warrant for debt; for a' body kens the laird likes naebody to pit his hand in his pouch—But now I may haud my tongue, for I see the M'Intyre lad and Mr. Lesley coming up, and I guess that Monkbarns's purpose was very kind, and that yours is muckle waur than it should be."
The antagonist now approached, and saluted with the stern civility which befitted the occasion. "What has this old fellow to do here?" said M'Intyre.
"I am an auld fallow," said Edie, "but I am also an auld soldier o' your father's, for I served wi' him in the 42d."
"Serve where you please, you have no title to intrude on us," said M'Intyre, "or"—and he lifted his cane in terrorem, though without the idea of touching the old man.
But Ochiltree's courage was roused by the insult. "Haud down your switch, Captain M'Intyre! I am an auld soldier, as I said before, and I'll take muckle frae your father's son; but no a touch o' the wand while my pike-staff will haud thegither."
"Well, well, I was wrong—I was wrong," said M'Intyre; "here's a crown for you—go your ways—what's the matter now?"
The old man drew himself up to the full advantage of his uncommon height, and in despite of his dress, which indeed had more of the pilgrim than the ordinary beggar, looked from height, manner, and emphasis of voice and gesture, rather like a grey palmer or eremite preacher, the ghostly counsellor of the young men who were around him, than the object of their charity. His speech, indeed, was as homely as his habit, but as bold and unceremonious as his erect and dignified demeanour. "What are ye come here for, young men?" he said, addressing himself to the surprised audience; "are ye come amongst the most lovely works of God to break his laws? Have ye left the works of man, the houses and the cities that are but clay and dust, like those that built them—and are ye come here among the peaceful hills, and by the quiet waters, that will last whiles aught earthly shall endure, to destroy each other's lives, that will have but an unco short time, by the course of nature, to make up a lang account at the close o't? O sirs! hae ye brothers, sisters, fathers, that hae tended ye, and mothers that hae travailed for ye, friends that hae ca'd ye like a piece o' their ain heart? and is this the way ye tak to make them childless and brotherless and friendless? Ohon! it's an ill feight whar he that wins has the warst o't. Think on't, bairns. I'm a puir man—but I'm an auld man too—and what my poverty takes awa frae the weight o' my counsel, grey hairs and a truthfu' heart should add it twenty times. Gang hame, gang hame, like gude lads—the French will be ower to harry us ane o' thae days, and ye'll hae feighting eneugh, and maybe auld Edie will hirple out himsell if he can get a feal-dyke to lay his gun ower, and may live to tell you whilk o' ye does the best where there's a good cause afore ye."
There was something in the undaunted and independent manner, hardy sentiment, and manly rude elocution of the old man, that had its effect upon the party, and particularly on the seconds, whose pride was uninterested in bringing the dispute to a bloody arbitrament, and who, on the contrary, eagerly watched for an opportunity to recommend reconciliation.
"Upon my word, Mr. Lesley," said Taffril, "old Adam speaks like an oracle. Our friends here were very angry yesterday, and of course very foolish;—today they should be cool, or at least we must be so in their behalf. I think the word should be forget and forgive on both sides,—that we should all shake hands, fire these foolish crackers in the air, and go home to sup in a body at the Graeme's-Arms."
"I would heartily recommend it," said Lesley; "for, amidst a great deal of heat and irritation on both sides, I confess myself unable to discover any rational ground of quarrel."
"Gentlemen," said M'Intyre, very coldly, "all this should have been thought of before. In my opinion, persons that have carried this matter so far as we have done, and who should part without carrying it any farther, might go to supper at the Graeme's-Arms very joyously, but would rise the next morning with reputations as ragged as our friend here, who has obliged us with a rather unnecessary display of his oratory. I speak for myself, that I find myself bound to call upon you to proceed without more delay."
"And I," said Lovel, "as I never desired any, have also to request these gentlemen to arrange preliminaries as fast as possible."
"Bairns! bairns!" cried old Ochiltree; but perceiving he was no longer attended to—"Madmen, I should say—but your blood be on your heads!" And the old man drew off from the ground, which was now measured out by the seconds, and continued muttering and talking to himself in sullen indignation, mixed with anxiety, and with a strong feeling of painful curiosity. Without paying farther attention to his presence or remonstrances, Mr. Lesley and the Lieutenant made the necessary arrangements for the duel, and it was agreed that both parties should fire when Mr. Lesley dropped his handkerchief.
The fatal sign was given, and both fired almost in the same moment. Captain M'Intyre's ball grazed the side of his opponent, but did not draw blood. That of Lovel was more true to the aim; M'Intyre reeled and fell. Raising himself on his arm, his first exclamation was, "It is nothing—it is nothing—give us the other pistols." But in an instant he said, in a lower tone, "I believe I have enough—and what's worse, I fear I deserve it. Mr. Lovel, or whatever your name is, fly and save yourself—Bear all witness, I provoked this matter." Then raising himself again on his arm, he added, "Shake hands, Lovel—I believe you to be a gentleman—forgive my rudeness, and I forgive you my death—My poor sister!"
The surgeon came up to perform his part of the tragedy, and Lovel stood gazing on the evil of which he had been the active, though unwilling cause, with a dizzy and bewildered eye. He was roused from his trance by the grasp of the mendicant. "Why stand you gazing on your deed?—What's doomed is doomed—what's done is past recalling. But awa, awa, if ye wad save your young blood from a shamefu' death—I see the men out by yonder that are come ower late to part ye—but, out and alack! sune eneugh, and ower sune, to drag ye to prison."
"He is right—he is right," exclaimed Taffril; "you must not attempt to get on the high-road—get into the wood till night. My brig will be under sail by that time, and at three in the morning, when the tide will serve, I shall have the boat waiting for you at the Mussel-crag. Away-away, for Heaven's sake!"
"O yes! fly, fly!" repeated the wounded man, his words faltering with convulsive sobs.
"Come with me," said the mendicant, almost dragging him off; "the Captain's plan is the best—I'll carry ye to a place where ye might be concealed in the meantime, were they to seek ye 'wi' sleuth-hounds."
"Go, go," again urged Lieutenant Taffril—"to stay here is mere madness."
"It was worse madness to have come hither," said Lovel, pressing his hand—"But farewell!" And he followed Ochiltree into the recesses of the wood.
—The Lord Abbot had a soul Subtile and quick, and searching as the fire; By magic stairs he went as deep as hell, And if in devils' possession gold be kept, He brought some sure from thence—'tis hid in caves, Known, save to me, to none.— The Wonder of a Kingdome.
Lovel almost mechanically followed the beggar, who led the way with a hasty and steady pace, through bush and bramble, avoiding the beaten path, and often turning to listen whether there were any sounds of pursuit behind them. They sometimes descended into the very bed of the torrent, sometimes kept a narrow and precarious path, that the sheep (which, with the sluttish negligence towards property of that sort universal in Scotland, were allowed to stray in the copse) had made along the very verge of its overhanging banks. From time to time Lovel had a glance of the path which he had traversed the day before in company with Sir Arthur, the Antiquary, and the young ladies. Dejected, embarrassed, and occupied by a thousand inquietudes, as he then was, what would he now have given to regain the sense of innocence which alone can counter-balance a thousand evils! "Yet, then," such was his hasty and involuntary reflection, "even then, guiltless and valued by all around me, I thought myself unhappy. What am I now, with this young man's blood upon my hands?—the feeling of pride which urged me to the deed has now deserted me, as the actual fiend himself is said to do those whom he has tempted to guilt." Even his affection for Miss Wardour sunk for the time before the first pangs of remorse, and he thought he could have encountered every agony of slighted love to have had the conscious freedom from blood-guiltiness which he possessed in the morning.
These painful reflections were not interrupted by any conversation on the part of his guide, who threaded the thicket before him, now holding back the sprays to make his path easy, now exhorting him to make haste, now muttering to himself, after the custom of solitary and neglected old age, words which might have escaped Lovel's ear even had he listened to them, or which, apprehended and retained, were too isolated to convey any connected meaning,—a habit which may be often observed among people of the old man's age and calling.
At length, as Lovel, exhausted by his late indisposition, the harrowing feelings by which he was agitated, and the exertion necessary to keep up with his guide in a path so rugged, began to flag and fall behind, two or three very precarious steps placed him on the front of a precipice overhung with brushwood and copse. Here a cave, as narrow in its entrance as a fox-earth, was indicated by a small fissure in the rock, screened by the boughs of an aged oak, which, anchored by its thick and twisted roots in the upper part of the cleft, flung its branches almost straight outward from the cliff, concealing it effectually from all observation. It might indeed have escaped the attention even of those who had stood at its very opening, so uninviting was the portal at which the beggar entered. But within, the cavern was higher and more roomy, cut into two separate branches, which, intersecting each other at right angles, formed an emblem of the cross, and indicated the abode of an anchoret of former times. There are many caves of the same kind in different parts of Scotland. I need only instance those of Gorton, near Rosslyn, in a scene well known to the admirers of romantic nature.
The light within the eave was a dusky twilight at the entrance, which failed altogether in the inner recesses. "Few folks ken o' this place," said the old man; "to the best o'my knowledge, there's just twa living by mysell, and that's Jingling Jock and the Lang Linker. I have had mony a thought, that when I fand mysell auld and forfairn, and no able to enjoy God's blessed air ony langer, I wad drag mysell here wi' a pickle ait-meal; and see, there's a bit bonny dropping well that popples that self-same gate simmer and winter;—and I wad e'en streek mysell out here, and abide my removal, like an auld dog that trails its useless ugsome carcass into some bush or bracken no to gie living things a scunner wi' the sight o't when it's dead—Ay, and then, when the dogs barked at the lone farm-stead, the gudewife wad cry, Whisht, stirra, that'll be auld Edie,' and the bits o' weans wad up, puir things, and toddle to the door to pu' in the auld Blue-Gown that mends a' their bonny-dies—But there wad be nae mair word o' Edie, I trow."
He then led Lovel, who followed him unresistingly, into one of the interior branches of the cave. "Here," he said, "is a bit turnpike-stair that gaes up to the auld kirk abune. Some folks say this place was howkit out by the monks lang syne to hide their treasure in, and some said that they used to bring things into the abbey this gate by night, that they durstna sae weel hae brought in by the main port and in open day—And some said that ane o' them turned a saint (or aiblins wad hae had folk think sae), and settled him down in this Saint Ruth's cell, as the auld folks aye ca'd it, and garr'd big the stair, that he might gang up to the kirk when they were at the divine service. The Laird o' Monkbarns wad hae a hantle to say about it, as he has about maist things, if he ken'd only about the place. But whether it was made for man's devices or God's service, I have seen ower muckle sin done in it in my day, and far ower muckle have I been partaker of—ay, even here in this dark cove. Mony a gudewife's been wondering what for the red cock didna craw her up in the morning, when he's been roasting, puir fallow, in this dark hole—And, ohon! I wish that and the like o' that had been the warst o't! Whiles they wad hae heard the din we were making in the very bowels o' the earth, when Sanders Aikwood, that was forester in thae days, the father o' Ringan that now is, was gaun daundering about the wood at e'en, to see after the Laird's game and whiles he wad hae seen a glance o' the light frae the door o' the cave, flaughtering against the hazels on the other bank;—and then siccan stories as Sanders had about the worricows and gyre-carlins that haunted about the auld wa's at e'en, and the lights that he had seen, and the cries that he had heard, when there was nae mortal e'e open but his ain; and eh! as he wad thrum them ower and ower to the like o' me ayont the ingle at e'en, and as I wad gie the auld silly carle grane for grane, and tale for tale, though I ken'd muckle better about it than ever he did. Ay, ay—they were daft days thae;—but they were a' vanity, and waur,—and it's fitting that they wha hae led a light and evil life, and abused charity when they were young, suld aiblins come to lack it when they are auld."
While Ochiltree was thus recounting the exploits and tricks of his earlier life, with a tone in which glee and compunction alternately predominated, his unfortunate auditor had sat down upon the hermit's seat, hewn out of the solid rock, and abandoned himself to that lassitude, both of mind and body, which generally follows a course of events that have agitated both, The effect of his late indisposition, which had much weakened his system, contributed to this lethargic despondency. "The puir bairn!" said auld Edie, "an he sleeps in this damp hole, he'll maybe wauken nae mair, or catch some sair disease. It's no the same to him as to the like o' us, that can sleep ony gate an anes our wames are fu'. Sit up, Maister Lovel, lad! After a's come and gane, I dare say the captain-lad will do weel eneugh—and, after a', ye are no the first that has had this misfortune. I hae seen mony a man killed, and helped to kill them mysell, though there was nae quarrel between us—and if it isna wrang to kill folk we have nae quarrel wi', just because they wear another sort of a cockade, and speak a foreign language, I canna see but a man may have excuse for killing his ain mortal foe, that comes armed to the fair field to kill him. I dinna say it's right—God forbid—or that it isna sinfu' to take away what ye canna restore, and that's the breath of man, whilk is in his nostrils; but I say it is a sin to be forgiven if it's repented of. Sinfu' men are we a'; but if ye wad believe an auld grey sinner that has seen the evil o' his ways, there is as much promise atween the twa boards o' the Testament as wad save the warst o' us, could we but think sae."
With such scraps of comfort and of divinity as he possessed, the mendicant thus continued to solicit and compel the attention of Lovel, until the twilight began to fade into night. "Now," said Ochiltree, "I will carry ye to a mair convenient place, where I hae sat mony a time to hear the howlit crying out of the ivy tod, and to see the moonlight come through the auld windows o' the ruins. There can be naebody come here after this time o' night; and if they hae made ony search, thae blackguard shirra'-officers and constables, it will hae been ower lang syne. Od, they are as great cowards as ither folk, wi' a' their warrants and king's keys*—I hae gien some o' them a gliff in my day, when they were coming rather ower near me—But, lauded be grace for it! they canna stir me now for ony waur than an auld man and a beggar, and my badge is a gude protection; and then Miss Isabella Wardour is a tower o' strength, ye ken"—(Lovel sighed)—"Aweel, dinna be cast down—bowls may a' row right yet—gie the lassie time to ken her mind. She's the wale o' the country for beauty, and a gude friend o' mine—I gang by the bridewell as safe as by the kirk on a Sabbath—deil ony o' them daur hurt a hair o' auld Edie's head now; I keep the crown o' the causey when I gae to the borough, and rub shouthers wi' a bailie wi' as little concern as an he were a brock."
* The king's keys are, in law phrase, the crow-bars and hammers used to force doors and locks, in execution of the king's warrant.
While the mendicant spoke thus, he was busied in removing a few loose stones in one angle of the eave, which obscured the entrance of the staircase of which he had spoken, and led the way into it, followed by Lovel in passive silence.
"The air's free eneugh," said the old man; "the monks took care o' that, for they werena a lang-breathed generation, I reckon; they hae contrived queer tirlie-wirlie holes, that gang out to the open air, and keep the stair as caller as a kail-blade."
Lovel accordingly found the staircase well aired, and, though narrow, it was neither ruinous nor long, but speedily admitted them into a narrow gallery contrived to run within the side wall of the chancel, from which it received air and light through apertures ingeniously hidden amid the florid ornaments of the Gothic architecture.
"This secret passage ance gaed round great part o' the biggin," said the beggar, "and through the wa' o' the place I've heard Monkbarns ca' the Refractory" [meaning probably Refectory], "and so awa to the Prior's ain house. It's like he could use it to listen what the monks were saying at meal-time,—and then he might come ben here and see that they were busy skreighing awa wi' the psalms doun below there; and then, when he saw a' was right and tight, he might step awa and fetch in a bonnie lass at the cove yonder—for they were queer hands the monks, unless mony lees is made on them. But our folk were at great pains lang syne to big up the passage in some parts, and pu' it down in others, for fear o' some uncanny body getting into it, and finding their way down to the cove: it wad hae been a fashious job that—by my certie, some o' our necks wad hae been ewking."
They now came to a place where the gallery was enlarged into a small circle, sufficient to contain a stone seat. A niche, constructed exactly before it, projected forward into the chancel, and as its sides were latticed, as it were, with perforated stone-work, it commanded a full view of the chancel in every direction, and was probably constructed, as Edie intimated, to be a convenient watch-tower, from which the superior priest, himself unseen, might watch the behaviour of his monks, and ascertain, by personal inspection, their punctual attendance upon those rites of devotion which his rank exempted him from sharing with them. As this niche made one of a regular series which stretched along the wall of the chancel, and in no respect differed from the rest when seen from below, the secret station, screened as it was by the stone figure of St. Michael and the dragon, and the open tracery around the niche, was completely hid from observation. The private passage, confined to its pristine breadth, had originally continued beyond this seat; but the jealous precautions of the vagabonds who frequented the cave of St. Ruth had caused them to build it carefully up with hewn stones from the ruin.
"We shall be better here," said Edie, seating himself on the stone bench, and stretching the lappet of his blue gown upon the spot, when he motioned Lovel to sit down beside him—"we shall be better here than doun below; the air's free and mild, and the savour of the wallflowers, and siccan shrubs as grow on thae ruined wa's, is far mair refreshing than the damp smell doun below yonder. They smell sweetest by night-time thae flowers, and they're maist aye seen about rained buildings. Now, Maister Lovel, can ony o' you scholars gie a gude reason for that?"
Lovel replied in the negative.
"I am thinking," resumed the beggar, "that they'll be, like mony folk's gude gifts, that often seem maist gracious in adversity—or maybe it's a parable, to teach us no to slight them that are in the darkness of sin and the decay of tribulation, since God sends odours to refresh the mirkest hour, and flowers and pleasant bushes to clothe the ruined buildings. And now I wad like a wise man to tell me whether Heaven is maist pleased wi' the sight we are looking upon—thae pleasant and quiet lang streaks o' moonlight that are lying sae still on the floor o' this auld kirk, and glancing through the great pillars and stanchions o' the carved windows, and just dancing like on the leaves o' the dark ivy as the breath o' wind shakes it—I wonder whether this is mair pleasing to Heaven than when it was lighted up wi' lamps, and candles nae doubt, and roughies,* and wi' the mirth and the frankincent that they speak of in the Holy Scripture, and wi' organs assuredly, and men and women singers, and sackbuts, and dulcimers, and a' instruments o' music—I wonder if that was acceptable, or whether it is of these grand parafle o' ceremonies that holy writ says, It is an abomination to me.
* Links, or torches.
I am thinking, Maister Lovel, if twa puir contrite spirits like yours and mine fand grace to make our petition"—
Here Lovel laid his hand eagerly on the mendicant's arm, saying,—"Hush! I heard some one speak."
"I am dull o' hearing," answered Edie, in a whisper, "but we're surely safe here—where was the sound?"
Lovel pointed to the door of the chancel, which, highly ornamented, occupied the west end of the building, surmounted by the carved window, which let in a flood of moonlight over it.
"They can be nane o' our folk," said Edie in the same low and cautious tone; "there's but twa o' them kens o' the place, and they're mony a mile off, if they are still bound on their weary pilgrimage. I'll never think it's the officers here at this time o' night. I am nae believer in auld wives' stories about ghaists, though this is gey like a place for them—But mortal, or of the other world, here they come!—twa men and a light."
And in very truth, while the mendicant spoke, two human figures darkened with their shadows the entrance of the chancel—which had before opened to the moon-lit meadow beyond, and the small lantern which one of them displayed, glimmered pale in the clear and strong beams of the moon, as the evening star does among the lights of the departing day. The first and most obvious idea was, that, despite the asseverations of Edie Ochiltree, the persons who approached the ruins at an hour so uncommon must be the officers of justice in quest of Lovel. But no part of their conduct confirmed the suspicion. A touch and a whisper from the old man warned Lovel that his best course was to remain quiet, and watch their motions from their present place of concealment. Should anything appear to render retreat necessary, they had behind them the private stair-case and cavern, by means of which they could escape into the wood long before any danger of close pursuit. They kept themselves, therefore, as still as possible, and observed with eager and anxious curiosity every accent and motion of these nocturnal wanderers.
After conversing together some time in whispers, the two figures advanced into the middle of the chancel; and a voice, which Lovel at once recognised, from its tone and dialect, to be that of Dousterswivel, pronounced in a louder but still a smothered tone, "Indeed, mine goot sir, dere cannot be one finer hour nor season for dis great purpose. You shall see, mine goot sir, dat it is all one bibble-babble dat Mr. Oldenbuck says, and dat he knows no more of what he speaks than one little child. Mine soul! he expects to get as rich as one Jew for his poor dirty one hundred pounds, which I care no more about, by mine honest wort, than I care for an hundred stivers. But to you, my most munificent and reverend patron, I will show all de secrets dat art can show—ay, de secret of de great Pymander."
"That other ane," whispered Edie, "maun be, according to a' likelihood, Sir Arthur Wardour—I ken naebody but himsell wad come here at this time at e'en wi' that German blackguard;—ane wad think he's bewitched him—he gars him e'en trow that chalk is cheese. Let's see what they can be doing."
This interruption, and the low tone in which Sir Arthur spoke, made Lovel lose all Sir Arthur's answer to the adept, excepting the last three emphatic words, "Very great expense;" to which Dousterswivel at once replied—"Expenses!—to be sure—dere must be de great expenses. You do not expect to reap before you do sow de seed: de expense is de seed—de riches and de mine of goot metal, and now de great big chests of plate, they are de crop—vary goot crop too, on mine wort. Now, Sir Arthur, you have sowed this night one little seed of ten guineas like one pinch of snuff, or so big; and if you do not reap de great harvest—dat is, de great harvest for de little pinch of seed, for it must be proportions, you must know—then never call one honest man, Herman Dousterswivel. Now you see, mine patron—for I will not conceal mine secret from you at all—you see this little plate of silver; you know de moon measureth de whole zodiack in de space of twenty-eight day—every shild knows dat. Well, I take a silver plate when she is in her fifteenth mansion, which mansion is in de head of Libra, and I engrave upon one side de worts, [Shedbarschemoth Schartachan]—dat is, de Emblems of de Intelligence of de moon—and I make this picture like a flying serpent with a turkey- cock's head—vary well. Then upon this side I make de table of de moon, which is a square of nine, multiplied into itself, with eighty-one numbers on every side, and diameter nine—dere it is done very proper. Now I will make dis avail me at de change of every quarter-moon dat I shall find by de same proportions of expenses I lay out in de suffumigations, as nine, to de product of nine multiplied into itself—But I shall find no more to-night as maybe two or dree times nine, because dere is a thwarting power in de house of ascendency."
"But, Dousterswivel," said the simple Baronet, "does not this look like magic?—I am a true though unworthy son of the Episcopal church, and I will have nothing to do with the foul fiend."
"Bah! bah!—not a bit magic in it at all—not a bit—It is all founded on de planetary influence, and de sympathy and force of numbers. I will show you much finer dan dis. I do not say dere is not de spirit in it, because of de suffumigation; but, if you are not afraid, he shall not be invisible."
"I have no curiosity to see him at all," said the Baronet, whose courage seemed, from a certain quaver in his accent, to have taken a fit of the ague.
"Dat is great pity," said Dousterswivel; "I should have liked to show you de spirit dat guard dis treasure like one fierce watchdog—but I know how to manage him;—you would not care to see him?"
"Not at all," answered the Baronet, in a tone of feigned indifference; "I think we have but little time."
"You shall pardon me, my patron; it is not yet twelve, and twelve precise is just our planetary hours; and I could show you de spirit vary well, in de meanwhile, just for pleasure. You see I would draw a pentagon within a circle, which is no trouble at all, and make my suffumigation within it, and dere we would be like in one strong castle, and you would hold de sword while I did say de needful worts. Den you should see de solid wall open like de gate of ane city, and den—let me see—ay, you should see first one stag pursued by three black greyhounds, and they should pull him down as they do at de elector's great hunting-match; and den one ugly, little, nasty black negro should appear and take de stag from them—and paf—all should be gone; den you should hear horns winded dat all de ruins should ring—mine wort, they should play fine hunting piece, as goot as him you call'd Fischer with his oboi; vary well—den comes one herald, as we call Ernhold, winding his horn—and den come de great Peolphan, called de mighty Hunter of de North, mounted on hims black steed. But you would not care to see all this?"*
* Note F. Witchcraft.
"Why, I am not afraid," answered the poor Baronet,—"if—that is—does anything—any great mischiefs, happen on such occasions?"
"Bah! mischiefs? no!—sometimes if de circle be no quite just, or de beholder be de frightened coward, and not hold de sword firm and straight towards him, de Great Hunter will take his advantage, and drag him exorcist out of de circle and throttle him. Dat does happens."
"Well then, Dousterswivel, with every confidence in my courage and your skill, we will dispense with this apparition, and go on to the business of the night."
"With all mine heart—it is just one thing to me—and now it is de time—hold you de sword till I kindle de little what you call chip."
Dousterswivel accordingly set fire to a little pile of chips, touched and prepared with some bituminous substance to make them burn fiercely; and when the flame was at the highest, and lightened, with its shortlived glare, all the ruins around, the German flung in a handful of perfumes which produced a strong and pungent odour. The exorcist and his pupil both were so much affected as to cough and sneeze heartily; and, as the vapour floated around the pillars of the building, and penetrated every crevice, it produced the same effect on the beggar and Lovel.
"Was that an echo?" said the Baronet, astonished at the sternutation which resounded from above; "or"—drawing close to the adept, "can it be the spirit you talked of, ridiculing our attempt upon his hidden treasures?"
"N—n—no," muttered the German, who began to partake of his pupil's terrors, "I hope not."
Here a violent of sneezing, which the mendicant was unable to suppress, and which could not be considered by any means as the dying fall of an echo, accompanied by a grunting half-smothered cough, confounded the two treasure-seekers. "Lord have mercy on us!" said the Baronet.
"Alle guten Geistern loben den Herrn!" ejaculated the terrified adept. "I was begun to think," he continued, after a moment's silence, "that this would be de bestermost done in de day-light—we was bestermost to go away just now."
"You juggling villain!" said the Baronet, in whom these expressions awakened a suspicion that overcame his terrors, connected as it was with the sense of desperation arising from the apprehension of impending ruin—"you juggling mountebank! this is some legerdemain trick of yours to get off from the performance of your promise, as you have so often done before. But, before Heaven! I will this night know what I have trusted to when I suffered you to fool me on to my ruin! Go on, then—come fairy, come fiend, you shall show me that treasure, or confess yourself a knave and an impostor, or, by the faith of a desperate and ruined man, I'll send you where you shall see spirits enough."
The treasure-finder, trembling between his terror for the supernatural beings by whom he supposed himself to be surrounded, and for his life, which seemed to be at the mercy of a desperate man, could only bring out, "Mine patron, this is not the allerbestmost usage. Consider, mine honoured sir, that de spirits"—
Here Edie, who began to enter into the humour of the scene, uttered an extraordinary howl, being an exaltation and a prolongation of the most deplorable whine in which he was accustomed to solicit charity.
Dousterswivel flung himself on his knees—"Dear Sir Arthurs, let us go, or let me go!"
"No, you cheating scoundrel!" said the knight, unsheathing the sword which he had brought for the purposes of the exorcism, "that shift shall not serve you—Monkbarns warned me long since of your juggling pranks—I will see this treasure before you leave this place, or I will have you confess yourself an impostor, or, by Heaven, I'll run this sword through you, though all the spirits of the dead should rise around us!"
"For de lofe of Heaven be patient, mine honoured patron, and you shall hafe all de treasure as I knows of—yes, you shall indeed—But do not speak about de spirits—it makes dem angry."
Edie Ochiltree here prepared himself to throw in another groan, but was restrained by Lovel, who began to take a more serious interest, as he observed the earnest and almost desperate demeanour of Sir Arthur. Dousterswivel, having at once before his eyes the fear of the foul fiend, and the violence of Sir Arthur, played his part of a conjuror extremely ill, hesitating to assume the degree of confidence necessary to deceive the latter, lest it should give offence to the invisible cause of his alarm. However, after rolling his eyes, muttering and sputtering German exorcisms, with contortions of his face and person, rather flowing from the impulse of terror than of meditated fraud, he at length proceeded to a corner of the building where a flat stone lay upon the ground, bearing upon its surface the effigy of an armed warrior in a recumbent posture carved in bas-relief. He muttered to Sir Arthur, "Mine patrons, it is here—Got save us all!"
Sir Arthur, who, after the first moment of his superstitious fear was over, seemed to have bent up all his faculties to the pitch of resolution necessary to carry on the adventure, lent the adept his assistance to turn over the stone, which, by means of a lever that the adept had provided, their joint force with difficulty effected. No supernatural light burst forth from below to indicate the subterranean treasury, nor was there any apparition of spirits, earthly or infernal. But when Dousterswivel had, with great trepidation, struck a few strokes with a mattock, and as hastily thrown out a shovelful or two of earth (for they came provided with the tools necessary for digging), something was heard to ring like the sound of a falling piece of metal, and Dousterswivel, hastily catching up the substance which produced it, and which his shovel had thrown out along with the earth, exclaimed, "On mine dear wort, mine patrons, dis is all—it is indeed; I mean all we can do to-night;"—and he gazed round him with a cowering and fearful glance, as if to see from what comer the avenger of his imposture was to start forth.
"Let me see it," said Sir Arthur; and then repeated, still more sternly, "I will be satisfied—I will judge by mine own eyes." He accordingly held the object to the light of the lantern. It was a small case, or casket,—for Lovel could not at the distance exactly discern its shape, which, from the Baronet's exclamation as he opened it, he concluded was filled with coin. "Ay," said the Baronet, "this is being indeed in good luck! and if it omens proportional success upon a larger venture, the venture shall be made. That six hundred of Goldieword's, added to the other incumbent claims, must have been ruin indeed. If you think we can parry it by repeating this experiment—suppose when the moon next changes,—I will hazard the necessary advance, come by it how I may."
"Oh, mine good patrons, do not speak about all dat," said Dousterswivel, "as just now, but help me to put de shtone to de rights, and let us begone our own ways." And accordingly, so soon as the stone was replaced, he hurried Sir Arthur, who was now resigned once more to his guidance, away from a spot, where the German's guilty conscience and superstitious fears represented goblins as lurking behind each pillar with the purpose of punishing his treachery.
"Saw onybody e'er the like o' that!" said Edie, when they had disappeared like shadows through the gate by which they had entered—"saw ony creature living e'er the like o' that!—But what can we do for that puir doited deevil of a knight-baronet? Od, he showed muckle mair spunk, too, than I thought had been in him—I thought he wad hae sent cauld iron through the vagabond—Sir Arthur wasna half sae bauld at Bessie's-apron yon night—but then, his blood was up even now, and that makes an unco difference. I hae seen mony a man wad hae felled another an anger him, that wadna muckle hae liked a clink against Crummies-horn yon time. But what's to be done?"
"I suppose," said Lovel, "his faith in this fellow is entirely restored by this deception, which, unquestionably, he had arranged beforehand."
"What! the siller?—Ay, ay—trust him for that—they that hide ken best where to find. He wants to wile him out o' his last guinea, and then escape to his ain country, the land-louper. I wad likeit weel just to hae come in at the clipping-time, and gien him a lounder wi' my pike-staff; he wad hae taen it for a bennison frae some o' the auld dead abbots. But it's best no to be rash; sticking disna gang by strength, but by the guiding o' the gally. I'se be upsides wi' him ae day."
"What if you should inform Mr. Oldbuck?" said Lovel.
"Ou, I dinna ken—Monkbarns and Sir Arthur are like, and yet they're no like neither. Monkbarns has whiles influence wi' him, and whiles Sir Arthur cares as little about him as about the like o' me. Monkbarns is no that ower wise himsell, in some things;—he wad believe a bodle to be an auld Roman coin, as he ca's it, or a ditch to be a camp, upon ony leasing that idle folk made about it. I hae garr'd him trow mony a queer tale mysell, gude forgie me. But wi' a' that, he has unco little sympathy wi' ither folks; and he's snell and dure eneugh in casting up their nonsense to them, as if he had nane o' his ain. He'll listen the hale day, an yell tell him about tales o' Wallace, and Blind Harry, and Davie Lindsay; but ye maunna speak to him about ghaists or fairies, or spirits walking the earth, or the like o' that;—he had amaist flung auld Caxon out o' the window (and he might just as weel hae flung awa his best wig after him), for threeping he had seen a ghaist at the humlock-knowe. Now, if he was taking it up in this way, he wad set up the tother's birse, and maybe do mair ill nor gude—he's done that twice or thrice about thae mine-warks; ye wad thought Sir Arthur had a pleasure in gaun on wi' them the deeper, the mair he was warned against it by Monkbarns."
"What say you then," said Lovel, "to letting Miss Wardour know the circumstance?"
"Ou, puir thing, how could she stop her father doing his pleasure?—and, besides, what wad it help? There's a sough in the country about that six hundred pounds, and there's a writer chield in Edinburgh has been driving the spur-rowels o' the law up to the head into Sir Arthur's sides to gar him pay it, and if he canna, he maun gang to jail or flee the country. He's like a desperate man, and just catches at this chance as a' he has left, to escape utter perdition; so what signifies plaguing the puir lassie about what canna be helped? And besides, to say the truth, I wadna like to tell the secret o' this place. It's unco convenient, ye see yoursell, to hae a hiding-hole o' ane's ain; and though I be out o' the line o' needing ane e'en now, and trust in the power o' grace that I'll neer do onything to need ane again, yet naebody kens what temptation ane may be gien ower to—and, to be brief, I downa bide the thought of anybody kennin about the place;—they say, keep a thing seven year, an' yell aye find a use for't—and maybe I may need the cove, either for mysell, or for some ither body."
This argument, in which Edie Ochiltree, notwithstanding his scraps of morality and of divinity, seemed to take, perhaps from old habit, a personal interest, could not be handsomely controverted by Lovel, who was at that moment reaping the benefit of the secret of which the old man appeared to be so jealous.
This incident, however, was of great service to Lovel, as diverting his mind from the unhappy occurrence of the evening, and considerably rousing the energies which had been stupefied by the first view of his calamity. He reflected that it by no means necessarily followed that a dangerous wound must be a fatal one—that he had been hurried from the spot even before the surgeon had expressed any opinion of Captain M'Intyre's situation—and that he had duties on earth to perform, even should the very worst be true, which, if they could not restore his peace of mind or sense of innocence, would furnish a motive for enduring existence, and at the same time render it a course of active benevolence.—Such were Lovel's feelings, when the hour arrived when, according to Edie's calculation—who, by some train or process of his own in observing the heavenly bodies, stood independent of the assistance of a watch or time-keeper—it was fitting they should leave their hiding-place, and betake themselves to the seashore, in order to meet Lieutenant Taffril's boat according to appointment.
They retreated by the same passage which had admitted them to the prior's secret seat of observation, and when they issued from the grotto into the wood, the birds which began to chirp, and even to sing, announced that the dawn was advanced. This was confirmed by the light and amber clouds that appeared over the sea, as soon as their exit from the copse permitted them to view the horizon.—Morning, said to be friendly to the muses, has probably obtained this character from its effect upon the fancy and feelings of mankind. Even to those who, like Lovel, have spent a sleepless and anxious night, the breeze of the dawn brings strength and quickening both of mind and body. It was, therefore, with renewed health and vigour that Lovel, guided by the trusty mendicant, brushed away the dew as he traversed the downs which divided the Den of St. Ruth, as the woods surrounding the ruins were popularly called, from the sea-shore.
The first level beam of the sun, as his brilliant disk began to emerge from the ocean, shot full upon the little gun-brig which was lying-to in the offing—close to the shore the boat was already waiting, Taffril himself, with his naval cloak wrapped about him, seated in the stern. He jumped ashore when he saw the mendicant and Lovel approach, and, shaking the latter heartily by the hand, begged him not to be cast down. "M'Intyre's wound," he said, "was doubtful, but far from desperate." His attention had got Lovel's baggage privately sent on board the brig; "and," he said, "he trusted that, if Lovel chose to stay with the vessel, the penalty of a short cruise would be the only disagreeable consequence of his rencontre. As for himself, his time and motions were a good deal at his own disposal, he said, excepting the necessary obligation of remaining on his station."
"We will talk of our farther motions," said Lovel, "as we go on board."
Then turning to Edie, he endeavoured to put money into his hand. "I think," said Edie, as he tendered it back again, "the hale folk here have either gane daft, or they hae made a vow to rain my trade, as they say ower muckle water drowns the miller. I hae had mair gowd offered me within this twa or three weeks than I ever saw in my life afore. Keep the siller, lad—yell hae need o't, I'se warrant ye, and I hae nane my claes is nae great things, and I get a blue gown every year, and as mony siller groats as the king, God bless him, is years auld—you and I serve the same master, ye ken, Captain Taffril; there's rigging provided for—and my meat and drink I get for the asking in my rounds, or, at an orra time, I can gang a day without it, for I make it a rule never to pay for nane;—so that a' the siller I need is just to buy tobacco and sneeshin, and maybe a dram at a time in a cauld day, though I am nae dram-drinker to be a gaberlunzie;—sae take back your gowd, and just gie me a lily-white shilling."
Upon these whims, which he imagined intimately connected with the honour of his vagabond profession, Edie was flint and adamant, not to be moved by rhetoric or entreaty; and therefore Lovel was under the necessity of again pocketing his intended bounty, and taking a friendly leave of the mendicant by shaking him by the hand, and assuring him of his cordial gratitude for the very important services which he had rendered him, recommending, at the same time, secrecy as to what they had that night witnessed.—"Ye needna doubt that," said Ochiltree; "I never tell'd tales out o' yon cove in my life, though mony a queer thing I hae seen in't."
The boat now put off. The old man remained looking after it as it made rapidly towards the brig under the impulse of six stout rowers, and Lovel beheld him again wave his blue bonnet as a token of farewell ere he turned from his fixed posture, and began to move slowly along the sands as if resuming his customary perambulations.