Bride of Lammermoor
Sir Walter Scott
Part 6 out of 8
"Not for another moment," answered the lady. "Here, Mrs.
Patullo, give this billet to young Ravenswood."
"To the Master, madam!" said Mrs. Patullo.
"Ay, to the Master, if you call him so."
"I wash my hands of it entirely," said the Keeper; "and I shall
go down into the garden, and see that Jardine gathers the winter
fruit for the dessert."
"Do so," said the lady, looking after him with glances of
infinite contempt; "and thank God that you leave one behind you
as fit to protect the honour of the family as you are to look
after pippins and pears."
The Lord Keeper remained long enough in the garden to give her
ladyship's mind time to explode, and to let, as he thought, at
least the first violence of Ravenswood's displeasure blow oever.
When he entered the hall, he found the Marquis of A----giving
orders to some of his attendants. He seemed in high
displeasure, and interrupted an apology which Sir William had
commenced for having left his lordship alone.
"I presume, Sir William, you are no stranger to this
singular billet with which MY kinsman of Ravenswood (an
emphasis on the word 'my') has been favoured by your lady; and,
of course, that you are prepared to receive my adieus. My
kinsman is already gone, having thought it unnecessary to offer
any on his part, since all former civilities had been cancelled
by this singular insult."
"I protest, my lord," said Sir William, holding the billet in
his hand, "I am not privy to the contents of this letter. I
know Lady Ashton is a warm-tempered and prejudiced woman, and I
am sincerely sorry for any offence that has been given or taken;
but I hope your lordship will consider that a lady----"
"Should bear herself towards persons of a certain rank with the
breeding of one," said the Marquis, completing the half-uttered
"True, my lord," said the unfortunate Keeper; "but Lady Ashton
is still a woman----"
"And, as such, methinks," said the Marquis, again
interrupting him, "should be taught the duties which correspond
to her station. But here she comes, and I will learn from her
own mouth the reason of this extraordinary and unexpected affront
offered to my near relation, while both he and I were her
Lady Ashton accordingly entered the apartment at this moment.
Her dispute with Sir William, and a subsequent interview with her
daughter, had not prevented her from attending to the duties of
her toilette. She appeared in full dress; and, from the
character of her countenance and manner, well became the
splendour with which ladies of quality then appeared on such
The Marquis of A---- bowed haughtily, and she returned the
salute with equal pride and distance of demeanour. He then took
from the passive hand of Sir William Ashton the billet he had
given him the moment before he approached the lady, and was about
to speak, when she interrupted him. "I perceive, my lord, you
are about to enter upon an unpleasant subject. I am sorry any
such should have occurred at this time, to interrupt in the
slightest degree the respectful reception due to your lordship;
but so it is. Mr. Edgar Ravenswood, for whom I have addressed
the billet in your lordship's hand, has abused the hospitality of
this family, and Sir William Ashton's softness of temper, in
order to seduce a young person into engagements without her
parents' consent, and of which they never can approve."
Both gentlemen answered at once. "My kinsman is incapable----"
said the Lord Marquis.
"I am confident that my daughter Lucy is still more
incapable----" said the Lord Keeper.
Lady Ashton at once interrupted and replied to them both: "My
Lord Marquis, your kinsman, if Mr. Ravenswood has the honour to
be so, has made the attempt privately to secure the
affections of this young and inexperienced girl. Sir William
Ashton, your daughter has been simple enough to give more
encouragement than she ought to have done to so very improper a
"And I think, madam," said the Lord Keeper, losing his
accustomed temper and patience, "that if you had nothing better
to tell us, you had better have kept this family secret to
"You will pardon me, Sir William," said the lady, calmly; "the
noble Marquis has a right to know the cause of the treatment I
have found it necessary to use to a gentleman whom he calls his
"It is a cause," muttered the Lord Keeper, "which has emerged
since the effect has taken place; for, if it exists at all, I am
sure she knew nothing of it when her letter to
Ravenswood was written."
"It is the first time that I have heard of this," said the
Marquis; "but, since your ladyship has tabled a subject so
delicate, permit me to say, that my kinsman's birth and
connexions entitled him to a patient hearing, and at least a
civil refusal, even in case of his being so ambitious as to
raise his eyes to the daughter of Sir William Ashton."
"You will recollect, my lord, of what blood Miss Lucy Ashton is
come by the mother's side," said the lady.
"I do remember your descent--from a younger branch of the house
of Angus," said the Marquis; "and your ladyship--forgive me,
lady--ought not to forget that the Ravenswoods have thrice
intermarried with the main stem. Come, madam, I know how matters
stand--old and long-fostered prejudices are difficult to get
over, I make every allowance for them; I ought not, and I would
not, otherwise have suffered my kinsman to depart alone,
expelled, in a manner, from this house, but I had hopes of being
a mediator. I am still unwilling to leave you in anger, and
shall not set forward till after noon, as I rejoin the Master of
Ravenswood upon the road a few miles from hence. Let us talk
over this matter more coolly."
"It is what I anxiously desire, my lord," said Sir William
Ashton, eagerly. "Lady Ashton, we will not permit my Lord of A--
-- to leave us in displeasure. We must compel him to tarry
dinner at the castle."
"The castle," said the lady, "and all that it contains, are at
the command of the Marquis, so long as he chooses to honour it
with his residence; but touching the farther discussion of this
"Pardon me, good madam," said the Marquis; "but I cannot allow
you to express any hasty resolution on a subject so
important. I see that more company is arriving; and, since I
have the good fortune to renew my former acquaintance with Lady
Ashton, I hope she will give me leave to avoid perilling what I
prize so highly upon any disagreeable subject of discussion--at
least till we have talked over more pleasant topics."
The lady smiled, courtesied, and gave her hand to the Marquis,
by whom, with all the formal gallantry of the time, which did not
permit the guest to tuck the lady of the house under the arm, as
a rustic does his sweetheart at a wake, she was ushered to the
Here they were joined by Bucklaw, Craigengelt, and other
neighbours, whom the Lord Keeper had previously invited to meet
the Marquis of A----. An apology, founded upon a slight
indisposition, was alleged as an excuse for the absence of Miss
Ashton, whose seat appeared unoccupied. The entertainment was
splendid to profusion, and was protracted till a late hour.
Such was our fallen father's fate,
Yet better than mine own;
He shared his exile with his mate,
I'm banish'd forth alone.
I WILL not attempt to describe the mixture of indignation and
regret with which Ravenswood left the seat which had belonged to
his ancestors. The terms in which Lady Ashton's billet was
couched rendered it impossible for him, without being deficient
in that spirit of which he perhaps had too much, to remain an
instant longer within its walls. The Marquis, who had his share
in the affront, was, nevertheless, still willing to make some
efforts at conciliation. He therefore suffered his kinsman to
depart alone, making him promise, however, that he would wait
for him at the small inn called the Tod's Hole, situated, as our
readers may be pleased to recollect, half-way betwixt Ravenswood
Castle and Wolf's Crag, and about five Scottish miles distant
from each. Here the Marquis proposed to join the Master of
Ravenswood, either that night or the next morning. His own
feelings would have induced him to have left the castle directly,
but he was loth to forfeit, without at least one effort, the
advantages which he had proposed from his visit to the Lord
Keeper; and the Master of Ravenswood was, even in the very heat
of his resentment, unwilling to foreclose any chance of
reconciliation which might arise out of the partiality which Sir
William Ashton had shown towards him, as well as the intercessory
arguments of his noble kinsman. He himself departed without a
moment's delay, farther than was necessary to make this
At first he spurred his horse at a quick pace through an avenue
of the park, as if, by rapidity of motion, he could stupify the
confusion of feelings with which he was assailed. But as the
road grew wilder and more sequestered, and when the trees had
hidden the turrets of the castle, he gradually
slackened his pace, as if to indulge the painful reflections
which he had in vain endeavoured to repress. The path in which
he found himself led him to the Mermaiden's Fountain, and to the
cottage of Alice; and the fatal influence which superstitious
belief attached to the former spot, as well as the admonitions
which had been in vain offered to him by the inhabitant of the
latter, forced themselves upon his memory. "Old saws speak
truth," he said to himself, "and the Mermaiden's Well has indeed
witnessed the last act of rashness of the heir of Ravenswood.
Alice spoke well," he continued, "and I am in the situation which
she foretold; or rather, I am more deeply dishonoured--not the
dependant and ally of the destroyer of my father's house, as the
old sibyl presaged, but the degraded wretch who has aspired to
hold that subordinate character, and has been rejected with
We are bound to tell the tale as we have received it; and,
considering the distance of the time, and propensity of those
through whose mouths it has passed to the marvellous, this could
not be called a Scottish story unless it manifested a tinge of
Scottish superstition. As Ravenswood approached the solitary
fountain, he is said to have met with the following singular
adventure: His horse, which was moving slowly forward, suddenly
interrupted its steady and composed pace, snorted, reared, and,
though urged by the spur, refused to proceed, as if some object
of terror had suddenly presented itself. On looking to the
fountain, Ravenswood discerned a female figure, dressed in a
white, or rather greyish, mantle, placed on the very spot on
which Lucy Ashton had reclined while listening to the fatal tale
of love. His immediate impression was that she had conjectured
by which path he would traverse the park on his departure, and
placed herself at this well-known and sequestered place of
rendezvous, to indulge her own sorrow and his parting interview.
In this belief he jumped from his horse, and, making its bridle
fast to a tree, walked hastily towards the fountain, pronouncing
eagerly, yet under his breath, the words, "Miss Ashton!--Lucy!"
The figure turned as he addressed it, and displayed to his
wondering eyes the features, not of Lucy Ashton, but of old blind
Alice. The singularity of her dress, which rather resembled a
shroud than the garment of a living woman; the appearance of her
person, larger, as it struck him, than it usually seemed to be;
above all, the strange circumstance of a blind, infirm, and
decrepit person being found alone and at a distance from her
habitation (considerable, if her infirmities be taken into
account), combined to impress him with a feeling of wonder
approaching to fear. As he approached, she arose slowly from her
seat, held her shrivelled hand up as if to prevent his coming
more near, and her withered lips moved fast, although no sound
issued from them. Ravenswood stopped; and as, after a moment's
pause, he again advanced towards her, Alice, or her apparition,
moved or glided backwards towards the thicket, still keeping her
face turned towards him. The trees soon hid the form from his
sight; and, yielding to the strong and terrific
impression that the being which he had seen was not of this
world, the Master of Ravenswood remained rooted to the ground
whereon he had stood when he caught his last view of her. At
length, summoning up his courage, he advanced to the spot on
which the figure had seemed to be seated; but neither was there
pressure of the grass nor any other circumstance to induce him to
believe that what he had seen was real and substantial.
Full of those strange thoughts and confused apprehensions which
awake in the bosom of one who conceives he has witnessed some
preternatural appearance, the Master of Ravenswood walked back
towards his horse, frequently, however, looking behind him, not
without apprehension, as if expecting that the vision would
reappear. But the apparition, whether it was real or whether it
was the creation of a heated and agitated imagination, returned
not again; and he found his horse sweating and terrified, as if
experiencing that agony of fear with which the presence of a
supernatural being is supposed to agitate the brute creation.
The Master mounted, and rode slowly forward, soothing his steed
from time to time, while the animal seemed internally to shrink
and shudder, as if expecting some new object of fear at the
opening of every glade. The rider, after a moment's
consideration, resolved to investigate the matter further. "Can
my eyes have deceived me," he said, "and deceived me for such a
space of time? Or are this woman's infirmities but feigned, in
order to excite compassion? And even then, her motion resembled
not that of a living and existing person. Must I adopt the
popular creed, and think that the unhappy being has formed a
league with the powers of
darkness? I am determined to be resolved; I will not brook
imposition even from my own eyes."
In this uncertainty he rode up to the little wicket of Alice's
garden. Her seat beneath the birch-tree was vacant, though the
day was pleasant and the sun was high. He approached the hut,
and heard from within the sobs and wailing of a female. No
answer was returned when he knocked, so that, after a moment's
pause, he lifted the latch and entered. It was indeed a house of
solitude and sorrow. Stretched upon her miserable pallet lay the
corpse of the last retainer of the house of Ravenswood who still
abode on their paternal domains! Life had but shortly departed;
and the little girl by whom she had been attended in her last
moments was wringing her hands and sobbing, betwixt childish fear
and sorrow, over the body of her mistress.
The Master of Ravenswood had some difficulty to compose the
terrors of the poor child, whom his unexpected appearance had at
first rather appalled than comforted; and when he succeeded, the
first expression which the girl used intimated that "he had come
too late." Upon inquiring the meaning of this expression, he
learned that the deceased, upon the first attack of the mortal
agony, had sent a peasant to the castle to beseech an interview
of the Master of Ravenswood, and had expressed the utmost
impatience for his return. But the messengers of the poor are
tardy and negligent: the fellow had not reached the castle, as
was afterwards learned, until Ravenswood had left it, and had
then found too much amusement maong the retinue of the strangers
to return in any haste to the cottage of Alice. Meantime her
anxiety of mind seemed to increase with the agony of her body;
and, to use the phrase of Babie, her only attendant, "she prayed
powerfully that she might see her master's son once more, and
renew her warning." She died just as the clock in the distant
village tolled one; and Ravenswood remembered, with internal
shuddering, that he had heard the chime sound through the wood
just before he had seen what he was now much disposed to consider
as the spectre of the deceased.
It was necessary, as well from his respect to the departed as in
common humanity to her terrified attendant, that he should take
some measures to relieve the girl from her distressing
situation. The deceased, he understood, had expressed a desire
to be buried in a solitary churchyard, near the little inn of the
Tod's Hole, called the Hermitage, or more commonly Armitage, in
which lay interred some of the Ravenswood family, and many of
their followers. Ravenswood conceived it his duty to gratify
this predilection, commonly found to exist among the Scottish
peasantry, and despatched Babie to the neighbouring village to
procure the assistance of some females, assuring her that, in the
mean while, he would himself remain with the dead body, which, as
in Thessaly of old, it is accounted highly unfit to leave without
Thus, in the course of a quarter of an hour or little more, he
found himself sitting a solitary guard over the inanimate corpse
of her whose dismissed spirit, unless his eyes had
strangely deceived him, had so recently manifested itself before
him. Notwithstanding his natural courage, the Master was
considerably affected by a concurrence of circumstances so
extraordinary. "She died expressing her eager desire to see me.
Can it be, then," was his natural course of reflection--"can
strong and earnest wishes, formed during the last agony of
nature, survive its catastrophe, surmount the awful bounds of the
spiritual world, and place before us its inhabitants in the hues
and colouring of life? And why was that manifested to the eye
which could not unfold its tale to the ear? and wherefore should
a breach be made in the laws of nature, yet its purpose remain
unknown? Vain questions, which only death, when it shall make me
like the pale and withered form before me, can ever resolve."
He laid a cloth, as he spoke, over the lifeless face, upon whose
features he felt unwilling any longer to dwell. He then took his
place in an old carved oaken chair, ornamented with his own
armorial bearings, which Alice had contrived to appropriate to
her own use in the pillage which took place among creditors,
officers, domestics, and messengers of the law when his father
left Ravenswood Castle for the last time. Thus seated, he
banished, as much as he could, the superstitious feelings which
the late incident naturally inspired. His own were sad enough,
without the exaggeration of supernatural terror, since he found
himself transferred from the situation of a successful lover of
Lucy Ashton, and an honoured and respected friend of her father,
into the melancholy and solitary guardian of the abandoned and
forsaken corpse of a common pauper.
He was relieved, however, from his sad office sooner that he
could reasonably have expected, considering the distance betwixt
the hut of the deceased and the village, and the age and
infirmities of three old women who came from thence, in military
phrase, to relieve guard upon the body of the defunct. On any
other occasion the speed of these reverend sibyls would have been
much more moderate, for the first was eighty years of age and
upwards, the second was paralytic, and the third lame of a leg
from some accident. But the burial duties rendered to the
deceased are, to the Scottish peasant of either sex, a labour of
love. I know not whether it is from the temper of the people,
grave and enthusiastic as it certainly is, or from the
recollection of the ancient Catholic opinions, when the funeral
rites were always considered as a period of festival to the
living; but feasting, good cheeer, and even inebriety, were, and
are, the frequent accompaniments of a Scottish old-fashioned
burial. What the funeral feast, or "dirgie," as it is called,
was to the men, the gloomy preparations of the dead body for the
coffin were to the women. To straight the contorted limbs upon a
board used for that melancholy purpose, to array the corpse in
clean linen, and over that in its woollen shroad, were operations
committed always to the old matrons of the village, and in which
they found a singular and gloomy delight.
The old women paid the Master their salutations with a ghastly
smile, which reminded him of the meeting betwixt Macbeth and the
witches on the blasted heath of Forres. He gave them some money,
and recommended to them the charge of the dead body of their
contemporary, an office which they willingly undertook;
intimating to him at the same time that he must leave the hut, in
order that they might begin their mournful duties. Ravenswood
readily agreed to depart, only tarrying to recommend to them due
attention to the body, and to receive information where he was to
find the sexton, or beadle, who had in charge the deserted
churchyard of the Armitage, in order to prepare matters for the
reception of Old Alice in the place of repose which she had
selected for herself.
"Ye'll no be pinched to find out Johnie Mortsheugh," said the
elder sibyl, and still her withered cheek bore a grisly smile;
"he dwells near the Tod's Hole, an house of entertainment where
there has been mony a blythe birling, for death and drink-
draining are near neighbours to ane anither."
"Ay! and that's e'en true, cummer," said the lame hag, propping
herself with a crutch which supported the shortness of her left
leg, "for I mind when the father of this Master of Ravenswood
that is now standing before us sticked young Blackhall with his
whinger, for a wrang word said ower their wine, or brandy, or
what not: he gaed in as light as a lark, and he came out wi' his
feet foremost. I was at the winding of the corpse; and when the
bluid was washed off, he was a bonny bouk of man's body."
It may be easily believed that this ill-timed anecdote hastened
the Master's purpose of quitting a company so evil-omened and so
odious. Yet, while walking to the tree to which his horse was
tied, and busying himself with adjusting the girhts of the
saddle, he could not avoid hearing, through the hedge of the
little garden, a conversation respecting himself, betwixt the
lame woman and the octagenarian sibyl. The pair had hobbled into
the garden to gather rosemary, southernwood, rue, and other
plants proper to be strewed upon the body, and burned by way of
fumigation in the chimney of the cottage. The paralytic wretch,
almost exhausted by the journey, was left guard upon the corpse,
lest witches or fiends might play their sport with it.
The following law, croaking dialogue was necessarily
overheard by the Master of Ravenswood:
"That's a fresh and full-grown hemlock, Annie Winnie; mony a
cummer lang syne wad hae sought nae better horse to flee over
hill and how, through mist and moonlight, and light down in the
the King of France's cellar."
"Ay, cummer! but the very deil has turned as hard-hearted now as
the Lord Keeper and the grit folk, that hae breasts like
whinstane. They prick us and they pine us, and they pit us on
the pinnywinkles for witches; and, if I say my prayers backwards
ten times ower, Satan will never gie me amends o' them."
"Did ye ever see the foul thief?" asked her neighbour.
"Na!" replied the other spokeswoman; "but I trow I hae dreamed
of him mony a time, and I think the day will come they will burn
me for't. But ne'er mind, cummer! we hae this dollar of the
Master's, and we'll send doun for bread and for yill, and
tobacco, and a drap brandy to burn, and a wee pickle saft sugar;
and be there deil, or nae deil, lass, we'll hae a merry night
Here her leathern chops uttered a sort of cackling, ghastly
laugh, resembling, to a certain degree, the cry of the screech-
"He's a frank man, and a free-handed man, the Master," said
Annie Winnie, "and a comely personage--broad in the shouthers,
and narrow around the lunyies. He wad mak a bonny corpse; I wad
like to hae the streiking and winding o' him."
"It is written on his brow, Annie Winnie," returned the
octogenarian, her companion, "that hand of woman, or of man
either, will never straught him: dead-deal will never be laid on
his back, make you your market of that, for I hae it frae a sure
"Will it be his lot to die on the battle-ground then, Ailsie
Gourlay? Will he die by the sword or the ball, as his forbears
had dune before him, mony ane o' them?"
"Ask nae mair questions about it--he'll no be graced sae far,"
replied the sage.
"I ken ye are wiser than ither folk, Aislie Gourlay. But wha
tell'd ye this?"
"Fashna your thumb about that, Annie Winnie," answered the
sibyl, "I hae it frae a hand sure eneugh."
"But ye said ye never saw the foul thief," reiterated her
"I hae it frae as sure a hand," said Ailsie, "and frae them that
spaed his fortune before the sark gaed ower his head."
"Hark! I hear his horse's feet riding aff," said the other;
"they dinna sound as if good luck was wi' them."
"Mak haste, sirs," cried the paralytic hag from the cottage,
"and let us do what is needfu', and say what is fitting; for, if
the dead corpse binna straughted, it will girn and thraw, and
that will fear the best o' us."
Ravenswood was now out of hearing. He despised most of the
ordinary prejudices about witchcraft, omens, and vaticination, to
which his age and country still gave such implicit credit that to
express a doubt of them was accounted a crime equal to the
unbelief of Jews or Saracens; he knew also that the prevailing
belief, concerning witches, operating upon the hypochondriac
habits of those whom age, infirmity, and poverty rendered liable
to suspicion, and enforced by the fear of death and the pangs of
the most cruel tortures, often extorted those confessions which
encumber and disgrace the criminal records of Scotland during the
17th century. But the vision of that morning, whether real or
imaginary, had impressed his mind with a superstitious feeling
which he in vain endeavoured to shake off. The nature of the
business which awaited him at the little inn, called Tod's Hole,
where he soon after arrived, was not of a kind to restore his
It was necessary he should see Mortsheugh, the sexton of the old
burial-ground at Armitage, to arrange matters for the funeral of
Alice; and, as the man dwelt near the place of her late
residence, the Master, after a slight refreshment, walked towards
the place where the body of Alice was to be deposited. It was
situated in the nook formed by the eddying sweep of a stream,
which issued from the adjoining hills. A rude cavern in an
adjacent rock, which, in the interior, was cut into the shape of
a cross, formed the hermitage, where some Saxon saint had in
ancient times done penance, and given name to the place. The
rich Abbey of Coldinghame had, in latter days, established a
chapel in the neighbourhood, of which no vestige was now visible,
though the churchyard which surrounded it was still, as upon the
present occasion, used for the interment of particular persons.
One or two shattered yew-trees still grew within the precincts of
that which had once been holy ground. Warriors and barons had
been buried there of old, but their names were forgotten, and
their monuments demolished. The only sepulchral memorials which
remained were the upright headstonres which mark the graves of
persons of inferior rank. The abode of the sexton was a solitary
cottage adjacent to the ruined wall of the cemetery, but so low
that, with its thatch, which nearly reached the ground, covered
with a thick crop of grass, fog, and house-leeks, it resembled an
overgrown grave. On inquiry, however, Ravenswood found that the
man of the last mattock was absent at a bridal, being fiddler as
well as grave-digger to the vicinity. He therefore retired to
the little inn, leaving a message that early next morning he
would again call for the person whose double occupation connected
him at once with the house of mourning and the house of feasting.
An outrider of the Marquis arrived at Tod's Hole shortly after,
with a message, intimating that his master would join Ravenswood
at that place on the following morning; and the Master, who would
otherwise have proceeded to his old retreat at Wolf's Crag,
remained there accordingy to give meeting to his noble kinsman.
Hamlet: Has this fellow no feeling of his business? he sings at
grave making. Horatio: Custom hath made it in him a property
of easiness. Hamlet: 'Tis e'en so: the hand of little
employment hath the daintier sense.
Hamlet, Act V. Scene 1.
THE sleep of Ravenswood was broken by ghastly and agitating
visions, and his waking intervals disturbed by melancholy
reflections on the past and painful anticipations of the future.
He was perhaps the only traveller who ever slept in that
miserable kennel without complaining of his lodgings, or feeling
inconvenience from their deficiencies. It is when "the mind is
free the body's delicate." Morning, however, found the Master an
early riser, in hopes that the fresh air of the dawn might afford
the refreshment which night had refused him. He took his way
towards the solitary burial-ground, which lay about half a mile
from the inn.
The thin blue smoke, which already began to curl upward, and to
distinguish the cottage of the living from the habitation of the
dead, apprised him that its inmate had returned and was
stirring. Accordingly, on entering the little churchyard, he saw
the old man labouring in a half-made grave. "My destiny,"
thought Ravenswood, "seems to lead me to scenes of fate and of
death; but these are childish thoughts, and they shall not master
me. I will not again suffer my imagination to beguile my
senses." The old man rested on his spade as the Master
approached him, as if to receive his commands; and as he did not
immediately speak, the sexton opened the discourse in his own
"Ye will be a wedding customer, sir, I'se warrant?"
"What makes you think so, friend?" replied the Master.
"I live by twa trades, sir," replied the blythe old man--
"fiddle, sir, and spade; filling the world, and emptying of it;
and I suld ken baith cast of customers by head-mark in thirty
"You are mistaken, however, this morning," replied
"Am I?" said the old man, looking keenly at him, "troth and it
may be; since, for as brent as your brow is, there is
something sitting upon it this day that is as near akin to death
as to wedlock. Weel--weel; the pick and shovel are as ready to
your order as bow and fiddle."
"I wish you," said Ravenswood, "to look after the descent
interment of an old woman, Alice Gray, who lived at the Graigfoot
in Ravenswood Park."
"Alice Gray!--blind Alice!" said the sexton; "and is she gane at
last? that's another jow of the bell to bid me be ready. I mind
when Habbie Gray brought her down to this land; a likely lass she
was then, and looked ower her southland nose at us a'. I trow
her pride got a downcome. And is she e'en gane?"
"She died yesterday," said Ravenswood; "and desired to be buried
here beside her husband; you know where he lies, no doubt?"
"Ken where he lies!" answered the sexton, with national
indirection of response. "I ken whar a'body lies, that lies
here. But ye were speaking o' her grave? Lord help us, it's no
an ordinar grave that will haud her in, if a's true that folk
said of Alice in her auld days; and if I gae to six feet deep--
and a warlock's grave shouldna be an inch mair ebb, or her ain
witch cummers would soon whirl her out of her shroud for a' their
auld acquaintance--and be't six feet, or be't three, wha's to pay
the making o't, I pray ye?"
"I will pay that, my friend, and all other reasonable charges."
"Reasonable charges!" said the sexton; "ou, there's
grundmail--and bell-siller, though the bell's broken, nae doubt--
and the kist--and my day's wark--and my bit fee--and some brandy
and yill to the dirgie, I am no thinking that you can inter her,
to ca' decently, under saxteen pund Scots."
"There is the money, my friend," said Ravenswood, "and something
over. Be sure you know the grave."
"Ye'll be ane o' her English relations, I'se warrant," said the
hoary man of skulls; "I hae heard she married far below her
station. It was very right to let her bite on the bridle when
she was living, and it's very right to gie her a secent burial
now she's dead, for that's a matter o' credit to yoursell rather
than to her. Folk may let their kindred shift for themsells when
they are alive, and can bear the burden fo their ain misdoings;
but it's an unnatural thing to let them be buried like dogs, when
a' the discredit gangs to the kindred. What kens the dead corpse
"You would not have people neglect their relations on a bridal
occasion neither?" said Ravenswood, who was amused with the
professional limitation of the grave-digger's philanthropy.
The old man cast up his sharp grey eyes with a shrewd smile, as
if he understood the jest, but instantly continued, with his
former gravity: "Bridals--wha wad neglect bridals that had ony
regard for plenishing the earth? To be sure, they suld be
celebrated with all manner of good cheer, and meeting of friends,
and musical instruments--harp, sackbut, and psaltery; or gude
fiddle and pipes, when these auld-warld instruments of melody are
hard to be compassed."
"The presence of the fiddle, I dare say," replied
Ravenswood, "would atone for the absence of all the others."
The sexton again looked sharply up at him, as he answered. "Nae
doubt--nae doubt, if it were weel played; but yonder," he said,
as if to change the discourse, "is Halbert Gray's lang hame, that
ye were speering after, just the third bourock beyond the muckle
through-stane that stands on sax legs yonder, abune some ane of
the Ravenswoods; for there is mony of their kin and followers
here, deil lift them! though it isna just their main burial-
"They are no favourites, then, of yours, these Ravenswoods?"
said the Master, no much pleased with the passing benediction
which was thus bestowed on his family and name.
"I kenna wha should favour them," said the grave-digger; "when
they had lands and power, they were ill guides of them baith, and
now their head's down, there's few care how lang they may be of
lifting it again."
"Indeed!" said Ravenswood; "I never heard that this unhappy
family deserved ill-will at the hands of their country. I grant
their poverty, if that renders them contemptible."
"It will gang a far way till't" said the sexton of
Hermitage, "ye may tak my word for that; at least, I ken naething
else that suld mak myself contemptible, and folk are far frae
respecting me as they wad do if I lived in a twa-lofted sclated
house. But as for the Ravenswoods, I hae seen three generations
of them, and deil ane to mend other."
"I thought they had enjoyed a fair character in the
country," said their descendant.
"Character! Ou, ye see, sir," said the sexton, "as for the auld
gudesire body of a lord, I lived on his land when I was a
swanking young chield, and could hae blawn the trumpet wi' ony
body, for I had wind eneugh then; and touching this trumpeter
Marine that I have heard play afore the lords of the circuit, I
wad hae made nae mair o' him than of a bairn and a bawbee
whistle. I defy him to hae played 'Boot and saddle,' or 'Horse
and away,' or 'Gallants, come trot,' with me; he hadna the
"But what is all this to old Lord Ravenswood, my friend?" said
the Master, who, with an anxiety not unnatural in his
circumstances, was desirous of prosecuting the musician's first
topic--"what had his memory to do with the degeneracy of the
"Just this, sir," answered the sexton, "that I lost my wind in
his service. Ye see I was trumpeter at the castle, and had
allowance for blawing at break of day, and at dinner time, and
other whiles when there was company about, and it pleased my
lord; and when he raised his militia to caper awa' to Bothwell
Brig against the wrang-headed westland Whigs, I behoved, reason
or name, to munt a horse and caper awa' wi' them."
"And very reasonable," said Ravenswood; "you were his servant
"Servitor, say ye?" replied the sexton, "and so I was; but it
was to blaw folk to their warm dinner, or at the warst to a
decent kirkyard, and no to skirl them awa' to a bluidy braeside,
where there was deil a bedral but the hooded craw. But bide ye,
ye shall hear what cam o't, and how far I am bund to be bedesman
to the Ravenswoods. Till't, ye see, we gaed on a braw simmer
morning, twenty-fourth of June, saxteen hundred and se'enty-nine,
of a' the days of the month and year--drums beat, guns rattled,
horses kicked and trampled. Hackstoun of Rathillet keepit the
brig wi' mustket and carabine and pike, sword and scythe for what
I ken, and we horsemen were ordered down to cross at the ford,--I
hate fords at a' times, let abee when there's thousands of armed
men on the other side. There was auld Ravenswood brandishing his
Andrew Ferrara at the head, and crying to us to come and buckle
to, as if we had been gaun to a fair; there was Caleb
Balderstone, that is living yet, flourishing in the rear, and
swearing Gog and Magog, he would put steel through the gus of ony
man that turned bridle; there was young Allan Ravenswood, that
was then Master, wi' a bended pistol in his hand--it was a mercy
it gaed na aff!--crying to me, that had scarce as much wind left
as serve the necessary purpose of my ain lungs, 'Sound, you
poltroon!--sound, you damned cowardly villain, or I will blow
your brains out!' and, to be sure, I blew sic points of war that
the scraugh of a clockin-hen was music to them."
"Well, sir, cut all this short," said Ravenswood.
"Short! I had like to hae been cut short mysell, in the flower
of my youth, as Scripture says; and that's the very thing that I
compleen o'. Weel! in to the water we behoved a' to splash,
heels ower head, sit or fa'--ae horse driving on anither, as is
the way of brute beasts, and riders that hae as little sense; the
very bushes on the ither side were ableeze wi' the flashes of the
Whig guns; and my horse had just taen the grund, when a
blackavised westland carle--I wad mind the face o' him a hundred
years yet--an ee like a wild falcon's, and a beard as broad as my
shovel--clapped the end o' his lang black gun within a quarter's
length of my lug! By the grace o' Mercy, the horse swarved
round, and I fell aff at the tae side as the ball
whistled by at the tither, and the fell auld lord took the Whig
such a swauk wi' his broadsword that he made twa pieces o' his
head, and down fell the lurdance wi' a' his bouk abune me."
"You were rather obliged to the old lord, I think," said
"Was I? my sartie! first for bringing me into jeopardy, would I
nould I, and then for whomling a chield on the tap o' me that
dang the very wind out of my body? I hae been short-
breathed ever since, and canna gang twenty yards without peghing
like a miller's aiver."
"You lost, then, your place as trumpeter?" said Ravenswood.
"Lost it! to be sure I lost it," replied the sexton, "for I
couldna hae played pew upon a dry hemlock; but I might hae dune
weel eneugh, for I keepit the wage and the free house, and little
to do but play on the fiddle to them, but for Allan, last Lord
Ravenswood, that was far waur than ever his father was."
"What," said the Master, "did my father--I mean, did his
father's son--this last Lord Ravenswood, deprive you of what the
bounty of his father allowed you?"
"Ay, troth did he," answered the old man; "for he loot his
affairs gang to the dogs, and let in this Sir William Ashton on
us, that will gie naething for naething, and just removed me and
a' the puir creatures that had bite and soup at the castle, and a
hole to put our heads in, when things were in the auld way."
"If Lord Ravenswood protected his people, my friend, while he
had the means of doing so, I think they might spare his memory,"
replied the Master.
"Ye are welcome to your ain opinion, sir," said the sexton; "but
ye winna persuade me that he did his duty, either to himsell or
to huz puir dependent creatures, in guiding us the gate he has
done; he might hae gien us life-rent tacks of our bits o' houses
and yards; and me, that's an auld man, living in you miserable
cabin, that's fitter for the dead than the quick, and killed wi'
rheumatise, and John Smith in my dainty bit mailing, and his
window glazen, and a' because Ravenswood guided his gear like a
"It is but too true," said Ravenswood, conscience-struck; "the
penalties of extravagance extend far beyond the prodigal's own
"However," said the sexton, "this young man Edgar is like to
avenge my wrangs on the haill of his kindred."
"Indeed?" said Ravenswood; "why should you suppose so?"
"They say he is about to marry the daughter of Leddy Ashton; and
let her leddyship get his head ance under her oxter, and see you
if she winna gie his neck a thraw. Sorra a bit, if I were him!
Let her alane for hauding a'thing in het water that draws near
her. Sae the warst wish I shall wish the lad is, that he may
take his ain creditable gate o't, and ally himsell wi' his
father's enemies, that have taken his broad lands and my bonny
kail-yard from the lawful owners thereof."
Cervantes acutely remarks, that flattery is pleasing even from
the mouth of a madman; and censure, as well as praise, often
affects us, while we despise the opinions and motives on which it
is founded and expressed. Ravenswood, abruptly reiterating his
command that Alice's funeral should be attended to, flung away
from the sexton, under the painful impression that the great as
well as the small vulgar would think of his engagement with Lucy
like this ignorant and selfish peasant.
"And I have stooped to subject myself to these calumnies, and am
rejected notwithstanding! Lucy, your faith must be true and
perfect as the diamond to compensate for the dishonour which
men's opinions, and the conduct of your mother, attach to the
heir of Ravenswood!"
As he raised his eyes, he beheld the Marquis of A----, who,
having arrived at the Tod's Hole, had walked forth to look for
After mutual greetings, he made some apology to the Master for
not coming forward on the preceding evening. "It was his wish,"
he said, "to have done so, but he had come to the
knowledge of some matters which induced him to delay his purpose.
I find," he proceeded, "there has been a love affair here,
kinsman; and though I might blame you for not having communicated
with me, as being in some degree the chief of your family----"
"With your lordship's permission," said Ravenswood, "I am deeply
grateful for the interest you are pleased to take in me, but _I_
am the chief and head of my family."
"I know it--I know it," said the Marquis; "in a strict heraldic
and genealogical sense, you certainly are so; what I mean is,
that being in some measure under my guardianship----"
"I must take the liberty to say, my lord----" answered
Ravenswood, and the tone in which he interrupted the Marquis
boded no long duration to the friendship of the noble relatives,
when he himself was interrupted by the little sexton, who cam
puffing after them, to ask if their honours would choose music at
the change-house to make up for short cheer.
"We want no music," said the Master, abruptly.
"Your honour disna ken what ye're refusing, then," said the
fiddler, with the impertinent freedom of his profession. "I can
play, 'Wilt thou do't again,' and 'The Auld Man's Mear's Dead,'
sax times better than ever Patie Birnie. I'll get my fiddle in
the turning of a coffin-screw."
"Take yourself away, sir," said the Marquis.
"And if your honour be a north-country gentleman," said the
persevering minstrel, "whilk I wad judge from your tongue, I can
play 'Liggeram Cosh,' and 'Mullin Dhu,' and 'The Cummers of
"Take yourself away, friend; you interrupt our
"Or if, under your honour's favour, ye should happen to be a
thought honest, I can play (this in a low and confidential tone)
'Killiecrankie,' and 'The King shall hae his ain,' and 'The Auld
Stuarts back again'; and the wife at the change-house is a
decent, discreet body, neither kens nor cares what toasts are
drucken, and what tunes are played, in her house: she's deaf to
a'thing but the clink o' the siller."
The Marquis, who was sometimes suspected of Jacobitism, could
not help laughing as he threw the fellow a dollar, and bid him go
play to the servants if he had a mind, and leave them at peace.
"Aweel, gentlemen," said he, "I am wishing your honours gude
day. "I'll be a' the better of the dollar, and ye'll be the waur
of wanting music, I'se tell ye. But I'se gang hame, and finish
the grave in the tuning o' a fiddle-string, lay by my spade, and
then get my tother bread-winner, and awa' to your folk, and see
if they hae better lugs than their masters."
True love, an thou be true,
Thou has ane kittle part to play;
For fortune, fashion, fancy, and thou,
Maun strive for many a day.
I've kend by mony a friend's tale,
Far better by this heart of mine,
What time and change of fancy avail
A true-love knot to untwine.
"I WISHED to tell you, my good kinsman," said the Marquis, "now
that we are quit of that impertinent fiddler, that I had tried to
discuss this love affair of yours with Sir William Ashton's
daughter. I never saw the young lady but for a few minutes to-
day; so, being a stranger to her personal merits, I pay a
compliment to you, and offer her no offence, in saying you might
"My lord, I am much indebted for the interest you have taken in
my affairs," said Ravenswood. "I did not intend to have
troubled you in any matter concerning Miss Ashton. As my
engagement with that young lady has reached your lordship, I can
only say, that you must necessarily suppose that I was aware of
the objections to my marrying into her father's family, and of
course must have been completely satisfied with the reasons by
which these objections are overbalanced, since I have proceeded
so far in the matter."
"Nay, Master, if you had heard me out," said his noble relation,
"you might have spared that observation; for, withotu
questioning that you had reasons which seemed to you to
counterbalance every other obstacle, I set myself, by every means
that it became me to use towards the Ashtons, to persuade them to
meet your views."
"I am obliged to your lordship for your unsolicited
intercession," said Ravenswood; "especially as I am sure your
lordship would never carry it beyond the bounds which it became
me to use."
"Of that," said the Marquis, "you may be confident; I myself
felt the delicacy of the matter too much to place a gentleman
nearly connected with my house in a degrading or dubious
situation with these Ashtons. But I pointed out all the
advantages of their marrying their daughter into a house so
honourable, and so nearly related with the first of Scotland; I
explained the exact degree of relationship in which the
Ravenswoods stand to ourselves; and I even hinted how political
matters were like to turn, and what cards would be trumps next
Parliament. I said I regarded you as a son--or a nephew, or so--
rather than as a more distant relation; and that I made your
affair entirely my own."
"And what was the issue of your lordship's explanation?" said
Ravenswood, in some doubt whether he should resent or express
gratitude for his interference.
"Why, the Lord Keeper would have listened to reason," said the
Marquis; "he is rather unwilling to leave his place, which, in
the present view of a change, must be vacated; and, to say
truth, he seemed to have a liking for you, and to be sensible of
the general advantages to be attained by such a match. But his
lady, who is tongue of the trump, Master----"
"What of Lady Ashton, my lord?" said Ravenswood; "let me know
the issue of this extraordinary conference: I can bear it."
"I am glad of that, kinsman," said the Marquis, "for I am
ashamed to tell you half what she said. It is enough--her mind
is made up, and the mistress of a first-rate boarding-school
could not have rejected with more haughty indifference the suit
of a half-pay Irish officer, beseeching permission to wait upon
the heiress of a West India planter, than Lady Ashton spurned
every proposal of mediation which it could at all become me to
offer in behalf of you, my good kinsman. I cannot guess what she
means. A more honourable connexion she could not form, that's
certain. As for money and land, that used to be her husband's
business rather than hers; I really think she hates you for
having the rank which her husband has not, and perhaps for not
having the lands that her goodman has. But I should only vex you
to say more about it--here we are at the change-house."
The Master of Ravenswood paused as he entered the cottage, which
reeked through all its crevices, and they were not few, from the
exertions of the Marquis's travelling-cooks to supply good cheer,
and spread, as it were, a table in the wilderness.
"My Lord Marquis," said Ravenswood, "I already mentioned that
accident has put your lordship in possession of a secret which,
with my consent, should have remained one even to you, my
kinsman, for some time. Since the secret was to part from my own
custody, and that of the only person besides who was interested
in it, I am not sorry it should have reached your lordship's
ears, as being fully aware that you are my noble kinsman and
"You may believe it is safely lodged with me, Master of
Ravenswood," said the Marquis; "but I should like well to hear
you say that you renounced the idea of an alliance which you can
hardly pursue without a certain degree of degradation."
"Of that, my lord, I shall judge," answered Ravenswood, "and I
hope with delicacy as sensitive as any of my friends. But I
have no engagement with Sir William and Lady Ashton. It is with
Miss Ashton alone that I have entered upon the subject, and my
conduct in the matter shall be entirely ruled by hers. If she
continues to prefer me in my poverty to the wealthier suitors
whom her friends recommend, I may well make some sacrifice to her
sincere affection: I may well surrender to her the less tangible
and less palpable advantages of birth, and the deep-rooted
prejudices of family hatred. If Miss Lucy Ashton should change
her mind on a subject of such delicacy, I trust my friends will
be silent on my disappointment, and I shall know how to make my
"Spoke like a gallant young nobleman," said the Marquis; "for my
part, I have that regard for you, that I should be sorry the
thing went on. This Sir William Ashton was a pretty enough
pettifogging kind of a lawyer twenty years ago, and betwixt
battling at the bar and leading in committees of Parliament he
has got well on; the Darien matter lent him a lift, for he had
good intelligence and sound views, and sold out in time; but the
best work is had out of him. No government will take him at his
own, or rather his wife's extravagant, valuation; and betwixt his
indecision and her insolence, from all I can guess, he will
outsit his market, and be had cheap when no one will bid for him.
I say nothing of Miss Ashton; but I assure you, a connexion with
her father will be neither useful nor ornamental, beyond that
part of your father's spoils which he may be prevailed upon to
disgorge by way of tocher-good; and take my word for it, you will
get more if you have spirit to bell the cat with him in the House
of Peers. And I will be the man, cousin," continued his
lordship, "will course the fox for you, and make him rue the day
that ever he refused a composition too honourable for him, and
proposed by me on the behalf of a kinsman."
There was something in all this that, as it were, overshot the
mark. Ravenswood could not disguise from himself that his noble
kinsman had more reasons for taking offence at the
reception of his suit than regarded his interest and honour, yet
he could neither complain nor be surprised that it should be so.
He contented himself, therefore, with repeating, that his
attachment was to Miss Ashton personally; that he desired neither
wealth nor aggrandisement from her father's means and influence;
and that nothing should prevent his keeping his engagement,
excepting her own express desire that it should be relinquished;
and he requested as a favour that the matter might be no more
mentioned betwixt them at present, assuring the Marquis of A----
that he should be his confidant or its interruption.
The Marquis soon had more agreeable, as well as more
interesting, subjects on which to converse. A foot-post, who had
followed him from Edinburgh to Ravenswood Castle, and had traced
his steps to the Tod's Hole, brought him a packet laden with good
news. The political calculations of the Marquis had proved just,
both in London and at Edinburgh, and he saw almost within his
grasp the pre-eminence for which he had panted. The refreshments
which the servants had prepared were now put on the table, and an
epicure would perhaps have enjoyed them with additional zest from
the contrast which such fare afforded to the miserable cabin in
which it was served up.
The turn of conversation corresponded with and added to the
social feelings of the company. The Marquis expanded with
pleasure on the power which probably incidents were likely to
assign to him, and on the use which eh hoped to make of it in
serving his kinsman Ravenswood. Ravenswood could but repeat the
gratitude which he really felt, even when he considered the topic
as too long dwelt upon. The wine was excellent, notwithstanding
its having been brought in a runlet from Edinburgh; and the
habits of the Marquis, when engaged with such good cheer, were
somewhat sedentary. And so it fell out that they delayed their
journey two hours later than was their original purpose.
"But what of that, my good young friend?" said the Marquis.
"Your Castle of Wolf's Crag is at but five or six miles'
distance, and will afford the same hospitality to your kinsman of
A----that it gave to this same Sir William Ashton."
"Sir William took the castle by storm," said Ravenswood, "and,
like many a victor, had little reason to congratulate himself on
"Well--well!" said Lord A----, whose dignity was something
relaxed by the wine he had drunk, "I see I must bribe you to
harbour me. Come, pledge me in a bumper health to the last
young lady that slept at Wolf's Crag, and liked her quarters. My
bones are not so tender as hers, and I am resolved to occupy her
apartment to-night, that I may judge how hard the couch is that
love can soften."
"Your lordship may choose what penance you please," said
Ravenswood; "but I assure you, I should expect my old servant to
hang himself, or throw himself from the battlements, should your
lordship visit him so unexpectedly. I do assure you, we are
totally and literally unprovided."
But his declaration only brought from his noble patron an
assurance of his own total indifference as to every species of
accommodation, and his determination to see the Tower of Wolf's
Crag. His ancestor, he said, had been feasted there, when he
went forward with the then Lord Ravenswood to the fatal battle of
Flodden, in which they both fell. Thus hard pressed, the Master
offered to ride forward to get matters put in such preparation as
time and circumstances admitted; but the Marquis protested his
kinsman must afford him his company, and would only consent that
an avant-courier should carry to the desinted seneschal, Caleb
Balderstone, the unexpected news of this invasion.
The Master of Ravenswood soon after accompanied the Marquis in
his carriage, as the latter had proposed; and when they became
better acquainted in the progress of the journey, his noble
relation explained the very liberal views which he entertained
for his relation's preferment, in case of the success of his own
political schemes. They related to a secret and highly important
commission beyond sea, which could only be entrusted to a person
of rank, talent, and perfect confidence, and which, as it
required great trust and reliance on the envoy employed, could
but not prove both honourable and advantageous to him. We need
not enter into the nature and purpose of this commission, farther
than to acquaint our readers that the charge was in prospect
highly acceptable to the Master of Ravenswood, who hailed with
pleasure the hope of emerging from his present state of indigence
and inaction into independence and honourable exertion.
While he listened thus eagerly to the details with which the
Marquis now thought it necessary to entrust him, the messenger
who had been despatched to the Tower of Wolf's Crag returned with
Caleb Balderstone's humble duty, and an assurance that "a' should
be in seemly order, sic as the hurry of time permitted, to
receive their lordships as it behoved."
Ravenswood was too well accustomed to his seneschal's mode of
acting and speaking to hope much from this confident
assurance. He knew that Caleb acted upon the principle of the
Spanish geenrals, in the campaign of ----, who, much to the
perplexity of the Prince of Orange, their commander-in-chief,
used to report their troops as full in number, and possessed of
all necessary points of equipment, not considering it consistent
with their dignity, or the honour of Spain, to confess any
deficiency either in men or munition, until the want of both was
unavoidably discovered in the day of battle. Accordingly,
Ravenswood thought it necessary to give the Marquis some hint
that the fair assurance which they had just received from Caleb
did not by any means ensure them against a very indifferent
"You do yourself injustice, Master," said the Marquis, "or you
wish to surprise me agreeably. From this window I see a great
light in the direction where, if I remember aright, Wolf's Crag
lies; and, to judge from the splendour which the old Tower sheds
around it, the preparations for our reception must be of no
ordinary description. I remember your father putting the same
deception on me, when we went to the Tower for afew days'
hawking, about twenty years since, and yet we spent our time as
jollily at Wolf's Crag as we could have done at my own hunting
seat at B----."
"Your lordship, I fear, will experience that the faculty of the
present proprietor to entertain his friends is greatly
abridged," said Ravenswood; "the will, I need hardly say, remains
the same. But I am as much at a loss as your lordship to account
for so strong and brilliant a light as is now above Wolf's Crag;
the windows of the Tower are few and narrow, and those of the
lower story are hidden from us by the walls of the court. I
cannot conceive that any illumination of an ordinary nature could
afford such a blaze of light."
The mystery was soon explained; for the cavalcade almost
instantly halted, and the voice of Caleb Balderstone was heard
at the coach window, exclaiming, in accents broken by grief and
fear, "Och, gentlemen! Och, my gude lords! Och, haud to the
right! Wolf's Crag is burning, bower and ha'--a' the rich
plenishing outside and inside--a' the fine graith, pictures,
tapestries, needle-wark, hangings, and other decorements--a' in a
bleeze, as if they were nae mair than sae mony peats, or as
muckle pease-strae! Haud to the right, gentlemen, I implore ye;
there is some sma' provision making at Luckie Sma'trash's; but
oh, wae for this night, and wae for me that lives to see it!"
Ravenswood was first stunned by this new and unexpected
calamity; but after a moment's recollection he sprang from the
carriage, and hastily bidding his noble kinsman goodnight, was
about to ascend the hill towards the castle, the broad and full
conflagration of which now flung forth a high column of red
light, that flickered far to seaward upon the dashing waves of
"Take a horse, Master," exclaimed the Marquis, greatly affected
by this additional misfortune, so unexpectedly heaped upon his
young protege; "and give me my ambling palfrey; and haste
forward, you knaves, to see what can be done to save the
furniture, or to extinguish the fire--ride, you knaves, for your
The attendants bustled together, and began to strike their
horses with the spur, and call upon Caleb to show them the road.
But the voice of that careful seneschal was heard above the
tumult, "Oh, stop sirs, stop--turn bridle, for the luve of Mercy;
add not loss of lives to the loss of warld's gean! Thirty
barrels of powther, landed out of a Dunkirk dogger in the auld
lord's time--a' in the vau'ts of the auld tower,--the fire canna
be far off it, I trow. Lord's sake, to the right, lads--to the
right; let's pit the hill atween us and peril,--a wap wi' a
corner-stane o' Wolf's Crag wad defy the doctor!"
It will readily be supposed that this annunciation hurried the
Marquis and his attendants into the route which Caleb
prescribed, dragging Ravenswood along with them, although there
was much in the matter which he could not possibly comprehend.
"Gunpowder!" he exclaimed, laying hold of Caleb, who in vain
endeavoured to escape from him; "what
gunpowder? How any quantity of powder could be in Wolf's Crag
without my knowledge, I cannot possibly comprehend."
"But I can," interrupted the Marquis, whispering him, "I can
comprehend it thoroughly; for God's sake, ask him no more
questions at present."
"There it is, now," said Caleb, extricating himself from his
master, and adjusting his dress, "your honour will believe his
lordship's honourable testimony. His lordship minds weel how, in
the year that him they ca'd King Willie died----"
"Hush! hush, my good friend!" said the Marquis; "I shall satisfy
your master upon that subject."
"And the people at Wolf's Hope," said Ravenswood, "did none of
them come to your assistance before the flame got so high?"
"Ay did they, mony ane of them, the rapscallions!" said Caleb;
"but truly I was in nae hurry to let them into the Tower, where
there were so much plate and valuables."
"Confound you for an impudent liar!" said Ravenswood, in
uncontrollable ire, "there was not a single ounce of----"
"Forbye," said the butler, most irreverently raising his voice
to a pitch which drowned his master's, "the fire made fast on us,
owing to the store of tapestry and carved timmer in the
banqueting-ha', and the loons ran like scaulded rats sae sune as
they heard of the gunpouther."
"I do entreat," said the Marquis to Ravenswood, "you will ask
him no more questions."
"Only one, my lord. What has become of poor Mysie?"
"Mysie!" said Caleb, "I had nae time to look about ony Mysie;
she's in the Tower, I'se warrant, biding her awful doom."
"By heaven," said Ravenswood, "I do not understand all this !
The life of a faithful old creature is at stake; my lord, I will
be withheld no longer; I will at least ride up, and see whether
the danger is as imminent as this old fool pretends."
"Weel, then, as I live by bread," said Caleb, "Mysie is weel and
safe. I saw her out of the castle before I left it mysell. Was
I ganging to forget an auld fellow-servant?"
"What made you tell me the contrary this moment?" said his
"Did I tell you the contrary?" said Caleb; "then I maun hae been
dreaming surely, or this awsome night has turned my
judgment; but safe she is, and ne'er a living soul in the castle,
a' the better for them: they wau have gotten an unco heezy."
The Master of Ravenswood, upon this assurance being solemnly
reiterated, and notwithstanding his extreme wish to witness the
last explosion, which was to ruin to the ground the mansion of
his fathers, suffered himself to be dragged onward towards the
village of Wolf's Hope, where not only the change-house, but that
of our well-known friend the cooper, were all prepared for
reception of himself and his noble guest, with a liberality of
provision which requires some explanation.
We omitted to mention in its place, that Lockhard having fished
out the truth concerning the mode by which Caleb had obtained the
supplies for his banquet, the Lord Keeper, amused with the
incident, and desirous at the time to gratify
Ravenswood, had recommended the cooper of Wolf''s Hope to the
official situation under government the prospect of which had
reconciled him to the loss of his wild-fowl. Mr. Girder's
preferment had occasioned a pleasing surprise to old Caleb; for
when, some days after his master's departure, he found himself
absolutely compelled, by some necessary business, to visit the
fishing hamlet, and was gliding like a ghost past the door of the
cooper, for fear of being summoned to give some account of the
progress of the solicitation in his favour, or, more probably
that the inmates might upbraid him with the false hope he had
held out upon the subject, he heard himself, not without some
apprehension, summoned at once in treble, tenor, and bass--a trio
performed by the voices of Mrs. Girder, old Dame Loup-the-Dyke,
and the goodman of the dwelling--"Mr. Caleb!--Mr. Caleb
Balderstone! I hope ye arena ganging dry-lipped by our door, and
we sae muckle indebted to you?"
This might be said ironically as well as in earnest. Caleb
augured the worst, turned a deaf ear to the trio aforesaid, and
was moving doggedly on, his ancient castor pulled over his brows,
and his eyes bent on the ground, as if to count the flinty
pebbles with which the rude pathway was causewayed. But on a
sudden he found himself surrounded in his progress, like a
stately merchantman in the Gut of Gibraltar (I hope the ladies
will excuse the tarpaulin phrase) by three Algerine galleys.
"Gude guide us, Mr. Balderstone!" said Mrs. Girder.
"Wha wad hae thought it of an auld and kenn'd friend!" said the
"And no sae muckle as stay to receive our thanks," said the
cooper himself, "and frae the like o' me that seldom offers them!
I am sure I hope there's nae ill seed sawn between us, Mr.
Balderstone. Ony man that has said to ye I am no gratefu' for
the situation of Queen's cooper, let me hae a whample at him wi'
mine eatche, that's a'."
"My good friends--my dear friends," said Caleb, still doubting
how the certainty of the matter might stand, "what needs a' this
ceremony? Ane tries to serve their friends, and
sometimes they may happen to prosper, and sometimes to misgie.
Naething I care to be fashed wi' less than thanks; I never could
"Faith, Mr. Balderstone, ye suld hae been fashed wi' few o'
mine," said the downright man of staves and hoops, "if I had only
your gude-will to thank ye for: I suld e'en hae set the guse, and
the wild deukes, adn the runlet of sack to balance that account.
Gude-will, man, is a geizen'd tub, that hauds in nae liquor; but
gude deed's like the cask, tight, round, and sound, that will
haud liquor for the king."
"Have ye no heard of our letter," said the mother-in-law,
"making our John [Gibbie] the Queen's cooper for certain? and
scarce a chield that had ever hammered gird upon tub but was
applying for it?"
"Have I heard!!!" said Caleb, who now found how the wind set,
with an accent of exceeding contempt, at the doubt
expressed--"have I heard, quo'she!!!" and as he spoke he changed
his shambling, skulking, dodging pace into a manly and
authoritative step, readjusted his cocked hat, and suffered his
brow to emerge from under it in all the pride of aristocracy,
like the sun from behind a cloud.
"To be sure, he canna but hae heard," said the good woman.
"Ay, to be sure it's impossible but I should," said Caleb; "and
sae I'll be the first to kiss ye, joe, and wish you, cooper,
much joy of your preferment, naething doubting but ye ken wha are
your friends, and HAVE helped ye, and CAN help ye. I thought
it right to look a wee strange upon it at first," added Caleb,
"just to see if ye were made of the right mettle; but ye ring
true, lad--ye ring true!"
So saying, with a most lordly air he kissed the women, and
abandoned his hand, with an air of serene patronage, to the
hearty shake of Mr. Girder's horn-hard palm. Upon this complete,
and to Caleb most satisfactory, information he did not, it may
readily be believed, hesitate to accept an invitation to a solemn
feast, to which were invited, not only all the NOTABLES of the
village, but even his ancient antagonist, Mr. Dingwall, himself.
At this festivity he was, of course, the most welcome and most
honoured guest; and so well did he ply the company with stories
of what he could do with his master, his master with the Lord
Keeper, the Lord Keeper with the council, and the council with
the king [queen], that before the company dismissed (which was,
indeed, rather at an early hour than a late one), every man of
note in the village was ascending to the top-gallant of some
ideal preferment by the ladder of ropes which Caleb had presented
to their imagination. Nay, the cunning butler regained in that
moment not only all the influence he possessed formerly over the
villagers, when the baronial family which he served were at the
proudest, but acquired even an accession of importance. The
writer--the very attorney himself, such is the thirst of
preferment--felt the force of the attraction, and taking an
opportunity to draw Caleb into a corner, spoke, with affectionate
regret, of the declining health of the sheriff-clerk of the
"An excellent man--a most valuable man, Mr. Caleb; but fat sall
I say! we are peer feckless bodies, here the day and awa' by
cock-screech the morn; and if he failyies, there maun be somebody
in his place; and gif that ye could airt it my way, I sall be
thankful, man--a gluve stuffed wi gowd nobles; an' hark ye, man
something canny till yoursell, and the Wolf's Hope carles to
settle kindly wi' the Master of Ravenswood--that is, Lord
Ravenswood--God bless his lordship!"
A smile, and a hearty squeeze by the hand, was the suitable
answer to this overture; and Caleb made his escape from the
jovial party, in order to avoid committing himself by any special
"The Lord be gude to me," said Caleb, when he found himself in
the open air, and at liberty to give vent to the self-
exultation with which he was, as it were, distended; "did ever
ony man see sic a set of green-gaislings? The very pickmaws and
solan-geese out-bye yonder at the Bass hae ten times their sense!
God, an I had been the Lord High Commissioner to the Estates o'
Parliament, they couldna hae beflumm'd me mair; and, to speak
Heaven's truth, I could hardly hae beflumm'd them better neither!
But the writer--ha! ha! ha!--ah, ha! ha! ha! mercy on me, that I
suld live in my auld days to gie the ganag-bye to the very
writer! Sheriff-clerk!!! But I hae an auld account to settle
wi' the carle; and to make amends for bye-ganes, the office shall
just cost him as much time-serving and tide-serving as if he were
to get it in gude earnest, of whilk there is sma' appearance,
unless the Master learns mair the ways of this warld, whilk it is
muckle to be doubted that he never will do."
Why flames yon far summit--why shoot to the blast
Those embers, like stars from the firmament cast?
'Tis the fire-shower of ruin, all dreadfully driven
From thine eyrie, that beacons the darkness of Heaven.
THE circumstances announced in the conclusion of the last
chapter will account for the ready and cheerful reception of the
Marquis of A---- and the Master of Ravenswood in the village of
Wolf's Hope. In fact, Caleb had no sooner announced the
conflagration of the tower than the whole hamlet were upon foot
to hasten to extinguish the flames. And although that zealous
adherent diverted their zeal by intimating the formidable
contents of the subterranean apartments, yet the check only
turned their assiduity into another direction. Never had there
been such slaughtering of capons, and fat geese, and barndoor
fowls; never such boiling of "reested" hams; never such making of
car-cakes and sweet scones, Selkirk bannocks, cookies, and
petticoat-tails--delicacies little known to the present
generation. Never had there been such a tapping of barrels, and
such uncorking of greybeards, in the village of Wolf's Hope. All
the inferior houses were thrown open for the reception of the
Marquis's dependants, who came, it was thought, as precursors of
the shower of preferment which hereafter was to leave the rest of
Scotland dry, in order to distil its rich dews on the village of
Wolf's Hope under Lammermoor. The minister put in his claim to
have the guests of distinction lodged at the manse, having his
eye, it was thought, upon a neighbouring preferment, where the
incumbent was sickly; but Mr. Balderstone destined that honour to
the cooper, his wife, and wife's mother, who danced for joy at
the preferences thus assigned them.
Many a beck and many a bow welcomed these noble guests to as
good entertainment as persons of such rank could set before such
visitors; and the old dame, who had formerly lived in Ravenswood
Castle, and knew, as she said, the ways of the nobility, was in
no whit wanting in arranging matters, as well as circumstances
permitted, according to the etiquette of the times. The
cooper's house was so roomy that each guest had his separate
retiring-room, to which they were ushered with all due ceremony,
while the plentiful supper was in the act of being placed upon
Ravenswood no sooner found himself alone than, impelled by a
thousand feelings, he left the apartment, the house, and the
village, and hastily retraced his steps to the brow of the hill,
which rose betwixt the village and screened it from the tower, in
order to view the final fall of the house of his fathers. Some
idle boys from the hamlet had taken the same direction out of
curiosity, having first witnessed the arrival of the coach and
six and its attendants. As they ran one by one past the Master,
calling to each other to "Come and see the auld tower blaw up in
the lift like the peelings of an ingan," he could not but feel
himself moved with indignation. "And these are the sons of my
father's vassals," he said--"of men bound, both by law and
gratitude, to follow our steps through battle, and fire, and
flood; and now the destruction of their liege lord's house is but
a holiday's sight to them"
These exasperating reflections were partly expresssed in the
acrimony with which he exclaimed, on feeling himself pulled by
the cloak: "What do you want, you dog?"
"I am a dog, and an auld dog too," answered Caleb, for it was he
who had taken the freedom, "and I am like to get a dog's wages;
but it does not signification a pinch of sneesing, for I am ower
auld a dog to learn new tricks, or to follow a new master."
As he spoke, Ravenswood attained the ridge of the hill from
which Wolf's Crag was visible; the flames had entirely sunk down,
and, to his great surprise, there was only a dusky reddening upon
the clouds immediately over the castle, which seemed the
reflection of the embers of the sunken fire.
"The place cannot have blown up," said the Master; "we must have
heard the report: if a quarter of the gunpowder was there you
tell me of, it would have been heard twenty miles off."
"It've very like it wad," said Balderstone, composedly.
"Then the fire cannot have reached the vaults?"
"It's like no," answered Caleb, with the same impenetrable
"Hark ye, Caleb," said his master, "this grows a little too much
for my patience. I must go and examine how matters stand at
Wolf's Crag myself."
"Your honour is ganging to gang nae sic gate," said Caleb,
"And why not?" said Ravenswood, sharply; "who or what shall
"Even I mysell," said Caleb, with the same determination.
"You, Balderstone!" replied the Master; "you are forgetting
yourself, I think."
"But I think no," said Balderstone; "for I can just tell ye a'
about the castle on this knowe-head as weel as if ye were at it.
Only dinna pit yoursell into a kippage, and expose yoursell
before the weans, or before the Marquis, when ye gang down-bye."
"Speak out, you old fool," replied his master, "and let me know
the best and the worst at once."
"Ou, the best and the warst is, just that the tower is standing
hail and feir, as safe and as empty as when ye left it."
"Indeed! and the fire?" said Ravenswood.
"Not a gleed of fire, then, except the bit kindling peat, and
maybe a spunk in Mysie's cutty-pipe," replied Caleb.
"But the flame?" demanded Ravenswood--"the broad blaze which
might have been seen ten miles off--what occasioned that?"
"Hout awa'! it's an auld saying and a true--
Little's the light
Will be seen far in a mirk night.
A wheen fern and horse little that I fired in the courtyard,
after sending back the loon of a footman; and, to speak Heaven's
truth, the next time that ye send or bring ony body here, let
them ge gentles allenarly, without ony fremd servants, like that
chield Lockhard, to be gledging and gleeing about, and looking
upon the wrang side of ane's housekeeping, to the discredit of
the family, and forcing ane to damn their souls wi' telling ae
lee after another faster than I can count them: I wad rather set
fire to the tower in gude earnest, and burn it ower my ain head
into the bargain, or I see the family dishonoured in the sort."
"Upon my word, I am infinitely obliged by the proposal, Caleb,"
said his master, scarce able to to restrain his laughter, though
rather angry at the same time. "But the gunpowder--is there such
a thing in the tower? The Marquis seemed to know of it."
"The pouther, ha! ha! ha!--the Marquis, ha! ha! ha!" replied
Caleb,--"if your honour were to brain me, I behooved to laugh,--
the Marquis--the pouther! Was it there? Ay, it was there. Did
he ken o't? My certie! the Marquis kenn'd o't, and it was the
best o' the game; for, when I couldna pacify your honour wi' a'
that I could say, I aye threw out a word mair about the
gunpouther, and garr'd the Marquis tak the job in his ain hand."
"But you have not answered my question," said the Master,
impatiently; "how came the powder there, and where is it now?"
"Ou, it came there, an ye maun needs ken," said Caleb, looking
mysteriously, and whispering, "when there was like to be a wee
bit rising here; and the Marquis, and a' the great lords of the
north, were a' in it, and mony a gudely gun and broadsword were
ferried ower frae Dunkirk forbye the pouther. Awfu' work we had
getting them into the tower under cloud o' night, for ye maun
think it wasna everybody could be trusted wi' sic kittle jobs.
But if ye will gae hame to your supper, I will tell you a' about
it as ye gang down."
"And these wretched boys," said Ravenswood, "is it your pleasure
they are to sit there all night, to wait for the blowing up of a
tower that is not even on fire?"
"Surely not, if it is your honour's pleasure that they suld gang
hame; although," added Caleb, "it wadna do them a grain's
damage: they wad screigh less the next day, and sleep the
sounder at e'en. But just as your honour likes."
Stepping accordingly towards the urchins who manned the knolls
near which they stood, Caleb informed them, in an
authoritative tone, that their honours Lord Ravenswood and the
Marquis of A---- had given orders that the tower was not to be
blow up till next day at noon. The boys dispersed upon this
comfortable assurance. One or two, however, followed Caleb for
more information, particularly the urchin whom he had cheated
while officiating as turnspit, who screamed, "Mr. Balderstone!--
Mr. Balderstone! then the castle's gane out like an auld wife's
"To be sure it is, callant," said the butler; "do ye think the
castle of as great a lord as Lord Ravenswood wad continue in a
bleeze, and him standing looking on wi' his ain very een? It's
aye right," continued Caleb, shaking off his ragged page, and
closing in to his Master, "to train up weans, as the wise man
says, in the way they should go, and, aboon a', to teach them
respect to their superiors."
"But all this while, Caleb, you have never told me what became
of the arms and powder," said Ravenswood.
"Why, as for the arms," said Caleb, "it was just like the
Some gaed east and some gaed west,
And some gaed to the craw's nest.
And for the pouther, I e'en changed it, as occasion served, with
the skippers o' Dutch luggers and French vessels, for gin and
brandy, and is served the house mony a year--a gude swap too,
between what cheereth the soul of man and that which hingeth it
clean out of his body; forbye, I keepit a wheen pounds of it for
yoursell when ye wanted to take the pleasure o' shooting: whiles,
in these latter days, I wad hardly hae kenn'd else whar to get
pouther for your pleasure. And now that your anger is ower, sir,
wasna that weel managed o' me, and arena ye far better sorted
doun yonder than ye could hae been in your ain auld ruins up-bye
yonder, as the case stands wi' us now? the mair's the pity!"
"I believe you may be right, Caleb; but, before burning down my
castle, either in jest or in earnest," said Ravenswood, "I think
I had a right to be in the secret."
"Fie for shame, your honour!" replied Caleb; "it fits an auld
carle like me weel eneugh to tell lees for the credit of the
family, but it wadna beseem the like o' your honour's sell;
besides, young folk are no judicious: they cannot make the maist
of a bit figment. Now this fire--for a fire it sall be, if I
suld burn the auld stable to make it mair feasible--this fire,
besides that it will be an excuse for asking ony thing we want
through the country, or doun at the haven--this fire will settle
mony things on an honourable footing for the family's credit,
that cost me telling twenty daily lees to a wheen idle chaps and
queans, and, what's waur, without gaining credence."
"That was hard indeed, Caleb; but I do not see how this fire
should help your veracity or your credit."
"There it is now?" said Caleb; "wasna I saying that young folk
had a green judgment? How suld it help me, quotha? It will be a
creditable apology for the honour of the family for this score of
years to come, if it is weel guided. 'Where's the family
pictures?' says ae meddling body. 'The great fire at Wolf's
Crag,' answers I. 'Where's the family plate?' says another.
'The great fire,' says I; 'wha was to think of plate, when life
and limb were in danger?' 'Where's the wardrobe and the linens?-
-where's the tapestries and the decorements?--beds of state,
twilts, pands and testors, napery and broidered wark?' 'The
fire--the fire--the fire.' Guide the fire weel, and it will
serve ye for a' that ye suld have and have not; and, in some
sort, a gude excuse is better than the things themselves; for
they maun crack and wear out, and be consumed by time, whereas a
gude offcome, prudently and creditably handled, may serve a
nobleman and his family, Lord kens how lang!"
Ravenswood was too well acquainted with his butler's
pertinacity and self-opinion to dispute the point with him any
farther. Leaving Caleb, therefore, to the enjoyment of his own
successful ingenuity, he returned to the hamlet, where he found
the Marquis and the good women of the mansion under some anxiety-
-the former on account of his absence, the others for the
discredit their cookery might sustain by the delay of the supper.
All were now at ease, and heard with pleasure that the fire at
the castle had burned out of itself without reaching the vaults,
which was the only information that Ravenswood thought it proper
to give in public concerning the event of his butler's strategem.
They sat down to an excellent supper. No invitation could
prevail on Mr. and Mrs. Girder, even in their own house, to sit
down at table with guests of such high quality. They remained
standing in the apartment, and acted the part of respectful and
careful attendants on the company. Such were the manners of the
time. The elder dame, confident through her age and connexion
with the Ravenswood family, was less
scrupulously ceremonious. She played a mixed part betwixt that
of the hostess of an inn and the mistress of a private house, who
receives guests above her own degree. She recommended, and even
pressed, what she thought best, and was herself easily entreated
to take a moderate share of the good cheer, in order to encourage
her guests by her own example. Often she interrupted herself, to
express her regret that "my lord did not eat; that the Master was
pyking a bare bane; that, to be sure, there was naething there
fit to set before their honours; that Lord Allan, rest his saul,
used to like a pouthered guse, and said it was Latin for a tass
o' brandy; that the brandy came frae France direct; for, for a'
the English laws and gaugers, the Wolf's Hope brigs hadna
forgotten the gate to Dunkirk."
Here the cooper admonished his mother-in-law with his elbow,
which procured him the following special notice in the progress
of her speech:
"Ye needna be dunshin that gate, John [Gibbie]," continued the
old lady; "naebody says that YE ken whar the brandy comes
frae; and it wadna be fitting ye should, and you the Queen's
cooper; and what signifies't," continued she, addressing Lord
Ravenswood, "to king, queen, or kaiser whar an auld wife like me
buys her pickle sneeshin, or her drap brandy-wine, to haud her
Having thus extricated herself from her supposed false step,
Dame Loup-the-Dyke proceeded, during the rest of the evening, to
supply, with great animation, and very little assistance from her
guests, the funds necessary for the support of the conversation,
until, declining any further circulation of their glass, her
guests requested her permission to retire to their apartments.
The Marquis occupied the chamber of dais, which, in every house
above the rank of a mere cottage, was kept sacred for such high
occasions as the present. The modern finishing with plaster was
then unknown, and tapestry was confined to the houses of the
nobility and superior gentry. The cooper, therefore, who was a
man of some vanity, as well as some wealth, had imitated the
fashion observed by the inferior landholders and clergy, who
usually ornamented their state apartments with hangings of a sort
of stamped leather, manufactured in the Netherlands, garnished
with trees and aminals executed in copper foil, and with many a
pithy sentence of morality, which, although couched in Low Dutch,
were perhaps as much attended to in
practice as if written in broad Scotch. The whole had somewhat
of a gloomy aspect; but the fire, composed of old pitch-barrel
staves, blazed merrily up the chimney; the bed was decorated with
linen of most fresh and dazzling whiteness, which had never
before been used, and might, perhaps, have never been used at
all, but for this high occasion. On the toilette beside, stood
an old-fashioned mirror, in a fillagree frame, part of the
dispersed finery of the neighbouring castle. It was flanked by a
long-necked bottle of Florence wine, by which stood a glass
enarly as tall, resembling in shape that which Teniers usually
places in the hands of his own portrait, when he paints himself
as mingling in the revels of a country village. To
counterbalance those foreign sentinels, there mounted guard on
the other side of the mirror two stout warders of Scottish
lineage; a jug, namely, of double ale, which held a Scotch pint,
and a quaigh, or bicker, of ivory and ebony, hooped with silver,
the work of John Girder's own hands, and the pride of his heart.
Besides these preparations against thirst, there was a goodly
diet-loaf, or sweet cake; so that, with such auxiliaries, the
apartment seemed victualled against a siege of two or three days.
It only remains to say, that the Marquis's valet was in
attendance, displaying his master's brocaded nightgown, and
richly embroidered velvet cap, lined and faced with Brussels
lace, upon a huge leathern easy-chair, wheeled round so as to
have the full advantage of the comfortable fire which we have
already mentioned. We therefore commit that eminent person to
his night's repose, trusting he profited by the ample
preparations made for his accommodation--preparations which we
have mentioned in detail, as illustrative of ancient Scottish
It is not necessary we should be equally minute in
describing the sleeping apartment of the Master of Ravenswood,
which was that usually occupied by the goodman and goodwife
themselves. It was comfortably hung with a sort of warm-coloured
worsted, manufactured in Scotland, approaching in trexture to
what is now called shalloon. A staring picture of John [Gibbie]
Girder himself ornamented this dormiory, painted by a starving
Frenchman, who had, God knows how or why, strolled over from
Flushing or Dunkirk to Wolf's Hope in a smuggling dogger. The
features were, indeed, those of the stubborn, opinionative, yet
sensible artisan, but Monsieur had contrived to throw a French
grace into the look and manner, so utterly inconsistent with the
dogged gravity of the original, that it was impossible to look at
it without laughing. John and his family, however, piqued
themselves not a little upon this picture, and were
proportionably censured by the neighbourhood, who pronounced that
the cooper, in sitting for the same, and yet more in presuming to
hang it up in his bedchamber, had exceeded his privilege as the
richest man of the village; at once stept beyond the bounds of
his own rank, and encroached upon those of the superior orders;
and, in fine, had been guilty of a very overweening act of vanity
and presumption. Respect for the memory of my deceased friend,
Mr. Richard Tinto, has obliged me to treat this matter at some
length; but I spare the reader his prolix though curious
observations, as well upon the character of the French school as
upon the state of painting in Scotland at the beginning of the
The other preparations of the Master's sleeping apartment were
similar to those in the chamber of dais.
At the usual early hour of that period, the Marquis of A---- and
his kinsman prepared to resume their journey. This could not be
done without an ample breakfast, in which cold meat and hot meat,
and oatmeal flummery, wine and spirits, and milk varied by every
possible mode of preparation, evinced the same desire to do
honour to their guests which had been shown by the hospitable
owners of the mansion upon the evening before. All the bustle of
preparation for departure now resounded through Wolf's Hope.
There was paying of bills and shaking of hands, and saddling of
horses, and harnessing of carriages, and distributing of drink-
money. The Marquis left a broad piece for the gratification of
John Girder's household, which he, the said John, was for some
time disposed to convert to his own use; Dingwall, the writer,
assuring him he was justified in so doing, seeing he was the
disburser of those expenses which were the occasion of the
gratification. But, notwithstanding this legal authority, John
could not find in his heart to dim the splendour of his late
hospitality by picketing anything in the nature of a gratuity.
He only assured his menials he would consider them as a damned
ungrateful pack if they bought a gill of brandy elsewhere than
out of his own stores; and as the drink-money was likely to go to
its legitimate use, he comforted himself that, in this manner,
the Marquis's donative would, without any impeachment of credit
and character, come ultimately into his own exclusive possession.
While arrangements were making for departure, Ravenswood made
blythe the heart of his ancient butler by informing him,
cautiously however (for he knew Caleb's warmth of imagination),
of the probably change which was about to take place in his
fortunes. He deposited with Balderstone, at the same time, the
greater part of his slender funds, with an assurance, which he
was obliged to reiterate more than once, that he himself had
sufficient supplies in certain prospect. He therefore enjoined
Caleb, as he valued his favour, to desist from all farther
maneouvres against the inhabitants of Wolf's Hope, their cellars,
poultry-yards, and substance whatsoever. In this prohibition,
the old domestic acquiesced more readily than his master
"It was doubtless," he said, "a shame, a discredit, and a sin to
harry the puir creatures, when the family were in
circumstances to live honourably on their ain means; and there
might be wisdom," he added, "in giving them a while's breathing-
time at any rate, that they might be the more readily brougth
forward upon his honour's future occasions."
This matter being settled, and having taken an affectionate
farewell of his old domestic, the Master rejoined his noble
relative, who was now ready to enter his carriage. The two
landladies, old and young, having received in all kindly greeting
a kiss from each of their noble guests, stood simpering at the
door of their house, as the coach and six, followed by its train
of clattering horsemen, thundered out of the village. John
Girder also stood upon his threshold, now looking at his honoured
right hand, which had been so lately shaken by a marquis and a
lord, and now giving a glance into the interior of his mansion,
which manifested all the disarray of the late revel, as if
balancing the distinction which he had attained with the
expenses of the entertainment.
At length he opened his oracular jaws. "Let every man and woman
here set about their ain business, as if there was nae sic thing
as marquis or master, duke or drake, laird or lord, in this
world. Let the house be redd up, the broken meat set bye, and if
there is ony thing totally uneatable, let it be gien to the puir
folk; and, gude mother and wife, I hae just ae thing to entreat
ye, that ye will never speak to me a single word, good or bad,
anent a' this nonsense wark, but keep a' your cracks about it to
yoursells and your kimmers, for my head is weel-nigh dung donnart
wi' it already."
As John's authority was tolerably absolute, all departed to
their usual occupations, leaving him to build castles in the air,
if he had a mind, upon the court favour which he had acquired by
the expenditure of his worldly substance.
Why, now I have Dame Fortune by the Forelock,
And if she escapes my grasp, the fault is mine;
He that hath buffeted with stern adversity
Best knows the shape his course to favouring breezes.
OUR travellers reach Edinburgh without any farther
adventure, and the Master of Ravenswood, as had been previously
settled, took up his abode with his noble friend.
In the mean time, the political crisis which had been expected
took place, and the Tory party obtained in the Scottish, as in
the English, councils of Queen Anne a short-lived
ascendency, of which it is not our business to trace either the
cause or consequences. Suffice it to say, that it affected the
different political parties according to the nature of their
principles. In England, many of the High Church party, with
Harley, afterwards Earl of Oxford, at their head, affected to
separate their principles from those of the Jacobites, and, on
that account, obtained the denomination of Whimsicals. The
Scottish High Church party, on the contrary, or, as they termed
themselves, the Cavaliers, were more consistent, if not so
prudent, in their politics, and viewed all the changes now made
as preparatory to calling to the throne, upon the queen's demise,
her brother the Chevalier de St. George. Those who had suffered
in his service now entertained the most unreasonable hopes, not
only of indemnification, but of vengeance upon their political
adversaries; while families attached to the Whig interest saw
nothing before them but a renewal of the hardships they had
undergone during the reigns of Charles the Second and his
brother, and a retaliation of the confiscation which had been
inflicted upon the Jacobites during that of King William.
But the most alarmed at the change of system was that prudential
set of persons, some of whom are found in all
governments, but who abound in a provincial administration like
that of Scotland during the period, and who are what Cromwell
called waiters upon Providence, or, in other words, uniform
adherents to the party who are uppermost. Many of these hastened
to read their recantation to the Marquis of A----; and, as it was
easily seen that he took a deep interest in the affairs of his
kinsman, the Master of Ravenswood, they were the first to suggest
measures for retrieving at least a part of his property, and for
restoring him in blood against his father's attainder.
Old Lord Turntippet professed to be one of the most anxious for
the success of these measures; for "it grieved him to the very
saul," he said, "to see so brave a young gentleman, of sic auld
and undoubted nobility, and, what was mair than a' that, a bluid
relation of the Marquis of A----, the man whom," he swore, "he
honoured most upon the face of the earth, brougth to so severe a
pass. For his ain puir peculiar," as he said, "and to
contribute something to the rehabilitation of sae auld ane
house," the said Turntippet sent in three family pictures lacking
the frames, and six high-backed chairs, with worked Turkey
cushions, having the crest of Ravenswood broidered thereon,
without charging a penny either of the principal or interest they
had cost him, when he bought them, sixteen years before, at a
roup of the furniture of Lord Ravenswood's lodgings in the
Much more to Lord Turntippet's dismay than to his surprise,
although he affected to feel more of the latter than the former,
the Marquis received his gift very drily, and observed, that his
lordship's restitution, if he expected it to be received by the
Master of Ravenswood and his friends, must comprehend a pretty
large farm, which, having been mortgaged to Turntippet for a very
inadequate sum, he had contrived, during the confusion of the
family affairs, and by means well understood by the lawyers of
that period, to acquire to himself in absolute property.
The old time-serving lord winced excessively under the
requisition, protesting to God, that he saw no occasion the lad
could have for the instant possession of the land, seeing he
would doubtless now recover the bulk of his estate from Sir
William Ashton, to which he was ready to contribute by every
means in his power, as was just and reasonable; and finally
declaring, that he was willing to settle the land on the young
gentleman after his own natural demise.
But all these excuses availed nothing, and he was compelled to
disgorge the property, on receiving back the sum for which it
had been mortgaged. Having no other means of making peace with
the higher powers, he returned home sorrowful and malcontent,
complaining to his confidants, "That every mutation or change in
the state had hitherto been productive of some sma' advantage to
him in his ain quiet affairs; but that the present had--pize upon
it!--cost him one of the best penfeathers o' his wing."
Similar measures were threatened against others who had profited
by the wreck of the fortune of Ravenswood; and Sir William
Ashton, in particular, was menaced with an appeal to the House of
Peers, a court of equity, against the judicial
sentences, proceeding upon a strict and severe construction of
the letter of the law, under which he held the castle and barony
of Ravenswood. With him, however, the Master, as well for Lucy's
sake as on account of the hospitality he had received from him,
felt himself under the necessity of proceeding with great
candor. He wrote to the late Lord Keeper, for he no longer held
that office, stating frankly the engagement which existed between
him and Miss Ashton, requesting his permission for their union,
and assuring him of his willingness to put the settlement of all
matters between them upon such a footing as Sir William himself
should think favourable.
The same messenger was charged with a letter to Lady Ashton,
deprecating any cause of displeasure which the Master might
unintentionally have given her, enlarging upon his attachment to
Miss Ashton, and the length to which it had proceeded, and
conjuring the lady, as a Douglas in nature as well as in name,
generously to forget ancient prejudices and misunderstandings,
and to believe that the family had acquired a friend, and she
herself a respectful and attached humble servant, in him who
subscribed himself, "Edgar, Master of Ravenswood."
A third letter Ravenswood addressed to Lucy, and the
messenger was instructed to find some secret and secure means of
delivering it into her own hands. It contained the strongest
protestations of continued affection, and dwelt upon the
approaching change of the writer's fortunes, as chiefly valuable
by tending to remove the impediments to their union. He related
the steps he had taken to overcome the prejudices of her parents,
and especially of her mother, and expressed his hope they might
Back to Full Books