The Antiquary, Complete
Sir Walter Scott
Part 7 out of 10
The gauger and schoolmaster united their rhetoric, to prove to the
constable and his assistant that he had no right to arrest the king's
bedesman as a vagrant; and the mute eloquence of the miller and smith,
which was vested in their clenched fists, was prepared to give Highland
bail for their arbiter; his blue gown, they said, was his warrant for
travelling the country.
"But his blue gown," answered the officer, "is nae protection for
assault, robbery, and murder; and my warrant is against him for these
"Murder!" said Edie, "murder! wha did I e'er murder?"
"Mr. German Doustercivil, the agent at Glen-Withershins mining-works."
"Murder Doustersnivel?--hout, he's living, and life-like, man."
"Nae thanks to you if he be; he had a sair struggle for his life, if a'
be true he tells, and ye maun answer for't at the bidding of the law."
The defenders of the mendicant shrunk back at hearing the atrocity of the
charges against him, but more than one kind hand thrust meat and bread
and pence upon Edie, to maintain him in the prison, to which the officers
were about to conduct him.
"Thanks to ye! God bless ye a', bairns!--I've gotten out o' mony a snare
when I was waur deserving o' deliverance--I shall escape like a bird from
the fowler. Play out your play, and never mind me--I am mair grieved for
the puir lad that's gane, than for aught they can do to me."
Accordingly, the unresisting prisoner was led off, while he mechanically
accepted and stored in his wallets the alms which poured in on every
hand, and ere he left the hamlet, was as deep-laden as a government
victualler. The labour of bearing this accumulating burden was, however,
abridged, by the officer procuring a cart and horse to convey the old man
to a magistrate, in order to his examination and committal.
The disaster of Steenie, and the arrest of Edie, put a stop to the sports
of the village, the pensive inhabitants of which began to speculate upon
the vicissitudes of human affairs, which had so suddenly consigned one of
their comrades to the grave, and placed their master of the revels in
some danger of being hanged. The character of Dousterswivel being pretty
generally known, which was in his case equivalent to being pretty
generally detested, there were many speculations upon the probability of
the accusation being malicious. But all agreed, that if Edie Ochiltree
behaved in all events to suffer upon this occasion, it was a great pity
he had not better merited his fate by killing Dousterswivel outright.
Who is he?--One that for the lack of land
Shall fight upon the water--he hath challenged
Formerly the grand whale; and by his titles
Of Leviathan, Behemoth, and so forth.
He tilted with a sword-fish--Marry, sir,
Th' aquatic had the best--the argument
Still galls our champion's breech.
"And the poor young fellow, Steenie Mucklebackit, is to be buried this
morning," said our old friend the Antiquary, as he exchanged his quilted
night-gown for an old-fashioned black coat in lieu of the snuff-coloured
vestment which he ordinarily wore, "and, I presume, it is expected that I
should attend the funeral?"
"Ou, ay," answered the faithful Caxon, officiously brushing the white
threads and specks from his patron's habit. "The body, God help us! was
sae broken against the rocks that they're fain to hurry the burial. The
sea's a kittle cast, as I tell my daughter, puir thing, when I want her
to get up her spirits; the sea, says I, Jenny, is as uncertain a
"As the calling of an old periwig-maker, that's robbed of his business by
crops and the powder-tax. Caxon, thy topics of consolation are as ill
chosen as they are foreign to the present purpose._Quid mihi cum
faemina_? What have I to do with thy womankind, who have enough and to
spare of mine own?--I pray of you again, am I expected by these poor
people to attend the funeral of their son?"
"Ou, doubtless, your honour is expected," answered Caxon; "weel I wot ye
are expected. Ye ken, in this country ilka gentleman is wussed to be sae
civil as to see the corpse aff his grounds; ye needna gang higher than
the loan-head--it's no expected your honour suld leave the land; it's
just a Kelso convoy, a step and a half ower the doorstane."
"A Kelso convoy!" echoed the inquisitive Antiquary; "and why a Kelso
convoy more than any other?"
"Dear sir," answered Caxon, "how should I ken? it's just a by-word."
"Caxon," answered Oldbuck, "thou art a mere periwig-maker--Had I asked
Ochiltree the question, he would have had a legend ready made to my
"My business," replied Caxon, with more animation than he commonly
displayed, "is with the outside of your honour's head, as ye are
accustomed to say."
"True, Caxon, true; and it is no reproach to a thatcher that he is not an
He then took out his memorandum-book and wrote down "Kelso convoy--said
to be a step and a half over the threshold. Authority--Caxon.--_Quaere_--
Whence derived? _Mem._ To write to Dr. Graysteel upon the subject."
Having made this entry, he resumed--"And truly, as to this custom of the
landlord attending the body of the peasant, I approve it, Caxon. It comes
from ancient times, and was founded deep in the notions of mutual aid and
dependence between the lord and cultivator of the soil. And herein I must
say, the feudal system--(as also in its courtesy towards womankind, in
which it exceeded)--herein, I say, the feudal usages mitigated and
softened the sternness of classical times. No man, Caxon, ever heard of a
Spartan attending the funeral of a Helot--yet I dare be sworn that John
of the Girnel--ye have heard of him, Caxon?"
"Ay, ay, sir," answered Caxon; "naebody can hae been lang in your
honour's company without hearing of that gentleman."
"Well," continued the Antiquary, "I would bet a trifle there was not a
_kolb kerl,_ or bondsman, or peasant, _ascriptus glebae,_ died upon the
monks' territories down here, but John of the Girnel saw them fairly and
"Ay, but if it like your honour, they say he had mair to do wi' the
births than the burials. Ha! ha! ha!" with a gleeful chuckle.
"Good, Caxon, very good!--why, you shine this morning."
"And besides," added Caxon, slyly, encouraged by his patron's
approbation, "they say, too, that the Catholic priests in thae times gat
something for ganging about to burials."
"Right, Caxon! right as my glove! By the by, I fancy that phrase comes
from the custom of pledging a glove as the signal of irrefragable faith--
right, I say, as my glove, Caxon--but we of the Protestant ascendency
have the more merit in doing that duty for nothing, which cost money in
the reign of that empress of superstition, whom Spenser, Caxon, terms in
his allegorical phrase,
--The daughter of that woman blind,
Abessa, daughter of Corecca slow--
But why talk I of these things to thee?--my poor Lovel has spoiled me,
and taught me to speak aloud when it is much the same as speaking to
myself. Where's my nephew, Hector M'Intyre?"
"He's in the parlour, sir, wi' the leddies."
"Very well," said the Antiquary, "I will betake me thither."
"Now, Monkbarns," said his sister, on his entering the parlour, "ye
maunna be angry."
"My dear uncle!" began Miss M'Intyre.
"What's the meaning of all this?" said Oldbuck, in alarm of some
impending bad news, and arguing upon the supplicating tone of the ladies,
as a fortress apprehends an attack from the very first flourish of the
trumpet which announces the summons--"what's all this?--what do you
bespeak my patience for?"
"No particular matter, I should hope, sir," said Hector, who, with his
arm in a sling, was seated at the breakfast table;--"however, whatever it
may amount to I am answerable for it, as I am for much more trouble that
I have occasioned, and for which I have little more than thanks to
"No, no! heartily welcome, heartily welcome--only let it be a warning to
you," said the Antiquary, "against your fits of anger, which is a short
madness--_Ira furor brevis_--but what is this new disaster?"
"My dog, sir, has unfortunately thrown down"--
"If it please Heaven, not the lachrymatory from Clochnaben!" interjected
"Indeed, uncle," said the young lady, "I am afraid--it was that which
stood upon the sideboard--the poor thing only meant to eat the pat of
"In which she has fully succeeded, I presume, for I see that on the table
is salted. But that is nothing--my lachrymatory, the main pillar of my
theory on which I rested to show, in despite of the ignorant obstinacy of
Mac-Cribb, that the Romans had passed the defiles of these mountains, and
left behind them traces of their arts and arms, is gone--annihilated--
reduced to such fragments as might be the shreds of a broken-flowerpot!
--Hector, I love thee,
But never more be officer of mine."
"Why, really, sir, I am afraid I should make a bad figure in a regiment
of your raising."
"At least, Hector, I would have you despatch your camp train, and travel
_expeditus,_ or _relictis impedimentis._ You cannot conceive how I am
annoyed by this beast--she commits burglary, I believe, for I heard her
charged with breaking into the kitchen after all the doors were locked,
and eating up a shoulder of mutton. "--(Our readers, if they chance to
remember Jenny Rintherout's precaution of leaving the door open when she
went down to the fisher's cottage, will probably acquit poor Juno of that
aggravation of guilt which the lawyers call a _claustrum fregit,_ and
which makes the distinction between burglary and privately stealing. )
"I am truly sorry, sir," said Hector, "that Juno has committed so much
disorder; but Jack Muirhead, the breaker, was never able to bring her
under command. She has more travel than any bitch I ever knew, but"--
"Then, Hector, I wish the bitch would travel herself out of my grounds."
"We will both of us retreat to-morrow, or to-day, but I would not
willingly part from my mother's brother in unkindness about a paltry
"O brother! brother!" ejaculated Miss M'Intyre, in utter despair at this
"Why, what would you have me call it?" continued Hector; "it was just
such a thing as they use in Egypt to cool wine, or sherbet, or water;--I
brought home a pair of them--I might have brought home twenty."
"What!" said Oldbuck, "shaped such as that your dog threw down?"
"Yes, sir, much such a sort of earthen jar as that which was on the
sideboard. They are in my lodgings at Fairport; we brought a parcel of
them to cool our wine on the passage--they answer wonderfully well. If I
could think they would in any degree repay your loss, or rather that they
could afford you pleasure, I am sure I should be much honoured by your
"Indeed, my dear boy, I should be highly gratified by possessing them. To
trace the connection of nations by their usages, and the similarity of
the implements which they employ, has been long my favourite study.
Everything that can illustrate such connections is most valuable to me."
"Well, sir, I shall be much gratified by your acceptance of them, and a
few trifles of the same kind. And now, am I to hope you have forgiven
"O, my dear boy, you are only thoughtless and foolish."
"But Juno--she is only thoughtless too, I assure you--the breaker tells
me she has no vice or stubbornness."
"Well, I grant Juno also a free pardon--conditioned, that you will
imitate her in avoiding vice and stubbornness, and that henceforward she
banish herself forth of Monkbarns parlour."
"Then, uncle," said the soldier, "I should have been very sorry and
ashamed to propose to you anything in the way of expiation of my own
sins, or those of my follower, that I thought _worth_ your acceptance;
but now, as all is forgiven, will you permit the orphan-nephew, to whom
you have been a father, to offer you a trifle, which I have been assured
is really curious, and which only the cross accident of my wound has
prevented my delivering to you before? I got it from a French savant, to
whom I rendered some service after the Alexandria affair."
The captain put a small ring-case into the Antiquary's hands, which, when
opened, was found to contain an antique ring of massive gold, with a
cameo, most beautifully executed, bearing a head of Cleopatra. The
Antiquary broke forth into unrepressed ecstasy, shook his nephew
cordially by the hand, thanked him an hundred times, and showed the ring
to his sister and niece, the latter of whom had the tact to give it
sufficient admiration; but Miss Griselda (though she had the same
affection for her nephew) had not address enough to follow the lead.
"It's a bonny thing," she said, "Monkbarns, and, I dare say, a valuable;
but it's out o'my way--ye ken I am nae judge o' sic matters."
"There spoke all Fairport in one voice!" exclaimed Oldbuck "it is the
very spirit of the borough has infected us all; I think I have smelled
the smoke these two days, that the wind has stuck, like a _remora,_ in
the north-east--and its prejudices fly farther than its vapours. Believe
me, my dear Hector, were I to walk up the High Street of Fairport,
displaying this inestimable gem in the eyes of each one I met, no human
creature, from the provost to the town-crier, would stop to ask me its
history. But if I carried a bale of linen cloth under my arm, I could not
penetrate to the Horsemarket ere I should be overwhelmed with queries
about its precise texture and price. Oh, one might parody their brutal
ignorance in the words of Gray:
Weave the warp and weave the woof,
The winding-sheet of wit and sense,
Dull garment of defensive proof,
'Gainst all that doth not gather pence."
The most remarkable proof of this peace-offering being quite acceptable
was, that while the Antiquary was in full declamation, Juno, who held him
in awe, according to the remarkable instinct by which dogs instantly
discover those who like or dislike them, had peeped several times into
the room, and encountering nothing very forbidding in his aspect, had at
length presumed to introduce her full person; and finally, becoming bold
by impunity, she actually ate up Mr. Oldbuck's toast, as, looking first
at one then at another of his audience, he repeated, with
"Weave the warp and weave the woof,--
"You remember the passage in the Fatal Sisters, which, by the way, is not
so fine as in the original--But, hey-day! my toast has vanished!--I see
which way--Ah, thou type of womankind! no wonder they take offence at thy
generic appellation!"--(So saying, he shook his fist at Juno, who scoured
out of the parlour.)--"However, as Jupiter, according to Homer, could not
rule Juno in heaven, and as Jack Muirhead, according to Hector M'Intyre,
has been equally unsuccessful on earth, I suppose she must have her own
way." And this mild censure the brother and sister justly accounted a
full pardon for Juno's offences, and sate down well pleased to the
When breakfast was over, the Antiquary proposed to his nephew to go down
with him to attend the funeral. The soldier pleaded the want of a
"O, that does not signify--your presence is all that is requisite. I
assure you, you will see something that will entertain--no, that's an
improper phrase--but that will interest you, from the resemblances which
I will point out betwixt popular customs on such occasions and those of
"Heaven forgive me!" thought M'Intyre;--"I shall certainly misbehave, and
lose all the credit I have so lately and accidentally gained."
When they set out, schooled as he was by the warning and entreating looks
of his sister, the soldier made his resolution strong to give no offence
by evincing inattention or impatience. But our best resolutions are
frail, when opposed to our predominant inclinations. Our Antiquary,--to
leave nothing unexplained, had commenced with the funeral rites of the
ancient Scandinavians, when his nephew interrupted him, in a discussion
upon the "age of hills," to remark that a large sea-gull, which flitted
around them, had come twice within shot. This error being acknowledged
and pardoned, Oldbuck resumed his disquisition.
"These are circumstances you ought to attend to and be familiar with, my
dear Hector; for, in the strange contingencies of the present war which
agitates every corner of Europe, there is no knowing where you may be
called upon to serve. If in Norway, for example, or Denmark, or any part
of the ancient Scania, or Scandinavia, as we term it, what could be more
convenient than to have at your fingers' ends the history and antiquities
of that ancient country, the _officina gentium,_ the mother of modern
Europe, the nursery of those heroes,
Stern to inflict, and stubborn to endure,
Who smiled in death?--
How animating, for example, at the conclusion of a weary march, to find
yourself in the vicinity of a Runic monument, and discover that you have
pitched your tent beside the tomb of a hero!"
"I am afraid, sir, our mess would be better supplied if it chanced to be
in the neighbourhood of a good poultry-yard."
"Alas, that you should say so! No wonder the days of Cressy and Agincourt
are no more, when respect for ancient valour has died away in the breasts
of the British soldiery."
"By no means, sir--by no manner of means. I dare say that Edward and
Henry, and the rest of these heroes, thought of their dinner, however,
before they thought of examining an old tombstone. But I assure you, we
are by no means insensible to the memoir of our fathers' fame; I used
often of an evening to get old Rory MAlpin to sing us songs out of Ossian
about the battles of Fingal and Lamon Mor, and Magnus and the Spirit of
"And did you believe," asked the aroused Antiquary, "did you absolutely
believe that stuff of Macpherson's to be really ancient, you simple boy?"
"Believe it, sir?--how could I but believe it, when I have heard the
songs sung from my infancy?"
"But not the same as Macpherson's English Ossian--you're not absurd
enough to say that, I hope?" said the Antiquary, his brow darkening with
But Hector stoutly abode the storm; like many a sturdy Celt, he imagined
the honour of his country and native language connected with the
authenticity of these popular poems, and would have fought knee-deep, or
forfeited life and land, rather than have given up a line of them. He
therefore undauntedly maintained, that Rory MAlpin could repeat the whole
book from one end to another;--and it was only upon cross-examination
that he explained an assertion so general, by adding "At least, if he was
allowed whisky enough, he could repeat as long as anybody would hearken
"Ay, ay," said the Antiquary; "and that, I suppose, was not very long."
"Why, we had our duty, sir, to attend to, and could not sit listening all
night to a piper."
"But do you recollect, now," said Oldbuck, setting his teeth firmly
together, and speaking without opening them, which was his custom when
contradicted--"Do you recollect, now, any of these verses you thought so
beautiful and interesting--being a capital judge, no doubt, of such
"I don't pretend to much skill, uncle; but it's not very reasonable to be
angry with me for admiring the antiquities of my own country more than
those of the Harolds, Harfagers, and Hacos you are so fond of."
"Why, these, sir--these mighty and unconquered Goths--_were_ your
ancestors! The bare-breeched Celts whom theysubdued, and suffered only to
exist, like a fearful people, in the crevices of the rocks, were but
their Mancipia and Serfs!"
Hector's brow now grew red in his turn. "Sir," he said, "I don't
understand the meaning of Mancipia and Serfs, but I conceive that such
names are very improperly applied to Scotch Highlanders: no man but my
mother's brother dared to have used such language in my presence; and I
pray you will observe, that I consider it as neither hospitable,
handsome, kind, nor generous usage towards your guest and your kinsman.
My ancestors, Mr. Oldbuck"--
"Were great and gallant chiefs, I dare say, Hector; and really I did not
mean to give you such immense offence in treating a point of remote
antiquity, a subject on which I always am myself cool, deliberate, and
unimpassioned. But you are as hot and hasty, as if you were Hector and
Achilles, and Agamemnon to boot."
"I am sorry I expressed myself so hastily, uncle, especially to you, who
have been so generous and good. But my ancestors"--
"No more about it, lad; I meant them no affront--none."
"I'm glad of it, sir; for the house of M'Intyre"--
"Peace be with them all, every man of them," said the Antiquary. "But to
return to our subject--Do you recollect, I say, any of those poems which
afforded you such amusement?"
"Very hard this," thought M'Intyre, "that he will speak with such glee of
everything which is ancient, excepting my family. "--Then, after some
efforts at recollection, he added aloud, "Yes, sir,--I think I do
remember some lines; but you do not understand the Gaelic language."
"And will readily excuse hearing it. But you can give me some idea of the
sense in our own vernacular idiom?"
"I shall prove a wretched interpreter," said M'Intyre, running over the
original, well garnished with _aghes, aughs,_ and _oughs,_ and similar
gutterals, and then coughing and hawking as if the translation stuck in
his throat. At length, having premised that the poem was a dialogue
between the poet Oisin, or Ossian, and Patrick, the tutelar Saint of
Ireland, and that it was difficult, if not impossible, to render the
exquisite felicity of the first two or three lines, he said the sense was
to this purpose:
"Patrick the psalm-singer,
Since you will not listen to one of my stories,
Though you never heard it before,
I am sorry to tell you
You are little better than an ass"--
"Good! good!" exclaimed the Antiquary; "but go on. Why, this is, after
all, the most admirable fooling--I dare say the poet was very right. What
says the Saint?"
"He replies in character," said M'Intyre; "but you should hear MAlpin
sing the original. The speeches of Ossian come in upon a strong deep
bass--those of Patrick are upon a tenor key."
"Like MAlpin's drone and small pipes, I suppose," said Oldbuck. "Well?
Pray go on."
"Well then, Patrick replies to Ossian:
Upon my word, son of Fingal,
While I am warbling the psalms,
The clamour of your old women's tales
Disturbs my devotional exercises."
"Excellent!--why, this is better and better. I hope Saint Patrick sung
better than Blattergowl's precentor, or it would be hang--choice between
the poet and psalmist. But what I admire is the courtesy of these two
eminent persons towards each other. It is a pity there should not be a
word of this in Macpherson's translation."
"If you are sure of that," said M'Intyre, gravely, "he must have taken
very unwarrantable liberties with his original."
"It will go near to be thought so shortly--but pray proceed."
"Then," said M'Intyre, "this is the answer of Ossian:
Dare you compare your psalms,
You son of a--"
"Son of a what?" exclaimed Oldbuck.
"It means, I think," said the young soldier, with some reluctance, "son
of a female dog:
Do you compare your psalms,
To the tales of the bare-arm'd Fenians"
"Are you sure you are translating that last epithet correctly, Hector?"
"Quite sure, sir," answered Hector, doggedly.
"Because I should have thought the nudity might have been quoted as
existing in a different part of the body."
Disdaining to reply to this insinuation, Hector proceeded in his
"I shall think it no great harm
To wring your bald head from your shoulders--
But what is that yonder?" exclaimed Hector, interrupting himself.
"One of the herd of Proteus," said the Antiquary--"a _phoca,_ or seal,
lying asleep on the beach."
Upon which M'Intyre, with the eagerness of a young sportsman, totally
forgot both Ossian, Patrick, his uncle, and his wound, and exclaiming--"I
shall have her! I shall have her!" snatched the walking-stick out of the
hand of the astonished Antiquary, at some risk of throwing him down, and
set off at full speed to get between the animal and the sea, to which
element, having caught the alarm, she was rapidly retreating.
Not Sancho, when his master interrupted his account of the combatants of
Pentapolin with the naked arm, to advance in person to the charge of the
flock of sheep, stood more confounded than Oldbuck at this sudden
escapade of his nephew.
"Is the devil in him," was his first exclamation, "to go to disturb the
brute that was never thinking of him!"--Then elevating his voice,
"Hector--nephew--fool--let alone the _Phoca_--let alone the _Phoca_!--
they bite, I tell you, like furies. He minds me no more than a post.
There--there they are at it--Gad, the _Phoca_ has the best of it! I am
glad to see it," said he, in the bitterness of his heart, though really
alarmed for his nephew's safety--"I am glad to see it, with all my heart
In truth, the seal, finding her retreat intercepted by the light-footed
soldier, confronted him manfully, and having sustained a heavy blow
without injury, she knitted her brows, as is the fashion of the animal
when incensed, and making use at once of her fore-paws and her unwieldy
strength, wrenched the weapon out of the assailant's hand, overturned him
on the sands, and scuttled away into the sea, without doing him any
farther injury. Captain M'Intyre, a good deal out of countenance at the
issue of his exploit, just rose in time to receive the ironical
congratulations of his uncle, upon a single combat worthy to be
commemorated by Ossian himself, "since," said the Antiquary, "your
magnanimous opponent has fled, though not upon eagle's wings, from the
foe that was low--Egad, she walloped away with all the grace of triumph,
and has carried my stick off also, by way of _spolia opima._"
M'Intyre had little to answer for himself, except that a Highlander could
never pass a deer, a seal, or a salmon, where there was a possibility of
having a trial of skill with them, and that he had forgot one of his arms
was in a sling. He also made his fall an apology for returning back to
Monkbarns, and thus escape the farther raillery of his uncle, as well as
his lamentations for his walking-stick.
"I cut it," he said, "in the classic woods of Hawthornden, when I did not
expect always to have been a bachelor--I would not have given it for an
ocean of seals--O Hector! Hector!--thy namesake was born to be the prop
of Troy, and thou to be the plague of Monkbarns!"
Tell me not of it, friend--when the young weep,
Their tears are luke-warm brine;--from your old eyes
Sorrow falls down like hail-drops of the North,
Chilling the furrows of our withered cheeks,
Cold as our hopes, and hardened as our feeling--
Theirs, as they fall, sink sightless--ours recoil,
Heap the fair plain, and bleaken all before us.
The Antiquary, being now alone, hastened his pace, which had been
retarded by these various discussions, and the rencontre which had closed
them, and soon arrived before the half-dozen cottages at Mussel-crag.
They had now, in addition to their usual squalid and uncomfortable
appearance, the melancholy attributes of the house of mourning. The boats
were all drawn up on the beach; and, though the day was fine, and the
season favourable, the chant, which is used by the fishers when at sea,
was silent, as well as the prattle of the children, and the shrill song
of the mother, as she sits mending her nets by the door. A few of the
neighbours, some in their antique and well-saved suits of black, others
in their ordinary clothes, but all bearing an expression of mournful
sympathy with distress so sudden and unexpected, stood gathered around
the door of Mucklebackit's cottage, waiting till "the body was lifted."
As the Laird of Monkbarns approached, they made way for him to enter,
doffing their hats and bonnets as he passed, with an air of melancholy
courtesy, and he returned their salutes in the same manner.
In the inside of the cottage was a scene which our Wilkie alone could
have painted, with that exquisite feeling of nature that characterises
his enchanting productions,
The body was laid in its coffin within the wooden bedstead which the
young fisher had occupied while alive. At a little distance stood the
father, whose ragged weather-beaten countenance, shaded by his grizzled
hair, had faced many a stormy night and night-like day. He was apparently
revolving his loss in his mind, with that strong feeling of painful grief
peculiar to harsh and rough characters, which almost breaks forth into
hatred against the world, and all that remain in it, after the beloved
object is withdrawn. The old man had made the most desperate efforts to
save his son, and had only been withheld by main force from renewing them
at a moment when, without the possibility of assisting the sufferer, he
must himself have perished. All this apparently was boiling in his
recollection. His glance was directed sidelong towards the coffin, as to
an object on which he could not stedfastly look, and yet from which he
could not withdraw his eyes. His answers to the necessary questions which
were occasionally put to him, were brief, harsh, and almost fierce. His
family had not yet dared to address to him a word, either of sympathy or
consolation. His masculine wife, virago as she was, and absolute mistress
of the family, as she justly boasted herself, on all ordinary occasions,
was, by this great loss, terrified into silence and submission, and
compelled to hide from her husband's observation the bursts of her female
sorrow. As he had rejected food ever since the disaster had happened, not
daring herself to approach him, she had that morning, with affectionate
artifice, employed the youngest and favourite child to present her
husband with some nourishment. His first action was to put it from him
with an angry violence that frightened the child; his next, to snatch up
the boy and devour him with kisses. "Yell be a bra' fallow, an ye be
spared, Patie,--but ye'll never--never can be--what he was to me!--He has
sailed the coble wi' me since he was ten years auld, and there wasna the
like o' him drew a net betwixt this and Buchan-ness.--They say folks maun
submit--I will try."
And he had been silent from that moment until compelled to answer the
necessary questions we have already noticed. Such was the disconsolate
state of the father.
In another corner of the cottage, her face covered by her apron, which
was flung over it, sat the mother--the nature of her grief sufficiently
indicated by the wringing of her hands, and the convulsive agitation of
the bosom, which the covering could not conceal. Two of her gossips,
officiously whispering into her ear the commonplace topic of resignation
under irremediable misfortune, seemed as if they were endeavouring to
stun the grief which they could not console.
The sorrow of the children was mingled with wonder at the preparations
they beheld around them, and at the unusual display of wheaten bread and
wine, which the poorest peasant, or fisher, offers to the guests on these
mournful occasions; and thus their grief for their brother's death was
almost already lost in admiration of the splendour of his funeral.
But the figure of the old grandmother was the most remarkable of the
sorrowing group. Seated on her accustomed chair, with her usual air of
apathy, and want of interest in what surrounded her, she seemed every now
and then mechanically to resume the motion of twirling her spindle; then
to look towards her bosom for the distaff, although both had been laid
aside. She would then cast her eyes about, as if surprised at missing the
usual implements of her industry, and appear struck by the black colour
of the gown in which they had dressed her, and embarrassed by the number
of persons by whom she was surrounded. Then, finally, she would raise her
head with a ghastly look, and fix her eyes upon the bed which contained
the coffin of her grandson, as if she had at once, and for the first
time, acquired sense to comprehend her inexpressible calamity. These
alternate feelings of embarrassment, wonder, and grief, seemed to succeed
each other more than once upon her torpid features. But she spoke not a
word--neither had she shed a tear--nor did one of the family understand,
either from look or expression, to what extent she comprehended the
uncommon bustle around her. Thus she sat among the funeral assembly like
a connecting link between the surviving mourners and the dead corpse
which they bewailed--a being in whom the light of existence was already
obscured by the encroaching shadows of death.
When Oldbuck entered this house of mourning, he was received by a general
and silent inclination of the head, and, according to the fashion of
Scotland on such occasions, wine and spirits and bread were offered round
to the guests. Elspeth, as these refreshments were presented, surprised
and startled the whole company by motioning to the person who bore them
to stop; then, taking a glass in her hand, she rose up, and, as the smile
of dotage played upon her shrivelled features, she pronounced, with a
hollow and tremulous voice, "Wishing a' your healths, sirs, and often may
we hae such merry meetings!"
All shrunk from the ominous pledge, and set down the untasted liquor with
a degree of shuddering horror, which will not surprise those who know how
many superstitions are still common on such occasions among the Scottish
vulgar. But as the old woman tasted the liquor, she suddenly exclaimed
with a sort of shriek, "What's this?--this is wine--how should there be
wine in my son's house?--Ay," she continued with a suppressed groan, "I
mind the sorrowful cause now," and, dropping the glass from her hand, she
stood a moment gazing fixedly on the bed in which the coffin of her
grandson was deposited, and then sinking gradually into her seat, she
covered her eyes and forehead with her withered and pallid hand.
At this moment the clergyman entered the cottage. Mr. Blattergowl, though
a dreadful proser, particularly on the subject of augmentations,
localities, teinds, and overtures in that session of the General
Assembly, to which, unfortunately for his auditors, he chanced one year
to act as moderator, was nevertheless a good man, in the old Scottish
presbyterian phrase, God-ward and man-ward. No divine was more attentive
in visiting the sick and afflicted, in catechising the youth, in
instructing the ignorant, and in reproving the erring. And hence,
notwithstanding impatience of his prolixity and prejudices, personal or
professional, and notwithstanding, moreover, a certain habitual contempt
for his understanding, especially on affairs of genius and taste, on
which Blattergowl was apt to be diffuse, from his hope of one day
fighting his way to a chair of rhetoric or belles lettres,--
notwithstanding, I say, all the prejudices excited against him by these
circumstances, our friend the Antiquary looked with great regard and
respect on the said Blattergowl, though I own he could seldom, even by
his sense of decency and the remonstrances of his womankind, be _hounded
out,_ as he called it, to hear him preach. But he regularly took shame to
himself for his absence when Blattergowl came to Monkbarns to dinner, to
which he was always invited of a Sunday, a mode of testifying his respect
which the proprietor probably thought fully as agreeable to the
clergyman, and rather more congenial to his own habits.
To return from a digression which can only serve to introduce the honest
clergyman more particularly to our readers, Mr. Blattergowl had no sooner
entered the hut, and received the mute and melancholy salutations of the
company whom it contained, than he edged himself towards the unfortunate
father, and seemed to endeavour to slide in a few words of condolence or
of consolation. But the old man was incapable as yet of receiving either;
he nodded, however, gruffly, and shook the clergyman's hand in
acknowledgment of his good intentions, but was either unable or unwilling
to make any verbal reply.
The minister next passed to the mother, moving along the floor as slowly,
silently, and gradually, as if he had been afraid that the ground would,
like unsafe ice, break beneath his feet, or that the first echo of a
footstep was to dissolve some magic spell, and plunge the hut, with all
its inmates, into a subterranean abyss. The tenor of what he had said to
the poor woman could only be judged by her answers, as, half-stifled by
sobs ill-repressed, and by the covering which she still kept over her
countenance, she faintly answered at each pause in his speech--"Yes, sir,
yes!--Ye're very gude--ye're very gude!--Nae doubt, nae doubt!--It's our
duty to submit!--But, oh dear! my poor Steenie! the pride o' my very
heart, that was sae handsome and comely, and a help to his family, and a
comfort to us a', and a pleasure to a' that lookit on him!--Oh, my bairn!
my bairn! my bairn! what for is thou lying there!--and eh! what for am I
left to greet for ye!"
There was no contending with this burst of sorrow and natural affection.
Oldbuck had repeated recourse to his snuff-box to conceal the tears
which, despite his shrewd and caustic temper, were apt to start on such
occasions. The female assistants whimpered, the men held their bonnets to
their faces, and spoke apart with each other. The clergyman, meantime,
addressed his ghostly consolation to the aged grandmother. At first she
listened, or seemed to listen, to what he said, with the apathy of her
usual unconsciousness. But as, in pressing this theme, he approached so
near to her ear that the sense of his words became distinctly
intelligible to her, though unheard by those who stood more distant, her
countenance at once assumed that stern and expressive cast which
characterized her intervals of intelligence. She drew up her head and
body, shook her head in a manner that showed at least impatience, if not
scorn of his counsel, and waved her hand slightly, but with a gesture so
expressive, as to indicate to all who witnessed it a marked and
disdainful rejection of the ghostly consolation proffered to her. The
minister stepped back as if repulsed, and, by lifting gently and dropping
his hand, seemed to show at once wonder, sorrow, and compassion for her
dreadful state of mind. The rest of the company sympathized, and a
stifled whisper went through them, indicating how much her desperate and
determined manner impressed them with awe, and even horror.
In the meantime, the funeral company was completed, by the arrival of one
or two persons who had been expected from Fairport. The wine and spirits
again circulated, and the dumb show of greeting was anew interchanged.
The grandame a second time took a glass in her hand, drank its contents,
and exclaimed, with a sort of laugh,--"Ha! ha! I hae tasted wine twice in
ae day--Whan did I that before, think ye, cummers?--Never since"--and the
transient glow vanishing from her countenance, she set the glass down,
and sunk upon the settle from whence she had risen to snatch at it.
As the general amazement subsided, Mr. Oldbuck, whose heart bled to
witness what he considered as the errings of the enfeebled intellect
struggling with the torpid chill of age and of sorrow, observed to the
clergyman that it was time to proceed with the ceremony. The father was
incapable of giving directions, but the nearest relation of the family
made a sign to the carpenter, who in such cases goes through the duty of
the undertaker, to proceed in his office. The creak of the screw-nails
presently announced that the lid of the last mansion of mortality was in
the act of being secured above its tenant. The last act which separates
us for ever, even from the mortal relies of the person we assemble to
mourn, has usually its effect upon the most indifferent, selfish, and
hard-hearted. With a spirit of contradiction, which we may be pardoned
for esteeming narrow-minded, the fathers of the Scottish kirk rejected,
even on this most solemn occasion, the form of an address to the
Divinity, lest they should be thought to give countenance to the rituals
of Rome or of England. With much better and more liberal judgment, it is
the present practice of most of the Scottish clergymen to seize this
opportunity of offering a prayer, and exhortation, suitable to make an
impression upon the living, while they are yet in the very presence of
the relics of him whom they have but lately seen such as they themselves,
and who now is such as they must in their time become. But this decent
and praiseworthy practice was not adopted at the time of which I am
treating, or at least, Mr. Blattergowl did not act upon it, and the
ceremony proceeded without any devotional exercise.
The coffin, covered with a pall, and supported upon hand-spikes by the
nearest relatives, now only waited the father to support the head, as is
customary. Two or three of these privileged persons spoke to him, but he
only answered by shaking his hand and his head in token of refusal. With
better intention than judgment, the friends, who considered this as an
act of duty on the part of the living, and of decency towards the
deceased, would have proceeded to enforce their request, had not Oldbuck
interfered between the distressed father and his well-meaning tormentors,
and informed them, that he himself, as landlord and master to the
deceased, "would carry his head to the grave." In spite of the sorrowful
occasion, the hearts of the relatives swelled within them at so marked a
distinction on the part of the laird; and old Alison Breck, who was
present among other fish-women, swore almost aloud, "His honour Monkbarns
should never want sax warp of oysters in the season" (of which fish he
was understood to be fond), "if she should gang to sea and dredge for
them hersell, in the foulest wind that ever blew." And such is the temper
of the Scottish common people, that, by this instance of compliance with
their customs, and respect for their persons, Mr. Oldbuck gained more
popularity than by all the sums which he had yearly distributed in the
parish for purposes of private or general charity.
The sad procession now moved slowly forward, preceded by the beadles, or
saulies, with their batons,--miserable-looking old men, tottering as if
on the edge of that grave to which they were marshalling another, and
clad, according to Scottish guise, with threadbare black coats, and
hunting-caps decorated with rusty crape. Monkbarns would probably have
remonstrated against this superfluous expense, had he been consulted;
but, in doing so, he would have given more offence than he gained
popularity by condescending to perform the office of chief-mourner. Of
this he was quite aware, and wisely withheld rebuke, where rebuke and
advice would have been equally unavailing. In truth, the Scottish
peasantry are still infected with that rage for funeral ceremonial, which
once distinguished the grandees of the kingdom so much, that a sumptuary
law was made by the Parliament of Scotland for the purpose of restraining
it; and I have known many in the lowest stations, who have denied
themselves not merely the comforts, but almost the necessaries of life,
in order to save such a sum of money as might enable their surviving
friends to bury them like Christians, as they termed it; nor could their
faithful executors be prevailed upon, though equally necessitous, to turn
to the use and maintenance of the living the money vainly wasted upon the
interment of the dead.
The procession to the churchyard, at about half-a-mile's distance, was
made with the mournful solemnity usual on these occasions,--the body was
consigned to its parent earth,--and when the labour of the gravediggers
had filled up the trench, and covered it with fresh sod, Mr. Oldbuck,
taking his hat off, saluted the assistants, who had stood by in
melancholy silence, and with that adieu dispersed the mourners.
The clergyman offered our Antiquary his company to walk homeward; but Mr.
Oldbuck had been so much struck with the deportment of the fisherman and
his mother, that, moved by compassion, and perhaps also, in some degree,
by that curiosity which induces us to seek out even what gives us pain to
witness, he preferred a solitary walk by the coast, for the purpose of
again visiting the cottage as he passed.
What is this secret sin, this untold tale,
That art cannot extract, nor penance cleanse?
--Her muscles hold their place;
Nor discomposed, nor formed to steadiness,
No sudden flushing, and no faltering lip.--
The coffin had been borne from the place where it rested. The mourners,
in regular gradation, according to their rank or their relationship to
the deceased, had filed from the cottage, while the younger male children
were led along to totter after the bier of their brother, and to view
with wonder a ceremonial which they could hardly comprehend. The female
gossips next rose to depart, and, with consideration for the situation of
the parents, carried along with them the girls of the family, to give the
unhappy pair time and opportunity to open their hearts to each other and
soften their grief by communicating it. But their kind intention was
without effect. The last of them had darkened the entrance of the
cottage, as she went out, and drawn the door softly behind her, when the
father, first ascertaining by a hasty glance that no stranger remained,
started up, clasped his hands wildly above his head, uttered a cry of the
despair which he had hitherto repressed, and, in all the impotent
impatience of grief, half rushed half staggered forward to the bed on
which the coffin had been deposited, threw himself down upon it, and
smothering, as it were, his head among the bed-clothes, gave vent to the
full passion of his sorrow. It was in vain that the wretched mother,
terrified by the vehemence of her husband's affliction--affliction still
more fearful as agitating a man of hardened manners and a robust frame--
suppressed her own sobs and tears, and, pulling him by the skirts of his
coat, implored him to rise and remember, that, though one was removed, he
had still a wife and children to comfort and support. The appeal came at
too early a period of his anguish, and was totally unattended to; he
continued to remain prostrate, indicating, by sobs so bitter and violent,
that they shook the bed and partition against which it rested, by
clenched hands which grasped the bed-clothes, and by the vehement and
convulsive motion of his legs, how deep and how terrible was the agony of
a father's sorrow.
"O, what a day is this! what a day is this!" said the poor mother, her
womanish affliction already exhausted by sobs and tears, and now almost
lost in terror for the state in which she beheld her husband--"O, what an
hour is this! and naebody to help a poor lone woman--O, gudemither, could
ye but speak a word to him!--wad ye but bid him be comforted!"
To her astonishment, and even to the increase of her fear, her husband's
mother heard and answered the appeal. She rose and walked across the
floor without support, and without much apparent feebleness, and standing
by the bed on which her son had extended himself, she said, "Rise up, my
son, and sorrow not for him that is beyond sin and sorrow and temptation.
Sorrow is for those that remain in this vale of sorrow and darkness--I,
wha dinna sorrow, and wha canna sorrow for ony ane, hae maist need that
ye should a' sorrow for me."
The voice of his mother, not heard for years as taking part in the active
duties of life, or offering advice or consolation, produced its effect
upon her son. He assumed a sitting posture on the side of the bed, and
his appearance, attitude, and gestures, changed from those of angry
despair to deep grief and dejection. The grandmother retired to her nook,
the mother mechanically took in her hand her tattered Bible, and seemed
to read, though her eyes were drowned with tears.
They were thus occupied, when a loud knock was heard at the door.
"Hegh, sirs!" said the poor mother, "wha is that can be coming in that
gate e'enow?--They canna hae heard o' our misfortune, I'm sure."
The knock being repeated, she rose and opened the door, saying
querulously, "Whatna gait's that to disturb a sorrowfu' house?"
A tall man in black stood before her, whom she instantly recognised to be
Lord Glenallan. "Is there not," he said, "an old woman lodging in this or
one of the neighbouring cottages, called Elspeth, who was long resident
at Craigburnfoot of Glenallan?"
"It's my gudemither, my lord," said Margaret; "but she canna see onybody
e'enow--Ohon! we're dreeing a sair weird--we hae had a heavy
"God forbid," said Lord Glenallan, "that I should on light occasion
disturb your sorrow;--but my days are numbered--your mother-in-law is in
the extremity of age, and, if I see her not to-day, we may never meet on
this side of time."
"And what," answered the desolate mother, "wad ye see at an auld woman,
broken down wi' age and sorrow and heartbreak? Gentle or semple shall not
darken my door the day my bairn's been carried out a corpse."
While she spoke thus, indulging the natural irritability of disposition
and profession, which began to mingle itself with her grief when its
first uncontrolled bursts were gone by, she held the door about one-third
part open, and placed herself in the gap, as if to render the visitor's
entrance impossible. But the voice of her husband was heard from within--
"Wha's that, Maggie? what for are ye steaking them out?--let them come
in; it doesna signify an auld rope's end wha comes in or wha gaes out o'
this house frae this time forward."
The woman stood aside at her husband's command, and permitted Lord
Glenallan to enter the hut. The dejection exhibited in his broken frame
and emaciated countenance, formed a strong contrast with the effects of
grief, as they were displayed in the rude and weatherbeaten visage of the
fisherman, and the masculine features of his wife. He approached the old
woman as she was seated on her usual settle, and asked her, in a tone as
audible as his voice could make it, "Are you Elspeth of the Craigburnfoot
"Wha is it that asks about the unhallowed residence of that evil woman?"
was the answer returned to his query.
"The unhappy Earl of Glenallan."
"Earl!--Earl of Glenallan!"
"He who was called William Lord Geraldin," said the Earl; "and whom his
mother's death has made Earl of Glenallan."
"Open the bole," said the old woman firmly and hastily to her
daughter-in-law, "open the bole wi' speed, that I may see if this be the
right Lord Geraldin--the son of my mistress--him that I received in my
arms within the hour after he was born--him that has reason to curse me
that I didna smother him before the hour was past!"
The window, which had been shut in order that a gloomy twilight might add
to the solemnity of the funeral meeting, was opened as she commanded, and
threw a sudden and strong light through the smoky and misty atmosphere of
the stifling cabin. Falling in a stream upon the chimney, the rays
illuminated, in the way that Rembrandt would have chosen, the features of
the unfortunate nobleman, and those of the old sibyl, who now, standing
upon her feet, and holding him by one hand, peered anxiously in his
features with her light-blue eyes, and holding her long and withered
fore-finger within a small distance of his face, moved it slowly as if to
trace the outlines and reconcile what she recollected with that she now
beheld. As she finished her scrutiny, she said, with a deep sigh, "It's a
sair--sair change; and wha's fault is it?--but that's written down where
it will be remembered--it's written on tablets of brass with a pen of
steel, where all is recorded that is done in the flesh.--And what," she
said after a pause, "what is Lord Geraldin seeking from a poor auld
creature like me, that's dead already, and only belongs sae far to the
living that she isna yet laid in the moulds?"
"Nay," answered Lord Glenallan, "in the name of Heaven, why was it that
you requested so urgently to see me?--and why did you back your request
by sending a token which you knew well I dared not refuse?"
As he spoke thus, he took from his purse the ring which Edie Ochiltree
had delivered to him at Glenallan House. The sight of this token produced
a strange and instantaneous effect upon the old woman. The palsy of fear
was immediately added to that of age, and she began instantly to search
her pockets with the tremulous and hasty agitation of one who becomes
first apprehensive of having lost something of great importance;--then,
as if convinced of the reality of her fears, she turned to the Earl, and
demanded, "And how came ye by it then?--how came ye by it? I thought I
had kept it sae securely--what will the Countess say?"
"You know," said the Earl, "at least you must have heard, that my mother
"Dead! are ye no imposing upon me? has she left a' at last, lands and
lordship and lineages?"
"All, all," said the Earl, "as mortals must leave all human vanities."
"I mind now," answered Elspeth--"I heard of it before but there has been
sic distress in our house since, and my memory is sae muckle impaired--
But ye are sure your mother, the Lady Countess, is gane hame?"
The Earl again assured her that her former mistress was no more.
"Then," said Elspeth, "it shall burden my mind nae langer!--When she
lived, wha dared to speak what it would hae displeased her to hae had
noised abroad? But she's gane--and I will confess all."
Then turning to her son and daughter-in-law, she commanded them
imperatively to quit the house, and leave Lord Geraldin (for so she still
called him) alone with her. But Maggie Mucklebackit, her first burst of
grief being over, was by no means disposed in her own house to pay
passive obedience to the commands of her mother-in-law, an authority
which is peculiarly obnoxious to persons in her rank of life, and which
she was the more astonished at hearing revived, when it seemed to have
been so long relinquished and forgotten.
"It was an unco thing," she said, in a grumbling tone of voice,--for the
rank of Lord Glenallan was somewhat imposing--"it was an unco thing to
bid a mother leave her ain house wi' the tear in her ee, the moment her
eldest son had been carried a corpse out at the door o't."
The fisherman, in a stubborn and sullen tone, added to the same purpose.
"This is nae day for your auld-warld stories, mother. My lord, if he be a
lord, may ca' some other day--or he may speak out what he has gotten to
say if he likes it; there's nane here will think it worth their while to
listen to him or you either. But neither for laird or loon, gentle or
semple, will I leave my ain house to pleasure onybody on the very day my
Here his voice choked, and he could proceed no farther; but as he had
risen when Lord Glenallan came in, and had since remained standing, he
now threw himself doggedly upon a seat, and remained in the sullen
posture of one who was determined to keep his word.
But the old woman, whom this crisis seemed to repossess in all those
powers of mental superiority with which she had once been eminently
gifted, arose, and advancing towards him, said, with a solemn voice, "My
son, as ye wad shun hearing of your mother's shame--as ye wad not
willingly be a witness of her guilt--as ye wad deserve her blessing and
avoid her curse, I charge ye, by the body that bore and that nursed ye,
to leave me at freedom to speak with Lord Geraldin, what nae mortal ears
but his ain maun listen to. Obey my words, that when ye lay the moulds on
my head--and, oh that the day were come!--ye may remember this hour
without the reproach of having disobeyed the last earthly command that
ever your mother wared on you."
The terms of this solemn charge revived in the fisherman's heart the
habit of instinctive obedience in which his mother had trained him up,
and to which he had submitted implicitly while her powers of exacting it
remained entire. The recollection mingled also with the prevailing
passion of the moment; for, glancing his eye at the bed on which the dead
body had been laid, he muttered to himself, "_He_ never disobeyed _me,_
in reason or out o' reason, and what for should I vex _her_?" Then,
taking his reluctant spouse by the arm, he led her gently out of the
cottage, and latched the door behind them as he left it.
As the unhappy parents withdrew, Lord Glenallan, to prevent the old woman
from relapsing into her lethargy, again pressed her on the subject of the
communication which she proposed to make to him.
"Ye will have it sune eneugh," she replied;--"my mind's clear eneugh now,
and there is not--I think there is not--a chance of my forgetting what I
have to say. My dwelling at Craigburnfoot is before my een, as it were
present in reality:--the green bank, with its selvidge, just where the
burn met wi' the sea--the twa little barks, wi' their sails furled, lying
in the natural cove which it formed--the high cliff that joined it with
the pleasure-grounds of the house of Glenallan, and hung right ower the
stream--Ah! yes--I may forget that I had a husband and have lost him--
that I hae but ane alive of our four fair sons--that misfortune upon
misfortune has devoured our ill-gotten wealth--that they carried the
corpse of my son's eldest-born frae the house this morning--But I never
can forget the days I spent at bonny Craigburnfoot!"
"You were a favourite of my mother," said Lord Glenallan, desirous to
bring her back to the point, from which she was wandering.
"I was, I was,--ye needna mind me o' that. She brought me up abune my
station, and wi' knowledge mair than my fellows--but, like the tempter of
auld, wi' the knowledge of gude she taught me the knowledge of evil."
"For God's sake, Elspeth," said the astonished Earl, "proceed, if you
can, to explain the dreadful hints you have thrown out! I well know you
are confidant to one dreadful secret, which should split this roof even
to hear it named--but speak on farther."
"I will," she said--"I will!--just bear wi' me for a little;"--and again
she seemed lost in recollection, but it was no longer tinged with
imbecility or apathy. She was now entering upon the topic which had long
loaded her mind, and which doubtless often occupied her whole soul at
times when she seemed dead to all around her. And I may add, as a
remarkable fact, that such was the intense operation of mental energy
upon her physical powers and nervous system, that, notwithstanding her
infirmity of deafness, each word that Lord Glenallan spoke during this
remarkable conference, although in the lowest tone of horror or agony,
fell as full and distinct upon Elspeth's ear as it could have done at any
period of her life. She spoke also herself clearly, distinctly, and
slowly, as if anxious that the intelligence she communicated should be
fully understood; concisely at the same time, and with none of the
verbiage or circumlocutory additions natural to those of her sex and
condition. In short, her language bespoke a better education, as well as
an uncommonly firm and resolved mind, and a character of that sort from
which great virtues or great crimes may be naturally expected. The tenor
of her communication is disclosed in the following chapter.
Remorse--she neer forsakes us--
A bloodhound staunch--she tracks our rapid step
Through the wild labyrinth of youthful frenzy,
Unheard, perchance, until old age hath tamed us
Then in our lair, when Time hath chilled our joints,
And maimed our hope of combat, or of flight,
We hear her deep-mouthed bay, announcing all
Of wrath, and wo, and punishment that bides us.
"I need not tell you," said the old woman, addressing the Earl of
Glenallan, "that I was the favourite and confidential attendant of
Joscelind, Countess of Glenallan, whom God assoilzie!"--(here she crossed
herself)--"and I think farther, ye may not have forgotten that I shared
her regard for mony years. I returned it by the maist sincere attachment,
but I fell into disgrace frae a trifling act of disobedience, reported to
your mother by ane that thought, and she wasna wrang, that I was a spy
upon her actions and yours."
"I charge thee, woman," said the Earl, in a voice trembling with passion,
"name not her name in my hearing!"
"I must," returned the penitent firmly and calmly, "or how can you
The Earl leaned upon one of the wooden chairs of the hut, drew his hat
over his face, clenched his hands together, set his teeth like one who
summons up courage to undergo a painful operation, and made a signal to
her to proceed.
"I say, then," she resumed, "that my disgrace with my mistress was
chiefly owing to Miss Eveline Neville, then bred up in Glenallan House as
the daughter of a cousin-german and intimate friend of your father that
was gane. There was muckle mystery in her history,--but wha dared to
inquire farther than the Countess liked to tell?--All in Glenallan House
loved Miss Neville--all but twa, your mother and mysell--we baith hated
"God! for what reason, since a creature so mild, so gentle, so formed to
inspire affection, never walked on this wretched world?"
"It may hae been sae," rejoined Elspeth, "but your mother hated a' that
cam of your father's family--a' but himsell. Her reasons related to
strife which fell between them soon after her marriage; the particulars
are naething to this purpose. But oh! doubly did she hate Eveline Neville
when she perceived that there was a growing kindness atween you and that
unfortunate young leddy! Ye may mind that the Countess's dislike didna
gang farther at first than just showing o' the cauld shouther--at least
it wasna seen farther; but at the lang run it brak out into such
downright violence that Miss Neville was even fain to seek refuge at
Knockwinnock Castle with Sir Arthur's leddy, wha (God sain her!) was then
wi' the living."
"You rend my heart by recalling these particulars--But go on,--and may my
present agony be accepted as additional penance for the involuntary
"She had been absent some months," continued Elspeth, "when I was ae
night watching in my hut the return of my husband from fishing, and
shedding in private those bitter tears that my proud spirit wrung frae me
whenever I thought on my disgrace. The sneck was drawn, and the Countess
your mother entered my dwelling. I thought I had seen a spectre, for even
in the height of my favour, this was an honour she had never done me, and
she looked as pale and ghastly as if she had risen from the grave. She
sat down, and wrung the draps from her hair and cloak,--for the night was
drizzling, and her walk had been through the plantations, that were a'
loaded with dew. I only mention these things that you may understand how
weel that night lives in my memory,--and weel it may. I was surprised to
see her, but I durstna speak first, mair than if I had seen a phantom--
Na, I durst not, my lord, I that hae seen mony sights of terror, and
never shook at them. Sae, after a silence, she said, Elspeth Cheyne (for
she always gave me my maiden name), are not ye the daughter of that
Reginald Cheyne who died to save his master, Lord Glenallan, on the field
of Sheriffmuir?' And I answered her as proudly as hersell nearly--As sure
as you are the daughter of that Earl of Glenallan whom my father saved
that day by his own death.'"
Here she made a deep pause.
"And what followed?--what followed?--For Heaven's sake, good woman--But
why should I use that word?--Yet, good or bad, I command you to tell me."
"And little I should value earthly command," answered Elspeth, "were
there not a voice that has spoken to me sleeping and waking, that drives
me forward to tell this sad tale. Aweel, my Lord--the Countess said to
me, My son loves Eveline Neville--they are agreed--they are plighted:
should they have a son, my right over Glenallan merges--I sink from that
moment from a Countess into a miserable stipendiary dowager, I who
brought lands and vassals, and high blood and ancient fame, to my
husband, I must cease to be mistress when my son has an heir-male. But I
care not for that--had he married any but one of the hated Nevilles, I
had been patient. But for them--that they and their descendants should
enjoy the right and honours of my ancestors, goes through my heart like a
two-edged dirk. And this girl--I detest her!'--And I answered, for my
heart kindled at her words, that her hate was equalled by mine."
"Wretch!" exclaimed the Earl, in spite of his determination to preserve
silence--"wretched woman! what cause of hate could have arisen from a
being so innocent and gentle?"
"I hated what my mistress hated, as was the use with the liege vassals of
the house of Glenallan; for though, my Lord, I married under my degree,
yet an ancestor of yours never went to the field of battle, but an
ancestor of the frail, demented, auld, useless wretch wha now speaks with
you, carried his shield before him. But that was not a'," continued the
beldam, her earthly and evil passions rekindling as she became heated in
her narration--"that was not a'; I hated Miss Eveline Neville for her ain
sake, I brought her frae England, and, during our whole journey, she
gecked and scorned at my northern speech and habit, as her southland
leddies and kimmers had done at the boarding-school, as they cald it"--
(and, strange as it may seem, she spoke of an affront offered by a
heedless school-girl without intention, with a degree of inveteracy
which, at such a distance of time, a mortal offence would neither have
authorized or excited in any well-constituted mind)--"Yes, she scorned
and jested at me--but let them that scorn the tartan fear the dirk!"
She paused, and then went on--"But I deny not that I hated her mair than
she deserved. My mistress, the Countess, persevered and said, Elspeth
Cheyne, this unruly boy will marry with the false English blood. Were
days as they have been, I could throw her into the Massymore* of
Glenallan, and fetter him in the Keep of Strathbonnel.
* _Massa-mora,_ an ancient name for a dungeon, derived from the Moorish
language, perhaps as far back as the time of the Crusades.
But these times are past, and the authority which the nobles of the land
should exercise is delegated to quibbling lawyers and their baser
dependants. Hear me, Elspeth Cheyne! if you are your father's daughter as
I am mine, I will find means that they shall not marry. She walks often
to that cliff that overhangs your dwelling to look for her lover's boat--
(ye may remember the pleasure ye then took on the sea, my Lord)--let him
find her forty fathom lower than he expects!'--Yes! ye may stare and
frown and clench your hand; but, as sure as I am to face the only Being I
ever feared--and, oh that I had feared him mair!--these were your
mother's words. What avails it to me to lie to you?--But I wadna consent
to stain my hand with blood.--Then she said, By the religion of our holy
Church they are ower _sibb_ thegither. But I expect nothing but that both
will become heretics as well as disobedient reprobates;'--that was her
addition to that argument. And then, as the fiend is ever ower busy wi'
brains like mine, that are subtle beyond their use and station, I was
unhappily permitted to add--But they might be brought to think themselves
sae _sibb_ as no Christian law will permit their wedlock.'"
Here the Earl of Glenallan echoed her words, with a shriek so piercing as
almost to rend the roof of the cottage.--"Ah! then Eveline Neville was
"The daughter, ye would say, of your father?" continued Elspeth. "No--be
it a torment or be it a comfort to you--ken the truth, she was nae mair a
daughter of your father's house than I am."
"Woman, deceive me not!--make me not curse the memory of the parent I
have so lately laid in the grave, for sharing in a plot the most cruel,
the most infernal"--
"Bethink ye, my Lord Geraldin, ere ye curse the memory of a parent that's
gane, is there none of the blood of Glenallan living, whose faults have
led to this dreadfu' catastrophe?"
"Mean you my brother?--he, too, is gone," said the Earl.
"No," replied the sibyl, "I mean yoursell, Lord Geraldin. Had you not
transgressed the obedience of a son by wedding Eveline Neville in secret
while a guest at Knockwinnock, our plot might have separated you for a
time, but would have left at least your sorrows without remorse to canker
them. But your ain conduct had put poison in the weapon that we threw,
and it pierced you with the mair force because ye cam rushing to meet it.
Had your marriage been a proclaimed and acknowledged action, our
stratagem to throw an obstacle into your way that couldna be got ower,
neither wad nor could hae been practised against ye."
"Great Heaven!" said the unfortunate nobleman--"it is as if a film fell
from my obscured eyes! Yes, I now well understand the doubtful hints of
consolation thrown out by my wretched mother, tending indirectly to
impeach the evidence of the horrors of which her arts had led me to
believe myself guilty."
"She could not speak mair plainly," answered Elspeth, "without confessing
her ain fraud,--and she would have submitted to be torn by wild horses,
rather than unfold what she had done; and if she had still lived, so
would I for her sake. They were stout hearts the race of Glenallan, male
and female, and sae were a' that in auld times cried their gathering-word
of _Clochnaben_--they stood shouther to shouther--nae man parted frae his
chief for love of gold or of gain, or of right or of wrang. The times are
changed, I hear, now."
The unfortunate nobleman was too much wrapped up in his own confused and
distracted reflections, to notice the rude expressions of savage
fidelity, in which, even in the latest ebb of life, the unhappy author of
his misfortunes seemed to find a stern and stubborn source of
"Great Heaven!" he exclaimed, "I am then free from a guilt the most
horrible with which man can be stained, and the sense of which, however
involuntary, has wrecked my peace, destroyed my health, and bowed me down
to an untimely grave. Accept," he fervently uttered, lifting his eyes
upwards, "accept my humble thanks! If I live miserable, at least I shall
not die stained with that unnatural guilt!--And thou--proceed if thou
hast more to tell--proceed, while thou hast voice to speak it, and I have
powers to listen."
"Yes," answered the beldam, "the hour when you shall hear, and I shall
speak, is indeed passing rapidly away. Death has crossed your brow with
his finger, and I find his grasp turning every day coulder at my heart.
Interrupt me nae mair with exclamations and groans and accusations, but
hear my tale to an end! And then--if ye be indeed sic a Lord of Glenallan
as I hae heard of in _my_ day--make your merrymen gather the thorn, and
the brier, and the green hollin, till they heap them as high as the
house-riggin', and burn! burn! burn! the auld witch Elspeth, and a' that
can put ye in mind that sic a creature ever crawled upon the land!"
"Go on," said the Earl, "go on--I will not again interrupt you."
He spoke in a half-suffocated yet determined voice, resolved that no
irritability on his part should deprive him of this opportunity of
acquiring proofs of the wonderful tale he then heard. But Elspeth had
become exhausted by a continuous narration of such unusual length; the
subsequent part of her story was more broken, and though still distinctly
intelligible in most parts, had no longer the lucid conciseness which the
first part of her narrative had displayed to such an astonishing degree.
Lord Glenallan found it necessary, when she had made some attempts to
continue her narrative without success, to prompt her memory by
demanding--"What proofs she could propose to bring of the truth of a
narrative so different from that which she had originally told?"
"The evidence," she replied, "of Eveline Neville's real birth was in the
Countess's possession, with reasons for its being for some time kept
private;--they may yet be found, if she has not destroyed them, in the
left hand drawer of the ebony cabinet that stood in the dressing-room.
These she meant to suppress for the time, until you went abroad again,
when she trusted, before your return, to send Miss Neville back to her
ain country, or to get her settled in marriage."
"But did you not show me letters of my father's, which seemed to me,
unless my senses altogether failed me in that horrible moment, to avow
his relationship to--to the unhappy"--
"We did; and, with my testimony, how could you doubt the fact, or her
either? But we suppressed the true explanation of these letters, and that
was, that your father thought it right the young leddy should pass for
his daughter for a while, on account o'some family reasons that were
"But wherefore, when you learned our union, was this dreadful artifice
"It wasna," she replied, "till Lady Glenallan had communicated this fause
tale, that she suspected ye had actually made a marriage--nor even then
did you avow it sae as to satisfy her whether the ceremony had in verity
passed atween ye or no--But ye remember, O ye canna but remember weel,
what passed in that awfu' meeting!"
"Woman! you swore upon the gospels to the fact which you now disavow."
"I did,--and I wad hae taen a yet mair holy pledge on it, if there had
been ane--I wad not hae spared the blood of my body, or the guilt of my
soul, to serve the house of Glenallan."
"Wretch! do you call that horrid perjury, attended with consequences yet
more dreadful--do you esteem that a service to the house of your
"I served her, wha was then the head of Glenallan, as she required me to
serve her. The cause was between God and her conscience--the manner
between God and mine--She is gane to her account, and I maun follow. Have
I taulds you a'?"
"No," answered Lord Glenallan--"you have yet more to tell--you have to
tell me of the death of the angel whom your perjury drove to despair,
stained, as she thought herself, with a crime so horrible. Speak truth--
was that dreadful--was that horrible incident"--he could scarcely
articulate the words--"was it as reported? or was it an act of yet
further, though not more atrocious cruelty, inflicted by others?"
"I understand you," said Elspeth. "But report spoke truth;--our false
witness was indeed the cause, but the deed was her ain distracted act. On
that fearfu' disclosure, when ye rushed frae the Countess's presence and
saddled your horse, and left the castle like a fire-flaught, the Countess
hadna yet discovered your private marriage; she hadna fund out that the
union, which she had framed this awfu' tale to prevent, had e'en taen
place. Ye fled from the house as if the fire o' Heaven was about to fa'
upon it, and Miss Neville, atween reason and the want o't, was put under
sure ward. But the ward sleep't, and the prisoner waked--the window was
open--the way was before her--there was the cliff, and there was the
sea!--O, when will I forget that!"
"And thus died," said the Earl, "even so as was reported?"
"No, my lord. I had gane out to the cove--the tide was in, and it flowed,
as ye'll remember, to the foot o' that cliff--it was a great convenience
that for my husband's trade--Where am I wandering?--I saw a white object
dart frae the tap o' the cliff like a sea-maw through the mist, and then
a heavy flash and sparkle of the waters showed me it was a human creature
that had fa'en into the waves. I was bold and strong, and familiar with
the tide. I rushed in and grasped her gown, and drew her out and carried
her on my shouthers--I could hae carried twa sic then--carried her to my
hut, and laid her on my bed. Neighbours cam and brought help; but the
words she uttered in her ravings, when she got back the use of speech,
were such, that I was fain to send them awa, and get up word to Glenallan
House. The Countess sent down her Spanish servant Teresa--if ever there
was a fiend on earth in human form, that woman was ane. She and I were to
watch the unhappy leddy, and let no other person approach.--God knows
what Teresa's part was to hae been--she tauld it not to me--but Heaven
took the conclusion in its ain hand. The poor leddy! she took the pangs
of travail before her time, bore a male child, and died in the arms of
me--of her mortal enemy! Ay, _ye_ may weep--she was a sightly creature to
see to--but think ye, if I didna mourn her then, that I can mourn her
now? Na, na, I left Teresa wi' the dead corpse and new-born babe, till I
gaed up to take the Countess's commands what was to be done. Late as it
was, I ca'd her up, and she gar'd me ca' up your brother"--
"Yes, Lord Geraldin, e'en your brother, that some said she aye wished to
be her heir. At ony rate, he was the person maist concerned in the
succession and heritance of the house of Glenallan."
"And is it possible to believe, then, that my brother, out of avarice to
grasp at my inheritance, would lend himself to such a base and dreadful
"Your mother believed it," said the old beldam with a fiendish laugh--"it
was nae plot of my making; but what they did or said I will not say,
because I did not hear. Lang and sair they consulted in the black
wainscot dressing-room; and when your brother passed through the room
where I was waiting, it seemed to me (and I have often thought sae since
syne) that the fire of hell was in his cheek and een. But he had left
some of it with his mother, at ony rate. She entered the room like a
woman demented, and the first words she spoke were, Elspeth Cheyne, did
you ever pull a new-budded flower?' I answered, as ye may believe, that I
often had. Then,' said she, ye will ken the better how to blight the
spurious and heretical blossom that has sprung forth this night to
disgrace my father's noble house--See here;'--(and she gave me a golden
bodkin)--nothing but gold must shed the blood of Glenallan. This child is
already as one of the dead, and since thou and Teresa alone ken that it
lives, let it be dealt upon as ye will answer to me!' and she turned away
in her fury, and left me with the bodkin in my hand.--Here it is; that
and the ring of Miss Neville, are a' I hae preserved of my ill-gotten
gear--for muckle was the gear I got. And weel hae I keepit the secret,
but no for the gowd or gear either."
Her long and bony hand held out to Lord Glenallan a gold bodkin, down
which in fancy he saw the blood of his infant trickling.
"Wretch! had you the heart?"
"I kenna if I could hae had it or no. I returned to my cottage without
feeling the ground that I trode on; but Teresa and the child were gane--
a' that was alive was gane--naething left but the lifeless corpse."
"And did you never learn my infant's fate?"
"I could but guess. I have tauld ye your mother's purpose, and I ken
Teresa was a fiend. She was never mair seen in Scotland, and I have heard
that she returned to her ain land. A dark curtain has fa'en ower the
past, and the few that witnessed ony part of it could only surmise
something of seduction and suicide. You yourself"--
"I know--I know it all," answered the Earl.
"You indeed know all that I can say--And now, heir of Glenallan, can you
"Ask forgiveness of God, and not of man," said the Earl, turning away.
"And how shall I ask of the pure and unstained what is denied to me by a
sinner like mysell? If I hae sinned, hae I not suffered?--Hae I had a
day's peace or an hour's rest since these lang wet locks of hair first
lay upon my pillow at Craigburnfoot?--Has not my house been burned, wi'
my bairn in the cradle?--Have not my boats been wrecked, when a' others
weather'd the gale?--Have not a' that were near and dear to me dree'd
penance for my sin?--Has not the fire had its share o' them--the winds
had their part--the sea had her part?--And oh!" she added, with a
lengthened groan, looking first upwards towards Heaven, and then bending
her eyes on the floor--"O that the earth would take her part, that's been
lang lang wearying to be joined to it!"
Lord Glenallan had reached the door of the cottage, but the generosity of
his nature did not permit him to leave the unhappy woman in this state of
desperate reprobation. "May God forgive thee, wretched woman," he said,
"as sincerely as I do!--Turn for mercy to Him who can alone grant mercy,
and may your prayers be heard as if they were mine own!--I will send a
"Na, na--nae priest! nae priest!" she ejaculated; and the door of the
cottage opening as she spoke, prevented her from proceeding.
Still in his dead hand clenched remain the strings
That thrill his father's heart--e'en as the limb,
Lopped off and laid in grave, retains, they tell us,
Strange commerce with the mutilated stump,
Whose nerves are twinging still in maimed existence.
The Antiquary, as we informed the reader in the end of the thirty-first
CHAPTER, [tenth] had shaken off the company of worthy Mr. Blattergowl,
although he offered to entertain him with an abstract of the ablest
speech he had ever known in the teind court, delivered by the procurator
for the church in the remarkable case of the parish of Gatherem.
Resisting this temptation, our senior preferred a solitary path, which
again conducted him to the cottage of Mucklebackit. When he came in front
of the fisherman's hut, he observed a man working intently, as if to
repair a shattered boat which lay upon the beach, and going up to him was
surprised to find it was Mucklebackit himself. "I am glad," he said in a
tone of sympathy--"I am glad, Saunders, that you feel yourself able to
make this exertion."
"And what would ye have me to do," answered the fisher gruffly, "unless I
wanted to see four children starve, because ane is drowned? It's weel wi'
you gentles, that can sit in the house wi' handkerchers at your een when
ye lose a friend; but the like o' us maun to our wark again, if our
hearts were beating as hard as my hammer."
Without taking more notice of Oldbuck, he proceeded in his labour; and
the Antiquary, to whom the display of human nature under the influence of
agitating passions was never indifferent, stood beside him, in silent
attention, as if watching the progress of the work. He observed more than
once the man's hard features, as if by the force of association, prepare
to accompany the sound of the saw and hammer with his usual symphony of a
rude tune, hummed or whistled,--and as often a slight twitch of
convulsive expression showed, that ere the sound was uttered, a cause for
suppressing it rushed upon his mind. At length, when he had patched a
considerable rent, and was beginning to mend another, his feelings
appeared altogether to derange the power of attention necessary for his
work. The piece of wood which he was about to nail on was at first too
long; then he sawed it off too short, then chose another equally ill
adapted for the purpose. At length, throwing it down in anger, after
wiping his dim eye with his quivering hand, he exclaimed, "There is a
curse either on me or on this auld black bitch of a boat, that I have
hauled up high and dry, and patched and clouted sae mony years, that she
might drown my poor Steenie at the end of them, an' be d--d to her!" and
he flung his hammer against the boat, as if she had been the intentional
cause of his misfortune. Then recollecting himself, he added, "Yet what
needs ane be angry at her, that has neither soul nor sense?--though I am
no that muckle better mysell. She's but a rickle o' auld rotten deals
nailed thegither, and warped wi' the wind and the sea--and I am a dour
carle, battered by foul weather at sea and land till I am maist as
senseless as hersell. She maun be mended though again the morning tide--
that's a thing o' necessity."
Thus speaking, he went to gather together his instruments, and attempt to
resume his labour,--but Oldbuck took him kindly by the arm. "Come, come,"
he said, "Saunders, there is no work for you this day--I'll send down
Shavings the carpenter to mend the boat, and he may put the day's work
into my account--and you had better not come out to-morrow, but stay to
comfort your family under this dispensation, and the gardener will bring
you some vegetables and meal from Monkbarns."
"I thank ye, Monkbarns," answered the poor fisher; "I am a plain-spoken
man, and hae little to say for mysell; I might hae learned fairer
fashions frae my mither lang syne, but I never saw muckle gude they did
her; however, I thank ye. Ye were aye kind and neighbourly, whatever folk
says o' your being near and close; and I hae often said, in thae times
when they were ganging to raise up the puir folk against the gentles--I
hae often said, neer a man should steer a hair touching to Monkbarns
while Steenie and I could wag a finger--and so said Steenie too. And,
Monkbarns, when ye laid his head in the grave (and mony thanks for the
respect), ye, saw the mouls laid on an honest lad that likit you weel,
though he made little phrase about it."
Oldbuck, beaten from the pride of his affected cynicism, would not
willingly have had any one by on that occasion to quote to him his
favourite maxims of the Stoic philosophy. The large drops fell fast from
his own eyes, as he begged the father, who was now melted at recollecting
the bravery and generous sentiments of his son, to forbear useless
sorrow, and led him by the arm towards his own home, where another scene
awaited our Antiquary.
As he entered, the first person whom he beheld was Lord Glenallan. Mutual
surprise was in their countenances as they saluted each other--with
haughty reserve on the part of Mr. Oldbuck, and embarrassment on that of
"My Lord Glenallan, I think?" said Mr. Oldbuck.
"Yes--much changed from what he was when he knew Mr. Oldbuck."
"I do not mean," said the Antiquary, "to intrude upon your lordship--I
only came to see this distressed family."
"And you have found one, sir, who has still greater claims on your
"My compassion? Lord Glenallan cannot need my compassion. If Lord
Glenallan could need it, I think he would hardly ask it."
"Our former acquaintance," said the Earl--
"Is of such ancient date, my lord--was of such short duration, and was
connected with circumstances so exquisitely painful, that I think we may
dispense with renewing it."
So saying, the Antiquary turned away, and left the hut; but Lord
Glenallan followed him into the open air, and, in spite of a hasty "Good
morning, my lord," requested a few minutes' conversation, and the favour
of his advice in an important matter.
"Your lordship will find many more capable to advise you, my lord, and by
whom your intercourse will be deemed an honour. For me, I am a man
retired from business and the world, and not very fond of raking up the
past events of my useless life;--and forgive me if I say, I have
particular pain in reverting to that period of it when I acted like a
fool, and your lordship like"--He stopped short.
"Like a villain, you would say," said Lord Glenallan--"for such I must
have appeared to you."
"My lord--my lord, I have no desire to hear your shrift," said the
"But, sir, if I can show you that I am more sinned against than sinning--
that I have been a man miserable beyond the power of description, and who
looks forward at this moment to an untimely grave as to a haven of rest,
you will not refuse the confidence which, accepting your appearance at
this critical moment as a hint from Heaven, I venture thus to press on
"Assuredly, my lord, I shall shun no longer the continuation of this
"I must then recall to you our occasional meetings upwards of twenty
years since at Knockwinnock Castle,--and I need not remind you of a lady
who was then a member of that family."
"The unfortunate Miss Eveline Neville, my lord; I remember it well."
"Towards whom you entertained sentiments"--
"Very different from those with which I before and since have regarded
her sex. Her gentleness, her docility, her pleasure in the studies which
I pointed out to her, attached my affections more than became my age
though that was not then much advanced--or the solidity of my character.
But I need not remind your lordship of the various modes in which you
indulged your gaiety at the expense of an awkward and retired student,
embarrassed by the expression of feelings so new to him, and I have no
doubt that the young lady joined you in the well-deserved ridicule--it is
the way of womankind. I have spoken at once to the painful circumstances
of my addresses and their rejection, that your lordship may be satisfied
everything is full in my memory, and may, so far as I am concerned, tell
your story without scruple or needless delicacy."
"I will," said Lord Glenallan. "But first let me say, you do injustice to
the memory of the gentlest and kindest, as well as to the most unhappy of
women, to suppose she could make a jest of the honest affection of a man
like you. Frequently did she blame me, Mr. Oldbuck, for indulging my
levity at your expense--may I now presume you will excuse the gay
freedoms which then offended you?--my state of mind has never since laid
me under the necessity of apologizing for the inadvertencies of a light
and happy temper."
"My lord, you are fully pardoned," said Mr. Oldbuck. "You should be
aware, that, like all others, I was ignorant at the time that I placed
myself in competition with your lordship, and understood that Miss
Neville was in a state of dependence which might make her prefer a
competent independence and the hand of an honest man--But I am wasting
time--I would I could believe that the views entertained towards her by
others were as fair and honest as mine!"
"Mr. Oldbuck, you judge harshly."
"Not without cause, my lord. When I only, of all the magistrates of this
county--having neither, like some of them, the honour to be connected
with your powerful family--nor, like others, the meanness to fear it,--
when I made some inquiry into the manner of Miss Neville's death--I shake
you, my lord, but I must be plain--I do own I had every reason to believe
that she had met most unfair dealing, and had either been imposed upon by
a counterfeit marriage, or that very strong measures had been adopted to
stifle and destroy the evidence of a real union. And I cannot doubt in my
own mind, that this cruelty on your lordship's part, whether coming of
your own free will, or proceeding from the influence of the late
Countess, hurried the unfortunate young lady to the desperate act by
which her life was terminated."
"You are deceived, Mr. Oldbuck, into conclusions which are not just,
however naturally they flow from the circumstances. Believe me, I
respected you even when I was most embarrassed by your active attempts to
investigate our family misfortunes. You showed yourself more worthy of
Miss Neville than I, by the spirit with which you persisted in
vindicating her reputation even after her death. But the firm belief that
your well-meant efforts could only serve to bring to light a story too
horrible to be detailed, induced me to join my unhappy mother in schemes
to remove or destroy all evidence of the legal union which had taken
place between Eveline and myself. And now let us sit down on this bank,--
for I feel unable to remain longer standing,--and have the goodness to
listen to the extraordinary discovery which I have this day made."
They sate down accordingly; and Lord Glenallan briefly narrated his
unhappy family history--his concealed marriage--the horrible invention by
which his mother had designed to render impossible that union which had
already taken place. He detailed the arts by which the Countess, having
all the documents relative to Miss Neville's birth in her hands, had
produced those only relating to a period during which, for family
reasons, his father had consented to own that young lady as his natural
daughter, and showed how impossible it was that he could either suspect
or detect the fraud put upon him by his mother, and vouched by the oaths
of her attendants, Teresa and Elspeth. "I left my paternal mansion," he
concluded, "as if the furies of hell had driven me forth, and travelled
with frantic velocity I knew not whither. Nor have I the slightest
recollection of what I did or whither I went, until I was discovered by
my brother. I will not trouble you with an account of my sick-bed and
recovery, or how, long afterwards, I ventured to inquire after the sharer
of my misfortunes, and heard that her despair had found a dreadful remedy
for all the ills of life. The first thing that roused me to thought was
hearing of your inquiries into this cruel business; and you will hardly
wonder, that, believing what I did believe, I should join in those
expedients to stop your investigation, which my brother and mother had
actively commenced. The information which I gave them concerning the
circumstances and witnesses of our private marriage enabled them to
baffle your zeal. The clergyman, therefore, and witnesses, as persons who
had acted in the matter only to please the powerful heir of Glenallan,
were accessible to his promises and threats, and were so provided for,
that they had no objections to leave this country for another. For
myself, Mr. Oldbuck," pursued this unhappy man, "from that moment I
considered myself as blotted out of the book of the living, and as having
nothing left to do with this world. My mother tried to reconcile me to
life by every art--even by intimations which I can now interpret as
calculated to produce a doubt of the horrible tale she herself had
fabricated. But I construed all she said as the fictions of maternal
affection. I will forbear all reproach. She is no more--and, as her
wretched associate said, she knew not how the dart was poisoned, or how
deep it must sink, when she threw it from her hand. But, Mr. Oldbuck, if
ever, during these twenty years, there crawled upon earth a living being
deserving of your pity, I have been that man. My food has not nourished
me--my sleep has not refreshed me--my devotions have not comforted me--
all that is cheering and necessary to man has been to me converted into
poison. The rare and limited intercourse which I have held with others
has been most odious to me. I felt as if I were bringing the
contamination of unnatural and inexpressible guilt among the gay and the
innocent. There have been moments when I had thoughts of another
description--to plunge into the adventures of war, or to brave the
dangers of the traveller in foreign and barbarous climates--to mingle in
political intrigue, or to retire to the stern seclusion of the anchorites
of our religion;--all these are thoughts which have alternately passed
through my mind, but each required an energy, which was mine no longer,
after the withering stroke I had received. I vegetated on as I could in
the same spot--fancy, feeling, judgment, and health, gradually decaying,
like a tree whose bark has been destroyed,--when first the blossoms fade,
then the boughs, until its state resembles the decayed and dying trunk
that is now before you. Do you now pity and forgive me?"
"My lord," answered the Antiquary, much affected, "my pity--my
forgiveness, you have not to ask, for your dismal story is of itself not
only an ample excuse for whatever appeared mysterious in your conduct,
but a narrative that might move your worst enemies (and I, my lord, was
never of the number) to tears and to sympathy. But permit me to ask what
you now mean to do, and why you have honoured me, whose opinion can be of
little consequence, with your confidence on this occasion?"
"Mr. Oldbuck," answered the Earl, "as I could never have foreseen the
nature of that confession which I have heard this day, I need not say
that I had no formed plan of consulting you, or any one, upon affairs the
tendency of which I could not even have suspected. But I am without
friends, unused to business, and, by long retirement, unacquainted alike
with the laws of the land and the habits of the living generation; and
when, most unexpectedly, I find myself immersed in the matters of which I
know least, I catch, like a drowning man, at the first support that
offers. You are that support, Mr. Oldbuck. I have always heard you
mentioned as a man of wisdom and intelligence--I have known you myself as
a man of a resolute and independent spirit;--and there is one
circumstance," said he, "which ought to combine us in some degree--our
having paid tribute to the same excellence of character in poor Eveline.
You offered yourself to me in my need, and you were already acquainted
with the beginning of my misfortunes. To you, therefore, I have recourse
for advice, for sympathy, for support."
"You shall seek none of them in vain, my lord," said Oldbuck, "so far as
my slender ability extends;--and I am honoured by the preference, whether
it arises from choice, or is prompted by chance. But this is a matter to
be ripely considered. May I ask what are your principal views at
"To ascertain the fate of my child," said the Earl, "be the consequences
what they may, and to do justice to the honour of Eveline, which I have
only permitted to be suspected to avoid discovery of the yet more
horrible taint to which I was made to believe it liable."
"And the memory of your mother?"
"Must bear its own burden," answered the Earl with a sigh: "better that
she were justly convicted of deceit, should that be found necessary, than
that others should be unjustly accused of crimes so much more dreadful."
"Then, my lord," said Oldbuck, "our first business must be to put the
information of the old woman, Elspeth, into a regular and authenticated
"That," said Lord Glenallan, "will be at present, I fear, impossible. She
is exhausted herself, and surrounded by her distressed family. To-morrow,
perhaps, when she is alone--and yet I doubt, from her imperfect sense of
right and wrong, whether she would speak out in any one's presence but my
own. I am too sorely fatigued."
"Then, my lord," said the Antiquary, whom the interest of the moment
elevated above points of expense and convenience, which had generally
more than enough of weight with him, "I would propose to your lordship,
instead of returning, fatigued as you are, so far as to Glenallan House,
or taking the more uncomfortable alternative of going to a bad inn at
Fairport, to alarm all the busybodies of the town--I would propose, I
say, that you should be my guest at Monkbarns for this night. By
to-morrow these poor people will have renewed their out-of-doors
vocation--for sorrow with them affords no respite from labour,--and we
will visit the old woman Elspeth alone, and take down her examination."
After a formal apology for the encroachment, Lord Glenallan agreed to go
with him, and underwent with patience in their return home the whole
history of John of the Girnel, a legend which Mr. Oldbuck was never known
to spare any one who crossed his threshold.
The arrival of a stranger of such note, with two saddle-horses and a
servant in black, which servant had holsters on his saddle-bow, and a
coronet upon the holsters, created a general commotion in the house of
Monkbarns. Jenny Rintherout, scarce recovered from the hysterics which
she had taken on hearing of poor Steenie's misfortune, chased about the
turkeys and poultry, cackled and screamed louder than they did, and ended
by killing one-half too many. Miss Griselda made many wise reflections on
the hot-headed wilfulness of her brother, who had occasioned such
devastation, by suddenly bringing in upon them a papist nobleman. And she
ventured to transmit to Mr. Blattergowl some hint of the unusual
slaughter which had taken place in the _basse-cour,_ which brought the
honest clergyman to inquire how his friend Monkbarns had got home, and
whether he was not the worse of being at the funeral, at a period so near
the ringing of the bell for dinner, that the Antiquary had no choice left
but to invite him to stay and bless the meat. Miss M'Intyre had on her
part some curiosity to see this mighty peer, of whom all had heard, as an
eastern caliph or sultan is heard of by his subjects, and felt some
degree of timidity at the idea of encountering a person, of whose
unsocial habits and stern manners so many stories were told, that her
fear kept at least pace with her curiosity. The aged housekeeper was no
less flustered and hurried in obeying the numerous and contradictory
commands of her mistress, concerning preserves, pastry and fruit, the
mode of marshalling and dishing the dinner, the necessity of not
permitting the melted butter to run to oil, and the danger of allowing
Juno--who, though formally banished from the parlour, failed not to
maraud about the out-settlements of the family--to enter the kitchen.
The only inmate of Monkbarns who remained entirely indifferent on this
momentous occasion was Hector M'Intyre, who cared no more for an Earl
than he did for a commoner, and who was only interested in the unexpected
visit, as it might afford some protection against his uncle's
displeasure, if he harboured any, for his not attending the funeral, and
still more against his satire upon the subject of his gallant but
unsuccessful single combat with the _phoca,_ or seal.
To these, the inmates of his household, Oldbuck presented the Earl of
Glenallan, who underwent, with meek and subdued civility, the prosing
speeches of the honest divine, and the lengthened apologies of Miss
Griselda Oldbuck, which her brother in vain endeavoured to abridge.
Before the dinner hour, Lord Glenallan requested permission to retire a
while to his chamber. Mr. Oldbuck accompanied his guest to the Green
Room, which had been hastily prepared for his reception. He looked around
with an air of painful recollection.
"I think," at length he observed, "I think, Mr. Oldbuck, that I have been
in this apartment before."
"Yes, my lord," answered Oldbuck, "upon occasion of an excursion hither
from Knockwinnock--and since we are upon a subject so melancholy, you may
perhaps remember whose taste supplied these lines from Chaucer, which now
form the motto of the tapestry."
"I guess", said the Earl, "though I cannot recollect. She excelled me,
indeed, in literary taste and information, as in everything else; and it
is one of the mysterious dispensations of Providence, Mr. Oldbuck, that a
creature so excellent in mind and body should have been cut off in so
miserable a manner, merely from her having formed a fatal attachment to
such a wretch as I am."
Mr. Oldbuck did not attempt an answer to this burst of the grief which
lay ever nearest to the heart of his guest, but, pressing Lord
Glenallan's hand with one of his own, and drawing the other across his
shaggy eyelashes, as if to brush away a mist that intercepted his sight,
he left the Earl at liberty to arrange himself previous to dinner.
--Life, with you,
Glows in the brain and dances in the arteries;
'Tis like the wine some joyous guest hath quaffed,
That glads the heart and elevates the fancy:
Mine is the poor residuum of the cup,
Vapid, and dull, and tasteless, only soiling,
With its base dregs, the vessel that contains it.
"Now, only think what a man my brother is, Mr. Blattergowl, for a wise
man and a learned man, to bring this Yerl into our house without speaking
a word to a body! And there's the distress of thae Mucklebackits--we
canna get a fin o' fish--and we hae nae time to send ower to Fairport for
beef, and the mutton's but new killed--and that silly fliskmahoy, Jenny
Rintherout, has taen the exies, and done naething but laugh and greet,
the skirl at the tail o' the guffaw, for twa days successfully--and now
we maun ask that strange man, that's as grand and as grave as the Yerl
himsell, to stand at the sideboard! and I canna gang into the kitchen to
direct onything, for he's hovering there, making some pousowdie* for my
Lord, for he doesna eat like ither folk neither--And how to sort the
strange servant man at dinner time--I am sure, Mr. Blattergowl,
a'thegither, it passes my judgment."
* _Pousowdie,_--Miscellaneous mess.
"Truly, Miss Griselda," replied the divine, "Monkbarns was inconsiderate.
He should have taen a day to see the invitation, as they do wi' the
titular's condescendence in the process of valuation and sale. But the
great man could not have come on a sudden to ony house in this parish
where he could have been better served with _vivers_--that I must say--
and also that the steam from the kitchen is very gratifying to my
nostrils;--and if ye have ony household affairs to attend to, Mrs.
Griselda, never make a stranger of me--I can amuse mysell very weel with
the larger copy of Erskine's Institutes."
And taking down from the window-seat that amusing folio, (the Scottish
Coke upon Littleton), he opened it, as if instinctively, at the tenth
title of Book Second, "of Teinds or Tythes," and was presently deeply
wrapped up in an abstruse discussion concerning the temporality of
The entertainment, about which Miss Oldbuck expressed so much anxiety,
was at length placed upon the table; and the Earl of Glenallan, for the
first time since the date of his calamity, sat at a stranger's board,
surrounded by strangers. He seemed to himself like a man in a dream, or
one whose brain was not fully recovered from the effects of an
intoxicating potion. Relieved, as he had that morning been, from the
image of guilt which had so long haunted his imagination, he felt his
sorrows as a lighter and more tolerable load, but was still unable to
take any share in the conversation that passed around him. It was,
indeed, of a cast very different from that which he had been accustomed
to. The bluntness of Oldbuck, the tiresome apologetic harangues of his
sister, the pedantry of the divine, and the vivacity of the young
soldier, which savoured much more of the camp than of the court, were all
new to a nobleman who had lived in a retired and melancholy state for so
many years, that the manners of the world seemed to him equally strange
and unpleasing. Miss M'Intyre alone, from the natural politeness and
unpretending simplicity of her manners, appeared to belong to that class
of society to which he had been accustomed in his earlier and better
Nor did Lord Glenallan's deportment less surprise the company. Though a
plain but excellent family-dinner was provided (for, as Mr. Blattergowl
had justly said, it was impossible to surprise Miss Griselda when her
larder was empty), and though the Antiquary boasted his best port, and
assimilated it to the Falernian of Horace, Lord Glenallan was proof to
the allurements of both. His servant placed before him a small mess of
vegetables, that very dish, the cooking of which had alarmed Miss
Griselda, arranged with the most minute and scrupulous neatness. He ate
sparingly of these provisions; and a glass of pure water, sparkling from
the fountain-head, completed his repast. Such, his servant said, had been
his lordship's diet for very many years, unless upon the high festivals
of the Church, or when company of the first rank were entertained at
Glenallan House, when he relaxed a little in the austerity of his diet,
and permitted himself a glass or two of wine. But at Monkbarns, no
anchoret could have made a more simple and scanty meal.
The Antiquary was a gentleman, as we have seen, in feeling, but blunt and
careless in expression, from the habit of living with those before whom
he had nothing to suppress. He attacked his noble guest without scruple
on the severity of his regimen.
"A few half-cold greens and potatoes--a glass of ice-cold water to wash
them down--antiquity gives no warrant for it, my lord. This house used to
be accounted a _hospitium,_ a place of retreat for Christians; but your
lordship's diet is that of a heathen Pythagorean, or Indian Bramin--nay,
more severe than either, if you refuse these fine apples."
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