The Antiquary, Volume 2
Sir Walter Scott
Part 2 out of 5
his logs again, and I just pat it in my pouch to keep it safe; and then
came the tramp of horse, and you cried, Rin, rin,' and I had nae mair
thought o' the book."
"We maun get it back to the loon some gait or other; ye had better take
it yoursell, I think, wi' peep o' light, up to Ringan Aikwood's. I wadna
for a hundred pounds it was fund in our hands."
Steenie undertook to do as he was directed.
"A bonny night ye hae made o't, Mr. Steenie," said Jenny Rintherout, who,
impatient of remaining so long unnoticed, now presented herself to the
young fisherman--"A bonny night ye hae made o't, tramping about wi'
gaberlunzies, and getting yoursell hunted wi' worricows, when ye suld be
sleeping in your bed, like your father, honest man."
This attack called forth a suitable response of rustic raillery from the
young fisherman. An attack was now commenced upon the car-cakes and
smoked fish, and sustained with great perseverance by assistance of a
bicker or two of twopenny ale and a bottle of gin. The mendicant then
retired to the straw of an out-house adjoining,--the children had one by
one crept into their nests,--the old grandmother was deposited in her
flock-bed,--Steenie, notwithstanding his preceding fatigue, had the
gallantry to accompany Miss Rintherout to her own mansion, and at what
hour he returned the story saith not,--and the matron of the family,
having laid the gathering-coal upon the fire, and put things in some sort
of order, retired to rest the last of the family.
--Many great ones
Would part with half their states, to have the plan
And credit to beg in the first style.
Old Edie was stirring with the lark, and his first inquiry was after
Steenie and the pocket-book. The young fisherman had been under the
necessity of attending his father before daybreak, to avail themselves of
the tide, but he had promised that, immediately on his return, the
pocket-book, with all its contents, carefully wrapped up in a piece of
sail-cloth, should be delivered by him to Ringan Aikwood, for
Dousterswivel, the owner.
The matron had prepared the morning meal for the family, and, shouldering
her basket of fish, tramped sturdily away towards Fairport. The children
were idling round the door, for the day was fair and sun-shiney. The
ancient grandame, again seated on her wicker-chair by the fire, had
resumed her eternal spindle, wholly unmoved by the yelling and screaming
of the children, and the scolding of the mother, which had preceded the
dispersion of the family. Edie had arranged his various bags, and was
bound for the renewal of his wandering life, but first advanced with due
courtesy to take his leave of the ancient crone.
"Gude day to ye, cummer, and mony ane o' them. I will be back about the
fore-end o'har'st, and I trust to find ye baith haill and fere."
"Pray that ye may find me in my quiet grave," said the old woman, in a
hollow and sepulchral voice, but without the agitation of a single
"Ye're auld, cummer, and sae am I mysell; but we maun abide His will--
we'll no be forgotten in His good time."
"Nor our deeds neither," said the crone: "what's dune in the body maun be
answered in the spirit."
"I wot that's true; and I may weel tak the tale hame to mysell, that hae
led a misruled and roving life. But ye were aye a canny wife. We're a'
frail--but ye canna hae sae muckle to bow ye down."
"Less than I might have had--but mair, O far mair, than wad sink the
stoutest brig e'er sailed out o' Fairport harbour!--Didna somebody say
yestreen--at least sae it is borne in on my mind, but auld folk hae weak
fancies--did not somebody say that Joscelind, Countess of Glenallan, was
departed frae life?"
"They said the truth whaever said it," answered old Edie; "she was buried
yestreen by torch-light at St. Ruth's, and I, like a fule, gat a gliff
wi' seeing the lights and the riders."
"It was their fashion since the days of the Great Earl that was killed at
Harlaw;--they did it to show scorn that they should die and be buried
like other mortals; the wives o' the house of Glenallan wailed nae wail
for the husband, nor the sister for the brother.--But is she e'en ca'd to
the lang account?"
"As sure," answered Edie, "as we maun a' abide it."
"Then I'll unlade my mind, come o't what will."
This she spoke with more alacrity than usually attended her expressions,
and accompanied her words with an attitude of the hand, as if throwing
something from her. She then raised up her form, once tall, and still
retaining the appearance of having been so, though bent with age and
rheumatism, and stood before the beggar like a mummy animated by some
wandering spirit into a temporary resurrection. Her light-blue eyes
wandered to and fro, as if she occasionally forgot and again remembered
the purpose for which her long and withered hand was searching among the
miscellaneous contents of an ample old-fashioned pocket. At length she
pulled out a small chip-box, and opening it, took out a handsome ring, in
which was set a braid of hair, composed of two different colours, black
and light brown, twined together, encircled with brilliants of
"Gudeman," she said to Ochiltree, "as ye wad e'er deserve mercy, ye maun
gang my errand to the house of Glenallan, and ask for the Earl."
"The Earl of Glenallan, cummer! ou, he winna see ony o' the gentles o'
the country, and what likelihood is there that he wad see the like o' an
"Gang your ways and try;--and tell him that Elspeth o' the Craigburnfoot
--he'll mind me best by that name--maun see him or she be relieved frae
her lang pilgrimage, and that she sends him that ring in token of the
business she wad speak o'."
Ochiltree looked on the ring with some admiration of its apparent value,
and then carefully replacing it in the box, and wrapping it in an old
ragged handkerchief, he deposited the token in his bosom.
"Weel, gudewife," he said, "I'se do your bidding, or it's no be my fault.
But surely there was never sic a braw propine as this sent to a yerl by
an auld fishwife, and through the hands of a gaberlunzie beggar."
With this reflection, Edie took up his pike-staff, put on his
broad-brimmed bonnet, and set forth upon his pilgrimage. The old woman
remained for some time standing in a fixed posture, her eyes directed to
the door through which her ambassador had departed. The appearance of
excitation, which the conversation had occasioned, gradually left her
features; she sank down upon her accustomed seat, and resumed her
mechanical labour of the distaff and spindle, with her wonted air of
Edie Ochiltree meanwhile advanced on his journey. The distance to
Glenallan was ten miles, a march which the old soldier accomplished in
about four hours. With the curiosity belonging to his idle trade and
animated character, he tortured himself the whole way to consider what
could be the meaning of this mysterious errand with which he was
entrusted, or what connection the proud, wealthy, and powerful Earl of
Glenallan could have with the crimes or penitence of an old doting woman,
whose rank in life did not greatly exceed that of her messenger. He
endeavoured to call to memory all that he had ever known or heard of the
Glenallan family, yet, having done so, remained altogether unable to form
a conjecture on the subject. He knew that the whole extensive estate of
this ancient and powerful family had descended to the Countess, lately
deceased, who inherited, in a most remarkable degree, the stern, fierce,
and unbending character which had distinguished the house of Glenallan
since they first figured in Scottish annals. Like the rest of her
ancestors, she adhered zealously to the Roman Catholic faith, and was
married to an English gentleman of the same communion, and of large
fortune, who did not survive their union two years. The Countess was,
therefore, left all early widow, with the uncontrolled management of the
large estates of her two sons. The elder, Lord Geraldin, who was to
succeed to the title and fortune of Glenallan, was totally dependent on
his mother during her life. The second, when he came of age, assumed the
name and arms of his father, and took possession of his estate, according
to the provisions of the Countess's marriage-settlement. After this
period, he chiefly resided in England, and paid very few and brief visits
to his mother and brother; and these at length were altogether dispensed
with, in consequence of his becoming a convert to the reformed religion.
But even before this mortal offence was given to its mistress, his
residence at Glenallan offered few inducements to a gay young man like
Edward Geraldin Neville, though its gloom and seclusion seemed to suit
the retired and melancholy habits of his elder brother. Lord Geraldin, in
the outset of life, had been a young man of accomplishment and hopes.
Those who knew him upon his travels entertained the highest expectations
of his future career. But such fair dawns are often strangely overcast.
The young nobleman returned to Scotland, and after living about a year in
his mother's society at Glenallan House, he seemed to have adopted all
the stern gloom and melancholy of her character. Excluded from politics
by the incapacities attached to those of his religion, and from all
lighter avocationas by choice, Lord Geraldin led a life of the strictest
retirement. His ordinary society was composed of the clergyman of his
communion, who occasionally visited his mansion; and very rarely, upon
stated occasions of high festival, one or two families who still
professed the Catholic religion were formally entertained at Glenallan
House. But this was all; their heretic neighbours knew nothing of the
family whatever; and even the Catholics saw little more than the
sumptuous entertainment and solemn parade which was exhibited on those
formal occasions, from which all returned without knowing whether most to
wonder at the stern and stately demeanour of the Countess, or the deep
and gloomy dejection which never ceased for a moment to cloud the
features of her son. The late event had put him in possession of his
fortune and title, and the neighbourhood had already begun to conjecture
whether gaiety would revive with independence, when those who had some
occasional acquaintance with the interior of the family spread abroad a
report, that the Earl's constitution was undermined by religious
austerities, and that in all probability he would soon follow his mother
to the grave. This event was the more probable, as his brother had died
of a lingering complaint, which, in the latter years of his life, had
affected at once his frame and his spirits; so that heralds and
genealogists were already looking back into their records to discover the
heir of this ill-fated family, and lawyers were talking with gleesome
anticipation, of the probability of a "great Glenallan cause."
As Edie Ochiltree approached the front of Glenallan House,* an ancient
building of great extent, the most modern part of which had been designed
by the celebrated Inigo Jones, he began to consider in what way he should
be most likely to gain access for delivery of his message; and, after
much consideration, resolved to send the token to the Earl by one of the
* [Supposed to represent Glammis Castle, in Forfarshire, with which the
Author was well acquainted.]
With this purpose he stopped at a cottage, where he obtained the means of
making up the ring in a sealed packet like a petition, addressed, _Forr
his hounor the Yerl of Glenllan--These._ But being aware that missives
delivered at the doors of great houses by such persons as himself, do not
always make their way according to address, Edie determined, like an old
soldier, to reconnoitre the ground before he made his final attack. As he
approached the porter's lodge, he discovered, by the number of poor
ranked before it, some of them being indigent persons in the vicinity,
and others itinerants of his own begging profession,--that there was
about to be a general dole or distribution of charity.
"A good turn," said Edie to himself, "never goes unrewarded--I'll maybe
get a good awmous that I wad hae missed but for trotting on this auld
Accordingly, he ranked up with the rest of this ragged regiment, assuming
a station as near the front as possible,--a distinction due, as he
conceived, to his blue gown and badge, no less than to his years and
experience; but he soon found there was another principle of precedence
in this assembly, to which he had not adverted.
"Are ye a triple man, friend, that ye press forward sae bauldly?--I'm
thinking no, for there's nae Catholics wear that badge."
"Na, na, I am no a Roman," said Edie.
"Then shank yoursell awa to the double folk, or single folk, that's the
Episcopals or Presbyterians yonder: it's a shame to see a heretic hae sic
a lang white beard, that would do credit to a hermit."
Ochiltree, thus rejected from the society of the Catholic mendicants, or
those who called themselves such, went to station himself with the
paupers of the communion of the church of England, to whom the noble
donor allotted a double portion of his charity. But never was a poor
occasional conformist more roughly rejected by a High-church
congregation, even when that matter was furiously agitated in the days of
good Queen Anne.
"See to him wi' his badge!" they said;--"he hears ane o' the king's
Presbyterian chaplains sough out a sermon on the morning of every
birth-day, and now he would pass himsell for ane o' the Episcopal church!
Na, na!--we'll take care o' that."
Edie, thus rejected by Rome and Prelacy, was fain to shelter himself from
the laughter of his brethren among the thin group of Presbyterians, who
had either disdained to disguise their religious opinions for the sake of
an augmented dole, or perhaps knew they could not attempt the imposition
without a certainty of detection.
The same degree of precedence was observed in the mode of distributing
the charity, which consisted in bread, beef, and a piece of money, to
each individual of all the three classes. The almoner, an ecclesiastic of
grave appearance and demeanour, superintended in person the accommodation
of the Catholic mendicants, asking a question or two of each as he
delivered the charity, and recommending to their prayers the soul of
Joscelind, late Countess of Glenallan, mother of their benefactor. The
porter, distinguished by his long staff headed with silver, and by the
black gown tufted with lace of the same colour, which he had assumed upon
the general mourning in the family, overlooked the distribution of the
dole among the prelatists. The less-favoured kirk-folk were committed to
the charge of an aged domestic.
As this last discussed some disputed point with the porter, his name, as
it chanced to be occasionally mentioned, and then his features, struck
Ochiltree, and awakened recollections of former times. The rest of the
assembly were now retiring, when the domestic, again approaching the
place where Edie still lingered, said, in a strong Aberdeenshire accent,
"Fat is the auld feel-body deeing, that he canna gang avay, now that he's
gotten baith meat and siller?"
"Francis Macraw," answered Edie Ochiltree, "d'ye no mind Fontenoy, and
keep thegither front and rear?'"
"Ohon! ohon!" cried Francie, with a true north-country yell of
recognition, "naebody could hae said that word but my auld front-rank
man, Edie Ochiltree! But I'm sorry to see ye in sic a peer state, man."
"No sae ill aff as ye may think, Francis. But I'm laith to leave this
place without a crack wi' you, and I kenna when I may see you again, for
your folk dinna mak Protestants welcome, and that's ae reason that I hae
never been here before."
"Fusht, fusht," said Francie, "let that flee stick i' the wa'--when the
dirt's dry it will rub out;--and come you awa wi' me, and I'll gie ye
something better thau that beef bane, man."
Having then spoke a confidential word with the porter (probably to
request his connivance), and having waited until the almoner had returned
into the house with slow and solemn steps, Francie Macraw introduced his
old comrade into the court of Glenallan House, the gloomy gateway of
which was surmounted by a huge scutcheon, in which the herald and
undertaker had mingled, as usual, the emblems of human pride and of human
nothingness,--the Countess's hereditary coat-of-arms, with all its
numerous quarterings, disposed in a lozenge, and surrounded by the
separate shields of her paternal and maternal ancestry, intermingled with
scythes, hour glasses, skulls, and other symbols of that mortality which
levels all distinctions. Conducting his friend as speedily as possible
along the large paved court, Macraw led the way through a side-door to a
small apartment near the servants' hall, which, in virtue of his personal
attendance upon the Earl of Glenallan, he was entitled to call his own.
To produce cold meat of various kinds, strong beer, and even a glass of
spirits, was no difficulty to a person of Francis's importance, who had
not lost, in his sense of conscious dignity, the keen northern prudence
which recommended a good understanding with the butler. Our mendicant
envoy drank ale, and talked over old stories with his comrade, until, no
other topic of conversation occurring, he resolved to take up the theme
of his embassy, which had for some time escaped his memory.
"He had a petition to present to the Earl," he said;--for he judged it
prudent to say nothing of the ring, not knowing, as he afterwards
observed, how far the manners of a single soldier* might have been
corrupted by service in a great house.
* A single soldier means, in Scotch, a private soldier.
"Hout, tout, man," said Francie, "the Earl will look at nae petitions--
but I can gie't to the almoner."
"But it relates to some secret, that maybe my lord wad like best to see't
"I'm jeedging that's the very reason that the almoner will be for seeing
it the first and foremost."
"But I hae come a' this way on purpose to deliver it, Francis, and ye
really maun help me at a pinch."
"Neer speed then if I dinna," answered the Aberdeenshire man: "let them
be as cankered as they like, they can but turn me awa, and I was just
thinking to ask my discharge, and gang down to end my days at Inverurie."
With this doughty resolution of serving his friend at all ventures, since
none was to be encountered which could much inconvenience himself,
Francie Macraw left the apartment. It was long before he returned, and
when he did, his manner indicated wonder and agitation.
"I am nae seer gin ye be Edie Ochiltree o' Carrick's company in the
Forty-twa, or gin ye be the deil in his likeness!"
"And what makes ye speak in that gait?" demanded the astonished
"Because my lord has been in sic a distress and surpreese as I neer saw a
man in my life. But he'll see you--I got that job cookit. He was like a
man awa frae himsell for mony minutes, and I thought he wad hae swarv't
a'thegither,--and fan he cam to himsell, he asked fae brought the packet
--and fat trow ye I said?"
"An auld soger," says Edie--"that does likeliest at a gentle's door; at a
farmer's it's best to say ye're an auld tinkler, if ye need ony quarters,
for maybe the gudewife will hae something to souther."
"But I said neer ane o' the twa," answered Francis; "my lord cares as
little about the tane as the tother--for he's best to them that can
souther up our sins. Sae I e'en said the bit paper was brought by an auld
man wi' a long fite beard--he might be a capeechin freer for fat I ken'd,
for he was dressed like an auld palmer. Sae ye'll be sent up for fanever
he can find mettle to face ye."
"I wish I was weel through this business," thought Edie to himself; "mony
folk surmise that the Earl's no very right in the judgment, and wha can
say how far he may be offended wi' me for taking upon me sae muckle?"
But there was now no room for retreat--a bell sounded from a distant part
of the mansion, and Macraw said, with a smothered accent, as if already
in his master's presence, "That's my lord's bell!--follow me, and step
lightly and cannily, Edie."
Edie followed his guide, who seemed to tread as if afraid of being
overheard, through a long passage, and up a back stair, which admitted
them into the family apartments. They were ample and extensive, furnished
at such cost as showed the ancient importance and splendour of the
family. But all the ornaments were in the taste of a former and distant
period, and one would have almost supposed himself traversing the halls
of a Scottish nobleman before the union of the crowns. The late Countess,
partly from a haughty contempt of the times in which she lived, partly
from her sense of family pride, had not permitted the furniture to be
altered or modernized during her residence at Glenallan House. The most
magnificent part of the decorations was a valuable collection of pictures
by the best masters, whose massive frames were somewhat tarnished by
time. In this particular also the gloomy taste of the family seemed to
predominate. There were some fine family portraits by Vandyke and other
masters of eminence; but the collection was richest in the Saints and
Martyrdoms of Domenichino, Velasquez, and Murillo, and other subjects of
the same kind, which had been selected in preference to landscapes or
historical pieces. The manner in which these awful, and sometimes
disgusting, subjects were represented, harmonized with the gloomy state
of the apartments,--a circumstance which was not altogether lost on the
old man, as he traversed them under the guidance of his quondam
fellow-soldier. He was about to express some sentiment of this kind, but
Francie imposed silence on him by signs, and opening a door at the end of
the long picture-gallery, ushered him into a small antechamber hung with
black. Here they found the almoner, with his ear turned to a door
opposite that by which they entered, in the attitude of one who listens
with attention, but is at the same time afraid of being detected in the
The old domestic and churchman started when they perceived each other.
But the almoner first recovered his recollection, and advancing towards
Macraw, said, under his breath, but with an authoritative tone, "How dare
you approach the Earl's apartment without knocking? and who is this
stranger, or what has he to do here?--Retire to the gallery, and wait for
"It's impossible just now to attend your reverence," answered Macraw,
raising his voice so as to be heard in the next room, being conscious
that the priest would not maintain the altercation within hearing of his
patron,--"the Earl's bell has rung."
He had scarce uttered the words, when it was rung again with greater
violence than before; and the ecclesiastic, perceiving further
expostulation impossible, lifted his finger at Macraw, with a menacing
attitude, as he left the apartment.
"I tell'd ye sae," said the Aberdeen man in a whisper to Edie, and then
proceeded to open the door near which they had observed the chaplain
This little ring, with necromantic force,
Has raised the ghost of pleasure to my fears,
Conjured the sense of honour and of love
Into such shapes, they fright me from myself.
The Fatal Marriage.
The ancient forms of mourning were observed in Glenallan House,
notwithstanding the obduracy with which the members of the family were
popularly supposed to refuse to the dead the usual tribute of
lamentation. It was remarked, that when she received the fatal letter
announcing the death of her second, and, as was once believed, her
favourite son, the hand of the Countess did not shake, nor her eyelid
twinkle, any more than upon perusal of a letter of ordinary business.
Heaven only knows whether the suppression of maternal sorrow, which her
pride commanded, might not have some effect in hastening her own death.
It was at least generally supposed that the apoplectic stroke, which so
soon afterwards terminated her existence, was, as it were, the vengeance
of outraged Nature for the restraint to which her feelings had been
subjected. But although Lady Glenallan forebore the usual external signs
of grief, she had caused many of the apartments, amongst others her own
and that of the Earl, to be hung with the exterior trappings of woe.
The Earl of Glenallan was therefore seated in an apartment hung with
black cloth, which waved in dusky folds along its lofty walls. A screen,
also covered with black baize, placed towards the high and narrow window,
intercepted much of the broken light which found its way through the
stained glass, that represented, with such skill as the fourteenth
century possessed, the life and sorrows of the prophet Jeremiah. The
table at which the Earl was seated was lighted with two lamps wrought in
silver, shedding that unpleasant and doubtful light which arises from the
mingling of artificial lustre with that of general daylight. The same
table displayed a silver crucifix, and one or two clasped parchment
books. A large picture, exquisitely painted by Spagnoletto, represented
the martyrdom of St. Stephen, and was the only ornament of the apartment.
The inhabitant and lord of this disconsolate chamber was a man not past
the prime of life, yet so broken down with disease and mental misery, so
gaunt and ghastly, that he appeared but a wreck of manhood; and when he
hastily arose and advanced towards his visitor, the exertion seemed
almost to overpower his emaciated frame. As they met in the midst of the
apartment, the contrast they exhibited was very striking. The hale cheek,
firm step, erect stature, and undaunted presence and bearing of the old
mendicant, indicated patience and content in the extremity of age, and in
the lowest condition to which humanity can sink; while the sunken eye,
pallid cheek, and tottering form of the nobleman with whom he was
confronted, showed how little wealth, power, and even the advantages of
youth, have to do with that which gives repose to the mind, and firmness
to the frame.
The Earl met the old man in the middle of the room, and having commanded
his attendant to withdraw into the gallery, and suffer no one to enter
the antechamber till he rung the bell, awaited, with hurried yet fearful
impatience, until he heard first the door of his apartment, and then that
of the antechamber, shut and fastened by the spring-bolt. When he was
satisfied with this security against being overheard, Lord Glenallan came
close up to the mendicant, whom he probably mistook for some person of a
religious order in disguise, and said, in a hasty yet faltering tone, "In
the name of all our religion holds most holy, tell me, reverend father,
what am I to expect from a communication opened by a token connected with
such horrible recollections?"
The old man, appalled by a manner so different from what he had expected
from the proud and powerful nobleman, was at a loss how to answer, and in
what manner to undeceive him. "Tell me," continued the Earl, in a tone of
increasing trepidation and agony--"tell me, do you come to say that all
that has been done to expiate guilt so horrible, has been too little and
too trivial for the offence, and to point out new and more efficacious
modes of severe penance?--I will not blench from it, father--let me
suffer the pains of my crime here in the body, rather than hereafter in
Edie had now recollection enough to perceive, that if he did not
interrapt the frankness of Lord Glenallan's admissions, he was likely to
become the confidant of more than might be safe for him to know. He
therefore uttered with a hasty and trembling voice--"Your lordship's
honour is mistaken--I am not of your persuasion, nor a clergyman, but,
with all reverence, only puir Edie Ochiltree, the king's bedesman and
This explanation be accompanied by a profound bow after his manner, and
then, drawing himself up erect, rested his arm on his staff, threw back
his long white hair, and fixed his eyes upon the Earl, as he waited for
"And you are not then," said Lord Glenallan, after a pause of surprise--
"You are not then a Catholic priest?"
"God forbid!" said Edie, forgetting in his confusion to whom he was
speaking; "I am only the king's bedesman and your honour's, as I said
The Earl turned hastily away, and paced the room twice or thrice, as if
to recover the effects of his mistake, and then, coming close up to the
mendicant, he demanded, in a stern and commanding tone, what he meant by
intruding himself on his privacy, and from whence he had got the ring
which he had thought proper to send him. Edie, a man of much spirit, was
less daunted at this mode of interrogation than he had been confused by
the tone of confidence in which the Earl had opened their conversation.
To the reiterated question from whom he had obtained the ring, he
answered composedly, "From one who was better known to the Earl than to
"Better known to me, fellow?" said Lord Glenallan: "what is your
meaning?--explain yourself instantly, or you shall experience the
consequence of breaking in upon the hours of family distress."
"It was auld Elspeth Mucklebackit that sent me here," said the beggar,
"in order to say"--
"You dote, old man!" said the Earl; "I never heard the name--but this
dreadful token reminds me"--
"I mind now, my lord," said Ochiltree, "she tauld me your lordship would
be mair familiar wi' her, if I ca'd her Elspeth o' the Craigburnfoot--she
had that name when she lived on your honour's land, that is, your
honour's worshipful mother's that was then--Grace be wi' her!"
"Ay," said the appalled nobleman, as his countenance sunk, and his cheek
assumed a hue yet more cadaverous; "that name is indeed written in the
most tragic page of a deplorable history. But what can she desire of me?
Is she dead or living?"
"Living, my lord; and entreats to see your lordship before she dies, for
she has something to communicate that hangs upon her very soul, and she
says she canna flit in peace until she sees you."
"Not until she sees me!--what can that mean? But she is doting with age
and infirmity. I tell thee, friend, I called at her cottage myself, not a
twelvemonth since, from a report that she was in distress, and she did
not even know my face or voice."
"If your honour wad permit me," said Edie, to whom the length of the
conference restored a part of his professional audacity and native
talkativeness--"if your honour wad but permit me, I wad say, under
correction of your lordship's better judgment, that auld Elspeth's like
some of the ancient ruined strengths and castles that ane sees amang the
hills. There are mony parts of her mind that appear, as I may say, laid
waste and decayed, but then there's parts that look the steever, and the
stronger, and the grander, because they are rising just like to fragments
amaong the ruins o' the rest. She's an awful woman."
"She always was so," said the Earl, almost unconsciously echoing the
observation of the mendicant; "she always was different from other women
--likest perhaps to her who is now no more, in her temper and turn of
mind.--She wishes to see me, then?"
"Before she dies," said Edie, "she earnestly entreats that pleasure."
"It will be a pleasure to neither of us," said the Earl, sternly, "yet
she shall be gratified. She lives, I think, on the sea-shore to the
southward of Fairport?"
"Just between Monkbarns and Knockwinnock Castle, but nearer to Monkbarns.
Your lordship's honour will ken the laird and Sir Arthur, doubtless?"
A stare, as if he did not comprehend the question, was Lord Glenallan's
answer. Edie saw his mind was elsewhere, and did not venture to repeat a
query which was so little germain to the matter.
"Are you a Catholic, old man?" demanded the Earl.
"No, my lord," said Ochiltree stoutly; for the remembrance of the unequal
division of the dole rose in his mind at the moment; "I thank Heaven I am
a good Protestant."
"He who can conscientiously call himself _good,_ has indeed reason to
thank Heaven, be his form of Christianity what it will--But who is he
that shall dare to do so!"
"Not I," said Edie; "I trust to beware of the sin of presumption."
"What was your trade in your youth?" continued the Earl.
"A soldier, my lord; and mony a sair day's kemping I've seen. I was to
have been made a sergeant, but"--
"A soldier! then you have slain and burnt, and sacked and spoiled?"
"I winna say," replied Edie, "that I have been better than my
neighbours;--it's a rough trade--war's sweet to them that never tried
"And you are now old and miserable, asking from precarious charity the
food which in your youth you tore from the hand of the poor peasant?"
"I am a beggar, it is true, my lord; but I am nae just sae miserable
neither. For my sins, I hae had grace to repent of them, if I might say
sae, and to lay them where they may be better borne than by me; and for
my food, naebody grudges an auld man a bit and a drink--Sae I live as I
can, and am contented to die when I am ca'd upon."
"And thus, then, with little to look back upon that is pleasant or
praiseworthy in your past life--with less to look forward to on this side
of eternity, you are contented to drag out the rest of your existence?
Go, begone! and in your age and poverty and weariness, never envy the
lord of such a mansion as this, either in his sleeping or waking moments
--Here is something for thee."
The Earl put into the old man's hand five or six guineas. Edie would
perhaps have stated his scruples, as upon other occasions, to the amount
of the benefaction, but the tone of Lord Glenallan was too absolute to
admit of either answer or dispute. The Earl then called his servant--"See
this old man safe from the castle--let no one ask him any questions--and
you, friend, begone, and forget the road that leads to my house."
"That would be difficult for me," said Edie, looking at the gold which he
still held in his hand, "that would be e'en difficult, since your honour
has gien me such gade cause to remember it."
Lord Glenallan stared, as hardly comprehending the old man's boldness in
daring to bandy words with him, and, with his hand, made him another
signal of departure, which the mendicant instantly obeyed.
For he was one in all their idle sport,
And like a monarch, ruled their little court
The pliant bow he formed, the flying ball,
The bat, the wicket, were his labours all.
Francis Macraw, agreeably to the commands of his master, attended the
mendicant, in order to see him fairly out of the estate, without
permitting him to have conversation, or intercourse, with any of the
Earl's dependents or domestics. But, judiciously considering that the
restriction did not extend to himself, who was the person entrusted with
the convoy, he used every measure in his power to extort from Edie the
nature of his confidential and secret interview with Lord Glenallan. But
Edie had been in his time accustomed to cross-examination, and easily
evaded those of his quondam comrade. "The secrets of grit folk," said
Ochiltree within himself, "are just like the wild beasts that are shut up
in cages. Keep them hard and fast sneaked up, and it's a' very weel or
better--but ance let them out, they will turn and rend you. I mind how
ill Dugald Gunn cam aff for letting loose his tongue about the Major's
leddy and Captain Bandilier."
Francis was therefore foiled in his assaults upon the fidelity of the
mendicant, and, like an indifferent chess-player, became, at every
unsuccessful movement, more liable to the counter-checks of his opponent.
"Sae ye uphauld ye had nae particulars to say to my lord but about yer
"Ay, and about the wee bits o' things I had brought frae abroad," said
Edie. "I ken'd you popist folk are unco set on the relics that are
fetched frae far-kirks and sae forth."
"Troth, my Lord maun be turned feel outright," said the domestic, "an he
puts himsell into sic a carfuffle, for onything ye could bring him,
"I doubtna ye may say true in the main, neighbour," replied the beggar;
"but maybe he's had some hard play in his younger days, Francis, and that
whiles unsettles folk sair."
"Troth, Edie, and ye may say that--and since it's like yell neer come
back to the estate, or, if ye dee, that ye'll no find me there, I'se e'en
tell you he had a heart in his young time sae wrecked and rent, that it's
a wonder it hasna broken outright lang afore this day."
"Ay, say ye sae?" said Ochiltree; "that maun hae been about a woman, I
"Troth, and ye hae guessed it," said Francie--"jeest a cusin o' his nain
--Miss Eveline Neville, as they suld hae ca'd her;--there was a sough in
the country about it, but it was hushed up, as the grandees were
concerned;--it's mair than twenty years syne--ay, it will be
"Ay, I was in America then," said the mendicant, "and no in the way to
hear the country clashes."
"There was little clash about it, man," replied Macraw; "he liked this
young leddy, ana suld hae married her, but his mother fand it out, and
then the deil gaed o'er Jock Webster. At last, the peer lass clodded
hersell o'er the scaur at the Craigburnfoot into the sea, and there was
an end o't."
"An end ot wi' the puir leddy," said the mendicant, "but, as I reckon,
nae end o't wi' the yerl."
"Nae end o't till his life makes an end," answered the Aberdonian.
"But what for did the auld Countess forbid the marriage?" continued the
"Fat for!--she maybe didna weel ken for fat hersell, for she gar'd a' bow
to her bidding, right or wrang--But it was ken'd the young leddy was
inclined to some o' the heresies of the country--mair by token, she was
sib to him nearer than our Church's rule admits of. Sae the leddy was
driven to the desperate act, and the yerl has never since held his head
up like a man."
"Weel away!" replied Ochiltree:--"it's e'en queer I neer heard this tale
"It's e'en queer that ye heard it now, for deil ane o' the servants durst
hae spoken o't had the auld Countess been living. Eh, man, Edie! but she
was a trimmer--it wad hae taen a skeely man to hae squared wi' her!--But
she's in her grave, and we may loose our tongues a bit fan we meet a
friend.--But fare ye weel, Edie--I maun be back to the evening-service.
An' ye come to Inverurie maybe sax months awa, dinna forget to ask after
What one kindly pressed, the other as firmly promised; and the friends
having thus parted, with every testimony of mutual regard, the domestic
of Lord Glenallan took his road back to the seat of his master, leaving
Ochiltree to trace onward his habitual pilgrimage.
It was a fine summer evening, and the world--that is, the little circle
which was all in all to the individual by whom it was trodden, lay before
Edie Ochiltree, for the choosing of his night's quarters. When he had
passed the less hospitable domains of Glenallan, he had in his option so
many places of refuge for the evening, that he was nice, and even
fastidious in the choice. Ailie Sim's public was on the road-side about a
mile before him, but there would be a parcel of young fellows there on
the Saturday night, and that was a bar to civil conversation. Other
"gudemen and gudewives," as the farmers and their dames are termed in
Scotland, successively presented themselves to his imagination. But one
was deaf, and could not hear him; another toothless, and could not make
him hear; a third had a cross temper; and a fourth an ill-natured
house-dog. At Monkbarns or Knockwinnock he was sure of a favourable and
hospitable reception; but they lay too distant to be conveniently reached
"I dinna ken how it is," said the old man, "but I am nicer about my
quarters this night than ever I mind having been in my life. I think,
having seen a' the braws yonder, and finding out ane may be happier
without them, has made me proud o' my ain lot--But I wuss it bode me
gude, for pride goeth before destruction. At ony rate, the warst barn
e'er man lay in wad be a pleasanter abode than Glenallan House, wi' a'
the pictures and black velvet, and silver bonny-wawlies belonging to it--
Sae I'll e'en settle at ance, and put in for Ailie Sims."
As the old man descended the hill above the little hamlet to which he was
bending his course, the setting sun had relieved its inmates from their
labour, and the young men, availing themselves of the fine evening, were
engaged in the sport of long-bowls on a patch of common, while the women
and elders looked on. The shout, the laugh, the exclamations of winners
and losers, came in blended chorus up the path which Ochiltree was
descending, and awakened in his recollection the days when he himself had
been a keen competitor, and frequently victor, in games of strength and
agility. These remembrances seldom fail to excite a sigh, even when the
evening of life is cheered by brighter prospects than those of our poor
mendicant. "At that time of day," was his natural reflection, "I would
have thought as little about ony auld palmering body that was coming down
the edge of Kinblythemont, as ony o' thae stalwart young chiels does
e'enow about auld Edie Ochiltree."
He was, however, presently cheered, by finding that more importance was
attached to his arrival than his modesty had anticipated. A disputed cast
had occurred between the bands of players, and as the gauger favoured the
one party, and the schoolmaster the other, the matter might be said to be
taken up by the higher powers. The miller and smith, also, had espoused
different sides, and, considering the vivacity of two such disputants,
there was reason to doubt whether the strife might be amicably
terminated. But the first person who caught a sight of the mendicant
exclaimed, "Ah! here comes auld Edie, that kens the rules of a' country
games better than ony man that ever drave a bowl, or threw an axle-tree,
or putted a stane either;--let's hae nae quarrelling, callants--we'll
stand by auld Edie's judgment."
Edie was accordingly welcomed, and installed as umpire, with a general
shout of gratulation. With all the modesty of a Bishop to whom the mitre
is proffered, or of a new Speaker called to the chair, the old man
declined the high trust and responsibility with which it was proposed to
invest him, and, in requital for his self-denial and humility, had the
pleasure of receiving the reiterated assurances of young, old, and
middle-aged, that he was simply the best qualified person for the office
of arbiter "in the haill country-side." Thus encouraged, he proceeded
gravely to the execution of his duty, and, strictly forbidding all
aggravating expressions on either side, he heard the smith and gauger on
one side, the miller and schoolmaster on the other, as junior and senior
counsel. Edie's mind, however, was fully made up on the subject before
the pleading began; like that of many a judge, who must nevertheless go
through all the forms, and endure in its full extent the eloquence and
argumentation of the Bar. For when all had been said on both sides, and
much of it said over oftener than once, our senior, being well and ripely
advised, pronounced the moderate and healing judgment, that the disputed
cast was a drawn one, and should therefore count to neither party. This
judicious decision restored concord to the field of players; they began
anew to arrange their match and their bets, with the clamorous mirth
usual on such occasions of village sport, and the more eager were already
stripping their jackets, and committing them, with their coloured
handkerchiefs, to the care of wives, sisters, and mistresses. But their
mirth was singularly interrupted.
On the outside of the group of players began to arise sounds of a
description very different from those of sport--that sort of suppressed
sigh and exclamation, with which the first news of calamity is received
by the hearers, began to be heard indistinctly. A buzz went about among
the women of "Eh, sirs! sae young and sae suddenly summoned!"--It then
extended itself among the men, and silenced the sounds of sportive mirth.
All understood at once that some disaster had happened in the country,
and each inquired the cause at his neighbour, who knew as little as the
querist. At length the rumour reached, in a distinct shape, the ears of
Edie Ochiltree, who was in the very centre of the assembly. The boat of
Mucklebackit, the fisherman whom we have so often mentioned, had been
swamped at sea, and four men had perished, it was affirmed, including
Mucklebackit and his son. Rumour had in this, however, as in other cases,
gone beyond the truth. The boat had indeed been overset; but Stephen, or,
as he was called, Steenie Mucklebackit, was the only man who had been
drowned. Although the place of his residence and his mode of life removed
the young man from the society of the country folks, yet they failed not
to pause in their rustic mirth to pay that tribute to sudden calamity
which it seldom fails to receive in cases of infrequent occurrence. To
Ochiltree, in particular, the news came like a knell, the rather that he
had so lately engaged this young man's assistance in an affair of
sportive mischief; and though neither loss nor injury was designed to the
German adept, yet the work was not precisely one in which the latter
hours of life ought to be occupied.
Misfortunes never come alone. While Ochiltree, pensively leaning upon his
staff, added his regrets to those of the hamlet which bewailed the young
man's sudden death, and internally blamed himself for the transaction in
which he had so lately engaged him, the old man's collar was seized by a
peace-officer, who displayed his baton in his right hand, and exclaimed,
"In the king's name."
The gauger and schoolmaster united their rhetoric, to prove to the
constable and his assistant that he had no right to arrest the king's
bedesman as a vagrant; and the mute eloquence of the miller and smith,
which was vested in their clenched fists, was prepared to give Highland
bail for their arbiter; his blue gown, they said, was his warrant for
travelling the country.
"But his blue gown," answered the officer, "is nae protection for
assault, robbery, and murder; and my warrant is against him for these
"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
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