Part 3 out of 8
when pressed upon the subject by Bucklaw, he was wont to allege
the necessity of waiting for their reply, especially that of the
Marquis, before taking so decisive a measure.
The Marquis was rich and powerful; and although he was suspected
to entertain sentiments unfavourable to the government
established at the Revolution, he had nevertheless address enough
to head a party in the Scottish privy council, connected with the
High Church faction in England, and powerful enough to menace
those to whom the Lord Keeper adhered with a probable subversion
of their power. The consulting with a personage of such
importance was a plausible excise, which Ravenswood used to
Bucklaw, and probably to himself, for continuing his residence at
Wolf's Crag; and it was rendered yet more so by a general report
which began to be current of a probable change of ministers and
measures in the Scottish administration. The rumours, strongly
asserted by some, and as resolutely denied by others, as their
wishes or interest dictated, found their way even to the ruinous
Tower of Wolf's Crag, chiefly through the medium of Caleb, the
butler, who, among his other excellences, was an ardent
politician, and seldom made an excursion from the old fortress to
the neighbouring village of Wolf's Hope without bringing back
what tidings were current in the vicinity.
But if Bucklaw could not offer any satisfactory objections to
the delay of the Master in leaving Scotland, he did not the less
suffer with impatience the state of inaction to which it
confined him; and it was only the ascendency which his new
companion had acquired over him that induced him to submit to a
course of life so alien to his habits and inclinations.
"You were wont to be thought a stirring active young fellow,
Master," was his frequent remonstrance; "yet here you seem
determined to live on and on like a rat in a hole, with this
trifling difference, that the wiser vermin chooses a hermitage
where he can find food at least; but as for us, Caleb's excuses
become longer as his diet turns more spare, and I fear we shall
realise the stories they tell of the slother: we have almost eat
up the last green leaf on the plant, and have nothing left for it
but to drop from the tree and break our necks."
"Do not fear it," said Ravenswood; "there is a fate watches for
us, and we too have a stake in the revolution that is now
impending, and which already has alarmed many a bosom."
"What fate--what revolution?" inquired his compation. "We have
had one revolution too much already, I think."
Ravenswood interrupted him by putting into his hands a letter.
"Oh," answered Bucklaw, "my dream's out. I thought I heard
Caleb this morning pressing some unfortunate fellow to a drink of
cold water, and assuring him it was better for his stomach in
the morning than ale or brandy."
"It was my Lord of A----'s courier," said Ravenswood, "who was
doomed to experience his ostentatious hospitality, which I
believe ended in sour beer and herrings. Read, and you will see
the news he has brought us."
"I will as fast as I can," said Bucklaw; "but I am no great
clerk, nor does his lordship seem to be the first of scribes."
The reader will peruse in, a few seconds, by the aid our friend
Ballantyne's types, what took Bucklaw a good half hour in
perusal, though assisted by the Master of Ravenswood. The tenor
was as follows:
"RIGHT HONOURABLE OUR COUSIN:
"Our hearty commendations premised, these come to assure you of
the interest which we take in your welfare, and in your purpose
towards its augmentation. If we have been less active in
showing forth our effective good-will towards you than, as a
loving kinsman and blood-relative, we would willingly have
desired, we request that you will impute it to lack fo
opportunity to show our good-liking, not to any coldness of our
will. Touching your resolution to travel in foreign parts, as at
this time we hold the same little advisable, in respect that your
ill-willers may, according to the custom of such persons, impute
motives for your journey, whereof, although we know and believe
you to be as clear as ourselves, yet natheless their words may
find credence in places where the belief in them may much
prejudice you, and which we should see with more unwillingness
and displeasure than with means of remedy
"Having thus, as becometh our kindred, given you our poor mind
on the subject of your journeying forth of Scotland, we would
willingly add reasons of weight, which might materially
advantage you and your father's house, thereby to determine you
to abide at Wolf's Crag, until this harvest season shall be
passed over. But what sayeth the proverb, verbum sapienti--a
word is more to him that hath wisdom than a sermon to a fool.
And albeit we have written this poor scroll with our own hand,
and are well assured of the fidelity of our messenger, as him
that is many ways bounden to us, yet so it is, that sliddery ways
crave wary walking, and that we may not peril upon paper matters
which we would gladly impart to you by word of mouth. Wherefore,
it was our purpose to have prayed you heartily to come to this
our barren Highland country to kill a stag, and to treat of the
matters which we are now more painfully inditing to you anent.
But commodity does not serve at present for such our meeting,
which, therefore, shall be deferred until sic time as we may in
all mirth rehearse those things whereof we now keep silence.
Meantime, we pray you to think that we are, and will still be,
your good kinsman and well-wisher, waiting but for times of
whilk we do, as it were, entertain a twilight prospect, and
appear and hope to be also your effectual well-doer. And in
which hope we heartily write ourself,
"Your loving cousin,
"Given from our poor house of B----," etc.
Superscribed--"For the right honourable, and our honoured
kinsman, the Master of Ravenswood--These, with haste, haste, post
haste--ride and run until these be delivered."
"What think you of this epistle, Bucklaw?" said the Master, when
his companion had hammered out all the sense, and almost all the
words of which it consisted.
"Truly, that the Marquis's meaning is as great a riddle as his
manuscript. He is really in much need of Wit's Interpreter, or
the *Complete Letter-Writer*, and were I you, I would send him a
copy by the bearer. He writes you very kindly to remain wasting
your time and your money in this vile, stupid, oppressed country,
without so much as offering you the countenance and shelter of
his house. In my opinion, he has some scheme in view in which he
supposes you can be useful, and he wishes to keep you at hand, to
make use of you when it ripens, reserving the power of turning
you adrift, should his plot fail in the concoction."
"His plot! Then you suppose it is a treasonable business,"
"What else can it be?" replied Bucklaw; "the Marquis has been
long suspected to have an eye to Saint Germains."
"He should not engage me rashly in such an adventure," said
Ravenswood; "when I recollect the times of the first and second
Charles, and of the last James, truly I see little reason that,
as a man or a patriot, I should draw my sword for their
"Humph!" replied Bucklaw; "so you have set yourself down to
mourn over the crop-eared dogs whom honest Claver'se treated as
"They first gave the dogs an ill name, and then hanged them,"
replied Ravenswood. "I hope to see the day when justice shall be
open to Whig and Tory, and when these nicknames shall only be
used among coffee-house politicians, as 'slut' and 'jade' are
among apple-women, as cant terms of idle spite and rancour."
"That will nto be in our days, Master: the iron has entered too
deeply into our sides and our souls."
"It will be, however, one day," replied the Master; "men will
not always start at these nicknames as at a trumpet-sound. As
social life is better protected, its comforts will become too
dear to be hazarded without some better reasons than speculative
"It is fine talking," answered Bucklaw; "but my heart is with
the old song--
To see good corn upon the rigs,
And a gallow built to hang the Whigs,
And the right restored where the right should be.
Oh, that is the thing that would wanton me."
"You may sing as loudly as you will, cantabit vacuus----,"
answered the Master; "but I believe the Marquis is too wise, at
least too wary, to join you in such a burden. I suspect he
alludes to a revolution in the Scottish privy council, rather
than in the British kingdoms."
"Oh, confusion to your state tricks!" exclaimed Bucklaw--"your
cold calculating manoeuvres, which old gentlemen in wrought
nightcaps and furred gowns execute like so many games at chess,
and displace a treasurer or lord commissioner as they would take
a rook or a pawn. Tennis for my sport, and battle for my
earnest! And you, Master, so dep and considerate as you would
seem, you have that within you makes the blood boil faster than
suits your present hmour of moralising on political truths. You
are one of those wise men who see everything with great composure
till their blood is up, and then--woe to any one who should put
them in mind of their own prudential maxims!"
"Perhaps," said Ravenswood, "you read me more rightly than I can
myself. But to think justly will certainly go some length in
helping me to act so. But hark! I hear Caleb tolling the
"Which he always does with the more sonorous grace in proportion
to the meagreness of the cheer which he has provided," said
Bucklaw; "as if that infernal clang and jangle, which will one
day bring the belfry down the cliff, could convert a starved hen
into a fat capon, and a blade-bone of mutton into a haunch of
"I wish we may be so well off as your worst conjectures surmise,
Bucklaw, from the extreme solemnity and ceremony with which Caleb
seems to place on the table that solitary covered dish."
"Uncover, Caleb! uncover, for Heaven's sake!" said Bucklaw; "let
us have what you can give us without preface. Why, it stands
well enough, man," he continued, addressing impatiently the
ancient butler, who, without reply, kept shifting the dish,
until he had at length placed it with mathematical precision in
the very midst of the table.
"What have we got here, Caleb?" inquired the Master in his turn.
"Ahem! sir, ye suld have known before; but his honour the Laird
of Bucklaw is so impatient," answered Caleb, still holding the
dish with one hand and the cover with the other, with
evident reluctance to disclose the contents.
"But what is it, a God's name--not a pair of clean spurs, I
hope, in the Border fashion of old times?"
"Ahem! ahem!" reiterated Caleb, "your honour is pleased to be
facetious; natheless, I might presume to say it was a
convenient fashion, and used, as I have heard, in an honourable
and thriving family. But touching your present dinner, I judged
that this being St. Magdalen's [Margaret's] Eve, who was a worthy
queen of Scotland in her day, your honours might judge it
decorous, if not altogether to fast, yet only to sustain nature
with some slight refection, as ane saulted herring or the like."
And, uncovering the dish, he displayed four of the savoury fishes
which he mentioned, adding, in a subdued tone, "that they were no
just common herring neither, being every ane melters, and sauted
with uncommon care by the housekeeper (poor Mysie) for his
honour's especial use."
"Out upon all apologies!" said the Master, "let us eat the
herrings, since there is nothing better to be had; but I begin to
think with you, Bucklaw, that we are consuming the last green
leaf, and that, in spite of the Marquis's political machinations,
we must positively shift camp for want of forage, without waiting
the issue of them."
Ay, and when huntsmen wind the merry horn,
And from its covert starts the fearful prey,
Who, warm'd with youth's blood in his swelling veins,
Would, like a lifeless clod, outstretched lie,
Shut out from all the fair creation offers?
Ethwald, Act I. Scene 1.
LIGHT meals procure light slumbers; and therefore it is not
surprising that, considering the fare which Caleb's conscience,
or his necessity, assuming, as will sometimes happen, that
disguise, had assigned to the guests of Wolf's Crag, their
slumbers should have been short.
In the morning Bucklaw rushed into his host's apartment with a
loud halloo, which might have awaked the dead.
"Up! up! in the name of Heaven! The hunters are out, the only
piece of sport I have seen this month; and you lie here, Master,
on a bed that has little to recommend it, except that it may be
something softer than the stone floor of your ancestor's vault."
"I wish," said Ravenswood, raising his head peevishly, "you had
forborne so early a jest, Mr. Hayston; it is really no pleasure
to lose the very short repose which I had just begun to enjoy,
after a night spent in thoughts upon fortune far harder than my
"Pschaw, pshaw!" replied his guest; "get up--get up; the hounds
are abroad. I have saddled the horses myself, for old Caleb was
calling for grooms and lackeys, and would never have proceeded
without two hours' apology for the absence of men that were a
hundred miles off. Get up, Master; I say the hounds are out--get
up, I say; the hunt is up." And off ran Bucklaw.
"And I say," said the Master, rising slowly, "that nothing can
concern me less. Whose hounds come so near to us?"
"The Honourable Lord Brittlebrains's," answered Caleb, who had
followed the impatient Laird of Bucklaw into his master's
bedroom, "and truly I ken nae title they have to be yowling and
howling within the freedoms and immunities of your lordship's
right of free forestry."
"Nor I, Caleb," replied Ravenswood, "excepting that they have
bought both the lands and the right of forestry, and may think
themselves entitled to exercise the rights they have paid their
"It may be sae, my lord," replied Caleb; "but it's no
gentleman's deed of them to come here and exercise such-like
right, and your lordship living at your ain castle of Wolf's
Crag. Lord Brittlebrains would weel to remember what his folk
"And what we now are," said the Master, with suppressed
bitterness of feeling. "But reach me my cloak, Caleb, and I will
indulge Bucklaw with a sight of this chase. It is selfish to
sacrifice my guest's pleasure to my own."
"Sacrifice!" echoed Caleb, in a tone which seemed to imply the
total absurdity of his master making the least concession in
deference to any one--"sacrifice, indeed!--but I crave your
honour's pardon, and whilk doublet is it your pleasure to wear?"
"Any one you will, Caleb; my wardrobe, I suppose, is not very
"Not extensive!" echoed his assistant; "when there is the grey
and silver that your lordship bestowed on Hew Hildebrand, your
outrider; and the French velvet that went with my lord your
father--be gracious to him!--my lord your father's auld wardrobe
to the puir friends of the family; and the drap-de-Berry----"
"Which I gave to you, Caleb, and which, I suppose, is the only
dress we have any chance to come at, except that I wore
yesterday; pray, hand me that, and say no more about it."
"If your honour has a fancy," replied Caleb, "and doubtless it's
a sad-coloured suit, and you are in mourning; nevertheless, I
have never tried on the drap-de-Berry--ill wad it become me--
and your honour having no change of claiths at this present--and
it's weel brushed, and as there are leddies down yonder----"
"Ladies!" said Ravenswood; "and what ladies, pray?"
"What do I ken, your lordship? Looking down at them from the
Warden's Tower, I could but see them glent by wi' their bridles
ringing and their feathers fluttering, like the court of
"Well, well, Caleb," replied the Master, "help me on with my
cloak, and hand me my sword-belt. What clatter is that in the
"Just Bucklaw bringing out the horses," said Caleb, after a
glance through the window, "as if there werena men eneugh in the
castle, or as if I couldna serve the turn of ony o' them that are
out o' the gate."
"Alas! Caleb, we should want little if your ability were equal
to your will," replied the Master.
"And I hope your lordship disna want that muckle," said Caleb;
"for , considering a' things, I trust we support the credit of
the family as weel as things will permit of,--only Bucklaw is aye
sae frank and sae forward. And there he has brought out your
lordship's palfrey, without the saddle being decored wi' the
broidered sumpter-cloth! and I could have brushed it in a
"It is all very well," said his master, escaping from him and
descending the narrow and steep winding staircase which led to
"It MAY be a' very weel," said Caleb, somewhat peevishly; "but
if your lordship wad tarry a bit, I will tell you what will
NOT be very weel."
"And what is that?" said Ravenswood, impatiently, but stopping
at the same time.
"Why, just that ye suld speer ony gentleman hame to dinner; for
I canna mak anither fast on a feast day, as when I cam ower
Bucklaw wi' Queen Margaret; and, to speak truth, if your
lordship wad but please to cast yoursell in the way of dining wi'
Lord Bittlebrains, I'se warrand I wad cast about brawly for the
morn; or if, stead o' that, ye wad but dine wi' them at the
change-house, ye might mak your shift for the awing: ye might say
ye had forgot your purse, or that the carline awed ye rent, and
that ye wad allow it in the settlement."
"Or any other lie that cam uppermost, I suppose?" said his
master. "Good-bye, Caleb; I commend your care for the honour of
the family." And, throwing himself on his horse, he followed
Bucklaw, who, at the manifest risk of his neck, had begun to
gallop down the steep path which led from the Tower as soon as he
saw Ravenswood have his foot in the stirrup.
Caleb Balderstone looked anxiously after them, and shook his
thin grey locks: "And I trust they will come to no evil; but they
have reached the plain, and folk cannot say but that the horse
are hearty and in spirits."
Animated by the natural impetuosity and fire of his temper,
young Bucklaw rushed on with the careless speed of a whirlwind.
Ravenswood was scarce more moderate in his pace, for his was a
mind unwillingly roused from contemplative inactivity, but which,
when once put into motion, acquired a spirit of forcible and
violent progression. Neither was his eagerness proportioned in
all cases to the motive of impulse, but might be compared to the
sped of a stone, which rushes with like fury down the hill
whether it was first put in motion by the arm of a giant or the
hand of a boy. He felt, therefore, in no ordinary degree, the
headlong impulse of the chase, a pastime so natural to youth of
all ranks, that it seems rather to be an inherent passion in our
animal nature, which levels all differences of rank and
education, than an acquired habit of rapid exercise.
The repeated bursts of the French horn, which was then always
used for the encouragement and direction of the hounds; the deep,
though distant baying of the pack; the half-heard cries of the
huntsmen; the half-seen forms which were discovered, now
emerging from glens which crossed the moor, now sweeping over its
surface, now picking their way where it was impeded by morasses;
and, above all, the feeling of his own rapid motion, animated the
Master of Ravenswood, at last for the moment, above the
recollections of a more painful nature by which he was
surrounded. The first thing which recalled him to those
unpleasing circumstances was feeling that his horse,
notwithstanding all the advantages which he received from his
rider's knowledge of the country, was unable to keep up with the
chase. As he drew his bridle up with the bittle feeling that his
poverty excluded him from the favourite recreation of his
forefathers, and indeed their sole employmet when not engaged in
military pursuits, he was accosted by a well-mounted stranger,
who, unobserved, had kept near him during the earlier part of his
"Your horse is blown," said the man, with a complaisance seldom
used in a hunting-field. "Might I crave your honour to make use
"Sir," said Ravenswood, more surprised than pleased at such a
proposal. "I really do not know how I have merited such a
favour at a stranger's hands."
"Never ask a question about it, Master," said Bucklaw, who, with
great unwillingness, had hitherto reined in his own gallant
steed, not to outride his host and entertainer. "Take the goods
the gods provide you, as the great John Dryden says; or stay--
here, my friend, lend me that horse; I see you have been puzzled
to rein him up this half-hour. I'll take the devil out of him
for you. Now, Master, do you ride mine, which will carry you
like an eagle."
And throwing the rein of his own horse to the Master of
Ravenswood, he sprung upon that which the stranger resigned to
him, and continued his career at full speed.
"Was ever so thoughtless a being!" said the Master; "and you, my
friend, how could you trust him with your horse?"
"The horse," said the man, "belongs to a person who will make
your honour, or any of your honourable friends, most welcome to
him, flesh and fell."
"And the owner's name is----?" asked Ravenswood.
"Your honour must excuse me, you will learn that from himself.
If you please to take your friend's horse, and leave me your
galloway, I will meet you after the fall of the stag, for I hear
they are blowing him at bay."
"I believe, my friend, it will be the best way to recover your
good horse for you," answered Ravenswood; and mounting the nag
of his friend Bucklaw, he made all the haste in his power to the
spot where the blast of the horn announced that the stag's
career was nearly terminated.
These jovial sounds were intermixed with the huntsmen's shouts
of "Hyke a Talbot! Hyke a Teviot! now, boys, now!" and similar
cheering halloos of the olden hunting-field, to which the
impatient yelling of the hounds, now close of the object of their
pursuit, gave a lively and unremitting chorus. The straggling
riders began now to rally towards the scene of action,
collecting from different points as to a common centre.
Bucklaw kept the start which he had gotten, and arrived first at
the spot, where the stag, incapable of sustaining a more
prolonged flight, had turned upon the hounds, and, in the
hunter's phrase, was at bay. With his stately head bent down,
his sides white with foam, his eyes strained betwixt rage and
terror, the hunted animal had now in his turn become an object of
intimidation to his pursuers. The hunters came up one by one,
and watched an opportunity to assail him with some advantage,
which, in such circumstances, can only be done with caution. The
dogs stood aloof and bayed loudly, intimating at once eagerness
and fear, and each of the sportsmen seemed to expect that his
comrade would take upon him the perilous task of assaulting and
disabling the animal. The ground, which was a hollow in the
common or moor, afforded little advantage for approaching the
stag unobserved; and general was the shout of triumph when
Bucklaw, with the dexterity proper to an accomplished cavalier of
the day, sprang from his horse, and dashing suddenly and swiftly
at the stag, brought him to the ground by a cut on the hind leg
with his short hunting-sword. The pack, rushing in upon their
disabled enemy, soon ended his painful struggles, and solemnised
his fall with their clamour; the hunters, with their horns and
voices, whooping and blowing a mort, or death-note, which
resounded far over the billows of the adjacent ocean.
The huntsman then withdrew the hounds from the throttled stag,
and on his knee presented his knife to a fair female form, on a
white palfrey, whose terror, or perhaps her compassion, had till
then kept her at some distance. She wore a black silk riding-
mask, which was then a common fashion, as well for
preserving the complexion from the sun and rain, as from an idea
of decorum, which did not permit a lady to appear barefaced while
engaged in a boisterous sport, and attended by a promiscuous
company. The richness of her dress, however, as well as the
mettle and form of her palfrey, together with the silvan
compliment paid to her by the huntsman, pointed her out to
Bucklaw as the principal person in the field. It was not without
a feeling of pity, approaching even to contempt, that this
enthusiastic hunter observed her refuse the huntsman's knife,
presented to her for the purpose of making the first incision in
the stag's breast, and thereby discovering the venison. He felt
more than half inclined to pay his compliments to her; but it had
been Bucklaw's misfortune, that his habits of life had not
rendered him familiarly acquainted with the higher and better
classes of female society, so that, with all his natural
audacity, he felt sheepish and bashful when it became necessary
to address a lady of distinction.
Taking unto himself heart of grace (to use his own phrase), he
did at length summon up resolution enough to give the fair
huntress good time of the day, and trust that her sport had
answered her expectation. Her answer was very courteously and
modestly expressed, and testified some gratitude to the gallant
cavalier, whose exploit had terminated the chase so adroitly,
when the hounds and huntsmen seemed somewhat at a stand.
"Uds daggers and scabbard, madam," said Bucklaw, whom this
observation brought at once upon his own ground, "there is no
difficulty or merit in that matter at all, so that a fellow is
not too much afraid of having a pair of antlers in his guts. I
have hunted at force five hundred times, madam; and I never yet
saw the stag at bay, by land or water, but I durst have gone
roundly in on him. It is all use and wont, madam; and I'll tell
you, madam, for all that, it must be done with good heed and
caution; and you will do well, madam, to have your hunting-sword
right sharp and double-edged, that you may strike either fore-
handed or back-handed, as you see reason, for a hurt with a
buck's horn is a perilous ad somewhat venomous matter."
"I am afraid, sir," said the young lady, and her smile was
scarce concealed by her vizard, "I shall have little use for such
"But the gentleman says very right for all that, my lady," said
an old huntsman, who had listened to Bucklaw's harangue with no
small edification; "and I have heard my father say, who was a
forester at the Cabrach, that a wild boar's gaunch is more easily
healed than a hurt from the deer's horn, for so says the old
If thou be hurt with horn of hart, it brings thee to they bier;
But tusk of boar shall leeches heal, thereof have lesser fear."
"An I might advise," continued Bucklaw, who was now in his
element, and desirous of assuming the whole management, "as the
hounds are surbated and weary, the head of the stag should be
cabaged in order to reward them; and if I may presume to speak,
the huntsman, who is to break up the stag, ought to drink to your
good ladyship's health a good lusty bicker of ale, or a tass of
brandy; for if he breaks him up without drinking, the venison
will not keep well."
This very agreeable prescription received, as will be readily
believed, all acceptation from the huntsman, who, in requital,
offered to bucklaw the compliment of his knife, which the young
lady had declined.
This polite proffer was seconded by his mistress. "I believe,
sir," she said, withdrawing herself from the circle, "that my
father, for whose amusement Lord Bittlebrain's hounds have been
out to-day, will readily surrender all care of these matters to a
gentleman of your experience."
Then, bending gracefully from her horse, she wished him good
morning, and, attended by one or two domestics, who seemed
immediately attached to her service, retired from the scene of
action, to which Bucklaw, too much delighted with an opportunity
of displaying his woodcraft to care about man or woman either,
paid little attention; but was soon stript to his doublet, with
tucked-up sleeves, and naked arms up to the elbows in blood and
grease, slashing, cutting, hacking, and hewing, with the
precision of Sir Tristrem himself, and wrangling and disputing
with all around him concerning nombles, briskets, flankards, and
raven-bones, then usual terms of the art of hunting, or of
butchery, whichever the reader chooses to call it, which are now
When Ravenswood, who followed a short pace behind his friend,
saw that the stag had fallen, his temporary ardour for the chase
gave way to that feeling of reluctance which he endured at
encountering in his fallen fortunes the gaze whether of equals
or inferiors. He reined up his horse on the top of a gentle
eminence, from which he observed the busy and gay scene beneath
him, and heard the whoops of the huntsmen, gaily mingled with the
cry of the dogs, and the neighing and trampling of the horses.
But these jovial sounds fell sadly on the ear of the ruined
nobleman. The chase, with all its train of excitations, has ever
since feudal times been accounted the almost exclusive privilege
of the aristocracy, and was anciently their chief employment in
times of peace. The sense that he was excluded by his situation
from emjoying the silvan sport, which his rank assigned to him as
a special prerogative, and the feeling that new men were now
exercising it over the downs which had been jealously reserved by
his ancestors for their own amusement, while he, the heir of the
domain, was fain to hold himself at a distance from their party,
awakened reflections calculated to depress deeply a mind like
Ravenswood's, which was naturally contemplative and melancholy.
His pride, however, soon shook off this feeling of dejection, and
it gave way to impatience upon finding that his volatile friend
Bucklaw seemed in no hurry to return with his borrowed steed,
which Ravenswood, before leaving the field, wished to see
restored to the obliging owner. As he was about to move towards
the group of assembled huntsmen, he was joined by a horseman,
who, like himself, had kept aloof during the fall of the deer.
This personage seemed stricken in years. He wore a scarlet
cloak, buttoning high upon his face, and his hat was unlooped and
slouched, probably by way of defence against the weather. His
horse, a strong and steady palfrey, was calculated for a rider
who proposed to witness the sport of the day rather than to share
it. An attendant waited at some distance, and the whole
equipment was that of an elderly gentleman of rank and fashion.
He accosted Ravenswood very politely, but not without some
"You seem a gallant young gentleman, sir," he said, "and yet
appear as indifferent to this brave sport as if you had my load
of years on your shoulders."
"I have followed the sport with more spirit on other occasions,"
replied the Master; "at present, late events in my family must be
my apology; and besides," he added, "I was but indifferently
mounted at the beginning of the sport."
"I think," said the stranger, "one of my attendants had the
sense to accommodate your friend with a horse."
"I was much indebted to his politeness and yours," replied
Ravenswood. "My friend is Mr. Hayston of Bucklaw, whom I dare
say you will be sure to find in the thick of the keeest
sportsmen. He will return your servant's horse, and take my pony
in exchange; and will add," he concluded, turning his horse's
head from the stranger, "his best acknowledgments to mine for the
The Master of Ravenswood, having thus expressed himself, began
to move homeward, with the manner of one who has taken leave of
his company. But the stranger was not so to be shaken off. He
turned his horse at the same time, and rode in the same
direction, so near to the Master that, without outriding him,
which the formal civility of the time, and the respect due to the
stranger's age and recent civility, would have rendered improper,
he could not easily escape from his company.
The stranger did not long remain silent. "This, then," he said,
"is the ancient Castle of Wolf's Crag, often mentioned in the
Scottish recods," looking to the old tower, then darkening under
the influence of a stormy cloud, that formed its
background; for at the distance of a short mile, the chase,
having been circuitous, had brought the hunters nearly back to
the point which they had attained when Ravenswood and Bucklaw had
set forward to join them.
Ravenswood answered this observation with a cold and distant
"It was, as I have heard," continued the stranger, unabashed by
his coldness, "one of the most early possessions of the
honourable family of Ravenswood."
"Their earliest possession," answered the Master, "and probably
"I--I--I should hope not, sir," answered the stranger, clearing
his voice with more than one cough, and making an effort to
voercome a certain degree of hesitation; "Scotland knows what
she owes to this ancient family, and remembers their frequent and
honourable achievements. I have little doubt that, were it
properly represented to her Majesty that so ancient and noble a
family were subjected to dilapidation--I mean to decay--means
might be found, ad re-aedificandum antiquam domum----"
"I will save you the trouble, sir, of discussing this point
farther," interrupted the Master, haughtily. "I am the heir of
that unfortunate house--I am the Master of Ravenswood. And you,
sir, who seem to be a gentleman of fashion and education, must be
sensible that the next mortification after being unhappy is the
being loaded with undesired commiseration."
"I beg your pardon, sir," said the elder horseman; "I did not
know--I am sensible I ought not to have mentioned--nothing could
be farther from my thoughts than to suppose----"
"There are no apologies necessary, sir," answered
Ravenswood, "for here, I suppose, our roads separate, and I
assure you that we part in perfect equanimity on my side."
As speaking these words, he directed his horse's head towards a
narrow causeway, the ancient approach to Wolf's Crag, of which it
might be truly said, in the words of the Bard of Hope, that
Frequented by few was the grass-cover'd road,
Where the hunter of deer and the warrior trode,
To his hills that encircle the sea.
But, ere he could disengage himself from his companion, the young
lady we have already mentioned came up to join the stranger,
followed by her servants.
"Daughter," said the stranger to the unmasked damesl, "this is
the Master of Ravenswood."
It would have been natural that the gentleman should have
replied to this introduction; but there was something in the
graceful form and retiring modesty of the female to whom he was
thus presented, which not only pevented him from inquiring to
whom, and by whom, the annunciation had been made, but which even
for the time struck him absolutely mute. At this moment the
cloud which had long lowered above the height on which Wolf's
Crag is situated, and which now, as it advanced, spread itself in
darker and denser folds both over land and sea, hiding the
distant objects and obscuring those which were nearer, turning
the sea to a leaden complexion and the heath to a darker brown,
began now, by one or two distant peals, to announce the thunders
with which it was fraught; while two flashes of lightning,
following each other very closely, showed in the distance the
grey turrets of Wolf's Crag, and, more nearly, the rollowing
billows of the ocean, crested suddenly with red and dazzling
The horse of the fair huntress showed symptoms of impatience and
restiveness, and it became impossible for Ravenswood, as a man or
a gentleman, to leave her abruptly to the case of an aged father
or her menial attendants. He was, or believed himself, obliged
in courtesy to take hold of her bridle, and assist her in
managing the unruly animal. While he was thus engaged, the old
gentleman observed that the storm seemed to increase; that they
were far from Lord Bittlebrains's, whose guests they were for the
present; and that he would be obliged to the Master of Ravenswood
to point him the way to the nearest place of refuge from the
storm. At the same time he cast a wistful and embarrassed look
towards the Tower of Wolf's Crag, which seemed to render it
almost impossible for the owner to avoid offering an old man and
a lady, in such an emergency, the temporary use of his house.
Indeed, the condition of the young huntress made this courtesy
indispensable; for, in the course of the services which he
rendered, he could not but perceive that she trembled much, and
was extremely agitated, from her apprehensions, doubtless, of the
I know not if the Master of Ravenswood shared her terrors, but
he was not entirely free from something like a similar disorder
of nerves, as he observed, "The Tower of Wolf's Crag has nothing
to offer beyond the shelter of its roof, but if that can be
acceptable at such a moment----" he paused, as if the rest of
the invitation stuck in his throat. But the old gentleman, his
self-constituted companion, did not allow him to recede from the
invitation, which he had rather suffered to be implied than
"The storm," said the stranger, "must be an apology for waiving
ceremony; his daughter's health was weak, she had
suffered much from a recent alarm; he trusted their intrusion on
the Master of Ravenswood's hospitality would not be altogether
unpardonable in the circumstances of the case: his child's safety
must be dearer to him than ceremony."
There was no room to retreat. The Master of Ravenswood led the
way, continuing to keep hold of the lady's bridle to prevent her
horse from starting at some unexpected explosion of thunder. He
was not so bewildered in his own hurried reflections but that he
remarked, that the deadly paleness which had occupied her neck
and temples, and such of her features as the riding-mask left
exposed, gave place to a deep and rosy suffusion; and he felt
with embarrassment that a flush was by tacit sympathy excited in
his own cheeks. The stranger, with watchfulness which he
disguised under apprehensions of the safety of his daughter,
continued to observe the expression of the Master's countenance
as they ascended the hill to Wolf's Crag. When they stood in
front of that ancient fortress, Ravenswood's emotions were of a
very complicated description; and as he led the way into the rude
courtyard, and hallooed to Caleb to give attendance, there was a
tone of sternness, almost of fierceness, which seemed somewhat
alien from the courtesies of one who is receiving honoured
Caleb came; and not the paleness of the fair stranger at the
first approach of the thunder, nor the paleness of any other
person, in any other circumstances whatever, equalled that which
overcame the thin cheeks of the disconsolate seneschal when he
beheld this accession of guests to the castle, and reflected that
the dinner hour was fast approaching. "Is he daft?" he muttered
to himself;--"is he clean daft a'thegither, to bring lords and
leddies, and a host of folk behint them, and twal o'clock
chappit?" Then approaching the Master, he craved pardon for
having permitted the rest of his people to go out to see the
hunt, observing, that "They wad never think of his lordship
coming back till mirk night, and that he dreaded they might play
"Silence, Balderstone!" said Ravenswood, sternly; "your folly is
unseasonable. Sir and madam," he said, turning to his guests,
"this old man, and a yet older and more imbecile female
domestic, form my whole retinue. Our means of refreshing you are
more scanty than even so miserable a retinue, and a dwelling so
dilapidated, might seem to promise you; but, such as they may
chance to be, you may command them."
The elder stranger, struck with the ruined and even savage
appearance of the Tower, rendered still more disconsolate by the
lowering and gloomy ksy, and perhaps not altogether unmoved by
the grave and determined voice in which their host addressed
them, looked round him anxiously, as if he half repented the
readiness with which he had accepted the offered hospitality.
But there was now no opportunity of receding from the situation
in which he had placed himself.
As for Caleb, he was so utterly stunned by his master's public
and unqualified acknowledgment of the nakedness of the land, that
for two minutes he could only mutter within his hebdomadal beard,
which had not felt the razor for six days, "He's daft--clean
daft--red wud, and awa' wit! But deil hae Caleb Balderstone,"
said he, collecting his powers of invention and resource, "if the
family shall lose credit, if he were as mad as the seven wise
masters!" He then boldly advanced, and in spite of his master's
frowns and impatience, gravely asked, "If he should not serve up
some slight refection for the young leddy, and a glass of tokay,
or old sack--or----"
"Truce to this ill-timed foolery," said the Master, sternly;
"put the horses into the stable, and interrupt us no more with
"Your honour's pleasure is to be obeyed aboon a' things," said
Caleb; "nevertheless, as for the sack and tokay which it is not
your noble guests' pleasure to accept----"
But here the voice of Bucklaw, heard even above the
clattering of hoofs and braying of horns with which it mingled,
announced that he was scaling the pathway to the Tower at the
head of the greater part of the gallant hunting train.
"The deil be in me," said Caleb, taking heart in spite of this
new invasion of Philistines, "if they shall beat me yet! The
hellicat ne'er-do-weel! to bring such a crew here, that will
expect to find brandy as plenty as ditch-water, and he kenning
sae absolutely the case in whilk we stand for the present! But I
trow, could I get rid of thae gaping gowks of flunkies that hae
won into the courtyard at the back of their betters, as mony a
man gets preferment, I could make a' right yet."
The measures which he took to execute this dauntless
resolution, the reader shall learn in the next chapter.
With throat unslaked, with black lips baked,
Agape they heard him call;
Gramercy they for joy did grin,
And all at once their breath drew in,
As they had been drinking all!
COLERIDGE'S Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
HAYSTON of Bucklaw was one of the thoughtless class who never
hesitate between their friend and their jest. When it was
announced that the principal persons of the chase had taken
their route towards Wolf's Crag, the huntsmen, as a point of
civility, offered to transfer the venison to that mansion; a
proffer which was readily accepted by Bucklaw, who thought much
of the astonishment which their arrival in full body would
occasion poor old Caleb Balderstone, and very little of the
dilemma to which he was about to expose his friend the Master, so
ill circumstanced to receive such a party. But in old Caleb he
had to do with a crafty and alert antagonist, prompt at
supplying, upon all emergencies, evasions and excuses suitable,
as he thought, to the dignity of the family.
"Praise be blest!" said Caleb to himself, "ae leaf of the muckle
gate has been swung to wi' yestreen's wind, and I think I can
manage to shut the ither."
But he was desirous, like a prudent governor, at the same time
to get rid, if possible, of the internal enemy, in which light he
considered almost every one who eat and drank, ere he took
measures to exclude those whom their jocund noise now pronounced
to be near at hand. He waited, therefore, with impatience until
his master had shown his two principal guests into the Tower, and
then commenced his operations.
"I think," he said to the stranger menials, "that, as they are
bringing the stag's head to the castle in all honour, we, who
are indwellers, should receive them at the gate."
The unwary grooms had no sooner hurried out, in compliance with
this insidous hint, than, one folding-door of the ancient gate
being already closed by the wind, as has been already intimated,
hoenst Caleb lost no time in shutting the other with a clang,
which resounded from donjon-vault to battlement. Having thus
secured the pass, he forthwith indulged the excluded
huntsmen in brief parley, from a small projecting window, or
shot-hole, through which, in former days, the warders were wont
to reconnoitre those who presented themselves before the gates.
He gave them to udnerstand, in a short and pity speech, that the
gate of the castle was never on any account opened during meal-
times; that his honour, the Master of Ravenswood, and some guests
of quality, had just sat down to dinner; that there was excellent
brandy at the hostler-wife's at Wolf's Hope down below; and he
held out some obscure hint that the reckoning would be
discharged by the Master; but this was uttered in a very dubious
and oracular strain, for, like Louis XIV., Caleb Balderstone
hesitated to carry finesse so far as direct falsehood, and was
content to deceive, if possible, without directly lying.
This annunciation was received with surprise by some, with
laughter by others, and with dismay by the expelled lackeys, who
endeavoured to demonstrate that their right of readmission, for
the purpose of waiting upon their master and mistress, was at
least indisputable. But Caleb was not in a humour to understand
or admit any distinctions. He stuck to his original proposition
with that dogged but convenient pertinacity which is armed
against all conviction, and deaf to all reasoning. Bucklaw now
came from the rear of the party, and demanded admittance in a
very angry tone. But the resolution of Caleb was immovable.
"If the king on the throne were at the gate," he declared, "his
ten fingers should never open it contrair to the established use
and wont of the family of Ravenswood, and his duty as their
Bucklaw was now extremely incensed, and with more oaths and
curses than we care to repeat, declared himself most unworthily
treated, and demanded peremptorily to speak with the Master of
But to this also Caleb turned a deaf ear. "He's as soon a-
bleeze as a tap of tow, the lad Bucklaw," he said; "but the deil
of ony master's face he shall see till he has sleepit and waken'd
on't. He'll ken himsell better the morn's morning. It sets the
like o' him, to be bringing a crew of drunken hunters here, when
he kens there is but little preparation to sloken his ain
drought." And he disappeared from the window, leaving them all
to digest their exclusion as they best might.
But another person, of whose presence Caleb, in the
animation of the debate, was not aware, had listened in silence
to its progress. This was the principal domestic of the
stranger--a man of trust and consequence--the same who, in the
hunting-field, had accommodated Bucklaw with the use of his
horse. He was in the stable when Caleb had contrived the
expulsion of his fellow-servants, and thus avoided sharing the
same fate, from which his personal importance would certainly not
have otherwise saved him.
This personage perceived the manoeuvre of Caleb, easily
appreciated the motive of his conduct, and knowing his master's
intentions towards the family of Ravenswood, had no difficulty as
to the line of conduct he ought to adopt. He took the place of
Caleb (unperceived by the latter) at the post of audience which
he had just left, and announced to the assembled domestics, "That
it was his master's pleasure that Lord Bittlebrain's retinue and
his own should go down to the adjacent change-house and call for
what refreshments they might have occasion for, and he should
take care to discharge the lawing."
The jolly troop of huntsmen retired from the inhospitable gate
of Wolf's Crag, execrating, as they descended the steep pathway,
the niggard and unworthy disposition of the proprietor, and
damning, with more than silvan license, both the castle and its
inhabitants. Bucklaw, with many qualities which would have made
him a man of worth and judgment in more favourable
circumstances, had been so utterly neglected in point of
education, that he was apt to think and feel according to the
ideas of the companions of his pleasures. The praises which had
recently been heaped upon himself he contrasted with the general
abuse now levelled against Ravenswood; he recalled to his mind
the dull and monotonous days he had spent in the Tower of Wolf's
Crag, compared with the joviality of his usual life; he felt with
great indignation his exclusion from the castle, which he
considered as a gross affront, and every mingled feeling led him
to break off the union which he had formed with the Master of
On arriving at the change-house of the village of Wolf's Hope,
he unexpectedly met with an acquaintance just alighting from his
horse. This was no other than the very respectable Captain
Craigengelt, who immediately came up to him, and, without
appearing to retain any recollection of the indifferent terms on
which they had parted, shook him by the hand in the warmest
manner possible. A warm grasp of the hand was what Bucklaw could
never help returning with cordiality, and no sooner had
Craigengelt felt the pressure of his fingers than he knew the
terms on which he stood with him.
"Long life to you, Bucklaw!" he exclaimed; "there's life for
honest folk in this bad world yet!"
The Jacobites at this period, with what propriety I know not,
used, it must be noticed, the term of HONEST MEN as peculiarly
descriptive of their own party.
"Ay, and for others besides, it seems," answered Bucklaw;
"otherways, how came you to venture hither, noble Captain?"
"Who--I? I am as free as the wind at Martinmas, that pays
neither land-rent nor annual; all is explained--all settled with
the honest old drivellers yonder of Auld Reekie. Pooh! pooh!
they dared not keep me a week of days in durance. A certain
person has better friends among them than you wot of, and can
serve a friend when it is least likely."
"Pshaw!" answered Hayston, who perfectly knew and thoroughly
despised the character of this man, "none of your cogging
gibberish; tell me truly, are you at liberty and in safety?"
"Free and safe as a Whig bailie on the causeway of his own
borough, or a canting Presbyterian minister in his own pulpit;
and I came to tell you that you need not remain in hiding any
"Then I suppose you call yourself my friend, Captain
Craigengelt?" said Bucklaw.
"Friend!" replied Craigengelt, "my cock of the pit! why, I am
thy very Achates, man, as I have heard scholars say--hand and
glove--bark and tree--thine to life and death!"
"I'll try that in a moment," answered Bucklaw. "Thou art never
without money, however thou comest by it. Lend me two pieces to
wash the dust out of these honest fellows' throats in the first
place, and then----"
"Two pieces! Twenty are at thy service, my lad, and twenty to
"Ay, say you so?" said Bucklaw, pausing, for his natural
penetration led him to susprect some extraordinary motive lay
couched under an excess of generosity. "Craigengelt, you are
either an honest fellow in right good earnest, and I scarce know
how to believe that; or you are cleverer than I took you for, and
I scarce know how to believe that either."
"L'un n'empeche pas l'autre," said Craigengelt. "Touch and
try; the gold is good as ever was weighed."
He put a quantity of gold pieces into Bucklaw's hand, which he
thrust into his pocket without either counting or looking at
them, only observing, "That he was so circumstanced that he must
enlist, though the devil offered the press-money"; and then
turning to the huntsmen, he called out, "Come along, my lads; all
is at my cost."
"Long life to Bucklaw!" shouted the men of the chase.
"And confusion to him that takes his share of the sport, and
leaves the hunters as dry as a drumhead," added another, by way
"The house of Ravenswood was ance a gude and an honourable house
in this land," said an old man; "but it's lost its credit this
day, and the Master has shown himself no better than a greedy
And with this conclusion, which was unanimously agreed to by all
who heard it, they rushed tumultuously into the house of
entertainment, where they revelled till a late hour. The jovial
temper of Bucklaw seldom permitted him to be nice in the choice
of his associates; and on the present occasion, when his joyous
debauch received additional zest from the intervention of an
unusual space of sobriety, and almost abstinence, he was as happy
in leading the revels as if his comrades had been sons of
princes. Craigengelt had his own purposes in fooling him up to
the top of his bent; and having some low humour, much impudence,
and the power of singing a good song, understanding besides
thoroughly the disposition of his regained associate, he headily
succeeded in involving him bumper-deep in the festivity of the
A very different scene was in the mean time passing in the Tower
of Wolf's Crag. When the Master of Ravenswood left the
courtyard, too much busied with his own perplexed reflections to
pay attention to the manoeuvre of Caleb, he ushered his guests
into the great hall of the castle.
The indefatigable Balderstone, who, from choice or habit, worked
on from morning to night, had by degrees cleared this desolate
apartment of the confused relics of the funeral banquet, and
restored it to some order. But not all his skill and labour, in
disposing to advantage the little furniture which remained,
could remove the dark and disconsolate appearance of those
ancient and disfurnished walls. The narrow windows, flanked by
deep indentures into the walls, seemed formed rather to exclude
than to admit the cheerful light; and the heavy and gloomy
appearance of the thunder-sky added still farther to the
As Ravenswood, with the grace of a gallant of that period, but
not without a certain stiffness and embarrassment of manner,
handed the young lady to the upper end of the apartment, her
father remained standing more near to the door, as if about to
disengage himself from his hat and cloak. At this moment the
clang of the portal was heard, a sound at which the stranger
started, stepped hastily to the window, and looked with an air of
alarm at Ravenswood, when he saw that the gate of the court was
shut, and his domestics excluded.
"You have nothing to fear, sir," said Ravenswood, gravely; "this
roof retains the means of giving protection, though not welcome.
Methinks," he added, "it is time that I should know who they are
that have thus highly honoured my ruined dwelling!"
The young lady remained silent and motionless, and the father,
to whom the question was more directly addressed, seemed in the
situation of a performer who has ventured to take upon himself a
part which he finds himself unable to present, and who comes to a
pause when it is most to be expected that he should speak. While
he endeavoured to cover his embarrassent with the exterior
ceremonials of a well-bred demeanour, it was obvious that, in
making his bow, one foot shuffled forward, as if to advance, the
other backward, as if with the purpose of escape; and as he undid
the cape of his coat, and raised his beaver from his face, his
fingers fumbled as if the one had been linked with rusted iron,
or the other had weighed equal with a stone of lead. The
darkness of the sky seemed to increase, as if to supply the want
of those mufflings which he laid aside with such evident
reluctance. The impatience of Ravenswood increased also in
proportion to the delay of the stranger, and he appeared to
agitation, though probably from a very different cause. He
laboured to restrain his desire to speak, while the stranger, to
all appearance, was at a loss for words to express what he felt
necessary to say.
At length Ravenswood's impatience broke the bounds he had
imposed upon it. "I perceive," he said, "that Sir William Ashton
is unwilling to announced himself in the Castle of Wolf's Crag."
"I had hoped it was unnecessary," said the Lord Keeper, relieved
from his silence, as a spectre by the voice of the exorcist, "and
I am obliged to you, Master of Ravenswood, for breaking the ice
at once, where circumstances--unhappy
circumstances, let me call them--rendered self-introduction
"And I am not then," said the Master of Ravenswood, gravely, "to
consider the honour of this visit as purely accidental?"
"Let us distinguish a little," said the Keeper, assuming an
appearance of ease which perhaps his heart was a stranger to;
"this is an honour which I have eagerly desired for some time,
but which I might never have obtained, save for the accident of
the storm. My daughter and I are alike grateful for this
opportunity of thanking the brave man to whom she owes her life
and I mine."
The hatred which divided the great families in the feudal times
had lost little of its bitterness, though it no longer expressed
itself in deeds of open violence. Not the feelings which
Ravenswood had begun to entertain towards Lucy Ashton, not the
hospitality due to his guests, were able entirely to subdue,
though they warmly combated, the deep passions which arose within
him at beholding his father's foe standing in the hall of the
family of which he had in a great measure accelerated the ruin.
His looks glanced from the father to the daughter with an
irresolution of which Sir William Ashton did not think it proper
to await the conclusion. He had now disembarrassed himself of
his riding-dress, and walking up to his daughter, he undid the
fastening of her mask.
"Lucy, my love," he said, raising her and leading her towards
Ravenswood, "lay aside your mask, and let us express our
gratitude to the Master openly and barefaced."
"If he will condescend to accept it," was all that Lucy uttered;
but in a tone so sweetly modulated, and which seemed to imply at
once a feeling and a forgiving of the cold reception to which
they were exposed, that, coming from a creature so innocent
andso beautiful, her words cut Ravenswood to the very heart for
his harshness. He muttered something of surprise, something of
confusion, and, ending with a warm and eager expression of his
happiness at being able to afford her shelter under his roof, he
saluted her, as the ceremonial of the time enjoined upon such
occasions. Their cheeks had touched and were withdrawn from each
other; Ravenswood had not quitted the hand which he had taken in
kindly courtesy; a blush, which attached more consequence by far
than was usual to such ceremony, still mantled on Lucy Ashton's
beautiful cheek, when the apartment was suddenly illuminated by a
flash of lightning, which seemed absolutely to swallow the
darkness of the hall. Every object might have been for an
instant seen distinctly. The slight and half-sinking form of
Lucy Ashton; the well-proportioned and stately figure of
Ravenswood, his dark features, and the fiery yet irresolute
expression of his eyes; the old arms and scutcheons which hung on
the walls of the apartment, were for an instant distinctly
visible to the Keeper by a strong red brilliant glare of light.
Its disappearance was almost instantly followed by a burst of
thunder, for the storm-cloud was very near the castle; and the
peal was so sudden and dreadful, that the old tower rocked to its
foundation, and every inmate concluded it was falling upon them.
The soot, which had not been disturbed for centuries, showered
down the huge tunnelled chimneys; lime and dust flew in clouds
from the wall; and, whether the lightning had actually struck the
castle or whether through the violent concussion of the air,
several heavy stones were hurled from the mouldering battlements
into the roaring sea beneath. It might seem as if the ancient
founder of the castle were bestriding the thunderstorm, and
proclaiming his displeasure at the reconciliation of his
descendant with the enemy of his house.
The consternation was general, and it required the efforts of
both the Lord Keeper and Ravenswood to keep Lucy from
fainting. Thus was the Master a second time engaged in the most
delicate and dangerous of all tasks, that of affording support
and assistance to a beautiful and helpless being, who, as seen
before in a similar situation, had already become a favourite of
his imagination, both when awake and when slumbering. If the
genius of the house really condemned a union betwixt the Master
and his fair guest, the means by which he expressed his
sentiments were as unhappily chosen as if he had been a mere
mortal. The train of little attentions, absolutely necessary to
soothe the young lady's mind, and aid her in composing her
spirits, necessarily threw the Master of Ravenswood into such an
itnercourse with her father as was calculated, for the moment at
least, to break down the barrier of feudal enemity which divided
them. To express himself churlishly, or even coldly, towards
anold man whose daughter (and SUCH a daughter) lay before them,
overpowered with natural terror--and all this under his own roof,
the thing was impossible; and by the time that Lucy, extending a
hand to each, was able to thank them for their kindness, the
Master felt that his sentiments of hostility towards the Lord
Keeper were by no means those most predominant in his bosom.
The weather, her state of health, the absence of her
attendants, all prevented the possibility of Lucy Ashton renewing
her journey to Bittlebrains House, which was full five miles
distant; and the Master of Ravenswood could not but, in common
courtesy, offer the shelter of his roof for the rest of the day
and for the night. But a flush of less soft expression, a look
much more habitual to his features, resumed predominance when he
mentioned how meanly he was provided for the entertainment of his
"Do not mention deficiencies," said the Lord Keeper, eager to
interrupt him and prevent his resuming an alarming topic; "you
are preparing to set out for the Continent, and your house is
probably for the present unfurnished. All this we understand;
but if you mention inconvenience, you will oblige us to seek
accommodations in the hamlet."
As the Master of Ravenswood was about to reply, the door of the
hall opened, and Caleb Balderstone rushed in.
Let them have meat enough, woman--half a hen;
There be old rotten pilchards--put them off too;
'Tis but a little new anointing of them,
And a strong onion, that confounds the savour.
THE thunderbolt, which had stunned all who were within hearing
of it, had only served to awaken the bold and inventive genius of
the flower of majors-domo. Almost before the clatter had ceased,
and while there was yet scarce an assurance whether the castle
was standing or falling, Caleb exclaimed, "Heaven be praised!
this comes to hand like the boul of a pint-stoup." He then
barred the kitchen door in the face of the Lord Keeper's
servant, whom he perceived returning from the party at the gate,
and muttering, "How the deil cam he in?--but deil may care.
Mysie, what are ye sitting shaking and greeting in the chimney-
neuk for? Come here--or stay where ye are, and skirl as loud as
ye can; it's a' ye're gude for. I say, ye auld deevil, skirl--
skirl--louder--louder, woman; gar the gentles hear ye in the ha'.
I have heard ye as far off as the Bass for a less matter. And
stay--down wi' that crockery----"
And with a sweeping blow, he threw down from a shelf some
articles of pewter and earthenware. He exalted his voice amid
the clatter, shouting and roaring in a manner which changed
Mysie's hysterical terrors of the thunder into fears that her old
fellow-servant was gone distracted. "He has dung down a' the
bits o' pigs, too--the only thing we had left to haud a soup
milk--and he has spilt the hatted hit that was for the Master's
dinner. Mercy save us, the auld man's gaen clean and clear wud
wi' the thunner!"
"Haud your tongue, ye b----!" said Caleb, in the impetuous and
overbearing triumph of successful invention, "a's provided now--
dinner and a'thing; the thunner's done a' in a clap of a hand!"
"Puir man, he's muckle astray," said Mysie, looking at him with
a mixture of pity and alarm; "I wish he may ever come come hame
to himsell again."
"Here, ye auld doited deevil," said Caleb, still exulting in his
extrication from a dilemma which had seemed insurmountable;
"keep the strange man out of the kitchen; swear the thunner came
down the chimney and spoiled the best dinner ye ever dressed--
beef--bacon--kid--lark--leveret--wild-fowl--venison, and what
not. Lay it on thick, and never mind expenses. I'll awa' up to
the la'. Make a' the confusion ye can; but be sure ye keep out
the strange servant."
With these charges to his ally, Caleb posted up to the hall, but
stopping to reconnoitre through an aperture, which time, for the
convenience of many a domestic in succession, had made in the
door, and perceiving the situation of Miss Ashton, he had
prudence enough to make a pause, both to avoid adding to her
alarm and in order to secure attention to his account of the
disastrous effects of the thunder.
But when he perceived that the lady was recovered, and heard the
conversation turn upon the accommodation and refreshment which
the castle afforded, he thought it time to burst into the room in
the manner announced in the last chapter.
"Willawins!--willawins! Such a misfortune to befa' the house of
Ravenswood, and I to live to see it."
"What is the matter, Caleb?" said his master, somewhat alarmed
in his turn; "has any part of the castle fallen?"
"Castle fa'an! na, but the sute's fa'an, and the thunner's come
right down the kitchen-lum, and the things are a' lying here
awa', there awa', like the Laird o' Hotchpotch's lands; and wi'
brave guests of honour and quality to entertain (a low bow here
to Sir William Ashton and his daughter), and
naething left in the house fit to present for dinner, or for
supper either, for aught that I can see!"
"I very believe you, Caleb," said Ravenswood, drily.
Balderstone here turned to his master a half-upbraiding, half-
imploring countenance, and edged towards him as he repeated, "It
was nae great matter of preparation; but just something added to
your honour's ordinary course of fare--petty cover, as they say
at the Louvre--three courses and the fruit."
"Keep your intolerable nonsense to yourself, you old fool!" said
Ravenswood, mortified at his officiousness, yet not knowing how
to contradict him, without the risk of giving rise to scenes yet
Caleb saw his advantage, and resolved to improve it. But first,
observing that the Lord Keeper's servant entered the apartment
and spoke apart with his master, he took the same opportunity to
whisper a few words into Ravenswood's ear: "Haud your tongue,
for heaven's sake, sir; if it's my pleasure to hazard my soul in
telling lees for the honour of the family, it's nae business o'
yours; and if ye let me gang on quietly, I'se be moderate in my
banquet; but if ye contradict me, deil but I dress ye a dinner
fit for a duke!"
Ravenswood, in fact, thought it would be best to let his
officious butler run on, who proceeded to enumerate upon his
fingers--"No muckle provision--might hae served four persons of
honour,--first course, capons in white broth--roast kid--bacon
with reverence; second course, roasted leveret--butter crabs--a
veal florentine; third course, blackcock--it's black eneugh now
wi' the sute--plumdamas--a tart--a flam--and some nonsense sweet
things, adn comfits--and that's a'," he said, seeing the
impatience of his master--"that's just a' was o't--forbye the
apples and pears."
Miss Ashton had by degrees gathered her spirits, so far as to
pay some attention to what was going on; and observing the
restrained impatience of Ravenswood, contrasted with the
peculiar determination of manner with which Caleb detailed his
imaginary banquet, the whole struck her as so ridiculous that,
despite every effort to the contrary, she burst into a fit of
incontrollable laughter, in which she was joined by her father,
though with more moderation, and finally by the Master of
Ravenswood himself, though conscious that the jest was at his own
expense. Their mirth--for a scene which we read with little
emotion often appears extremely ludicrous to the spectators--made
the old vault ring again. They ceased--they renewed--they
ceased--they renewed again their shouts of laughter! Caleb, in
the mean time, stood his ground with a grave, angry, and scornful
dignity, which greatly enhanced the ridicule of the scene and
mirth of the spectators.
At length, when the voices, and nearly the strength, of the
laughers were exhausted, he exclaimed, with very little ceremony:
"The deil's in the gentles! they breakfast sae lordly, that the
loss of the best dinner ever cook pat fingers to makes them as
merry as if it were the best jeest in a' George Buchanan. If
there was as little in your honours' wames as there is in Caleb
Balderstone's, less caickling wad serve ye on sic a gravaminous
Caleb's blunt expression of resentment again awakened the mirth
of the company, which, by the way, he regarded not only as an
agression upon the dignity of the family, but a special contempt
of the eloquence with which he himself had summed up the extent
of their supposed losses. "A description of a dinner," as he
said afterwards to Mysie, "that wad hae made a fu' man
hungry, and them to sit there laughing at it!"
"But," said Miss Ashton, composing her countenance as well as
she could, "are all these delicacies so totally destroyed that
no scrap can be collected?"
"Collected, my leddy! what wad ye collect out of the sute and
the ass? Ye may gang down yoursell, and look into our kitchen--
the cookmaid in the trembling exies--the gude vivers lying a'
about--beef, capons, and white broth--florentine and flams--bacon
wi' reverence--and a' the sweet confections and whim-whams--ye'll
see them a', my leddy--that is," said he, correcting himself,
"ye'll no see ony of them now, for the cook has soopit them up,
as was weel her part; but ye'll see the white broth where it was
spilt. I pat my fingers in it, and it tastes as like sour milk
as ony thing else; if that isna the effect of thunner, I kenna
what is. This gentleman here couldna but hear the clash of our
haill dishes, china and silver thegither?"
The Lord Keeper's domestic, though a statesman's attendant, and
of course trained to command his countenance upon all
occasions, was somewhat discomposed by this appeal, to which he
only answered by a bow.
"I think, Mr. Butler," said the Lord Keeper, who began to be
afraid lest the prolongation of this scene should at length
displease Ravenswood--"I think that, were you to retire with my
servant Lockhard--he has travelled, and is quite accustomed to
accidents and contingencies of every kind, and I hope betwixt
you, you may find out some mode of supply at this emergency."
"His honour kens," said Caleb, who, however hopeless of himself
of accomplishing what was desirable, would, like the high-
spirited elephant, rather have died in the effort than brooked
the aid of a brother in commission--"his honour kens weel I need
nae counsellor, when the honour of the house is
"I should be unjust if I denied it, Caleb," said his master;
"but your art lies chiefly in making apologies, upon which we can
no more dine than upon the bill of fare of our thunder-blasted
dinner. Now, possibly Mr. Lockhard's talent may consist in
finding some substitute for that which certainly is not, and has
in all probability never been."
"Your honour is pleased to be facetious," said Caleb, "but I am
sure that, for the warst, for a walk as far as Wolf's Hope, I
could dine forty men--no that the folk there deserve your
honour's custom. They hae been ill advised in the matter of the
duty eggs and butter, I winna deny that."
"Do go consult together," said the Master; "go down to the
village, and do the best you can. We must not let our guests
remain without refreshment, to save the honour of a ruined
family. And here, Caleb, take my purse; I believe that will
prove your best ally."
"Purse! purse, indeed!" quoth Caleb, indignantly flinging out of
the room; "what suld I do wi' your honour's purse, on your ain
grund? I trust we are no to pay for our ain?"
The servants left the hall; and the door was no sooner shut than
the Lord Keeper began to apologise for the rudeness of his
mirth; and Lucy to hope she had given no pain or offence to the
kind-hearted faithful old man.
"Caleb and I must both learn, madam, to undergo with good
humour, or at least with patience, the ridicule which everywhere
attaches itself to poverty."
"You do yourself injustice, Master of Ravenswood, on my word of
honour," answered his elder guest. "I believe I know more of
your affairs than you do yourself, and I hope to show you that I
am interested in them; and that--in short, that your prospects
are better than you apprehend. In the mean time, I can conceive
nothing so respectable as the spirit which rises above
misfortune, and prefers honourable privations to debt or
Whether from fear of offending the delicacy or awakening the
pride of the Master, the Lord Keeper made these allusions with an
appearance of fearful and hesitating reserve, and seemed to be
afraid that he was intruding too far, in venturing to touch,
however lightly, upon such a topic, even when the Master had led
to it. In short, he appeared at once pushed on by his desire of
appearing friendly, and held back by the fear of intrusion. It
was no wonder that the Master of Ravenswood, little acquainted as
he then was with life, should have given this consummate
courtier credit for more sincerity than was probably to be found
in a score of his cast. He answered, however, with reserve, that
he was indebted to all who might think well of him; and,
apologising to his guests, he left the hall, in order to make
such arrangements for their entertainment as circumstances
Upon consulting with old Mysie, the accommodations for the night
were easily completed, as indeed they admitted of little choice.
The Master surrendered his apartment for the use of Miss Ashton,
and Mysie, once a person of consequence, dressed in a black satin
gown which had belonged of yore to the Master's grandmother, and
had figured in the court-balls of Henrietta Maria, went to attend
her as lady's-maid. He next inquired after Bucklaw, and
understanding he was at the change-house with the huntsmen and
some companions, he desired Caleb to call there, and acquaint him
how he was circumstanced at Wolf's Crag; to intimate to him that
it would be most convenient if he could find a bed in the hamlet,
as the elder guest must
necessarily be quartered in the secret chamber, the only spare
bedroom which could be made fit to receive him. The Master saw
no hardship in passing the night by the hall fire, wrapt in his
campaign-cloak; and to Scottish domestics of the day, even of the
highest rank, nay, to young men of family or fashion, on any
pinch, clean straw, or a dry hayloft, was always held good night-
For the rest, Lockhard had his master's orders to bring some
venison from the inn, and Caleb was to trust to his wits for the
honour of his family. The Master, indeed, a second time held
out his purse; but, as it was in sight of the strange servant,
the butler thought himself obliged to decline what his fingers
itched to clutch. "Couldna he hae slippit it gently into my
hand?" said Caleb; "but his honour will never learn how to bear
himsell in siccan cases."
Mysie, in the mean time, according to a uniform custom in remote
places in Scotland, offered the strangers the produce of her
little dairy, "while better meat was getting ready." And
according to another custom, not yet wholly in desuetude, as the
storm was now drifting off to leeward, the Master carried the
Keeper to the top of his highest tower to admire a wide and waste
extent of view, and to "weary for his dinner."
"Now dame," quoth he, "Je vous dis sans doute,
Had I nought of a capon but the liver,
And of your white bread nought but a shiver,
And after that a roasted pigge's head
(But I ne wold for me no beast were dead),
Then had I with you homely sufferaunce."
CHAUCER, Sumner's Tale.
IT was not without some secret misgivings that Caleb set out
upon his exploratory expedition. In fact, it was attended with a
treble difficulty. He dared not tell his mast the offence which
he had that morning given to Bucklaw, just for the honour of the
family; he dared not acknowledge he had been too hasty in
refusing the purse; and, thirdly, he was somewhat apprehensive of
unpleasant consequences upon his meeting Hayston under the
impression of an affront, and probably by this time under the
influence also of no small quantity of brandy.
Caleb, to do him justice, was as bold as any lion where the
honour of the family of Ravenswood was concerned; but his was
that considerate valour which does not delight in unnecessary
risks. This, however, was a secondary consideration; the main
point was to veil the indigence of the housekeeping at the
castle, and to make good his vaunt of the cheer which his
resources could procure, without Lockhard's assistance, and
without supplies from his master. This was as prime a point of
honour with him as with the generous elephant with whom we have
already compared him, who, being overtasked, broke his skull
through the desperate exertions which he made to discharge his
duty, when he perceived they were bringing up another to his
The village which they now approached had frequently
afforded the distressed butler resources upon similar
emergencies; but his relations with it had been of late much
It was a little hamlet which straggled along the side of a creek
formed by the discharge of a small brook into the sea, and was
hidden from the castle, to which it had been in former times an
appendage, by the entervention of the shoulder of a hill forming
a projecting headland. It was called Wolf's Hope
(i.e. Wolf's Haven), and the few inhabitants gained a
precarious subsistence by manning two or three fishing-boats in
the herring season, and smuggling gin and brandy during the
winter months. They paid a kind of hereditary respect to the
Lords of Ravenswood; but, in the difficulties of the family, most
of the inhabitants of Wolf's Hope had contrived to get feu-rights
to their little possessions, their huts, kail-yards, and rights
of commonty, so that they were emancipated from the chains of
feudal dependence, and free from the various exactions with
which, under every possible pretext, or without any pretext at
all, the Scottish landlords of the period, themselves in great
poverty, were wont to harass their still poorer tenants at will.
They might be, on the whole, termed independent, a circumstance
peculiarly galling to Caleb, who had been wont to exercise over
them the same sweeping authority in levying contributions which
was exercised in former times in England, when "the royal
purveyors, sallying forth from under the Gothic portcullis to
purchase provisions with power and prerogative, instead of money,
brought home the plunder of an hundred markets, and all that
could be seized from a flying and hiding country, and deposited
their spoil in an hundred caverns."
Caleb loved the memory and resented the downfall of that
authority, which mimicked, on a petty scale, the grand
contributions exacted by the feudal sovereigns. And as he fondly
flattered himself that the awful rule and right supremacy, which
assigned to the Barons of Ravenswood the first and most effective
interest in all productions of nature within five miles of their
castle, only slumbered, and was not departed for ever, he used
every now and then to give the recollection of the inhabitants a
little jog by some petty exaction. These were at first submitted
to, with more or less readiness, by the inhabitants of the
hamlet; for they had been so long used to consider the wants of
the Baron and his family as having a title to be preferred to
their own, that their actual independence did not convey to them
an immediate sense of freedom. They resembled a man that has
been long fettered, who, even at liberty, feels in imagination
the grasp of the handcuffs still binding his wrists. But the
exercise of freedom is quickly followed with the natural
consciousness of its immunities, as the enlarged prisoner, by the
free use of his limbs, soon dispels the cramped feeling they had
acquired when bound.
The inhabitants of Wolf's Hope began to grumble, to resist, and
at length positively to refuse compliance with the exactions of
Caleb Balderstone. It was in vain he reminded them, that when
the eleventh Lord Ravenswood, called the Skipper, from his
delight in naval matters, had encouraged the trade of their port
by building the pier (a bulwark of stones rudely piled together),
which protected the fishing-boats from the weather, it had been
mattter of understanding that he was to have the first stone of
butter after the calving of every cow within the barony, and the
first egg, thence called the Monday's egg, laid by every hen on
every Monday in the year.
The feuars heard and scratched their heads, coughed,
sneezed, and being pressed for answer, rejoined with one voice,
"They could not say"--the universal refuge of a Scottish peasant
when pressed to admit a claim which his conscience owns, or
perhaps his feelings, and his interest inclines him to deny.
Caleb, however, furnished the notables of Wolf's Hope with a
note of the requisition of butter and eggs, which he claimed as
arrears of the aforesaid subsidy, or kindly aid, payable as
above mentioned; and having intimated that he would not be averse
to compound the same for goods or money, if it was inconvenient
to them to pay in kind, left them, as he hoped, to debate the
mode of assessing themselves for that purpose. On the contrary,
they met with a determined purpose of resisting the exaction, and
were only undecided as to the mode of grounding their
opposition, when the cooper, a very important person on a
fishing-station, and one of the conscript fathers of the village,
observed, "That their hens had caickled mony a day for the Lords
of Ravenswood, and it was time they suld caickle for those that
gave them roosts and barley." An unanimous grin intimated the
assent of the assembly. "And," continued the orator, "if it's
your wull, I'll just tak a step as far as Dunse for Davie
Dingwall, the writer, that's come frae the North to settle amang
us, and he'll pit this job to rights, I'se warrant him."
A day was accordingly fixed for holding a grand palaver at
Wolf's Hope on the subject of Caleb's requisitions, and he was
invited to attend at the hamlet for that purpose.
He went with open hands and empty stomach, trusting to fill the
one on his master's account and the other on his own score, at
the expense of the feuars of Wolf's Hope. But, death to his
hopes! as he entered the eastern end of the straggling village,
the awful form of Davie Dingwall, a sly, dry, hard-fisted, shrewd
country attorney, who had already acted against the family of
Ravenswood, and was a principal agent of Sir William Ashton,
trotted in at the western extremity, bestriding a leathern
portmanteau stuffed with the feu-charters of the hamlet, and
hoping he had not kept Mr. Balderstone waiting, "as he was
instructed and fully empowered to pay or receive, compound or
compensat, and, in fine, to age as accords respecting all mutual
and unsettled claims whatsoever, belonging or competent to the
Honourable Edgar Ravenswood, commonly called the Master of
"The RIGHT Honourable Edgar LORD RAVENSWOOD," said Caleb,
with great emphasis; for, though conscious he had little chance
of advantage in the conflict to ensue, he was resolved not to
sacrifice one jot of honour.
"Lord Ravenswood, then," said the man of business--"we shall not
quarrel with you about titles of courtesy--commonly called Lord
Ravenswood, or Master of Ravenswood, heritable proprietor of the
lands and barony of Wolf's Crag, on othe ne part, and to John
Whitefish and others, feuars in the town of Wolf's Hope, within
the barony aforesaid, on the other part."
Caleb was conscious, from sad experience, that he would wage a
very different strife with this mercenary champion than with the
individual feuars themselves, upon whose old recollections,
predilections, and habits of thinking he might have wrought by an
hundred indirect arguments, to which their deputy-representative
was totally insensible. The issue of the debate proved the
reality of his apprehensions. It was in vain he strained his
eloquence and ingenuity, and collected into one mass all
arguments arising from antique custom and hereditary respect,
from the good deeds done by the Lords of Ravenswood to the
community of Wolf's Hope in former days, and from what might be
expected from them in future. The writer stuck to the
contents of his feu-charters; he could not see it: 'twas not in
the bond. And when Caleb, determined to try what a little spirit
would do, deprecated the consequences of Lord Ravenswood's
withdrawing his protection from the burgh, and even hinted in his
using active measures of resentment, the man of law sneered in
"His clients," he said, "had determined to do the best they
could for their own town, and he thought Lord Ravenwood, since he
was a lord, might have enough to do to look after his own
castle. As to any threats of stouthrief oppression, by rule of
thumb, or via facti, as the law termed it, he would have Mr.
Balderstone recollect, that new times were not as old times; that
they lived on the south of the Forth, and far from the Highlands;
that his clients thought they were able to protect themselves;
but should they find themselves mistaken, they would apply to the
government for the protection of a corporal and four red-coats,
who," said Mr. Dingwall, with a grin, "would be perfectly able to
secure them against Lord Ravenswood, and all that he or his
followers could do by the strong hand."
If Caleb could have concentrated all the lightnings of
aristocracy in his eye, to have struck dead this contemner of
allegiance and privilege, he would have launched them at his
head, without respect to the consequences. As it was, he was
compelled to turn his course backward to the castle; and there he
remained for full half a day invisible and inaccessible even to
Mysie, sequestered in his own peculiar dungeon, where he sat
burnishing a single pewter plate and whistling "Maggie Lauder"
six hours without intermission.
The issue of this unfortunate requisition had shut against Caleb
all resources which could be derived from Wolf's Hope and its
purlieus, the El Dorado, or Peru, from which, in all former
cases of exigence, he had been able to extract some assistance.
He had, indeed, in a manner vowed that the deil should have him,
if ever he put the print of his foot within its causeway again.
He had hitherto kept his word; and, strange to tell, this
secession had, as he intended, in some degree, the effect of a
punishment upon the refractory feuars. Mr. Balderstone had been
a person in their eyes connected with a superior order of beings,
whose presence used to grace their little festivities, whose
advice they found useful on many ocassions, and whose
communications gave a sort of credit to their village. The
place, they ackowledged, "didna look as it used to do, and
should do, since Mr. Caleb keepit the castle sae closely; but
doubtless, touching the eggs and butter, it was a most
unreasonable demand, as Mr. Dingwall had justly made manifest."
Thus stood matters betwixt the parties, when the old butler,
though it was gall and wormwood to him, found himself obliged
either to ackowledge before a strange man of quality, and, what
was much worse, before that stranger's servant, the total
inability of Wolf's Crag to produce a dinner, or he must trust to
the compassion of the feuars of Wofl's Hope. It was a dreadful
degradation; but necessity was equally imperious and lawless.
With these feelings he entered the street of the village.
Willing to shake himself from his companion as soon as possible,
he directed Mr. Lockhard to Luckie Sma-trash's change-house,
where a din, proceeding from the revels of Bucklaw, Craigengelt,
and their party, sounded half-way down the street, while the red
glare from the window overpowered the grey twilight which was now
settling down, and glimmered against a parcel of old tubs, kegs,
and barrels, piled up in the cooper's yard, on the other side of
"If you, Mr. Lockhard," said the old butler to his
companion, "will be pleased to step to the change-house where
that light comes from, and where, as I judge, they are now
singing 'Cauld Kail in Aberdeen,' ye may do your master's errand
about the venison, and I will do mine about Bucklaw's bed, as I
return frae getting the rest of the vivers. It's no that the
venison is actually needfu'," he added, detaining his colleague
by the button, "to make up the dinner; but as a compliment to the
hunters, ye ken; and, Mr. Lockhard, if they offer ye a drink o'
yill, or a cup o' wine, or a glass o' brandy, ye'll be a wise man
to take it, in case the thunner should hae soured ours at the
castle, whilk is ower muckle to be dreaded."
He then permitted Lockhard to depart; and with foot heavy as
lead, and yet far lighter than his heart, stepped on through the
unequal street of the straggling village, meditating on whom he
ought to make his first attack. It was necessary he should find
some one with whom old acknowledged greatness should weigh more
than recent independence, and to whom his application might
appear an act of high dignity, relenting at once and soothing.
But he could not recollect an inhabitant of a mind so
constructed. "Our kail is like to be cauld eneugh too," he
reflected, as the chorus of "Cauld Kail in Aberdeen" again
reached his ears. The minister--he had got his presentation from
the late lord, but they had quarrelled about teinds; the
brewster's wife--she had trusted long, and the bill was aye
scored up, and unless the dignity of the family should actually
require it, it would be a sin to distress a widow woman. None
was so able--but, on the other hand, none was likely to be less
willing--to stand his friend upon the present occasion, than
Gibbie Girder, the man of tubs and barrels already mentioned, who
had headed the insurrection in the matter of the egg and butter
subsidy. "But a' comes o' taking folk on the right side, I
trow," quoted Caleb to himself; "and I had ance the ill hap to
say he was but a Johnny New-come in our town, and the carle bore
the family an ill-will ever since. But he married a bonny young
quean, Jean Lightbody, auld Lightbody's daughter, him that was in
the steading of Loup-the-Dyke; and auld Lightbody was married
himsell to Marion, that was about my lady in the family forty
years syne. I hae had mony a day's daffing wi' Jean's mither,
and they say she bides on wi' them. The carle has Jacobuses and
Georgiuses baith, an ane could get at them; and sure I am, it's
doing him an honour him or his never deserved at our hand, the
ungracious sumph; and if he loses by us a'thegither, he is e'en
cheap o't: he can spare it brawly."
Shaking off irresolution, therefore, and turning at once upon
his heel, Caleb walked hastily back to the cooper's house,
lifted the latch withotu ceremony, and, in a moment, found
himself behind the "hallan," or partition, from which position he
could, himself unseen, reconnoitre the interior of the "but," or
kitchen apartment, of the mansion.
Reverse of the sad menage at the Castle of Wolf's Crag, a
bickering fire roared up the cooper's chimney. His wife, on the
one side, in her pearlings and pudding-sleeves, put the last
finishing touch to her holiday's apparel, while she contemplated
a very handsome and good-humoured face in a broken mirror, raised
upon the "bink" (the shelves on which the plates are disposed)
for her special accommodation. Her mother, old Luckie Loup-the-
Dyke, "a canty carline" as was within twenty miles of her,
according to the unanimous report of the "cummers," or gossips,
sat by the fire in the full glory of a grogram gown, lammer
beads, and a clean cockernony, whiffing a snug pipe of tobacco,
and superintending the affairs of the kitchen; for--sight more
interesting to the anxious heart and craving entrails of the
desponding seneschal than either buxom dame or canty cummer--
there bubbled on the aforesaid bickering fire a huge pot, or
rather cauldron, steaming with beef and brewis; while before it
revolved two spits, turned each by one of the cooper's
apprentices, seated in the opposite corners of the chimney, the
one loaded with a quarter of mutton, while the other was graced
with a fat goose and a brace of wild ducks. The sight and scent
of such a land of plenty almost wholly overcame the drooping
spirits of Caleb. He turned, for a moment's space to reconnoitre
the "ben," or parlour end of the house, and there saw a sight
scarce less affecting to his feelings--a large round table,
covered for ten or twelve persons, decored (according to his own
favourite terms) with napery as white as snow, grand flagons of
pewter, intermixed with one or two silver cups, containing, as
something worthy the brilliancy of their outward appearance,
clean trenchers, cutty spoons, knives and forks, sharp,
burnished, and prompt for action, which lay all displayed as for
an especial festival.
"The devil's in the peddling tub-coopering carl!" muttered
Caleb, in all the envy of astonishment; "it's a shame to see the
like o' them gusting their gabs at sic a rate. But if some o'
that gude cheer does not find its way to Wolf's Crag this night,
my name is not Caleb Balderstone."
So resolving, he entered the apartment, and, in all
courteous greeting, saluted both the mother and the daughter.
Wolf's Crag was the court of the barony, Caleb prime minister at
Wolf's Crag; and it has ever been remarked that, though the
masculine subject who pays the taxes sometimes growls at the
courtiers by whom they are imposed, the said courtiers continue,
nevertheless, welcome to the fair sex, to whom they furnish the
newest small-talk and the earliest fashions. Both the dames
were, therefore, at once about old Caleb's neck, setting up their
throats together by way of welcome.
"Ay, sirs, Mr. Balderstone, and is this you? A sight of you is
gude for sair een. Sit down--sit down; the gudeman will be
blythe to see you--ye nar saw him sae cadgy in your life; but we
are to christen our bit wean the night, as ye will hae heard, and
doubtless ye will stay and see the ordinance. We hae killed a
wether, and ane o' our lads has been out wi' his gun at the moss;
ye used to like wild-fowl."
"Na, na, gudewife," said Caleb; "I just keekit in to wish ye
joy, and I wad be glad to hae spoken wi' the gudeman, but----"
moving, as if to go away.
"The ne'er a fit ye's gang," said the elder dame, laughing and
holding him fast, with a freedom which belonged to their old
acquaintance; "wha kens what ill it may bring to the bairn, if
ye owerlook it in that gate?"
"But I'm in a preceese hurry, gudewife," said the butler,
suffering himself to be dragged to a seat without much
resistance; "and as to eating," for he observed the mistress of
the dwelling bustling about to place a trencher for him-- "as for
eating--lack-a-day, we are just killed up yonder wi' eating frae
morning to night! It's shamefu' epicurism; but that's what we
hae gotten frae the English pock-puddings."
"Hout, never mind the English pock-puddings," said Luckie
Lightbody; "try our puddings, Mr. Balderstone; there is black
pudding and white-hass; try whilk ye like best."
"Baith gude--baith excellent--canna be better; but the very
smell is eneugh for me that hae dined sae lately (the faithful
wretch had fasted since daybreak). But I wadna affront your
housewifeskep, gudewife; and, with your permission, I'se e'en pit
them in my napkin, and eat them to my supper at e'en, for I am
wearied of Mysie's pastry and nonsense; ye ken landward dainties
aye pleased me best, Marion, and landward lasses too (looking at
the cooper's wife). Ne'er a bit but she looks far better than
when she married Gilbert, and then she was the bonniest lass in
our parochine and the neist till't. But gawsie cow, goodly
The women smiled at the compliment each to herself, and they
smiled again to each other as Caleb wrapt up the puddings in a
towel which he had brought with him, as a dragoon carries his
foraging bag to receive what my fall in his way.
"And what news at the castle?" quo' the gudewife.
"News! The bravest news ye ever heard--the Lord Keeper's up
yonder wi' his fair daughter, just ready to fling her at my
lord's head, if he winna tak her out o' his arms; and I'se
warrant he'll stitch our auld lands of Ravenswood to her
"Eh! sirs--ay!--and will hae her? and is she weel-favoured? and
what's the colour o' her hair? and does she wear a habit or a
railly?" were the questions which the females showered upon the
"Hout tout! it wad tak a man a day to answer a' your
questions, and I hae hardly a minute. Where's the gudeman?"
"Awa' to fetch the minister," said Mrs. Girder, "precious Mr.
Peter Bide-the-Bent, frae the Mosshead; the honest man has the
rheumatism wi' lying in the hills in the
"Ay! Whig and a mountain-man, nae less!" said Caleb, with a
peevishness he could not suppress. "I hae seen the day, Luckie,
when worthy Mr. Cuffcushion and the service-book would hae served
your turn (to the elder dame), or ony honest woman in like
"And that's true too," said Mrs. Lightbody, "but what can a body
do? Jean maun baith sing her psalms and busk her cockernony the
gate the gudeman likes, and nae ither gate; for he's maister and
mair at hame, I can tell ye, Mr. Balderstone."
"Ay, ay, and does he guide the gear too?" said Caleb, to whose
projects masculine rule boded little good.
"Ilka penny on't; but he'll dress her as dink as a daisy, as ye
see; sae she has little reason to complain: where there's ane
better aff there's ten waur."
"Aweel, gudewife," said Caleb, crestfallen, but not beaten off,
"that wasna the way ye guided your gudeman; bt ilka land has its
ain lauch. I maun be ganging. I just wanted to round in the
gudeman's lug, that I heard them say up-bye yonder that Peter
Puncheon, that was cooper to the Queen's stores at the Timmer
Burse at Leith, is dead; sae I though that maybe a word frae my
lord to the Lord Keeper might hae served Gilbert; but since he's
"O, but ye maun stay his hame-coming," said the dame. "I aye
telled the gudeman ye meant weel to him; but he taks the tout at
every bit lippening word."
"Aweel, I'll stay the last minute I can."
"And so," said the handsome young spouse of Mr. Girder, "ye
think this Miss Ashton is weel-favoured? Troth, and sae should
she, to set up for our young lord, with a face and a hand, and a
seat on his horse, that might become a king's son. D'ye ken that
he aye glowers up at my window, Mr. Balderstone, when he chaunces
to ride thro' the town? Sae I hae a right to ken what like he
is, as weel as ony body."
"I ken that brawly," said Caleb, "for I hae heard his lordship
say the cooper's wife had the blackest ee in the barony; and I
said, 'Weel may that be, my lord, for it was her mither's afore
her, as I ken to my cost.' Eh, Marion? Ha, ha, ha! Ah! these
were merry days!"
"Hout awa', auld carle," said the old dame, "to speak sic
daffing to young folk. But, Jean--fie, woman, dinna ye hear the
bairn greet? I'se warrant it's that dreary weid has come ower't
Up got mother and grandmother, and scoured away, jostling each
other as they ran, into some remote corner of the tenement,
where the young hero of the evening was deposited. When Caleb
saw the coast fairly clear, he took an invigorating pinch of
snuff, to sharpen and confirm his resolution.