Part 4 out of 8
"Cauld be my cast," thought he, "if either Bide-the-Bent or
Girder taste that broach of wild-fowl this evening"; and then
addressing the eldest turnspit, a boy of about eleven years old,
and putting a penny into his hand, he said, "Here is twal
pennies, my man; carry that ower to Mrs. Sma'trash, and bid her
fill my mill wi' snishing, and I'll turn the broche for ye in the
mean time; and she will gie ye a ginge-bread snap for your
No sooner was the elder boy departed on this mission than Caleb,
looking the remaining turnspit gravely and steadily in the face,
removed from the fire the spit bearing the wild-fowl of which he
had undertaken the charge, clapped his hat on his head, and
fairly marched off with it. he stopped at the door of the
change-house only to say, in a few brief words, that Mr. Hayston
of Bucklaw was not to expect a bed that evening in the castle.
If this message was too briefly delivered by Caleb, it became
absolute rudeness when convenyed through the medium of a suburb
landlady; and Bucklaw was, as a more calm and temperate man might
have been, highly incensed. Captain Craigengelt proposed, with
the unanimous applause of all present, that they should course
the old fox (meaning Caleb) ere he got to cover, and toss him in
a blanket. But Lockhard intimated to his
master's servants and those of Lord Bittlebrains, in a tone of
authority, that the slightest impertinence to the Master of
Ravenswood's domestic would give Sir William Ashton the highest
offence. And having so said, in a manner sufficient to prevent
any aggression on their part, he left the public-house, taking
along with him two servants loaded with such provisions as he had
been able to procure, and overtook Caleb just when he had cleared
Should I take aught of you? 'Tis true I begged now;
And what is worse than that, I stole a kindness;
And, what is worst of all, I lost my way in't.
Wit Without Money.
THE face of the little boy, sole witness of Caleb's
infringement upon the laws at once of property and hospitality,
would have made a good picture. He sat motionless, as if he had
witnessed some of the spectral appearances which he had heard
told of in a winter's evening; and as he forgot his own duty, and
allowed his spit to stand still, he added to the misfortunes of
the evening by suffering the mutton to burn as black as a coal.
He was first recalled from his trance of astonishment by a hearty
cuff administered by Dame Lightbody, who, in whatever other
respects she might conform to her name, was a woman strong of
person, and expert in the use of her hands, as some say her
deceased husband had known to his cost.
"What garr'd ye let the roast burn, ye ill-clerkit gude-for-
"I dinna ken," said the boy.
"And where's that ill-deedy gett, Giles?"
"I dinna ken," blubbered the astonished declarant.
"And where's Mr. Balderstone?--and abune a', and in the name of
council and kirk-session, that I suld say sae, where's the
broche wi' the wild-fowl?"
As Mrs. Girder here entered, and joined her mother's
exclamations, screaming into one ear while the old lady deafened
the other, they succeeded in so utterly confounding the unhappy
urchin, that he could not for some time tell his story at all,
and it was only when the elder boy returned that the truth began
to dawn on their minds.
"Weel, sirs!" said Mrs. Lightbody, "wha wad hae thought o' Caleb
Balderstone playing an auld acquaintance sic a pliskie!"
"Oh, weary on him!" said the spouse of Mr. Girder; "and what am
I to say to the gudeman? He'll brain me, if there wasna anither
woman in a' Wolf''s Hope."
"Hout tout, silly quean," said the mother; "na, na, it's come to
muckle, but it's no come to that neither; for an he brain you he
maun brain me, and I have garr'd his betters stand back. Hands
aff is fair play; we maunna heed a bit flyting."
The tramp of horses now announced the arrival of the cooper,
with the minister. They had no sooner dismounted than they made
for the kitchen fire, for the evening was cool after the
thunderstorm, and the woods wet and dirty. The young gudewife,
strong in the charms of her Sunday gown and biggonets, threw
herself in the way of receiving the first attack, while her
mother, like the veteran division of the Roman legion, remained
in the rear, ready to support her in case of necessity. Both
hoped to protract the discovery of what had happened--the mother,
by interposing her bustling person betwixt Mr. Girder and the
fire, and the daughter, by the extreme cordiality with which she
received the minister and her husband, and the anxious fears
which she expressed lest they should have "gotten cauld."
"Cauld!" quoted the husband, surlily, for he was not of that
class of lords and amsters whose wives are viceroys over them,
"we'll be cauld eneugh, I think, if ye dinna let us in to the
And so saying, he burst his way through both lines of defence;
and, as he had a careful eye over his property of every kind, he
perceived at one glance the absence of the spit with its savoury
burden. "What the deil, woman----"
"Fie for shame!" exclaimed both the women; "and before Mr. Bide-
"I stand reproved," said the cooper; "but----"
"The taking in our mouths the name of the great enemy of our
souls," said Mr. Bide-the-Bent----
"I stand reproved," said the cooper.
"--Is an exposing ourselves to his temptations," continued the
reverend monitor, "and in inviting, or, in some sort, a
compelling, of him to lay aside his other trafficking with
unhappy persons, and wait upon those in whose speech his name is
"Weel, weel, Mr. Bide-the-Bent, can a man do mair than stand
reproved?" said the cooper; "but jest let me ask the women what
for they hae dished the wild-fowl before we came."
"They arena dished, Gilbert," said his wife; "but--but an
"What accident?" said Girder, with flashing eyes. "Nae ill come
ower them, I trust? Uh?"
His wife, who stood much in awe of him, durst not reply, but her
mother bustled up to her support, with arms disposed as if they
were about to be a-kimbo at the next reply.--"I gied them to an
acquaintance of mine, Gibbie Girder; and what about it now?"
Her excess of assurance struck Girder mute for an instant. "And
YE gied the wild-fowl, the best end of our christening dinner,
to a friend of yours, ye auld rudas! And what might HIS name
be, I pray ye?"
"Just worthy Mr. Caleb Balderstone--frae Wolf's Crag," answered
Marion, prompt and prepared for battle.
Girder's wrath foamed over all restraint. If there was a
circumstance which could have added to the resentment he felt, it
was that this extravagant donation had been made in favour of
our friend Caleb, towards whom, for reasons to which the reader
is no stranger, he nourished a decided resentment. He raised his
riding-wand against the elder matron, but she stood firm,
collected in herself, and undauntedly brandished the iron ladle
with which she had just been "flambing" (Anglice, basting) the
roast of mutton. Her weapon was certainly the better, and her
arm not the weakest of the two; so that Gilbert thought it safest
to turn short off upon his wife, who had by this time hatched a
sort of hysterical whine, which greatly moved the minister, who
was in fact as simple and kind-hearted a creature as ever
breathed. "And you, ye thowless jade, to sit still and see my
substance disponed upon to an idle, drunken, reprobate, worm-
eaten serving-man, just because he kittles the lugs o' a silly
auld wife wi' useless clavers, and every twa words a lee? I'll
gar you as gude----"
Here the minister interposed, both by voice and action, while
Dame Lightbody threw herself in front of her daughter, and
flourished her ladle.
"Am I no to chastise my ain wife?" exclaimed the cooper very
"Ye may chastise your ain wife if ye like," answered Dame
Lightbody; "but ye shall never lay finger on my daughter, and
that ye may found upon."
"For shame, Mr. Girder!" said the clergyman; "this is what I
little expected to have seen of you, that you suld give rein to
your sinful passions against your nearestt and your dearest, and
this night too, when ye are called to the most solemn duty of a
Christian parent; and a' for what? For a redundancy of creature-
comforts, as worthless as they are unneedful."
"Worthless!" exclaimed the cooper. "A better guse never walkit
on stubble; two finer, dentier wild ducks never wat a feather."
"Be it sae, neighbour," rejoined the minister; "but see what
superfluities are yet revolving before your fire. I have seen
the day when ten of the bannocks which stand upon that board
would have been an acceptable dainty to as many men, that were
starving on hills and bogs, and in caves of the earth, for the
"And that's what vexes me maist of a'," said the cooper, anxious
to get some one to sympathise with his not altogether causeless
anger; "an the quean had gien it to ony suffering sant, or to ony
body ava but that reaving, lying, oppressing Tory villain, that
rade in the wicked troop of militia when it was commanded out
against the sants at Bothwell Brig by the auld tyrant Allan
Ravenswood, that is gane to his place, I wad the less hae minded
it. But to gie the principal parts o' the feast to the like o'
"Aweel, Gilbert," said the minister, "and dinna ye see a high
judgment in this? The seed of the righteous are not seen
begging their bread: think of the son of a powerful oppressor
being brought to the pass of supporting his household from your
"And, besides," said the wife, "it wasna for Lord Ravenswood
neither, an he wad hear but a body speak: it was to help to
entertain the Lord Keeper, as they ca' him, that's up yonder at
"Sir William Ashton at Wolf's Crag!" ejaculated the
astonished man of hoops and staves.
"And hand and glove wi' Lord Ravenswood," added Dame
"Doited idiot! that auld, clavering sneckdrawer wad gar ye trow
the moon is made of green cheese. The Lord Keeper and
Ravenswood! they are cat and dog, hare and hound."
"I tell ye they are man and wife, and gree better than some
others that are sae," retorted the mother-in-law; "forbye, Peter
Puncheon, that's cooper the Queen's stores, is dead, and the
place is to fill, and----"
"Od guide us, wull ye haud your skirling tongues!" said Girder,--
for we are to remark, that this explanation was given like a
catch for two voices, the younger dame, much encouraged by the
turn of the debate, taking up and repeating in a higher tone the
words as fast as they were uttered by her mother.
"The gudewife says naething but what's true, maister," said
Girder's foreman, who had come in during the fray. "I saw the
Lord Keeper's servants drinking and driving ower at Luckie
Sma'trash's, ower-bye yonder."
"And is their maister up at Wolf's Crag?" said Girder.
"Ay, troth is he," replied his man of confidence.
"And friends wi' Ravenswood?"
"It's like sae," answered the foreman, "since he is putting up
"And Peter Puncheon's dead?"
"Ay, ay, Puncheon has leaked out at last, the auld carle," said
the foreman; "mony a dribble o' brandy has gaen through him in
his day. But as for the broche and the wild-fowl, the
saddle's no aff your mare yet, maister, and I could follow and
bring it back, for Mr. Balderstone's no far aff the town yet."
"Do sae, Will; and come here, I'll tell ye what to do when ye
He relieved the females of his presence, and gave Will his
"A bonny-like thing," said the mother-in-law, as the cooper re-
entered the apartment, "to send the innocent lad after an armed
man, when ye ken Mr. Balderstone aye wears a rapier, and whiles a
dirk into the bargain."
"I trust," said the minister, "ye have reflected weel on what ye
have done, lest you should minister cause of strife, of which it
is my duty to say, he who affordeth matter, albeit he himself
striketh not, is in no manner guiltless."
"Never fash your beard, Mr. Bide-the-Bent," replied Girder; "ane
canna get their breath out here between wives and ministers. I
ken best how to turn my ain cake. Jean, serve up the dinner,
and nae mair about it."
Nor did he again allude to the deficiency in the course of the
Meantime, the foreman, mounted on his master's steed, and
charged with his special orders, pricked swiftly forth in pursuit
of the marauder Caleb. That personage, it may be imagined, did
not linger by the way. He intermitted even his dearly-beloved
chatter, for the purpose of making more haste, only assuring Mr.
Lockhard that he had made the purveyor's wife give the wild-fowl
a few turns before the fire, in case that Mysie, who had been so
much alarmed by the thunder, should not have her kitchen-grate in
full splendour. Meanwhile, alleging the necessity of being at
Wolf's Crag as soon as possible, he pushed on so fast that his
companions could scarce keep up with him. He began already to
think he was safe from pursuit, having gained the summit of the
swelling eminence which divides Wolf's Crag from the village,
when he heard the distant tread of a horse, and a voice which
shouted at intervals, "Mr. Caleb--Mr. Balderstone--Mr. Caleb
Balderstone--hollo--bide a wee!"
Caleb, it may be well believed, was in no hurry to
acknowledge the summons. First, he would not heart it, and faced
his companions down, that it was the echo of the wind; then he
said it was not worth stopping for; and, at length, halting
reluctantly, as the figure of the horseman appeared through the
shades of the evening, he bent up his whole soul to the task of
defending his prey, threw himself into an attitude of dignity,
advanced the spit, which is his grasp might with its burden seem
both spear and shield, and firmly resolved to die rather than
What was his astonishment, when the cooper's foreman, riding up
and addressing him with respect, told him: "His master was very
sorry he was absent when he came to his dwelling, and grieved
that he could not tarry the christening dinner; and that he had
taen the freedom to send a sma' runlet of sack, and ane anker of
brandy, as he understood there were guests at the castle, and
that they were short of preparation."
I have heard somewhere a story of an elderly gentleman who was
pursued by a bear that had gotten loose from its muzzle, until
completely exhausted. In a fit of desperation, he faced round
upon Bruin and lifted his cane; at the sight of which the
instinct of discipline prevailed, and the animal, instead of
tearing him to pieces, rose up upon his hind-legs and instantly
began to shuffle a saraband. Not less than the joyful surprise
of the senior, who had supposed himself in the extremity of peril
from which he was thus unexpectedly relieved, was that of our
excellent friend Caleb, when he found the pursuer intended to add
to his prize, instead of bereaving him of it. He recovered his
latitude, however, instantly, so soon as the foreman, stooping
from his nag, where he sate perched betwixt the two barrels,
whispered in his ear: "If ony thing about Peter Puncheon's place
could be airted their way, John [Gibbie] Girder wad mak it better
to the Master of Ravenswood than a pair of new gloves; and that
he wad be blythe to speak wi' Maister Balderstone on that head,
and he wad find him as pliant as a hoop-willow in a' that he
could wish of him."
Caleb heard all this without rendering any answer, except that
of all great men from Louis XIV. downwards, namely, "We will see
about it"; and then added aloud, for the edification of Mr.
Lockhard: "Your master has acted with becoming civility and
attention in forwarding the liquors, and I will not fail to
represent it properly to my Lord Ravenswood. And, my lad," he
said, "you may ride on to the castle, and if none of the servants
are returned, whilk is to be dreaded, as they make day and night
of it when they are out of sight, ye may put them into the
porter's lodge, whilk is on the right hand of the great entry;
the porter has got leave to go to see his friends, sae ye will
met no ane to steer ye."
The foreman, having received his orders, rode on; and having
deposited the casks in the deserted and ruinous porter's lodge,
he returned unquestioned by any one. Having thus executed his
master's commission, and doffed his bonnet to Caleb and his
company as he repassed them in his way to the village, he
returned to have his share of the christening festivity.
As, to the Autumn breeze's bugle sound,
Various and vague the dry leaves dance their round;
Or, from the garner-door, on ether borne,
The chaff flies devious from the winnow'd corn;
So vague, so devious, at the breath of heaven,
From their fix'd aim are mortal counsels driv'n.
WE left Caleb Balderstone in the extremity of triumph at the
success of his various achievements for the honour of the house
of Ravenswood. When he had mustered and marshalled his dishes of
divers kinds, a more royal provision had not been seen in Wolf's
Crag since the funeral feast of its deceased lord. Great was the
glory of the serving-man, as he "decored" the old oaken table
with a clean cloth, and arranged upon it carbonaded venison and
roasted wild-fowl, with a glance, every now and then, as if to
upbraid the incredulity of his master and his guests; and with
many a story, more or less true, was Lockhard that evening
regaled concerning the ancient grandeur of Wolf's Crag, and the
sway of its barons over the country in their
"A vassal scarce held a calf or a lamb his ain, till he had
first asked if the Lord of Ravenswood was pleased to accept it;
and they were obliged to ask the lord's consent before they
married in these days, and mony a merry tale they tell about that
right as weel as others. And although," said Caleb, "these times
are not like the gude auld times, when authority had its right,
yet true it is, Mr. Lockhard, and you yoursell may partly have
remarked, that we of the house of Ravenswood do our endeavour in
keeping up, by all just and lawful exertion of our baronial
authority, that due and fitting connexion betwixt superior and
vassal, whilk is in some danger of falling into desuetude, owing
to the general license and misrule of these present unhappy
"Umph!" said Mr. Lockhard; "and if I may inquire, Mr.
Balderstone, pray do you find your people at the village yonder
amenable? for I must needs say, that at Ravenswood Castle, now
pertaining to my master the Lord Keeper, ye have not left behind
ye the most compliant set of tenantry."
"Ah! but Mr. Lockhard," replied Caleb, "ye must consider there
has been a change of hands, and the auld lord might expect twa
turns frae them, when the new-comer canna get ane. A dour and
fractious set they were, thae tenants of Ravenswood, and ill to
live wi' when they dinna ken their master; and if your master
put them mad ance, the whole country will not put them down."
"Troth," said Mr. Lockhard, "an such be the case, I think the
wisest thing for us a ' wad be to hammer up a match between your
young lord and our winsome young leddy up-bye there; and Sir
William might just stitch your auld barony to her gown-sleeve,
and he wad sune cuitle another out o' somebody else, sic a lang
head as he has."
Caleb shook his head. "I wish," he said--"I wish that may
answer, Mr. Lockhard. There are auld prophecies about this house
I wad like ill to see fulfilled wi' my auld een, that has seen
evil eneugh already."
"Pshaw! never mind freits," said his brother butler; "if the
young folk liked ane anither, they wad make a winsome couple.
But, to say truth, there is a leddy sits in our hall-neuk, maun
have her hand in that as weel as in every other job. But there's
no harm in drinking to their healths, and I will fill Mrs. Mysie
a cup of Mr. Girder's canary."
While they thus enjoyed themselves in the kitchen, the company
in the hall were not less pleasantly engaged. So soon as
Ravenswood had determined upon giving the Lord Keeper such
hospitality as he had to offer, he deemed it incumbent on him to
assume the open and courteous brow of a well-pleased host. It
has been often remarked, that when a man commences by acting a
character, he frequently ends by adopting it in good earnest. In
the course of an hour or two, Ravenswood, to his own surprise,
found himself in the situation of one who frankly does his best
to entertain welcome and honoured guests. How much of this
change in his disposition was to be ascribed to the beauty and
simplicity of Miss Ashton, to the readiness with which she
accommodated herself to the inconveniences of her situation; how
much to the smooth and plausible conversation of the Lord Keeper,
remarkably gifted with those words which win the ear, must be
left to the reader's ingenuity to conjecture. But Ravenswood was
insensible to neither.
The Lord Keeper was a veteran statesman, well acquainted with
courts and cabinets, and intimate with all the various turns of
public affairs during the last eventful years of the 17th
century. He could talk, from his own knowledge, of men and
events, in a way which failed not to win attention, and had the
peculiar art, while he never said a word which committed himself,
at the same time to persuade the hearer that he was speaking
without the least shadow of scrupulous caution or reserve.
Ravenswood, in spite of his prejudices and real grounds of
resentment, felt himself at once amused and instructed in
listening to him, while the statesman, whose inward feelings had
at first so much impeded his efforts to make himself known, had
now regained all the ease and fluency of a silver-tongued lawyer
of the very highest order.
His daughter did not speak much, but she smiled; and what she
did say argued a submissive gentleness, and a desire to give
pleasure, which, to a proud man like Ravenswood, was more
fascinating than the most brilliant wit. Above all, he could not
be observe that, whether from gratitude or from some other
motive, he himself, in his deserted and unprovided hall, was as
much the object of respectful attention to his guests as he would
have been when surrounded by all the appliances and means of
hospitality proper to his high birth. All deficiencies passed
unobserved, or, if they did not escape notice, it was to praise
the substitutes which Caleb had contrived to supply the want of
the usual accommodations. Where a smile was unavoidable, it was
a very good-humoured one, and often coupled with some well-turned
compliment, to show how much the guests esteemed the merits of
their noble host, how little they thought of the inconveniences
with which they were surrounded. I am not sure whether the pride
of being found to outbalance, in virtue of his own personal
merit, all the disadvantages of fortune, did not make as
favourable an impression upon the haughty heart of the Master of
Ravenswood as the conversation of the father and the beauty of
The hour of repose arrived. The Keeper and his daughter retired
to their apartments, which were "decored" more properly than
could have been anticipated. In making the necessary
arrangements, Mysie had indeed enjoyed the assistance of a gossip
who had arrived from the village upon an exploratory expedition,
but had been arrested by Caleb, and impressed into the domestic
drudgery of the evening; so that, instead of returning home to
describe the dress and person of the grand young lady, she found
herself compelled to be active in the domestic economy of Wolf's
According to the custom of the time, the Master of
Ravenswood attended the Lord Keeper to his apartment, followed by
Caleb, who placed on the table, with all the ceremonials due to
torches of wax, two rudely-framed tallow-candles, such as in
those days were only used by the peasantry, hooped in paltry
clasps of wire, which served for candlesticks. He then
disappeared, and presently entered with two earthen flagons (the
china, he said, had been little used since my lady's time), one
filled with canary wine, the other with brandy. The canary sack,
unheeding all probabilities of detection, he declared had been
twenty years in the cellars of Wolf's Crag, "though it was not
for him to speak before their honours; the brandy--it was weel-
kenn'd liquor, as mild as mead and as strong as Sampson; it had
been in the house ever since the memorable revel, in which auld
Micklestob had been slain at the head of the stair by Jamie of
Jenklebrae, on account of the honour of the worshipful Lady
Muirend, wha was in some sort an ally of the family; natheless---
"But to cut that matter short, Mr. Caleb," said the Keeper,
"perhaps you will favour me with a ewer of water."
"God forbid your lordship should drink water in this
family," replied Caleb, "to the disgrace of so honourable an
"Nevertheless, if his lordship have a fancy," said the Master,
smiling, "I think you might indulge him; for, if I mistake not,
there has been water drank here at no distant date, and with good
"To be sure, if his lordship has a fancy," said Caleb; and re-
entering with a jug of pure element--"He will scarce find such
water onywhere as is drawn frae the well at Wolf's Crag;
"Nevertheless, we must leave the Lord Keeper to his repose in
this poor chamber of ours," said the Master of Ravenswood,
interrupting his talkative domestic, who immediately turning to
the doorway, with a profound reverence, prepared to usher his
master from the secret chamber.
But the Lord Keeper prevented his host's departure.--"I have but
one word to say to the Master of Ravenswood, Mr. Caleb, and I
fancy he will excuse your waiting."
With a second reverence, lower than the former, Caleb withdrew;
and his master stood motionless, expecting, with considerable
embarrassment, what was to close the events of a day fraught with
"Master of Ravenswood," said Sir William Ashton, with some
embarrassment, "I hope you understand the Christian law too well
to suffer the sun to set upon your anger."
The Master blushed and replied, "He had no occasion that evening
to exercise the duty enjoined upon him by his Christian faith."
"I should have thought otherwise," said his guest,
"considering the various subjects of dispute and litigation which
have unhappily occurred more frequently than was desirable or
necessary betwixt the late honourable lord, your father, and
"I could wish, my lord," said Ravenswood, agitated by suppressed
emotion, "that reference to these circumstances should be made
anywhere rather than under my father's roof."
"I should have felt the delicacy of this appeal at another
time," said Sir William Ashton, "but now I must proceed with what
I mean to say. I have suffered too much in my own mind, from the
false delicacy which prevented my soliciting with earnestness,
what indeed I frequently requested, a personal communing with
your father: much distress of mind to him and to me might have
"It is true," said Ravenswood, after a moment's reflection, "I
have heard my father say your lordship had proposed a personal
"Proposed, my dear Master? I did indeed propose it; but I ought
to have begged, entreated, beseeched it. I ought to have torn
away the veil, which interested persons had stretched betwixt us,
and shown myself as I was, willing to sacrifice a considerable
part even of my legal rights, in order to conciliate feelings so
natural as his must be allowed to have been. Let me say for
myself, my young friend, for so I will call you, that had your
father and I spent the same time together which my good fortune
has allowed me to-day to pass in your company, it is possible the
land might yet have enjoyed one of the most
respectable of its ancient nobility, and I should have been
spared the pain of parting in enmity from a person whose general
character I so much admired and honoured."
He put his handkerchief to his eyes. Ravenswood also was moved,
but awaited in silence the progress of this extraordinary
"It is necessary," continued the Lord Keeper, "and proper that
you should understand, that there have been many points betwixt
us, in which, although I judged it proper that there should be an
exact ascertainment of my legal rights by the decree of a court
of justice, yet it was never my intention to press them beyond
the verge of equity."
"My lord," said the Master of Ravenswood, "it is unnecessary to
pursue this topic farther. What the law will give you, or has
given you, you enjoy--or you shall enjoy; neither my father nor
I myself would have received anything on the footing of favour."
"Favour! No, you misunderstand me," resumed the Keeper; "or
rather you are no lawyer. A right may be good in law, and
ascertained to be so, which yet a man of honour may not in every
case care to avail himself of."
"I am sorry for it, my lord," said the Master.
"Nay, nay," retorted his guest, "you speak like a young
counsellor; your spirit goes before your wit. There are many
things still open for decision betwixt us. Can you blame me, an
old man desirous of peace, and in the castle of a young nobleman
who has saved my daughter's life and my own, that I am desirous,
anxiously desirous, that these should be settled on the most
The old man kept fast hold of the Master's passive hand as he
spoke, and made it impossible for him, be his predetermination
what it would, to return any other than an acquiescent reply; and
wishing his guest good-night, he postponed farther conference
until the next morning.
Ravenswood hurried into the hall, where he was to spend the
night, and for a time traversed its pavement with a
disordered and rapid pace. His mortal foe was under his roof,
yet his sentiments towards him were neither those of a feudal
enemy nor of a true Christian. He felt as if he could neither
forgive him in the one character, nor follow forth his vengeance
in the other, but that he was making a base and dishonourable
composition betwixt his resentment against the father and his
affection for his daughter. He cursed himself, as he hurried to
and fro in the pale moonlight, and more ruddy gleams of the
expiring wood-fire. He threw open and shut the latticed windows
with violence, as if alike impatient of the admission and
exclusion of free air. At length, however, the torrent of
passion foamed off its madness, and he flung himself into the
chair which he proposed as his place of repose for the night.
"If, in reality," such were the calmer thoughts that
followed the first tempest of his pasion--"if, in reality, this
man desires no more than the law allows him--if he is willing to
adjust even his acknowledged rights upon an equitable footing,
what could be my father's cause of complaint?--what is mine?
Those from who we won our ancient possessions fell under the
sword of my ancestors, and left lands and livings to the
conquerors; we sink under the force of the law, now too powerful
for the Scottish cavalry. Let us parley with the victors of the
day, as if we had been besieged in our fortress, and without hope
of relief. This man may be other than I have thought him; and
his daughter--but I have resolved not to think of her."
He wrapt his cloak around him, fell asleep, and dreamed of Lucy
Ashton till daylight gleamed through the lattices.
We worldly men, when we see friends and kinsmen
Past hope sunk in their fortunes, lend no hand
To lift them up, but rather set our feet
Upon their heads to press them to the bottom,
As I must yield with you I practised it;
But now I see you in a way to rise,
I can and will assist you.
New Way to Pay Old Debts.
THE Lord Keeper carried with him, to a couch harder than he was
accustomed to stretch himself upon, the same ambitious thoughts
and political perplexities which drive sleep from the softest
down that ever spread a bed of state. He had sailed long enough
amid the contending tides and currents of the time to be
sensible of their peril, and of the necessity of trimming his
vessel to the prevailing wind, if he would have her escape
shipwreck in the storm. The nature of his talents, and the
timorousness of disposition connected with them, had made him
assume the pliability of the versatile old Earl of Northampton,
who explained the art by which he kept his ground during all the
changes of state, from the reign of Henry VIII. to that of
Elizabeth, by the frank avowal, that he was born of the willow,
not of the oak. It had accordingly been Sir William Ashton's
policy, on all occasions, to watch the changes in the political
horizon, and, ere yet the conflict was decided, to negotiate some
interest for himself with the party most likely to prove
victorious. His time-serving disposition was well-known, and
excited the contempt of the more daring leaders of both factions
in the state. But his talents were of a useful and practical
kind, and his legal knowledge held in high estimation; and they
so far counterbalanced other deficiencies that those in power
were glad to use and to reward, though without absolutely
trusting or greating respecting, him.
The Marquis of A---- had used his utmost influence to effect a
change in the Scottish cabinet, and his schemes had been of late
so well laid and so ably supported, that there appeared a very
great chance of his proving ultimately
successful. He did not, however, feel so strong or so confident
as to neglect any means of drawing recruits to his standard. The
acquisition of the Lord Keeper was deemed of some importance, and
a friend, perfectly acquainted with his circumstances and
character, became responsible for his political conversion.
When this gentleman arrived at Ravenswood Castle upon a visit,
the real purpose of which was disguised under general courtesy,
he found the prevailing fear which at present beset the Lord
Keeper was that of danger to his own person from the Master of
Ravenswood. The language which the blind sibyl, Old Alice, had
used; the sudden appearance of the Master, armed, and within his
precincts, immediately after he had been warned against danger
from him; the cold and haughty return received in exchange for
the acknowledgments with which he loaded him for his timely
protection, had all made a strong impression on his imagination.
So soon as the Marquis's political agent found how the wind
sate, he began to insinuate fears and doubts of another kind,
scarce less calculated to affect the Lord Keeper. He inquired
with seeming interest, whether the proceedings in Sir William's
complicated litigation with the Ravenswood family were out of
court, and settled without the possibility of appeal. The Lord
Keeper answered in the affirmative; but his interrogator was too
well informed to be imposed upon. He pointed out to him, by
unanswerable arguments, that some of the most important points
which had been decided in his favour against the house of
Ravenswood were liable, under the Treaty of Union, to be reviewed
by the British House of Peers, a court of equity of which the
Lord Keeper felt an instinctive dread. This course came instead
of an appeal to the old Scottish Parliament, or, as it was
technically termed, "a protestation for remeid in law."
The Lord Keeper, after he had for some time disputed the
legality of such a proceeding, was compelled, at length, to
comfort himself with the improbability of the young Master of
Ravenswood's finding friends in parliament capable of stirring
in so weighty an affair.
"Do not comfort yourself with that false hope," said his wily
friend; "it is possible that, in the next session of
Parliament, young Ravenswood may find more friends and favour
even than your lordship."
"That would be a sight worth seeing," said the Keeper,
"And yet," said his friend, "such things have been seen ere now,
and in our own time. There are many at the head of affairs even
now that a few years ago were under hiding for their lives; and
many a man now dines on plate of silver that was fain to eat his
crowdy without a bicker; and many a high head has been brought
full low among us in as short a space. Scott of Scotsarvet's
Staggering State of Scots Statesmen, of which curious memoir you
showed me a manuscript, has been outstaggered in our time."
The Lord Keeper answered with a deep sigh, "That these mutations
were no new sights in Scotland, and had been witnessed long
before the time of the satirical author he had quoted. It was
many a long year," he said, "since Fordun had quoted as an
ancient proverb, 'Neque dives, neque fortis, sed nec sapiens
Scotus, praedominante invidia, diu durabit in terra.'"
"And be assured, my esteemed friend," was the answer, "that even
your long services to the state, or deep legal knowledge, will
not save you, or render your estate stable, if the Marquis of A--
-- comes in with a party in the British Parliament. You know
that the deceased Lord Ravenswood was his near ally, his lady
being fifth in descent from the Knight of Tillibardine; and I am
well assured that he will take young Ravenswood by the hand, and
be his very good lord and kinsman. Why should he not? The
Master is an active and stirring young fellow, able to help
himself with tongue and hands; and it is such as he that finds
friends among their kindred, and not those unarmed and unable
Mephibosheths that are sure to be a burden to every one that
takes them up. And so, if these Ravenswood cases be called over
the coals in the House of Peers, you will find that the Marquis
will have a crow to pluck with you."
"That would be an evil requital," said the Lord Keeper, "for my
long services to the state, and the ancient respect in which I
have held his lordship's honourable family and person."
"Ay, but," rejoined the agent of the Marquis, "it is in vain to
look back on past service and auld respect, my lord; it will be
present service and immediate proofs of regard which, in these
sliddery times, will be expected by a man like the Marquis."
The Lord Keeper now saw the full drift of his friend's argument,
but he was too cautious to return any positive answer.
"He knew not," he said, "the service which the Lord Marquis
could expect from one of his limited abilities, that had not
always stood at his command, still saving and reserving his duty
to his king and country."
Having thus said nothing, while he seemed to say everything, for
the exception was calculated to cover whatever he might
afterwards think proper to bring under it, Sir William Ashton
changed the conversation, nor did he again permit the same topic
to be introduced. His guest departed, without having brought the
wily old statesman the length of committing himself, or of
pledging himself to any future line of conduct, but with the
certainty that he had alarmed his fears in a most sensible point,
and laid a foundation for future and farther treaty.
When he rendered an account of his negotiation to the Marquis,
they both agreed that the Keeper ought not to be
permitted to relapse into security, and that he should be plied
with new subjects of alarm, especially during the absence of his
lady. They were well aware that her proud, vindictive, and
predominating spirit would be likely to supply him with the
courage in which he was deficient; that she was immovably
attached to the party now in power, with whom she maintained a
close correspondence and alliance; and that she hated, without
fearing, the Ravenswood family (whose more ancient dignity threw
discredit on the newly acquired grandeur of her husband) to such
a degree that she would have perilled the interest of her own
house to have the prospect of altogether crushing that of her
But Lady Ashton was now absent. The business which had long
detained her in Edinburgh had afterwards induced her to travel to
London, not without the hope that she might contribute her share
to disconcert the intrigues of the Marquis at court; for she
stood high in favour with the celebrated Sarah Duchesss of
Marlborough, to whom, in point of character, she bore
considerable resemblance. It was necessary to press her husband
hard before her return; and, as a preparatory step, the Marquis
wrote to the Master of Ravenswood the letter which we rehearsed
in a former chapter. It was cautiously worded, so as to leave it
in the power of the writer hereafter to take as deep or as slight
an interest in the fortunes of his kinsmen as the progress of his
own schemes might require. But however unwilling, as a
statesman, the Marquis might be to commit himself, or assume the
character of a patron, while he had nothing to give away, it must
be said to his honour that he felt a strong inclination
effectually to befriend the Master of Ravenswood, as well as to
use his name as a means of alarming the terrors of the Lord
As the messenger who carried this letter was to pass near the
house of the Lord Keeper, he had it in direction that, in the
village adjoining to the park-gate of the castle, his horse
should lose a shoe, and that, while it was replaced by the smith
of the place, he should express the utmost regret for the
necessary loss of time, and in the vehemence of his impatience
give it to be understood that he was bearing a message from the
Marquis of A---- to the Master of Ravenswood upon a matter of
life and death.
This news, with exaggerations, was speedily carried from various
quarters to the ears of the Lord Keeper, and each
reporter dwelt upon the extreme impatience of the courier, and
the surprising short time in which he had executed his journey.
The anxious statesman heard in silence; but in private Lockhard
received orders to watch the courier on his return, to waylay him
in the village, to ply him with liquor, if possible, and to use
all means, fair or foul, to learn the contents of the letter of
which he was the bearer. But as this plot had been foreseen, the
messenger returned by a different and distant road, and thus
escaped the snare that was laid for him.
After he had been in vain expected for some time, Mr. Dingwall
had orders to made especial inquiry among his clients of Wolf's
Hope, whether such a domestic belonging to the Marquis of A----
had actually arrived at the neighbouring castle. This was
easily ascertained; for Caleb had been in the village one morning
by five o'clock, to borrow "twa chappins of ale and a kipper" for
the messenger's refreshment, and the poor fellow had been ill for
twenty-four hours at Luckie Sma'trash's, in consequence of dining
upon "saut saumon and sour drink." So that the existence of a
correspondence betwixt the Marquis and his distressed kinsman,
which Sir William Ashton had sometimes treated as a bugbear, was
proved beyond the possibility of further doubt.
The alarm of the Lord Keeper became very serious; since the
Claim of Right, the power of appealing from the decisions of the
civil court to the Estates of Parliament, which had formerly
been held incompetent, had in many instances been claimed, and in
some allowed, and he had no small reason to apprehend the issue,
if the English House of Lords should be disposed to act upon an
appeal from the Master of Ravenswood "for remeid in law." It
would resolve into an equitable claim, and be decided, perhaps,
upon the broad principles of justice, which were not quite so
favourable to the Lord Keeper as those of strict law. Besides,
judging, though most inaccurately, from courts which he had
himself known in the unhappy times preceding the Scottish Union,
the Keeper might have too much right to think that, in the House
to which his lawsuits were to be transferred, the old maxim might
prevail which was too well recognised in Scotland in former
times: "Show me the man, and I'll show you the law." The high
and unbiassed character of English judicial proceedings was then
little known in Scotland, and the extension of them to that
country was one of the most valuable advantages which it gained
by the Union. But this was a blessing which the Lord Keeper, who
had lived under another system, could not have the means of
foreseeing. In the loss of his political
consequence, he anticipated the loss of his lawsuit. Meanwhile,
every report which reached him served to render the success of
the Marquis's intrigues the more probable, and the Lord Keeper
began to think it indispensable that he should look round for
some kind of protection against the coming storm. The timidity
of his temper induced him to adopt measures of compromise and
conciliation. The affair of the wild bull, properly managed,
might, he thought, be made to facilitate a personal communication
and reconciliation betwixt the Master and himself. He would then
learn, if possible, what his own ideas were of the extent of his
rights, and the means of enforcing them; and perhaps matters
might be brought to a compromise, where one party was wealthy and
the other so very poor. A reconciliation with Ravenswood was
likely to give him an opportunity to play his own game with the
Marquis of A----. "And besides," said he to himself, "it will be
an act of generosity to raise up the heir of this distressed
family; and if he is to be warmly and effectually befriended by
the new government, who knows but my virtue may prove its own
Thus thought Sir William Ashton, covering with no unusual self-
delusion his interested views with a hue of virtue; and having
attained this point, his fancy strayed still farther. He began
to bethink himself, "That if Ravenswood was to have a
distinguished place of power and trust, and if such a union would
sopite the heavier part of his unadjusted claims, there might be
worse matches for his daughter Lucy: the Master might be reponed
against the attainder. Lord Ravenswood was an ancient title, and
the alliance would, in some measure, legitimate his own
possession of the greater part of the Master's spoils, and make
the surrender of the rest a subject of less bitter regret."
With these mingled and multifarious plans occupying his head,
the Lord Keeper availed himself of my Lord Bittlebrains's
repeated invitation to his residence, and thus came within a very
few miles of Wolf's Crag. Here he found the lord of the mansion
absent, but was couteously received by the lady, who expected her
husband's immediate return. She expressed her particular delight
at seeing Miss Ashton, and appointed the hounds to be taken out
for the Lord Keeper's special amusement. He readily entered into
the proposal, as giving him an
opportunity to reconnoitre Wolf's Crag, and perhaps to make some
acquaintance with the owner, if he should be tempted from his
desolate mansion by the chase. Lockhard had his orders to
endeavour on his part to make some acquaintance with the inmates
of the castle, and we have seen how he played his part.
The accidental storm did more to further the Lord Keeper's plan
of forming a personal acquaintance with young Ravenswood than his
most sanguine expectations could have anticipated. His fear of
the young nobleman's personal resentment had greatly decreased
since he considered him as formidable from his legal claims and
the means he might have of enforcing them. But although he
thought, not unreasonably, that only desperate circumstances
drove men on desperate measures, it was not without a secret
terror, which shook his heart within him, that he first felt
himself inclosed within the desolate Tower of Wolf's Crag; a
place so well fitted, from solitude and strength, to be a scene
of violence and vengeance. The stern reception at first given to
them by the Master of Ravenswood, and the difficulty he felt in
explaining to that injured nobleman what guests were under the
shelter of his roof, did not soothe these alarms; so that when
Sir William Ashton heard the door of the courtyard shut behind
him with violence, the words of Alice rung in his ears, "That he
had drawn on matters too hardly with so fierce a race as those of
Ravenswood, and that they would bide their time to be avenged."
The subsequent frankness of the Master's hospitality, as their
acquaintance increased, abated the apprehensions these
recollections were calculated to excite; and it did not escape
Sir William Ashton, that it was to Lucy's grace and beauty he
owed the change in their host's behavior.
All these thoughts thronged upon him when he took possession of
the secret chamber. The iron lamp, the unfurnished apartment,
more resembling a prison than a place of ordinary repose, the
hoarse and ceaseless sound of the waves rushing against the base
of the rock on which the castle was founded, saddened and
perplexed his mind. To his own successful
machinations, the ruin of the family had been in a great measure
owing, but his disposition was crafty, and not cruel; so that
actually to witness the desolation and distress he had himself
occasioned was as painful to him as it would be to the humane
mistress of a family to superintend in person the execution of
the lambs and poultry which are killed by her own directions. At
the same time, when he thought of the alternative of restoring to
Ravenswood a large proportion of his spoils, or of adopting, as
an ally and member of his own family, the heir of this
impoverished house, he felt as the spider may be supposed to do
when his whole web, the intricacies of whyich had been planned
with so much art, is destroyed by the chance sweep of a broom.
And then, if he should commit himself too far in this matter, it
gave rise to a perilous question, which many a good husband, when
under temptation to act as a free agent, has asked himself
without being able to return a satisfactory answer: "What will
my wife--what will Lady Ashton say?" On the whole, he came at
length to the resolution in which minds of a weaker cast so often
take refuge. He resolved to watch events, to take advantage of
circumstances as they occurred, and regulate his conduct
accordingly. In this spirit of temporising policy, he at length
composed his mind to rest.
A slight note I have about me for you, for the delivery of which
you must excuse me. It is an offer that friendship calls upon me
to do, and no way offensive to you, since I desire nothing but
right upon both sides.
King and no King.
WHEN Ravenswood and his guest met in the morning, the gloom of
the Master's spirit had in part returned. He, also, had passed a
night rather of reflection that of slumber; and the feelings
which he could not but entertain towards Lucy Ashton had to
support a severe conflict against those which he had so long
nourished against her father. To clasp in friendship the hand of
the enemy of his house, to entertain him under his roof, to
exchange with him the courtesies and the kindness of domestic
familiarity, was a degradation which his proud spirit could not
be bent to without a struggle.
But the ice being once broken, the Lord Keeper was resolved it
should not have time against to freeze. It had been part of his
plan to stun and confuse Ravenswood's ideas, by a
complicated and technical statement of the matters which had been
in debate betwixt their families, justly thinking that it would
be difficult for a youth of his age to follow the expositions of
a practical lawyer, concerning actions of compt and reckoning,
and of multiplepoindings, and adjudications and wadsets, proper
and improper, and poindings of the ground, and declarations of
the expiry of the legal. "Thus," thought Sir William, "I shall
have all the grace of appearing perfectly communicative, while my
party will derive very little advantage from anything I may tell
him." He therefore took Ravenswood aside into the deep recess of
a window in the hall, and resuming the discourse of the proceding
evening, expressed a hope that his young friend would assume some
patience, in order to hear him enter in a minute and explanatory
detail of those unfortunate circumstances in which his late
honourable father had stood at variance with the Lord Keeper.
The Master of Ravenswood coloured highly, but was silent; and
the Lord Keeper, though not greatly approving the sudden
heightening of his auditor's complexion, commenced the history
of a bond for twenty thousand merks, advanced by his father to
the father of Allan Lord Ravenswood, and was proceeding to detail
the executorial proceedings by which this large sum had been
rendered a debitum fundi, when he was interrupted by the Master.
"It is not in this place," he said, "that I can hear Sir William
Ashton's explanation of the matters in question between us. It
is not here, where my father died of a broken heart, that I can
with decency or temper investigate the cause of his distress. I
might remember that I was a son, and forget the duties of a host.
A time, however, there must come, when these things shall be
discussed, in a place and in a presence where both of us will
have equal freedom to speak and to hear."
"Any time," the Lord Keeper said, "any place, was alike to those
who sought nothing but justice. Yet it would seem he was, in
fairness, entitled to some premonition respecting the grounds
upon which the Master proposed to impugn the whole train of legal
proceedings, which had been so well and ripely advised in the
only courts competent."
"Sir William Ashton," answered the Master, with warmth, "the
lands which you now occupy were granted to my remote ancestor for
services done with his sword against the English invaders. How
they have glided from us by a train of proceedings that seem to
be neither sale, nor mortgage, nor adjudication for debt, but a
nondescript and entangled mixture of all these rights; how annual
rent has been accumulated upon principal, and no nook or coign of
legal advantage left unoccupied, until our interest in our
hereditary property seems to have melted away like an icicle in
thaw--all this you understand better than I do. I am willing,
however, to suppose, from the frankness of your conduct towards
me, that I may in a great measure have mistaken your personal
character, and that things may have appeared right and fitting to
you, a skilful and practised lawyer, which to my ignorant
understanding seem very little short of injustice and gross
"And you, my dear Master," answered Sir William--"you, permit me
to say, have been equally misrepresented to me. I was taught to
believe you a fierce, imperious, hot-headed youth, ready, at the
slightest provocation, to throw your sword into the scales of
justice, and to appeal to those rude and forcible measures from
which civil polity has long protected the people of Scotland.
Then, since we were mutually mistaken in each other, why should
not the young nobleman be willing to listen to the old lawyer,
while, at least, he explains the points of difference betwixt
"No, my lord," answered Ravenswood; "it is in the House of
British Peers, whose honour must be equal to their rank--it is in
the court of last resort that we must parley together. The
belted lords of Britain, her ancient peers, must decide, if it is
their will that a house, not the least noble of their members,
shall be stripped of their possessions, the reward of the
patriotism of generations, as the pawn of a wretched mechanic
becomes forfeit to the usurer the instant the hour of redemption
has passed away. If they yield to the grasping severity of the
creditor, and to the gnawing usury that eats into our lands as
moths into a raiment, it will be of more evil consequence to them
and their posterity than to Edgar Ravenswood. I shall still have
my sword and my cloak, and can follow the profession of arms
wherever a trumpet shall sound."
As he pronounced these words, in a firm yet melancholy tone, he
raised his eyes, and suddenly encountered those of Lucy Ashton,
who had stolen unawares on their interview, and observed her
looks fastened on them with an expression of enthusiastic
interest and admiration, which had wrapt her for the moment
beyond the fear of discovery. The noble form and fine features
of Ravenswood, fired with the pride of birth and sense of
internal dignity, the mellow and expressive tones of his voice,
the desolate state of his fortunes, and the indifference with
which he seemed to endure and to dare the worst that might
befall, rendered him a dangerous object of contemplation for a
maiden already too much disposed to dwell upon recollections
connected with him. When their eyes encountered each other, both
blushed deeply, conscious of some strong internal emotion, an
shunned again to meet each other's looks. Sir William Ashton
had, of course, closely watched the expression of their
countenances. "I need fear," said he internally, "neither
Parliament nor protestation; I have an effectual mode of
reconciling myself with this hot-tempered young fellow, in case
he shall become formidable. The present object is, at all
events, to avoid committing ourselves. The hook is fixed; we
will nto strain the line too soon: it is as well to reserve the
privilege of slipping it loose, if we do not find the fish worth
In this selfish and cruel calculation upon the supposed
attachment of Ravenswood to Lucy, he was so far from considering
the pain he might give to the former, by thus dallying with his
affections, that he even did not think upon the risk of involving
his own daughter in the perils of an unfortunate passion; as if
her predilection, which could not escape his attention, were like
the flame of a taper which might be lighted or extinguished at
pleasure. But Providence had prepared a dreadful requital for
this keen observer of human passions, who had spent his life in
securing advantages to himself by artfully working upon the
passions of others.
Caleb Balderstone now came to announce that breakfast was
prepared; for in those days of substantial feeding, the relics of
the supper simply furnished forth the morning meal. Neither did
he forget to present to the Lord Keeper, with great reverence, a
morning draught in a large pewter cup, garnished with leaves of
parsley and scurvy-grass. He craved pardon, of course, for
having omitted to serve it in the great silver standing cup as
behoved, being that it was at present in a silversmith's in
Edinburgh, for the purpose of being overlaid with gilt.
"In Edinburgh like enough," said Ravenswood; "but in what place,
or for what purpose, I am afraid neither you nor I know."
"Aweel!" said Caleb, peevishly, "there's a man standing at the
gate already this morning--that's ae thing that I ken. Does
your honour ken whether ye will speak wi' him or no?"
"Does he wish to speak with me, Caleb?"
"Less will no serve him," said Caleb; "but ye had best take a
visie of him through the wicket before opening the gate; it's no
every ane we suld let into this castle."
"What! do you suppose him to be a messenger come to arrest me
for debt?" said Ravenswood.
"A messenger arrest your honour for debt, and in your Castle of
Wolf's Crag! Your honour is jesting wi' auld Caleb this
morning." However, he whispered in his ear, as he followed him
out, "I would be loth to do ony decent man a
prejudice in your honour's gude opinion; but I would tak twa
looks o' that chield before I let him within these walls."
He was not an officer of the law, however; being no less a
person than Captain Craigengelt, with his nose as red as a
comfortable cup of brandy could make it, his laced cocked hat set
a little aside upon the top of his black riding periwig, a sword
by his side and pistols at his holsters, and his person arrayed
in a riding suit, laid over with tarnished lace--the very moral
of one who would say, "Stand to a true man."
When the Master had recognised him, he ordered the gates to be
opened. "I suppose," he said, "Captain Craigengelt, there are
no such weighty matters betwixt you and me, but may be discussed
in this place. I have company in the castle at present, and the
terms upon which we last parted must excuse my asking you to make
part of them."
Craigengelt, although possessing the very perfection of
impudence, was somewhat abashed by this unfavourable reception.
"He had no intention," he said, "to force himself upon the
Master of Ravenswood's hospitality; he was in the honourable
service of bearing a message to him from a friend, otherwise the
Master of Ravenswood should not have had reason to complain of
"Let it be short, sir," said the Master, "for that will be the
best apology. Who is the gentleman who is so fortunate as to
have your services as a messenger?"
"My friend, Mr. Hayston of Bucklaw," answered Craigengelt, with
conscious importance, and that confidence which the
acknowledged courage of his principal inspired, "who conceives
himself to have been treated by you with something much short of
the respect which he had reason to demand, and, therefore is
resolved to exact satisfaction. I bring with me," said he,
taking a piece of paper out of his pocket, "the precise length of
his sword; and he requests you will meet him, accompanied by a
friend, and equally armed, at any place within a mile of the
castle, when I shall give attendance as umpire, or second, on his
"Satisfaction! and equal arms!" repeated Ravenswood, who, the
reader will recollect, had no reason to suppose he had given the
slightest offence to his late intimate; "upon my word, Captain
Craigengelt, either you have invented the most improbable
falsehood that ever came into the mind of such a person, or your
morning draught has been somewhat of the strongest. What could
persuade Bucklaw to send me such a message?"
"For that, sir," replied Craigengelt, "I am desired to refer you
to what, in duty to my friend, I am to term your
inhospitality in excluding him from your house, without reasons
"It is impossible," replied the Master; "he cannot be such a
fool as to interpret actual necessity as an insult. Nor do I
believe that, knowing my opinion of you, Captain, he would have
employed the services of so slight and inconsiderable a person as
yourself upon such an errand, as I certainly could expect no man
of honour to act with you in the office of umpire."
"I slight and inconsiderable?" said Craigengelt, raising his
voice, and laying his hand on his cutlass; "if it were not that
the quarrel of my friend craves the precedence, and is in
dependence before my own, I would give you to understand----"
"I can understand nothing upon your explanation, Captain
Craigengelt. Be satisfied of that, and oblige me with your
"D----n!" muttered the bully; "and is this the answer which I am
to carry back to an honourable message?"
"Tell the Laird of Bucklaw," answered Ravenswood, "if you are
really sent by him, that, when he sends me his cause of
grievance by a person fitting to carry such an errand betwixt him
and me, I will either explain it or maintain it."
"Then, Master, you will at least cause to be returned to
Hayston, by my hands, his property which is remaining in your
"Whatever property Bucklaw may have left behind him, sir,"
replied the Master, "shall be returned to him by my servant, as
you do not show me any credentials from him which entitle you to
"Well, Master," said Captain Craigengelt, with malice which even
his fear of the consequences could not suppress, "you have this
morning done me an egregious wrong adn dishonour, but far more to
yourself. A castle indeed!" he continued, looking around him;
"why, this is worse than a coupe-gorge house, where they
receive travellers to plunder them of their property."
"You insolent rascal," said the Master, raising his cane, and
making a grasp at the Captain's bridle, "if you do not depart
without uttering another syllable, I will batoon you to death!"
At the motion of the Master towards him, the bully turned so
rapidly round, that with some difficulty he escaped throwing down
his horse, whose hoofs struck fire from the rocky pavement in
every direction. Recovering him, however, with the bridle, he
pushed for the gate, and rode sharply back again in the direction
of the village.
As Ravenswood turned round to leave the courtyard after this
dialogue, he found that the Lord Keeper had descended from the
hall, and witnessed, though at the distance prescribed by
politeness, his interview with Craigengelt.
"I have seen," said the Lord Keeper, "that gentleman's face, and
at no great distance of time; his name is Craig--Craig--
something, is it not?"
"Craigengelt is the fellow's name," said the Master, "at least
that by which he passes at present."
"Craig-in-guilt," said Caleb, punning upon the word "craig,"
which in Scotch signifies throat; "if he is Craig-in-guilt just
now, he is as likely to be Craig-in-peril as ony chield I ever
saw; the loon has woodie written on his very visnomy, and I wad
wager twa and a plack that hemp plaits his cravat yet."
"You understand physiognomy, good Mr. Caleb," said the Keeper,
smiling; "I assure you the gentleman has been near such a
consummation before now; for I most distinctly recollect that,
upon occasion of a journey which I made about a fortnight ago to
Edinburgh, I saw Mr. Craigengelt, or whatever is his name,
undergo a severe examination before the privy council."
"Upon what account?" said the Master of Ravenswood, with some
The question led immediately to a tale which the Lord Keeper had
been very anxious to introduce, when he could find a graceful
and fitting opportunity. He took hold of the Master's arm, and
led him back towards the hall. "The answer to your question," he
said, "though it is a ridiculous business, is only fit for your
As they entered the hall, he again took the Master apart into
one of the recesses of the window, where it will be easily
believed that Miss Ashton did not venture again to intrude upon
Here is a father now,
Will truck his daughter for a foreign venture,
Make her the stop-gap to some canker'd feud,
Or fling her o'er, like Jonah, to the fishes,
To appease the sea at highest.
THE Lord Keeper opened his discourse with an appearance of
unconcern, marking, however, very carefully, the effect of his
communication upon young Ravenswood.
"You are aware," he said, "my young friend, that suspicion is
the natural vice of our unsettled times, and exposes the best
and wisest of us to the imposition of artful rascals. If I had
been disposed to listen to such the other day, or even if I had
been the wily politicians which you have been taught to believe
me, you, Master of Ravenswood, instead of being at freedom, and
with fully liberty to solicit and act against me as you please,
in defence of what you suppose to be your rights, would have been
in the Castle of Edinburgh, or some other state prison; or, if
you had escaped that destiny, it must have been by flight to a
foreign country, and at the risk of a sentence of fugitation."
"My Lord Keeper," said the Master, "I think you would not jest
on such a subject; yet it seems impossible you can be in
"Innocence," said the Lord Keeper, "is also confident, and
sometimes, though very excusably, presumptuously so."
"I do not understand," said Ravenswood, "how a consciouness of
innocence can be, in any case, accounted presumtuous."
"Imprudent, at least, it may be called," said Sir William
Ashton, "since it is apt to lead us into the mistake of
supposeing that sufficiently evident to others of which, in fact,
we are only conscious ourselves. I have known a rogue, for this
very reason, make a better defence than an innocent man could
have done in the same circumstances of suspicion. Having no
consciousness of innocence to support him, such a fellow applies
himself to all the advantages which the law will afford him, and
sometimes--if his counsel be men of talent--succeeds in
compelling his judges to receive him as innocent. I remember the
celebrated case of Sir Coolie Condiddle of Condiddle, who was
tried for theft under trust, of which all the world knew him
guilty, and yet was not only acquitted, but lived to sit in
judgment on honester folk."
"Allow me to beg you will return to the point," said the Master;
"you seemed to say that I had suffered under some
"Suspicion, Master! Ay, truly, and I can show you the proofs of
it; if I happen only to have them with me. Here, Lockhard." His
attendant came. "Fetch me the little private mail with the
padlocks, that I recommended to your particular charge, d'ye
"Yes, my lord." Lockhard vanished; and the Keeper
continued, as if half speaking to himself.
"I think the papers are with me--I think so, for, as I was to be
in this country, it was natural for me to bring them with me. I
have them, however, at Ravenswood Castle, that I am sure; so
perhaps you might condescend----"
Here Lockhard entered, and put the leathern scrutoire, or mail-
box, into his hands. The Keeper produced one or two papers,
respecting the information laid before the privy council
concerning the riot, as it was termed, at the funeral of Allan
Lord Ravenswood, and the active share he had himself taken in
quashing the proceedings against the Master. These documents had
been selected with care, so as to irritate the natural curiosity
of Ravenswood upon such a subject, without gratifying it, yet to
show that Sir William Ashton had acted upon that trying occasion
the part of an advocate and peacemaker betwixt him and the
jealous authorities of the day. Having furnished his host with
such subjects for examination, the Lord Keeper went to the
breakfast-table, and entered into light conversation, addressed
partly to old Caleb, whose resentment against the usurper of the
Castle of Ravenswood began to be softened by his familiarity, and
partly to his daughter.
After perusing these papers, the Master of Ravenswood remained
for a minute or two with his hand pressed against his brow, in
deep and profound meditation. He then again ran his eye hastily
over the papers, as if desirous of discovering in them some deep
purpose, or some mark of fabrication, which had escaped him at
first perusal. Apparently the second reading confirmed the
opinion which had pressed upon him at the first, for he started
from the stone bench on which he was sitting, and, going to the
Lord Keeper, took his hand, and, strongly pressing it, asked his
pardon repeatedly for the injustice he had done him, when it
appeared he was experiencing, at his hands, the benefit of
protection to his person and vindication to his character.
The statesman received these acknowledgments at first with well-
feigned surprise, and then with an affectation of frank
cordiality. The tears began already to start from Lucy's blue
eyes at viewing this unexpected and moving scene. To see the
Master, late so haughty and reserved, and whom she had always
supposed the injured person, supplicating her father for
forgiveness, was a change at once surprising, flattering, and
"Dry your eyes, Lucy," said her father; "why should you weep,
because your father, though a lawyer, is discovered to be a fair
and honourable man? What have you to thank me for, my dear
Master," he continued, addressing Ravenswood, "that you would not
have done in my case? 'Suum cuique tribuito,' was the Roman
justice, and I learned it when I studied Justinian. Besides,
have you not overpaid me a thousand times, in saving the life of
this dear child?"
"Yes," answered the Master, in all the remorse of self-
accusation; "but the little service _I_ did was an act of mere
brutal instinct; YOUR defence of my cause, when you knew how
ill I thought of you, and how much I was disposed to be your
enemy, was an act of generous, manly, and considerate wisdom."
"Pshaw!" said the Lord Keeper, "each of us acted in his own way;
you as a gallant soldier, I as an upright judge and privy-
councillor. We could not, perhaps, have changed parts; at least
I should have made a very sorry tauridor, and you, my good
Master, though your cause is so excellent, might have pleaded it
perhaps worse yourself than I who acted for you before the
"My generous friend!" said Ravenswood; and with that brief word,
which the Keeper had often lavished upon him, but which he
himself now pronounced for the first time, he gave to his feudal
enemy the full confidence of an haughty but honourable heart.
The Master had been remarked among his contemporaries for sense
and acuteness, as well as for his reserved, pertinacious, and
irascible character. His prepossessions accordingly, however
obstinate, were of a nature to give way before love and
gratitude; and the real charms of the daughter, joined to the
supposed services of the father, cancelled in his memory the vows
of vengeance which he had taken so deeply on the eve of his
father's funeral. But they had been heard and registered in the
book of fate.
Caleb was present at this extraordinary scene, and he could
conceive no other reason for a proceeding so extraordinary than
an alliance betwixt the houses, and Ravenswood Castle assigned
for the young lady's dowry. As for Lucy, when Ravenswood uttered
the most passionate excuses for his ungrateful negligence, she
could but smile through her tears, and, as she abandoned her hand
to him, assure him, in broken accents, of the delight with which
she beheld the complete reconciliation between her father and her
deliverer. Even the statesman was moved and affected by the
fiery, unreserved, and generous self-abandonment with which the
Master of Ravenswood renounced his feudal enmity, and threw
himself without hesitation upon his forgiveness. His eyes
glistened as he looked upon a couple who were obviously becoming
attached, and who seemed made for each other. He thought how
high the proud and chivalrous character of Ravenswood might rise
under many circumstances in which HE found himself "overcrowed,"
to use a phrase of Spenser, and kept under, by his brief
pedigree, and timidity of disposition. Then his daughter--his
favorite child--his constant playmate--seemed formed to live
happy in a union with such a commanding spirit as Ravenswood; and
even the fine, delicate, fragile form of Lucy Ashton seemed to
require the support of the Master's muscular strength and
masculine character. And it was not merely during a few minutes
that Sir William Ashton looked upon their marriage as a probable
and even desirable event, for a full hour intervened ere his
imagination was crossed by recollection of the Master's poverty,
and the sure displeasure of Lady Ashton. It is certain, that
the very unusual flow of kindly feeling with which the Lord
Keeper had been thus surprised, was one of the circumstances
which gave much tacit encouragement to the attachment between the
Master and his daughter, and led both the lovers distinctly to
believe that it was a connexion which would be most agreeable to
him. He himself was supposed to have admitted this in effect,
when, long after the catastrophe of their love, he used to warn
his hearers against permitting their feelings to obtain an
ascendency over their judgment, and affirm, that the greatest
misfortunte of his life was owing to a very temporary
predominance of sensibility over self-interest. It must be
owned, if such was the case, he was long and severely punished
for an offence of very brief duration.
After some pause, the Lord Keeper resumed the conversation.--
"In your surprise at finding me an honester man than you
expected, you have lost your curiosity about this Craigengelt, my
good Master; and yet your name was brought in, in the course of
that matter too."
"The scoundrel!" said Ravenswood. "My connexion with him was of
the most temporary nature possible; and yet I was very foolish to
hold any communication with him at all. What did he say of me?"
"Enough," said the Keeper, "to excite the very loyal terrors of
some of our sages, who are for proceeding against men on the
mere grounds of suspicion or mercenary information. Some
nonsense about your proposing to enter into the service of
France, or of the Pretender, I don't recollect which, but which
the Marquis of A----, one of your best friends, and another
person, whom some call one of your worst and most interested
enemies, could not, somehow, be brought to listen to."
"I am obliged to my honourable friend; and yet," shaking the
Lord Keeper's hand--"and yet I am still more obliged to my
"Inimicus amicissimus," said the Lord Keeper, returning the
pressure; "but this gentleman--this Mr. Hayston of Bucklaw--I am
afraid the poor young man--I heard the fellow mention his name--
is under very bad guidance."
"He is old enough to govern himself," answered the Master.
"Old enough, perhaps, but scarce wise enough, if he has chosen
this fellow for his fidus Achates. Why, he lodged an
information against him--that is, such a consequence might have
ensued from his examination, had we not looked rather at the
character of the witness than the tenor of his evidence."
"Mr. Hayston of Bucklaw," said the master, "is, I believe, a
most honourable man, and capable of nothing that is mean or
"Capable of much that is unreasonable, though; that you must
needs allow, master. Death will soon put him in possession of a
fair estate, if he hath it not already; old Lady Girnington--an
excellent person, excepting that her inveterate ill-nature
rendered her intolerable to the whole world--is probably dead by
this time. Six heirs portioners have successively died to make
her wealthy. I know the estates well; they march with my own--a
"I am glad of it," said Ravenswood, "and should be more so, were
I confident that Bucklaw would change his company and habits
with his fortunes. This appearance of Craigengelt, acting in the
capacity of his friend, is a most vile augury for his future
"He is a bird of evil omen, to be sure," said the Keeper, "and
croaks of jail and gallows-tree. But I see Mr. Caleb grows
impatient for our return to breakfast."
Sir, stay at home and take an old man's counsel;
Seek not to bask you by a stranger's hearth;
Our own blue smoke is warmer than their fire.
Domestic food is wholesome, though 'tis homely,
And foreign dainties poisonous, though tasteful.
The French Courtezan.
THE Master of Ravenswood took an opportunity to leave his guests
to prepare for their departure, while he himself made the brief
arrangements necessary previous to his absence from Wolf's Crag
for a day or two. It was necessary to communicate with Caleb on
this occasion, and he found that faithful servitor in his sooty
and ruinous den, greatly delighted with the departure of their
visitors, and computing how long, with good management, the
provisions which had been unexpended might furnish the Master's
table. "He's nae belly god, that's ae blessing; and Bucklaw's
gane, that could have eaten a horse behind the saddle. Cresses
or water-purpie, and a bit ait-cake, can serve the Master for
breakfast as weel as Caleb. Then for dinner--there's no muckle
left on the spule-bane; it will brander, though--it will brander
His triumphant calculations were interrupted by the Master, who
communicated to him, not without some hesitation, his purpose to
ride with the Lord Keeper as far as Ravenswood Castle, and to
remain there for a day or two.
"The mercy of Heaven forbid!" said the old serving-man, turning
as pal as the table-cloth which he was folding up.
"And why, Caleb?" said his master--"why should the mercy of
Heaven forbid my returning the Lord Keeper's visit?"
"Oh, sir!" replied Caleb--"oh, Mr. Edgar! I am your
servant, and it ill becomes me to speak; but I am an auld
servant--have served baith your father and gudesire, and mind to
have seen Lord Randal, your great-grandfather, but that was when
I was a bairn."
"And what of all this, Balderstone?" said the Master; "what can
it possibly have to do with my paying some ordinary civility to a
"Oh, Mr. Edgar,--that is, my lord!" answered the butler, "your
ain conscience tells you it isna for your father's son to be
neighbouring wi' the like o' him; it isna for the credit of the
family. An he were ance come to terms, and to gie ye back your
ain, e'en though ye suld honour his house wi' your alliance, I
suldna say na; for the young leddy is a winsome sweet creature.
But keep your ain state wi' them--I ken the race o' them weel--
they will think the mair o' ye."
"Why, now, you go father than I do, Caleb," said the Master,
drowning a certain degree of consciousness in a forced laugh;
"you are for marrying me into a family that you will nto allow me
to visit, how this? and you look as pale as death besides."
"Oh, sir," repeated Caleb again, "you would but laugh if I tauld
it; but Thomas the Rhymer, whose tongue couldna be fause, spoke
the word of your house that will e'en prove ower true if you go
to Ravenswood this day. Oh, that it should e'er have been
fulfilled in my time!"
"And what is it, Caleb?" said Ravenswood, wishing to soothe the
fears of his old servant.
Caleb replied: "He had never repeated the lines to living
mortal; they were told to him by an auld priest that had been
confessor to Lord Allan's father when the family were Catholic.
But mony a time," he said, "I hae soughed thae dark words ower to
myself, and, well-a-day! little did I think of their coming round
"Truce with your nonsense, and let me hear the doggerel which
has put it into your head," said the Master, impatiently.
With a quivering voice, and a cheek pale with apprehension,
Caleb faltered out the following lines:
"When the last Laird of Ravenswood to Ravenswood shall ride,
And woo a dead maiden to be his bride,
He shall stable his steed in the Kelpie's flow,
And his name shall be lost for evermoe!"
"I know the Kelpie's flow well enough," said the Master; "I
suppose, at least, you mean the quicksand betwixt this tower and
Wolf's Hope; but why any man in his senses should stable a steed
"Oh, ever speer ony thing about that, sir--God forbid we should
ken what the prophecy means--but just bide you at hame, and let
the strangers ride to Ravenswood by themselves. We have done
eneugh for them; and to do mair would be mair against the credit
of the family than in its favour."
"Well, Caleb," said the Master, "I give you the best
possible credit for your good advice on this occasion; but as I
do not go to Ravenswood to seek a bride, dead or alive, I hope I
shall choose a better stable for my horse than the Kelpie's
quicksand, and especially as I have always had a particular dread
of it since the patrol of dragoons were lost there ten years
since. My father and I saw them from the tower struggling
against the advancing tide, and they were lost long before any
help could reach them."
"And they deserved it weel, the southern loons!" said Caleb;
"what had they ado capering on our sands, and hindering a wheen
honest folk frae bringing on shore a drap brandy? I hae seen
them that busy, that I wad hae fired the auld culverin or the
demi-saker that's on the south bartizan at them, only I was
feared they might burst in the ganging aff."
Caleb's brain was now fully engaged with abuse of the English
soldiery and excisemen, so that his master found no great
difficulty in escaping from him and rejoining his guests. All
was now ready for their departure; and one of the Lord Keeper's
grooms having saddled the Master's steed, they mounted in the
Caleb had, with much toil, opened the double doors of the
outward gate, and thereat stationed himself, endeavouring, by the
reverential, and at the same time consequential, air which he
assumed, to supply, by his own gaunt, wasted, and thin person,
the absence of a whole baronial establishment of porters,
warders, and liveried menials.
The Keeper returned his deep reverence with a cordial farewell,
stooping at the same time from his horse, and sliding into the
butler's hand the remuneration which in those days was always
given by a departing guest to the domestics of the family where
he had been entertained. Lucy smiled on the old man with her
usual sweetness, bade him adieu, and deposited her guerdon with a
grace of action and a gentleness of accent which could not have
failed to have won the faithful retainer's heart, but for Thomas
the Rhymer, and the successful lawsuit against his master. As it
was, he might have adopted the language of the Duke in As You
Thou wouldst have better pleased me with this deed,
If thou hadst told me of another father.
Ravenswood was at the lady's bridle-rein, encouraging her
timidity, and guiding her horse carefully down the rocky path
which led to the moor, when one of the servants announed from the
rear that Caleb was calling loudly after them, desiring to speak
with his master. Ravenswood felt it would look singular to
neglect this summons, although inwardly cursing Caleb for his
impertinent officiousness; therefore he was compelled to
relinquish to Mr. Lockhard the aggreeable duty in which he was
engaged, and to ride back to the gate of the courtyard. Here he
was beginning, somewhat peevishly, to ask Caleb the cause of his
clamour, when the good old man exclaimed: "Whisht, sir!--whisht,
and let me speak just ae word that I couldna say afore folk;
there (putting into his lord's hand the money he had just
received)--there's three gowd pieces; and ye'll want siller up-
bye yonder. But stay, whisht, now!" for the Master was beginning
to exclaim against this transference, "never say a word, but just
see to get them changed in the first town ye ride through, for
they are bran new frae the mint, and ken-speckle a wee bit."
"You forget, Caleb," said his master, striving to force back the
money on his servant, and extricate the bridle from his hold--
"you forget that I have some gold pieces left of my own. Keep
these to yourself, my old friend; and, once more, good day to
you. I assure you, I have plenty. You know you have managed
that our living should cost us little or nothing."
"Aweel," said Caleb, "these will serve for you another time; but
see ye hae eneugh, for, doubtless, for the credit of the family,
there maun be some civility to the servants, and ye maun hae
something to mak a show with when they say, 'Master, will you
bet a broad piece?' Then ye maun tak out your purse, and say, 'I
carena if I do'; and tak care no to agree on the articles of the
wager, and just put up your purse again, and----"
"This is intolerable, Caleb; I really must be gone."
"And you will go, then?" said Caleb, loosening his hold upon the
Master's cloak, and changing his didactics into a pathetic and
mournful tone--"and you WILL go, for a' I have told you about
the prophecy, and the dead bride, and the Kelpie's
quicksand? Aweel! a wilful man maun hae his way: he that will to
Cupar maun to Cupar. But pity of your life, sir, if ye be
fowling or shooting in the Park, beware of drinking at the
Mermaiden's Well---- He's gane! he's down the path arrow-flight
after her! The head is as clean taen aff the Ravenswood family
this day as I wad chap the head aff a sybo!"
The old butler looked long after his master, often clearing away
the dew as it rose to his eyes, that he might, as long as
possible, distinguish his stately form from those of the other
horsemen. "Close to her bridle-rein--ay, close to her bridle-
rein! Wisely saith the holy man, 'By this also you may know that
woman hath dominion over all men'; and without this lass would
not our ruin have been a'thegither fulfilled."
With a heart fraught with such sad auguries did Caleb return to
his necessary duties at Wofl's Crag, as soon as he could no
longer distinguish the object of his anxiety among the group fo
riders, which diminished in the distance.
In the mean time the party pursued their route joyfully. Having
once taken his resolution, the Master of Ravenswood was not of a
character to hesitate or pause upon it. He abandoned himself to
the pleasure he felt in Miss Ashton's company, and displayed an
assiduous gallantry which approached as nearly to gaiety as the
temper of his mind and state of his family
permitted. The Lord Keeper was much struck with his depth of
observation, and the unusual improvement which he had derived
from his studies. Of these accomplishments Sir William Ashton's
profession and habits of society rendered him an excellent judge;
and he well knew how to appreciate a quality to which he himself
was a total stranger--the brief and decided dauntlessness of the
Master of Ravenswood's fear. In his heart the Lord Keeper
rejoiced at having conciliated an adversary so formidable, while,
with a mixture of pleasure and anxiety, he anticipated the great
things his young companion might achieve, were the breath of
court-favour to fill his sails.
"What could she desire," he thought, his mind always
conjuring up opporition in the person of Lady Ashton to his new
prevailing wish--"what could a woman desire in a match more than
the sopiting of a very dangerous claim, and the alliance of a
son-in-law, noble, brave, well-gifted, and highly connected; sure
to float whenever the tide sets his way; strong, exactly where we
are weak, in pedigree and in the temper of a swordsman? Sure, no
reasonable woman would hesitate. But alas----!" Here his
argument was stopped by the consciousness that Lady Ashton was
not always reasonable, in his sense of the word. "To prefer some
clownish Merse laird to the gallant young nobleman, and to the
secure possession of Ravenswood upon terms of easy compromise--it
would be the act of a madwoman!"
Thus pondered the veteran politician, until they reached
Bittlebrains House, where it had been previously settled they
were to dine and repose themselves, and prosecute their journey
in the afternoon.
They were received with an excess of hospitality; and the most
marked attention was offered to the Master of Ravenswood, in
particular, by their noble entertainers. The truth was, that
Lord Bittlebrains had obtained his peerage by a good deal of
plausibility, an art of building up a character for wisdom upon a
very trite style of commonplace eloquence, a steady observation
of the changes of the times, and the power of rendering certain
political services to those who could best reward them. His lady
and he, not feeling quite easy under their new honours, to which
use had not adapted their feelings, were very desirous to procure
the fraternal countenance of those who were born denizens of the
regions into which they had been exalted from a lower sphere.
The extreme attention which they paid to the Master of Ravenswood
had its usual effect in exalting his importance in the eyes of
the Lord Keeper, who, although he had a reasonable degree of
contempt for Lord Bittlebrains's general parts, entertained a
high opinion of the acuteness of his judgment in all matters of
"I wish Lady Ashton had seen this," was his internal
reflection; "no man knows so well as Bittlebrains on which side
his bread is buttered; and he fawns on the Master like a beggar's
messan on a cook. And my lady, too, bringing forward her beetle-
browed misses to skirl and play upon the virginals, as if she
said, 'Pick and choose.' They are no more comparable to Lucy
than an owl is to a cygnet, and so they may carry their black
brows to a farther market."
The entertainment being ended, our travellers, who had still to
measure the longest part of their journey, resumed their horses;
and after the Lord Keeper, the Master, and the domestics had
drunk doch-an-dorroch, or the stirrup-cup, in the liquors
adapted to their various ranks, the cavalcade resumed its
It was dark by the time they entered the avenue of
Ravenswood Castle, a long straight line leading directly to the
front of the house, flanked with huge elm-trees, which sighed to
the night-wind, as if they compassionated the heir of their
ancient proprietors, who now returned to their shades in the
society, and almost in the retinue, of their new master. Some
feelings of the same kind oppressed the mind of the Master
himself. He gradually became silent, adn dropped a little
behind the lady, at whose bridle-rein he had hitherto waited with
such devotion. He well recollected the period when, at the same
hour in the evening, he had accompanied his father, as that
nobleman left, never again to return to it, the mansion from
which he derived his name and title. The extensive front of the
old castle, on which he remembered having often looked back, was
then "as black as mourning weed." The same front now glanced
with many lights, some throwing far forward into the night a
fixed and stationary blaze, and others hurrying from one window
to another, intimating the bustle and busy preparation preceding
their arrival, which had been intimated by an avant-courier. The
contrast pressed so strongly upon the Master's heart as to
awaken some of the sterner feelings with which he had been
accustomed to regard the new lord of his paternal domain, and to
impress his countenance with an air of servere gravity, when,
alighted from his horse, he stood in the hall no longer his own,
surrounded by the numerous menials of its present owner.
The Lord Keeper, when about to welcome him with the
cordiality which their late intercourse seemed to render proper,
became aware of the change, refrained from his purpose, and only
intimated the ceremony of reception by a deep reverence to his
guest, seeming thus delicately to share the feelings which
predominated on his brow.
Two upper domestics, bearing each a huge pair of silver
candlesticks, now marshalled the company into a large saloon, or
withdrawing-room, where new alterations impressed upon
Ravenswood the superior wealth of the present inhabitants of the
castle. The mouldering tapestry, which, in his father's time,
had half covered the walls of this stately apartment, and half
streamed from them in tatters, had given place to a complete
finishing of wainscot, the cornice of which, as well as the
frames of the various compartments, were ornamented with festoons
of flowers and with birds, which, though carved in oak, seemed,
such was the art of the chisel, actually to swell their throats
and flutter their wings. Several old family portraits of armed
heroes of the house of Ravenswood, together with a suit or two of
old armour and some military weapons, had given place to those of
King William and Queen Mary, or Sir Thomas Hope and Lord Stair,
two distinguished Scottish lawyers. The pictures of the Lord
Keeper's father and mother were also to be seen; the latter,
sour, shrewish, and solemn, in her black hood and close pinners,
with a book of devotion in her hand; the former, exhibiting
beneath a black silk Geneva cowl, or skull-cap, which sate as
close to the head as if it had been shaven, a pinched, peevish,
Puritanical set of features, terminating in a hungry, reddish,
peaked beard, forming on the whole a countenance in the
expression of which the hypocrite seemed to contend with the
miser and the knave. "And it is to make room for such scarecrows
as these," thought Ravenswood, "that my ancestors have been torn
down from the walls which they erected!" he looked at them
again, and, as he looked, the recollection of Lucy Ashton, for
she had not entered the apartment with them, seemed less lively
in his imagination. There were also two or three Dutch
drolleries, as the pictures of Ostade and Teniers were then
termed, with one good painting of the Italian school. There was,
besides, a noble full-length of the Lord Keeper in his robes of
office, placed beside his lady in silk and ermine, a haughty
beauty, bearing in her looks all the pride of the house of
Douglas, from which she was descended. The painter,
notwithstanding his skill, overcome by the reality, or, perhaps,
from a suppressed sense of humour, had not been able to give the
husband on the canvas that air of awful rule and right supremacy
which indicates the full possession of domestic authority. It
was obvious at the first glance that, despite mace and gold
frogs, the Lord Keeper was somewhat henpecked. The floor of this
fine saloon was laid with rich carpets, huge fires blazed in the
double chimneys, and ten silver sconces, reflecting with their
bright plates the lights which they supported, made the whole
seem as brilliant as day.
"Would you choose any refreshment, Master?" said Sir William
Ashton, not unwilling to break the awkward silence.
He received no answer, the Master being so busily engaged in
marking the various changes which had taken place in the
apartment, that he hardly heard the Lord Keeper address him. A
repetition of the offer of refreshment, with the addition, that
the family meal would be presently ready, compelled his
attention, and reminded him that he acted a weak, perhaps even a
ridiculous, part in suffering himself to be overcome by the
circumstances in which he found himself. He compelled himself,
therefore, to enter into conversation with Sir William Ashton,
with as much appearance of indifference as he could well command.
"You will not be surprised, Sir William, that I am
interested in the changes you have made for the better in this
apartment. In my father's time, after our misfortunes compelled
him to live in retirement, it was little used, except by me as a
play-room, when the weather would not permit me to go abroad. In
that recess was my little workshop, where I treasured the few
carpenters' tools which old Caleb procured for me, and taught me
how to use; there, in yonder corner, under that handsome silver
sconce, I kept my fishing-rods and hunting poles, bows and
"I have a young birkie," said the Lord Keeper, willing to change
the tone of the conversation, "of much the same turn. He is
never happy save when he is in the field. I wonder he is not
here. Here, Lockhard; send William Shaw for Mr. Henry. I
suppose he is, as usual, tied to Lucy's apron-string; that
foolish girl, Master, draws the whole family after her at her
Even this allusion to his daughter, though artfully thrown out,
did not recall Ravenswood from his own topic.
"We were obliged to leave," he said, "some armour and portraits
in this apartment; may I ask where they have been removed to?"
"Why," answered the Keeper, with some hesitation, "the room was
fitted up in our absence, and cedant arma togae is the maxim of
lawyers, you know: I am afraid it has been here somewhat too
literally complied with. I hope--I believe they are safe,
I am sure I gave orders; may I hope that when they are recovered,
and put in proper order, you will do me the honour to accept them
at my hand, as an atonement for their accidental derangement?"
The Master of Ravenswood bowed stiffly, and, with folded arms,
again resumed his survey of the room.
Henry, a spoilt boy of fifteen, burst into the room, and ran up
to his father. "Think of Lucy, papa; she has come home so cross
and so fractious, that she will not go down to the stable to see
my new pony, that Bob Wilson brought from the Mull of Galloway."
"I think you were very unreasonable to ask her," said the
"Then you are as cross as she is," answered the boy; "but when
mamma comes home, she'll claw up both your mittens."
"Hush your impertinence, you little forward imp!" said his
father; "where is your tutor?"