Part 2 out of 10
For _pruinis,_ though interpreted to mean _hoar frosts,_ to which I own
we are somewhat subject in this north-eastern sea-coast, may also signify
a locality, namely, _Prunes;_ the _Castra Pruinis posita_ would therefore
be the Kaim of Kinprunes. But I waive this, for I am sensible it might be
laid hold of by cavillers as carrying down my Castra to the time of
Theodosius, sent by Valentinian into Britain as late as the year 367, or
thereabout. No, my good friend, I appeal to people's eye-sight. Is not
here the Decuman gate? and there, but for the ravage of the horrid
plough, as a learned friend calls it, would be the Praetorian gate. On
the left hand you may see some slight vestiges of the _porta sinistra,_
and on the right, one side of the _porta dextra_ wellnigh entire. Here,
then, let us take our stand, on this tumulus, exhibiting the foundation
of ruined buildings,--the central point--the _praetorium,_ doubtless, of
the camp. From this place, now scarce to be distinguished but by its
slight elevation and its greener turf from the rest of the fortification,
we may suppose Agricola to have looked forth on the immense army of
Caledonians, occupying the declivities of yon opposite hill,--the
infantry rising rank over rank, as the form of ground displayed their
array to its utmost advantage,--the cavalry and _covinarii,_ by which I
understand the charioteers--another guise of folks from your Bond-street
four-in-hand men, I trow--scouring the more level space below--
--See, then, Lovel--See--
See that huge battle moving from the mountains!
Their gilt coats shine like dragon scales;--their march
Like a rough tumbling storm.--See them, and view them,
And then see Rome no more!--
Yes, my dear friend, from this stance it is probable--nay, it is nearly
certain, that Julius Agricola beheld what our Beaumont has so admirably
described!--From this very Praetorium"--
A voice from behind interrupted his ecstatic description--"Praetorian
here, Praetorian there, I mind the bigging o't."
Both at once turned round, Lovel with surprise, and Oldbuck with mingled
surprise and indignation, at so uncivil an interruption. An auditor had
stolen upon them, unseen and unheard, amid the energy of the Antiquary's
enthusiastic declamation, and the attentive civility of Lovel. He had the
exterior appearance of a mendicant. A slouched hat of huge dimensions; a
long white beard which mingled with his grizzled hair; an aged but
strongly marked and expressive countenance, hardened, by climate and
exposure, to a right brick-dust complexion; a long blue gown, with a
pewter badge on the right arm; two or three wallets, or bags, slung
across his shoulder, for holding the different kinds of meal, when he
received his charity in kind from those who were but a degree richer than
himself:--all these marked at once a beggar by profession, and one of
that privileged class which are called in Scotland the King's Bedesmen,
or, vulgarly, Blue-Gowns.
"What is that you say, Edie?" said Oldbuck, hoping, perhaps, that his
ears had betrayed their duty--"what were you speaking about!"
"About this bit bourock, your honour," answered the undaunted Edie; "I
mind the bigging o't."
"The devil you do! Why, you old fool, it was here before you were born,
and will be after you are hanged, man!"
"Hanged or drowned, here or awa, dead or alive, I mind the bigging o't."
"You--you--you--," said the Antiquary, stammering between confusion and
anger, "you strolling old vagabond, what the devil do you know about it?"
"Ou, I ken this about it, Monkbarns--and what profit have I for telling
ye a lie?--l just ken this about it, that about twenty years syne, I, and
a wheen hallenshakers like mysell, and the mason-lads that built the lang
dike that gaes down the loaning, and twa or three herds maybe, just set
to wark, and built this bit thing here that ye ca' the--the--Praetorian,
and a' just for a bield at auld Aiken Drum's bridal, and a bit blithe
gae-down wi' had in't, some sair rainy weather. Mair by token, Monkbarns,
if ye howk up the bourock, as ye seem to have began, yell find, if ye hae
not fund it already, a stane that ane o' the mason-callants cut a ladle
on to have a bourd at the bridegroom, and he put four letters on't,
that's A. D. L. L.--Aiken Drum's Lang Ladle--for Aiken was ane o' the
kale-suppers o' Fife."
"This," thought Lovel to himself, "is a famous counterpart to the story
of _Keip on this syde._" He then ventured to steal a glance at our
Antiquary, but quickly withdrew it in sheer compassion. For, gentle
reader, if thou hast ever beheld the visage of a damsel of sixteen, whose
romance of true love has been blown up by an untimely discovery, or of a
child of ten years, whose castle of cards has been blown down by a
malicious companion, I can safely aver to you, that Jonathan Oldbuck of
Monkbarns looked neither more wise nor less disconcerted.
"There is some mistake about this," he said, abruptly turning away from
"Deil a bit on my side o' the wa'," answered the sturdy beggar; "I never
deal in mistakes, they aye bring mischances.--Now, Monkbarns, that young
gentleman, that's wi' your honour, thinks little of a carle like me; and
yet, I'll wager I'll tell him whar he was yestreen at the gloamin, only
he maybe wadna like to hae't spoken o' in company."
Lovel's soul rushed to his cheeks, with the vivid blush of
"Never mind the old rogue," said Mr. Oldbuck; "don't suppose I think the
worse of you for your profession; they are only prejudiced fools and
coxcombs that do so. You remember what old Tully says in his oration,
_pro Archia poeta,_ concerning one of your confraternity--_quis nostrum
tam anino agresti ac duro fuit--ut--ut_--I forget the Latin--the meaning
is, which of us was so rude and barbarous as to remain unmoved at the
death of the great Roscius, whose advanced age was so far from preparing
us for his death, that we rather hoped one so graceful, so excellent in
his art, ought to be exempted from the common lot of mortality? So the
Prince of Orators spoke of the stage and its professor."
The words of the old man fell upon Lovel's ears, but without conveying
any precise idea to his mind, which was then occupied in thinking by what
means the old beggar, who still continued to regard him with a
countenance provokingly sly and intelligent, had contrived to thrust
himself into any knowledge of his affairs. He put his hand in his pocket
as the readiest mode of intimating his desire of secrecy, and securing
the concurrence of the person whom he addressed; and while he bestowed on
him an alms, the amount of which rather bore proportion to his fears than
to his charity, looked at him with a marked expression, which the
mendicant, a physiognomist by profession, seemed perfectly to
understand.--"Never mind me, sir--I am no tale-pyet; but there are mair
een in the warld than mine," answered he as he pocketed Lovel's bounty,
but in a tone to be heard by him alone, and with an expression which
amply filled up what was left unspoken. Then turning to Oldbuck--"I am
awa' to the manse, your honour. Has your honour ony word there, or to Sir
Arthur, for I'll come in by Knockwinnock Castle again e'en?"
Oldbuck started as from a dream; and, in a hurried tone, where vexation
strove with a wish to conceal it, paying, at the same time, a tribute to
Edie's smooth, greasy, unlined hat, he said, "Go down, go down to
Monkbarns--let them give you some dinner--Or stay; if you do go to the
manse, or to Knockwinnock, ye need say nothing about that foolish story
"Who, I?" said the mendicant--"Lord bless your honour, naebody sall ken a
word about it frae me, mair than if the bit bourock had been there since
Noah's flood. But, Lord, they tell me your honour has gien Johnnie Howie
acre for acre of the laigh crofts for this heathery knowe! Now, if he has
really imposed the bourock on ye for an ancient wark, it's my real
opinion the bargain will never haud gude, if you would just bring down
your heart to try it at the law, and say that he beguiled ye."
"Provoking scoundrel!" muttered the indignant Antiquary between his
teeths--"I'll have the hangman's lash and his back acquainted for this."
And then, in a louder tone,--"Never mind, Edie--it is all a mistake."
"Troth, I am thinking sae," continued his tormentor, who seemed to have
pleasure in rubbing the galled wound, "troth, I aye thought sae; and it's
no sae lang since I said to Luckie Gemmers, Never think you, luckie' said
I, that his honour Monkbarns would hae done sic a daft-like thing as to
gie grund weel worth fifty shillings an acre, for a mailing that would be
dear o'a pund Scots. Na, na,' quo' I, depend upon't the lard's been
imposed upon wi that wily do-little deevil, Johnnie Howie.' But Lord haud
a care o' us, sirs, how can that be,' quo' she again, when the laird's
sae book-learned, there's no the like o' him in the country side, and
Johnnie Howie has hardly sense eneugh to ca' the cows out o' his
kale-yard?' Aweel, aweel,' quo' I, but ye'll hear he's circumvented him
with some of his auld-warld stories,'--for ye ken, laird, yon other time
about the bodle that ye thought was an auld coin"--
"Go to the devil!" said Oldbuck; and then in a more mild tone, as one
that was conscious his reputation lay at the mercy of his antagonist, he
added--"Away with you down to Monkbarns, and when I come back, I'll send
ye a bottle of ale to the kitchen."
"Heaven reward your honour!" This was uttered with the true mendicant
whine, as, setting his pike-staff before him, he began to move in the
direction of Monkbarns.--"But did your honour," turning round, "ever get
back the siller ye gae to the travelling packman for the bodle?"
"Curse thee, go about thy business!"
"Aweel, aweel, sir, God bless your honour! I hope ye'll ding Johnnie
Howie yet, and that I'll live to see it." And so saying, the old beggar
moved off, relieving Mr. Oldbuck of recollections which were anything
rather than agreeable.
"Who is this familiar old gentleman?" said Lovel, when the mendicant was
out of hearing.
"O, one of the plagues of the country--I have been always against
poor's-rates and a work-house--I think I'll vote for them now, to have
that scoundrel shut up. O, your old-remembered guest of a beggar becomes
as well acquainted with you as he is with his dish--as intimate as one of
the beasts familiar to man which signify love, and with which his own
trade is especially conversant. Who is he?--why, he has gone the vole--
has been soldier, ballad-singer, travelling tinker, and is now a beggar.
He is spoiled by our foolish gentry, who laugh at his jokes, and rehearse
Edie Ochiltree's good thing's as regularly as Joe Miller's."
"Why, he uses freedom apparently, which is the, soul of wit," answered
"O ay, freedom enough," said the Antiquary; "he generally invents some
damned improbable lie or another to provoke you, like that nonsense he
talked just now--not that I'll publish my tract till I have examined the
thing to the bottom."
"In England," said Lovel, "such a mendicant would get a speedy cheek."
"Yes, your churchwardens and dog-whips would make slender allowance for
his vein of humour! But here, curse him! he is a sort of privileged
nuisance--one of the last specimens of the old fashioned Scottish
mendicant, who kept his rounds within a particular space, and was the
news-carrier, the minstrel, and sometimes the historian of the district.
That rascal, now, knows more old ballads and traditions than any other
man in this and the four next parishes. And after all," continued he,
softening as he went on describing Edie's good gifts, "the dog has some
good humour. He has borne his hard fate with unbroken spirits, and it's
cruel to deny him the comfort of a laugh at his betters. The pleasure of
having quizzed me, as you gay folk would call it, will be meat and drink
to him for a day or two. But I must go back and look after him, or he
will spread his d--d nonsensical story over half the country."*
* Note C. Praetorium.
So saying our heroes parted, Mr. Oldbuck to return to his _hospitium_ at
Monkbarns, and Lovel to pursue his way to Fairport, where he arrived
without farther adventure.
_Launcelot Gobbo._ Mark me now:
Now will I raise the waters.
Merchant of Venice.
The theatre at Fairport had opened, but no Mr. Lovel appeared on the
boards, nor was there anything in the habits or deportment of the young
gentleman so named, which authorised Mr. Oldbuck's conjecture that his
fellow-traveller was a candidate for the public favour. Regular were the
Antiquary's inquiries at an old-fashioned barber who dressed the only
three wigs in the parish which, in defiance of taxes and times, were
still subjected to the operation of powdering and frizzling, and who for
that purpose divided his time among the three employers whom fashion had
yet left him; regular, I say, were Mr. Oldbuck's inquiries at this
personage concerning the news of the little theatre at Fairport,
expecting every day to hear of Mr. Lovel's appearance; on which occasion
the old gentleman had determined to put himself to charges in honour of
his young friend, and not only to go to the play himself, but to carry
his womankind along with him. But old Jacob Caxon conveyed no information
which warranted his taking so decisive a step as that of securing a box.
He brought information, on the contrary, that there was a young man
residing at Fairport, of whom the _town_ (by which he meant all the
gossips, who, having no business of their own, fill up their leisure
moments by attending to that of other people) could make nothing. He
sought no society, but rather avoided that which the apparent gentleness
of his manners, and some degree of curiosity, induced many to offer him.
Nothing could be more regular, or less resembling an adventurer, than his
mode of living, which was simple, but so completely well arranged, that
all who had any transactions with him were loud in their approbation.
"These are not the virtues of a stage-struck hero," thought Oldbuck to
himself; and, however habitually pertinacious in his opinions, he must
have been compelled to abandon that which he had formed in the present
instance, but for a part of Caxon's communication. "The young gentleman,"
he said, "was sometimes heard speaking to himsell, and rampauging about
in his room, just as if he was ane o' the player folk."
Nothing, however, excepting this single circumstance, occurred to confirm
Mr. Oldbuck's supposition; and it remained a high and doubtful question,
what a well-informed young man, without friends, connections, or
employment of any kind, could have to do as a resident at Fairport.
Neither port wine nor whist had apparently any charms for him. He
declined dining with the mess of the volunteer cohort which had been
lately embodied, and shunned joining the convivialities of either of the
two parties which then divided Fairport, as they did more important
places. He was too little of an aristocrat to join the club of Royal True
Blues, and too little of a democrat to fraternise with an affiliated
society of the _soi-disant_ Friends of the People, which the borough had
also the happiness of possessing. A coffee-room was his detestation; and,
I grieve to say it, he had as few sympathies with the tea-table.--In
short, since the name was fashionable in novel-writing, and that is a
great while agone, there was never a Master Lovel of whom so little
positive was known, and who was so universally described by negatives.
One negative, however, was important--nobody knew any harm of Lovel.
Indeed, had such existed, it would have been speedily made public; for
the natural desire of speaking evil of our neighbour could in his case
have been checked by no feelings of sympathy for a being so unsocial. On
one account alone he fell somewhat under suspicion. As he made free use
of his pencil in his solitary walks, and had drawn several views of the
harbour, in which the signal tower, and even the four-gun battery, were
introduced, some zealous friends of the public sent abroad a whisper,
that this mysterious stranger must certainly be a French spy. The Sheriff
paid his respects to Mr. Lovel accordingly; but in the interview which
followed, it would seem that he had entirely removed that magistrate's
suspicions, since he not only suffered him to remain undisturbed in his
retirement, but it was credibly reported, sent him two invitations to
dinner-parties, both which were civilly declined. But what the nature of
the explanation was, the magistrate kept a profound secret, not only from
the public at large, but from his substitute, his clerk, his wife and his
two daughters, who formed his privy council on all questions of official
All these particulars being faithfully reported by Mr. Caxon to his
patron at Monkbarns, tended much to raise Lovel in the opinion of his
former fellow-traveller. "A decent sensible lad," said he to himself,
"who scorns to enter into the fooleries and nonsense of these idiot
people at Fairport--I must do something for him--I must give him a
dinner;--and I will write Sir Arthur to come to Monkbarns to meet him. I
must consult my womankind."
Accordingly, such consultation having been previously held, a special
messenger, being no other than Caxon himself, was ordered to prepare for
a walk to Knockwinnock Castle with a letter, "For the honoured Sir Arthur
Wardour, of Knockwinnock, Bart." The contents ran thus:
"Dear Sir Arthur,
"On Tuesday the 17th curt._stilo novo,_ I hold a coenobitical symposion
at Monkbarns, and pray you to assist thereat, at four o'clock precisely.
If my fair enemy, Miss Isabel, can and will honour us by accompanying
you, my womankind will be but too proud to have the aid of such an
auxiliary in the cause of resistance to awful rule and right supremacy.
If not, I will send the womankind to the manse for the day. I have a
young acquaintance to make known to you, who is touched with some strain
of a better spirit than belongs to these giddy-paced times--reveres his
elders, and has a pretty notion of the classics--and, as such a youth
must have a natural contempt for the people about Fairport, I wish to
show him some rational as well as worshipful society.--I am, Dear Sir
Arthur, etc. etc. etc."
"Fly with this letter, Caxon," said the senior, holding out his missive,
_signatum atque sigillatum,_ "fly to Knockwinnock, and bring me back an
answer. Go as fast as if the town-council were met and waiting for the
provost, and the provost was waiting for his new-powdered wig."
"Ah sir," answered the messenger, with a deep sigh, "thae days hae lang
gane by. Deil a wig has a provost of Fairport worn sin' auld Provost
Jervie's time--and he had a quean of a servant-lass that dressed it
herself, wi' the doup o' a candle and a drudging-box. But I hae seen the
day, Monkbarns, when the town-council of Fairport wad hae as soon wanted
their town-clerk, or their gill of brandy ower-head after the haddies, as
they wad hae wanted ilk ane a weel-favoured, sonsy, decent periwig on his
pow. Hegh, sirs! nae wonder the commons will be discontent and rise
against the law, when they see magistrates and bailies, and deacons, and
the provost himsell, wi' heads as bald and as bare as ane o' my blocks!"
"And as well furnished within, Caxon. But away with you!--you have an
excellent view of public affairs, and, I dare say, have touched the cause
of our popular discontent as closely as the provost could have done
himself. But away with you, Caxon!"
And off went Caxon upon his walk of three miles--
He hobbled--but his heart was good!
Could he go faster than he could?--
While he is engaged in his journey and return, it may not be impertinent
to inform the reader to whose mansion he was bearing his embassy.
We have said that Mr. Oldbuck kept little company with the surrounding
gentlemen, excepting with one person only. This was Sir Arthur Wardour, a
baronet of ancient descent, and of a large but embarrassed fortune. His
father, Sir Anthony, had been a Jacobite, and had displayed all the
enthusiasm of that party, while it could be served with words only. No
man squeezed the orange with more significant gesture; no one could more
dexterously intimate a dangerous health without coming under the penal
statutes; and, above all, none drank success to the cause more deeply and
devoutly. But, on the approach of the Highland army in 1745, it would
appear that the worthy baronet's zeal became a little more moderate just
when its warmth was of most consequence. He talked much, indeed, of
taking the field for the rights of Scotland and Charles Stuart; but his
demi-pique saddle would suit only one of his horses; and that horse could
by no means be brought to stand fire. Perhaps the worshipful owner
sympathized in the scruples of this sagacious quadruped, and began to
think, that what was so much dreaded by the horse could not be very
wholesome for the rider. At any rate, while Sir Anthony Wardour talked,
and drank, and hesitated, the Sturdy provost of Fairport (who, as we
before noticed, was the father of our Antiquary) sallied from his ancient
burgh, heading a body of whig-burghers, and seized at once, in the name
of George II., upon the Castle of Knockwinnock, and on the four
carriage-horses, and person of the proprietor. Sir Anthony was shortly
after sent off to the Tower of London by a secretary of state's warrant,
and with him went his son, Arthur, then a youth. But as nothing appeared
like an overt act of treason, both father and son were soon set at
liberty, and returned to their own mansion of Knockwinnock, to drink
healths five fathoms deep, and talk of their sufferings in the royal
cause. This became so much a matter of habit with Sir Arthur, that, even
after his father's death, the non-juring chaplain used to pray regularly
for the restoration of the rightful sovereign, for the downfall of the
usurper, and for deliverance from their cruel and bloodthirsty enemies;
although all idea of serious opposition to the House of Hanover had long
mouldered away, and this treasonable liturgy was kept up rather as a
matter of form than as conveying any distinct meaning. So much was this
the case, that, about the year 1770, upon a disputed election occurring
in the county, the worthy knight fairly gulped down the oaths of
abjuration and allegiance, in order to serve a candidate in whom he was
interested;--thus renouncing the heir for whose restoration he weekly
petitioned Heaven, and acknowledging the usurper whose dethronement he
had never ceased to pray for. And to add to this melancholy instance of
human inconsistency, Sir Arthur continued to pray for the House of Stuart
even after the family had been extinct, and when, in truth, though in his
theoretical loyalty he was pleased to regard them as alive, yet, in all
actual service and practical exertion, he was a most zealous and devoted
subject of George III.
In other respects, Sir Arthur Wardour lived like most country gentlemen
in Scotland, hunted and fished--gave and received dinners--attended races
and county meetings--was a deputy-lieutenant and trustee upon turnpike
acts. But, in his more advanced years, as he became too lazy or unwieldy
for field-sports, he supplied them by now and then reading Scottish
history; and, having gradually acquired a taste for antiquities, though
neither very deep nor very correct, he became a crony of his neighbour,
Mr. Oldbuck of Monkbarns, and a joint-labourer with him in his
There were, however, points of difference between these two humourists,
which sometimes occasioned discord. The faith of Sir Arthur, as an
antiquary, was boundless, and Mr. Oldbuck (notwithstanding the affair of
the Praetorium at the Kaim of Kinprunes) was much more scrupulous in
receiving legends as current and authentic coin. Sir Arthur would have
deemed himself guilty of the crime of leze-majesty had he doubted the
existence of any single individual of that formidable head-roll of one
hundred and four kings of Scotland, received by Boethius, and rendered
classical by Buchanan, in virtue of whom James VI. claimed to rule his
ancient kingdom, and whose portraits still frown grimly upon the walls of
the gallery of Holyrood. Now Oldbuck, a shrewd and suspicious man, and no
respecter of divine hereditary right, was apt to cavil at this sacred
list, and to affirm, that the procession of the posterity of Fergus
through the pages of Scottish history, was as vain and unsubstantial as
the gleamy pageant of the descendants of Banquo through the cavern of
Another tender topic was the good fame of Queen Mary, of which the knight
was a most chivalrous assertor, while the esquire impugned it, in spite
both of her beauty and misfortunes. When, unhappily, their conversation
turned on yet later times, motives of discord occurred in almost every
page of history. Oldbuck was, upon principle, a staunch Presbyterian, a
ruling elder of the kirk, and a friend to revolution principles and
Protestant succession, while Sir Arthur was the very reverse of all this.
They agreed, it is true, in dutiful love and allegiance to the sovereign
who now fills* the throne; but this was their only point of union.
* The reader will understand that this refers to the reign of our late
gracious Sovereign, George the Third.
It therefore often happened, that bickerings hot broke out between them,
in which Oldbuck was not always able to suppress his caustic humour,
while it would sometimes occur to the Baronet that the descendant of a
German printer, whose sires had "sought the base fellowship of paltry
burghers," forgot himself, and took an unlicensed freedom of debate,
considering the rank and ancient descent of his antagonist. This, with
the old feud of the coach-horses, and the seizure of his manor-place and
tower of strength by Mr. Oldbuck's father, would at times rush upon his
mind, and inflame at once his cheeks and his arguments. And, lastly, as
Mr. Oldbuck thought his worthy friend and compeer was in some respects
little better than a fool, he was apt to come more near communicating to
him that unfavourable opinion, than the rules of modern politeness
warrant. In such cases they often parted in deep dudgeon, and with
something like a resolution to forbear each other's company in future:
But with the morning calm reflection came; and as each was sensible that
the society of the other had become, through habit, essential to his
comfort, the breach was speedily made up between them. On such occasions,
Oldbuck, considering that the Baronet's pettishness resembled that of a
child, usually showed his superior sense by compassionately making the
first advances to reconciliation. But it once or twice happened that the
aristocratic pride of the far-descended knight took a flight too
offensive to the feelings of the representative of the typographer. In
these cases, the breach between these two originals might have been
immortal, but for the kind exertion and interposition of the Baronet's
daughter, Miss Isabella Wardour, who, with a son, now absent upon foreign
and military service, formed his whole surviving family. She was well
aware how necessary Mr. Oldbuck was to her father's amusement and
comfort, and seldom failed to interpose with effect, when the office of a
mediator between them was rendered necessary by the satirical shrewdness
of the one, or the assumed superiority of the other. Under Isabella's
mild influence, the wrongs of Queen Mary were forgotten by her father,
and Mr. Oldbuck forgave the blasphemy which reviled the memory of King
William. However, as she used in general to take her father's part
playfully in these disputes, Oldbuck was wont to call Isabella his fair
enemy, though in fact he made more account of her than any other of her
sex, of whom, as we have seen, he, was no admirer.
There existed another connection betwixt these worthies, which had
alternately a repelling and attractive influence upon their intimacy. Sir
Arthur always wished to borrow; Mr. Oldbuck was not always willing to
lend. Mr. Oldbuck, per contra, always wished to be repaid with
regularity; Sir Arthur was not always, nor indeed often, prepared to
gratify this reasonable desire; and, in accomplishing an arrangement
between tendencies so opposite, little _miffs_ would occasionally take
place. Still there was a spirit of mutual accommodation upon the whole,
and they dragged on like dogs in couples, with some difficulty and
occasional snarling, but without absolutely coming to a stand-still or
throttling each other.
Some little disagreement, such as we have mentioned, arising out of
business, or politics, had divided the houses of Knockwinnock and
Monkbarns, when the emissary of the latter arrived to discharge his
errand. In his ancient Gothic parlour, whose windows on one side looked
out upon the restless ocean, and, on the other, upon the long straight
avenue, was the Baronet seated, now turning over the leaves of a folio,
now casting a weary glance where the sun quivered on the dark-green
foliage and smooth trunks of the large and branching limes with which the
avenue was planted. At length, sight of joy! a moving object is seen, and
it gives rise to the usual inquiries, Who is it? and what can be his
errand? The old whitish-grey coat, the hobbling gait, the hat
half-slouched, half-cocked, announced the forlorn maker of periwigs, and
left for investigation only the second query. This was soon solved by a
servant entering the parlour,--"A letter from Monkbarns, Sir Arthur."
Sir Arthur took the epistle with a due assumption of consequential
"Take the old man into the kitchen, and let him get some refreshment,"
said the young lady, whose compassionate eye had remarked his thin grey
hair and wearied gait.
"Mr. Oldbuck, my love, invites us to dinner on Tuesday the 17th," said
the Baronet, pausing;--"he really seems to forget that he has not of late
conducted himself so civilly towards me as might have been expected."
"Dear sir, you have so many advantages over poor Mr. Oldbuck, that no
wonder it should put him a little out of humour; but I know he has much
respect for your person and your conversation;--nothing would give him
more pain than to be wanting in any real attention."
"True, true, Isabella; and one must allow for the original descent;
--something of the German boorishness still flows in the blood; something
of the whiggish and perverse opposition to established rank and
privilege. You may observe that he never has any advantage of me in
dispute, unless when he avails himself of a sort of pettifogging intimacy
with dates, names, and trifling matters of fact--a tiresome and frivolous
accuracy of memory, which is entirely owing to his mechanical descent."
"He must find it convenient in historical investigation, I should think,
sir?" said the young lady.
"It leads to an uncivil and positive mode of disputing; and nothing seems
more unreasonable than to hear him impugn even Bellenden's rare
translation of Hector Boece, which I have the satisfaction to possess,
and which is a black-letter folio of great value, upon the authority of
some old scrap of parchment which he has saved from its deserved destiny
of being cut up into tailor's measures. And besides, that habit of minute
and troublesome accuracy leads to a mercantile manner of doing business,
which ought to be beneath a landed proprietor whose family has stood two
or three generations. I question if there's a dealer's clerk in Fairport
that can sum an account of interest better than Monkbarns."
"But you'll accept his invitation, sir?"
"Why, ye--yes; we have no other engagement on hand, I think. Who can the
young man be he talks of?--he seldom picks up new acquaintance; and he
has no relation that I ever heard of."
"Probably some relation of his brother-in-law Captain M'Intyre."
"Very possibly--yes, we will accept--the M'Intyres are of a very ancient
Highland family. You may answer his card in the affirmative, Isabella; I
believe I have, no leisure to be _Dear Sirring_ myself."
So this important matter being adjusted, Miss Wardour intimated "her own
and Sir Arthur's compliments, and that they would have the honour of
waiting upon Mr. Oldbuck. Miss Wardour takes this opportunity to renew
her hostility with Mr. Oldbuck, on account of his late long absence from
Knockwinnock, where his visits give so much pleasure." With this
_placebo_ she concluded her note, with which old Caxon, now refreshed in
limbs and wind, set out on his return to the Antiquary's mansion.
_Moth._ By Woden, God of Saxons,
From whence comes Wensday, that is, Wednesday,
Truth is a thing that I will ever keep
Unto thylke day in which I creep into
Our young friend Lovel, who had received a corresponding invitation,
punctual to the hour of appointment, arrived at Monkbarns about five
minutes before four o'clock on the 17th of July. The day had been
remarkably sultry, and large drops of rain had occasionally fallen,
though the threatened showers had as yet passed away.
Mr. Oldbuck received him at the Palmer's-port in his complete brown suit,
grey silk stockings, and wig powdered with all the skill of the veteran
Caxon, who having smelt out the dinner, had taken care not to finish his
job till the hour of eating approached.
"You are welcome to my symposion, Mr. Lovel. And now let me introduce you
to my Clogdogdo's, as Tom Otter calls them--my unlucky and
good-for-nothing womankind--_malae bestiae,_ Mr. Lovel."
"I shall be disappointed, sir, if I do not find the ladies very
undeserving of your satire."
"Tilley-valley, Mr. Lovel,--which, by the way, one commentator derives
from _tittivillitium,_ and another from _talley-ho_--but tilley-valley,
I say--a truce with your politeness. You will find them but samples of
womankind--But here they be, Mr. Lovel. I present to you in due order, my
most discreet sister Griselda, who disdains the simplicity, as well as
patience annexed to the poor old name of Grizzel; and my most exquisite
niece Maria, whose mother was called Mary, and sometimes Molly."
The elderly lady rustled in silks and satins, and bore upon her head a
structure resembling the fashion in the ladies' memorandum-book for the
year 1770--a superb piece of architecture, not much less than a modern
Gothic castle, of which the curls might represent the turrets, the black
pins the _chevaux de frise,_ and the lappets the banners.
The face, which, like that of the ancient statues of Vesta, was thus
crowned with towers, was large and long, and peaked at nose and chin, and
bore, in other respects, such a ludicrous resemblance to the physiognomy
of Mr. Jonathan Oldbuck, that Lovel, had they not appeared at once, like
Sebastian and Viola in the last scene of the "Twelfth Night," might have
supposed that the figure before him was his old friend masquerading in
female attire. An antique flowered silk gown graced the extraordinary
person to whom belonged this unparalleled _tete,_ which her brother was
wont to say was fitter for a turban for Mahound or Termagant, than a
head-gear for a reasonable creature, or Christian gentlewoman. Two long
and bony arms were terminated at the elbows by triple blond ruffles, and
being, folded saltire-ways in front of her person, and decorated with
long gloves of a bright vermilion colour, presented no bad resemblance to
a pair of gigantic lobsters. High-heeled shoes, and a short silk cloak,
thrown in easy negligence over her shoulders, completed the exterior of
Miss Griselda Oldbuck.
Her niece, the same whom Lovel had seen transiently during his first
visit, was a pretty young woman, genteelly dressed according to the
fashion of the day, with an air of _espieglerie_ which became her very
well, and which was perhaps derived from the caustic humour peculiar to
her uncle's family, though softened by transmission.
Mr. Lovel paid his respects to both ladies, and was answered by the elder
with the prolonged courtesy of 1760, drawn from the righteous period,
When folks conceived a grace
Of half an hour's space,
And rejoiced in a Friday's capon,
and by the younger with a modern reverence, which, like the festive
benediction of a modern divine, was of much shorter duration.
While this salutation was exchanging, Sir Arthur, with his fair daughter
hanging upon his arm, having dismissed his chariot, appeared at the
garden door, and in all due form paid his respects to the ladies.
"Sir Arthur," said the Antiquary, "and you, my fair foe, let me make
known to you my young friend Mr. Lovel, a gentleman who, during the
scarlet-fever which is epidemic at present in this our island, has the
virtue and decency to appear in a coat of a civil complexion. You see,
however, that the fashionable colour has mustered in his cheeks which
appears not in his garments. Sir Arthur, let me present to you a young
gentleman, whom your farther knowledge will find grave, wise, courtly,
and scholar-like, well seen, deeply read, and thoroughly grounded in all
the hidden mysteries of the green-room and stage, from the days of Davie
Lindsay down to those of Dibdin--he blushes again, which is a sign of
"My brother," said Miss Griselda, addressing Lovel, "has a humorous way
of expressing himself, sir; nobody thinks anything of what Monkbarns
says--so I beg you will not be so confused for the matter of his
nonsense; but you must have had a warm walk beneath this broiling sun
--would you take anything?--a glass of balm-wine?"
Ere Lovel could answer, the Antiquary interposed. "Aroint thee, witch!
wouldst thou poison my guests with thy infernal decoctions? Dost thou not
remember how it fared with the clergyman whom you seduced to partake of
that deceitful beverage?"
"O fy, fy, brother!--Sir Arthur, did you ever hear the like?--he must
have everything his ain way, or he will invent such stories--But there
goes Jenny to ring the old bell to tell us that the dinner is ready."
Rigid in his economy, Mr. Oldbuck kept no male servant. This he disguised
under the pretext that the masculine sex was too noble to be employed in
those acts of personal servitude, which, in all early periods of society,
were uniformly imposed on the female. "Why," would he say, "did the boy,
Tam Rintherout, whom, at my wise sister's instigation, I, with equal
wisdom, took upon trial--why did he pilfer apples, take birds' nests,
break glasses, and ultimately steal my spectacles, except that he felt
that noble emulation which swells in the bosom of the masculine sex,
which has conducted him to Flanders with a musket on his shoulder, and
doubtless will promote him to a glorious halbert, or even to the gallows?
And why does this girl, his full sister, Jenny Rintherout, move in the
same vocation with safe and noiseless step--shod, or unshod--soft as the
pace of a cat, and docile as a spaniel--Why? but because she is in her
vocation. Let them minister to us, Sir Arthur,--let them minister, I
say,--it's the only thing they are fit for. All ancient legislators, from
Lycurgus to Mahommed, corruptly called Mahomet, agree in putting them in
their proper and subordinate rank, and it is only the crazy heads of our
old chivalrous ancestors that erected their Dulcineas into despotic
Miss Wardour protested loudly against this ungallant doctrine; but the
bell now rung for dinner.
"Let me do all the offices of fair courtesy to so fair an antagonist,"
said the old gentleman, offering his arm. "I remember, Miss Wardour,
Mahommed (vulgarly Mahomet) had some hesitation about the mode of
summoning his Moslemah to prayer. He rejected bells as used by
Christians, trumpets as the summons of the Guebres, and finally adopted
the human voice. I have had equal doubt concerning my dinner-call. Gongs,
now in present use, seemed a newfangled and heathenish invention, and the
voice of the female womankind I rejected as equally shrill and dissonant;
wherefore, contrary to the said Mahommed, or Mahomet, I have resumed the
bell. It has a local propriety, since it was the conventual signal for
spreading the repast in their refectory, and it has the advantage over
the tongue of my sister's prime minister, Jenny, that, though not quite
so loud and shrill, it ceases ringing the instant you drop the bell-rope:
whereas we know, by sad experience, that any attempt to silence Jenny,
only wakes the sympathetic chime of Miss Oldbuck and Mary M'Intyre to
join in chorus."
With this discourse he led the way to his dining-parlour, which Lovel had
not yet seen;--it was wainscotted, and contained some curious paintings.
The dining-table was attended by Jenny; but an old superintendent, a sort
of female butler, stood by the sideboard, and underwent the burden of
bearing several reproofs from Mr. Oldbuck, and inuendos, not so much
marked, but not less cutting, from his sister.
The dinner was such as suited a professed antiquary, comprehending many
savoury specimens of Scottish viands, now disused at the tables of those
who affect elegance. There was the relishing Solan goose, whose smell is
so powerful that he is never cooked within doors. Blood-raw he proved to
be on this occasion, so that Oldbuck half threatened to throw the greasy
sea-fowl at the head of the negligent housekeeper, who acted as priestess
in presenting this odoriferous offering. But, by good-hap, she had been
most fortunate in the hotch-potch, which was unanimously pronounced to be
inimitable. "I knew we should succeed here," said Oldbuck exultingly,
"for Davie Dibble, the gardener (an old bachelor like myself), takes care
the rascally women do not dishonour our vegetables. And here is fish and
sauce, and crappit-heads--I acknowledge our womankind excel in that dish
--it procures them the pleasure of scolding, for half an hour at least,
twice a-week, with auld Maggy Mucklebackit, our fish-wife. The
chicken-pie, Mr. Lovel, is made after a recipe bequeathed to me by my
departed grandmother of happy memory--And if you will venture on a glass
of wine, you will find it worthy of one who professes the maxim of King
Alphonso of Castile,--Old wood to burn--old books to read--old wine to
drink--and old friends, Sir Arthur--ay, Mr. Lovel, and young friends too,
to converse with."
"And what news do you bring us from Edinburgh, Monkbarns?" said Sir
Arthur; "how wags the world in Auld Reekie?"
"Mad, Sir Arthur, mad--irretrievably frantic--far beyond dipping in the
sea, shaving the crown, or drinking hellebore. The worst sort of frenzy,
a military frenzy, hath possessed man, woman, and child."
"And high time, I think," said Miss Wardour, "when we are threatened with
invasion from abroad and insurrection at home."
"O, I did not doubt you would join the scarlet host against me--women,
like turkeys, are always subdued by a red rag--But what says Sir Arthur,
whose dreams are of standing armies and German oppression?"
"Why, I say, Mr. Oldbuck," replied the knight, "that so far as I am
capable of judging, we ought to resist _cum toto corpore regni_--as the
phrase is, unless I have altogether forgotten my Latin--an enemy who
comes to propose to us a Whiggish sort of government, a republican
system, and who is aided and abetted by a sort of fanatics of the worst
kind in our own bowels. I have taken some measures, I assure you, such as
become my rank in the community; for I have directed the constables to
take up that old scoundrelly beggar, Edie Ochiltree, for spreading
disaffection against church and state through the whole parish. He said
plainly to old Caxon, that Willie Howie's Kilmarnock cowl covered more
sense than all the three wigs in the parish--I think it is easy to make
out that inuendo--But the rogue shall be taught better manners."
"O no, my dear sir," exclaimed Miss Wardour, "not old Edie, that we have
known so long;--I assure you no constable shall have my good graces that
executes such a warrant."
"Ay, there it goes," said the Antiquary; "you, to be a staunch Tory, Sir
Arthur, have nourished a fine sprig of Whiggery in your bosom--Why, Miss
Wardour is alone sufficient to control a whole quarter-session--a
quarter-session? ay, a general assembly or convocation to boot--a
Boadicea she--an Amazon, a Zenobia."
"And yet, with all my courage, Mr. Oldbuck, I am glad to hear our people
are getting under arms."
"Under arms, Lord love thee! didst thou ever read the history of Sister
Margaret, which flowed from a head, that, though now old and somedele
grey, has more sense and political intelligence than you find now-a-days
in the whole synod? Dost thou remember the Nurse's dream in that
exquisite work, which she recounts in such agony to Hubble Bubble?--When
she would have taken up a piece of broad-cloth in her vision, lo! it
exploded like a great iron cannon; when she put out her hand to save a
pirn, it perked up in her face in the form of a pistol. My own vision in
Edinburgh has been something similar. I called to consult my lawyer; he
was clothed in a dragoon's dress, belted and casqued, and about to mount
a charger, which his writing-clerk (habited as a sharp-shooter) walked to
and fro before his door. I went to scold my agent for having sent me to
advise with a madman; he had stuck into his head the plume, which in more
sober days he wielded between his fingers, and figured as an artillery
officer. My mercer had his spontoon in his hand, as if he measured his
cloth by that implement, instead of a legitimate yard. The, banker's
clerk, who was directed to sum my cash-account, blundered it three times,
being disordered by the recollection of his military _tellings-off_ at
the morning-drill. I was ill, and sent for a surgeon--
He came--but valour so had fired his eye,
And such a falchion glittered on his thigh,
That, by the gods, with such a load of steel,
I thought he came to murder,--not to heal.
I had recourse to a physician, but he also was practising a more
wholesale mode of slaughter than that which his profession had been
supposed at all times to open to him. And now, since I have returned
here, even our wise neighbours of Fairport have caught the same valiant
humour. I hate a gun like a hurt wild duck--I detest a drum like a
quaker;--and they thunder and rattle out yonder upon the town's common,
so that every volley and roll goes to my very heart."
"Dear brother, dinna speak that gate o' the gentlemen volunteers--I am
sure they have a most becoming uniform--Weel I wot they have been wet to
the very skin twice last week--I met them marching in terribly doukit, an
mony a sair hoast was amang them--And the trouble they take, I am sure it
claims our gratitude."
"And I am sure," said Miss M'Intyre, "that my uncle sent twenty guineas
to help out their equipments."
"It was to buy liquorice and sugar-candy," said the cynic, "to encourage
the trade of the place, and to refresh the throats of the officers who
had bawled themselves hoarse in the service of their country."
"Take care, Monkbarns! we shall set you down among the black-nebs by and
"No Sir Arthur--a tame grumbler I. I only claim the privilege of croaking
in my own corner here, without uniting my throat to the grand chorus of
the marsh--_Ni quito Rey, ni pongo Rey_--I neither make king nor mar
king, as Sancho says, but pray heartily for our own sovereign, pay scot
and lot, and grumble at the exciseman--But here comes the ewe-milk cheese
in good time; it is a better digestive than politics."
When dinner was over, and the decanters placed on the table, Mr. Oldbuck
proposed the King's health in a bumper, which was readily acceded to both
by Lovel and the Baronet, the Jacobitism of the latter being now a sort
of speculative opinion merely,--the shadow of a shade.
After the ladies had left the apartment, the landlord and Sir Arthur
entered into several exquisite discussions, in which the younger guest,
either on account of the abstruse erudition which they involved, or for
some other reason, took but a slender share, till at length he was
suddenly started out of a profound reverie by an unexpected appeal to his
"I will stand by what Mr. Lovel says; he was born in the north of
England, and may know the very spot."
Sir Arthur thought it unlikely that so young a gentleman should have paid
much attention to matters of that sort.
"I am avised of the contrary," said Oldbuck.
"How say you, Mr. Lovel?--speak up for your own credit, man."
Lovel was obliged to confess himself in the ridiculous situation of one
alike ignorant of the subject of conversation and controversy which had
engaged the company for an hour.
"Lord help the lad, his head has been wool-gathering!--I thought how it
would be when the womankind were admitted--no getting a word of sense out
of a young fellow for six hours after.--Why, man, there was once a people
called the Piks"--
"More properly _Picts,_" interrupted the Baronet.
"I say the _Pikar, Pihar, Piochtar, Piaghter,_ or _Peughtar,_"
vociferated Oldbuck; "they spoke a Gothic dialect"--
"Genuine Celtic," again asseverated the knight.
"Gothic! Gothic! I'll go to death upon it!" counter-asseverated the
"Why, gentlemen," sad Lovel, "I conceive that is a dispute which may be
easily settled by philologists, if there are any remains of the
"There is but one word," said the Baronet, "but, in spite of Mr.
Oldbuck's pertinacity, it is decisive of the question."
"Yes, in my favour," said Oldbuck: "Mr. Lovel, you shall be judge--I have
the learned Pinkerton on my side."
"I, on mine, the indefatigable and erudite Chalmers."
"Gordon comes into my opinion."
"Sir Robert Sibbald holds mine."
"Innes is with me!" vociferated Oldbuck.
"Riston has no doubt!" shouted the Baronet.
"Truly, gentlemen," said Lovel, "before you muster your forces and
overwhelm me with authorities, I should like to know the word in
"_Benval_" said both the disputants at once.
"Which signifies _caput valli,_" said Sir Arthur.
"The head of the wall," echoed Oldbuck.
There was a deep pause.--"It is rather a narrow foundation to build a
hypothesis upon," observed the arbiter.
"Not a whit, not a whit," said Oldbuck; "men fight best in a narrow ring
--an inch is as good as a mile for a home-thrust."
"It is decidedly Celtic," said the Baronet; "every hill in the Highlands
begins with _Ben._"
"But what say you to _Val,_ Sir Arthur; is it not decidedly the Saxon
"It is the Roman _vallum,_" said Sir Arthur;--"the Picts borrowed that
part of the word."
"No such thing; if they borrowed anything, it must have been your _Ben,_
which they might have from the neighbouring Britons of Strath Cluyd."
"The Piks, or Picts," said Lovel, "must have been singularly poor in
dialect, since, in the only remaining word of their vocabulary, and that
consisting only of two syllables, they have been confessedly obliged to
borrow one of them from another language; and, methinks, gentlemen, with
submission, the controversy is not unlike that which the two knights
fought, concerning the shield that had one side white and the other
black. Each of you claim one-half of the word, and seem to resign the
other. But what strikes me most, is the poverty of the language which has
left such slight vestiges behind it."
"You are in an error," said Sir Arthur; "it was a copious language, and
they were a great and powerful people; built two steeples--one at
Brechin, one at Abernethy. The Pictish maidens of the blood-royal were
kept in Edinburgh Castle, thence called _Castrum Puellarum._"
"A childish legend," said Oldbuck, "invented to give consequence to
trumpery womankind. It was called the Maiden Castle, _quasi lucus a non
lucendo,_ because it resisted every attack, and women never do."
"There is a list of the Pictish kings," persisted Sir Arthur, "well
authenticated from Crentheminachcryme (the, date of whose reign is
somewhat uncertain) down to Drusterstone, whose death concluded their
dynasty. Half of them have the Celtic patronymic _Mac_ prefixed--Mac, _id
est filius;_--what do you say to that, Mr. Oldbuck? There is Drust
Macmorachin, Trynel Maclachlin (first of that ancient clan, as it may be
judged), and Gormach Macdonald, Alpin Macmetegus, Drust Mactallargam"
(here he was interrupted by a fit of coughing)--"ugh, ugh, ugh--Golarge
Macchan--ugh, ugh--Macchanan--ugh--Macchananail, Kenneth--ugh--ugh--
Macferedith, Eachan Macfungus--and twenty more, decidedly Celtic names,
which I could repeat, if this damned cough would let me."
"Take a glass of wine, Sir Arthur, and drink down that bead-roll of
unbaptized jargon, that would choke the devil--why, that last fellow has
the only intelligible name you have repeated--they are all of the tribe
of Macfungus--mushroom monarchs every one of them; sprung up from the
fumes of conceit, folly, and falsehood, fermenting in the brains of some
mad Highland seannachie."
"I am surprised to hear you, Mr. Oldbuck: you know, or ought to know,
that the list of these potentates was copied by Henry Maule of Melguin,
from the Chronicles of Loch Leven and St. Andrews, and put forth by him
in his short but satisfactory history of the Picts, printed by Robert
Freebairn of Edinburgh, and sold by him at his shop in the Parliament
Close, in the, year of God seventeen hundred and five, or six, I am not
precisely certain which--but I have a copy at home that stands next to my
twelvemo copy of the Scots Acts, and ranges on the shelf with them very
well. What say you to that, Mr. Oldbuck?"
"Say?--why, I laugh at Harry Maule and his history," answered Oldbuck,
"and thereby comply with his request, of giving it entertainment
according to its merits."
"Do not laugh at a better man than yourself," said Sir Arthur, somewhat
"I do not conceive I do, Sir Arthur, in laughing either at him or his
"Henry Maule of Melgum was a gentleman, Mr. Oldbuck."
"I presume he had no advantage of me in _that_ particular," replied the
Antiquary, somewhat tartly.
"Permit me, Mr. Oldbuck--he was a gentleman of high family, and ancient
descent, and therefore"--
"The descendant of a Westphalian printer should speak of him with
deference? Such may be your opinion, Sir Arthur--it is not mine. I
conceive that my descent from that painful and industrious typographer,
Wolfbrand Oldenbuck, who, in the month of December 1193, under the
patronage, as the colophon tells us, of Sebaldus Scheyter and Sebastian
Kammermaister, accomplished the printing of the great Chronicle of
Nuremberg--I conceive, I say, that my descent from that great restorer of
learning is more creditable to me as a man of letters, than if I had
numbered in my genealogy all the brawling, bullet-headed, iron-fisted,
old Gothic barons since the days of Crentheminachcryme--not one of whom,
I suppose, could write his own name."
"If you mean the observation as a sneer at my ancestry," said the knight,
with an assumption of dignified superiority and composure, "I have the
pleasure to inform you, that the name of my ancestor, Gamelyn de
Guardover, Miles, is written fairly with his own hand in the earliest
copy of the Ragman-roll."
"Which only serves to show that he was one of the earliest who set the
mean example of submitting to Edward I. What have, you to say for the
stainless loyalty of your family, Sir Arthur, after such a backsliding as
"It's enough, sir," said Sir Arthur, starting up fiercely, and pushing
back his chair; "I shall hereafter take care how I honour with my company
one who shows himself so ungrateful for my condescension."
"In that you will do as you find most agreeable, Sir Arthur;--I hope,
that as I was not aware of the extent of the obligation which you have
done me by visiting my poor house, I may be excused for not having
carried my gratitude to the extent of servility."
"Mighty well--mighty well, Mr. Oldbuck--I wish you a good evening--Mr.
a--a--a--Shovel--I wish you a very good evening."
Out of the parlour door flounced the incensed Sir Arthur, as if the
spirit of the whole Round Table inflamed his single bosom, and traversed
with long strides the labyrinth of passages which conducted to the
"Did you ever hear such an old tup-headed ass?" said Oldbuck, briefly
apostrophizing Lovel. "But I must not let him go in this mad-like way
So saying, he pushed off after the retreating Baronet, whom he traced by
the clang of several doors which he opened in search of the apartment for
tea, and slammed with force behind him at every disappointment. "You'll
do yourself a mischief," roared the Antiquary; "_Qui ambulat in tenebris,
nescit quo vadit_--You'll tumble down the back-stair."
Sir Arthur had now got involved in darkness, of which the sedative effect
is well known to nurses and governesses who have to deal with pettish
children. It retarded the pace of the irritated Baronet, if it did not
abate his resentment, and Mr. Oldbuck, better acquainted with the
_locale,_ got up with him as he had got his grasp upon the handle of the
"Stay a minute, Sir Arthur," said Oldbuck, opposing his abrupt entrance;
"don't be quite so hasty, my good old friend. I was a little too rude
with you about Sir Gamelyn--why, he is an old acquaintance of mine, man,
and a favourite; he kept company with Bruce and Wallace--and, I'll be
sworn on a black-letter Bible, only subscribed the Ragman-roll with the
legitimate and justifiable intention of circumventing the false Southern
--'twas right Scottish craft, my good knight--hundreds did it. Come,
come, forget and forgive--confess we have given the young fellow here a
right to think us two testy old fools."
"Speak for yourself, Mr. Jonathan Oldbuck," said Sir Arthur with much
"A-well, a-well--a wilful man must have his way."
With that the door opened, and into the drawing-room marched the tall
gaunt form of Sir Arthur, followed by Lovel and Mr. Oldbuck, the
countenances of all the three a little discomposed.
"I have been waiting for you, sir," said Miss Wardour, "to propose we
should walk forward to meet the carriage, as the evening is so fine."
Sir Arthur readily assented to this proposal, which suited the angry mood
in which he found himself; and having, agreeable to the established
custom in cases of pet, refused the refreshment of tea and coffee, he
tucked his daughter under his arm; and after taking a ceremonious leave
of the ladies, and a very dry one of Oldbuck--off he marched.
"I think Sir Arthur has got the black dog on his back again," said Miss
"Black dog!--black devil!--he's more absurd than womankind--What say you,
Lovel?--Why, the lad's gone too."
"He took his leave, uncle, while Miss Wardour was putting on her things;
but I don't think you observed him."
"The devil's in the people! This is all one gets by fussing and bustling,
and putting one's self out of one's way in order to give dinners, besides
all the charges they are put to!--O Seged, Emperor of Ethiopia!" said he,
taking up a cup of tea in the one hand, and a volume of the Rambler in
the other,--for it was his regular custom to read while he was eating or
drinking in presence of his sister, being a practice which served at once
to evince his contempt for the society of womankind, and his resolution
to lose no moment of instruction,--"O Seged, Emperor of Ethiopia! well
hast thou spoken--No man should presume to say, This shall be a day of
Oldbuck proceeded in his studies for the best part of an hour,
uninterrupted by the ladies, who each, in profound silence, pursued some
female employment. At length, a light and modest tap was heard at the
parlour door. "Is that you, Caxon?--come in, come in, man."
The old man opened the door, and thrusting in his meagre face, thatched
with thin grey locks, and one sleeve of his white coat, said in a subdued
and mysterious tone of voice, "I was wanting to speak to you, sir."
"Come in then, you old fool, and say what you have got to say."
"I'll maybe frighten the ladies," said the ex-friseur.
"Frighten!" answered the Antiquary,--"what do you mean?--never mind the
ladies. Have you seen another ghaist at the Humlock-knowe?"
"Na, sir--it's no a ghaist this turn," replied Caxton;--"but I'm no easy
in my mind."
"Did you ever hear of any body that was?" answered Oldbuck;--"what reason
has an old battered powder-puff like you to be easy in your mind, more
than all the rest of the world besides?"
"It's no for mysell, sir; but it threatens an awfu' night; and Sir
Arthur, and Miss Wardour, poor thing"--
"Why, man, they must have met the carriage at the head of the loaning, or
thereabouts; they must be home long ago."
"Na, sir; they didna gang the road by the turnpike to meet the carriage,
they gaed by the sands."
The word operated like electricity on Oldbuck. "The sands!" he exclaimed;
"Ou, sir, that's what I said to the gardener; but he says he saw them
turn down by the Mussel-craig. In troth, says I to him, an that be the
case, Davie, I am misdoubting"--
"An almanac! an almanac!" said Oldbuck, starting up in great alarm--"not
that bauble!" flinging away a little pocket almanac which his niece
offered him.--"Great God! my poor dear Miss Isabella!--Fetch me instantly
the Fairport Almanac."--It was brought, consulted, and added greatly to
his agitation. "I'll go myself--call the gardener and ploughman--bid them
bring ropes and ladders--bid them raise more help as they come along
--keep the top of the cliffs, and halloo down to them--I'll go myself."
"What is the matter?" inquired Miss Oldbuck and Miss M'Intyre.
"The tide!--the tide!" answered the alarmed Antiquary.
"Had not Jenny better--but no, I'll run myself," said the younger lady,
partaking in all her uncle's terrors--"I'll run myself to Saunders
Mucklebackit, and make him get out his boat."
"Thank you, my dear, that's the wisest word that has been spoken yet
--Run! run!--To go by the sands!" seizing his hat and cane; "was there
ever such madness heard of!"
--Pleased awhile to view
The watery waste, the prospect wild and new;
The now receding waters gave them space,
On either side, the growing shores to trace
And then returning, they contract the scene,
Till small and smaller grows the walk between.
The information of Davie Dibble, which had spread such general alarm at
Monkbarns, proved to be strictly correct. Sir Arthur and his daughter had
set out, according to their first proposal, to return to Knockwinnock by
the turnpike road; but when they reached the head of the loaning, as it
was called, or great lane, which on one side made a sort of avenue to the
house of Monkbarns, they discerned, a little way before them, Lovel, who
seemed to linger on the way as if to give him an opportunity to join
them. Miss Wardour immediately proposed to her father that they should
take another direction; and, as the weather was fine, walk home by the
sands, which, stretching below a picturesque ridge of rocks, afforded at
almost all times a pleasanter passage between Knockwinnock and Monkbarns
than the high-road.
Sir Arthur acquiesced willingly. "It would be unpleasant," he said, "to
be joined by that young fellow, whom Mr. Oldbuck had taken the freedom to
introduce them to." And his old-fashioned politeness had none of the ease
of the present day which permits you, if you have a mind, to _cut_ the
person you have associated with for a week, the instant you feel or
suppose yourself in a situation which makes it disagreeable to own him.
Sir Arthur only stipulated, that a little ragged boy, for the guerdon of
one penny sterling, should run to meet his coachman, and turn his
equipage back to Knockwinnock.
When this was arranged, and the emissary despatched, the knight and his
daughter left the high-road, and following a wandering path among sandy
hillocks, partly grown over with furze and the long grass called bent,
soon attained the side of the ocean. The tide was by no means so far out
as they had computed but this gave them no alarm;--there were seldom ten
days in the year when it approached so near the cliffs as not to leave a
dry passage. But, nevertheless, at periods of spring-tide, or even when
the ordinary flood was accelerated by high winds, this road was
altogether covered by the sea; and tradition had recorded several fatal
accidents which had happened on such occasions. Still, such dangers were
considered as remote and improbable; and rather served, with other
legends, to amuse the hamlet fireside, than to prevent any one from going
between Knockwinnock and Monkbarns by the sands.
As Sir Arthur and Miss Wardour paced along, enjoying the pleasant footing
afforded by the cool moist hard sand, Miss Wardour could not help
observing that the last tide had risen considerably above the usual
water-mark. Sir Arthur made the same observation, but without its
occurring to either of them to be alarmed at the circumstance. The sun
was now resting his huge disk upon the edge of the level ocean, and
gilded the accumulation of towering clouds through which he had travelled
the livelong day, and which now assembled on all sides, like misfortunes
and disasters around a sinking empire and falling monarch. Still,
however, his dying splendour gave a sombre magnificence to the massive
congregation of vapours, forming out of their unsubstantial gloom the
show of pyramids and towers, some touched with gold, some with purple,
some with a hue of deep and dark red. The distant sea, stretched beneath
this varied and gorgeous canopy, lay almost portentously still,
reflecting back the dazzling and level beams of the descending luminary,
and the splendid colouring of the clouds amidst which he was setting.
Nearer to the beach the tide rippled onward in waves of sparkling silver,
that imperceptibly, yet rapidly, gained upon the sand.
With a mind employed in admiration of the romantic scene, or perhaps on
some more agitating topic, Miss Wardour advanced in silence by her
father's side, whose recently offended dignity did not stoop to open any
conversation. Following the windings of the beach, they passed one
projecting point of headland or rock after another, and now found
themselves under a huge and continued extent of the precipices by which
that iron-bound coast is in most places defended. Long projecting reefs
of rock, extending under water and only evincing their existence by here
and there a peak entirely bare, or by the breakers which foamed over
those that were partially covered, rendered Knockwinnock bay dreaded by
pilots and ship-masters. The crags which rose between the beach and the
mainland, to the height of two or three hundred feet, afforded in their
crevices shelter for unnumbered sea-fowl, in situations seemingly secured
by their dizzy height from the rapacity of man. Many of these wild
tribes, with the instinct which sends them to seek the land before a
storm arises, were now winging towards their nests with the shrill and
dissonant clang which announces disquietude and fear. The disk of the sun
became almost totally obscured ere he had altogether sunk below the
horizon, and an early and lurid shade of darkness blotted the serene
twilight of a summer evening. The wind began next to arise; but its wild
and moaning sound was heard for some time, and its effects became visible
on the bosom of the sea, before the gale was felt on shore. The mass of
waters, now dark and threatening, began to lift itself in larger ridges,
and sink in deeper furrows, forming waves that rose high in foam upon the
breakers, or burst upon the beach with a sound resembling distant
Appalled by this sudden change of weather, Miss Wardour drew close to her
father, and held his arm fast. "I wish," at length she said, but almost
in a whisper, as if ashamed to express her increasing apprehensions, "I
wish we had kept the road we intended, or waited at Monkbarns for the
Sir Arthur looked round, but did not see, or would not acknowledge, any
signs of an immediate storm. They would reach Knockwinnock, he said, long
before the tempest began. But the speed with which he walked, and with
which Isabella could hardly keep pace, indicated a feeling that some
exertion was necessary to accomplish his consolatory prediction.
They were now near the centre of a deep but narrow bay or recess, formed
by two projecting capes of high and inaccessible rock, which shot out
into the sea like the horns of a crescent;--and neither durst communicate
the apprehension which each began to entertain, that, from the unusually
rapid advance of the tide, they might be deprived of the power of
proceeding by doubling the promontory which lay before them, or of
retreating by the road which brought them thither.
As they thus pressed forward, longing doubtless to exchange the easy
curving line, which the sinuosities of the bay compelled them to adopt,
for a straighter and more expeditious path, Sir Arthur observed a human
figure on the beach advancing to meet them. "Thank God," he exclaimed,
"we shall get round Halket-head!--that person must have passed it;" thus
giving vent to the feeling of hope, though he had suppressed that of
"Thank God, indeed!" echoed his daughter, half audibly, half internally,
as expressing the gratitude which she strongly felt.
The figure which advanced to meet them made many signs, which the haze of
the atmosphere, now disturbed by wind and by a drizzling rain, prevented
them from seeing or comprehending distinctly.--Some time before they met,
Sir Arthur could recognise the old blue-gowned beggar, Edie Ochiltree. It
is said that even the brute creation lay aside their animosities and
antipathies when pressed by an instant and common danger. The beach under
Halket-head, rapidly diminishing in extent by the encroachments of a
spring-tide and a north-west wind, was in like manner a neutral field,
where even a justice of peace and a strolling mendicant might meet upon
terms of mutual forbearance.
"Turn back! turn back!" exclaimed the vagrant; "why did ye not turn when
I waved to you?"
"We thought," replied Sir Arthur, in great agitation, "we thought we
could get round Halket-head."
"Halket-head!--the tide will be running on Halket-head by this time like
the Fall of Fyers!--it was a' I could do to get round it twenty minutes
since--it was coming in three feet abreast. We will maybe get back by
Bally-burgh Ness Point yet. The Lord help us!--it's our only chance. We
can but try."
"My God, my child!"--"My father! my dear father!" exclaimed the parent
and daughter, as, fear lending them strength and speed, they turned to
retrace their steps, and endeavoured to double the point, the projection
of which formed the southern extremity of the bay.
"I heard ye were here frae the bit callant ye sent to meet your
carriage," said the beggar, as he trudged stoutly on a step or two behind
Miss Wardour; "and I couldna bide to think o' the dainty young leddy's
peril, that has aye been kind to ilka forlorn heart that cam near her.
Sae I lookit at the lift and the rin o' the tide, till I settled it that
if I could get down time eneugh to gie you warning, we wad do weel yet.
But I doubt, I doubt, I have been beguiled! for what mortal ee ever saw
sic a race as the tide is risening e'en now? See, yonder's the Ratton's
Skerry--he aye held his neb abune the water in my day--but he's aneath it
Sir Arthur cast a look in the direction in which the old man pointed. A
huge rock, which in general, even in spring-tides, displayed a hulk like
the keel of a large vessel, was now quite under water, and its place only
indicated by the boiling and breaking of the eddying waves which
encountered its submarine resistance.
"Mak haste, mak haste, my bonny leddy," continued the old man--"mak
haste, and we may do yet! Take haud o' my arm--an auld and frail arm it's
now, but it's been in as sair stress as this is yet. Take haud o' my arm,
my winsome leddy! D'ye see yon wee black speck amang the wallowing waves
yonder? This morning it was as high as the mast o' a brig--it's sma'
eneugh now--but, while I see as muckle black about it as the crown o' my
hat, I winna believe but we'll get round the Ballyburgh Ness, for a'
that's come and gane yet."
Isabella, in silence, accepted from the old man the assistance which Sir
Arthur was less able to afford her. The waves had now encroached so much
upon the beach, that the firm and smooth footing which they had hitherto
had on the sand must be exchanged for a rougher path close to the foot of
the precipice, and in some places even raised upon its lower ledges. It
would have been utterly impossible for Sir Arthur Wardour, or his
daughter, to have found their way along these shelves without the
guidance and encouragement of the beggar, who had been there before in
high tides, though never, he acknowledged, "in sae awsome a night as
It was indeed a dreadful evening. The howling of the storm mingled with
the shrieks of the sea-fowl, and sounded like the dirge of the three
devoted beings, who, pent between two of the most magnificent, yet most
dreadful objects of nature--a raging tide and an insurmountable
precipice--toiled along their painful and dangerous path, often lashed by
the spray of some giant billow, which threw itself higher on the beach
than those that had preceded it. Each minute did their enemy gain ground
perceptibly upon them! Still, however, loth to relinquish the last hopes
of life, they bent their eyes on the black rock pointed out by Ochiltree.
It was yet distinctly visible among the breakers, and continued to be so,
until they came to a turn in their precarious path, where an intervening
projection of rock hid it from their sight. Deprived of the view of the
beacon on which they had relied, they now experienced the double agony of
terror and suspense. They struggled forward, however; but, when they
arrived at the point from which they ought to have seen the crag, it was
no longer visible: the signal of safety was lost among a thousand white
breakers, which, dashing upon the point of the promontory, rose in
prodigious sheets of snowy foam, as high as the mast of a first-rate
man-of-war, against the dark brow of the precipice.
The countenance of the old man fell. Isabella gave a faint shriek, and,
"God have mercy upon us!" which her guide solemnly uttered, was piteously
echoed by Sir Arthur--"My child! my child!--to die such a death!"
"My father! my dear father!" his daughter exclaimed, clinging to him
--"and you too, who have lost your own life in endeavouring to save
"That's not worth the counting," said the old man. "I hae lived to be
weary o' life; and here or yonder--at the back o' a dyke, in a wreath o'
snaw, or in the wame o' a wave, what signifies how the auld gaberlunzie
"Good man," said Sir Arthur, "can you think of nothing?--of no help?
--I'll make you rich--I'll give you a farm--I'll"--
"Our riches will be soon equal," said the beggar, looking out upon the
strife of the waters--"they are sae already; for I hae nae land, and you
would give your fair bounds and barony for a square yard of rock that
would be dry for twal hours."
While they exchanged these words, they paused upon the highest ledge of
rock to which they could attain; for it seemed that any further attempt
to move forward could only serve to anticipate their fate. Here, then,
they were to await the sure though slow progress of the raging element,
something in the situation of the martyrs of the early church, who,
exposed by heathen tyrants to be slain by wild beasts, were compelled for
a time to witness the impatience and rage by which the animals were
agitated, while awaiting the signal for undoing their grates, and letting
them loose upon the victims.
Yet even this fearful pause gave Isabella time to collect the powers of a
mind naturally strong and courageous, and which rallied itself at this
terrible juncture. "Must we yield life," she said, "without a struggle?
Is there no path, however dreadful, by which we could climb the crag, or
at least attain some height above the tide, where we could remain till
morning, or till help comes? They must be aware of our situation, and
will raise the country to relieve us."
Sir Arthur, who heard, but scarcely comprehended, his daughter's
question, turned, nevertheless, instinctively and eagerly to the old man,
as if their lives were in his gift. Ochiltree paused--"I was a bauld
craigsman," he said, "ance in my life, and mony a kittywake's and
lungie's nest hae I harried up amang thae very black rocks; but it's
lang, lang syne, and nae mortal could speel them without a rope--and if I
had ane, my ee-sight, and my footstep, and my hand-grip, hae a' failed
mony a day sinsyne--And then, how could I save _you?_ But there was a
path here ance, though maybe, if we could see it, ye would rather bide
where we are--His name be praised!" he ejaculated suddenly, "there's ane
coming down the crag e'en now!"--Then, exalting his voice, he hilloa'd
out to the daring adventurer such instructions as his former practice,
and the remembrance of local circumstances, suddenly forced upon his
mind:--"Ye're right!--ye're right!--that gate--that gate!--fasten the
rope weel round Crummies-horn, that's the muckle black stane--cast twa
plies round it--that's it!--now, weize yoursell a wee easel-ward--a wee
mair yet to that ither stane--we ca'd it the Cat's-lug--there used to be
the root o' an aik tree there--that will do!--canny now, lad--canny now
--tak tent and tak time--Lord bless ye, tak time--Vera weel!--Now ye maun
get to Bessy's apron, that's the muckle braid flat blue stane--and then,
I think, wi' your help and the tow thegither, I'll win at ye, and then
we'll be able to get up the young leddy and Sir Arthur."
The adventurer, following the directions of old Edie, flung him down the
end of the rope, which he secured around Miss Wardour, wrapping her
previously in his own blue gown, to preserve her as much as possible from
injury. Then, availing himself of the rope, which was made fast at the
other end, he began to ascend the face of the crag--a most precarious and
dizzy undertaking, which, however, after one or two perilous escapes,
placed him safe on the broad flat stone beside our friend Lovel. Their
joint strength was able to raise Isabella to the place of safety which
they had attained. Lovel then descended in order to assist Sir Arthur,
around whom he adjusted the rope; and again mounting to their place of
refuge, with the assistance of old Ochiltree, and such aid as Sir Arthur
himself could afford, he raised himself beyond the reach of the billows.
The sense of reprieve from approaching and apparently inevitable death,
had its usual effect. The father and daughter threw themselves into each
other's arms, kissed and wept for joy, although their escape was
connected with the prospect of passing a tempestuous night upon a
precipitous ledge of rock, which scarce afforded footing for the four
shivering beings, who now, like the sea-fowl around them, clung there in
hopes of some shelter from the devouring element which raged beneath. The
spray of the billows, which attained in fearful succession the foot of
the precipice, overflowing the beach on which they so lately stood, flew
as high as their place of temporary refuge; and the stunning sound with
which they dashed against the rocks beneath, seemed as if they still
demanded the fugitives in accents of thunder as their destined prey. It
was a summer night, doubtless; yet the probability was slender, that a
frame so delicate as that of Miss Wardour should survive till morning the
drenching of the spray; and the dashing of the rain, which now burst in
full violence, accompanied with deep and heavy gusts of wind, added to
the constrained and perilous circumstances of their situation.
"The lassie!--the puir sweet, lassie!" said the old man: "mony such a
night have I weathered at hame and abroad, but, God guide us, how can she
ever win through it!"
His apprehension was communicated in smothered accents to Lovel; for with
the sort of freemasonry by which bold and ready spirits correspond in
moments of danger, and become almost instinctively known to each other,
they had established a mutual confidence.--"I'll climb up the cliff
again," said Lovel--there's daylight enough left to see my footing; I'll
climb up, and call for more assistance."
"Do so, do so, for Heaven's sake!" said Sir Arthur eagerly.
"Are ye mad?" said the mendicant: "Francie o' Fowlsheugh, and he was the
best craigsman that ever speel'd heugh (mair by token, he brake his neck
upon the Dunbuy of Slaines), wodna hae ventured upon the Halket-head
craigs after sun-down--It's God's grace, and a great wonder besides, that
ye are not in the middle o' that roaring sea wi' what ye hae done
already--I didna think there was the man left alive would hae come down
the craigs as ye did. I question an I could hae done it mysell, at this
hoar and in this weather, in the youngest and yaldest of my strength--But
to venture up again--it's a mere and a clear tempting o' Providence,"
"I have no fear," answered Lovel; "I marked all the stations perfectly as
I came down, and there is still light enough left to see them quite well
--I am sure I can do it with perfect safety. Stay here, my good friend, by
Sir Arthur and the young lady."
"Dell be in my feet then," answered the bedesman sturdily; "if ye gang,
I'll gang too; for between the twa o' us, we'll hae mair than wark eneugh
to get to the tap o' the heugh."
"No, no--stay you here and attend to Miss Wardour--you see Sir Arthur is
"Stay yoursell then, and I'll gae," said the old man;--"let death spare
the green corn and take the ripe."
"Stay both of you, I charge you," said Isabella, faintly; "I am well, and
can spend the night very well here--I feel quite refreshed." So saying,
her voice failed her--she sunk down, and would have fallen from the crag,
had she not been supported by Lovel and Ochiltree, who placed her in a
posture half sitting, half reclining, beside her father, who, exhausted
by fatigue of body and mind so extreme and unusual, had already sat down
on a stone in a sort of stupor.
"It is impossible to leave them," said Lovel--"What is to be done?--Hark!
hark!--did I not hear a halloo?"
"The skreigh of a Tammie Norie," answered Ochiltree--"I ken the skirl
"No, by Heaven!" replied Lovel, "it was a human voice."
A distant hail was repeated, the sound plainly distinguishable among the
various elemental noises, and the clang of the sea-mews by which they
were surrounded. The mendicant and Lovel exerted their voices in a loud
halloo, the former waving Miss Wardour's handkerchief on the end of his
staff to make them conspicuous from above. Though the shouts were
repeated, it was some time before they were in exact response to their
own, leaving the unfortunate sufferers uncertain whether, in the
darkening twilight and increasing storm, they had made the persons who
apparently were traversing the verge of the precipice to bring them
assistance, sensible of the place in which they had found refuge. At
length their halloo was regularly and distinctly answered, and their
courage confirmed, by the assurance that they were within hearing, if not
within reach, of friendly assistance.
There is a cliff, whose high and bending head
Looks fearfully on the confined deep;
Bring me but to the very brim of it,
And I'll repair the misery thou dost bear.
The shout of human voices from above was soon augmented, and the gleam of
torches mingled with those lights of evening which still remained amidst
the darkness of the storm. Some attempt was made to hold communication
between the assistants above and the sufferers beneath, who were still
clinging to their precarious place of safety; but the howling of the
tempest limited their intercourse to cries as inarticulate as those of
the winged denizens of the crag, which shrieked in chorus, alarmed by the
reiterated sound of human voices, where they had seldom been heard.
On the verge of the precipice an anxious group had now assembled. Oldbuck
was the foremost and most earnest, pressing forward with unwonted
desperation to the very brink of the crag, and extending his head (his
hat and wig secured by a handkerchief under his chin) over the dizzy
height, with an air of determination which made his more timorous
"Haud a care, haud a care, Monkbarns!" cried Caxon, clinging to the
skirts of his patron, and withholding him from danger as far as his
strength permitted--"God's sake, haud a care!--Sir Arthur's drowned
already, and an ye fa' over the cleugh too, there will be but ae wig left
in the parish, and that's the minister's."
"Mind the peak there," cried Mucklebackit, an old fisherman and smuggler
--"mind the peak--Steenie, Steenie Wilks, bring up the tackle--I'se
warrant we'll sune heave them on board, Monkbarns, wad ye but stand out
o' the gate."
"I see them," said Oldbuck--"I see them low down on that flat stone
"I see them mysell weel eneugh," said Mucklebackit; "they are sitting
down yonder like hoodie-craws in a mist; but d'yo think ye'll help them
wi' skirling that gate like an auld skart before a flaw o' weather?
--Steenie, lad, bring up the mast--Od, I'se hae them up as we used to
bouse up the kegs o' gin and brandy lang syne--Get up the pickaxe, make
a step for the mast--make the chair fast with the rattlin--haul taught
The fishers had brought with them the mast of a boat, and as half of the
country fellows about had now appeared, either out of zeal or curiosity,
it was soon sunk in the ground, and sufficiently secured. A yard across
the upright mast, and a rope stretched along it, and reeved through a
block at each end, formed an extempore crane, which afforded the means of
lowering an arm-chair, well secured and fastened, down to the flat shelf
on which the sufferers had roosted. Their joy at hearing the preparations
going on for their deliverance was considerably qualified when they
beheld the precarious vehicle by means of which they were to be conveyed
to upper air. It swung about a yard free of the spot which they occupied,
obeying each impulse of the tempest, the empty air all around it, and
depending upon the security of a rope, which, in the increasing darkness,
had dwindled to an almost imperceptible thread. Besides the hazard of
committing a human being to the vacant atmosphere in such a slight means
of conveyance, there was the fearful danger of the chair and its occupant
being dashed, either by the wind or the vibrations of the cord, against
the rugged face of the precipice. But to diminish the risk as much as
possible, the experienced seaman had let down with the chair another
line, which, being attached to it, and held by the persons beneath, might
serve by way of _gy,_ as Mucklebackit expressed it, to render its descent
in some measure steady and regular. Still, to commit one's self in such a
vehicle, through a howling tempest of wind and rain, with a beetling
precipice above and a raging abyss below, required that courage which
despair alone can inspire. Yet, wild as the sounds and sights of danger
were, both above, beneath, and around, and doubtful and dangerous as the
mode of escaping appeared to be, Lovel and the old mendicant agreed,
after a moment's consultation, and after the former, by a sudden strong
pull, had, at his own imminent risk, ascertained the security of the
rope, that it would be best to secure Miss Wardour in the chair, and
trust to the tenderness and care of those above for her being safely
craned up to the top of the crag.
"Let my father go first," exclaimed Isabella; "for God's sake, my
friends, place him first in safety!"
"It cannot be, Miss Wardour," said Lovel;--"your life must be first
secured--the rope which bears your weight may"--
"I will not listen to a reason so selfish!"
"But ye maun listen to it, my bonnie lassie," said Ochiltree, "for a' our
lives depend on it--besides, when ye get on the tap o' the heugh yonder,
ye can gie them a round guess o' what's ganging on in this Patmos o'
ours--and Sir Arthur's far by that, as I'm thinking."
Struck with the truth of this reasoning, she exclaimed, "True, most true;
I am ready and willing to undertake the first risk--What shall I say to
our friends above?"
"Just to look that their tackle does not graze on the face o' the crag,
and to let the chair down and draw it up hooly and fairly;--we will
halloo when we are ready."
With the sedulous attention of a parent to a child, Lovel bound Miss
Wardour with his handkerchief, neckcloth, and the mendicant's leathern
belt, to the back and arms of the chair, ascertaining accurately the
security of each knot, while Ochiltree kept Sir Arthur quiet. "What are
ye doing wi' my bairn?--what are ye doing?--She shall not be separated
from me--Isabel, stay with me, I command you!"
"Lordsake, Sir Arthur, haud your tongue, and be thankful to God that
there's wiser folk than you to manage this job," cried the beggar, worn
out by the unreasonable exclamations of the poor Baronet.
"Farewell, my father!" murmured Isabella--"farewell, my--my friends!" and
shutting her eyes, as Edie's experience recommended, she gave the signal
to Lovel, and he to those who were above. She rose, while the chair in
which she sate was kept steady by the line which Lovel managed beneath.
With a beating heart he watched the flutter of her white dress, until the
vehicle was on a level with the brink of the precipice.
"Canny now, lads, canny now!" exclaimed old Mucklebackit, who acted as
commodore; "swerve the yard a bit--Now--there! there she sits safe on dry
A loud shout announced the successful experiment to her fellow-sufferers
beneath, who replied with a ready and cheerful halloo. Monkbarns, in his
ecstasy of joy, stripped his great-coat to wrap up the young lady, and
would have pulled off his coat and waistcoat for the same purpose, had he
not been withheld by the cautious Caxon. "Haud a care o' us! your honour
will be killed wi' the hoast--ye'll no get out o'your night-cowl this
fortnight--and that will suit us unco ill.--Na, na--there's the chariot
down by; let twa o' the folk carry the young leddy there."
"You're right," said the Antiquary, readjusting the sleeves and collar of
his coat, "you're right, Caxon; this is a naughty night to swim in.--Miss
Wardour, let me convey you to the chariot."
"Not for worlds till I see my father safe."
In a few distinct words, evincing how much her resolution had surmounted
even the mortal fear of so agitating a hazard, she explained the nature
of the situation beneath, and the wishes of Lovel and Ochiltree.
"Right, right, that's right too--I should like to see the son of Sir
Gamelyn de Guardover on dry land myself--I have a notion he would sign
the abjuration oath, and the Ragman-roll to boot, and acknowledge Queen
Mary to be nothing better than she should be, to get alongside my bottle
of old port that he ran away from, and left scarce begun. But he's safe
now, and here a' comes"--(for the chair was again lowered, and Sir Arthur
made fast in it, without much consciousness on his own part)--"here a'
comes--Bowse away, my boys! canny wi' him--a pedigree of a hundred links
is hanging on a tenpenny tow--the whole barony of Knockwinnock depends on
three plies of hemp--_respice finem, respice funem_--look to your end
--look to a rope's end.--Welcome, welcome, my good old friend, to firm
land, though I cannot say to warm land or to dry land. A cord for ever
against fifty fathom of water, though not in the sense of the base
proverb--a fico for the phrase,--better _sus. per funem,_ than _sus. per
While Oldbuck ran on in this way, Sir Arthur was safely wrapped in the
close embraces of his daughter, who, assuming that authority which the
circumstances demanded, ordered some of the assistants to convey him to
the chariot, promising to follow in a few minutes, She lingered on the
cliff, holding an old countryman's arm, to witness probably the safety of
those whose dangers she had shared.
"What have we here?" said Oldbuck, as the vehicle once more ascended
--"what patched and weather-beaten matter is this?" Then as the torches
illumed the rough face and grey hairs of old Ochiltree,--"What! is it
thou?--Come, old Mocker, I must needs be friends with thee--but who the
devil makes up your party besides?"
"Ane that's weel worth ony twa o' us, Monkbarns;--it's the young stranger
lad they ca' Lovel--and he's behaved this blessed night as if he had
three lives to rely on, and was willing to waste them a' rather than
endanger ither folk's. Ca' hooly, sirs, as ye, wad win an auld man's
blessing!--mind there's naebody below now to haud the gy--Hae a care o'
the Cat's-lug corner--bide weel aff Crummie's-horn!"
"Have a care indeed," echoed Oldbuck. "What! is it my _rara avis_--my
black swan--my phoenix of companions in a post-chaise?--take care of
"As muckle care as if he were a graybeard o' brandy; and I canna take
mair if his hair were like John Harlowe's.--Yo ho, my hearts! bowse away
Lovel did, in fact, run a much greater risk than any of his precursors.
His weight was not sufficient to render his ascent steady amid such a
storm of wind, and he swung like an agitated pendulum at the mortal risk
of being dashed against the rocks. But he was young, bold, and active,
and, with the assistance of the beggar's stout piked staff, which he had
retained by advice of the proprietor, contrived to bear himself from the
face of the precipice, and the yet more hazardous projecting cliffs which
varied its surface. Tossed in empty space, like an idle and unsubstantial
feather, with a motion that agitated the brain at once with fear and with
dizziness, he retained his alertness of exertion and presence of mind;
and it was not until he was safely grounded upon the summit of the cliff,
that he felt temporary and giddy sickness. As he recovered from a sort of
half swoon, he cast his eyes eagerly around. The object which they would
most willingly have sought, was already in the act of vanishing. Her
white garment was just discernible as she followed on the path which her
father had taken. She had lingered till she saw the last of their company
rescued from danger, and until she had been assured by the hoarse voice
of Mucklebackit, that "the callant had come off wi' unbrizzed banes, and
that he was but in a kind of dwam." But Lovel was not aware that she had
expressed in his fate even this degree of interest,--which, though
nothing more than was due to a stranger who had assisted her in such an
hour of peril, he would have gladly purchased by braving even more
imminent danger than he had that evening been exposed to. The beggar she
had already commanded to come to Knockwinnock that night. He made an
excuse.--"Then to-morrow let me see you."
The old man promised to obey. Oldbuck thrust something into his hand
--Ochiltree looked at it by the torchlight, and returned it--"Na, na! I
never tak gowd--besides, Monkbarns, ye wad maybe be rueing it the morn."
Then turning to the group of fishermen and peasants--"Now, sirs, wha will
gie me a supper and some clean pease-strae?"
"I," "and I," "and I," answered many a ready voice.
"Aweel, since sae it is, and I can only sleep in ae barn at ance, I'll
gae down with Saunders Mucklebackit--he has aye a soup o' something
comfortable about his begging--and, bairns, I'll maybe live to put ilka
ane o' ye in mind some ither night that ye hae promised me quarters and
my awmous;" and away he went with the fisherman.
Oldbuck laid the band of strong possession on Lovel--"Deil a stride ye's
go to Fairport this night, young man--you must go home with me to
Monkbarns. Why, man, you have been a hero--a perfect Sir William Wallace,
by all accounts. Come, my good lad, take hold of my arm;--I am not a
prime support in such a wind--but Caxon shall help us out--Here, you old
idiot, come on the other side of me.--And how the deil got you down to
that infernal Bessy's-apron, as they call it? Bess, said they? Why, curse
her, she has spread out that vile pennon or banner of womankind, like all
the rest of her sex, to allure her votaries to death and headlong ruin."
"I have been pretty well accustomed to climbing, and I have long observed
fowlers practise that pass down the cliff."
"But how, in the name of all that is wonderful, came you to discover the
danger of the pettish Baronet and his far more deserving daughter?"
"I saw them from the verge of the precipice."
"From the verge!--umph--And what possessed you _dumosa pendere procul de
rupe?_--though _dumosa_ is not the appropriate epithet--what the deil,
man, tempted ye to the verge of the craig?"
"Why--I like to see the gathering and growling of a coming storm--or, in
your own classical language, Mr. Oldbuck, _suave est mari magno_--and so
forth--but here we reach the turn to Fairport. I must wish you
"Not a step, not a pace, not an inch, not a shathmont, as I may say,--the
meaning of which word has puzzled many that think themselves antiquaries.
I am clear we should read _salmon-length_ for _shathmont's-length._ You
are aware that the space allotted for the passage of a salmon through a
dam, dike, or weir, by statute, is the length within which a full-grown
pig can turn himself round. Now I have a scheme to prove, that, as
terrestrial objects were thus appealed to for ascertaining submarine
measurement, so it must be supposed that the productions of the water
were established as gauges of the extent of land.--Shathmont--salmont
--you see the close alliance of the sounds; dropping out two _h_'s, and a
_t,_ and assuming an _l,_ makes the whole difference--I wish to heaven no
antiquarian derivation had demanded heavier concessions."
"But, my dear sir, I really must go home--I am wet to the skin."
"Shalt have my night-gown, man, and slippers, and catch the antiquarian
fever as men do the plague, by wearing infected garments. Nay, I know
what you would be at--you are afraid to put the old bachelor to charges.
But is there not the remains of that glorious chicken-pie--which, _meo
arbitrio,_ is better cold than hot--and that bottle of my oldest port,
out of which the silly brain-sick Baronet (whom I cannot pardon, since he
has escaped breaking his neck) had just taken one glass, when his infirm
noddle went a wool-gathering after Gamelyn de Guardover?"
So saying he dragged Lovel forward, till the Palmer's-port of Monkbarns
received them. Never, perhaps, had it admitted two pedestrians more
needing rest for Monkbarns's fatigue had been in a degree very contrary
to his usual habits, and his more young and robust companion had that
evening undergone agitation of mind which had harassed and wearied him
even more than his extraordinary exertions of body.
"Be brave," she cried, "you yet may be our guest,
Our haunted room was ever held the best.
If, then, your valour can the sight sustain
Of rustling curtains and the clinking chain
If your courageous tongue have powers to talk,
When round your bed the horrid ghost shall walk
If you dare ask it why it leaves its tomb,
I'll see your sheets well air'd, and show the Room."
The reached the room in which they had dined, and were clamorously
welcomed by Miss Oldbuck.
"Where's the younger womankind?" said the Antiquary.
"Indeed, brother, amang a' the steery, Maria wadna be guided by me she
set away to the Halket-craig-head--I wonder ye didna see her."
"Eh!--what--what's that you say, sister?--did the girl go out in a night
like this to the Halket-head?--Good God! the misery of the night is not
"But ye winna wait, Monkbarns--ye are so imperative and impatient"--
"Tittle-tattle, woman," said the impatient and agitated Antiquary, "where
is my dear Mary?"
"Just where ye suld be yoursell, Monkbarns--up-stairs, and in her warm
"I could have sworn it," said Oldbuck laughing, but obviously much
relieved--"I could have sworn it;--the lazy monkey did not care if we
were all drowned together. Why did you say she went out?"
"But ye wadna wait to hear out my tale, Monkbarns--she gaed out, and she
came in again with the gardener sae sune as she saw that nane o' ye were
clodded ower the Craig, and that Miss Wardour was safe in the chariot;
she was hame a quarter of an hour syne, for it's now ganging ten--sair
droukit was she, puir thing, sae I e'en put a glass o' sherry in her
"Right, Grizel, right--let womankind alone for coddling each other. But
hear me, my venerable sister--start not at the word venerable; it implies
many praiseworthy qualities besides age; though that too is honourable,
albeit it is the last quality for which womankind would wish to be
honoured--But perpend my words: let Lovel and me have forthwith the
relics of the chicken-pie, and the reversion of the port."
"The chicken-pie! the port!--ou dear! brother--there was but a wheen
banes, and scarce a drap o' the wine."
The Antiquary's countenance became clouded, though he was too well bred
to give way, in the presence of a stranger, to his displeased surprise at
the, disappearance of the viands on which he had reckoned with absolute
certainty. But his sister understood these looks of ire. "Ou dear!
Monkbarns, what's the use of making a wark?"
"I make no wark, as ye call it, woman."
"But what's the use o' looking sae glum and glunch about a pickle banes?
--an ye will hae the truth, ye maun ken the minister came in, worthy man
--sair distressed he was, nae doubt, about your precarious situation, as
he ca'd it (for ye ken how weel he's gifted wi' words), and here he wad
bide till he could hear wi' certainty how the matter was likely to gang
wi' ye a'--He said fine things on the duty of resignation to Providence's
will, worthy man! that did he."
Oldbuck replied, catching the same tone, "Worthy man!--he cared not how
soon Monkbarns had devolved on an heir-female, I've a notion;--and while
he was occupied in this Christian office of consolation against impending
evil, I reckon that the chicken-pie and my good port disappeared?"
"Dear brother, how can you speak of sic frivolities, when you have had
sic an escape from the craig?"
"Better than my supper has had from the minister's _craig,_ Grizzle--it's
all discussed, I suppose?"
"Hout, Monkbarns, ye speak as if there was nae mair meat in the house
--wad ye not have had me offer the honest man some slight refreshment
after his walk frae the manse?"
Oldbuck half-whistled, half-hummed, the end of the old Scottish ditty,
O, first they eated the white puddings,
And then they eated the black, O,
And thought the gudeman unto himsell,
The deil clink down wi' that, O!
His sister hastened to silence his murmurs, by proposing some of the
relies of the dinner. He spoke of another bottle of wine, but recommended
in preference a glass of brandy which was really excellent. As no
entreaties could prevail on Lovel to indue the velvet night-cap and
branched morning-gown of his host, Oldbuck, who pretended to a little
knowledge of the medical art, insisted on his going to bed as soon as
possible, and proposed to despatch a messenger (the indefatigable Caxon)
to Fairport early in the morning, to procure him a change of clothes.
This was the first intimation Miss Oldbuck had received that the young
stranger was to be their guest for the night; and such was the surprise
with which she was struck by a proposal so uncommon, that, had the
superincumbent weight of her bead-dress, such as we before described,
been less preponderant, her grey locks must have started up on end, and
hurled it from its position.
"Lord haud a care o' us!" exclaimed the astounded maiden.
"What's the matter now, Grizel?"
"Wad ye but just speak a moment, Monkbarns?"
"Speak!--what should I speak about? I want to get to my bed--and this
poor young fellow--let a bed be made ready for him instantly."
"A bed?--The Lord preserve us!" again ejaculated Grizel.
"Why, what's the matter now?--are there not beds and rooms enough in the
house?--was it not an ancient _hospitium,_ in which, I am warranted to
say, beds were nightly made down for a score of pilgrims?"
"O dear, Monkbarns! wha kens what they might do lang syne?--but in our
time--beds--ay, troth, there's beds enow sic as they are--and rooms enow
too--but ye ken yoursell the beds haena been sleepit in, Lord kens the
time, nor the rooms aired.--If I had kenn'd, Mary and me might hae gaen
down to the manse--Miss Beckie is aye fond to see us--(and sae is the
minister, brother)--But now, gude save us!"--
"Is there not the Green Room, Grizel?"
"Troth is there, and it is in decent order too, though naebody has
sleepit there since Dr. Heavysterne, and"--
"And what! I am sure ye ken yoursell what a night he had--ye wadna expose
the young gentleman to the like o' that, wad ye?"
Lovel interfered upon hearing this altercation, and protested he would
far rather walk home than put them to the least inconvenience--that the
exercise would be of service to him--that he knew the road perfectly, by
night or day, to Fairport--that the storm was abating, and so forth
--adding all that civility could suggest as an excuse for escaping from
a hospitality which seemed more inconvenient to his host than he could
possibly have anticipated. But the howling of the wind, and the pattering
of the rain against the windows, with his knowledge of the preceding
fatigues of the evening, must have prohibited Oldbuck, even had he
entertained less regard for his young friend than he really felt, from
permitting him to depart. Besides, he was piqued in honour to show that
he himself was not governed by womankind--"Sit ye down, sit ye down, sit
ye down, man," he reiterated;--"an ye part so, I would I might never draw
a cork again, and here comes out one from a prime bottle of--strong ale
--right _anno domini_--none of your Wassia Quassia decoctions, but brewed
of Monkbarns barley--John of the Girnel never drew a better flagon to
entertain a wandering minstrel, or palmer, with the freshest news from
Palestine.--And to remove from your mind the slightest wish to depart,
know, that if you do so, your character as a gallant knight is gone for
ever. Why, 'tis an adventure, man, to sleep in the Green Room at
Monkbarns.--Sister, pray see it got ready--And, although the bold
adventurer, Heavysterne, dree'd pain and dolour in that charmed
apartment, it is no reason why a gallant knight like you, nearly twice as
tall, and not half so heavy, should not encounter and break the spell."
"What! a haunted apartment, I suppose?"
"To be sure, to be sure--every mansion in this country of the slightest
antiquity has its ghosts and its haunted chamber, and you must not
suppose us worse off than our neighbours. They are going, indeed,
somewhat out of fashion. I have seen the day, when if you had doubted the
reality of a ghost in an old manor-house you ran the risk of being made a
ghost yourself, as Hamlet says.--Yes, if you had challenged the existence
of Redcowl in the Castle of Glenstirym, old Sir Peter Pepperbrand would
have had ye out to his court-yard, made you betake yourself to your
weapon, and if your trick of fence were not the better, would have
sticked you like a paddock, on his own baronial midden-stead. I once
narrowly escaped such an affray--but I humbled myself, and apologised to
Redcowl; for, even in my younger days, I was no friend to the
_monomachia,_ or duel, and would rather walk with Sir Priest than with
Sir Knight--I care not who knows so much of my valour. Thank God, I am
old now, and can indulge my irritabilities without the necessity of
supporting them by cold steel."