Part 6 out of 10
The German, determined, it would seem, to assert the vantage-ground on
which the discovery had placed him, replied with great pomp and
stateliness to the attack of the Antiquary.
"Maister Oldenbuck, all dis may be very witty and comedy, but I have
nothing to say--nothing at all--to people dat will not believe deir own
eye-sights. It is vary true dat I ave not any of de things of de art, and
it makes de more wonder what I has done dis day. But I would ask of you,
mine honoured and goot and generous patron, to put your hand into your
right-hand waistcoat pocket, and show me what you shall find dere."
Sir Arthur obeyed his direction, and pulled out the small plate of silver
which he had used under the adept's auspices upon the former occasion.
"It is very true," said Sir Arthur, looking gravely at the Antiquary;
"this is the graduated and calculated sigil by which Mr. Dousterswivel
and I regulated our first discovery."
"Pshaw! pshaw! my dear friend," said Oldbuck, "you are too wise to
believe in the influence of a trumpery crown-piece, beat out thin, and a
parcel of scratches upon it. I tell thee, Sir Arthur, that if
Dousterswivel had known where to get this treasure himself, you would not
have been lord of the least share of it."
"In troth, please your honour," said Edie, who put in his word on all
occasions, "I think, since Mr. Dunkerswivel has had sae muckle merit in
discovering a' the gear, the least ye can do is to gie him that o't
that's left behind for his labour; for doubtless he that kend where to
find sae muckle will hae nae difficulty to find mair."
Dousterswivel's brow grew very dark at this proposal of leaving him to
his "ain purchase," as Ochiltree expressed it; but the beggar, drawing
him aside, whispered a word or two in his ear, to which he seemed to give
Meanwhile Sir Arthur, his heart warm with his good fortune, said aloud,
"Never mind our friend Monkbarns, Mr. Dousterswivel, but come to the
Castle to-morrow, and I'll convince you that I am not ungrateful for the
hints you have given me about this matter--and the fifty Fairport dirty
notes, as you call them, are heartily at your service. Come, my lads, get
the cover of this precious chest fastened up again."
But the cover had in the confusion fallen aside among the rubbish, or the
loose earth which had been removed from the grave--in short, it was not
to be seen.
"Never mind, my good lads, tie the tarpaulin over it, and get it away to
the carriage.--Monkbarns, will you walk? I must go back your way to take
up Miss Wardour."
"And, I hope, to take up your dinner also, Sir Arthur, and drink a glass
of wine for joy of our happy adventure. Besides, you should write about
the business to the Exchequer, in case of any interference on the part of
the Crown. As you are lord of the manor, it will be easy to get a deed of
gift, should they make any claim. We must talk about it, though."
"And I particularly recommend silence to all who are present," said Sir
Arthur, looking round. All bowed and professed themselves dumb.
"Why, as to that," said Monkbarns, "recommending secrecy where a dozen of
people are acquainted with the circumstance to be concealed, is only
putting the truth in masquerade, for the story will be circulated under
twenty different shapes. But never mind--we will state the true one to
the Barons, and that is all that is necessary."
"I incline to send off an express to-night," said the Baronet.
"I can recommend your honour to a sure hand," said Ochiltree; "little
Davie Mailsetter, and the butcher's reisting powny."
"We will talk over the matter as we go to Monkbarns," said Sir Arthur.
"My lads" (to the work-people), "come with me to the Four Horse-shoes,
that I may take down all your names.--Dousterswivel, I won't ask you to
go down to Monkbarns, as the laird and you differ so widely in opinion;
but do not fail to come to see me to-morrow."
Dousterswivel growled out an answer, in which the words, "duty,"--"mine
honoured patron,"--and "wait upon Sir Arthurs,"--were alone
distinguishable; and after the Baronet and his friend had left the ruins,
followed by the servants and workmen, who, in hope of reward and whisky,
joyfully attended their leader, the adept remained in a brown study by
the side of the open grave.
"Who was it as could have thought this?" he ejaculated unconsciously.
"Mine heiligkeit! I have heard of such things, and often spoken of such
things--but, sapperment! I never, thought to see them! And if I had gone
but two or dree feet deeper down in the earth--mein himmel! it had been
all mine own--so much more as I have been muddling about to get from this
Here the German ceased his soliloquy, for, raising his eyes, he
encountered those of Edie Ochiltree, who had not followed the rest of the
company, but, resting as usual on his pike-staff, had planted himself on
the other side of the grave. The features of the old man, naturally
shrewd and expressive almost to an appearance of knavery, seemed in this
instance so keenly knowing, that even the assurance of Dousterswivel,
though a professed adventurer, sunk beneath their glances. But he saw the
necessity of an e'claircissement, and, rallying his spirits, instantly
began to sound the mendicant on the occurrences of the day. "Goot Maister
"Edie Ochiltree, nae maister--your puir bedesman and the king's,"
answered the Blue-Gown.
"Awell den, goot Edie, what do you think of all dis?"
"I was just thinking it was very kind (for I darena say very simple) o'
your honour to gie thae twa rich gentles, wha hae lands and lairdships,
and siller without end, this grand pose o' silver and treasure (three
times tried in the fire, as the Scripture expresses it), that might hae
made yoursell and ony twa or three honest bodies beside, as happy and
content as the day was lang."
"Indeed, Edie, mine honest friends, dat is very true; only I did not
know, dat is, I was not sure, where to find the gelt myself."
"What! was it not by your honours advice and counsel that Monkbarns and
the Knight of Knockwinnock came here then?"
"Aha--yes; but it was by another circumstance. I did not know dat dey
would have found de treasure, mine friend; though I did guess, by such a
tintamarre, and cough, and sneeze, and groan, among de spirit one other
night here, dat there might be treasure and bullion hereabout. Ach, mein
himmel! the spirit will hone and groan over his gelt, as if he were a
Dutch Burgomaster counting his dollars after a great dinner at the
"And do you really believe the like o' that, Mr. Dusterdeevil !--a
skeelfu' man like you--hout fie!"
"Mein friend," answered the adept, foreed by circumstances to speak
something nearer the truth than he generally used to do, "I believed it
no more than you and no man at all, till I did hear them hone and moan
and groan myself on de oder night, and till I did this day see de cause,
which was an great chest all full of de pure silver from Mexico--and what
would you ave nae think den?"
"And what wad ye gie to ony ane," said Edie, "that wad help ye to sic
another kistfu' o' silver!"
"Give?--mein himmel!--one great big quarter of it."
"Now if the secret were mine," said the mendicant, "I wad stand out for a
half; for you see, though I am but a puir ragged body, and couldna carry
silver or gowd to sell for fear o' being taen up, yet I could find mony
folk would pass it awa for me at unco muckle easier profit than ye're
"Ach, himmel!--Mein goot friend, what was it I said?--I did mean to say
you should have de tree quarter for your half, and de one quarter to be
my fair half."
"No, no, Mr. Dusterdeevil, we will divide equally what we find, like
brother and brother. Now, look at this board that I just flung into the
dark aisle out o' the way, while Monkbarns was glowering ower a' the
silver yonder. He's a sharp chiel Monkbarns--I was glad to keep the like
o' this out o' his sight. Ye'll maybe can read the character better than
me--I am nae that book learned, at least I'm no that muckle in practice."
With this modest declaration of ignorance, Ochiltree brought forth from
behind a pillar the cover of the box or chest of treasure, which, when
forced from its hinges, had been carelessly flung aside during the ardour
of curiosity to ascertain the contents which it concealed, and had been
afterwards, as it seems, secreted by the mendicant. There was a word and
a number upon the plank, and the beggar made them more distinct by
spitting upon his ragged blue handkerchief, and rubbing off the clay by
which the inscription was obscured. It was in the ordinary black letter.
"Can ye mak ought o't?" said Edie to the adept.
"S," said the philosopher, like a child getting his lesson in the primer
--"S, T, A, R, C, H,--_Starch!_--dat is what de woman-washers put into de
neckerchers, and de shirt collar."
"Search!" echoed Ochiltree; "na, na, Mr. Dusterdeevil, ye are mair of a
conjuror than a clerk--it's _search,_ man, _search_--See, there's the
_Ye_ clear and distinct."
"Aha! I see it now--it is _search--number one._ Mein himmel! then there
must be a _number two,_ mein goot friend: for _search_ is what you call
to seek and dig, and this is but _number one!_ Mine wort, there is one
great big prize in de wheel for us, goot Maister Ochiltree."
"Aweel, it may be sae; but we canna howk fort enow--we hae nae shules,
for they hae taen them a' awa--and it's like some o' them will be sent
back to fling the earth into the hole, and mak a' things trig again. But
an ye'll sit down wi' me a while in the wood, I'se satisfy your honour
that ye hae just lighted on the only man in the country that could hae
tauld about Malcolm Misticot and his hidden treasure--But first we'll rub
out the letters on this board, for fear it tell tales."
And, by the assistance of his knife, the beggar erased and defaced the
characters so as to make them quite unintelligible, and then daubed the
board with clay so as to obliterate all traces of the erasure.
Dousterswivel stared at him in ambiguous silence. There was an
intelligence and alacrity about all the old man's movements, which
indicated a person that could not be easily overreached, and yet (for
even rogues acknowledge in some degree the spirit of precedence) our
adept felt the disgrace of playing a secondary part, and dividing
winnings with so mean an associate. His appetite for gain, however, was
sufficiently sharp to overpower his offended pride, and though far more
an impostor than a dupe, he was not without a certain degree of personal
faith even in the gross superstitions by means of which he imposed upon
others. Still, being accustomed to act as a leader on such occasions, he
felt humiliated at feeling himself in the situation of a vulture
marshalled to his prey by a carrion-crow.--"Let me, however, hear this
story to an end," thought Dousterswivel, "and it will be hard if I do not
make mine account in it better as Maister Edie Ochiltrees makes
The adept, thus transformed into a pupil from a teacher of the mystic
art, followed Ochiltree in passive acquiescence to the Prior's Oak--a
spot, as the reader may remember, at a short distance from the ruins,
where the German sat down, and silence waited the old man's
"Maister Dustandsnivel," said the narrator, "it's an unco while since I
heard this business treated anent;--for the lairds of Knockwinnock,
neither Sir Arthur, nor his father, nor his grandfather--and I mind a wee
bit about them a'--liked to hear it spoken about; nor they dinna like it
yet--But nae matter; ye may be sure it was clattered about in the
kitchen, like onything else in a great house, though it were forbidden in
the ha'--and sae I hae heard the circumstance rehearsed by auld servants
in the family; and in thir present days, when things o' that auld-warld
sort arena keepit in mind round winter fire-sides as they used to be, I
question if there's onybody in the country can tell the tale but mysell--
aye out-taken the laird though, for there's a parchment book about it, as
I have heard, in the charter-room at Knockwinnock Castle."
"Well, all dat is vary well--but get you on with your stories, mine goot
friend," said Dousterswivel.
"Aweel, ye see," continued the mendicant, "this was a job in the auld
times o' rugging and riving through the hale country, when it was ilka
ane for himsell, and God for us a'--when nae man wanted property if he
had strength to take it, or had it langer than he had power to keep it.
It was just he ower her, and she ower him, whichever could win upmost, a'
through the east country here, and nae doubt through the rest o' Scotland
in the self and same manner.
"Sae in these days Sir Richard Wardour came into the land, and that was
the first o' the name ever was in this country. There's been mony o' them
sin' syne; and the maist, like him they ca'd Hell-in-Harness, and the
rest o' them, are sleeping down in yon ruins. They were a proud dour set
o' men, but unco brave, and aye stood up for the weel o' the country, God
sain them a'--there's no muckle popery in that wish. They ca'd them the
Norman Wardours, though they cam frae the south to this country. So this
Sir Richard, that they ca'd Red-hand, drew up wi' the auld Knockwinnock
o' that day--for then they were Knockwinnocks of that Ilk--and wad fain
marry his only daughter, that was to have the castle and the land. Laith,
laith was the lass--(Sybil Knockwinnock they ca'd her that tauld me the
tale)--laith, laith was she to gie into the match, for she had fa'en a
wee ower thick wi' a cousin o' her ain that her father had some ill-will
to; and sae it was, that after she had been married to Sir Richard jimp
four months--for marry him she maun, it's like--ye'll no hinder her
gieing them a present o' a bonny knave bairn. Then there was siccan a
ca'-thro', as the like was never seen; and she's be burnt, and he's be
slain, was the best words o' their mouths. But it was a' sowdered up
again some gait, and the bairn was sent awa, and bred up near the
Highlands, and grew up to be a fine wanle fallow, like mony ane that
comes o' the wrang side o' the blanket; and Sir Richard wi' the Red-hand,
he had a fair offspring o'his ain, and a was lound and quiet till his
head was laid in the ground. But then down came Malcolm Misticot--(Sir
Arthur says it should be _Misbegot,_ but they aye ca'd him Misticot that
spoke o't lang syne)--down cam this Malcolm, the love-begot, frae
Glen-isla, wi' a string o' lang-legged Highlanders at his heels, that's
aye ready for onybody's mischief, and he threeps the castle and lands are
his ain as his mother's eldest son, and turns a' the Wardours out to the
hill. There was a sort of fighting and blude-spilling about it, for the
gentles took different sides; but Malcolm had the uppermost for a lang
time, and keepit the Castle of Knockwinnock, and strengthened it, and
built that muckle tower that they ca' Misticot's tower to this day."
"Mine goot friend, old Mr. Edie Ochiltree." interrupted the German, "this
is all as one like de long histories of a baron of sixteen quarters in
mine countries; but I would as rather hear of de silver and gold."
"Why, ye see," continued the mendicant, "this Malcolm was weel helped by
an uncle, a brother o' his father's, that was Prior o' St. Ruth here; and
muckle treasure they gathered between them, to secure the succession of
their house in the lands of Knockwinnock. Folk said that the monks in
thae days had the art of multiplying metals--at ony rate, they were very
rich. At last it came to this, that the young Wardour, that was
Red-hand's son, challenged Misticot to fight with him in the lists as
they ca'd them--that's no lists or tailor's runds and selvedges o'
claith, but a palin'-thing they set up for them to fight in like
game-cocks. Aweel, Misticot was beaten, and at his brother's mercy--but
he wadna touch his life, for the blood of Knockwinnock that was in baith
their veins: so Malcolm was compelled to turn a monk, and he died soon
after in the priory, of pure despite and vexation. Naebody ever kenn'd
whare his uncle the prior earded him, or what he did wi' his gowd and
silver, for he stood on the right o' halie kirk, and wad gie nae account
to onybody. But the prophecy gat abroad in the country, that whenever
Misticot's grave was fund out, the estate of Knockwinnock should be lost
"Ach! mine goot old friend, Maister Edie, and dat is not so very
unlikely, if Sir Arthurs will quarrel wit his goot friends to please Mr.
Oldenbuck.--And so you do tink dat dis golds and silvers belonged to goot
Mr. Malcolm Mishdigoat?"
"Troth do I, Mr. Dousterdeevil."
"And you do believe dat dere is more of dat sorts behind?"
"By my certie do I--How can it be otherwise?--_Search--No. I_--that is as
muckle as to say, search and ye'll find number twa. Besides, yon kist is
only silver, and I aye heard that' Misticot's pose had muckle yellow gowd
"Den, mine goot friends," said the adept, jumping up hastily, "why do we
not set about our little job directly?"
"For twa gude reasons," answered the beggar, who quietly kept his sitting
posture;--"first, because, as I said before, we have naething to dig wi',
for they hae taen awa the picks and shules; and, secondly, because there
will be a wheen idle gowks coming to glower at the hole as lang as it is
daylight, and maybe the laird may send somebody to fill it up--and ony
way we wad be catched. But if you will meet me on this place at twal
o'clock wi' a dark lantern, I'll hae tools ready, and we'll gang quietly
about our job our twa sells, and naebody the wiser for't."
"Be--be--but, mine goot friend," said Dousterswivel, from whose
recollection his former nocturnal adventure was not to be altogether
erased, even by the splendid hopes which Edie's narrative held forth, "it
is not so goot or so safe, to be about goot Maister Mishdigoat's grabe at
dat time of night--you have forgot how I told you de spirits did hone and
mone dere. I do assure you, dere is disturbance dere."
"If ye're afraid of ghaists," answered the mendicant, coolly, "I'll do
the job mysell, and bring your share o' the siller to ony place you like
"No--no--mine excellent old Mr. Edie,--too much trouble for you--I will
not have dat--I will come myself--and it will be bettermost; for, mine
old friend, it was I, Herman Dousterswivel, discovered Maister
Mishdigoat's grave when I was looking for a place as to put away some
little trumpery coins, just to play one little trick on my dear friend
Sir Arthur, for a little sport and pleasures. Yes, I did take some what
you call rubbish, and did discover Maister Mishdigoat's own monumentsh--
It's like dat he meant I should be his heirs--so it would not be civility
in me not to come mineself for mine inheritance."
"At twal o'clock, then," said the mendicant, "we meet under this tree.
I'll watch for a while, and see that naebody meddles wi' the grave--it's
only saying the laird's forbade it--then get my bit supper frae Ringan
the poinder up by, and leave to sleep in his barn; and I'll slip out at
night, and neer be mist."
"Do so, mine goot Maister Edie, and I will meet you here on this very
place, though all de spirits should moan and sneeze deir very brains
So saying he shook hands with the old man, and with this mutual pledge of
fidelity to their appointment, they separated for the present.
--See thou shake the bags
Of hoarding abbots; angels imprisoned
Set thou at liberty--
Bell, book, and candle, shall not drive me back,
If gold and silver beckon to come on.
The night set in stormy, with wind and occasional showers of rain. "Eh,
sirs," said the old mendicant, as he took his place on the sheltered side
of the large oak-tree to wait for his associate--"Eh, sirs, but human
nature's a wilful and wilyard thing!--Is it not an unco lucre o' gain wad
bring this Dousterdivel out in a blast o' wind like this, at twal o'clock
at night, to thir wild gousty wa's?--and amna I a bigger fule than
himsell to bide here waiting for him?"
Having made these sage reflections, he wrapped himself close in his
cloak, and fixed his eye on the moon as she waded amid the stormy and
dusky clouds, which the wind from time to time drove across her surface.
The melancholy and uncertain gleams that she shot from between the
passing shadows fell full upon the rifted arches and shafted windows of
the old building, which were thus for an instant made distinctly visible
in their ruinous state, and anon became again a dark, undistinguished,
and shadowy mass. The little lake had its share of these transient beams
of light, and showed its waters broken, whitened, and agitated under the
passing storm, which, when the clouds swept over the moon, were only
distinguished by their sullen and murmuring plash against the beach. The
wooded glen repeated, to every successive gust that hurried through its
narrow trough, the deep and various groan with which the trees replied to
the whirlwind, and the sound sunk again, as the blast passed away, into a
faint and passing murmur, resembling the sighs of an exhausted criminal
after the first pangs of his torture are over. In these sounds,
superstition might have found ample gratification for that State of
excited terror which she fears and yet loves. But such feeling is made no
part of Ochiltree's composition. His mind wandered back to the scenes of
"I have kept guard on the outposts baith in Germany and America," he said
to himself, "in mony a waur night than this, and when I ken'd there was
maybe a dozen o' their riflemen in the thicket before me. But I was aye
gleg at my duty--naebody ever catched Edie sleeping."
As he muttered thus to himself, he instinctively shouldered his trusty
pike-staff, assumed the port of a sentinel on duty, and, as a step
advanced towards the tree, called, with a tone assorting better with his
military reminiscences than his present state--"Stand! who goes there?"
"De devil, goot Edie," answered Dousterswivel, "why does you speak so
loud as a baarenhauter, or what you call a factionary--I mean a
"Just because I thought I was a sentinel at that moment," answered the
mendicant. "Here's an awsome night! Hae ye brought the lantern and a pock
for the siller?"
"Ay-ay, mine goot friend," said the German, "here it is--my pair of what
you call saddlebag; one side will be for you, one side for me;--I will
put dem on my horse to save you de trouble, as you are old man."
"Have you a horse here, then?" asked Edie Ochiltree.
"O yes, mine friend--tied yonder by de stile," responded the adept.
"Weel, I hae just ae word to the bargain--there sall nane o' my gear gang
on your beast's back."
"What was it as you would be afraid of?" said the foreigner.
"Only of losing sight of horse, man, and money," again replied the
"Does you know dat you make one gentlemans out to be one great rogue?"
"Mony gentlemen," replied Ochiltree, "can make that out for themselves--
But what's the sense of quarrelling?--If ye want to gang on, gang on--if
no--I'll gae back to the gude ait-straw in Ringan Aikwood's barn that I
left wi' right ill-will e'now, and I'll pit back the pick and shule whar
I got them."
Dousterswivel deliberated a moment, whether, by suffering Edie to depart,
he might not secure the whole of the expected wealth for his own
exclusive use. But the want of digging implements, the uncertainty
whether, if he had them, he could clear out the grave to a sufficient
depth without assistance, and, above all, the reluctance which he felt,
owing to the experience of the former night, to venture alone on the
terrors of Misticot's grave, satisfied him the attempt would be
hazardous. Endeavouring, therefore, to assume his usual cajoling tone,
though internally incensed, he begged "his goot friend Maister Edie
Ochiltrees would lead the way, and assured him of his acquiescence in all
such an excellent friend could propose."
"Aweel, aweel, then," said Edie, "tak gude care o' your feet amang the
lang grass and the loose stones. I wish we may get the light keepit in
neist, wi' this fearsome wind--but there's a blink o' moonlight at
Thus saying, old Edie, closely accompanied by the adept, led the way
towards the ruins, but presently made a full halt in front of them.
"Ye're a learned man, Mr. Dousterdeevil, and ken muckle o' the marvellous
works o' nature--Now, will ye tell me ae thing?--D'ye believe in ghaists
and spirits that walk the earth?--d'ye believe in them, ay or no?"
"Now, goot Mr. Edie," whispered Dousterswivel, in an expostulatory tone
of voice, "is this a times or a places for such a questions?"
"Indeed is it, baith the tane and the t'other, Mr. Dustanshovel; for I
maun fairly tell ye, there's reports that auld Misticot walks. Now this
wad be an uncanny night to meet him in, and wha kens if he wad be ower
weel pleased wi' our purpose of visiting his pose?"
"_Alle guten Geister_"--muttered the adept, the rest of the conjuration
being lost in a tremulous warble of his voice,--"I do desires you not to
speak so, Mr. Edie; for, from all I heard dat one other night, I do much
"Now I," said Ochiltree, entering the chancel, and flinging abroad his
arm with an air of defiance, "I wadna gie the crack o' my thumb for him
were he to appear at this moment: he's but a disembodied spirit, as we
are embodied anes."
"For the lofe of heavens," said Dousterswivel, "say nothing at all
neither about somebodies or nobodies!"
"Aweel," said the beggar (expanding the shade of the lantern), "here's
the stane, and, spirit or no spirit, I'se be a wee bit deeper in the
grave;" and he jumped into the place from which the precious chest had
that morning been removed. After striking a few strokes, he tired, or
affected to tire, and said to his companion, "I'm auld and failed now,
and canna keep at it--time about's fair play, neighbour; ye maun get in
and tak the shule a bit, and shule out the loose earth, and then I'll tak
turn about wi' you."
Dousterswivel accordingly took the place which the beggar had evacuated,
and toiled with all the zeal that awakened avarice, mingled with the
anxious wish to finish the undertaking and leave the place as soon as
possible, could inspire in a mind at once greedy, suspicious, and
Edie, standing much at his ease by the side of the hole, contented
himself with exhorting his associate to labour hard. "My certie! few ever
wrought for siccan a day's wage; an it be but--say the tenth part o' the
size o' the kist, No. I., it will double its value, being filled wi' gowd
instead of silver. Od, ye work as if ye had been bred to pick and shule--
ye could win your round half-crown ilka day. Tak care o' your taes wi'
that stane!" giving a kick to a large one which the adept had heaved out
with difficulty, and which Edie pushed back again to the great annoyance
of his associate's shins.
Thus exhorted by the mendicant, Dousterswivel struggled and laboured
among the stones and stiff clay, toiling like a horse, and internally
blaspheming in German. When such an unhallowed syllable escaped his lips,
Edie changed his battery upon him.
"O dinna swear! dinna swear! Wha kens whals listening!--Eh! gude guide
us, what's you!--Hout, it's just a branch of ivy flightering awa frae the
wa'; when the moon was in, it lookit unco like a dead man's arm wi' a
taper in't--I thought it was Misticot himsell. But never mind, work you
away--fling the earth weel up by out o' the gate--Od, if ye're no as
clean a worker at a grave as Win Winnet himsell! What gars ye stop now?--
ye're just at the very bit for a chance."
"Stop!" said the German, in a tone of anger and disappointment, "why, I
am down at de rocks dat de cursed ruins (God forgife me!) is founded
"Weel," said the beggar, "that's the likeliest bit of ony. It will be but
a muckle through-stane laid doun to kiver the gowd--tak the pick till't,
and pit mair strength, man--ae gude down-right devvel will split it, I'se
warrant ye--Ay, that will do Od, he comes on wi' Wallace's straiks!"
In fact, the adept, moved by Edie's exhortations, fetched two or three
desperate blows, and succeeded in breaking, not indeed that against which
he struck, which, as he had already conjectured, was the solid rock, but
the implement which he wielded, jarring at the same time his arms up to
"Hurra, boys!--there goes Ringan's pick-axe!" cried Edie "it's a shame o'
the Fairport folk to sell siccan frail gear. Try the shule--at it again,
The adept, without reply, scrambled out of the pit, which was now about
six feet deep, and addressed his associate in a voice that trembled with
anger. "Does you know, Mr. Edies Ochiltrees, who it is you put off your
gibes and your jests upon?"
"Brawly, Mr. Dusterdeevil--brawly do I ken ye, and has done mony a day;
but there's nae jesting in the case, for I am wearying to see ae our
treasures; we should hae had baith ends o' the pockmanky filled by this
time--I hope it's bowk eneugh to haud a' the gear?"
"Look you, you base old person," said the incensed philosopher, "if you
do put another jest upon me, I will cleave your skull-piece with this
"And whare wad my hands and my pike-staff be a' the time?" replied Edie,
in a tone that indicated no apprehension. "Hout, tout, Maister
Dusterdeevil, I haena lived sae lang in the warld neither, to be shuled
out o't that gate. What ails ye to be cankered, man, wi' your friends?
I'll wager I'll find out the treasure in a minute;" and he jumped into
the pit, and took up the spade.
"I do swear to you," said the adept, whose suspicions were now fully
awake, "that if you have played me one big trick, I will give you one big
beating, Mr. Edies."
"Hear till him now!" said Ochiltree, "he kens how to gar folk find out
the gear--Od, I'm thinking he's been drilled that way himsell some day."
At this insinuation, which alluded obviously to the former scene betwixt
himself and Sir Arthur, the philosopher lost the slender remnant of
patience he had left, and being of violent passions, heaved up the
truncheon of the broken mattock to discharge it upon the old man's head.
The blow would in all probability have been fatal, had not he at whom it
was aimed exclaimed in a stern and firm voice, "Shame to ye, man!--do ye
think Heaven or earth will suffer ye to murder an auld man that might be
your father?--Look behind ye, man!"
Dousterswivel turned instinctively, and beheld, to his utter
astonishment, a tall dark figure standing close behind him. The
apparition gave him no time to proceed by exorcism or otherwise, but
having instantly recourse to the _voie de fait,_ took measure of the
adept's shoulders three or four times with blows so substantial, that he
fell under the weight of them, and remained senseless for some minutes
between fear and stupefaction. When he came to himself, he was alone in
the ruined chancel, lying upon the soft and damp earth which had been
thrown out of Misticot's grave. He raised himself with a confused
sensation of anger, pain, and terror, and it was not until he had sat
upright for some minutes, that he could arrange his ideas sufficiently to
recollect how he came there, or with what purpose. As his recollection
returned, he could have little doubt that the bait held out to him by
Ochiltree, to bring him to that solitary spot, the sarcasms by which he
had provoked him into a quarrel, and the ready assistance which he had at
hand for terminating it in the manner in which it had ended, were all
parts of a concerted plan to bring disgrace and damage on Herman
Dousterswivel. He could hardly suppose that he was indebted for the
fatigue, anxiety, and beating which he had undergone, purely to the
malice of Edie Ochiltree singly, but concluded that the mendicant had
acted a part assigned to him by some person of greater importance. His
suspicions hesitated between Oldbuck and Sir Arthur Wardour. The former
had been at no pains to conceal a marked dislike of him--but the latter
he had deeply injured; and although he judged that Sir Arthur did not
know the extent of his wrongs towards him, yet it was easy to suppose he
had gathered enough of the truth to make him desirous of revenge.
Ochiltree had alluded to at least one circumstance which the adept had
every reason to suppose was private between Sir Arthur and himself, and
therefore must have been learned from the former. The language of Oldbuck
also intimated a conviction of his knavery, which Sir Arthur heard
without making any animated defence. Lastly, the way in which
Dousterswivel supposed the Baronet to have exercised his revenge, was not
inconsistent with the practice of other countries with which the adept
was better acquainted than with those of North Britain. With him, as with
many bad men, to suspect an injury, and to nourish the purpose of
revenge, was one and the same movement. And before Dousterswivel had
fairly recovered his legs, he had mentally sworn the ruin of his
benefactor, which, unfortunately, he possessed too much the power of
But although a purpose of revenge floated through his brain, it was no
time to indulge such speculations. The hour, the place, his own
situation, and perhaps the presence or near neighbourhood of his
assailants, made self-preservation the adept's first object. The lantern
had been thrown down and extinguished in the scuffle. The wind, which
formerly howled so loudly through the aisles of the ruin, had now greatly
fallen, lulled by the rain, which was descending very fast. The moon,
from the same cause, was totally obscured, and though Dousterswivel had
some experience of the ruins, and knew that he must endeavour to regain
the eastern door of the chancel, yet the confusion of his ideas was such,
that he hesitated for some time ere he could ascertain in what direction
he was to seek it. In this perplexity, the suggestions of superstition,
taking the advantage of darkness and his evil conscience, began again to
present themselves to his disturbed imagination. "But bah!" quoth he
valiantly to himself, "it is all nonsense all one part of de damn big
trick and imposture. Devil! that one thick-skulled Scotch Baronet, as I
have led by the nose for five year, should cheat Herman Dousterswivel!"
As he had come to this conclusion, an incident occurred which tended
greatly to shake the grounds on which he had adopted it. Amid the
melancholy _sough_ of the dying wind, and the plash of the rain-drops on
leaves and stones, arose, and apparently at no great distance from the
listener, a strain of vocal music so sad and solemn, as if the departed
spirits of the churchmen who had once inhabited these deserted rains were
mourning the solitude and desolation to which their hallowed precincts
had been abandoned. Dousterswivel, who had now got upon his feet, and was
groping around the wall of the chancel, stood rooted to the ground on the
occurrence of this new phenomenon. Each faculty of his soul seemed for
the moment concentred in the sense of hearing, and all rushed back with
the unanimous information, that the deep, wild, and prolonged chant which
he now heard, was the appropriate music of one of the most solemn dirges
of the Church of Rome. Why performed in such a solitude, and by what
class of choristers, were questions which the terrified imagination of
the adept, stirred with all the German superstitions of nixies,
oak-kings, wer-wolves, hobgoblins, black spirits and white, blue spirits
and grey, durst not even attempt to solve.
Another of his senses was soon engaged in the investigation. At the
extremity of one of the transepts of the church, at the bottom of a few
descending steps, was a small iron-grated door, opening, as far as he
recollected, to a sort of low vault or sacristy. As he cast his eye in
the direction of the sound, he observed a strong reflection of red light
glimmering through these bars, and against the steps which descended to
them. Dousterswivel stood a moment uncertain what to do; then, suddenly
forming a desperate resolution, he moved down the aisle to the place from
which the light proceeded.
Fortified with the sign of the cross, and as many exorcisms as his memory
could recover, he advanced to the grate, from which, unseen, he could see
what passed in the interior of the vault. As he approached with timid and
uncertain steps, the chant, after one or two wild and prolonged cadences,
died away into profound silence. The grate, when he reached it, presented
a singular spectacle in the interior of the sacristy. An open grave, with
four tall flambeaus, each about six feet high, placed at the four
corners--a bier, having a corpse in its shroud, the arms folded upon the
breast, rested upon tressels at one side of the grave, as if ready to be
interred--a priest, dressed in his cope and stole, held open the service
book--another churchman in his vestments bore a holy-water sprinkler, and
two boys in white surplices held censers with incense--a man, of a figure
once tall and commanding, but now bent with age or infirmity, stood alone
and nearest to the coffin, attired in deep mourning--such were the most
prominent figures of the group. At a little distance were two or three
persons of both sexes, attired in long mourning hoods and cloaks; and
five or six others in the same lugubrious dress, still farther removed
from the body, around the walls of the vault, stood ranged in motionless
order, each bearing in his hand a huge torch of black wax. The smoky
light from so many flambeaus, by the red and indistinct atmosphere which
it spread around, gave a hazy, dubious, and as it were phantom-like
appearance to the outlines of this singular apparition, The voice of the
priest--loud, clear, and sonorous--now recited, from the breviary which
he held in his hand, those solemn words which the ritual of the Catholic
church has consecrated to the rendering of dust to dust. Meanwhile,
Dousterswivel, the place, the hour, and the surprise considered, still
remained uncertain whether what he saw was substantial, or an unearthly
representation of the rites to which in former times these walls were
familiar, but which are now rarely practised in Protestant countries, and
almost never in Scotland. He was uncertain whether to abide the
conclusion of the ceremony, or to endeavour to regain the chancel, when a
change in his position made him visible through the grate to one of the
attendant mourners. The person who first espied him indicated his
discovery to the individual who stood apart and nearest the coffin, by a
sign, and upon his making a sign in reply, two of the group detached
themselves, and, gliding along with noiseless steps, as if fearing to
disturb the service, unlocked and opened the grate which separated them
from the adept. Each took him by an arm, and exerting a degree of force,
which he would have been incapable of resisting had his fear permitted
him to attempt opposition, they placed him on the ground in the chancel,
and sat down, one on each side of him, as if to detain him. Satisfied he
was in the power of mortals like himself, the adept would have put some
questions to them; but while one pointed to the vault, from which the
sound of the priest's voice was distinctly heard, the other placed his
finger upon his lips in token of silence, a hint which the German thought
it most prudent to obey. And thus they detained him until a loud
Alleluia, pealing through the deserted arches of St. Ruth, closed the
singular ceremony which it had been his fortune to witness.
When the hymn had died away with all its echoes, the voice of one of the
sable personages under whose guard the adept had remained, said, in a
familiar tone and dialect, "Dear sirs, Mr. Dousterswivel, is this you?
could not ye have let us ken an ye had wussed till hae been present at
the ceremony?--My lord couldna tak it weel your coming blinking and
jinking in, in that fashion."
"In de name of all dat is gootness, tell me what you are?" interrupted
the German in his turn.
"What I am? why, wha should I be but Ringan Aikwood, the Knockwinnock
poinder?--and what are ye doing here at this time o' night, unless ye
were come to attend the leddy's burial?"
"I do declare to you, mine goot Poinder Aikwood," said the German,
raising himself up, "that I have been this vary nights murdered, robbed,
and put in fears of my life."
"Robbed! wha wad do sic a deed here?--Murdered! od ye speak pretty blithe
for a murdered man--Put in fear! what put you in fear, Mr.
"I will tell you, Maister Poinder Aikwood Ringan, just dat old miscreant
dog villain blue-gown, as you call Edie Ochiltrees."
"I'll neer believe that," answered Ringan;--"Edie was ken'd to me, and my
father before me, for a true, loyal, and sooth-fast man; and, mair by
token, he's sleeping up yonder in our barn, and has been since ten at
e'en--Sae touch ye wha liket, Mr. Dousterswivel, and whether onybody
touched ye or no, I'm sure Edie's sackless."
"Maister Ringan Aikwood Poinders, I do not know what you call sackless,--
but let alone all de oils and de soot dat you say he has, and I will tell
you I was dis night robbed of fifty pounds by your oil and sooty friend,
Edies Ochiltree; and he is no more in your barn even now dan I ever shall
be in de kingdom of heafen."
"Weel, sir, if ye will gae up wi' me, as the burial company has
dispersed, we'se mak ye down a bed at the lodge, and we'se see if Edie's
at the barn. There was twa wild-looking chaps left the auld kirk when we
were coming up wi' the corpse, that's certain; and the priest, wha likes
ill that ony heretics should look on at our church ceremonies, sent twa
o' the riding saulies after them; sae we'll hear a' about it frae them."
Thus speaking, the kindly apparition, with the assistance of the mute
personage, who was his son, disencumbered himself of his cloak, and
prepared to escort Dousterswivel to the place of that rest which the
adept so much needed.
"I will apply to the magistrates to-morrow," said the adept; "oder, I
will have de law put in force against all the peoples."
While he thus muttered vengeance against the cause of his injury, he
tottered from among the ruins, supporting himself on Ringan and his son,
whose assistance his state of weakness rendered very necessary.
When they were clear of the priory, and had gained the little meadow in
which it stands, Dousterswivel could perceive the torches which had
caused him so much alarm issuing in irregular procession from the ruins,
and glancing their light, like that of the _ignis fatuus,_ on the banks
of the lake. After moving along the path for some short space with a
fluctuating and irregular motion, the lights were at once extinguished.
"We aye put out the torches at the Halie-cross Well on sic occasions,"
said the forester to his guest. And accordingly no farther visible sign
of the procession offered itself to Dousterswivel, although his ear could
catch the distant and decreasing echo of horses' hoofs in the direction
towards which the mourners had bent their course.
O weel may the boatie row
And better may she speed,
And weel may the boatie row
That earns the bairnies' bread!
The boatie rows, the boatie rows,
The boatie rows fu' weel,
And lightsome be their life that bear
The merlin and the creel!
We must now introduce our reader to the interior of the fisher's cottage
mentioned in chapter eleventh of this edifying history. I wish I could
say that its inside was well arranged, decently furnished, or tolerably
clean. On the contrary, I am compelled to admit, there was confusion,--
there was dilapidation,--there was dirt good store. Yet, with all this,
there was about the inmates, Luckie Mucklebackit and her family, an
appearance of ease, plenty, and comfort, that seemed to warrant their old
sluttish proverb, "The clartier the cosier." A huge fire, though the
season was summer, occupied the hearth, and served at once for affording
light, heat, and the means of preparing food. The fishing had been
successful, and the family, with customary improvidence, had, since
unlading the cargo, continued an unremitting operation of broiling and
frying that part of the produce reserved for home consumption, and the
bones and fragments lay on the wooden trenchers, mingled with morsels of
broken bannocks and shattered mugs of half-drunk beer. The stout and
athletic form of Maggie herself, bustling here and there among a pack of
half-grown girls and younger children, of whom she chucked one now here
and another now there, with an exclamation of "Get out o' the gate, ye
little sorrow!" was strongly contrasted with the passive and
half-stupified look and manner of her husband's mother, a woman advanced
to the last stage of human life, who was seated in her wonted chair close
by the fire, the warmth of which she coveted, yet hardly seemed to be
sensible of--now muttering to herself, now smiling vacantly to the
children as they pulled the strings of her _toy_ or close cap, or
twitched her blue checked apron. With her distaff in her bosom, and her
spindle in her hand, she plied lazily and mechanically the old-fashioned
Scottish thrift, according to the old-fashioned Scottish manner. The
younger children, crawling among the feet of the elder, watched the
progress of grannies spindle as it twisted, and now and then ventured to
interrupt its progress as it danced upon the floor in those vagaries
which the more regulated spinning-wheel has now so universally
superseded, that even the fated Princess in the fairy tale might roam
through all Scotland without the risk of piercing her hand with a
spindle, and dying of the wound. Late as the hour was (and it was long
past midnight), the whole family were still on foot, and far from
proposing to go to bed; the dame was still busy broiling car-cakes on the
girdle, and the elder girl, the half-naked mermaid elsewhere
commemorated, was preparing a pile of Findhorn haddocks (that is,
haddocks smoked with green wood), to be eaten along with these relishing
While they were thus employed, a slight tap at the door, accompanied with
the question, "Are ye up yet, sirs?" announced a visitor. The answer,
"Ay, ay,--come your ways ben, hinny," occasioned the lifting of the
latch, and Jenny Rintherout, the female domestic of our Antiquary, made
"Ay, ay," exclaimed the mistress of the family--"Hegh, sirs! can this be
you, Jenny?--a sight o' you's gude for sair een, lass."
"O woman, we've been sae ta'en up wi' Captain Hector's wound up by, that
I havena had my fit out ower the door this fortnight; but he's better
now, and auld Caxon sleeps in his room in case he wanted onything. Sae,
as soon as our auld folk gaed to bed, I e'en snodded my head up a bit,
and left the house-door on the latch, in case onybody should be wanting
in or out while I was awa, and just cam down the gate to see an there was
ony cracks amang ye."
"Ay, ay," answered Luckie Mucklebackit, "I see you hae gotten a' your
braws on; ye're looking about for Steenie now--but he's no at hame the
night; and ye'll no do for Steenie, lass--a feckless thing like you's no
fit to mainteen a man."
"Steenie will no do for me," retorted Jenny, with a toss of her head that
might have become a higher-born damsel; "I maun hae a man that can
mainteen his wife."
"Ou ay, hinny--thae's your landward and burrows-town notions. My certie!
--fisherwives ken better--they keep the man, and keep the house, and keep
the siller too, lass."
"A wheen poor drudges ye are," answered the nymph of the land to the
nymph of the sea. "As sune as the keel o' the coble touches the sand,
deil a bit mair will the lazy fisher loons work, but the wives maun kilt
their coats, and wade into the surf to tak the fish ashore. And then the
man casts aff the wat and puts on the dry, and sits down wi' his pipe and
his gill-stoup ahint the ingle, like ony auld houdie, and neer a turn
will he do till the coble's afloat again! And the wife she maun get the
scull on her back, and awa wi' the fish to the next burrows-town, and
scauld and ban wi'ilka wife that will scauld and ban wi'her till it's
sauld--and that's the gait fisher-wives live, puir slaving bodies."
"Slaves?--gae wa', lass!--ca' the head o' the house slaves? little ye ken
about it, lass. Show me a word my Saunders daur speak, or a turn he daur
do about the house, without it be just to tak his meat, and his drink,
and his diversion, like ony o' the weans. He has mair sense than to ca'
anything about the bigging his ain, frae the rooftree down to a crackit
trencher on the bink. He kens weel eneugh wha feeds him, and cleeds him,
and keeps a' tight, thack and rape, when his coble is jowing awa in the
Firth, puir fallow. Na, na, lass!--them that sell the goods guide the
purse--them that guide the purse rule the house. Show me ane o' yer bits
o' farmer-bodies that wad let their wife drive the stock to the market,
and ca' in the debts. Na, na."
"Aweel, aweel, Maggie, ilka land has its ain lauch--But where's Steenie
the night, when a's come and gane? And where's the gudeman?"*
* Note G. Gyneocracy.
"I hae putten the gudeman to his bed, for he was e'en sair forfain; and
Steenie's awa out about some barns-breaking wi' the auld gaberlunzie,
Edie Ochiltree: they'll be in sune, and ye can sit doun."
"Troth, gudewife" (taking a seat), "I haena that muckle time to stop--but
I maun tell ye about the news. Yell hae heard o' the muckle kist o' gowd
that Sir Arthur has fund down by at St. Ruth?--He'll be grander than ever
now--he'll no can haud down his head to sneeze, for fear o' seeing his
"Ou ay--a' the country's heard o' that; but auld Edie says that they ca'
it ten times mair than ever was o't, and he saw them howk it up. Od, it
would be lang or a puir body that needed it got sic a windfa'."
"Na, that's sure eneugh.--And yell hae heard o' the Countess o' Glenallan
being dead and lying in state, and how she's to be buried at St. Ruth's
as this night fa's, wi' torch-light; and a' the popist servants, and
Ringan Aikwood, that's a papist too, are to be there, and it will be the
grandest show ever was seen."
"Troth, hinny," answered the Nereid, "if they let naebody but papists
come there, it'll no be muckle o' a show in this country, for the auld
harlot, as honest Mr. Blattergowl ca's her, has few that drink o' her cup
o' enchantments in this corner o' our chosen lands.--But what can ail
them to bury the auld carlin (a rudas wife she was) in the night-time?--I
dare say our gudemither will ken."
Here she exalted her voice, and exclaimed twice or thrice, "Gudemither!
gudemither!" but, lost in the apathy of age and deafness, the aged sibyl
she addressed continued plying her spindle without understanding the
appeal made to her.
"Speak to your grandmither, Jenny--Od, I wad rather hail the coble half a
mile aff, and the nor-wast wind whistling again in my teeth."
"Grannie," said the little mermaid, in a voice to which the old woman was
better accustomed, "minnie wants to ken what for the Glenallan folk aye
bury by candle-light in the ruing of St. Ruth!"
The old woman paused in the act of twirling the spindle, turned round to
the rest of the party, lifted her withered, trembling, and clay-coloured
band, raised up her ashen-hued and wrinkled face, which the quick motion
of two light-blue eyes chiefly distinguished from the visage of a corpse,
and, as if catching at any touch of association with the living world,
answered, "What gars the Glenallan family inter their dead by torchlight,
said the lassie?--Is there a Glenallan dead e'en now?"
"We might be a' dead and buried too," said Maggie, "for onything ye wad
ken about it;"--and then, raising her voice to the stretch of her
mother-in-law's comprehension, she added,
"It's the auld Countess, gudemither."
"And is she ca'd hame then at last?" said the old woman, in a voice that
seemed to be agitated with much more feeling than belonged to her extreme
old age, and the general indifference and apathy of her manner--"is she
then called to her last account after her lang race o' pride and power?--
O God, forgie her!"
"But minnie was asking ye," resumed the lesser querist, "what for the
Glenallan family aye bury their dead by torch-light?"
"They hae aye dune sae," said the grandmother, "since the time the Great
Earl fell in the sair battle o' the Harlaw, when they say the coronach
was cried in ae day from the mouth of the Tay to the Buck of the Cabrach,
that ye wad hae heard nae other sound but that of lamentation for the
great folks that had fa'en fighting against Donald of the Isles. But the
Great Earl's mither was living--they were a doughty and a dour race, the
women o' the house o' Glenallan--and she wad hae nae coronach cried for
her son, but had him laid in the silence o' midnight in his place o'
rest, without either drinking the dirge, or crying the lament. She said
he had killed enow that day he died, for the widows and daughters o' the
Highlanders he had slain to cry the coronach for them they had lost, and
for her son too; and sae she laid him in his gave wi' dry eyes, and
without a groan or a wail. And it was thought a proud word o' the family,
and they aye stickit by it--and the mair in the latter times, because in
the night-time they had mair freedom to perform their popish ceremonies
by darkness and in secrecy than in the daylight--at least that was the
case in my time; they wad hae been disturbed in the day-time baith by the
law and the commons of Fairport--they may be owerlooked now, as I have
heard: the warlds changed--I whiles hardly ken whether I am standing or
sitting, or dead or living."
And looking round the fire, as if in a state of unconscious uncertainty
of which she complained, old Elspeth relapsed into her habitual and
mechanical occupation of twirling the spindle.
"Eh, sirs!" said Jenny Rintherout, under her breath to her gossip, "it's
awsome to hear your gudemither break out in that gait--it's like the dead
speaking to the living."
"Ye're no that far wrang, lass; she minds naething o' what passes the
day--but set her on auld tales, and she can speak like a prent buke. She
kens mair about the Glenallan family than maist folk--the gudeman's
father was their fisher mony a day. Ye maun ken the papists make a great
point o' eating fish--it's nae bad part o' their religion that, whatever
the rest is--I could aye sell the best o' fish at the best o' prices for
the Countess's ain table, grace be wi' her! especially on a Friday--But
see as our gudemither's hands and lips are ganging--now it's working in
her head like barm--she'll speak eneugh the night. Whiles she'll no speak
a word in a week, unless it be to the bits o' bairns."
"Hegh, Mrs. Mucklebackit, she's an awsome wife!" said Jenny in reply.
"D'ye think she's a'thegither right? Folk say she downa gang to the kirk,
or speak to the minister, and that she was ance a papist but since her
gudeman's been dead, naebody kens what she is. D'ye think yoursell that
she's no uncanny?"
"Canny, ye silly tawpie! think ye ae auld wife's less canny than anither?
unless it be Alison Breck--I really couldna in conscience swear for her;
I have kent the boxes she set fill'd wi' partans, when"--
"Whisht, whisht, Maggie," whispered Jenny--"your gudemither's gaun to
"Wasna there some ane o' ye said," asked the old sibyl, "or did I dream,
or was it revealed to me, that Joscelind, Lady Glenallan, is dead, an'
buried this night?"
"Yes, gudemither," screamed the daughter-in-law, "it's e'en sae."
"And e'en sae let it be," said old Elspeth; "she's made mony a sair heart
in her day--ay, e'en her ain son's--is he living yet?"
"Ay, he's living yet; but how lang he'll live--however, dinna ye mind his
coming and asking after you in the spring, and leaving siller?"
"It may be sae, Magge--I dinna mind it--but a handsome gentleman he was,
and his father before him. Eh! if his father had lived, they might hae
been happy folk! But he was gane, and the lady carried it in--ower and
out-ower wi' her son, and garr'd him trow the thing he never suld hae
trowed, and do the thing he has repented a' his life, and will repent
still, were his life as lang as this lang and wearisome ane o' mine."
"O what was it, grannie?"--and "What was it, gudemither?"--and "What was
it, Luckie Elspeth?" asked the children, the mother, and the visitor, in
"Never ask what it was," answered the old sibyl, "but pray to God that ye
arena left to the pride and wilfu'ness o' your ain hearts: they may be as
powerful in a cabin as in a castle--I can bear a sad witness to that. O
that weary and fearfu' night! will it never gang out o' my auld head!--
Eh! to see her lying on the floor wi' her lang hair dreeping wi' the salt
water!--Heaven will avenge on a' that had to do wi't. Sirs! is my son out
wi' the coble this windy e'en?"
"Na, na, mither--nae coble can keep the sea this wind; he's sleeping in
his bed out-ower yonder ahint the hallan."
"Is Steenie out at sea then?"
"Na, grannie--Steenie's awa out wi' auld Edie Ochiltree, the gaberlunzie;
maybe they'll be gaun to see the burial."
"That canna be," said the mother of the family; "we kent naething o't
till Jock Rand cam in, and tauld us the Aikwoods had warning to attend--
they keep thae things unco private--and they were to bring the corpse a'
the way frae the Castle, ten miles off, under cloud o' night. She has
lain in state this ten days at Glenallan House, in a grand chamber a'
hung wi' black, and lighted wi' wax cannle."
"God assoilzie her!" ejaculated old Elspeth, her head apparently still
occupied by the event of the Countess's death; "she was a hard-hearted
woman, but she's gaen to account for it a', and His mercy is infinite--
God grant she may find it sae!" And she relapsed into silence, which she
did not break again during the rest of the evening.
"I wonder what that auld daft beggar carle and our son Steenie can be
doing out in sic a nicht as this," said Maggie Mucklebackit; and her
expression of surprise was echoed by her visitor. "Gang awa, ane o' ye,
hinnies, up to the heugh head, and gie them a cry in case they're within
hearing; the car-cakes will be burnt to a cinder."
The little emissary departed, but in a few minutes came running back with
the loud exclamation, "Eh, Minnie! eh, grannie! there's a white bogle
chasing twa black anes down the heugh."
A noise of footsteps followed this singular annunciation, and young
Steenie Mucklebackit, closely followed by Edie Ochiltree, bounced into
the hut. They were panting and out of breath. The first thing Steenie did
was to look for the bar of the door, which his mother reminded him had
been broken up for fire-wood in the hard winter three years ago; "for
what use," she said, "had the like o' them for bars?"
"There's naebody chasing us," said the beggar, after he had taken his
breath: "we're e'en like the wicked, that flee when no one pursueth."
"Troth, but we were chased," said Steenie, "by a spirit or something
"It was a man in white on horseback," said Edie, "for the soft grund that
wadna bear the beast, flung him about, I wot that weel; but I didna think
my auld legs could have brought me aff as fast; I ran amaist as fast as
if I had been at Prestonpans."*
* [This refers to the flight of the government forces at the battle of
"Hout, ye daft gowks!" said Luckie Mucklebackit, "it will hae been some
o' the riders at the Countess's burial."
"What!" said Edie, "is the auld Countess buried the night at St. Ruth's?
Ou, that wad be the lights and the noise that scarr'd us awa; I wish I
had ken'd--I wad hae stude them, and no left the man yonder--but they'll
take care o' him. Ye strike ower hard, Steenie I doubt ye foundered the
"Neer a bit," said Steenie, laughing; "he has braw broad shouthers, and I
just took measure o' them wi' the stang. Od, if I hadna been something
short wi' him, he wad hae knockit your auld hams out, lad."
"Weel, an I win clear o' this scrape," said Edie, "I'se tempt Providence
nae mair. But I canna think it an unlawfu' thing to pit a bit trick on
sic a landlouping scoundrel, that just lives by tricking honester folk."
"But what are we to do with this?" said Steenie, producing a pocket-book.
"Od guide us, man," said Edie in great alarm, "what garr'd ye touch the
gear? a very leaf o' that pocket-book wad be eneugh to hang us baith."
"I dinna ken," said Steenie; "the book had fa'en out o' his pocket, I
fancy, for I fand it amang my feet when I was graping about to set him on
his logs again, and I just pat it in my pouch to keep it safe; and then
came the tramp of horse, and you cried, Rin, rin,' and I had nae mair
thought o' the book."
"We maun get it back to the loon some gait or other; ye had better take
it yoursell, I think, wi' peep o' light, up to Ringan Aikwood's. I wadna
for a hundred pounds it was fund in our hands."
Steenie undertook to do as he was directed.
"A bonny night ye hae made o't, Mr. Steenie," said Jenny Rintherout, who,
impatient of remaining so long unnoticed, now presented herself to the
young fisherman--"A bonny night ye hae made o't, tramping about wi'
gaberlunzies, and getting yoursell hunted wi' worricows, when ye suld be
sleeping in your bed, like your father, honest man."
This attack called forth a suitable response of rustic raillery from the
young fisherman. An attack was now commenced upon the car-cakes and
smoked fish, and sustained with great perseverance by assistance of a
bicker or two of twopenny ale and a bottle of gin. The mendicant then
retired to the straw of an out-house adjoining,--the children had one by
one crept into their nests,--the old grandmother was deposited in her
flock-bed,--Steenie, notwithstanding his preceding fatigue, had the
gallantry to accompany Miss Rintherout to her own mansion, and at what
hour he returned the story saith not,--and the matron of the family,
having laid the gathering-coal upon the fire, and put things in some sort
of order, retired to rest the last of the family.
--Many great ones
Would part with half their states, to have the plan
And credit to beg in the first style.
Old Edie was stirring with the lark, and his first inquiry was after
Steenie and the pocket-book. The young fisherman had been under the
necessity of attending his father before daybreak, to avail themselves of
the tide, but he had promised that, immediately on his return, the
pocket-book, with all its contents, carefully wrapped up in a piece of
sail-cloth, should be delivered by him to Ringan Aikwood, for
Dousterswivel, the owner.
The matron had prepared the morning meal for the family, and, shouldering
her basket of fish, tramped sturdily away towards Fairport. The children
were idling round the door, for the day was fair and sun-shiney. The
ancient grandame, again seated on her wicker-chair by the fire, had
resumed her eternal spindle, wholly unmoved by the yelling and screaming
of the children, and the scolding of the mother, which had preceded the
dispersion of the family. Edie had arranged his various bags, and was
bound for the renewal of his wandering life, but first advanced with due
courtesy to take his leave of the ancient crone.
"Gude day to ye, cummer, and mony ane o' them. I will be back about the
fore-end o'har'st, and I trust to find ye baith haill and fere."
"Pray that ye may find me in my quiet grave," said the old woman, in a
hollow and sepulchral voice, but without the agitation of a single
"Ye're auld, cummer, and sae am I mysell; but we maun abide His will--
we'll no be forgotten in His good time."
"Nor our deeds neither," said the crone: "what's dune in the body maun be
answered in the spirit."
"I wot that's true; and I may weel tak the tale hame to mysell, that hae
led a misruled and roving life. But ye were aye a canny wife. We're a'
frail--but ye canna hae sae muckle to bow ye down."
"Less than I might have had--but mair, O far mair, than wad sink the
stoutest brig e'er sailed out o' Fairport harbour!--Didna somebody say
yestreen--at least sae it is borne in on my mind, but auld folk hae weak
fancies--did not somebody say that Joscelind, Countess of Glenallan, was
departed frae life?"
"They said the truth whaever said it," answered old Edie; "she was buried
yestreen by torch-light at St. Ruth's, and I, like a fule, gat a gliff
wi' seeing the lights and the riders."
"It was their fashion since the days of the Great Earl that was killed at
Harlaw;--they did it to show scorn that they should die and be buried
like other mortals; the wives o' the house of Glenallan wailed nae wail
for the husband, nor the sister for the brother.--But is she e'en ca'd to
the lang account?"
"As sure," answered Edie, "as we maun a' abide it."
"Then I'll unlade my mind, come o't what will."
This she spoke with more alacrity than usually attended her expressions,
and accompanied her words with an attitude of the hand, as if throwing
something from her. She then raised up her form, once tall, and still
retaining the appearance of having been so, though bent with age and
rheumatism, and stood before the beggar like a mummy animated by some
wandering spirit into a temporary resurrection. Her light-blue eyes
wandered to and fro, as if she occasionally forgot and again remembered
the purpose for which her long and withered hand was searching among the
miscellaneous contents of an ample old-fashioned pocket. At length she
pulled out a small chip-box, and opening it, took out a handsome ring, in
which was set a braid of hair, composed of two different colours, black
and light brown, twined together, encircled with brilliants of
"Gudeman," she said to Ochiltree, "as ye wad e'er deserve mercy, ye maun
gang my errand to the house of Glenallan, and ask for the Earl."
"The Earl of Glenallan, cummer! ou, he winna see ony o' the gentles o'
the country, and what likelihood is there that he wad see the like o' an
"Gang your ways and try;--and tell him that Elspeth o' the Craigburnfoot
--he'll mind me best by that name--maun see him or she be relieved frae
her lang pilgrimage, and that she sends him that ring in token of the
business she wad speak o'."
Ochiltree looked on the ring with some admiration of its apparent value,
and then carefully replacing it in the box, and wrapping it in an old
ragged handkerchief, he deposited the token in his bosom.
"Weel, gudewife," he said, "I'se do your bidding, or it's no be my fault.
But surely there was never sic a braw propine as this sent to a yerl by
an auld fishwife, and through the hands of a gaberlunzie beggar."
With this reflection, Edie took up his pike-staff, put on his
broad-brimmed bonnet, and set forth upon his pilgrimage. The old woman
remained for some time standing in a fixed posture, her eyes directed to
the door through which her ambassador had departed. The appearance of
excitation, which the conversation had occasioned, gradually left her
features; she sank down upon her accustomed seat, and resumed her
mechanical labour of the distaff and spindle, with her wonted air of
Edie Ochiltree meanwhile advanced on his journey. The distance to
Glenallan was ten miles, a march which the old soldier accomplished in
about four hours. With the curiosity belonging to his idle trade and
animated character, he tortured himself the whole way to consider what
could be the meaning of this mysterious errand with which he was
entrusted, or what connection the proud, wealthy, and powerful Earl of
Glenallan could have with the crimes or penitence of an old doting woman,
whose rank in life did not greatly exceed that of her messenger. He
endeavoured to call to memory all that he had ever known or heard of the
Glenallan family, yet, having done so, remained altogether unable to form
a conjecture on the subject. He knew that the whole extensive estate of
this ancient and powerful family had descended to the Countess, lately
deceased, who inherited, in a most remarkable degree, the stern, fierce,
and unbending character which had distinguished the house of Glenallan
since they first figured in Scottish annals. Like the rest of her
ancestors, she adhered zealously to the Roman Catholic faith, and was
married to an English gentleman of the same communion, and of large
fortune, who did not survive their union two years. The Countess was,
therefore, left all early widow, with the uncontrolled management of the
large estates of her two sons. The elder, Lord Geraldin, who was to
succeed to the title and fortune of Glenallan, was totally dependent on
his mother during her life. The second, when he came of age, assumed the
name and arms of his father, and took possession of his estate, according
to the provisions of the Countess's marriage-settlement. After this
period, he chiefly resided in England, and paid very few and brief visits
to his mother and brother; and these at length were altogether dispensed
with, in consequence of his becoming a convert to the reformed religion.
But even before this mortal offence was given to its mistress, his
residence at Glenallan offered few inducements to a gay young man like
Edward Geraldin Neville, though its gloom and seclusion seemed to suit
the retired and melancholy habits of his elder brother. Lord Geraldin, in
the outset of life, had been a young man of accomplishment and hopes.
Those who knew him upon his travels entertained the highest expectations
of his future career. But such fair dawns are often strangely overcast.
The young nobleman returned to Scotland, and after living about a year in
his mother's society at Glenallan House, he seemed to have adopted all
the stern gloom and melancholy of her character. Excluded from politics
by the incapacities attached to those of his religion, and from all
lighter avocationas by choice, Lord Geraldin led a life of the strictest
retirement. His ordinary society was composed of the clergyman of his
communion, who occasionally visited his mansion; and very rarely, upon
stated occasions of high festival, one or two families who still
professed the Catholic religion were formally entertained at Glenallan
House. But this was all; their heretic neighbours knew nothing of the
family whatever; and even the Catholics saw little more than the
sumptuous entertainment and solemn parade which was exhibited on those
formal occasions, from which all returned without knowing whether most to
wonder at the stern and stately demeanour of the Countess, or the deep
and gloomy dejection which never ceased for a moment to cloud the
features of her son. The late event had put him in possession of his
fortune and title, and the neighbourhood had already begun to conjecture
whether gaiety would revive with independence, when those who had some
occasional acquaintance with the interior of the family spread abroad a
report, that the Earl's constitution was undermined by religious
austerities, and that in all probability he would soon follow his mother
to the grave. This event was the more probable, as his brother had died
of a lingering complaint, which, in the latter years of his life, had
affected at once his frame and his spirits; so that heralds and
genealogists were already looking back into their records to discover the
heir of this ill-fated family, and lawyers were talking with gleesome
anticipation, of the probability of a "great Glenallan cause."
As Edie Ochiltree approached the front of Glenallan House,* an ancient
building of great extent, the most modern part of which had been designed
by the celebrated Inigo Jones, he began to consider in what way he should
be most likely to gain access for delivery of his message; and, after
much consideration, resolved to send the token to the Earl by one of the
* [Supposed to represent Glammis Castle, in Forfarshire, with which the
Author was well acquainted.]
With this purpose he stopped at a cottage, where he obtained the means of
making up the ring in a sealed packet like a petition, addressed, _Forr
his hounor the Yerl of Glenllan--These._ But being aware that missives
delivered at the doors of great houses by such persons as himself, do not
always make their way according to address, Edie determined, like an old
soldier, to reconnoitre the ground before he made his final attack. As he
approached the porter's lodge, he discovered, by the number of poor
ranked before it, some of them being indigent persons in the vicinity,
and others itinerants of his own begging profession,--that there was
about to be a general dole or distribution of charity.
"A good turn," said Edie to himself, "never goes unrewarded--I'll maybe
get a good awmous that I wad hae missed but for trotting on this auld
Accordingly, he ranked up with the rest of this ragged regiment, assuming
a station as near the front as possible,--a distinction due, as he
conceived, to his blue gown and badge, no less than to his years and
experience; but he soon found there was another principle of precedence
in this assembly, to which he had not adverted.
"Are ye a triple man, friend, that ye press forward sae bauldly?--I'm
thinking no, for there's nae Catholics wear that badge."
"Na, na, I am no a Roman," said Edie.
"Then shank yoursell awa to the double folk, or single folk, that's the
Episcopals or Presbyterians yonder: it's a shame to see a heretic hae sic
a lang white beard, that would do credit to a hermit."
Ochiltree, thus rejected from the society of the Catholic mendicants, or
those who called themselves such, went to station himself with the
paupers of the communion of the church of England, to whom the noble
donor allotted a double portion of his charity. But never was a poor
occasional conformist more roughly rejected by a High-church
congregation, even when that matter was furiously agitated in the days of
good Queen Anne.
"See to him wi' his badge!" they said;--"he hears ane o' the king's
Presbyterian chaplains sough out a sermon on the morning of every
birth-day, and now he would pass himsell for ane o' the Episcopal church!
Na, na!--we'll take care o' that."
Edie, thus rejected by Rome and Prelacy, was fain to shelter himself from
the laughter of his brethren among the thin group of Presbyterians, who
had either disdained to disguise their religious opinions for the sake of
an augmented dole, or perhaps knew they could not attempt the imposition
without a certainty of detection.
The same degree of precedence was observed in the mode of distributing
the charity, which consisted in bread, beef, and a piece of money, to
each individual of all the three classes. The almoner, an ecclesiastic of
grave appearance and demeanour, superintended in person the accommodation
of the Catholic mendicants, asking a question or two of each as he
delivered the charity, and recommending to their prayers the soul of
Joscelind, late Countess of Glenallan, mother of their benefactor. The
porter, distinguished by his long staff headed with silver, and by the
black gown tufted with lace of the same colour, which he had assumed upon
the general mourning in the family, overlooked the distribution of the
dole among the prelatists. The less-favoured kirk-folk were committed to
the charge of an aged domestic.
As this last discussed some disputed point with the porter, his name, as
it chanced to be occasionally mentioned, and then his features, struck
Ochiltree, and awakened recollections of former times. The rest of the
assembly were now retiring, when the domestic, again approaching the
place where Edie still lingered, said, in a strong Aberdeenshire accent,
"Fat is the auld feel-body deeing, that he canna gang avay, now that he's
gotten baith meat and siller?"
"Francis Macraw," answered Edie Ochiltree, "d'ye no mind Fontenoy, and
keep thegither front and rear?'"
"Ohon! ohon!" cried Francie, with a true north-country yell of
recognition, "naebody could hae said that word but my auld front-rank
man, Edie Ochiltree! But I'm sorry to see ye in sic a peer state, man."
"No sae ill aff as ye may think, Francis. But I'm laith to leave this
place without a crack wi' you, and I kenna when I may see you again, for
your folk dinna mak Protestants welcome, and that's ae reason that I hae
never been here before."
"Fusht, fusht," said Francie, "let that flee stick i' the wa'--when the
dirt's dry it will rub out;--and come you awa wi' me, and I'll gie ye
something better thau that beef bane, man."
Having then spoke a confidential word with the porter (probably to
request his connivance), and having waited until the almoner had returned
into the house with slow and solemn steps, Francie Macraw introduced his
old comrade into the court of Glenallan House, the gloomy gateway of
which was surmounted by a huge scutcheon, in which the herald and
undertaker had mingled, as usual, the emblems of human pride and of human
nothingness,--the Countess's hereditary coat-of-arms, with all its
numerous quarterings, disposed in a lozenge, and surrounded by the
separate shields of her paternal and maternal ancestry, intermingled with
scythes, hour glasses, skulls, and other symbols of that mortality which
levels all distinctions. Conducting his friend as speedily as possible
along the large paved court, Macraw led the way through a side-door to a
small apartment near the servants' hall, which, in virtue of his personal
attendance upon the Earl of Glenallan, he was entitled to call his own.
To produce cold meat of various kinds, strong beer, and even a glass of
spirits, was no difficulty to a person of Francis's importance, who had
not lost, in his sense of conscious dignity, the keen northern prudence
which recommended a good understanding with the butler. Our mendicant
envoy drank ale, and talked over old stories with his comrade, until, no
other topic of conversation occurring, he resolved to take up the theme
of his embassy, which had for some time escaped his memory.
"He had a petition to present to the Earl," he said;--for he judged it
prudent to say nothing of the ring, not knowing, as he afterwards
observed, how far the manners of a single soldier* might have been
corrupted by service in a great house.
* A single soldier means, in Scotch, a private soldier.
"Hout, tout, man," said Francie, "the Earl will look at nae petitions--
but I can gie't to the almoner."
"But it relates to some secret, that maybe my lord wad like best to see't
"I'm jeedging that's the very reason that the almoner will be for seeing
it the first and foremost."
"But I hae come a' this way on purpose to deliver it, Francis, and ye
really maun help me at a pinch."
"Neer speed then if I dinna," answered the Aberdeenshire man: "let them
be as cankered as they like, they can but turn me awa, and I was just
thinking to ask my discharge, and gang down to end my days at Inverurie."
With this doughty resolution of serving his friend at all ventures, since
none was to be encountered which could much inconvenience himself,
Francie Macraw left the apartment. It was long before he returned, and
when he did, his manner indicated wonder and agitation.
"I am nae seer gin ye be Edie Ochiltree o' Carrick's company in the
Forty-twa, or gin ye be the deil in his likeness!"
"And what makes ye speak in that gait?" demanded the astonished
"Because my lord has been in sic a distress and surpreese as I neer saw a
man in my life. But he'll see you--I got that job cookit. He was like a
man awa frae himsell for mony minutes, and I thought he wad hae swarv't
a'thegither,--and fan he cam to himsell, he asked fae brought the packet
--and fat trow ye I said?"
"An auld soger," says Edie--"that does likeliest at a gentle's door; at a
farmer's it's best to say ye're an auld tinkler, if ye need ony quarters,
for maybe the gudewife will hae something to souther."
"But I said neer ane o' the twa," answered Francis; "my lord cares as
little about the tane as the tother--for he's best to them that can
souther up our sins. Sae I e'en said the bit paper was brought by an auld
man wi' a long fite beard--he might be a capeechin freer for fat I ken'd,
for he was dressed like an auld palmer. Sae ye'll be sent up for fanever
he can find mettle to face ye."
"I wish I was weel through this business," thought Edie to himself; "mony
folk surmise that the Earl's no very right in the judgment, and wha can
say how far he may be offended wi' me for taking upon me sae muckle?"
But there was now no room for retreat--a bell sounded from a distant part
of the mansion, and Macraw said, with a smothered accent, as if already
in his master's presence, "That's my lord's bell!--follow me, and step
lightly and cannily, Edie."
Edie followed his guide, who seemed to tread as if afraid of being
overheard, through a long passage, and up a back stair, which admitted
them into the family apartments. They were ample and extensive, furnished
at such cost as showed the ancient importance and splendour of the
family. But all the ornaments were in the taste of a former and distant
period, and one would have almost supposed himself traversing the halls
of a Scottish nobleman before the union of the crowns. The late Countess,
partly from a haughty contempt of the times in which she lived, partly
from her sense of family pride, had not permitted the furniture to be
altered or modernized during her residence at Glenallan House. The most
magnificent part of the decorations was a valuable collection of pictures
by the best masters, whose massive frames were somewhat tarnished by
time. In this particular also the gloomy taste of the family seemed to
predominate. There were some fine family portraits by Vandyke and other
masters of eminence; but the collection was richest in the Saints and
Martyrdoms of Domenichino, Velasquez, and Murillo, and other subjects of
the same kind, which had been selected in preference to landscapes or
historical pieces. The manner in which these awful, and sometimes
disgusting, subjects were represented, harmonized with the gloomy state
of the apartments,--a circumstance which was not altogether lost on the
old man, as he traversed them under the guidance of his quondam
fellow-soldier. He was about to express some sentiment of this kind, but
Francie imposed silence on him by signs, and opening a door at the end of
the long picture-gallery, ushered him into a small antechamber hung with
black. Here they found the almoner, with his ear turned to a door
opposite that by which they entered, in the attitude of one who listens
with attention, but is at the same time afraid of being detected in the
The old domestic and churchman started when they perceived each other.
But the almoner first recovered his recollection, and advancing towards
Macraw, said, under his breath, but with an authoritative tone, "How dare
you approach the Earl's apartment without knocking? and who is this
stranger, or what has he to do here?--Retire to the gallery, and wait for
"It's impossible just now to attend your reverence," answered Macraw,
raising his voice so as to be heard in the next room, being conscious
that the priest would not maintain the altercation within hearing of his
patron,--"the Earl's bell has rung."
He had scarce uttered the words, when it was rung again with greater
violence than before; and the ecclesiastic, perceiving further
expostulation impossible, lifted his finger at Macraw, with a menacing
attitude, as he left the apartment.
"I tell'd ye sae," said the Aberdeen man in a whisper to Edie, and then
proceeded to open the door near which they had observed the chaplain
This little ring, with necromantic force,
Has raised the ghost of pleasure to my fears,
Conjured the sense of honour and of love
Into such shapes, they fright me from myself.
The Fatal Marriage.
The ancient forms of mourning were observed in Glenallan House,
notwithstanding the obduracy with which the members of the family were
popularly supposed to refuse to the dead the usual tribute of
lamentation. It was remarked, that when she received the fatal letter
announcing the death of her second, and, as was once believed, her
favourite son, the hand of the Countess did not shake, nor her eyelid
twinkle, any more than upon perusal of a letter of ordinary business.
Heaven only knows whether the suppression of maternal sorrow, which her
pride commanded, might not have some effect in hastening her own death.
It was at least generally supposed that the apoplectic stroke, which so
soon afterwards terminated her existence, was, as it were, the vengeance
of outraged Nature for the restraint to which her feelings had been
subjected. But although Lady Glenallan forebore the usual external signs
of grief, she had caused many of the apartments, amongst others her own
and that of the Earl, to be hung with the exterior trappings of woe.
The Earl of Glenallan was therefore seated in an apartment hung with
black cloth, which waved in dusky folds along its lofty walls. A screen,
also covered with black baize, placed towards the high and narrow window,
intercepted much of the broken light which found its way through the
stained glass, that represented, with such skill as the fourteenth
century possessed, the life and sorrows of the prophet Jeremiah. The
table at which the Earl was seated was lighted with two lamps wrought in
silver, shedding that unpleasant and doubtful light which arises from the
mingling of artificial lustre with that of general daylight. The same
table displayed a silver crucifix, and one or two clasped parchment
books. A large picture, exquisitely painted by Spagnoletto, represented
the martyrdom of St. Stephen, and was the only ornament of the apartment.
The inhabitant and lord of this disconsolate chamber was a man not past
the prime of life, yet so broken down with disease and mental misery, so
gaunt and ghastly, that he appeared but a wreck of manhood; and when he
hastily arose and advanced towards his visitor, the exertion seemed
almost to overpower his emaciated frame. As they met in the midst of the
apartment, the contrast they exhibited was very striking. The hale cheek,
firm step, erect stature, and undaunted presence and bearing of the old
mendicant, indicated patience and content in the extremity of age, and in
the lowest condition to which humanity can sink; while the sunken eye,
pallid cheek, and tottering form of the nobleman with whom he was
confronted, showed how little wealth, power, and even the advantages of
youth, have to do with that which gives repose to the mind, and firmness
to the frame.
The Earl met the old man in the middle of the room, and having commanded
his attendant to withdraw into the gallery, and suffer no one to enter
the antechamber till he rung the bell, awaited, with hurried yet fearful
impatience, until he heard first the door of his apartment, and then that
of the antechamber, shut and fastened by the spring-bolt. When he was
satisfied with this security against being overheard, Lord Glenallan came
close up to the mendicant, whom he probably mistook for some person of a
religious order in disguise, and said, in a hasty yet faltering tone, "In
the name of all our religion holds most holy, tell me, reverend father,
what am I to expect from a communication opened by a token connected with
such horrible recollections?"
The old man, appalled by a manner so different from what he had expected
from the proud and powerful nobleman, was at a loss how to answer, and in
what manner to undeceive him. "Tell me," continued the Earl, in a tone of
increasing trepidation and agony--"tell me, do you come to say that all
that has been done to expiate guilt so horrible, has been too little and
too trivial for the offence, and to point out new and more efficacious
modes of severe penance?--I will not blench from it, father--let me
suffer the pains of my crime here in the body, rather than hereafter in
Edie had now recollection enough to perceive, that if he did not
interrapt the frankness of Lord Glenallan's admissions, he was likely to
become the confidant of more than might be safe for him to know. He
therefore uttered with a hasty and trembling voice--"Your lordship's
honour is mistaken--I am not of your persuasion, nor a clergyman, but,
with all reverence, only puir Edie Ochiltree, the king's bedesman and
This explanation be accompanied by a profound bow after his manner, and
then, drawing himself up erect, rested his arm on his staff, threw back
his long white hair, and fixed his eyes upon the Earl, as he waited for
"And you are not then," said Lord Glenallan, after a pause of surprise--
"You are not then a Catholic priest?"
"God forbid!" said Edie, forgetting in his confusion to whom he was
speaking; "I am only the king's bedesman and your honour's, as I said
The Earl turned hastily away, and paced the room twice or thrice, as if
to recover the effects of his mistake, and then, coming close up to the
mendicant, he demanded, in a stern and commanding tone, what he meant by
intruding himself on his privacy, and from whence he had got the ring
which he had thought proper to send him. Edie, a man of much spirit, was
less daunted at this mode of interrogation than he had been confused by
the tone of confidence in which the Earl had opened their conversation.
To the reiterated question from whom he had obtained the ring, he
answered composedly, "From one who was better known to the Earl than to
"Better known to me, fellow?" said Lord Glenallan: "what is your
meaning?--explain yourself instantly, or you shall experience the
consequence of breaking in upon the hours of family distress."
"It was auld Elspeth Mucklebackit that sent me here," said the beggar,
"in order to say"--
"You dote, old man!" said the Earl; "I never heard the name--but this
dreadful token reminds me"--
"I mind now, my lord," said Ochiltree, "she tauld me your lordship would
be mair familiar wi' her, if I ca'd her Elspeth o' the Craigburnfoot--she
had that name when she lived on your honour's land, that is, your
honour's worshipful mother's that was then--Grace be wi' her!"
"Ay," said the appalled nobleman, as his countenance sunk, and his cheek
assumed a hue yet more cadaverous; "that name is indeed written in the
most tragic page of a deplorable history. But what can she desire of me?
Is she dead or living?"
"Living, my lord; and entreats to see your lordship before she dies, for
she has something to communicate that hangs upon her very soul, and she
says she canna flit in peace until she sees you."
"Not until she sees me!--what can that mean? But she is doting with age
and infirmity. I tell thee, friend, I called at her cottage myself, not a
twelvemonth since, from a report that she was in distress, and she did
not even know my face or voice."
"If your honour wad permit me," said Edie, to whom the length of the
conference restored a part of his professional audacity and native
talkativeness--"if your honour wad but permit me, I wad say, under
correction of your lordship's better judgment, that auld Elspeth's like
some of the ancient ruined strengths and castles that ane sees amang the
hills. There are mony parts of her mind that appear, as I may say, laid
waste and decayed, but then there's parts that look the steever, and the
stronger, and the grander, because they are rising just like to fragments
amaong the ruins o' the rest. She's an awful woman."
"She always was so," said the Earl, almost unconsciously echoing the
observation of the mendicant; "she always was different from other women
--likest perhaps to her who is now no more, in her temper and turn of
mind.--She wishes to see me, then?"
"Before she dies," said Edie, "she earnestly entreats that pleasure."
"It will be a pleasure to neither of us," said the Earl, sternly, "yet
she shall be gratified. She lives, I think, on the sea-shore to the
southward of Fairport?"
"Just between Monkbarns and Knockwinnock Castle, but nearer to Monkbarns.
Your lordship's honour will ken the laird and Sir Arthur, doubtless?"
A stare, as if he did not comprehend the question, was Lord Glenallan's
answer. Edie saw his mind was elsewhere, and did not venture to repeat a
query which was so little germain to the matter.
"Are you a Catholic, old man?" demanded the Earl.
"No, my lord," said Ochiltree stoutly; for the remembrance of the unequal
division of the dole rose in his mind at the moment; "I thank Heaven I am
a good Protestant."
"He who can conscientiously call himself _good,_ has indeed reason to
thank Heaven, be his form of Christianity what it will--But who is he
that shall dare to do so!"
"Not I," said Edie; "I trust to beware of the sin of presumption."
"What was your trade in your youth?" continued the Earl.
"A soldier, my lord; and mony a sair day's kemping I've seen. I was to
have been made a sergeant, but"--
"A soldier! then you have slain and burnt, and sacked and spoiled?"
"I winna say," replied Edie, "that I have been better than my
neighbours;--it's a rough trade--war's sweet to them that never tried
"And you are now old and miserable, asking from precarious charity the
food which in your youth you tore from the hand of the poor peasant?"
"I am a beggar, it is true, my lord; but I am nae just sae miserable
neither. For my sins, I hae had grace to repent of them, if I might say
sae, and to lay them where they may be better borne than by me; and for
my food, naebody grudges an auld man a bit and a drink--Sae I live as I
can, and am contented to die when I am ca'd upon."
"And thus, then, with little to look back upon that is pleasant or
praiseworthy in your past life--with less to look forward to on this side
of eternity, you are contented to drag out the rest of your existence?
Go, begone! and in your age and poverty and weariness, never envy the
lord of such a mansion as this, either in his sleeping or waking moments
--Here is something for thee."
The Earl put into the old man's hand five or six guineas. Edie would
perhaps have stated his scruples, as upon other occasions, to the amount
of the benefaction, but the tone of Lord Glenallan was too absolute to
admit of either answer or dispute. The Earl then called his servant--"See
this old man safe from the castle--let no one ask him any questions--and
you, friend, begone, and forget the road that leads to my house."
"That would be difficult for me," said Edie, looking at the gold which he
still held in his hand, "that would be e'en difficult, since your honour
has gien me such gade cause to remember it."
Lord Glenallan stared, as hardly comprehending the old man's boldness in
daring to bandy words with him, and, with his hand, made him another
signal of departure, which the mendicant instantly obeyed.
For he was one in all their idle sport,
And like a monarch, ruled their little court
The pliant bow he formed, the flying ball,
The bat, the wicket, were his labours all.
Francis Macraw, agreeably to the commands of his master, attended the
mendicant, in order to see him fairly out of the estate, without
permitting him to have conversation, or intercourse, with any of the
Earl's dependents or domestics. But, judiciously considering that the
restriction did not extend to himself, who was the person entrusted with
the convoy, he used every measure in his power to extort from Edie the
nature of his confidential and secret interview with Lord Glenallan. But
Edie had been in his time accustomed to cross-examination, and easily
evaded those of his quondam comrade. "The secrets of grit folk," said
Ochiltree within himself, "are just like the wild beasts that are shut up
in cages. Keep them hard and fast sneaked up, and it's a' very weel or
better--but ance let them out, they will turn and rend you. I mind how
ill Dugald Gunn cam aff for letting loose his tongue about the Major's
leddy and Captain Bandilier."
Francis was therefore foiled in his assaults upon the fidelity of the
mendicant, and, like an indifferent chess-player, became, at every
unsuccessful movement, more liable to the counter-checks of his opponent.
"Sae ye uphauld ye had nae particulars to say to my lord but about yer
"Ay, and about the wee bits o' things I had brought frae abroad," said
Edie. "I ken'd you popist folk are unco set on the relics that are
fetched frae far-kirks and sae forth."
"Troth, my Lord maun be turned feel outright," said the domestic, "an he
puts himsell into sic a carfuffle, for onything ye could bring him,
"I doubtna ye may say true in the main, neighbour," replied the beggar;
"but maybe he's had some hard play in his younger days, Francis, and that
whiles unsettles folk sair."
"Troth, Edie, and ye may say that--and since it's like yell neer come
back to the estate, or, if ye dee, that ye'll no find me there, I'se e'en
tell you he had a heart in his young time sae wrecked and rent, that it's
a wonder it hasna broken outright lang afore this day."
"Ay, say ye sae?" said Ochiltree; "that maun hae been about a woman, I
"Troth, and ye hae guessed it," said Francie--"jeest a cusin o' his nain
--Miss Eveline Neville, as they suld hae ca'd her;--there was a sough in
the country about it, but it was hushed up, as the grandees were
concerned;--it's mair than twenty years syne--ay, it will be
"Ay, I was in America then," said the mendicant, "and no in the way to
hear the country clashes."
"There was little clash about it, man," replied Macraw; "he liked this
young leddy, ana suld hae married her, but his mother fand it out, and
then the deil gaed o'er Jock Webster. At last, the peer lass clodded
hersell o'er the scaur at the Craigburnfoot into the sea, and there was
an end o't."
"An end ot wi' the puir leddy," said the mendicant, "but, as I reckon,
nae end o't wi' the yerl."
"Nae end o't till his life makes an end," answered the Aberdonian.
"But what for did the auld Countess forbid the marriage?" continued the
"Fat for!--she maybe didna weel ken for fat hersell, for she gar'd a' bow
to her bidding, right or wrang--But it was ken'd the young leddy was
inclined to some o' the heresies of the country--mair by token, she was
sib to him nearer than our Church's rule admits of. Sae the leddy was
driven to the desperate act, and the yerl has never since held his head
up like a man."
"Weel away!" replied Ochiltree:--"it's e'en queer I neer heard this tale
"It's e'en queer that ye heard it now, for deil ane o' the servants durst
hae spoken o't had the auld Countess been living. Eh, man, Edie! but she
was a trimmer--it wad hae taen a skeely man to hae squared wi' her!--But
she's in her grave, and we may loose our tongues a bit fan we meet a
friend.--But fare ye weel, Edie--I maun be back to the evening-service.
An' ye come to Inverurie maybe sax months awa, dinna forget to ask after
What one kindly pressed, the other as firmly promised; and the friends
having thus parted, with every testimony of mutual regard, the domestic
of Lord Glenallan took his road back to the seat of his master, leaving
Ochiltree to trace onward his habitual pilgrimage.
It was a fine summer evening, and the world--that is, the little circle
which was all in all to the individual by whom it was trodden, lay before
Edie Ochiltree, for the choosing of his night's quarters. When he had
passed the less hospitable domains of Glenallan, he had in his option so
many places of refuge for the evening, that he was nice, and even
fastidious in the choice. Ailie Sim's public was on the road-side about a
mile before him, but there would be a parcel of young fellows there on
the Saturday night, and that was a bar to civil conversation. Other
"gudemen and gudewives," as the farmers and their dames are termed in
Scotland, successively presented themselves to his imagination. But one
was deaf, and could not hear him; another toothless, and could not make
him hear; a third had a cross temper; and a fourth an ill-natured
house-dog. At Monkbarns or Knockwinnock he was sure of a favourable and
hospitable reception; but they lay too distant to be conveniently reached
"I dinna ken how it is," said the old man, "but I am nicer about my
quarters this night than ever I mind having been in my life. I think,
having seen a' the braws yonder, and finding out ane may be happier
without them, has made me proud o' my ain lot--But I wuss it bode me
gude, for pride goeth before destruction. At ony rate, the warst barn
e'er man lay in wad be a pleasanter abode than Glenallan House, wi' a'
the pictures and black velvet, and silver bonny-wawlies belonging to it--
Sae I'll e'en settle at ance, and put in for Ailie Sims."
As the old man descended the hill above the little hamlet to which he was
bending his course, the setting sun had relieved its inmates from their
labour, and the young men, availing themselves of the fine evening, were
engaged in the sport of long-bowls on a patch of common, while the women
and elders looked on. The shout, the laugh, the exclamations of winners
and losers, came in blended chorus up the path which Ochiltree was
descending, and awakened in his recollection the days when he himself had
been a keen competitor, and frequently victor, in games of strength and
agility. These remembrances seldom fail to excite a sigh, even when the
evening of life is cheered by brighter prospects than those of our poor
mendicant. "At that time of day," was his natural reflection, "I would
have thought as little about ony auld palmering body that was coming down
the edge of Kinblythemont, as ony o' thae stalwart young chiels does
e'enow about auld Edie Ochiltree."
He was, however, presently cheered, by finding that more importance was
attached to his arrival than his modesty had anticipated. A disputed cast
had occurred between the bands of players, and as the gauger favoured the
one party, and the schoolmaster the other, the matter might be said to be
taken up by the higher powers. The miller and smith, also, had espoused
different sides, and, considering the vivacity of two such disputants,
there was reason to doubt whether the strife might be amicably
terminated. But the first person who caught a sight of the mendicant
exclaimed, "Ah! here comes auld Edie, that kens the rules of a' country
games better than ony man that ever drave a bowl, or threw an axle-tree,
or putted a stane either;--let's hae nae quarrelling, callants--we'll
stand by auld Edie's judgment."
Edie was accordingly welcomed, and installed as umpire, with a general
shout of gratulation. With all the modesty of a Bishop to whom the mitre
is proffered, or of a new Speaker called to the chair, the old man
declined the high trust and responsibility with which it was proposed to
invest him, and, in requital for his self-denial and humility, had the
pleasure of receiving the reiterated assurances of young, old, and
middle-aged, that he was simply the best qualified person for the office
of arbiter "in the haill country-side." Thus encouraged, he proceeded
gravely to the execution of his duty, and, strictly forbidding all
aggravating expressions on either side, he heard the smith and gauger on
one side, the miller and schoolmaster on the other, as junior and senior
counsel. Edie's mind, however, was fully made up on the subject before
the pleading began; like that of many a judge, who must nevertheless go
through all the forms, and endure in its full extent the eloquence and
argumentation of the Bar. For when all had been said on both sides, and
much of it said over oftener than once, our senior, being well and ripely
advised, pronounced the moderate and healing judgment, that the disputed
cast was a drawn one, and should therefore count to neither party. This
judicious decision restored concord to the field of players; they began
anew to arrange their match and their bets, with the clamorous mirth
usual on such occasions of village sport, and the more eager were already
stripping their jackets, and committing them, with their coloured
handkerchiefs, to the care of wives, sisters, and mistresses. But their
mirth was singularly interrupted.
On the outside of the group of players began to arise sounds of a
description very different from those of sport--that sort of suppressed
sigh and exclamation, with which the first news of calamity is received
by the hearers, began to be heard indistinctly. A buzz went about among
the women of "Eh, sirs! sae young and sae suddenly summoned!"--It then
extended itself among the men, and silenced the sounds of sportive mirth.
All understood at once that some disaster had happened in the country,
and each inquired the cause at his neighbour, who knew as little as the
querist. At length the rumour reached, in a distinct shape, the ears of
Edie Ochiltree, who was in the very centre of the assembly. The boat of
Mucklebackit, the fisherman whom we have so often mentioned, had been
swamped at sea, and four men had perished, it was affirmed, including
Mucklebackit and his son. Rumour had in this, however, as in other cases,
gone beyond the truth. The boat had indeed been overset; but Stephen, or,
as he was called, Steenie Mucklebackit, was the only man who had been
drowned. Although the place of his residence and his mode of life removed
the young man from the society of the country folks, yet they failed not
to pause in their rustic mirth to pay that tribute to sudden calamity
which it seldom fails to receive in cases of infrequent occurrence. To
Ochiltree, in particular, the news came like a knell, the rather that he
had so lately engaged this young man's assistance in an affair of
sportive mischief; and though neither loss nor injury was designed to the
German adept, yet the work was not precisely one in which the latter
hours of life ought to be occupied.
Misfortunes never come alone. While Ochiltree, pensively leaning upon his
staff, added his regrets to those of the hamlet which bewailed the young
man's sudden death, and internally blamed himself for the transaction in
which he had so lately engaged him, the old man's collar was seized by a
peace-officer, who displayed his baton in his right hand, and exclaimed,
"In the king's name."
The gauger and schoolmaster united their rhetoric, to prove to the
constable and his assistant that he had no right to arrest the king's
bedesman as a vagrant; and the mute eloquence of the miller and smith,
which was vested in their clenched fists, was prepared to give Highland
bail for their arbiter; his blue gown, they said, was his warrant for
travelling the country.
"But his blue gown," answered the officer, "is nae protection for
assault, robbery, and murder; and my warrant is against him for these
"Murder!" said Edie, "murder! wha did I e'er murder?"
"Mr. German Doustercivil, the agent at Glen-Withershins mining-works."
"Murder Doustersnivel?--hout, he's living, and life-like, man."
"Nae thanks to you if he be; he had a sair struggle for his life, if a'
be true he tells, and ye maun answer for't at the bidding of the law."
The defenders of the mendicant shrunk back at hearing the atrocity of the
charges against him, but more than one kind hand thrust meat and bread
and pence upon Edie, to maintain him in the prison, to which the officers
were about to conduct him.