Part 8 out of 10
measures are adopted in the fury of the moment, and the State resembles
an agitated pendulum which swings from side to side for some time ere it
can acquire its due and perpendicular station. Or it might be likened to
a storm or hurricane, which, passing over a region, does great damage in
its passage, yet sweeps away stagnant and unwholesome vapours, and
repays, in future health and fertility, its immediate desolation and
The Earl shook his head; but having neither spirit nor inclination for
debate, he suffered the argument to pass uncontested.
This discussion served to introduce the young soldier's experiences; and
he spoke of the actions in which he, had been engaged, with modesty, and
at the same time with an air of spirit and zeal which delighted the Earl,
who had been bred up, like others of his house, in the opinion that the
trade of arms was the first duty of man, and believed that to employ them
against the French was a sort of holy warfare.
"What would I give," said he apart to Oldbuck, as they rose to join the
ladies in the drawing-room, "what would I give to have a son of such
spirit as that young gentleman!--He wants something of address and
manner, something of polish, which mixing in good society would soon give
him; but with what zeal and animation he expresses himself--how fond of
his profession--how loud in the praise of others--how modest when
speaking of himself!"
"Hector is much obliged to you, my lord," replied his uncle, gratified,
yet not so much so as to suppress his consciousness of his own mental
superiority over the young soldier; "I believe in my heart nobody ever
spoke half so much good of him before, except perhaps the sergeant of his
company, when was wheedling a Highland recruit to enlist with him. He is
a good lad notwithstanding, although he be not quite the hero your
lordship supposes him, and although my commendations rather attest the
kindness than the vivacity of his character. In fact, his high spirit is
a sort of constitutional vehemence, which attends him in everything he
sets about, and is often very inconvenient to his friends. I saw him
to-day engage in an animated contest with a _phoca,_ or seal (_sealgh,_
our people more properly call them, retaining the Gothic guttural _gh_),
with as much vehemence as if he had fought against Dumourier--Marry, my
lord, the _phoca_ had the better, as the said Dumourier had of some other
folks. And he'll talk with equal if not superior rapture of the good
behaviour of a pointer bitch, as of the plan of a campaign."
"He shall have full permission to sport over my grounds," said the Earl,
"if he is so fond of that exercise."
"You will bind him to you, my lord," said Monkbarns, "body and soul: give
him leave to crack off his birding-piece at a poor covey of partridges or
moor-fowl, and he's yours for ever--I will enchant him by the
intelligence. But O, my lord, that you could have seen my phoenix Lovel!
--the very prince and chieftain of the youth of this age; and not
destitute of spirit neither--I promise you he gave my termagant kinsman a
_quid pro quo_--a Rowland for his Oliver, as the vulgar say, alluding to
the two celebrated Paladins of Charlemagne."
After coffee, Lord Glenallan requested a private interview with the
Antiquary, and was ushered to his library.
"I must withdraw you from your own amiable family," he said, "to involve
you in the perplexities of an unhappy man. You are acquainted with the
world, from which I have long been banished; for Glenallan House has been
to me rather a prison than a dwelling, although a prison which I had
neither fortitude nor spirit to break from."
"Let me first ask your lordship," said the Antiquary, "what are your own
wishes and designs in this matter?"
"I wish most especially," answered Lord Glenallan, "to declare my
luckless marriage, and to vindicate the reputation of the unhappy
Eveline--that is, if you see a possibility of doing so without making
public the conduct of my mother."
"_Suum cuique tribuito,_" said the Antiquary; "do right to everyone. The
memory of that unhappy young lady has too long suffered, and I think it
might be cleared without further impeaching that of your mother, than by
letting it be understood in general that she greatly disapproved and
bitterly opposed the match. All--forgive me, my lord--all who ever heard
of the late Countess of Glenallan, will learn that without much
"But you forget one horrible circumstance, Mr. Oldbuck," said the Earl,
in an agitated voice.
"I am not aware of it," replied the Antiquary.
"The fate of the infant--its disappearance with the confidential
attendant of my mother, and the dreadful surmises which may be drawn from
my conversation with Elspeth."
"If you would have my free opinion, my lord," answered Mr. Oldbuck, "and
will not catch too rapidly at it as matter of hope, I would say that it
is very possible the child yet lives. For thus much I ascertained, by my
former inquiries concerning the event of that deplorable evening, that a
child and woman were carried that night from the cottage at the
Craigburnfoot in a carriage and four by your brother Edward Geraldin
Neville, whose journey towards England with these companions I traced for
several stages. I believed then it was a part of the family compact to
carry a child whom you meant to stigmatize with illegitimacy, out of that
country where chance might have raised protectors and proofs of its
rights. But I now think that your brother, having reason, like yourself,
to believe the child stained with shame yet more indelible, had
nevertheless withdrawn it, partly from regard to the honour of his house,
partly from the risk to which it might have been exposed in the
neighbourhood of the Lady Glenallan."
As he spoke, the Earl of Glenallan grew extremely pale, and had nearly
fallen from his chair.--The alarmed Antiquary ran hither and thither
looking for remedies; but his museum, though sufficiently well filled
with a vast variety of useless matters, contained nothing that could be
serviceable on the present or any other occasion. As he posted out of the
room to borrow his sister's salts, he could not help giving a
constitutional growl of chagrin and wonder at the various incidents which
had converted his mansion, first into an hospital for a wounded duellist,
and now into the sick chamber of a dying nobleman. "And yet," said he, "I
have always kept aloof from the soldiery and the peerage. My
_coenobitium_ has only next to be made a lying-in hospital, and then, I
trow, the transformation will be complete."
When he returned with the remedy, Lord Glenallan was much better. The new
and unexpected light which Mr. Oldbuck had thrown upon the melancholy
history of his family had almost overpowered him. "You think, then, Mr.
Oldbuck--for you are capable of thinking, which I am not--you think,
then, that it is possible--that is, not impossible--my child may yet
"I think," said the Antiquary, "it is impossible that it could come to
any violent harm through your brother's means. He was known to be a gay
and dissipated man, but not cruel nor dishonourable; nor is it possible,
that, if he had intended any foul play, he would have placed himself so
forward in the charge of the infant, as I will prove to your lordship he
So saying, Mr. Oldbuck opened a drawer of the cabinet of his ancestor
Aldobrand, and produced a bundle of papers tied with a black ribband, and
labelled,--Examinations, etc., taken by Jonathan Oldbuck, J. P., upon the
18th of February, 17--; a little under was written, in a small hand,
_Eheu Evelina_! The tears dropped fast from the Earl's eyes, as he
endeavoured, in vain, to unfasten the knot which secured these documents.
"Your lordship," said Mr. Oldbuck, "had better not read these at present.
Agitated as you are, and having much business before you, you must not
exhaust your strength. Your brother's succession is now, I presume, your
own, and it will be easy for you to make inquiry among his servants and
retainers, so as to hear where the child is, if, fortunately, it shall be
"I dare hardly hope it," said the Earl, with a deep sigh. "Why should my
brother have been silent to me?"
"Nay, my lord, why should he have communicated to your lordship the
existence of a being whom you must have supposed the offspring of"--
"Most true--there is an obvious and a kind reason for his being silent.
If anything, indeed, could have added to the horror of the ghastly dream
that has poisoned my whole existence, it must have been the knowledge
that such a child of misery existed."
"Then," continued the Antiquary, "although it would be rash to conclude,
at the distance of more than twenty years, that your son must needs be
still alive because he was not destroyed in infancy, I own I think you
should instantly set on foot inquiries."
"It shall be done," replied Lord Glenallan, catching eagerly at the hope
held out to him, the first he had nourished for many years;--"I will
write to a faithful steward of my father, who acted in the same capacity
under my brother Neville--But, Mr. Oldbuck, I am not my brother's heir."
"Indeed!--I am sorry for that, my lord--it is a noble estate, and the
ruins of the old castle of Neville's-Burgh alone, which are the most
superb relics of Anglo-Norman architecture in that part of the country,
are a possession much to be coveted. I thought your father had no other
son or near relative."
"He had not, Mr. Oldbuck," replied Lord Glenallan; "but my brother
adopted views in politics, and a form of religion, alien from those which
had been always held by our house. Our tempers had long differed, nor did
my unhappy mother always think him sufficiently observant to her. In
short, there was a family quarrel, and my brother, whose property was at
his own free disposal, availed himself of the power vested in him to
choose a stranger for his heir. It is a matter which never struck me as
being of the least consequence--for if worldly possessions could
alleviate misery, I have enough and to spare. But now I shall regret it,
if it throws any difficulty in the way of our inquiries--and I bethink me
that it may; for in case of my having a lawful son of my body, and my
brother dying without issue, my father's possessions stood entailed upon
my son. It is not therefore likely that this heir, be he who he may, will
afford us assistance in making a discovery which may turn out so much to
his own prejudice."
"And in all probability the steward your lordship mentions is also in his
service," said the Antiquary.
"It is most likely; and the man being a Protestant--how far it is safe to
"I should hope, my lord," said Oldbuck gravely, "that a Protestant may be
as trustworthy as a Catholic. I am doubly interested in the Protestant
faith, my lord. My ancestor, Aldobrand Oldenbuck, printed the celebrated
Confession of Augsburg, as I can show by the original edition now in this
"I have not the least doubt of what you say, Mr. Oldbuck," replied the
Earl, "nor do I speak out of bigotry or intolerance; but probably the
Protestant steward will favour the Protestant heir rather than the
Catholic--if, indeed, my son has been bred in his father's faith--or,
alas! if indeed he yet lives."
"We must look close into this," said Oldbuck, "before committing
ourselves. I have a literary friend at York, with whom I have long
corresponded on the subject of the Saxon horn that is preserved in the
Minster there; we interchanged letters for six years, and have only as
yet been able to settle the first line of the inscription. I will write
forthwith to this gentleman, Dr. Dryasdust, and be particular in my
inquiries concerning the character, etc., of your brother's heir, of the
gentleman employed in his affairs, and what else may be likely to further
your lordship's inquiries. In the meantime your lordship will collect the
evidence of the marriage, which I hope can still be recovered?"
"Unquestionably," replied the Earl: "the witnesses, who were formerly
withdrawn from your research, are still living. My tutor, who solemnized
the marriage, was provided for by a living in France, and has lately
returned to this country as an emigrant, a victim of his zeal for
loyalty, legitimacy, and religion."
"That's one lucky consequence of the French, revolution, my lord--you
must allow that, at least," said Oldbuck: "but no offence; I will act as
warmly in your affairs as if I were of your own faith in politics and
religion. And take my advice--If you want an affair of consequence
properly managed, put it into the hands of an antiquary; for as they are
eternally exercising their genius and research upon trifles, it is
impossible they can be baffled in affairs of importance;--use makes
perfect--and the corps that is most frequently drilled upon the parade,
will be most prompt in its exercise upon the day of battle. And, talking
upon that subject, I would willingly read to your lordship, in order to
pass away the time betwixt and supper"--
"I beg I may not interfere with family arrangements," said Lord
Glenallan, "but I never taste anything after sunset."
"Nor I either, my lord," answered his host, "notwithstanding it is said
to have been the custom of the ancients. But then I dine differently from
your lordship, and therefore am better enabled to dispense with those
elaborate entertainments which my womankind (that is, my sister and
niece, my lord) are apt to place on the table, for the display rather of
their own house-wifery than the accommodation of our wants. However, a
broiled bone, or a smoked haddock, or an oyster, or a slice of bacon of
our own curing, with a toast and a tankard--or something or other of that
sort, to close the orifice of the stomach before going to bed, does not
fall under my restriction, nor, I hope, under your lordship's."
"My no-supper is literal, Mr. Oldbuck; but I will attend you at your meal
"Well, my lord," replied the Antiquary, "I will endeavour to entertain
your ears at least, since I cannot banquet your palate. What I am about
to read to your lordship relates to the upland glens."
Lord Glenallan, though he would rather have recurred to the subject of
his own uncertainties, was compelled to make a sign of rueful civility
The Antiquary, therefore, took out his portfolio of loose sheets, and
after premising that the topographical details here laid down were
designed to illustrate a slight essay upon castrametation, which had been
read with indulgence at several societies of Antiquaries, he commenced as
follows: "The subject, my lord, is the hill-fort of Quickens-bog, with
the site of which your lordship is doubtless familiar--it is upon your
store-farm of Mantanner, in the barony of Clochnaben."
"I think I have heard the names of these places," said the Earl, in
answer to the Antiquary's appeal.
"Heard the name? and the farm brings him six hundred a-year--O Lord!"
Such was the scarce-subdued ejaculation of the Antiquary. But his
hospitality got the better of his surprise, and he proceeded to read his
essay with an audible voice, in great glee at having secured a patient,
and, as he fondly hoped, an interested hearer.
"Quickens-bog may at first seem to derive its name from the plant
_Quicken,_ by which, _Scottice,_ we understand couch-grass, dog-grass, or
the _Triticum repens_ of Linnaeus, and the common English monosyllable
_Bog,_ by which we mean, in popular language, a marsh or morass--in
Latin, _Palus._ But it may confound the rash adopters of the more obvious
etymological derivations, to learn that the couch-grass or dog-grass, or,
to speak scientifically, the _Triticum repens_ of Linnaeus, does not grow
within a quarter of a mile of this castrum or hill-fort, whose ramparts
are uniformly clothed with short verdant turf; and that we must seek a
bog or _palus_ at a still greater distance, the nearest being that of
Gird-the-mear, a full half-mile distant. The last syllable, _bog,_ is
obviously, therefore, a mere corruption of the Saxon _Burgh,_ which we
find in the various transmutations of _Burgh, Burrow, Brough, Bruff,
Buff,_ and _Boff,_ which last approaches very near the sound in question
--since, supposing the word to have been originally _borgh,_ which is the
genuine Saxon spelling, a slight change, such as modern organs too often
make upon ancient sounds, will produce first _Bogh,_ and then, _elisa H,_
or compromising and sinking the guttural, agreeable to the common
vernacular practice, you have either _Boff_ or _Bog_ as it happens. The
word _Quickens_ requires in like manner to be altered,--decomposed, as it
were,--and reduced to its original and genuine sound, ere we can discern
its real meaning. By the ordinary exchange of the _Qu_ into _Wh,_
familiar to the rudest tyro who has opened a book of old Scottish poetry,
we gain either Whilkens, or Whichensborgh--put we may suppose, by way of
question, as if those who imposed the name, struck with the extreme
antiquity of the place, had expressed in it an interrogation, To whom did
this fortress belong?'--Or, it might be _Whackens-burgh,_ from the Saxon
_Whacken,_ to strike with the hand, as doubtless the skirmishes near a
place of such apparent consequence must have legitimated such a
derivation," etc. etc. etc.
I will be more merciful to my readers than Oldbuck was to his guest; for,
considering his opportunities of gaining patient attention from a person
of such consequence as Lord Glenallan were not many, he used, or rather
abused, the present to the uttermost.
Crabbed age and youth
Cannot live together:--
Youth is full of pleasance,
Age is full of care;
Youth like summer morn,
Age like winter weather;
Youth like summer brave,
Age like winter bare.
In the morning of the following day, the Antiquary, who was something of
a sluggard, was summoned from his bed a full hour earlier than his custom
by Caxon. "What's the matter now?" he exclaimed, yawning and stretching
forth his hand to the huge gold repeater, which, bedded upon his India
silk handkerchief, was laid safe by his pillow--"what's the matter now,
Caxon?--it can't be eight o'clock yet."
"Na, sir,--but my lord's man sought me out, for he fancies me your
honour's valley-de-sham,--and sae I am, there's nae doubt o't, baith your
honour's and the minister's--at least ye hae nae other that I ken o'--and
I gie a help to Sir Arthur too, but that's mair in the way o' my
"Well, well--never mind that," said the Antiquary--"happy is he that is
his own valley-de-sham, as you call it--But why disturb my morning's
"Ou, sir, the great man's been up since peep o' day, and he's steered the
town to get awa an express to fetch his carriage, and it will be here
briefly, and he wad like to see your honour afore he gaes awa."
"Gadso!" ejaculated Oldbuck, "these great men use one's house and time as
if they were their own property. Well, it's once and away. Has Jenny come
to her senses yet, Caxon?"
"Troth, sir, but just middling," replied the barber; "she's been in a
swither about the jocolate this morning, and was like to hae toomed it a'
out into the slap-bason, and drank it hersell in her ecstacies--but she's
won ower wi't, wi' the help o' Miss M'Intyre."
"Then all my womankind are on foot and scrambling, and I must enjoy my
quiet bed no longer, if I would have a well-regulated house--Lend me my
gown. And what are the news at Fairport?"
"Ou, sir, what can they be about but this grand news o' my lord,"
answered the old man, "that hasna been ower the door-stane, they threep
to me, for this twenty years--this grand news of his coming to visit your
"Aha!" said Monkbarns; "and what do they say of that, Caxon?"
"'Deed, sir, they hae various opinions. Thae fallows, that are the
democraws, as they ca' them, that are again' the king and the law, and
hairpowder and dressing o' gentlemen's wigs--a wheen blackguards--they
say he's come doun to speak wi' your honour about bringing doun his hill
lads and Highland tenantry to break up the meetings of the Friends o' the
People;--and when I said your honour never meddled wi' the like o' sic
things where there was like to be straiks and bloodshed, they said, if ye
didna, your nevoy did, and that he was weel ken'd to be a kingsman that
wad fight knee-deep, and that ye were the head and he was the hand, and
that the Yerl was to bring out the men and the siller."
"Come," said the Antiquary, laughing--"I am glad the war is to cost me
nothing but counsel."
"Na, na," said Caxon--"naebody thinks your honour wad either fight
yoursell, or gie ony feck o' siller to ony side o' the question."
"Umph! well, that's the opinion of the democraws, as you call them--What
say the rest o' Fairport?"
"In troth," said the candid reporter, "I canna say it's muckle better.
Captain Coquet, of the volunteers--that's him that's to be the new
collector,--and some of the other gentlemen of the Blue and a' Blue Club,
are just saying it's no right to let popists, that hae sae mony French
friends as the Yerl of Glenallan, gang through the country, and--but your
honour will maybe be angry?"
"Not I, Caxon," said Oldbuck; "fire away as if you were Captain Coquet's
whole platoon--I can stand it."
"Weel then, they say, sir, that as ye didna encourage the petition about
the peace, and wadna petition in favour of the new tax, and as you were
again' bringing in the yeomanry at the meal mob, but just for settling
the folk wi' the constables--they say ye're no a gude friend to
government; and that thae sort o' meetings between sic a powerfu' man as
the Yerl, and sic a wise man as you,--Od they think they suld be lookit
after; and some say ye should baith be shankit aff till Edinburgh
"On my word," said the Antiquary, "I am infinitely obliged to my
neighbours for their good opinion of me! And so I, that have never
interfered with their bickerings, but to recommend quiet and moderate
measures, am given up on both sides as a man very likely to commit high
treason, either against King or People?--Give me my coat, Caxon--give me
my coat;--it's lucky I live not in their report. Have you heard anything
of Taffril and his vessel?"
Caxon's countenance fell.--"Na, sir, and the winds hae been high, and
this is a fearfu' coast to cruise on in thae eastern gales,--the
headlands rin sae far out, that a veshel's embayed afore I could sharp a
razor; and then there's nae harbour or city of refuge on our coast--a'
craigs and breakers;--a veshel that rins ashore wi' us flees asunder like
the powther when I shake the pluff--and it's as ill to gather ony o't
again. I aye tell my daughter thae things when she grows wearied for a
letter frae Lieutenant Taffril--It's aye an apology for him. Ye sudna
blame him, says I, hinny, for ye little ken what may hae happened."
"Ay, ay, Caxon, thou art as good a comforter as a valet-de-chambre.--Give
me a white stock, man,--dye think I can go down with a handkerchief about
my neck when I have company?"
"Dear sir, the Captain says a three-nookit hankercher is the maist
fashionable overlay, and that stocks belang to your honour and me that
are auld warld folk. I beg pardon for mentioning us twa thegither, but it
was what he said."
"The Captain's a puppy, and you are a goose, Caxon."
"It's very like it may be sae," replied the acquiescent barber: "I am
sure your honour kens best."
Before breakfast, Lord Glenallan, who appeared in better spirits than he
had evinced in the former evening, went particularly through the various
circumstances of evidence which the exertions of Oldbuck had formerly
collected; and pointing out the means which he possessed of completing
the proof of his marriage, expressed his resolution instantly to go
through the painful task of collecting and restoring the evidence
concerning the birth of Eveline Neville, which Elspeth had stated to be
in his mother's possession.
"And yet, Mr. Oldbuck," he said, "I feel like a man who receives
important tidings ere he is yet fully awake, and doubt whether they refer
to actual life, or are not rather a continuation of his dream. This
woman--this Elspeth,--she is in the extremity of age, and approaching in
many respects to dotage. Have I not--it is a hideous question--have I not
been hasty in the admission of her present evidence, against that which
she formerly gave me to a very--very different purpose?"
Mr. Oldbuck paused a moment, and then answered with firmness--"No, my
lord; I cannot think you have any reason to suspect the truth of what she
has told you last, from no apparent impulse but the urgency of
conscience. Her confession was voluntary, disinterested, distinct,
consistent with itself, and with all the other known circumstances of the
case. I would lose no time, however, in examining and arranging the other
documents to which she has referred; and I also think her own statement
should be taken down, if possible in a formal manner. We thought of
setting about this together. But it will be a relief to your lordship,
and moreover have a more impartial appearance, were I to attempt the
investigation alone in the capacity of a magistrate. I will do this--at
least I will attempt it, so soon as I shall see her in a favourable state
of mind to undergo an examination."
Lord Glenallan wrung the Antiquary's hand in token of grateful
acquiescence. "I cannot express to you," he said, "Mr. Oldbuck, how much
your countenance and cooperation in this dark and most melancholy
business gives me relief and confidence. I cannot enough applaud myself
for yielding to the sudden impulse which impelled me, as it were, to drag
you into my confidence, and which arose from the experience I had
formerly of your firmness in discharge of your duty as a magistrate, and
as a friend to the memory of the unfortunate. Whatever the issue of these
matters may prove,--and I would fain hope there is a dawn breaking on the
fortunes of my house, though I shall not live to enjoy its light,--but
whatsoever be the issue, you have laid my family and me under the most
"My lord," answered the Antiquary, "I must necessarily have the greatest
respect for your lordship's family, which I am well aware is one of the
most ancient in Scotland, being certainly derived from Aymer de Geraldin,
who sat in parliament at Perth, in the reign of Alexander II., and who by
the less vouched, yet plausible tradition of the country, is said to have
been descended from the Marmor of Clochnaben. Yet, with all my veneration
for your ancient descent, I must acknowledge that I find myself still
more bound to give your lordship what assistance is in my limited power,
from sincere sympathy with your sorrows, and detestation at the frauds
which have so long been practised upon you.--But, my lord, the matin meal
is, I see, now prepared--Permit me to show your lordship the way through
the intricacies of my _cenobitium,_ which is rather a combination of
cells, jostled oddly together, and piled one upon the top of the other,
than a regular house. I trust you will make yourself some amends for the
spare diet of yesterday."
But this was no part of Lord Glenallan's system. Having saluted the
company with the grave and melancholy politeness which distinguished his
manners, his servant placed before him a slice of toasted bread, with a
glass of fair water, being the fare on which he usually broke his fast.
While the morning's meal of the young soldier and the old Antiquary was
despatched in much more substantial manner, the noise of wheels was
"Your lordship's carriage, I believe," said Oldbuck, stepping to the
window. "On my word, a handsome _quadriga,_--for such, according to the
best _scholium,_ was the _vox signata_ of the Romans for a chariot which,
like that of your lordship, was drawn by four horses."
"And I will venture to say," cried Hector, eagerly gazing from the
window, "that four handsomer or better-matched bays never were put in
harness--What fine forehands!--what capital chargers they would make!--
Might I ask if they are of your lordship's own breeding?"
"I--I--rather believe so," said Lord Glenallan; "but I have been so
negligent of my domestic matters, that I am ashamed to say I must apply
to Calvert" (looking at the domestic).
"They are of your lordship's own breeding," said Calvert, "got by Mad Tom
out of Jemina and Yarico, your lordship's brood mares."
"Are there more of the set?" said Lord Glenallan.
"Two, my lord,--one rising four, the other five off this grass, both very
"Then let Dawkins bring them down to Monkbarns to-morrow," said the Earl
--"I hope Captain M'Intyre will accept them, if they are at all fit for
Captain M'Intyre's eyes sparkled, and he was profuse in grateful
acknowledgments; while Oldbuck, on the other hand, seizing the Earl's
sleeve, endeavoured to intercept a present which boded no good to his
corn-chest and hay-loft.
"My lord--my lord--much obliged--much obliged--But Hector is a
pedestrian, and never mounts on horseback in battle--he is a Highland
soldier, moreover, and his dress ill adapted for cavalry service. Even
Macpherson never mounted his ancestors on horseback, though he has the
impudence to talk of their being car-borne--and that, my lord, is what is
running in Hector's head--it is the vehicular, not the equestrian
exercise, which he envies--
Sunt quos curriculo pulverem Olympicum
His noddle is running on a curricle, which he has neither money to buy,
nor skill to drive if he had it; and I assure your lordship, that the
possession of two such quadrupeds would prove a greater scrape than any
of his duels, whether with human foe or with my friend the _phoca._"
"You must command us all at present, Mr. Oldbuck," said the Earl
politely; "but I trust you will not ultimately prevent my gratifying my
young friend in some way that may afford him pleasure."
"Anything useful, my lord," said Oldbuck, "but no _curriculum_--I protest
he might as rationally propose to keep a _quadriga_ at once--And now I
think of it, what is that old post-chaise from Fairport come jingling
here for?--I did not send for it."
"_I_ did, sir," said Hector, rather sulkily, for he was not much
gratified by his uncle's interference to prevent the Earl's intended
generosity, nor particularly inclined to relish either the disparagement
which he cast upon his skill as a charioteer, or the mortifying allusion
to his bad success in the adventures of the duel and the seal.
"You did, sir?" echoed the Antiquary, in answer to his concise
information. "And pray, what may be your business with a post-chaise? Is
this splendid equipage--this _biga,_ as I may call it--to serve for an
introduction to a _quadriga_ or a _curriculum_?"
"Really, sir," replied the young soldier, "if it be necessary to give you
such a specific explanation, I am going to Fairport on a little
"Will you permit me to inquire into the nature of that business, Hector?"
answered his uncle, who loved the exercise of a little brief authority
over his relative. "I should suppose any regimental affairs might be
transacted by your worthy deputy the sergeant--an honest gentleman, who
is so good as to make Monkbarns his home since his arrival among us--I
should, I say, suppose that he may transact any business of yours,
without your spending a day's pay on two dog-horses, and such a
combination of rotten wood, cracked glass, and leather--such a skeleton
of a post-chaise, as that before the door."
"It is not regimental business, sir, that calls me; and, since you insist
upon knowing, I must inform you Caxon has brought word this morning that
old Ochiltree, the beggar, is to be brought up for examination to-day,
previous to his being committed for trial; and I'm going to see that the
poor old fellow gets fair play--that's all."
"Ay?--I heard something of this, but could not think it serious. And
pray, Captain Hector, who are so ready to be every man's second on all
occasions of strife, civil or military, by land, by water, or on the
sea-beach, what is your especial concern with old Edie Ochiltree?"
"He was a soldier in my father's company, sir," replied Hector; "and
besides, when I was about to do a very foolish thing one day, he
interfered to prevent me, and gave me almost as much good advice, sir, as
you could have done yourself."
"And with the same good effect, I dare be sworn for it--eh, Hector?--
Come, confess it was thrown away."
"Indeed it was, sir; but I see no reason that my folly should make me
less grateful for his intended kindness."
"Bravo, Hector! that's the most sensible thing I ever heard you say. But
always tell me your plans without reserve,--why, I will go with you
myself, man. I am sure the old fellow is not guilty, and I will assist
him in such a scrape much more effectually than you can do. Besides, it
will save thee half-a-guinea, my lad--a consideration which I heartily
pray you to have more frequently before your eyes."
Lord Glenallan's politeness had induced him to turn away and talk with
the ladies, when the dispute between the uncle and nephew appeared to
grow rather too animated to be fit for the ear of a stranger, but the
Earl mingled again in the conversation when the placable tone of the
Antiquary expressed amity. Having received a brief account of the
mendicant, and of the accusation brought against him, which Oldbuck did
not hesitate to ascribe to the malice of Dousterswivel, Lord Glenallan
asked, whether the individual in question had not been a soldier
formerly?--He was answered in the affirmative.
"Had he not," continued his Lordship, "a coarse blue coat, or gown, with
a badge?--was he not a tall, striking-looking old man, with grey beard
and hair, who kept his body remarkably erect, and talked with an air of
ease and independence, which formed a strong contrast to his profession?"
"All this is an exact picture of the man," refumed Oldbuck.
"Why, then," continued Lord Glenallan, "although I fear I can be of no
use to him in his present condition, yet I owe him a debt of gratitude
for being the first person who brought me some tidings of the utmost
importance. I would willingly offer him a place of comfortable
retirement, when he is extricated from his present situation."
"I fear, my lord," said Oldbuck, "he would have difficulty in reconciling
his vagrant habits to the acceptance of your bounty, at least I know the
experiment has been tried without effect. To beg from the public at large
he considers as independence, in comparison to drawing his whole support
from the bounty of an individual. He is so far a true philosopher, as to
be a contemner of all ordinary rules of hours and times. When he is
hungry he eats; when thirsty he drinks; when weary he sleeps; and with
such indifference with respect to the means and appliances about which we
make a fuss, that I suppose he was never ill dined or ill lodged in his
life. Then he is, to a certain extent, the oracle of the district through
which he travels--their genealogist, their newsman, their master of the
revels, their doctor at a pinch, or their divine;--I promise you he has
too many duties, and is too zealous in performing them, to be easily
bribed to abandon his calling. But I should be truly sorry if they sent
the poor light-hearted old man to lie for weeks in a jail. I am convinced
the confinement would break his heart."
Thus finished the conference. Lord Glenallan, having taken leave of the
ladies, renewed his offer to Captain M'Intyre of the freedom of his
manors for sporting, which was joyously accepted,
"I can only add," he said, "that if your spirits are not liable to be
damped by dull company, Glenallan House is at all times open to you. On
two days of the week, Friday and Saturday, l keep my apartment, which
will be rather a relief to you, as you will be left to enjoy the society
of my almoner, Mr. Gladsmoor, who is a scholar and a man of the world."
Hector, his heart exulting at the thoughts of ranging through the
preserves of Glenallan House, and over the well-protected moors of
Clochnaben--nay, joy of joys! the deer-forest of Strath-Bonnel--made many
acknowledgements of the honour and gratitude he felt. Mr. Oldbuck was
sensible of the Earl's attention to his nephew; Miss M'Intyre was pleased
because her brother was gratified; and Miss Griselda Oldbuck looked
forward with glee to the potting of whole bags of moorfowl and
black-game, of which Mr. Blattergowl was a professed admirer. Thus,--
which is always the case when a man of rank leaves a private family where
he has studied to appear obliging,--all were ready to open in praise of
the Earl as soon as he had taken his leave, and was wheeled off in his
chariot by the four admired bays. But the panegyric was cut short, for
Oldbuck and his nephew deposited themselves in the Fairport hack, which,
with one horse trotting, and the other urged to a canter, creaked,
jingled, and hobbled towards that celebrated seaport, in a manner that
formed a strong contrast to the rapidity and smoothness with which Lord
Glenallan's equipage had seemed to vanish from their eyes.
Yes! I love justice well--as well as you do--
But since the good dame's blind, she shall excuse me
If, time and reason fitting, I prove dumb;--
The breath I utter now shall be no means
To take away from me my breath in future.
By dint of charity from the town's-people in aid of the load of
provisions he had brought with him into durance, Edie Ochiltree had
passed a day or two's confinement without much impatience, regretting his
want of freedom the less, as the weather proved broken and rainy.
"The prison," he said, "wasna sae dooms bad a place as it was ca'd. Ye
had aye a good roof ower your head to fend aff the weather, and, if the
windows werena glazed, it was the mair airy and pleasant for the summer
season. And there were folk enow to crack wi', and he had bread eneugh to
eat, and what need he fash himsell about the rest o't?"
The courage of our philosophical mendicant began, however, to abate, when
the sunbeams shone fair on the rusty bars of his grated dungeon, and a
miserable linnet, whose cage some poor debtor had obtained permission to
attach to the window, began to greet them with his whistle.
"Ye're in better spirits than I am," said Edie, addressing the bird, "for
I can neither whistle nor sing for thinking o' the bonny burnsides and
green shaws that I should hae been dandering beside in weather like this.
But hae--there's some crumbs t'ye, an ye are sae merry; and troth ye hae
some reason to sing an ye kent it, for your cage comes by nae faut o'
your ain, and I may thank mysell that I am closed up in this weary
Ochiltree's soliloquy was disturbed by a peace-officer, who came to
summon him to attend the magistrate. So he set forth in awful procession
between two poor creatures, neither of them so stout as he was himself,
to be conducted into the presence of inquisitorial justice. The people,
as the aged prisoner was led along by his decrepit guards, exclaimed to
each other, "Eh! see sic a grey-haired man as that is, to have committed
a highway robbery, wi' ae fit in the grave!"--And the children
congratulated the officers, objects of their alternate dread and sport,
Puggie Orrock and Jock Ormston, on having a prisoner as old as
Thus marshalled forward, Edie was presented (by no means for the first
time) before the worshipful Bailie Littlejohn, who, contrary to what his
name expressed, was a tall portly magistrate, on whom corporation crusts
had not been conferred in vain. He was a zealous loyalist of that zealous
time, somewhat rigorous and peremptory in the execution of his duty, and
a good deal inflated with the sense of his own power and importance;--
otherwise an honest, well-meaning, and useful citizen.
"Bring him in! bring him in!" he exclaimed. "Upon my word these are awful
and unnatural times! the very bedesmen and retainers of his Majesty are
the first to break his laws. Here has been an old Blue-Gown committing
robbery--I suppose the next will reward the royal charity which supplies
him with his garb, pension, and begging license, by engaging in
high-treason, or sedition at least--But bring him in."
Edie made his obeisance, and then stood, as usual, firm and erect, with
the side of his face turned a little upward, as if to catch every word
which the magistrate might address to him. To the first general
questions, which respected only his name and calling, the mendicant
answered with readiness and accuracy; but when the magistrate, having
caused his clerk to take down these particulars, began to inquire
whereabout the mendicant was on the night when Dousterswivel met with his
misfortune, Edie demurred to the motion. "Can ye tell me now, Bailie, you
that understands the law, what gude will it do me to answer ony o' your
"Good?--no good certainly, my friend, except that giving a true account
of yourself, if you are innocent, may entitle me to set you at liberty."
"But it seems mair reasonable to me now, that you, Bailie, or anybody
that has anything to say against me, should prove my guilt, and no to be
bidding me prove my innocence."
"I don't sit here," answered the magistrate, "to dispute points of law
with you. I ask you, if you choose to answer my question, whether you
were at Ringan Aikwood, the forester's, upon the day I have specified?"
"Really, sir, I dinna feel myself called on to remember," replied the
"Or whether, in the course of that day or night," continued the
magistrate, "you saw Steven, or Steenie, Mucklebackit?--you knew him, I
"O, brawlie did I ken Steenie, puir fallow," replied the prisoner;--"but
I canna condeshend on ony particular time I have seen him lately."
"Were you at the ruins of St. Ruth any time in the course of that
"Bailie Littlejohn," said the mendicant, "if it be your honour's
pleasure, we'll cut a lang tale short, and I'll just tell ye, I am no
minded to answer ony o' thae questions--I'm ower auld a traveller to let
my tongue bring me into trouble."
"Write down," said the magistrate, "that he declines to answer all
interrogatories, in respect that by telling the truth he might be brought
"Na, na," said Ochiltree, "I'll no hae that set down as ony part o' my
answer--but I just meant to say, that in a' my memory and practice, I
never saw ony gude come o' answering idle questions."
"Write down," said the Bailie, "that, being acquainted with judicial
interrogatories by long practice, and having sustained injury by
answering questions put to him on such occasions, the declarant refuses"
"Na, na, Bailie," reiterated Edie, "ye are no to come in on me that gait
"Dictate the answer yourself then, friend," said the magistrate, "and the
clerk will take it down from your own mouth."
"Ay, ay," said Edie--"that's what I ca' fair play; I'se do that without
loss o' time. Sae, neighbour, ye may just write down, that Edie
Ochiltree, the declarant, stands up for the liberty--na, I maunna say
that neither--I am nae liberty-boy--I hae fought again' them in the riots
in Dublin--besides, I have ate the King's bread mony a day. Stay, let me
see. Ay--write that Edie Ochiltree, the Blue-Gown, stands up for the
prerogative--(see that ye spell that word right--it's a lang ane)--for
the prerogative of the subjects of the land, and winna answer a single
word that sall be asked at him this day, unless he sees a reason fort.
Put down that, young man."
"Then, Edie," said the magistrate, "since you will give no information on
the subject, I must send you back to prison till you shall be delivered
in due course of law."
"Aweel, sir, if it's Heaven's will and man's will, nae doubt I maun
submit," replied the mendicant. "I hae nae great objection to the prison,
only that a body canna win out o't; and if it wad please you as weel,
Bailie, I wad gie you my word to appear afore the Lords at the Circuit,
or in ony other coart ye like, on ony day ye are pleased to appoint."
"I rather think, my good friend," answered Bailie Littlejohn, "your word
might be a slender security where your neck may be in some danger. I am
apt to think you would suffer the pledge to be forfeited. If you could
give me sufficient security, indeed"--
At this moment the Antiquary and Captain M'Intyre entered the apartment.
--"Good morning to you, gentlemen," said the magistrate; "you find me
toiling in my usual vocation--looking after the iniquities of the people
--labouring for the _respublica,_ Mr. Oldbuck--serving the King our
master, Captain M'Intyre,--for I suppose you know I have taken up the
"It is one of the emblems of justice, doubtless," answered the
Antiquary;--"but I should have thought the scales would have suited you
better, Bailie, especially as you have them ready in the warehouse."
"Very good, Monkbarns--excellent! But I do not take the sword up as
justice, but as a soldier--indeed I should rather say the musket and
bayonet--there they stand at the elbow of my gouty chair, for I am scarce
fit for drill yet--a slight touch of our old acquaintance _podagra;_ I
can keep my feet, however, while our sergeant puts me through the manual.
I should like to know, Captain M'Intyre, if he follows the regulations
correctly--he brings us but awkwardly to the _present._" And he hobbled
towards his weapon to illustrate his doubts and display his proficiency.
"I rejoice we have such zealous defenders, Bailie," replied Mr. Oldbuck;
"and I dare say Hector will gratify you by communicating his opinion on
your progress in this new calling. Why, you rival the Hecate' of the
ancients, my good sir--a merchant on the Mart, a magistrate in the
Townhouse, a soldier on the Links--_quid non pro patria?_ But my business
is with the justice; so let commerce and war go slumber."
"Well, my good sir," said the Bailie, "and what commands have you for
"Why, here's an old acquaintance of mine, called Edie Ochiltree, whom
some of your myrmidons have mewed up in jail on account of an alleged
assault on that fellow Dousterswivel, of whose accusation I do not
believe one word."
The magistrate here assumed a very grave countenance. "You ought to have
been informed that he is accused of robbery, as well as assault--a very
serious matter indeed; it is not often such criminals come under my
"And," replied Oldbuck, "you are tenacious of the opportunity of making
the very most of such as occur. But is this poor old man's case really so
"It is rather out of rule," said the Bailie--"but as you are in the
commission, Monkbarns, I have no hesitation to show you Dousterswivel's
declaration, and the rest of the precognition." And he put the papers
into the Antiquary's hands, who assumed his spectacles, and sat down in a
corner to peruse them.
The officers, in the meantime, had directions to remove their prisoner
into another apartment; but before they could do so, M'Intyre took an
opportunity to greet old Edie, and to slip a guinea into his hand.
"Lord bless your honour!" said the old man; "it's a young soldier's gift,
and it should surely thrive wi' an auld ane. I'se no refuse it, though
it's beyond my rules; for if they steek me up here, my friends are like
eneugh to forget me--out o'sight out o'mind, is a true proverb; and it
wadna be creditable for me, that am the king's bedesman, and entitled to
beg by word of mouth, to be fishing for bawbees out at the jail window
wi' the fit o' a stocking, and a string." As he made this observation he
was conducted out of the apartment.
Mr. Dousterswivel's declaration contained an exaggerated account of the
violence he had sustained, and also of his loss.
"But what I should have liked to have asked him," said Monkbarns, "would
have been his purpose in frequenting the ruins of St. Ruth, so lonely a
place, at such an hour, and with such a companion as Edie Ochiltree.
There is no road lies that way, and I do not conceive a mere passion for
the picturesque would carry the German thither in such a night of storm
and wind. Depend upon it, he has been about some roguery, and in all
probability hath been caught in a trap of his own setting--_Nec lex
The magistrate allowed there was something mysterious in that
circumstance, and apologized for not pressing Dousterswivel, as his
declaration was voluntarily emitted. But for the support of the main
charge, he showed the declaration of the Aikwoods concerning the state in
which Dousterswivel was found, and establishing the important fact that
the mendicant had left the barn in which he was quartered, and did not
return to it again. Two people belonging to the Fairport undertaker, who
had that night been employed in attending the funeral of Lady Glenallan,
had also given declarations, that, being sent to pursue two suspicious
persons who left the ruins of St. Ruth as the funeral approached, and
who, it was supposed, might have been pillaging some of the ornaments
prepared for the ceremony, they had lost and regained sight of them more
than once, owing to the nature of the ground, which was unfavourable for
riding, but had at length fairly lodged them both in Mucklebackit's
cottage. And one of the men added, that "he, the declarant, having
dismounted from his horse, and gone close up to the window of the hut, he
saw the old Blue-Gown and young Steenie Mucklebackit, with others, eating
and drinking in the inside, and also observed the said Steenie
Mucklebackit show a pocket-book to the others;--and declarant has no
doubt that Ochiltree and Steenie Mucklebackit were the persons whom he
and his comrade had pursued, as above mentioned." And being interrogated
why he did not enter the said cottage, declares, "he had no warrant so to
do; and that as Mucklebackit and his family were understood to be
rough-handed folk, he, the declarant, had no desire to meddle or make
with their affairs, _Causa scientiae patet._ All which he declares to be
"What do you say to that body of evidence against your friend?" said the
magistrate, when he had observed the Antiquary had turned the last leaf.
"Why, were it in the case of any other person, I own I should say it
looked, _prima facie,_ a little ugly; but I cannot allow anybody to be in
the wrong for beating Dousterswivel--Had I been an hour younger, or had
but one single flash of your warlike genius, Bailie, I should have done
it myself long ago. He is _nebulo nebulonum,_ an impudent, fraudulent,
mendacious quack, that has cost me a hundred pounds by his roguery, and
my neighbour Sir Arthur, God knows how much. And besides, Bailie, I do
not hold him to be a sound friend to Government."
"Indeed?" said Bailie Littlejohn; "if I thought that, it would alter the
"Right--for, in beating him," observed Oldbuck, "the bedesman must have
shown his gratitude to the king by thumping his enemy; and in robbing
him, he would only have plundered an Egyptian, whose wealth it is lawful
to spoil. Now, suppose this interview in the ruins of St. Ruth had
relation to politics,--and this story of hidden treasure, and so forth,
was a bribe from the other side of the water for some great man, or the
funds destined to maintain a seditious club?"
"My dear sir," said the magistrate, catching at the idea, "you hit my
very thoughts! How fortunate should I be if I could become the humble
means of sifting such a matter to the bottom!--Don't you think we had
better call out the volunteers, and put them on duty?"
"Not just yet, while _podagra_ deprives them of an essential member of
their body. But will you let me examine Ochiltree?"
"Certainly; but you'll make nothing of him. He gave me distinctly to
understand he knew the danger of a judicial declaration on the part of an
accused person, which, to say the truth, has hanged many an honester man
than he is."
"Well, but, Bailie," continued Oldbuck, "you have no objection to let me
"None in the world, Monkbarns. I hear the sergeant below--I'll rehearse
the manual in the meanwhile. Baby, carry my gun and bayonet down to the
room below--it makes less noise there when we ground arms." And so exit
the martial magistrate, with his maid behind him bearing his weapons.
"A good squire that wench for a gouty champion," observed Oldbuck.--
"Hector, my lad, hook on, hook on--Go with him, boy--keep him employed,
man, for half-an-hour or so--butter him with some warlike terms--praise
his dress and address."
Captain M'Intyre, who, like many of his profession, looked down with
infinite scorn on those citizen soldiers who had assumed arms without any
professional title to bear them, rose with great reluctance, observing
that he should not know what to say to Mr. Littlejohn; and that to see an
old gouty shop-keeper attempting the exercise and duties of a private
soldier, was really too ridiculous.
"It may be so, Hector," said the Antiquary, who seldom agreed with any
person in the immediate proposition which was laid down--"it may possibly
be so in this and some other instances; but at present the country
resembles the suitors in a small-debt court, where parties plead in
person, for lack of cash to retain the professed heroes of the bar. I am
sure in the one case we never regret the want of the acuteness and
eloquence of the lawyers; and so, I hope, in the other, we may manage to
make shift with our hearts and muskets, though we shall lack some of the
discipline of you martinets."
"I have no objection, I am sure, sir, that the whole world should fight
if they please, if they will but allow me to be quiet," said Hector,
rising with dogged reluctance.
"Yes, you are a very quiet personage indeed," said his uncle, "whose
ardour for quarrelling cannot pass so much as a poor _phoca_ sleeping
upon the beach!"
But Hector, who saw which way the conversation was tending, and hated all
allusions to the foil he had sustained from the fish, made his escape
before the Antiquary concluded the sentence.
Well, well, at worst, 'tis neither theft nor coinage,
Granting I knew all that you charge me with.
What though the tomb hath borne a second birth,
And given the wealth to one that knew not on't,
Yet fair exchange was never robbery,
Far less pure bounty--
The Antiquary, in order to avail himself of the permission given him to
question the accused party, chose rather to go to the apartment in which
Ochiltree was detained, than to make the examination appear formal by
bringing him again into the magistrate's office. He found the old man
seated by a window which looked out on the sea; and as he gazed on that
prospect, large tears found their way, as if unconsciously, to his eye,
and from thence trickled down his cheeks and white beard. His features
were, nevertheless, calm and composed, and his whole posture and mien
indicated patience and resignation. Oldbuck had approached him without
being observed, and roused him out of his musing by saying kindly, "I am
sorry, Edie, to see you so much cast down about this matter."
The mendicant started, dried his eyes very hastily with the sleeve of his
gown, and endeavouring to recover his usual tone of indifference and
jocularity, answered, but with a voice more tremulous than usual, "I
might weel hae judged, Monkbarns, it was you, or the like o' you, was
coming in to disturb me--for it's ae great advantage o' prisons and
courts o' justice, that ye may greet your een out an ye like, and nane o'
the folk that's concerned about them will ever ask you what it's for."
"Well, Edie," replied Oldbuck, "I hope your present cause of distress is
not so bad but it may be removed."
"And I had hoped, Monkbarns," answered the mendicant, in a tone of
reproach, "that ye had ken'd me better than to think that this bit
trifling trouble o' my ain wad bring tears into my auld een, that hae
seen far different kind o' distress.--Na, na!--But here's been the puir
lass, Caxon's daughter, seeking comfort, and has gotten unco little--
there's been nae speerings o' Taffril's gunbrig since the last gale; and
folk report on the key that a king's ship had struck on the Reef of
Rattray, and a' hands lost--God forbid! for as sure as you live,
Monkbarns, the puir lad Lovel, that ye liked sae weel, must have
"God forbid indeed!" echoed the Antiquary, turning pale--"I would rather
Monkbarns House were on fire. My poor dear friend and coadjutor! I will
down to the quay instantly."
"I'm sure yell learn naething mair than I hae tauld ye, sir," said
Ochiltree, "for the officer-folk here were very civil (that is, for the
like o' them), and lookit up ae their letters and authorities, and could
throw nae light on't either ae way or another."
"It can't be true! it shall not be true!" said the Antiquary, "And I
won't believe it if it were!--Taffril's an excellent sea man, and Lovel
(my poor Lovel!) has all the qualities of a safe and pleasant companion
by land or by sea--one, Edie, whom, from the ingenuousness of his
disposition, I would choose, did I ever go a sea-voyage (which I never
do, unless across the ferry), _fragilem mecum solvere phaselum,_ to be
the companion of my risk, as one against whom the elements could nourish
no vengeance. No, Edie, it is not, and cannot be true--it is a fiction of
the idle jade Rumour, whom I wish hanged with her trumpet about her neck,
that serves only with its screech-owl tones to fright honest folks out of
their senses.--Let me know how you got into this scrape of your own."
"Are ye axing me as a magistrate, Monkbarns, or is it just for your ain
"For my own satisfaction solely," replied the Antiquaxy.
"Put up your pocket-book and your keelyvine pen then, for I downa speak
out an ye hae writing materials in your hands--they're a scaur to
unlearned folk like me--Od, ane o' the clerks in the neist room will
clink down, in black and white, as muckle as wad hang a man, before ane
kens what he's saying."
Monkbarns complied with the old man's humour, and put up his
Edie then went with great frankness through the part of the story already
known to the reader, informing the Antiquary of the scene which he had
witnessed between Dousterswivel and his patron in the ruins of St. Ruth,
and frankly confessing that he could not resist the opportunity of
decoying the adept once more to visit the tomb of Misticot, with the
purpose of taking a comic revenge upon him for his quackery. He had
easily persuaded Steenie, who was a bold thoughtless young fellow, to
engage in the frolic along with him, and the jest had been inadvertently
carried a great deal farther than was designed. Concerning the
pocket-book, he explained that he had expressed his surprise and sorrow
as soon as he found it had been inadvertently brought off: and that
publicly, before all the inmates of the cottage, Steenie had undertaken
to return it the next day, and had only been prevented by his untimely
The Antiquary pondered a moment, and then said, "Your account seems very
probable, Edie, and I believe it from what I know of the parties. But I
think it likely that you know a great deal more than you have thought it
proper to tell me, about this matter of the treasure trove--I suspect you
have acted the part of the Lar Familiaris in Plautus--a sort of Brownie,
Edie, to speak to your comprehension, who watched over hidden treasures.
--I do bethink me you were ten Sir Arthur made his successful attack upon
Misticot's grave, and also that when the labourers began to flag, you,
Edie. were again the first to leap into the trench, and to make the
discovery of the treasure. Now you must explain an this to me, unless you
would have me use you as ill as Euclio does Staphyla in the _Aulularia._"
"Lordsake, sir," replied the mendicant, "what do I ken about your
Howlowlaria?--it's mair like a dog's language than a man's."
"You knew, however, of the box of treasure being there?" continued
"Dear sir," answered Edie, assuming a countenance of great simplicity,
"what likelihood is there o'that? d'ye think sae puir an auld creature as
me wad hae kend o' sic a like thing without getting some gude out o't?--
and ye wot weel I sought nane and gat nane, like Michael Scott's man.
What concern could I hae wi't?"
"That's just what I want you to explain to me," said Oldbuck; "for I am
positive you knew it was there."
"Your honour's a positive man, Monkbarns--and, for a positive man, I must
needs allow ye're often in the right."
"You allow, then, Edie, that my belief is well founded?"
Edie nodded acquiescence.
"Then please to explain to me the whole affair from beginning to end,"
said the Antiquary.
"If it were a secret o' mine, Monkbarns," replied the beggar, "ye suldna
ask twice; for I hae aye said ahint your back, that for a' the nonsense
maggots that ye whiles take into your head, ye are the maist wise and
discreet o' a' our country gentles. But I'se een be open-hearted wi' you,
and tell you that this is a friend's secret, and that they suld draw me
wi' wild horses, or saw me asunder, as they did the children of Ammon,
sooner than I would speak a word mair about the matter, excepting this,
that there was nae ill intended, but muckle gude, and that the purpose
was to serve them that are worth twenty hundred o' me. But there's nae
law, I trow, that makes it a sin to ken where ither folles siller is, if
we didna pit hand til't oursell?"
Oldbuck walked once or twice up and down the room in profound thought,
endeavouring to find some plausible reason for transactions of a nature
so mysterious--but his ingenuity was totally at fault. He then placed
himself before the prisoner.
"This story of yours, friend Edie, is an absolute enigma, and would
require a second OEdipus to solve it--who OEdipus was, I will tell you
some other time if you remind me--However, whether it be owing to the
wisdom or to the maggots with which you compliment me, I am strongly
disposed to believe that you have spoken the truth, the rather that you
have not made any of those obtestations of the superior powers, which I
observe you and your comrades always make use of when you mean to deceive
folks. "(Here Edie could not suppress a smile.) "If, therefore, you will
answer me one question, I will endeavour to procure your liberation."
"If yell let me hear the question," said Edie, with the caution of a
canny Scotchman, "I'll tell you whether I'll answer it or no."
"It is simply," said the Antiquary, "Did Dousterswivel know anything
about the concealment of the chest of bullion?"
"He, the ill-fa'ard loon!" answered Edie, with much frankness of manner--
"there wad hae been little speerings o't had Dustansnivel ken'd it was
there--it wad hae been butter in the black dog's hause."
"I thought as much," said Oldbuck. "Well, Edie, if I procure your
freedom, you must keep your day, and appear to clear me of the bail-bond,
for these are not times for prudent men to incur forfeitures, unless you
can point out another _Aulam auri plenam quadrilibrem_--another _Search,
"Ah!" said the beggar, shaking his head, "I doubt the bird's flown that
laid thae golden eggs--for I winna ca' her goose, though that's the gait
it stands in the story-buick--But I'll keep my day, Monkbarns; ye'se no
loss a penny by me--And troth I wad fain be out again, now the weather's
fine--and then I hae the best chance o' hearing the first news o' my
"Well, Edie, as the bouncing and thumping beneath has somewhat ceased, I
presume Bailie Littlejohn has dismissed his military preceptor, and has
retired from the labours of Mars to those of Themis--I will have some
conversation with him--But I cannot and will not believe any of those
wretched news you were telling me."
"God send your honour may be right!" said the mendicant, as Oldbuck left
The Antiquary found the magistrate, exhausted with the fatigues of the
drill, reposing in his gouty chair, humming the air, "How merrily we live
that soldiers be!" and between each bar comforting himself with a
spoonful of mock-turtle soup. He ordered a similar refreshment for
Oldbuck, who declined it, observing, that, not being a military man, he
did not feel inclined to break his habit of keeping regular hours for
meals--"Soldiers like you, Bailie, must snatch their food as they find
means and time. But I am sorry to hear ill news of young Taffril's brig."
"Ah, poor fellow!" said the bailie, "he was a credit to the town--much
distinguished on the first of June."
"But," said Oldbuck, "I am shocked to hear you talk of him in the
"Troth, I fear there may be too much reason for it, Monkbarns;--and yet
let us hope the best. The accident is said to have happened in the
Rattray reef of rocks, about twenty miles to the northward, near
Dirtenalan Bay--I have sent to inquire about it--and your nephew run out
himself as if he had been flying to get the Gazette of a victory."
Here Hector entered, exclaiming as he came in, "I believe it's all a
damned lie--I can't find the least authority for it, but general rumour."
"And pray, Mr. Hector," said his uncle, "if it had been true, whose fault
would it have been that Lovel was on board?"
"Not mine, I am sure," answered Hector; "it would have been only my
"Indeed!" said his uncle, "I should not have thought of that."
"Why, sir, with all your inclination to find me in the wrong," replied
the young soldier, "I suppose you will own my intention was not to blame
in this case. I did my best to hit Lovel, and if I had been successful,
'tis clear my scrape would have been his, and his scrape would have been
"And whom or what do you intend to hit now, that you are lugging with you
that leathern magazine there, marked Gunpowder?"
"I must be prepared for Lord Glenallan's moors on the twelfth, sir," said
"Ah, Hector! thy great _chasse,_ as the French call it, would take place
Omne cum Proteus pecus egit altos
Could you meet but with a martial _phoca,_ instead of an unwarlike
"The devil take the seal, sir, or _phoca,_ if you choose to call it so!
It's rather hard one can never hear the end of a little piece of folly
"Well, well," said Oldbuck, "I am glad you have the grace to be ashamed
of it--as I detest the whole race of Nimrods, I wish them all as well
matched. Nay, never start off at a jest, man--I have done with the
_phoca_--though, I dare say, the Bailie could tell us the value of
seal-skins just now."
"They are up," said the magistrate, "they are well up--the fishing has
been unsuccessful lately."
"We can bear witness to that," said the tormenting Antiquary, who was
delighted with the hank this incident had given him over the young
sportsman: One word more, Hector, and
We'll hang a seal-skin on thy recreant limbs.
Aha, my boy! Come, never mind it; I must go to business.--Bailie, a word
with you: you must take bail--moderate bail, you understand--for old
"You don't consider what you ask," said the Bailie; "the offence is
assault and robbery."
"Hush! not a word about it," said the Antiquary. "I gave you a hint
before--I will possess you more fully hereafter--I promise you, there is
"But, Mr. Oldbuck, if the state is concerned, I, who do the whole
drudgery business here, really have a title to be consulted, and until I
"Hush! hush!" said the Antiquary, winking and putting his finger to his
nose,--"you shall have the full credit, the entire management, whenever
matters are ripe. But this is an obstinate old fellow, who will not hear
of two people being as yet let into his mystery, and he has not fully
acquainted me with the clew to Dousterswivel's devices."
"Aha! so we must tip that fellow the alien act, I suppose?"
"To say truth, I wish you would."
"Say no more," said the magistrate; "it shall forthwith be done--he shall
be removed _tanquam suspect_--I think that's one of your own phrases,
"It is classical, Bailie--you improve."
"Why, public business has of late pressed upon me so much, that I have
been obliged to take my foreman into partnership. I have had two several
correspondences with the Under Secretary of State--one on the proposed
tax on Riga hemp-seed, and the other on putting down political societies.
So you might as well communicate to me as much as you know of this old
fellow's discovery of a plot against the state."
"I will, instantly, when I am master of it," replied Oldbuck---"I hate
the trouble of managing such matters myself. Remember, however, I did not
say decidedly a plot against the state I only say I hope to discover, by
this man's means, a foul plot."
"If it be a plot at all, there must be treason in it, or sedition at
least," said the Bailie--"Will you bail him for four hundred merks?"
"Four hundred merks for an old Blue-Gown! Think on the act 1701
regulating bail-bonds!--Strike off a cipher from the sum--I am content to
bail him for forty merks."
"Well, Mr. Oldbuck, everybody in Fairport is always willing to oblige
you--and besides, I know that you are a prudent man, and one that would
be as unwilling to lose forty, as four hundred merks. So I will accept
your bail, _meo periculo_--what say you to that law phrase again? I had
it from a learned counsel. I will vouch it, my lord, he said, _meo
"And I will vouch for Edie Ochiltree, _meo periculo,_ in like manner,"
said Oldbuck. "So let your clerk draw out the bail-bond, and I will sign
When this ceremony had been performed, the Antiquary communicated to Edie
the joyful tidings that he was once more at liberty, and directed him to
make the best of his way to Monkbarns House, to which he himself returned
with his nephew, after having perfected their good work.
Full of wise saws and modern instances.
As You Like It.
"I wish to Heaven, Hector," said the Antiquary, next morning after
breakfast, "you would spare our nerves, and not be keeping snapping that
arquebuss of yours."
"Well, sir, I'm sure I'm sorry to disturb you," said his nephew, still
handling his fowling-piece;--"but it's a capital gun--it's a Joe Manton,
that cost forty guineas."
"A fool and his money are soon parted, nephew--there is a Joe Miller for
your Joe Manton," answered the Antiquary; "I am glad you have so many
guineas to throw away."
"Every one has their fancy, uncle,--you are fond of books."
"Ay, Hector," said the uncle, "and if my collection were yours, you would
make it fly to the gunsmith, the horse-market, the dog-breaker,--
_Coemptos undique nobiles libros--mutare loricis Iberis._"
"I could not use your books, my dear uncle," said the young soldier,
"that's true; and you will do well to provide for their being in better
hands. But don't let the faults of my head fall on my heart--I would not
part with a Cordery that belonged to an old friend, to get a set of
horses like Lord Glenallan's."
"I don't think you would, lad--I don't think you would," said his
softening relative. "I love to tease you a little sometimes; it keeps up
the spirit of discipline and habit of subordination--You will pass your
time happily here having me to command you, instead of Captain, or
Colonel, or Knight in Arms,' as Milton has it; and instead of the
French," he continued, relapsing into his ironical humour, "you have the
_Gens humida ponti_--for, as Virgil says,
Sternunt se somno diversae in littore phocae;
which might be rendered,
Here phocae slumber on the beach,
Within our Highland Hector's reach.
Nay, if you grow angry, I have done. Besides, I see old Edie in the
court-yard, with whom I have business. Good-bye, Hector--Do you remember
how she splashed into the sea like her master Proteus, _et se jactu dedit
aequor in altum_?"
M'Intyre,--waiting, however, till the door was shut,--then gave way to
the natural impatience of his temper.
"My uncle is the best man in the world, and in his way the kindest; but
rather than hear any more about that cursed _phoca,_ as he is pleased to
call it, I would exchange for the West Indies, and never see his face
Miss M'Intyre, gratefully attached to her uncle, and passionately fond of
her brother, was, on such occasions, the usual envoy of reconciliation.
She hastened to meet her uncle on his return, before he entered the
"Well, now, Miss Womankind, what is the meaning of that imploring
countenance?--has Juno done any more mischief?"
"No, uncle; but Juno's master is in such fear of your joking him about
the seal--I assure you, he feels it much more than you would wish;--it's
very silly of him, to be sure; but then you can turn everybody so sharply
"Well, my dear," answered Oldbuck, propitiated by the compliment, "I will
rein in my satire, and, if possible, speak no more of the _phoca_--I will
not even speak of sealing a letter, but say _umph,_ and give a nod to you
when I want the wax-light--I am not _monitoribus asper,_ but, Heaven
knows, the most mild, quiet, and easy of human beings, whom sister,
niece, and nephew, guide just as best pleases them."
With this little panegyric on his own docility, Mr. Oldbuck entered the
parlour, and proposed to his nephew a walk to the Mussel-crag. "I have
some questions to ask of a woman at Mucklebackit's cottage," he observed,
"and I would willingly have a sensible witness with me--so, for fault of
a better, Hector, I must be contented with you."
"There is old Edie, sir, or Caxon--could not they do better than me?"
answered M'Intyre, feeling somewhat alarmed at the prospect of a long
_tete-a-tete_ with his uncle.
"Upon my word, young man, you turn me over to pretty companions, and I am
quite sensible of your politeness," replied Mr. Oldbuck. "No, sir, I
intend the old Blue-Gown shall go with me--not as a competent witness,
for he is, at present, as our friend Bailie Littlejohn says (blessings on
his learning!) _tanquam suspectus,_ and you are _suspicione major,_ as
our law has it."
"I wish I were a major, sir," said Hector, catching only the last, and,
to a soldier's ear, the most impressive word in the sentence,--"but,
without money or interest, there is little chance of getting the step."
"Well, well, most doughty son of Priam," said the Antiquary, "be ruled by
your friends, and there's no saying what may happen--Come away with me,
and you shall see what may be useful to you should you ever sit upon a
"I have been on many a regimental court-martial, sir," answered Captain
M'Intyre. "But here's a new cane for you."
"Much obliged, much obliged."
"I bought it from our drum-major," added M'Intyre, "who came into our
regiment from the Bengal army when it came down the Red Sea. It was cut
on the banks of the Indus, I assure you."
"Upon my word, 'tis a fine ratan, and well replaces that which the _ph_--
Bah! what was I going to say?"
The party, consisting of the Antiquary, his nephew, and the old beggar,
now took the sands towards Mussel-crag--the former in the very highest
mood of communicating information, and the others, under a sense of
former obligation, and some hope for future favours, decently attentive
to receive it. The uncle and nephew walked together, the mendicant about
a step and a half behind, just near enough for his patron to speak to him
by a slight inclination of his neck, and without the trouble of turning
round. (Petrie, in his Essay on Good-breeding, dedicated to the
magistrates of Edinburgh, recommends, upon his own experience, as tutor
in a family of distinction, this attitude to all led captains, tutors,
dependants, and bottle-holders of every description. ) Thus escorted, the
Antiquary moved along full of his learning, like a lordly man of war, and
every now and then yawing to starboard and larboard to discharge a
broadside upon his followers.
"And so it is your opinion," said he to the mendicant, "that this
windfall--this _arca auri,_ as Plautus has it, will not greatly avail Sir
Arthur in his necessities?"
Unless he could find ten times as much," said the beggar, "and that I am
sair doubtful of;--I heard Puggie Orrock, and the tother thief of a
sheriff-officer, or messenger, speaking about it--and things are ill aff
when the like o' them can speak crousely about ony gentleman's affairs. I
doubt Sir Arthur will be in stane wa's for debt, unless there's swift
help and certain."
"You speak like a fool," said the Antiquary.--"Nephew, it is a remarkable
thing, that in this happy country no man can be legally imprisoned for
"Indeed, sir?" said M'Intyre; "I never knew that before--that part of our
law would suit some of our mess well."
"And if they arena confined for debt," said Ochiltree, "what is't that
tempts sae mony puir creatures to bide in the tolbooth o' Fairport
yonder?--they a' say they were put there by their creditors--Od! they
maun like it better than I do, if they're there o' free will."
"A very natural observation, Edie, and many of your betters would make
the same; but it is founded entirely upon ignorance of the feudal system.
Hector, be so good as to attend, unless you are looking out for another--
Ahem!" (Hector compelled himself to give attention at this hint. ) "And
you, Edie, it may be useful to you _reram cognoscere causas._ The nature
and origin of warrant for caption is a thing _haud alienum a Scaevolae
studiis._--You must know then, once more, that nobody can be arrested in
Scotland for debt."
"I haena muckle concern wi' that, Monkbarns," said the old man, "for
naebody wad trust a bodle to a gaberlunzie."
"I pr'ythee, peace, man--As a compulsitor, therefore, of payment, that
being a thing to which no debtor is naturally inclined, as I have too
much reason to warrant from the experience I have had with my own,--we
had first the letters of four forms, a sort of gentle invitation, by
which our sovereign lord the king, interesting himself, as a monarch
should, in the regulation of his subjects' private affairs, at first by
mild exhortation, and afterwards by letters of more strict enjoinment and
more hard compulsion--What do you see extraordinary about that bird,
Hector?--it's but a seamaw."
"It's a pictarnie, sir," said Edie.
"Well, what an if it were--what does that signify at present?--But I see
you're impatient; so I will waive the letters of four forms, and come to
the modern process of diligence.--You suppose, now, a man's committed to
prison because he cannot pay his debt? Quite otherwise: the truth is, the
king is so good as to interfere at the request of the creditor, and to
send the debtor his royal command to do him justice within a certain
time--fifteen days, or six, as the case may be. Well, the man resists and
disobeys: what follows? Why, that he be lawfully and rightfully declared
a rebel to our gracious sovereign, whose command he has disobeyed, and
that by three blasts of a horn at the market-place of Edinburgh, the
metropolis of Scotland. And he is then legally imprisoned, not on account
of any civil debt, but because of his ungrateful contempt of the royal
mandate. What say you to that, Hector?--there's something you never knew
* The doctrine of Monkbarns on the origin of imprisonment for civil debt
in Scotland, may appear somewhat whimsical, but was referred to, and
admitted to be correct, by the Bench of the Supreme Scottish Court, on
5th December 1828, in the case of Thom _v._ Black. In fact, the Scottish
law is in this particular more jealous of the personal liberty of the
subject than any other code in Europe.
"No, uncle; but, I own, if I wanted money to pay my debts, I would rather
thank the king to send me some, than to declare me a rebel for not doing
what I could not do."
"Your education has not led you to consider these things," replied his
uncle; "you are incapable of estimating the elegance of the legal
fiction, and the manner in which it reconciles that duress, which, for
the protection of commerce, it has been found necessary to extend towards
refractory debtors, with the most scrupulous attention to the liberty of
"I don't know, sir," answered the unenlightened Hector; "but if a man
must pay his debt or go to jail, it signifies but little whether he goes
as a debtor or a rebel, I should think. But you say this command of the
king's gives a license of so many days--Now, egad, were I in the scrape,
I would beat a march and leave the king and the creditor to settle it
among themselves before they came to extremities."
"So wad I," said Edie; "I wad gie them leg-bail to a certainty."
"True," replied Monkbarns; "but those whom the law suspects of being
unwilling to abide her formal visit, she proceeds with by means of a
shorter and more unceremonious call, as dealing with persons on whom
patience and favour would be utterly thrown away."
"Ay," said Ochiltree, "that will be what they ca' the fugie-warrants--I
hae some skeel in them. There's Border-warrants too in the south country,
unco rash uncanny things;--I was taen up on ane at Saint James's Fair,
and keepit in the auld kirk at Kelso the haill day and night; and a cauld
goustie place it was, I'se assure ye.--But whatna wife's this, wi' her
creel on her back? It's puir Maggie hersell, I'm thinking."
It was so. The poor woman's sense of her loss, if not diminished, was
become at least mitigated by the inevitable necessity of attending to the
means of supporting her family; and her salutation to Oldbuck was made in
an odd mixture between the usual language of solicitation with which she
plied her customers, and the tone of lamentation for her recent calamity.
"How's a' wi' ye the day, Monkbarns? I havena had the grace yet to come
down to thank your honour for the credit ye did puir Steenie, wi' laying
his head in a rath grave, puir fallow. "--Here she whimpered and wiped
her eyes with the corner of her blue apron--"But the fishing comes on no
that ill, though the gudeman hasna had the heart to gang to sea himsell--
Atweel I would fain tell him it wad do him gude to put hand to wark--but
I'm maist fear'd to speak to him--and it's an unco thing to hear ane o'
us speak that gate o' a man--However, I hae some dainty caller haddies,
and they sall be but three shillings the dozen, for I hae nae pith to
drive a bargain ennow, and maun just tak what ony Christian body will
gie, wi' few words and nae flyting."
"What shall we do, Hector?" said Oldbuck, pausing: "I got into disgrace
with my womankind for making a bad bargain with her before. These
maritime animals, Hector, are unlucky to our family."
"Pooh, sir, what would you do?--give poor Maggie what she asks, or allow
me to send a dish of fish up to Monkbarns."
And he held out the money to her; but Maggie drew back her hand. "Na, na,
Captain; ye're ower young and ower free o' your siller--ye should never
tak a fish-wife's first bode; and troth I think maybe a flyte wi' the
auld housekeeper at Monkbarns, or Miss Grizel, would do me some gude--And
I want to see what that hellicate quean Jenny Ritherout's doing--folk
said she wasna weel--She'll be vexing hersell about Steenie, the silly
tawpie, as if he wad ever hae lookit ower his shouther at the like
o'her!--Weel, Monkbarns, they're braw caller haddies, and they'll bid me
unco little indeed at the house if ye want crappit-heads the day."
And so on she paced with her burden,--grief, gratitude for the sympathy
of her betters, and the habitual love of traffic and of gain, chasing
each other through her thoughts.
"And now that we are before the door of their hut," said Ochiltree, "I
wad fain ken, Monkbarns, what has gar'd ye plague yoursell wi' me a' this
length? I tell ye sincerely I hae nae pleasure in ganging in there. I
downa bide to think how the young hae fa'en on a' sides o' me, and left
me an useless auld stump wi' hardly a green leaf on't."
"This old woman," said Oldbuck, "sent you on a message to the Earl of
Glenallan, did she not?"
"Ay!" said the surprised mendicant; "how ken ye that sae weel?"
"Lord Glenallan told me himself," answered the Antiquary; "so there is no
delation--no breach of trust on your part; and as he wishes me to take
her evidence down on some important family matters, I chose to bring you
with me, because in her situation, hovering between dotage and
consciousness, it is possible that your voice and appearance may awaken
trains of recollection which I should otherwise have no means of
exciting. The human mind--what are you about, Hector?"
"I was only whistling for the dog, sir," replied the Captain "she always
roves too wide--I knew I should be troublesome to you."
"Not at all, not at all," said Oldbuck, resuming the subject of his
disquisition--"the human mind is to be treated like a skein of ravelled
silk, where you must cautiously secure one free end before you can make
any progress in disentangling it."
"I ken naething about that," said the gaberlunzie; "but an my auld
acquaintance be hersell, or anything like hersell, she may come to wind
us a pirn. It's fearsome baith to see and hear her when she wampishes
about her arms, and gets to her English, and speaks as if she were a
prent book, let a-be an auld fisher's wife. But, indeed, she had a grand
education, and was muckle taen out afore she married an unco bit beneath
hersell. She's aulder than me by half a score years--but I mind weel
eneugh they made as muckle wark about her making a half-merk marriage wi'
Simon Mucklebackit, this Saunders's father, as if she had been ane o' the
gentry. But she got into favour again, and then she lost it again, as I
hae heard her son say, when he was a muckle chield; and then they got
muckle siller, and left the Countess's land, and settled here. But things
never throve wi' them. Howsomever, she's a weel-educate woman, and an she
win to her English, as I hae heard her do at an orra time, she may come
to fickle us a'."
Life ebbs from such old age, unmarked and silent,
As the slow neap-tide leaves yon stranded galley.--
Late she rocked merrily at the least impulse
That wind or wave could give; but now her keel
Is settling on the sand, her mast has ta'en
An angle with the sky, from which it shifts not.
Each wave receding shakes her less and less,
Till, bedded on the strand, she shall remain
Useless as motionless.
As the Antiquary lifted the latch of the hut, he was surprised to hear
the shrill tremulous voice of Elspeth chanting forth an old ballad in a
wild and doleful recitative.
"The herring loves the merry moonlight,
The mackerel loves the wind,
But the oyster loves the dredging sang,
For they come of a gentle kind."
A diligent collector of these legendary scraps of ancient poetry, his
foot refused to cross the threshold when his ear was thus arrested, and
his hand instinctively took pencil and memorandum-book. From time to time
the old woman spoke as if to the children--"Oh ay, hinnies, whisht!
whisht! and I'll begin a bonnier ane than that--
"Now haud your tongue, baith wife and carle,
And listen, great and sma',
And I will sing of Glenallan's Earl
That fought on the red Harlaw.
"The cronach's cried on Bennachie,
And doun the Don and a',
And hieland and lawland may mournfu' be
For the sair field of Harlaw.--
I dinna mind the neist verse weel--my memory's failed, and theres unco
thoughts come ower me--God keep us frae temptation!"
Here her voice sunk in indistinct muttering.
"It's a historical ballad," said Oldbuck, eagerly, "a genuine and
undoubted fragment of minstrelsy! Percy would admire its simplicity--
Ritson could not impugn its authenticity."
"Ay, but it's a sad thing," said Ochiltree, "to see human nature sae far
owertaen as to be skirling at auld sangs on the back of a loss like
"Hush! hush!" said the Antiquary--"she has gotten the thread of the story
again. "--And as he spoke, she sung--
"They saddled a hundred milk-white steeds,
They hae bridled a hundred black,
With a chafron of steel on each horse's head,
And a good knight upon his back. "--
"Chafron!" exclaimed the Antiquary,--"equivalent, perhaps, to
_cheveron;_--the word's worth a dollar,"--and down it went in his red
"They hadna ridden a mile, a mile,
A mile, but barely ten,
When Donald came branking down the brae
Wi' twenty thousand men.
"Their tartans they were waving wide,
Their glaives were glancing clear,
Their pibrochs rung frae side to side,
Would deafen ye to hear.
"The great Earl in his stirrups stood
That Highland host to see:
Now here a knight that's stout and good
May prove a jeopardie:
"What wouldst thou do, my squire so gay,
That rides beside my reyne,
Were ye Glenallan's Earl the day,
And I were Roland Cheyne?
"To turn the rein were sin and shame,
To fight were wondrous peril,
What would ye do now, Roland Cheyne,
Were ye Glenallan's Earl?'
Ye maun ken, hinnies, that this Roland Cheyne, for as poor and auld as I
sit in the chimney-neuk, was my forbear, and an awfu' man he was that
dayin the fight, but specially after the Earl had fa'en, for he blamed
himsell for the counsel he gave, to fight before Mar came up wi' Mearns,
and Aberdeen, and Angus."
Her voice rose and became more animated as she recited the warlike
counsel of her ancestor--
"Were I Glenallan's Earl this tide,
And ye were Roland Cheyne,
The spur should be in my horse's side,
And the bridle upon his mane.
"If they hae twenty thousand blades,
And we twice ten times ten,
Yet they hae but their tartan plaids,
And we are mail-clad men.
"My horse shall ride through ranks sae rude,
As through the moorland fern,
Then neer let the gentle Norman blude
Grow cauld for Highland kerne.'"
"Do you hear that, nephew?" said Oldbuck;--"you observe your Gaelic
ancestors were not held in high repute formerly by the Lowland warriors."
"I hear," said Hector, "a silly old woman sing a silly old song. I am
surprised, sir, that you, who will not listen to Ossian's songs of Selma,
can be pleased with such trash. I vow, I have not seen or heard a worse
halfpenny ballad; I don't believe you could match it in any pedlar's pack
in the country. I should be ashamed to think that the honour of the
Highlands could be affected by such doggrel. "--And, tossing up his head,
he snuffed the air indignantly.
Apparently the old woman heard the sound of their voices; for, ceasing
her song, she called out, "Come in, sirs, come in--good-will never halted
at the door-stane."
They entered, and found to their surprise Elspeth alone, sitting "ghastly
on the hearth," like the personification of Old Age in the Hunter's song
of the Owl,* "wrinkled, tattered, vile, dim-eyed, discoloured, torpid."
* See Mrs. Grant on the Highland Superstitions, vol. ii. p. 260, for this
fine translation from the Gaelic.
"They're a' out," she said, as they entered; "but an ye will sit a blink,
somebody will be in. If ye hae business wi' my gude-daughter, or my son,
they'll be in belyve,--I never speak on business mysell. Bairns, gie them
seats--the bairns are a' gane out, I trow,"--looking around her;--"I was
crooning to keep them quiet a wee while since; but they hae cruppen out
some gate. Sit down, sirs, they'll be in belyve;" and she dismissed her
spindle from her hand to twirl upon the floor, and soon seemed
exclusively occupied in regulating its motion, as unconscious of the
presence of the strangers as she appeared indifferent to their rank or
"I wish," said Oldbuck, "she would resume that canticle, or legendary
fragment. I always suspected there was a skirmish of cavalry before the
main battle of the Harlaw. "*
* Note H. Battle of Harlaw.
"If your honour pleases," said Edie, "had ye not better proceed to the
business that brought us a' here? I'se engage to get ye the sang ony
"I believe you are right, Edie--_Do manus_--I submit. But how shall we
manage? She sits there the very image of dotage. Speak to her, Edie--try
if you can make her recollect having sent you to Glenallan House."
Edie rose accordingly, and, crossing the floor, placed himself in the
same position which he had occupied during his former conversation with
her. "I'm fain to see ye looking sae weel, cummer; the mair, that the
black ox has tramped on ye since I was aneath your roof-tree."
"Ay," said Elspeth; but rather from a general idea of misfortune, than
any exact recollection of what had happened,--"there has been distress
amang us of late--I wonder how younger folk bide it--I bide it ill. I
canna hear the wind whistle, and the sea roar, but I think I see the
coble whombled keel up, and some o' them struggling in the waves!--Eh,
sirs; sic weary dreams as folk hae between sleeping and waking, before
they win to the lang sleep and the sound! I could amaist think whiles my
son, or else Steenie, my oe, was dead, and that I had seen the burial.
Isna that a queer dream for a daft auld carline? What for should ony o'
them dee before me?--it's out o' the course o' nature, ye ken."
"I think you'll make very little of this stupid old woman," said Hector,
--who still nourished, perhaps, some feelings of the dislike excited by
the disparaging mention of his countrymen in her lay--"I think you'll
make but little of her, sir; and it's wasting our time to sit here and
listen to her dotage."
"Hector," said the Antiquary, indignantly, "if you do not respect her
misfortunes, respect at least her old age and grey hairs: this is the
last stage of existence, so finely treated by the Latin poet--
Membrorum damno major dementia, quae neo
Nomina, servorum, nec vultus agnoscit amici,
Cum queis preterita coenavit nocte, nec illos
Quos genuit, quos ecluxit."
"That's Latin!" said Elspeth, rousing herself as if she attended to the
lines, which the Antiquary recited with great pomp of diction--"that's
Latin!" and she cast a wild glance around her--"Has there a priest fund
me out at last?"
"You see, nephew, her comprehension is almost equal to your own of that
"I hope you think, sir, that I knew it to be Latin as well as she did?"
"Why, as to that--But stay, she is about to speak."
"I will have no priest--none," said the beldam, with impotent vehemence;
"as I have lived I will die--none shall say that I betrayed my mistress,
though it were to save my soul!"
"That bespoke a foul conscience," said the mendicant;--"I wuss she wad
mak a clean breast, an it were but for her sake;" and he again assailed
"Weel, gudewife, I did your errand to the Yerl."
"To what Earl? I ken nae Earl;--I ken'd a Countess ance--I wish to Heaven
I had never ken'd her! for by that acquaintance, neighbour, their cam,"--
and she counted her withered fingers as she spoke "first Pride, then
Malice, then Revenge, then False Witness; and Murder tirl'd at the
door-pin, if he camna ben. And werena thae pleasant guests, think ye, to
take up their quarters in ae woman's heart? I trow there was routh o'
"But, cummer," continued the beggar, "it wasna the Countess of Glenallan
I meant, but her son, him that was Lord Geraldin."
"I mind it now," she said; "I saw him no that langsyne, and we had a
heavy speech thegither. Eh, sirs! the comely young lord is turned as auld
and frail as I am: it's muckle that sorrow and heartbreak, and crossing
of true love, will do wi' young blood. But suldna his mither hae lookit
to that hersell?--we were but to do her bidding, ye ken. I am sure
there's naebody can blame me--he wasna my son, and she was my mistress.
Ye ken how the rhyme says--I hae maist forgotten how to sing, or else the
tune's left my auld head--
"He turn'd him right and round again,
Said, Scorn na at my mither;
Light loves I may get mony a ane,
But minnie neer anither.
Then he was but of the half blude, ye ken, and her's was the right
Glenallan after a'. Na, na, I maun never maen doing and suffering for the
Countess Joscelin--never will I maen for that."
Then drawing her flax from the distaff, with the dogged air of one who is
resolved to confess nothing, she resumed her interrupted occupation.
"I hae heard," said the mendicant, taking his cue from what Oldbuck had
told him of the family history--"I hae heard, cummer, that some ill
tongue suld hae come between the Earl, that's Lord Geraldin, and his
"Ill tongue?" she said in hasty alarm; "and what had she to fear frae an
ill tongue?--she was gude and fair eneugh--at least a' body said sae. But
had she keepit her ain tongue aff ither folk, she might hae been living
like a leddy for a' that's come and gane yet."
"But I hae heard say, gudewife," continued Ochiltree, "there was a
clatter in the country, that her husband and her were ower sibb when they
"Wha durst speak o' that?" said the old woman hastily; "wha durst say
they were married?--wha ken'd o' that?--Not the Countess--not I. If they
wedded in secret, they were severed in secret--They drank of the
fountains of their ain deceit."
"No, wretched beldam!" exclaimed Oldbuck, who could keep silence no
longer, "they drank the poison that you and your wicked mistress prepared
"Ha, ha!" she replied, "I aye thought it would come to this. It's but
sitting silent when they examine me--there's nae torture in our days; and
if there is, let them rend me!--It's ill o' the vassal's mouth that
betrays the bread it eats."
"Speak to her, Edie," said the Antiquary; "she knows your voice, and
answers to it most readily."
"We shall mak naething mair out o' her," said Ochiltree. "When she has
clinkit hersell down that way, and faulded her arms, she winna speak a
word, they say, for weeks thegither. And besides, to my thinking, her
face is sair changed since we cam in. However, I'se try her ance mair to
satisfy your honour.--So ye canna keep in mind, cummer, that your auld
mistress, the Countess Joscelin, has been removed?"
"Removed!" she exclaimed; for that name never failed to produce its usual
effect upon her; "then we maun a' follow--a' maun ride when she is in the
saddle. Tell them to let Lord Geraldin ken we're on before them. Bring my
hood and scarf--ye wadna hae me gang in the carriage wi' my leddy, and my
hair in this fashion?"
She raised her shrivelled arms, and seemed busied like a woman who puts
on her cloak to go abroad, then dropped them slowly and stiffly; and the
same idea of a journey still floating apparently through her head, she
proceeded, in a hurried and interrupted manner,--"Call Miss Neville--What
do you mean by Lady Geraldin? I said Eveline Neville, not Lady Geraldin--
there's no Lady Geraldin; tell her that, and bid her change her wet gown,
and no' look sae pale. Bairn! what should she do wi' a bairn?--maidens
hae nane, I trow.--Teresa--Teresa--my lady calls us!--Bring a candle;--
the grand staircase is as mirk as a Yule midnight--We are coming, my
lady!"--With these words she sunk back on the settle, and from thence
sidelong to the floor. *
* Note I. Elspeth's death.
Edie ran to support her, but hardly got her in his arms, before he said,
"It's a' ower--she has passed away even with that last word."
"Impossible," said Oldbuck, hastily advancing, as did his nephew. But
nothing was more certain. She had expired with the last hurried word that
left her lips; and all that remained before them were the mortal relics
of the creature who had so long struggled with an internal sense of
concealed guilt, joined to all the distresses of age and poverty.
"God grant that she be gane to a better place!" said Edie, as he looked
on the lifeless body; "but oh! there was something lying hard and heavy
at her heart. I have seen mony a ane dee, baith in the field o' battle,
and a fair-strae death at hame; but I wad rather see them a' ower again,
as sic a fearfu' flitting as hers!"
"We must call in the neighbours," said Oldbuck, when he had somewhat
recovered his horror and astonishment, "and give warning of this
additional calamity. I wish she could have been brought to a confession.
And, though of far less consequence, I could have wished to transcribe
that metrical fragment. But Heaven's will must be done!"
They left the hut accordingly, and gave the alarm in the hamlet, whose
matrons instantly assembled to compose the limbs and arrange the body of
her who might be considered as the mother of their settlement. Oldbuck
promised his assistance for the funeral.
"Your honour," said Alison Breck, who was next in age to the deceased,
"suld send doun something to us for keeping up our hearts at the
lykewake, for a' Saunders's gin, puir man, was drucken out at the burial
o' Steenie, and we'll no get mony to sit dry-lipped aside the corpse.
Elspeth was unco clever in her young days, as I can mind right weel, but
there was aye a word o' her no being that chancy. Ane suldna speak ill o'
the dead--mair by token, o' ane's cummer and neighbour--but there was