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Chapter 17


This looks not like a nuptial.--MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.


The chapel in the castle of Ellieslaw, destined to be the scene of this
ill-omened union, was a building of much older date than the castle
itself, though that claimed considerable antiquity. Before the wars
between England and Scotland had become so common and of such long
duration, that the buildings along both sides of the Border were chiefly
dedicated to warlike purposes, there had been a small settlement of
monks at Ellieslaw, a dependency, it is believed by antiquaries, on the
rich Abbey of Jedburgh. Their possessions had long passed away under the
changes introduced by war and mutual ravage. A feudal castle had
arisen on the ruin of their cells, and their chapel was included in its
precincts.

The edifice, in its round arches and massive pillars, the simplicity
of which referred their date to what has been called the Saxon
architecture, presented at all times a dark and sombre appearance, and
had been frequently used as the cemetery of the family of the feudal
lords, as well as formerly of the monastic brethren. But it looked
doubly gloomy by the effect of the few and smoky torches which were used
to enlighten it on the present occasion, and which, spreading a glare
of yellow light in their immediate vicinity, were surrounded beyond by
a red and purple halo reflected from their own smoke, and beyond that
again by a zone of darkness which magnified the extent of the chapel,
while it rendered it impossible for the eye to ascertain its limits.
Some injudicious ornaments, adopted in haste for the occasion, rather
added to the dreariness of the scene. Old fragments of tapestry, torn
from the walls of other apartments, had been hastily and partially
disposed around those of the chapel, and mingled inconsistently with
scutcheons and funeral emblems of the dead, which they elsewhere
exhibited. On each side of the stone altar was a monument, the
appearance of which formed an equally strange contrast. On the one was
the figure, in stone, of some grim hermit, or monk, who had died in
the odour of sanctity; he was represented as recumbent, in his cowl and
scapulaire, with his face turned upward as in the act of devotion, and
his hands folded, from which his string of beads was dependent. On
the other side was a tomb, in the Italian taste, composed of the most
beautiful statuary marble, and accounted a model of modern art. It
was erected to the memory of Isabella's mother, the late Mrs. Vere of
Ellieslaw, who was represented as in a dying posture, while a weeping
cherub, with eyes averted, seemed in the act of extinguishing a
dying lamp as emblematic of her speedy dissolution. It was, indeed, a
masterpiece of art, but misplaced in the rude vault to which it had been
consigned. Many were surprised, and even scandalized, that Ellieslaw,
not remarkable for attention to his lady while alive, should erect after
her death such a costly mausoleum in affected sorrow; others cleared him
from the imputation of hypocrisy, and averred that the monument had
been constructed under the direction and at the sole expense of Mr.
Ratcliffe.

Before these monuments the wedding guests were assembled. They were
few in number; for many had left the castle to prepare for the ensuing
political explosion, and Ellieslaw was, in the circumstances of the
case, far from being desirous to extend invitations farther than to
those near relations whose presence the custom of the country rendered
indispensable. Next to the altar stood Sir Frederick Langley, dark,
moody, and thoughtful, even beyond his wont, and near him, Mareschal,
who was to play the part of bridesman, as it was called. The thoughtless
humour of this young gentleman, on which he never deigned to place
the least restraint, added to the cloud which overhung the brow of the
bridegroom.

"The bride is not yet come out of her chamber," he whispered to Sir
Frederick; "I trust that we must not have recourse to the violent
expedients of the Romans which I read of at College. It would be hard
upon my pretty cousin to be run away with twice in two days, though I
know none better worth such a violent compliment."

Sir Frederick attempted to turn a deaf ear to this discourse, humming a
tune, and looking another may, but Mareschal proceeded in the same wild
manner.

"This delay is hard upon Dr. Hobbler, who was disturbed to accelerate
preparations for this joyful event when he had successfully extracted
the cork of his third bottle. I hope you will keep him free of the
censure of his superiors, for I take it this is beyond canonical
hours.--But here come Ellieslaw and my pretty cousin--prettier than
ever, I think, were it not she seems so faint and so deadly pale--Hark
ye, Sir Knight, if she says not YES with right good-will, it shall be no
wedding, for all that has come and gone yet."

"No wedding, sir?" returned Sir Frederick, in a loud whisper, the
tone of which indicated that his angry feelings were suppressed with
difficulty.

"No--no marriage," replied Mareschal, "there's my hand and glove on't."

Sir Frederick Langley took his hand, and as he wrung it hard, said in
a lower whisper, "Mareschal, you shall answer this," and then flung his
hand from him.

"That I will readily do," said Mareschal, "for never word escaped my
lips that my hand was not ready to guarantee.-So, speak up, my pretty
cousin, and tell me if it be your free will and unbiassed resolution to
accept of this gallant knight for your lord and husband; for if you have
the tenth part of a scruple upon the subject, fall back, fall edge, he
shall not have you."

"Are you mad, Mr. Mareschal?" said Ellieslaw, who, having been this
young man's guardian during his minority, often employed a tone of
authority to him. "Do you suppose I would drag my daughter to the foot
of the altar, were it not her own choice?"

"Tut, Ellieslaw," retorted the young gentleman, "never tell me of the
contrary; her eyes are full of tears, and her cheeks are whiter than
her white dress. I must insist, in the name of common humanity, that the
ceremony be adjourned till to-morrow."

"She shall tell you herself, thou incorrigible intermeddler in what
concerns thee not, that it is her wish the ceremony should go on--Is it
not, Isabella, my dear?"

"It is," said Isabella, half fainting--"since there is no help, either
in God or man."

The first word alone was distinctly audible. Mareschal shrugged up his
shoulders and stepped back. Ellieslaw led, or rather supported, his
daughter to the altar. Sir Frederick moved forward and placed himself by
her side. The clergyman opened his prayer-book, and looked to Mr. Vere
for the signal to commence the service.

"Proceed," said the latter.

But a voice, as if issuing from the tomb of his deceased wife, called,
in such loud and harsh accents as awakened every echo in the vaulted
chapel, "Forbear!"

All were mute and motionless, till a distant rustle, and the clash
of swords, or something resembling it, was heard from the remote
apartments. It ceased almost instantly.

"What new device is this?" said Sir Frederick, fiercely, eyeing
Ellieslaw and Mareschal with a glance of malignant suspicion.

"It can be but the frolic of some intemperate guest," said Ellieslaw,
though greatly confounded; "we must make large allowances for the excess
of this evening's festivity. Proceed with the service."

Before the clergyman could obey, the same prohibition which they had
before heard, was repeated from the same spot. The female attendants
screamed, and fled from the chapel; the gentlemen laid their hands on
their swords. Ere the first moment of surprise had passed by, the Dwarf
stepped from behind the monument, and placed himself full in front of
Mr. Vere. The effect of so strange and hideous an apparition in such
a place and in such circumstances, appalled all present, but seemed to
annihilate the Laird of Ellieslaw, who, dropping his daughter's arm,
staggered against the nearest pillar, and, clasping it with his hands as
if for support, laid his brow against the column.

"Who is this fellow?" said Sir Frederick; "and what does he mean by this
intrusion?"

"It is one who comes to tell you," said the Dwarf, with the peculiar
acrimony which usually marked his manner, "that, in marrying that young
lady, you wed neither the heiress of Ellieslaw, nor of Mauley Hall,
nor of Polverton, nor of one furrow of land, unless she marries with MY
consent; and to thee that consent shall never be given. Down--down
on thy knees, and thank Heaven that thou art prevented from wedding
qualities with which thou hast no concern--portionless truth, virtue,
and innocence--thou, base ingrate," he continued, addressing himself to
Ellieslaw, "what is thy wretched subterfuge now? Thou, who wouldst sell
thy daughter to relieve thee from danger, as in famine thou wouldst have
slain and devoured her to preserve thy own vile life!--Ay, hide thy face
with thy hands; well mayst thou blush to look on him whose body thou
didst consign to chains, his hand to guilt, and his soul to misery.
Saved once more by the virtue of her who calls thee father, go hence,
and may the pardon and benefits I confer on thee prove literal coals of
fire, till thy brain is seared and scorched like mine!"

Ellieslaw left the chapel with a gesture of mute despair.

"Follow him, Hubert Ratcliffe," said the Dwarf, "and inform him of his
destiny. He will rejoice--for to breathe air and to handle gold is to
him happiness."

"I understand nothing of all this," said Sir Frederick Langley; "but we
are here a body of gentlemen in arms and authority for King James; and
whether you really, sir, be that Sir Edward Mauley, who has been so long
supposed dead in confinement, or whether you be an impostor assuming
his name and title, we will use the freedom of detaining you, till your
appearance here, at this moment, is better accounted for; we will have
no spies among us--Seize on him, my friends."

But the domestics shrunk back in doubt and alarm. Sir Frederick himself
stepped forward towards the Recluse, as if to lay hands on his person,
when his progress was suddenly stopped by the glittering point of a
partisan, which the sturdy hand of Hobbie Elliot presented against his
bosom.

"I'll gar daylight shine through ye, if ye offer to steer him!" said the
stout Borderer; "stand back, or I'll strike ye through! Naebody shall
lay a finger on Elshie; he's a canny neighbourly man, aye ready to make
a friend help; and, though ye may think him a lamiter, yet, grippie for
grippie, friend, I'll wad a wether he'll make the bluid spin frae under
your nails. He's a teugh carle Elshie! he grips like a smith's vice."

"What has brought you here, Elliot?" said Mareschal; "who called on you
for interference?"

"Troth, Mareschal-Wells," answered Hobbie, "I am just come here, wi'
twenty or thretty mair o' us, in my ain name and the King's--or Queen's,
ca' they her? and Canny Elshie's into the bargain, to keep the peace,
and pay back some ill usage Ellieslaw has gien me. A bonny breakfast the
loons gae me the ither morning, and him at the bottom on't; and trow
ye I wasna ready to supper him up?--Ye needna lay your hands on your
swords, gentlemen, the house is ours wi' little din; for the doors were
open, and there had been ower muckle punch amang your folk; we took
their swords and pistols as easily as ye wad shiel pea-cods."

Mareschal rushed out, and immediately re-entered the chapel.

"By Heaven! it is true, Sir Frederick; the house is filled with armed
men, and our drunken beasts are all disarmed. Draw, and let us fight our
way."

"Binna rash--binna rash," exclaimed Hobbie; "hear me a bit, hear me a
bit. We mean ye nae harm; but, as ye are in arms for King James, as
ye ca' him, and the prelates, we thought it right to keep up the auld
neighbour war, and stand up for the t'other ane and the Kirk; but we'll
no hurt a hair o' your heads, if ye like to gang hame quietly. And it
will be your best way, for there's sure news come frae Loudoun, that him
they ca' Bang, or Byng, or what is't, has bang'd the French ships and
the new king aff the coast however; sae ye had best bide content wi'
auld Nanse for want of a better Queen."

Ratcliffe, who at this moment entered, confirmed these accounts so
unfavourable to the Jacobite interest. Sir Frederick, almost instantly,
and without taking leave of any one, left the castle, with such of his
attendants as were able to follow him.

"And what will you do, Mr. Mareschal?" said Ratcliffe.

"Why, faith," answered he, smiling, "I hardly know; my spirit is too
great, and my fortune too small, for me to follow the example of the
doughty bridegroom. It is not in my nature, and it is hardly worth my
while."

"Well, then, disperse your men, and remain quiet, and this will be
overlooked, as there has been no overt act."

"Hout, ay," said Elliot, "just let byganes be byganes, and a' friends
again; deil ane I bear malice at but Westburnflat, and I hae gien him
baith a het skin and a cauld ane. I hadna changed three blows of the
broadsword wi' him before he lap the window into the castle-moat, and
swattered through it like a wild-duck. He's a clever fallow, indeed!
maun kilt awa wi' ae bonny lass in the morning, and another at night,
less wadna serve him! but if he disna kilt himsell out o' the country,
I'se kilt him wi' a tow, for the Castleton meeting's clean blawn ower;
his friends will no countenance him."

During the general confusion, Isabella had thrown herself at the feet of
her kinsman, Sir Edward Mauley, for so we must now call the Solitary,
to express at once her gratitude, and to beseech forgiveness for her
father. The eyes of all began to be fixed on them, as soon as their own
agitation and the bustle of the attendants had somewhat abated. Miss
Vere kneeled beside the tomb of her mother, to whose statue her features
exhibited a marked resemblance. She held the hand of the Dwarf,
which she kissed repeatedly and bathed with tears. He stood fixed and
motionless, excepting that his eyes glanced alternately on the marble
figure and the living suppliant. At length, the large drops which
gathered on his eye-lashes compelled him to draw his hand across them.

"I thought," he said, "that tears and I had done; but we shed them at
our birth, and their spring dries not until we are in our graves. But no
melting of the heart shall dissolve my resolution. I part here, at once,
and for ever, with all of which the memory" (looking to the tomb), "or
the presence" (he pressed Isabella's hand), "is dear to me.--Speak not
to me! attempt not to thwart my determination! it will avail nothing;
you will hear of and see this lump of deformity no more. To you I shall
be dead ere I am actually in my grave, and you will think of me as of a
friend disencumbered from the toils and crimes of existence."

He kissed Isabella on the forehead, impressed another kiss on the
brow of the statue by which she knelt, and left the chapel followed by
Ratcliffe. Isabella, almost exhausted by the emotions of the day,
was carried to her apartment by her women. Most of the other guests
dispersed, after having separately endeavoured to impress on all who
would listen to them their disapprobation of the plots formed against
the government, or their regret for having engaged in them. Hobbie
Elliot assumed the command of the castle for the night, and mounted a
regular guard. He boasted not a little of the alacrity with which his
friends and he had obeyed a hasty summons received from Elshie through
the faithful Ratcliffe. And it was a lucky chance, he said, that on that
very day they had got notice that Westburnflat did not intend to
keep his tryste at Castleton, but to hold them at defiance; so that a
considerable party had assembled at the Heugh-foot, with the intention
of paying a visit to the robber's tower on the ensuing morning, and
their course was easily directed to Ellieslaw Castle.


Sir Walter Scott

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