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Chapter 11

Let them have meat enough, woman--half a hen;
There be old rotten pilchards--put them off too;
'Tis but a little new anointing of them,
And a strong onion, that confounds the savour.

Love's Pilgrimage.

THE thunderbolt, which had stunned all who were within hearing of it,
had only served to awaken the bold and inventive genius of the flower of
majors-domo. Almost before the clatter had ceased, and while there was
yet scarce an assurance whether the castle was standing or falling,
Caleb exclaimed, "Heaven be praised! this comes to hand like the boul of
a pint-stoup." He then barred the kitchen door in the face of the Lord
Keeper's servant, whom he perceived returning from the party at the
gate, and muttering, "How the deil cam he in?--but deil may care. Mysie,
what are ye sitting shaking and greeting in the chimney-neuk for? Come
here--or stay where ye are, and skirl as loud as ye can; it's a' ye're
gude for. I say, ye auld deevil, skirl--skirl--louder--louder, woman;
gar the gentles hear ye in the ha'. I have heard ye as far off as the
Bass for a less matter. And stay--down wi' that crockery----"

And with a sweeping blow, he threw down from a shelf some articles of
pewter and earthenware. He exalted his voice amid the clatter, shouting
and roaring in a manner which changed Mysie's hysterical terrors of the
thunder into fears that her old fellow-servant was gone distracted. "He
has dung down a' the bits o' pigs, too--the only thing we had left
to haud a soup milk--and he has spilt the hatted hit that was for the
Master's dinner. Mercy save us, the auld man's gaen clean and clear wud
wi' the thunner!"

"Haud your tongue, ye b----!" said Caleb, in the impetuous and
overbearing triumph of successful invention, "a's provided now--dinner
and a'thing; the thunner's done a' in a clap of a hand!"

"Puir man, he's muckle astray," said Mysie, looking at him with a
mixture of pity and alarm; "I wish he may ever come come hame to himsell
again."

"Here, ye auld doited deevil," said Caleb, still exulting
in his extrication from a dilemma which had seemed insurmountable;
"keep the strange man out of the kitchen; swear the thunner
came down the chimney and spoiled the best dinner ye ever
dressed--beef--bacon--kid--lark--leveret--wild-fowl--venison, and what
not. Lay it on thick, and never mind expenses. I'll awa' up to the
la'. Make a' the confusion ye can; but be sure ye keep out the strange
servant."

With these charges to his ally, Caleb posted up to the hall, but
stopping to reconnoitre through an aperture, which time, for the
convenience of many a domestic in succession, had made in the door, and
perceiving the situation of Miss Ashton, he had prudence enough to
make a pause, both to avoid adding to her alarm and in order to secure
attention to his account of the disastrous effects of the thunder.

But when he perceived that the lady was recovered, and heard the
conversation turn upon the accommodation and refreshment which the
castle afforded, he thought it time to burst into the room in the manner
announced in the last chapter.

"Willawins!--willawins! Such a misfortune to befa' the house of
Ravenswood, and I to live to see it."

"What is the matter, Caleb?" said his master, somewhat alarmed in his
turn; "has any part of the castle fallen?"

"Castle fa'an! na, but the sute's fa'an, and the thunner's come right
down the kitchen-lum, and the things are a' lying here awa', there awa',
like the Laird o' Hotchpotch's lands; and wi' brave guests of honour
and quality to entertain (a low bow here to Sir William Ashton and his
daughter), and naething left in the house fit to present for dinner, or
for supper either, for aught that I can see!"

"I very believe you, Caleb," said Ravenswood, drily. Balderstone here
turned to his master a half-upbraiding, half-imploring countenance,
and edged towards him as he repeated, "It was nae great matter of
preparation; but just something added to your honour's ordinary course
of fare--petty cover, as they say at the Louvre--three courses and the
fruit."

"Keep your intolerable nonsense to yourself, you old fool!" said
Ravenswood, mortified at his officiousness, yet not knowing how to
contradict him, without the risk of giving rise to scenes yet more
ridiculous.

Caleb saw his advantage, and resolved to improve it. But first,
observing that the Lord Keeper's servant entered the apartment and spoke
apart with his master, he took the same opportunity to whisper a few
words into Ravenswood's ear: "Haud your tongue, for heaven's sake, sir;
if it's my pleasure to hazard my soul in telling lees for the honour
of the family, it's nae business o' yours; and if ye let me gang on
quietly, I'se be moderate in my banquet; but if ye contradict me, deil
but I dress ye a dinner fit for a duke!"

Ravenswood, in fact, thought it would be best to let his officious
butler run on, who proceeded to enumerate upon his fingers--"No muckle
provision--might hae served four persons of honour,--first course,
capons in white broth--roast kid--bacon with reverence; second course,
roasted leveret--butter crabs--a veal florentine; third course,
blackcock--it's black eneugh now wi' the sute--plumdamas--a tart--a
flam--and some nonsense sweet things, adn comfits--and that's a',"
he said, seeing the impatience of his master--"that's just a' was
o't--forbye the apples and pears."

Miss Ashton had by degrees gathered her spirits, so far as to pay some
attention to what was going on; and observing the restrained impatience
of Ravenswood, contrasted with the peculiar determination of manner with
which Caleb detailed his imaginary banquet, the whole struck her as so
ridiculous that, despite every effort to the contrary, she burst into a
fit of incontrollable laughter, in which she was joined by her father,
though with more moderation, and finally by the Master of Ravenswood
himself, though conscious that the jest was at his own expense. Their
mirth--for a scene which we read with little emotion often appears
extremely ludicrous to the spectators--made the old vault ring again.
They ceased--they renewed--they ceased--they renewed again their shouts
of laughter! Caleb, in the mean time, stood his ground with a grave,
angry, and scornful dignity, which greatly enhanced the ridicule of the
scene and mirth of the spectators.

At length, when the voices, and nearly the strength, of the laughers
were exhausted, he exclaimed, with very little ceremony: "The deil's in
the gentles! they breakfast sae lordly, that the loss of the best dinner
ever cook pat fingers to makes them as merry as if it were the best
jeest in a' George Buchanan. If there was as little in your honours'
wames as there is in Caleb Balderstone's, less caickling wad serve ye on
sic a gravaminous subject."

Caleb's blunt expression of resentment again awakened the mirth of the
company, which, by the way, he regarded not only as an aggression upon
the dignity of the family, but a special contempt of the eloquence with
which he himself had summed up the extent of their supposed losses. "A
description of a dinner," as he said afterwards to Mysie, "that wad hae
made a fu' man hungry, and them to sit there laughing at it!"

"But," said Miss Ashton, composing her countenance as well as she could,
"are all these delicacies so totally destroyed that no scrap can be
collected?"

"Collected, my leddy! what wad ye collect out of the sute and the ass?
Ye may gang down yoursell, and look into our kitchen--the cookmaid in
the trembling exies--the gude vivers lying a' about--beef, capons, and
white broth--florentine and flams--bacon wi' reverence--and a' the sweet
confections and whim-whams--ye'll see them a', my leddy--that is," said
he, correcting himself, "ye'll no see ony of them now, for the cook
has soopit them up, as was weel her part; but ye'll see the white broth
where it was spilt. I pat my fingers in it, and it tastes as like sour
milk as ony thing else; if that isna the effect of thunner, I kenna what
is. This gentleman here couldna but hear the clash of our haill dishes,
china and silver thegither?"

The Lord Keeper's domestic, though a statesman's attendant, and of
course trained to command his countenance upon all occasions, was
somewhat discomposed by this appeal, to which he only answered by a bow.

"I think, Mr. Butler," said the Lord Keeper, who began to be afraid lest
the prolongation of this scene should at length displease Ravenswood--"I
think that, were you to retire with my servant Lockhard--he has
travelled, and is quite accustomed to accidents and contingencies of
every kind, and I hope betwixt you, you may find out some mode of supply
at this emergency."

"His honour kens," said Caleb, who, however hopeless of himself
of accomplishing what was desirable, would, like the high-spirited
elephant, rather have died in the effort than brooked the aid of a
brother in commission--"his honour kens weel I need nae counsellor, when
the honour of the house is concerned."

"I should be unjust if I denied it, Caleb," said his master; "but your
art lies chiefly in making apologies, upon which we can no more dine
than upon the bill of fare of our thunder-blasted dinner. Now, possibly
Mr. Lockhard's talent may consist in finding some substitute for that
which certainly is not, and has in all probability never been."

"Your honour is pleased to be facetious," said Caleb, "but I am sure
that, for the warst, for a walk as far as Wolf's Hope, I could dine
forty men--no that the folk there deserve your honour's custom. They hae
been ill advised in the matter of the duty eggs and butter, I winna deny
that."

"Do go consult together," said the Master; "go down to the village,
and do the best you can. We must not let our guests remain without
refreshment, to save the honour of a ruined family. And here, Caleb,
take my purse; I believe that will prove your best ally."

"Purse! purse, indeed!" quoth Caleb, indignantly flinging out of the
room; "what suld I do wi' your honour's purse, on your ain grund? I
trust we are no to pay for our ain?"

The servants left the hall; and the door was no sooner shut than the
Lord Keeper began to apologise for the rudeness of his mirth; and Lucy
to hope she had given no pain or offence to the kind-hearted faithful
old man.

"Caleb and I must both learn, madam, to undergo with good humour, or at
least with patience, the ridicule which everywhere attaches itself to
poverty."

"You do yourself injustice, Master of Ravenswood, on my word of honour,"
answered his elder guest. "I believe I know more of your affairs than
you do yourself, and I hope to show you that I am interested in them;
and that--in short, that your prospects are better than you apprehend.
In the mean time, I can conceive nothing so respectable as the spirit
which rises above misfortune, and prefers honourable privations to debt
or dependence."

Whether from fear of offending the delicacy or awakening the pride of
the Master, the Lord Keeper made these allusions with an appearance
of fearful and hesitating reserve, and seemed to be afraid that he was
intruding too far, in venturing to touch, however lightly, upon such a
topic, even when the Master had led to it. In short, he appeared at once
pushed on by his desire of appearing friendly, and held back by the fear
of intrusion. It was no wonder that the Master of Ravenswood, little
acquainted as he then was with life, should have given this consummate
courtier credit for more sincerity than was probably to be found in
a score of his cast. He answered, however, with reserve, that he was
indebted to all who might think well of him; and, apologising to his
guests, he left the hall, in order to make such arrangements for their
entertainment as circumstances admitted.

Upon consulting with old Mysie, the accommodations for the night were
easily completed, as indeed they admitted of little choice. The Master
surrendered his apartment for the use of Miss Ashton, and Mysie, once a
person of consequence, dressed in a black satin gown which had belonged
of yore to the Master's grandmother, and had figured in the court-balls
of Henrietta Maria, went to attend her as lady's-maid. He next inquired
after Bucklaw, and understanding he was at the change-house with the
huntsmen and some companions, he desired Caleb to call there, and
acquaint him how he was circumstanced at Wolf's Crag; to intimate to him
that it would be most convenient if he could find a bed in the hamlet,
as the elder guest must necessarily be quartered in the secret chamber,
the only spare bedroom which could be made fit to receive him. The
Master saw no hardship in passing the night by the hall fire, wrapt in
his campaign-cloak; and to Scottish domestics of the day, even of the
highest rank, nay, to young men of family or fashion, on any pinch,
clean straw, or a dry hayloft, was always held good night-quarters.

For the rest, Lockhard had his master's orders to bring some venison
from the inn, and Caleb was to trust to his wits for the honour of his
family. The Master, indeed, a second time held out his purse; but, as it
was in sight of the strange servant, the butler thought himself obliged
to decline what his fingers itched to clutch. "Couldna he hae slippit it
gently into my hand?" said Caleb; "but his honour will never learn how
to bear himsell in siccan cases."

Mysie, in the mean time, according to a uniform custom in remote places
in Scotland, offered the strangers the produce of her little dairy,
"while better meat was getting ready." And according to another custom,
not yet wholly in desuetude, as the storm was now drifting off to
leeward, the Master carried the Keeper to the top of his highest
tower to admire a wide and waste extent of view, and to "weary for his
dinner."

Sir Walter Scott