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Chapter 18

Sir, stay at home and take an old man's counsel;
Seek not to bask you by a stranger's hearth;
Our own blue smoke is warmer than their fire.
Domestic food is wholesome, though 'tis homely,
And foreign dainties poisonous, though tasteful.

The French Courtezan.

THE Master of Ravenswood took an opportunity to leave his guests
to prepare for their departure, while he himself made the brief
arrangements necessary previous to his absence from Wolf's Crag for a
day or two. It was necessary to communicate with Caleb on this occasion,
and he found that faithful servitor in his sooty and ruinous den,
greatly delighted with the departure of their visitors, and computing
how long, with good management, the provisions which had been unexpended
might furnish the Master's table. "He's nae belly god, that's ae
blessing; and Bucklaw's gane, that could have eaten a horse behind
the saddle. Cresses or water-purpie, and a bit ait-cake, can serve
the Master for breakfast as weel as Caleb. Then for dinner--there's no
muckle left on the spule-bane; it will brander, though--it will brander
very weel."

His triumphant calculations were interrupted by the Master, who
communicated to him, not without some hesitation, his purpose to ride
with the Lord Keeper as far as Ravenswood Castle, and to remain there
for a day or two.

"The mercy of Heaven forbid!" said the old serving-man, turning as pal
as the table-cloth which he was folding up.

"And why, Caleb?" said his master--"why should the mercy of Heaven
forbid my returning the Lord Keeper's visit?"

"Oh, sir!" replied Caleb--"oh, Mr. Edgar! I am your servant, and it ill
becomes me to speak; but I am an auld servant--have served baith
your father and gudesire, and mind to have seen Lord Randal, your
great-grandfather, but that was when I was a bairn."

"And what of all this, Balderstone?" said the Master; "what can
it possibly have to do with my paying some ordinary civility to a
neighbour."

"Oh, Mr. Edgar,--that is, my lord!" answered the butler, "your ain
conscience tells you it isna for your father's son to be neighbouring
wi' the like o' him; it isna for the credit of the family. An he were
ance come to terms, and to gie ye back your ain, e'en though ye suld
honour his house wi' your alliance, I suldna say na; for the young leddy
is a winsome sweet creature. But keep your ain state wi' them--I ken the
race o' them weel--they will think the mair o' ye."

"Why, now, you go father than I do, Caleb," said the Master, drowning a
certain degree of consciousness in a forced laugh; "you are for marrying
me into a family that you will nto allow me to visit, how this? and you
look as pale as death besides."

"Oh, sir," repeated Caleb again, "you would but laugh if I tauld it; but
Thomas the Rhymer, whose tongue couldna be fause, spoke the word of your
house that will e'en prove ower true if you go to Ravenswood this day.
Oh, that it should e'er have been fulfilled in my time!"

"And what is it, Caleb?" said Ravenswood, wishing to soothe the fears of
his old servant.

Caleb replied: "He had never repeated the lines to living mortal; they
were told to him by an auld priest that had been confessor to Lord
Allan's father when the family were Catholic. But mony a time," he said,
"I hae soughed thae dark words ower to myself, and, well-a-day! little
did I think of their coming round this day."

"Truce with your nonsense, and let me hear the doggerel which has put it
into your head," said the Master, impatiently.

With a quivering voice, and a cheek pale with apprehension, Caleb
faltered out the following lines:

"When the last Laird of Ravenswood to Ravenswood shall ride, And woo a
dead maiden to be his bride, He shall stable his steed in the Kelpie's
flow, And his name shall be lost for evermoe!"

"I know the Kelpie's flow well enough," said the Master; "I suppose, at
least, you mean the quicksand betwixt this tower and Wolf's Hope; but
why any man in his senses should stable a steed there----"

"Oh, ever speer ony thing about that, sir--God forbid we should ken what
the prophecy means--but just bide you at hame, and let the strangers
ride to Ravenswood by themselves. We have done eneugh for them; and
to do mair would be mair against the credit of the family than in its
favour."

"Well, Caleb," said the Master, "I give you the best possible credit for
your good advice on this occasion; but as I do not go to Ravenswood to
seek a bride, dead or alive, I hope I shall choose a better stable for
my horse than the Kelpie's quicksand, and especially as I have always
had a particular dread of it since the patrol of dragoons were
lost there ten years since. My father and I saw them from the tower
struggling against the advancing tide, and they were lost long before
any help could reach them."

"And they deserved it weel, the southern loons!" said Caleb; "what had
they ado capering on our sands, and hindering a wheen honest folk frae
bringing on shore a drap brandy? I hae seen them that busy, that I
wad hae fired the auld culverin or the demi-saker that's on the south
bartizan at them, only I was feared they might burst in the ganging
aff."

Caleb's brain was now fully engaged with abuse of the English soldiery
and excisemen, so that his master found no great difficulty in
escaping from him and rejoining his guests. All was now ready for
their departure; and one of the Lord Keeper's grooms having saddled the
Master's steed, they mounted in the courtyard.

Caleb had, with much toil, opened the double doors of the outward gate,
and thereat stationed himself, endeavouring, by the reverential, and at
the same time consequential, air which he assumed, to supply, by his
own gaunt, wasted, and thin person, the absence of a whole baronial
establishment of porters, warders, and liveried menials.

The Keeper returned his deep reverence with a cordial farewell, stooping
at the same time from his horse, and sliding into the butler's hand the
remuneration which in those days was always given by a departing guest
to the domestics of the family where he had been entertained. Lucy
smiled on the old man with her usual sweetness, bade him adieu, and
deposited her guerdon with a grace of action and a gentleness of accent
which could not have failed to have won the faithful retainer's heart,
but for Thomas the Rhymer, and the successful lawsuit against his
master. As it was, he might have adopted the language of the Duke in As
You Like It:

Thou wouldst have better pleased me with this deed, If thou hadst told
me of another father.

Ravenswood was at the lady's bridle-rein, encouraging her timidity, and
guiding her horse carefully down the rocky path which led to the moor,
when one of the servants announced from the rear that Caleb was calling
loudly after them, desiring to speak with his master. Ravenswood felt it
would look singular to neglect this summons, although inwardly cursing
Caleb for his impertinent officiousness; therefore he was compelled to
relinquish to Mr. Lockhard the agreeable duty in which he was engaged,
and to ride back to the gate of the courtyard. Here he was beginning,
somewhat peevishly, to ask Caleb the cause of his clamour, when the good
old man exclaimed: "Whisht, sir!--whisht, and let me speak just ae word
that I couldna say afore folk; there (putting into his lord's hand the
money he had just received)--there's three gowd pieces; and ye'll
want siller up-bye yonder. But stay, whisht, now!" for the Master was
beginning to exclaim against this transference, "never say a word, but
just see to get them changed in the first town ye ride through, for they
are bran new frae the mint, and ken-speckle a wee bit."

"You forget, Caleb," said his master, striving to force back the money
on his servant, and extricate the bridle from his hold--"you forget that
I have some gold pieces left of my own. Keep these to yourself, my old
friend; and, once more, good day to you. I assure you, I have plenty.
You know you have managed that our living should cost us little or
nothing."

"Aweel," said Caleb, "these will serve for you another time; but see ye
hae eneugh, for, doubtless, for the credit of the family, there maun be
some civility to the servants, and ye maun hae something to mak a show
with when they say, 'Master, will you bet a broad piece?' Then ye maun
tak out your purse, and say, 'I carena if I do'; and tak care no to
agree on the articles of the wager, and just put up your purse again,
and----"

"This is intolerable, Caleb; I really must be gone."

"And you will go, then?" said Caleb, loosening his hold upon the
Master's cloak, and changing his didactics into a pathetic and mournful
tone--"and you WILL go, for a' I have told you about the prophecy, and
the dead bride, and the Kelpie's quicksand? Aweel! a wilful man maun
hae his way: he that will to Cupar maun to Cupar. But pity of your life,
sir, if ye be fowling or shooting in the Park, beware of drinking at the
Mermaiden's Well--He's gane! he's down the path arrow-flight after her!
The head is as clean taen aff the Ravenswood family this day as I wad
chap the head aff a sybo!"

The old butler looked long after his master, often clearing away the dew
as it rose to his eyes, that he might, as long as possible, distinguish
his stately form from those of the other horsemen. "Close to her
bridle-rein--ay, close to her bridle-rein! Wisely saith the holy man,
'By this also you may know that woman hath dominion over all men'; and
without this lass would not our ruin have been a'thegither fulfilled."

With a heart fraught with such sad auguries did Caleb return to
his necessary duties at Wofl's Crag, as soon as he could no longer
distinguish the object of his anxiety among the group fo riders, which
diminished in the distance.

In the mean time the party pursued their route joyfully. Having once
taken his resolution, the Master of Ravenswood was not of a character to
hesitate or pause upon it. He abandoned himself to the pleasure he felt
in Miss Ashton's company, and displayed an assiduous gallantry which
approached as nearly to gaiety as the temper of his mind and state of
his family permitted. The Lord Keeper was much struck with his depth of
observation, and the unusual improvement which he had derived from his
studies. Of these accomplishments Sir William Ashton's profession and
habits of society rendered him an excellent judge; and he well knew how
to appreciate a quality to which he himself was a total stranger--the
brief and decided dauntlessness of the Master of Ravenswood's fear. In
his heart the Lord Keeper rejoiced at having conciliated an adversary
so formidable, while, with a mixture of pleasure and anxiety, he
anticipated the great things his young companion might achieve, were the
breath of court-favour to fill his sails.

"What could she desire," he thought, his mind always conjuring
up opposition in the person of Lady Ashton to his new prevailing
wish--"what could a woman desire in a match more than the sopiting of
a very dangerous claim, and the alliance of a son-in-law, noble, brave,
well-gifted, and highly connected; sure to float whenever the tide
sets his way; strong, exactly where we are weak, in pedigree and in the
temper of a swordsman? Sure, no reasonable woman would hesitate. But
alas----!" Here his argument was stopped by the consciousness that Lady
Ashton was not always reasonable, in his sense of the word. "To prefer
some clownish Merse laird to the gallant young nobleman, and to the
secure possession of Ravenswood upon terms of easy compromise--it would
be the act of a madwoman!"

Thus pondered the veteran politician, until they reached Bittlebrains
House, where it had been previously settled they were to dine and repose
themselves, and prosecute their journey in the afternoon.

They were received with an excess of hospitality; and the most marked
attention was offered to the Master of Ravenswood, in particular, by
their noble entertainers. The truth was, that Lord Bittlebrains had
obtained his peerage by a good deal of plausibility, an art of building
up a character for wisdom upon a very trite style of commonplace
eloquence, a steady observation of the changes of the times, and the
power of rendering certain political services to those who could best
reward them. His lady and he, not feeling quite easy under their new
honours, to which use had not adapted their feelings, were very desirous
to procure the fraternal countenance of those who were born denizens of
the regions into which they had been exalted from a lower sphere. The
extreme attention which they paid to the Master of Ravenswood had its
usual effect in exalting his importance in the eyes of the Lord
Keeper, who, although he had a reasonable degree of contempt for
Lord Bittlebrains's general parts, entertained a high opinion of the
acuteness of his judgment in all matters of self-interest.

"I wish Lady Ashton had seen this," was his internal reflection; "no man
knows so well as Bittlebrains on which side his bread is buttered; and
he fawns on the Master like a beggar's messan on a cook. And my lady,
too, bringing forward her beetle-browed misses to skirl and play upon
the virginals, as if she said, 'Pick and choose.' They are no more
comparable to Lucy than an owl is to a cygnet, and so they may carry
their black brows to a farther market."

The entertainment being ended, our travellers, who had still to measure
the longest part of their journey, resumed their horses; and after the
Lord Keeper, the Master, and the domestics had drunk doch-an-dorroch,
or the stirrup-cup, in the liquors adapted to their various ranks, the
cavalcade resumed its progress.

It was dark by the time they entered the avenue of Ravenswood Castle, a
long straight line leading directly to the front of the house, flanked
with huge elm-trees, which sighed to the night-wind, as if they
compassionated the heir of their ancient proprietors, who now returned
to their shades in the society, and almost in the retinue, of their new
master. Some feelings of the same kind oppressed the mind of the Master
himself. He gradually became silent, adn dropped a little behind the
lady, at whose bridle-rein he had hitherto waited with such devotion.
He well recollected the period when, at the same hour in the evening, he
had accompanied his father, as that nobleman left, never again to
return to it, the mansion from which he derived his name and title. The
extensive front of the old castle, on which he remembered having often
looked back, was then "as black as mourning weed." The same front now
glanced with many lights, some throwing far forward into the night
a fixed and stationary blaze, and others hurrying from one window to
another, intimating the bustle and busy preparation preceding their
arrival, which had been intimated by an avant-courier. The contrast
pressed so strongly upon the Master's heart as to awaken some of the
sterner feelings with which he had been accustomed to regard the new
lord of his paternal domain, and to impress his countenance with an air
of severe gravity, when, alighted from his horse, he stood in the hall
no longer his own, surrounded by the numerous menials of its present
owner.

The Lord Keeper, when about to welcome him with the cordiality which
their late intercourse seemed to render proper, became aware of the
change, refrained from his purpose, and only intimated the ceremony of
reception by a deep reverence to his guest, seeming thus delicately to
share the feelings which predominated on his brow.

Two upper domestics, bearing each a huge pair of silver candlesticks,
now marshalled the company into a large saloon, or withdrawing-room,
where new alterations impressed upon Ravenswood the superior wealth of
the present inhabitants of the castle. The mouldering tapestry, which,
in his father's time, had half covered the walls of this stately
apartment, and half streamed from them in tatters, had given place to
a complete finishing of wainscot, the cornice of which, as well as the
frames of the various compartments, were ornamented with festoons of
flowers and with birds, which, though carved in oak, seemed, such was
the art of the chisel, actually to swell their throats and flutter their
wings. Several old family portraits of armed heroes of the house of
Ravenswood, together with a suit or two of old armour and some military
weapons, had given place to those of King William and Queen Mary, or
Sir Thomas Hope and Lord Stair, two distinguished Scottish lawyers. The
pictures of the Lord Keeper's father and mother were also to be seen;
the latter, sour, shrewish, and solemn, in her black hood and close
pinners, with a book of devotion in her hand; the former, exhibiting
beneath a black silk Geneva cowl, or skull-cap, which sate as close to
the head as if it had been shaven, a pinched, peevish, Puritanical set
of features, terminating in a hungry, reddish, peaked beard, forming on
the whole a countenance in the expression of which the hypocrite seemed
to contend with the miser and the knave. "And it is to make room for
such scarecrows as these," thought Ravenswood, "that my ancestors have
been torn down from the walls which they erected!" he looked at them
again, and, as he looked, the recollection of Lucy Ashton, for she
had not entered the apartment with them, seemed less lively in his
imagination. There were also two or three Dutch drolleries, as the
pictures of Ostade and Teniers were then termed, with one good painting
of the Italian school. There was, besides, a noble full-length of the
Lord Keeper in his robes of office, placed beside his lady in silk and
ermine, a haughty beauty, bearing in her looks all the pride of
the house of Douglas, from which she was descended. The painter,
notwithstanding his skill, overcome by the reality, or, perhaps, from a
suppressed sense of humour, had not been able to give the husband on the
canvas that air of awful rule and right supremacy which indicates the
full possession of domestic authority. It was obvious at the first
glance that, despite mace and gold frogs, the Lord Keeper was somewhat
henpecked. The floor of this fine saloon was laid with rich carpets,
huge fires blazed in the double chimneys, and ten silver sconces,
reflecting with their bright plates the lights which they supported,
made the whole seem as brilliant as day.

"Would you choose any refreshment, Master?" said Sir William Ashton, not
unwilling to break the awkward silence.

He received no answer, the Master being so busily engaged in marking the
various changes which had taken place in the apartment, that he
hardly heard the Lord Keeper address him. A repetition of the offer of
refreshment, with the addition, that the family meal would be presently
ready, compelled his attention, and reminded him that he acted a weak,
perhaps even a ridiculous, part in suffering himself to be overcome
by the circumstances in which he found himself. He compelled himself,
therefore, to enter into conversation with Sir William Ashton, with as
much appearance of indifference as he could well command.

"You will not be surprised, Sir William, that I am interested in the
changes you have made for the better in this apartment. In my father's
time, after our misfortunes compelled him to live in retirement, it was
little used, except by me as a play-room, when the weather would not
permit me to go abroad. In that recess was my little workshop, where I
treasured the few carpenters' tools which old Caleb procured for me,
and taught me how to use; there, in yonder corner, under that handsome
silver sconce, I kept my fishing-rods and hunting poles, bows and
arrows."

"I have a young birkie," said the Lord Keeper, willing to change the
tone of the conversation, "of much the same turn. He is never happy save
when he is in the field. I wonder he is not here. Here, Lockhard; send
William Shaw for Mr. Henry. I suppose he is, as usual, tied to Lucy's
apron-string; that foolish girl, Master, draws the whole family after
her at her pleasure."

Even this allusion to his daughter, though artfully thrown out, did not
recall Ravenswood from his own topic. "We were obliged to leave," he
said, "some armour and portraits in this apartment; may I ask where they
have been removed to?"

"Why," answered the Keeper, with some hesitation, "the room was fitted
up in our absence, and cedant arma togae is the maxim of lawyers, you
know: I am afraid it has been here somewhat too literally complied with.
I hope--I believe they are safe, I am sure I gave orders; may I hope
that when they are recovered, and put in proper order, you will do
me the honour to accept them at my hand, as an atonement for their
accidental derangement?"

The Master of Ravenswood bowed stiffly, and, with folded arms, again
resumed his survey of the room.

Henry, a spoilt boy of fifteen, burst into the room, and ran up to
his father. "Think of Lucy, papa; she has come home so cross and so
fractious, that she will not go down to the stable to see my new pony,
that Bob Wilson brought from the Mull of Galloway."

"I think you were very unreasonable to ask her," said the Keeper.

"Then you are as cross as she is," answered the boy; "but when mamma
comes home, she'll claw up both your mittens."

"Hush your impertinence, you little forward imp!" said his father;
"where is your tutor?"

"Gone to a wedding at Dunbar; I hope he'll get a haggis to his dinner";
and he began to sing the old Scottish song:

"There was a haggis in Dunbar, Fal de ral, etc. Mony better and few
waur, Fal de ral," etc.

"I am much obliged to Mr. Cordery for his attentions," said the Lord
Keeper; "and pray who has had the charge of you while I was away, Mr.
Henry?"

"Norman and Bob Wilson, forbye my own self."

"A groom and a gamekeeper, and your own silly self--proper guardians
for a young advocate! Why, you will never know any statutes but those
against shooting red-deer, killing salmon, and----"

"And speaking of red-game," said the young scapegrace, interrupting his
father without scruple or hesitation, "Norman has shot a buck, and I
showed the branches to Lucy, and she says they have but eight tynes; and
she says that you killed a deer with Lord Bittlebrains's hounds, when
you were west away, and, do you know, she says it had ten tynes; is it
true?"

"It may have had twenty, Henry, for what I know; but if you go to that
gentleman, he can tell you all about it. Go speak to him, Henry; it is
the Master of Ravenswood."

While they conversed thus, the father and son were standing by the fire;
and the Master, having walked towards the upper end of the apartment,
stood with his back towards them, apparently engaged in examining one of
the paintings. The boy ran up to him, and pulled him by the skirt of
the coat with the freedom of a spoilt child, saying, "I say, sir, if you
please to tell me----" but when the Master turned round, and Henry saw
his face, he became suddenly and totally disconcerted; walked two or
three steps backward, and still gazed on Ravenswood with an air of fear
and wonder, which had totally banished from his features their usual
expression of pert vivacity.

"Come to me, young gentleman," said the Master, "and I will tell you all
I know about the hunt."

"Go to the gentleman, Henry," said his father; "you are not used to be
so shy."

But neither invitation nor exhortation had any effect on the boy. On the
contrary, he turned round as soon as he had completed his survey of the
Master, and walking as cautiously as if he had been treading upon eggs,
he glided back to his father, and pressed as close to him as possible.
Ravenswood, to avoid hearing the dispute betwixt the father and the
overindulged boy, thought it most polite to turn his face once more
towards the pictures, and pay no attention to what they said.

"Why do you not speak to the Master, you little fool?" said the Lord
Keeper.

"I am afraid," said Henry, in a very low tone of voice.

"Afraid, you goose!" said his father, giving him a slight shake by the
collar. "What makes you afraid?"

"What makes him to like the picture of Sir Malise Ravenswood then?" said
the boy, whispering.

"What picture, you natural?" said his father. "I used to think you only
a scapegrace, but I believe you will turn out a born idiot."

"I tell you, it is the picture of old Malise of Ravenswood, and he is as
like it as if he had loupen out of the canvas; and it is up in the old
baron's hall that the maids launder the clothes in; and it has armour,
and not a coat like the gentleman; and he has not a beard and whiskers
like the picture; and it has another kind of thing about the throat, and
no band-strings as he has; and----"

"And why should not the gentleman be like his ancestor, you silly boy?"
said the Lord Keeper.

"Ay; but if he is come to chase us all out of the castle," said the boy,
"and has twenty men at his back in disguise; and is come to say, with
a hollow voice, 'I bide my time'; and is to kill you on the hearth as
Malise did the other man, and whose blood is still to be seen!"

"Hush! nonsense!" said the Lord Keeper, not himself much pleased to hear
these disagreeable coincidences forced on his notice. "Master, here comes
Lockhard to say supper is served."

And, at the same instant, Lucy entered at another door, having changed
her dress since her return. The exquisite feminine beauty of her
countenance, now shaded only by a profusion of sunny tresses; the
sylph-like form, disencumbered of her heavy riding-skirt and mantled in
azure silk; the grace of her manner and of her smile, cleared, with
a celerity which surprised the Master himself, all the gloomy and
unfavourable thoughts which had for some time overclouded his fancy.
In those features, so simply sweet, he could trace no alliance with
the pinched visage of the peak-bearded, black-capped Puritan, or his
starched, withered spouse, with the craft expressed in the Lord Keeper's
countenance, or the haughtiness which predominated in that of his lady;
and, while he gazed on Lucy Ashton, she seemed to be an angel descended
on earth, unallied to the coarses mortals among whom she deigned to
dwell for a season. Such is the power of beauty over a youthful and
enthusiastic fancy.

Sir Walter Scott