Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 21

Marall: Sir, the man of honour's come,
Newly alighted----Overreach: In without reply,
And do as I command....
Is the loud music I gave order for
Ready to receive him?

New Way to pay Old Debts.

SIR WILLIAM ASHTON, although a man of sense, legal information, and
great practical knowledge of the world, had yet some points of character
which corresponded better with the timidity of his disposition and the
supple arts by which he had risen in the world, than to the degree
of eminence which he had attained; as they tended to show an original
mediocrity of understanding, however highly it had been cultivated, and
a native meanness of disposition, however carefully veiled. He loved the
ostentatious display of his wealth, less as a man to whom habit has
made it necessary, than as one to whom it is still delightful from its
novelty. The most trivial details did not escape him; and Lucy soon
learned to watch the flush of scorn which crossed Ravenswood's cheek,
when he heard her father gravely arguing with Lockhard, nay, even with
the old housekeeper, upon circumstances which, in families of rank,
are left uncared for, because it is supposed impossible they can be
neglected.

"I could pardon Sir William," said Ravenswood, one evening after he
had left the room, "some general anxiety upon this occasion, for the
Marquis's visit is an honour, and should be received as such; but I am
worn out by these miserable minutiae of the buttery, and the larder,
and the very hencoop--they drive me beyond my patience; I would rather
endure the poverty of Wolf's Crag than be pestered with the wealth of
Ravenswood Castle."

"And yet," said Lucy, "it was by attention to these minutiae that my
father acquired the property----"

"Which my ancestors sold for lack of it," replied Ravenswood. "Be it so;
a porter still bears but a burden, though the burden be of gold."

Lucy sighed; she perceived too plainly that her lover held in scorn the
manners and habits of a father to whom she had long looked up as her
best and most partial friend, whose fondness had often consoled her for
her mother's contemptuous harshness.

The lovers soon discovered that they differed upon other and no less
important topics. Religion, the mother of peace, was, in those days of
discord, so much misconstrued and mistaken, that her rules and forms
were the subject of the most opposite opinions and the most hostile
animosities. The Lord Keeper, being a Whig, was, of course, a
Presbyterian, and had found it convenient, at different periods, to
express greater zeal for the kirk than perhaps he really felt. His
family, equally of course, were trained under the same institution.
Ravenswood, as we know, was a High Churchman, or Episcopalian, and
frequently objected to Lucy the fanaticism of some of her own
communion, while she intimated, rather than expressed, horror at the
latitudinarian principles which she had been taught to think connected
with the prelatical form of church government.

Thus, although their mutual affection seemed to increase rather than to
be diminished as their characters opened more fully on each other, the
feelings of each were mingled with some less agreeable ingredients. Lucy
felt a secret awe, amid all her affection for Ravenswood. His soul was
of an higher, prouder character than those with thom she had hitherto
mixed in intercourse; his ideas were more fierce and free; and he
contemned many of the opinions which had been inculcated upon her as
chiefly demanding her veneration. On the other hand, Ravenswood saw in
Lucy a soft and flexible character, which, in his eyes at least, seemed
too susceptible of being moulded to any form by those with whom
she lived. He felt that his own temper required a partner of a more
independent spirit, who could set sail with him on his course of life,
resolved as himself to dare indifferently the storm and the favouring
breeze. But Lucy was so beautiful, so devoutly attached to him, of a
temper so exquisitely soft and kind, that, while he could have wished
it were possible to inspire her with a greater degree of firmness and
resolution, and while he sometimes became impatient of the extreme fear
which she expressed of their attachment being prematurely discovered,
he felt that the softness of a mind, amounting almost to feebleness,
rendered her even dearer to him, as a being who had voluntarily clung
to him for protection, and made him the arbiter of her fate for weal or
woe. His feelings towards her at such moments were those which have been
since so beautifully expressed by our immortal Joanna Baillie:

Thou sweetest thing,
That e'er did fix its lightly-fibred sprays
To the rude rock, ah! wouldst thou cling to me?
Rough and storm-worn I am; yet love me as
Thou truly dost, I will love thee again
With true and honest heart, though all unmeet
To be the mate of such sweet gentleness.

Thus the very points in which they differed seemed, in some measure, to
ensure the continuance of their mutual affection. If, indeed, they had
so fully appreciated each other's character before the burst of passion
in which they hastily pledged their faith to each other, Lucy might have
feared Ravenswood too much ever to have loved him, and he might have
construed her softness and docile temper as imbecility, rendering her
unworthy of his regard. But they stood pledged to each other; and Lucy
only feared that her lover's pride might one day teach him to regret
his attachment; Ravenswood, that a mind so ductile as Lucy's might, in
absence or difficulties, be induced, by the entreaties or influence of
those around her, to renounce the engagement she had formed.

"Do not fear it," said Lucy, when upon one occasion a hint of such
suspicion escaped her lover; "the mirrors which receive the reflection
of all successive objects are framed of hard materials like glass or
steel; the softer substances, when they receive an impression, retain it
undefaced."

"This is poetry, Lucy," said Ravenswood; "and in poetry there is always
fallacy, and sometimes fiction."

"Believe me, then, once more, in honest prose," said Lucy, "that, though
I will never wed man without the consent of my parents, yet neither
force nor persuasion shall dispose of my hand till you renounce the
right I have given you to it."

The lovers had ample time for such explanations. Henry was now more
seldom their companion, being either a most unwilling attendant upon the
lessons of his tutor, or a forward volunteer under the instructions of
the foresters or grooms. As for the Keeper, his mornings were spent in
his study, maintaining correspondences of all kinds, and balancing in
his anxious mind the various intelligence which he collected from every
quarter concerning the expected change of Scottish politics, and the
probable strength of the parties who were about to struggle for power.
At other times he busied himself about arranging, and countermanding, and
then again arranging, the preparations which he judged necessary for the
reception of the Marquis of A----, whose arrival had been twice delayed
by some necessary cause of detention.

In the midst of all these various avocations, political and domestic,
he seemed not to observe how much his daughter and his guest were thrown
into each other's society, and was censured by many of his neighbours,
according to the fashion of neighbours in all countries, for suffering
such an intimate connexion to take place betwixt two young persons.
The only natural explanation was, that he designed them for each other;
while, in truth, his only motive was to temporise and procrastinate
until he should discover the real extent of the interest which the
Marquis took in Ravenswood's affairs, and the power which he was likely
to possess of advancing them. Until these points should be made both
clear and manifest, the Lord Keeper resolved that he would do nothing
to commit himself, either in one shape or other; and, like many cunning
persons, he overreached himself deplorably.

Amongst those who had been disposed to censure, with the greatest
severity, the conduct of Sir William Ashton, in permitting the prolonged
residence of Ravenswood under his roof, and his constant attendance on
Miss Ashton, was the new Laird of Girnington, and his faithful squire
and bottleholder, personages formerly well known to us by the names of
Hayston and Bucklaw, and his companion Captain Craigengelt. The former
had at length succeeded to the extensive property of his long-lived
grand-aunt, and to considerable wealth besides, which he had employed
in redeeming his paternal acres (by the title appertaining to which he
still chose to be designated), notwithstanding Captain Craigengelt had
proposed to him a most advantageous mode of vesting the money in Law's
scheme, which was just then broached, and offered his services to travel
express to Paris for the purpose. But Bucklaw had so far derived wisdom
from adversity, that he would listen to no proposal which Craigengelt
could invent, which had the slightest tendency to risk his
newly-acquired independence. He that had once eat pease-bannocks, drank
sour wine, and slept in the secret chamber at Wolf's Crag, would, he
said, prize good cheer and a soft bed as long as he lived, and take
special care never to need such hospitality again.

Craigengelt, therefore, found himself disappointed in the first hopes
he had entertained of making a good hand of the Laird of Bucklaw. Still,
however, he reaped many advantages from his friend's good fortune.
Bucklaw, who had never been at all scrupulous in choosing his
companions, was accustomed to, and entertained by, a fellow whom he
could either laugh with or laugh at as he had a mind, who would take,
according to Scottish phrase, "the bit and the buffet," understood all
sports, whether within or without doors, and, when the laird had a mind
for a bottle of wine (no infrequent circumstance), was always ready to
save him from the scandal of getting drunk by himself. Upon these terms,
Craigengelt was the frequent, almost the constant, inmate of the house
of Girnington.

In no time, and under no possibility of circumstances, could good have
been derived from such an intimacy, however its bad consequences might
be qualified by the thorough knowledge which Bucklaw possessed of his
dependant's character, and the high contempt in which he held it. But,
as circumstances stood, this evil communication was particularly liable
to corrupt what good principles nature had implanted in the patron.

Craigengelt had never forgiven the scorn with which Ravenswood had torn
the mask of courage and honesty from his countenance; and to exasperate
Bucklaw's resentment against him was the safest mode of revenge which
occurred to his cowardly, yet cunning and malignant, disposition.

He brought up on all occasions the story of the challenge which
Ravenswood had declined to accept, and endeavoured, by every possible
insinuation, to make his patron believe that his honour was concerned
in bringing that matter to an issue by a present discussion with
Ravenswood. But respecting this subject Bucklaw imposed on him, at
length, a peremptory command of silence.

"I think," he said, "the Master has treated me unlike a gentleman, and
I see no right he had to send me back a cavalier answer when I demanded
the satisfaction of one. But he gave me my life once; and, in looking
the matter over at present, I put myself but on equal terms with him.
Should he cross me again, I shall consider the old accompt as balanced,
and his Mastership will do well to look to himself."

"That he should," re-echoed Craigengelt; "for when you are in practice,
Bucklaw, I would bet a magnum you are through him before the third
pass."

"Then you know nothing of the matter," said Bucklaw, "and you never saw
him fence."

"And I know nothing of the matter?" said the dependant--"a good jest, I
promise you! And though I never saw Ravenswood fence, have I not been at
Monsieur Sagoon's school, who was the first maitre d'armes at Paris;
and have I not been at Signor Poco's at Florence, and Meinheer
Durchstossen's at Vienna, and have I not seen all their play?"

"I don't know whether you have or not," said Bucklaw; "but what about
it, though you had?"

"Only that I will be d--d if ever I saw French, Italian, or
High-Dutchman ever make foot, hand, and eye keep time half so well as
you, Bucklaw."

"I believe you lie, Craigie," said Bucklaw; "however, I can hold my own,
both with single rapier, backsword, sword and dagger, broadsword, or
case of falchions--and that's as much as any gentleman need know of the
matter."

"And the doubt of what ninety-nine out of a hundred know," said
Craigengelt; "they learn to change a few thrusts with the small sword,
and then, forsooth, they understand the noble art of defence! Now, when
I was at Rouen in the year 1695, there was a Chevalier de Chapon and I
went to the opera, where we found three bits of English birkies----" "Is
it a long story you are going to tell?" said Bucklaw, interrupting him
without ceremony.

"Just as you like," answered the parasite, "for we made short work of
it."

"Then I like it short," said Bucklaw. "Is it serious or merry?"

"Devilish serious, I assure you, and so they found it; for the Chevalier
and I----"

"Then I don't like it at all," said Bucklaw; "so fill a brimmer of
my auld auntie's claret, rest her heart! And, as the Hielandman says,
Skioch doch na skiall."

"That was what tough old Sir Even Dhu used to say to me when I was out
with the metall'd lads in 1689. 'Craigengelt,' he used to say, 'you
are as pretty a fellow as ever held steel in his grip, but you have one
fault.'"

"If he had known you as long as I have don," said Bucklaw, "he would
have found out some twenty more; but hand long stories, give us your
toast, man."

Craigengelt rose, went a-tiptoe to the door, peeped out, shut it
carefully, came back again, clapped his tarnished gold-laced hat on one
side of his head, took his glass in one hand, and touching the hilt of
his hanger with the other, named, "The King over the water."

"I tell you what it is, Captain Craigengelt," said Bucklaw; "I shall
keep my mind to myself on thse subjects, having too much respect for the
memory of my venerable Aunt Girnington to put her lands and tenements
in the way of committing treason against established authority. Bring me
King James to Edinburgh, Captain, with thirty thousand men at his back,
and I'll tell you what I think about his title; but as for running my
neck into a noose, and my good broad lands into the statutory penalties,
'in that case made and provided,' rely upon it, you will find me no such
fool. So, when you mean to vapour with your hanger and your dram-cup
in support of treasonable toasts, you must find your liquor and company
elsewhere."

"Well, then," said Craigengelt, "name the toast yourself, and be it what
it like, I'll pledge you, were it a mile to the bottom."

"And I'll give you a toast that deserves it, my boy," said Bucklaw;
"what say you to Miss Lucy Ashton?"

"Up with it," said the Captain, as he tossed off his brimmer, "the
bonniest lass in Lothian! What a pity the old sneckdrawing Whigamore,
her father, is about to throw her away upon that rag of pride and
beggary, the Master of Ravenswood!"

"That's not quite so clear," said Bucklaw, in a tone which, though it
seemed indifferent, excited his companion's eager curiosity; and not
that only, but also his hope of working himself into soem sort of
confidence, which might make him necessary to his patron, being by no
means satisfied to rest on mere sufferance, if he could form by art or
industry a more permanent title to his favour.

"I thought," said he, after a moment's pause, "that was a settled
matter; they are continually together, and nothing else is spoken of
betwixt Lammer Law and Traprain."

"They may say what they please," replied his patron, "but I know better;
and I'll give you Miss Lucy Ashton's health again, my boy."

"And I woul drink it on my knee," said Craigengelt, "if I thought the
girl had the spirit to jilt that d--d son of a Spaniard."

"I am to request you will not use the word 'jilt' and Miss Ashton's name
together," said Bucklaw, gravely.

"Jilt, did I say? Discard, my lad of acres--by Jove, I meant to
discard," replied Craigengelt; "and I hope she'll discard him like
a small card at piquet, and take in the king of hearts, my boy! But
yet----"

"But what?" said his patron.

"But yet I know for certain they are hours together alone, and in the
woods and the fields."

"That's her foolish father's dotage; that will be soon put out of the
lass's head, if it ever gets into it," answered Bucklaw. "And now fill
your glass again, Captain; I am going to make you happy; I am going to
let you into a secret--a plot--a noosing plot--only the noose is but
typical."

"A marrying matter?" said Craigengelt, and his jaw fell as he asked the
question, for he suspected that matrimony would render his situation
at Girnington much more precarious than during the jolly days of his
patron's bachelorhood.

"Ay, a marriage, man," said Bucklaw; "but wherefore droops they might
spirit, and why grow the rubies on they cheek so pale? The board will
have a corner, and the corner will have a trencher, and the trencher
will have a glass beside it; and the board-end shall be filled, and
the trencher and the glass shall be replenished for thee, if all the
petticoats in Lothian had sworn the contrary. What, man! I am not the
boy to put myself into leading-strings."

"So says many an honest fellow," said Craigengelt, "and some of my
special friends; but, curse me if I know the reason, the women could
never bear me, and always contrived to trundle me out of favour before
the honeymoon was over."

"If you could have kept your ground till that was over, you might have
made a good year's pension," said Bucklaw.

"But I never could," answered the dejected parasite. "There was my Lord
Castle-Cuddy--we were hand and glove: I rode his horses, borrowed money
both for him and from him, trained his hawks, and taught him how to lay
his bets; and when he took a fancy of marrying, I married him to Katie
Glegg, whom I thought myself as sure of as man could be of woman. Egad,
she had me out of the house, as if I had run on wheels, within the first
fortnight!"

"Well!" replied Bucklaw, "I think I have nothing of Castle-Cuddy about
me, or Lucy of Katie Glegg. But you see the thing will go on whether you
like it or no; the only question is, will you be useful?"

"Useful!" exclaimed the Captain, "and to thee, my lad of lands, my
darling boy, whom I would tramp barefooted through the world for! Name
time, place, mode, and circumstances, and see if I will not be useful in
all uses that can be devised."

"Why, then, you must ride two hundred miles for me," said the patron.

"A thousand, and call them a flea's leap," answered the dependant; "I'll
cause saddle my horse directly."

"Better stay till you know where you are to go, and what you are to
do," quoth Bucklaw. "You know I have a kinswoman in Northumberland, Lady
Blenkensop by name, whose old acquaintance I had the misfortune to lose
in the period of my poverty, but the light of whose countenance shone
forth upon me when the sun of my prosperity began to arise."

"D--n all such double-faced jades!" exclaimed Craigengelt, heroically;
"this I will say for John Craigengelt, that he is his friend's friend
through good report and bad report, poverty and riches; and you know
something of that yourself, Bucklaw."

"I have not forgot your merits," said his patron; "I do remember that,
in my extremities, you had a mind to CRIMP me for the service of the
French king, or of the Pretender; and, moreover, that you afterwards
lent me a score of pieces, when, as I firmly believe, you had heard the
news that old Lady Girnington had a touch of the dead palsy. But don't
be downcast, John; I believe, after all, you like me very well in your
way, and it is my misfortune to have no better counsellor at present.
To return to this Lady Blenkensop, you must know, she is a close
confederate of Duchess Sarah."

"What! of Sall Jennings?" exclaimed Craigengelt; "then she must be a
good one."

"Hold your tongue, and keep your Tory rants to yourself, if it be
possible," said Bucklaw. "I tell you, that through the Duchess of
Marlborough has this Northumbrian cousin of mine become a crony of Lady
Ashton, the Keeper's wife, or, I may say, the Lord Keeper's Lady Keeper,
and she has favoured Lady Blenkensop with a visit on her return from
London, and is just now at her old mansion-house on the banks fo the
Wansbeck. Now, sir, as it has been the use and wont of these ladies to
consider their husbands as of no importance in the management of their
own families, it has been their present pleasure, without consulting
Sir William Ashton, to put on the tapis a matrimonial alliance, to be
concluded between Lucy Ashton and my own right honourable self, Lady
Ashton acting as self-constituted plenipotentiary on the part of her
daughter and husband, and Mother Blenkensop, equally unaccredited, doing
me the honour to be my representative. You may suppose I was a little
astonished when I found that a treaty, in which I was so considerably
interested, had advanced a good way before I was even consulted."

"Capot me! if I think that was according to the rules of the game," said
his confidant; "and pray, what answer did you return?"

"Why, my first thought was to send the treaty to the devil, and the
negotiators along with it, for a couple of meddling old women; my next
was to laugh very hearily; and my third and last was a settled opinion
that the thing was reasonable, and would suit me well enough."

"Why, I thought you had never seen the wench but once, and then she had
her riding-mask on; I am sure you told me so."

"Ay, but I liked her very well then. And Ravenswood's dirty usage of
me--shutting me out of doors to dine with the lackeys, because he
had the Lord Keeper, forsooth, and his daughter, to be guests in his
beggarly castle of starvation,--d--n me, Craigengelt, if I ever forgive
him till I play him as good a trick!"

"No more you should, if you are a lad of mettle," said Craigengelt, the
matter now taking a turn in which he could sympathise; "and if you carry
this wench from him, it will break his heart."

"That it will not," said Bucklaw; "his heart is all steeled over with
reason and philosophy, things that you, Craigie, know nothing about
more than myself, God help me. But it will break his pride, though, and
that's what I'm driving at."

"Distance me!" said Craigengelt, "but I know the reason now of his
unmannerly behaviour at his old tumble-down tower yonder. Ashamed of
your company?--no, no! Gad, he was afraid you would cut in and carry off
the girl."

"Eh! Craigengelt?" said Bucklaw, "do you really think so? but no, no!
he is a devilish deal prettier man than I am." "Who--he?" exclaimed the
parasite. "He's as black as the crook; and for his size--he's a tall
fellow, to be sure, but give me a light, stout, middle-sized----"

"Plague on thee!" said Bucklaw, interrupting him, "and on me for
listening to you! You would say as much if I were hunch-backed. But as
to Ravenswood--he has kept no terms with me, I'll keep none with him; if
I CAN win this girl from him, I WILL win her."

"Win her! 'sblood, you SHALL win her, point, quint, and quatorze, my
king of trumps; you shall pique, repique, and capot him."

"Prithee, stop thy gambling cant for one instant," said Bucklaw.
"Things have come thus far, that I have entertained the proposal of my
kinswoman, agreed to the terms of jointure, amount of fortune, and so
forth, and that the affair is to go forward when Lady Ashton comes down,
for she takes her daughter and her son in her own hand. Now they want me
to send up a confidential person with some writings."

"By this good win, I'll ride to the end of the world--the very gates of
Jericho, and the judgment-seat of Prester John, for thee!" ejaculated
the Captain.

"Why, I believe you would do something for me, and a great deal for
yourself. Now, any one could carry the writings; but you will have a
little more to do. You must contrive to drop out before my Lady Ashton,
just as if it were a matter of little consequence, the residence of
Ravenswood at her husband's house, and his close intercourse with Miss
Ashton; and you may tell her that all the country talks of a visit from
the Marquis of A----, as it is supposed, to make up the match betwixt
Ravenswood and her daughter. I should like to hear what she says to all
this; for, rat me! if I have any idea of starting for the plate at all
if Ravenswood is to win the race, and he has odds against me already."

"Never a bit; the wench has too much sense, and in that belief I drink
her health a third time; and, were time and place fitting, I would drink
it on bended knees, and he that would not pledge me, I would make his
guts garter his stockings."

"Hark ye, Craigengelt; as you are going into the society of women of
rank," said Bucklaw, "I'll thank you to forget your strange blackguard
oaths and 'damme's.' I'll write to them, though, that you are a blunt,
untaught fellow."

"Ay, ay," replied Craigengelt--"a plain, blunt, honest, downright
soldier."

"Not too honest, not too much of the soldier neither; but such as thou
art, it is my luck to need thee, for I must have spurs put to Lady
Ashton's motions." "I'll dash them up to the rowel-heads," said
Craigengelt; "she shall come here at the gallop, like a cow chased by a
whole nest of hornets, and her tail over her rump like a corkscrew."

"And hear ye, Craigie," said Bucklaw; "your boots and doublet are good
enough to drink in, as the man says in the play, but they are somewhat
too greasy for tea-table service; prithee, get thyself a little better
rigged out, and here is to pay all charges."

"Nay, Bucklaw; on my soul, man, you use me ill. However," added
Craigengelt, pocketing the money, "if you will have me so far indebted
to you, I must be conforming."

"Well, horse and away!" said the patron, "so soon as you have got your
riding livery in trim. You may ride the black crop-ear; and, hark ye,
I'll make you a present of him to boot."

"I drink to the good luck of my mission," answered the ambassador, "in a
half-pint bumper."

"I thank ye, Craigie, and pledge you; I see nothing against it but the
father or the girl taking a tantrum, and I am told the mother can wind
them both round her little finger. Take care not to affront her with any
of your Jacobite jargon."

"Oh, ay, true--she is a Whig, and a friend of old Sall of Marlborough;
thank my stars, I can hoist any colours at a pinch! I have fought as
hard under John Churchill as ever I did under Dundee or the Duke of
Berwick."

"I verily believe you, Craigie," said the lord of the mansion; "but,
Craigie, do you, pray, step down to the cellar, and fetch us up a bottle
of the Burgundy, 1678; it is in the fourth bin from the right-hand turn.
And I say, Craigie, you may fetch up half a dozen whilst you are about
it. Egad, we'll make a night on't!"

Sir Walter Scott