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Chapter 26

Why flames yon far summit--why shoot to the blast
Those embers, like stars from the firmament cast?
'Tis the fire-shower of ruin, all dreadfully driven
From thine eyrie, that beacons the darkness of Heaven.


THE circumstances announced in the conclusion of the last chapter will
account for the ready and cheerful reception of the Marquis of A---- and
the Master of Ravenswood in the village of Wolf's Hope. In fact, Caleb
had no sooner announced the conflagration of the tower than the whole
hamlet were upon foot to hasten to extinguish the flames. And although
that zealous adherent diverted their zeal by intimating the formidable
contents of the subterranean apartments, yet the check only turned their
assiduity into another direction. Never had there been such slaughtering
of capons, and fat geese, and barndoor fowls; never such boiling of
"reested" hams; never such making of car-cakes and sweet scones, Selkirk
bannocks, cookies, and petticoat-tails--delicacies little known to the
present generation. Never had there been such a tapping of barrels, and
such uncorking of greybeards, in the village of Wolf's Hope. All the
inferior houses were thrown open for the reception of the Marquis's
dependants, who came, it was thought, as precursors of the shower of
preferment which hereafter was to leave the rest of Scotland dry,
in order to distil its rich dews on the village of Wolf's Hope under
Lammermoor. The minister put in his claim to have the guests of
distinction lodged at the manse, having his eye, it was thought, upon
a neighbouring preferment, where the incumbent was sickly; but Mr.
Balderstone destined that honour to the cooper, his wife, and wife's
mother, who danced for joy at the preferences thus assigned them.

Many a beck and many a bow welcomed these noble guests to as good
entertainment as persons of such rank could set before such visitors;
and the old dame, who had formerly lived in Ravenswood Castle, and
knew, as she said, the ways of the nobility, was in no whit wanting in
arranging matters, as well as circumstances permitted, according to the
etiquette of the times. The cooper's house was so roomy that each guest
had his separate retiring-room, to which they were ushered with all due
ceremony, while the plentiful supper was in the act of being placed upon
the table.

Ravenswood no sooner found himself alone than, impelled by a thousand
feelings, he left the apartment, the house, and the village, and hastily
retraced his steps to the brow of the hill, which rose betwixt the
village and screened it from the tower, in order to view the final fall
of the house of his fathers. Some idle boys from the hamlet had taken
the same direction out of curiosity, having first witnessed the arrival
of the coach and six and its attendants. As they ran one by one past the
Master, calling to each other to "Come and see the auld tower blaw up in
the lift like the peelings of an ingan," he could not but feel himself
moved with indignation. "And these are the sons of my father's vassals,"
he said--"of men bound, both by law and gratitude, to follow our steps
through battle, and fire, and flood; and now the destruction of their
liege lord's house is but a holiday's sight to them."

These exasperating reflections were partly expresssed in the acrimony
with which he exclaimed, on feeling himself pulled by the cloak: "What
do you want, you dog?"

"I am a dog, and an auld dog too," answered Caleb, for it was he who had
taken the freedom, "and I am like to get a dog's wages; but it does not
signification a pinch of sneesing, for I am ower auld a dog to learn new
tricks, or to follow a new master."

As he spoke, Ravenswood attained the ridge of the hill from which Wolf's
Crag was visible; the flames had entirely sunk down, and, to his great
surprise, there was only a dusky reddening upon the clouds immediately
over the castle, which seemed the reflection of the embers of the sunken

"The place cannot have blown up," said the Master; "we must have heard
the report: if a quarter of the gunpowder was there you tell me of, it
would have been heard twenty miles off."

"It've very like it wad," said Balderstone, composedly.

"Then the fire cannot have reached the vaults?"

"It's like no," answered Caleb, with the same impenetrable gravity.

"Hark ye, Caleb," said his master, "this grows a little too much for
my patience. I must go and examine how matters stand at Wolf's Crag

"Your honour is ganging to gang nae sic gate," said Caleb, firmly.

"And why not?" said Ravenswood, sharply; "who or what shall prevent me?"

"Even I mysell," said Caleb, with the same determination.

"You, Balderstone!" replied the Master; "you are forgetting yourself, I

"But I think no," said Balderstone; "for I can just tell ye a' about the
castle on this knowe-head as weel as if ye were at it. Only dinna pit
yoursell into a kippage, and expose yoursell before the weans, or before
the Marquis, when ye gang down-bye."

"Speak out, you old fool," replied his master, "and let me know the best
and the worst at once."

"Ou, the best and the warst is, just that the tower is standing hail and
feir, as safe and as empty as when ye left it."

"Indeed! and the fire?" said Ravenswood. "Not a gleed of fire, then,
except the bit kindling peat, and maybe a spunk in Mysie's cutty-pipe,"
replied Caleb.

"But the flame?" demanded Ravenswood--"the broad blaze which might have
been seen ten miles off--what occasioned that?"

"Hout awa'! it's an auld saying and a true--

Little's the light Will be seen far in a mirk night.

A wheen fern and horse little that I fired in the courtyard, after
sending back the loon of a footman; and, to speak Heaven's truth, the
next time that ye send or bring ony body here, let them ge gentles
allenarly, without ony fremd servants, like that chield Lockhard, to
be gledging and gleeing about, and looking upon the wrang side of ane's
housekeeping, to the discredit of the family, and forcing ane to damn
their souls wi' telling ae lee after another faster than I can count
them: I wad rather set fire to the tower in gude earnest, and burn it
ower my ain head into the bargain, or I see the family dishonoured in
the sort."

"Upon my word, I am infinitely obliged by the proposal, Caleb," said his
master, scarce able to to restrain his laughter, though rather angry at
the same time. "But the gunpowder--is there such a thing in the tower?
The Marquis seemed to know of it." "The pouther, ha! ha! ha!--the
Marquis, ha! ha! ha!" replied Caleb,--"if your honour were to brain me,
I behooved to laugh,--the Marquis--the pouther! Was it there? Ay, it was
there. Did he ken o't? My certie! the Marquis kenn'd o't, and it was the
best o' the game; for, when I couldna pacify your honour wi' a' that I
could say, I aye threw out a word mair about the gunpouther, and garr'd
the Marquis tak the job in his ain hand."

"But you have not answered my question," said the Master, impatiently;
"how came the powder there, and where is it now?"

"Ou, it came there, an ye maun needs ken," said Caleb, looking
mysteriously, and whispering, "when there was like to be a wee bit
rising here; and the Marquis, and a' the great lords of the north, were
a' in it, and mony a gudely gun and broadsword were ferried ower frae
Dunkirk forbye the pouther. Awfu' work we had getting them into the
tower under cloud o' night, for ye maun think it wasna everybody could
be trusted wi' sic kittle jobs. But if ye will gae hame to your supper,
I will tell you a' about it as ye gang down."

"And these wretched boys," said Ravenswood, "is it your pleasure they
are to sit there all night, to wait for the blowing up of a tower that
is not even on fire?"

"Surely not, if it is your honour's pleasure that they suld gang hame;
although," added Caleb, "it wadna do them a grain's damage: they wad
screigh less the next day, and sleep the sounder at e'en. But just as
your honour likes."

Stepping accordingly towards the urchins who manned the knolls near
which they stood, Caleb informed them, in an authoritative tone, that
their honours Lord Ravenswood and the Marquis of A---- had given orders
that the tower was not to be blow up till next day at noon. The boys
dispersed upon this comfortable assurance. One or two, however, followed
Caleb for more information, particularly the urchin whom he had cheated
while officiating as turnspit, who screamed, "Mr. Balderstone!--Mr.
Balderstone! then the castle's gane out like an auld wife's spunk?"

"To be sure it is, callant," said the butler; "do ye think the castle
of as great a lord as Lord Ravenswood wad continue in a bleeze, and him
standing looking on wi' his ain very een? It's aye right," continued
Caleb, shaking off his ragged page, and closing in to his Master, "to
train up weans, as the wise man says, in the way they should go, and,
aboon a', to teach them respect to their superiors."

"But all this while, Caleb, you have never told me what became of the
arms and powder," said Ravenswood.

"Why, as for the arms," said Caleb, "it was just like the bairn's

Some gaed east and some gaed west,
And some gaed to the craw's nest.

And for the pouther, I e'en changed it, as occasion served, with the
skippers o' Dutch luggers and French vessels, for gin and brandy, and is
served the house mony a year--a gude swap too, between what cheereth the
soul of man and that which hingeth it clean out of his body; forbye,
I keepit a wheen pounds of it for yoursell when ye wanted to take the
pleasure o' shooting: whiles, in these latter days, I wad hardly hae
kenn'd else whar to get pouther for your pleasure. And now that your
anger is ower, sir, wasna that weel managed o' me, and arena ye far
better sorted doun yonder than ye could hae been in your ain auld ruins
up-bye yonder, as the case stands wi' us now? the mair's the pity!"

"I believe you may be right, Caleb; but, before burning down my castle,
either in jest or in earnest," said Ravenswood, "I think I had a right
to be in the secret."

"Fie for shame, your honour!" replied Caleb; "it fits an auld carle like
me weel eneugh to tell lees for the credit of the family, but it wadna
beseem the like o' your honour's sell; besides, young folk are no
judicious: they cannot make the maist of a bit figment. Now this
fire--for a fire it sall be, if I suld burn the auld stable to make it
mair feasible--this fire, besides that it will be an excuse for asking
ony thing we want through the country, or doun at the haven--this
fire will settle mony things on an honourable footing for the family's
credit, that cost me telling twenty daily lees to a wheen idle chaps
and queans, and, what's waur, without gaining credence." "That was hard
indeed, Caleb; but I do not see how this fire should help your veracity
or your credit."

"There it is now?" said Caleb; "wasna I saying that young folk had a
green judgment? How suld it help me, quotha? It will be a creditable
apology for the honour of the family for this score of years to come, if
it is weel guided. 'Where's the family pictures?' says ae meddling body.
'The great fire at Wolf's Crag,' answers I. 'Where's the family plate?'
says another. 'The great fire,' says I; 'wha was to think of plate,
when life and limb were in danger?' 'Where's the wardrobe and the
linens?--where's the tapestries and the decorements?--beds of state,
twilts, pands and testors, napery and broidered wark?' 'The fire--the
fire--the fire.' Guide the fire weel, and it will serve ye for a' that
ye suld have and have not; and, in some sort, a gude excuse is better
than the things themselves; for they maun crack and wear out, and be
consumed by time, whereas a gude offcome, prudently and creditably
handled, may serve a nobleman and his family, Lord kens how lang!"

Ravenswood was too well acquainted with his butler's pertinacity and
self-opinion to dispute the point with him any farther. Leaving Caleb,
therefore, to the enjoyment of his own successful ingenuity, he returned
to the hamlet, where he found the Marquis and the good women of the
mansion under some anxiety--the former on account of his absence, the
others for the discredit their cookery might sustain by the delay of the
supper. All were now at ease, and heard with pleasure that the fire at
the castle had burned out of itself without reaching the vaults, which
was the only information that Ravenswood thought it proper to give in
public concerning the event of his butler's strategem.

They sat down to an excellent supper. No invitation could prevail on
Mr. and Mrs. Girder, even in their own house, to sit down at table with
guests of such high quality. They remained standing in the apartment,
and acted the part of respectful and careful attendants on the company.
Such were the manners of the time. The elder dame, confident through
her age and connexion with the Ravenswood family, was less scrupulously
ceremonious. She played a mixed part betwixt that of the hostess of an
inn and the mistress of a private house, who receives guests above her
own degree. She recommended, and even pressed, what she thought best,
and was herself easily entreated to take a moderate share of the good
cheer, in order to encourage her guests by her own example. Often she
interrupted herself, to express her regret that "my lord did not eat;
that the Master was pyking a bare bane; that, to be sure, there was
naething there fit to set before their honours; that Lord Allan, rest
his saul, used to like a pouthered guse, and said it was Latin for a
tass o' brandy; that the brandy came frae France direct; for, for a' the
English laws and gaugers, the Wolf's Hope brigs hadna forgotten the gate
to Dunkirk."

Here the cooper admonished his mother-in-law with his elbow, which
procured him the following special notice in the progress of her speech:

"Ye needna be dunshin that gate, John [Gibbie]," continued the old lady;
"naebody says that YE ken whar the brandy comes frae; and it wadna be
fitting ye should, and you the Queen's cooper; and what signifies't,"
continued she, addressing Lord Ravenswood, "to king, queen, or kaiser
whar an auld wife like me buys her pickle sneeshin, or her drap
brandy-wine, to haud her heart up?"

Having thus extricated herself from her supposed false step, Dame
Loup-the-Dyke proceeded, during the rest of the evening, to supply, with
great animation, and very little assistance from her guests, the funds
necessary for the support of the conversation, until, declining any
further circulation of their glass, her guests requested her permission
to retire to their apartments.

The Marquis occupied the chamber of dais, which, in every house above
the rank of a mere cottage, was kept sacred for such high occasions as
the present. The modern finishing with plaster was then unknown, and
tapestry was confined to the houses of the nobility and superior gentry.
The cooper, therefore, who was a man of some vanity, as well as some
wealth, had imitated the fashion observed by the inferior landholders
and clergy, who usually ornamented their state apartments with hangings
of a sort of stamped leather, manufactured in the Netherlands, garnished
with trees and aminals executed in copper foil, and with many a pithy
sentence of morality, which, although couched in Low Dutch, were perhaps
as much attended to in practice as if written in broad Scotch. The
whole had somewhat of a gloomy aspect; but the fire, composed of
old pitch-barrel staves, blazed merrily up the chimney; the bed was
decorated with linen of most fresh and dazzling whiteness, which had
never before been used, and might, perhaps, have never been used at
all, but for this high occasion. On the toilette beside, stood an
old-fashioned mirror, in a fillagree frame, part of the dispersed finery
of the neighbouring castle. It was flanked by a long-necked bottle of
Florence wine, by which stood a glass enarly as tall, resembling
in shape that which Teniers usually places in the hands of his own
portrait, when he paints himself as mingling in the revels of a country
village. To counterbalance those foreign sentinels, there mounted guard
on the other side of the mirror two stout warders of Scottish lineage;
a jug, namely, of double ale, which held a Scotch pint, and a quaigh,
or bicker, of ivory and ebony, hooped with silver, the work of
John Girder's own hands, and the pride of his heart. Besides these
preparations against thirst, there was a goodly diet-loaf, or sweet
cake; so that, with such auxiliaries, the apartment seemed victualled
against a siege of two or three days.

It only remains to say, that the Marquis's valet was in attendance,
displaying his master's brocaded nightgown, and richly embroidered
velvet cap, lined and faced with Brussels lace, upon a huge leathern
easy-chair, wheeled round so as to have the full advantage of the
comfortable fire which we have already mentioned. We therefore commit
that eminent person to his night's repose, trusting he profited by the
ample preparations made for his accommodation--preparations which we
have mentioned in detail, as illustrative of ancient Scottish manners.

It is not necessary we should be equally minute in describing the
sleeping apartment of the Master of Ravenswood, which was that usually
occupied by the goodman and goodwife themselves. It was comfortably
hung with a sort of warm-coloured worsted, manufactured in Scotland,
approaching in trexture to what is now called shalloon. A staring
picture of John [Gibbie] Girder himself ornamented this dormiory,
painted by a starving Frenchman, who had, God knows how or why, strolled
over from Flushing or Dunkirk to Wolf's Hope in a smuggling dogger. The
features were, indeed, those of the stubborn, opinionative, yet sensible
artisan, but Monsieur had contrived to throw a French grace into the
look and manner, so utterly inconsistent with the dogged gravity of the
original, that it was impossible to look at it without laughing. John
and his family, however, piqued themselves not a little upon this
picture, and were proportionably censured by the neighbourhood, who
pronounced that the cooper, in sitting for the same, and yet more in
presuming to hang it up in his bedchamber, had exceeded his privilege as
the richest man of the village; at once stept beyond the bounds of his
own rank, and encroached upon those of the superior orders; and,
in fine, had been guilty of a very overweening act of vanity and
presumption. Respect for the memory of my deceased friend, Mr. Richard
Tinto, has obliged me to treat this matter at some length; but I spare
the reader his prolix though curious observations, as well upon the
character of the French school as upon the state of painting in Scotland
at the beginning of the 18th century.

The other preparations of the Master's sleeping apartment were similar
to those in the chamber of dais.

At the usual early hour of that period, the Marquis of A---- and his
kinsman prepared to resume their journey. This could not be done
without an ample breakfast, in which cold meat and hot meat, and oatmeal
flummery, wine and spirits, and milk varied by every possible mode of
preparation, evinced the same desire to do honour to their guests which
had been shown by the hospitable owners of the mansion upon the evening
before. All the bustle of preparation for departure now resounded
through Wolf's Hope. There was paying of bills and shaking of hands,
and saddling of horses, and harnessing of carriages, and distributing
of drink-money. The Marquis left a broad piece for the gratification
of John Girder's household, which he, the said John, was for some time
disposed to convert to his own use; Dingwall, the writer, assuring
him he was justified in so doing, seeing he was the disburser of
those expenses which were the occasion of the gratification. But,
notwithstanding this legal authority, John could not find in his heart
to dim the splendour of his late hospitality by picketing anything in
the nature of a gratuity. He only assured his menials he would consider
them as a damned ungrateful pack if they bought a gill of brandy
elsewhere than out of his own stores; and as the drink-money was likely
to go to its legitimate use, he comforted himself that, in this manner,
the Marquis's donative would, without any impeachment of credit and
character, come ultimately into his own exclusive possession.

While arrangements were making for departure, Ravenswood made blythe the
heart of his ancient butler by informing him, cautiously however (for
he knew Caleb's warmth of imagination), of the probably change which was
about to take place in his fortunes. He deposited with Balderstone, at
the same time, the greater part of his slender funds, with an assurance,
which he was obliged to reiterate more than once, that he himself had
sufficient supplies in certain prospect. He therefore enjoined Caleb, as
he valued his favour, to desist from all farther maneouvres against the
inhabitants of Wolf's Hope, their cellars, poultry-yards, and substance
whatsoever. In this prohibition, the old domestic acquiesced more
readily than his master expected.

"It was doubtless," he said, "a shame, a discredit, and a sin to harry
the puir creatures, when the family were in circumstances to live
honourably on their ain means; and there might be wisdom," he added, "in
giving them a while's breathing-time at any rate, that they might be the
more readily brougth forward upon his honour's future occasions."

This matter being settled, and having taken an affectionate farewell of
his old domestic, the Master rejoined his noble relative, who was now
ready to enter his carriage. The two landladies, old and young, having
received in all kindly greeting a kiss from each of their noble guests,
stood simpering at the door of their house, as the coach and six,
followed by its train of clattering horsemen, thundered out of the
village. John Girder also stood upon his threshold, now looking at his
honoured right hand, which had been so lately shaken by a marquis and
a lord, and now giving a glance into the interior of his mansion, which
manifested all the disarray of the late revel, as if balancing
the distinction which he had attained with the expenses of the

At length he opened his oracular jaws. "Let every man and woman here set
about their ain business, as if there was nae sic thing as marquis or
master, duke or drake, laird or lord, in this world. Let the house be
redd up, the broken meat set bye, and if there is ony thing totally
uneatable, let it be gien to the puir folk; and, gude mother and wife, I
hae just ae thing to entreat ye, that ye will never speak to me a single
word, good or bad, anent a' this nonsense wark, but keep a' your cracks
about it to yoursells and your kimmers, for my head is weel-nigh dung
donnart wi' it already."

As John's authority was tolerably absolute, all departed to their usual
occupations, leaving him to build castles in the air, if he had a mind,
upon the court favour which he had acquired by the expenditure of his
worldly substance.

Sir Walter Scott