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Chapter 2

CHAPTER II.

IN WHICH MR. CROFTANGRY CONTINUES HIS STORY.

"What's property, dear Swift? I see it alter
From you to me, from me to Peter Walter."

"Croftangry--Croftandrew--Croftanridge--Croftandgrey for sa mony
wise hath the name been spellit--is weel known to be ane house of
grit antiquity; and it is said that King Milcolumb, or Malcolm,
being the first of our Scottish princes quha removit across the
Firth of Forth, did reside and occupy ane palace at Edinburgh,
and had there ane valziant man, who did him man-service by
keeping the croft, or corn-land, which was tilled for the
convenience of the King's household, and was thence callit Croft-
an-ri, that is to say, the King his croft; quhilk place, though
now coverit with biggings, is to this day called Croftangry, and
lyeth near to the royal palace. And whereas that some of those
who bear this auld and honourable name may take scorn that it
ariseth from the tilling of the ground, quhilk men account a
slavish occupation, yet we ought to honour the pleugh and spade,
seeing we all derive our being from our father Adam, whose lot it
became to cultivate the earth, in respect of his fall and
transgression.

"Also we have witness, as weel in holy writt as in profane
history, of the honour in quhilk husbandrie was held of old, and
how prophets have been taken from the pleugh, and great captains
raised up to defend their ain countries, sic as Cincinnatus, and
the like, who fought not the common enemy with the less valiancy
that their alms had been exercised in halding the stilts of the
pleugh, and their bellicose skill in driving of yauds and owsen.

"Likewise there are sindry honorable families, quhilk are now of
our native Scottish nobility, and have clombe higher up the brae
of preferment than what this house of Croftangry hath done,
quhilk shame not to carry in their warlike shield and insignia of
dignity the tools and implements the quhilk their first
forefathers exercised in labouring the croft-rig, or, as the poet
Virgilius calleth it eloquently, in subduing the soil, and no
doubt this ancient house of Croftangry, while it continued to be
called of that Ilk, produced many worshipful and famous patriots,
of quhom I now praetermit the names; it being my purpose, if God
shall spare me life for sic ane pious officium, or duty, to
resume the first part of my narrative touching the house of
Croftangry, when I can set down at length the evidents and
historical witness anent the facts which I shall allege, seeing
that words, when they are unsupported by proofs, are like seed
sown on the naked rocks, or like an house biggit on the flitting
and faithless sands."

Here I stopped to draw breath; for the style of my grandsire, the
inditer of this goodly matter, was rather lengthy, as our
American friends say. Indeed, I reserve the rest of the piece
until I can obtain admission to the Bannatine Club, [This Club,
of which the Author of Waverley has the honour to be President,
was instituted in February 1823, for the purpose of printing and
publishing works illustrative of the history, literature, and
antiquities of Scotland. It continues to prosper, and has
already rescued from oblivion many curious materials of Scottish
history.] when I propose to throw off an edition, limited
according to the rules of that erudite Society, with a facsimile
of the manuscript, emblazonry of the family arms surrounded by
their quartering, and a handsome disclamation of family pride,
with HAEC NOS NOVIMUS ESSE NIHIL, or VIX EA NOSTRA VOCO.

In the meantime, to speak truth, I cannot but suspect that,
though my worthy ancestor puffed vigorously to swell up the
dignity of his family, we had never, in fact, risen above the
rank of middling proprietors. The estate of Glentanner came to
us by the intermarriage of my ancestor with Tib Sommeril, termed
by the southrons Sommerville, a daughter of that noble house,
but, I fear, on what my great-grandsire calls "the wrong side of
the blanket." [The ancient Norman family of the Sommervilles
came into this island with William the Conqueror, and established
one branch in Gloucestershire, another in Scotland. After the
lapse of seven hundred years, the remaining possessions of these
two branches were united in the person of the late Lord
Sommerville, on the death of his English kinsman, the well-known
author of "The Chase."] Her husband, Gilbert, was killed
fighting, as the INQUISITIO POST MORTEM has it, "SUB VEXILLO
REGIS, APUD PRAELIUM JUXTA BRANXTON, LIE FLODDDEN-FIELD."

We had our share in other national misfortunes--were forfeited,
like Sir John Colville of the Dale, for following our betters to
the field of Langside; and in the contentious times of the last
Stewarts we were severely fined for harbouring and resetting
intercommuned ministers, and narrowly escaped giving a martyr to
the Calendar of the Covenant, in the person of the father of our
family historian. He "took the sheaf from the mare," however, as
the MS. expresses it, and agreed to accept of the terms of pardon
offered by Government, and sign the bond in evidence he would
give no further ground of offence. My grandsire glosses over his
father's backsliding as smoothly as he can, and comforts himself
with ascribing his want of resolution to his unwillingness to
wreck the ancient name and family, and to permit his lands and
lineage to fall under a doom of forfeiture.

"And indeed," said the venerable compiler, "as, praised be God,
we seldom meet in Scotland with these belly-gods and
voluptuaries, whilk are unnatural enough to devour their
patrimony bequeathed to them by their forbears in chambering and
wantonness, so that they come, with the prodigal son, to the
husks and the swine-trough; and as I have the less to dreid the
existence of such unnatural Neroes in mine own family to devour
the substance of their own house like brute beasts out of mere
gluttonie and Epicurishnesse, so I need only warn mine
descendants against over-hastily meddling with the mutations in
state and in religion, which have been near-hand to the bringing
this poor house of Croftangry to perdition, as we have shown more
than once. And albeit I would not that my successors sat still
altogether when called on by their duty to Kirk and King, yet I
would have them wait till stronger and walthier men than
themselves were up, so that either they may have the better
chance of getting through the day, or, failing of that, the
conquering party having some fatter quarry to live upon, may,
like gorged hawks, spare the smaller game."

There was something in this conclusion which at first reading
piqued me extremely, and I was so unnatural as to curse the whole
concern, as poor, bald, pitiful trash, in which a silly old man
was saying a great deal about nothing at all. Nay, my first
impression was to thrust it into the fire, the rather that it
reminded me, in no very flattering manner, of the loss of the
family property, to which the compiler of the history was so much
attached, in the very manner which he most severely reprobated.
It even seemed to my aggrieved feelings that his unprescient gaze
on futurity, in which he could not anticipate the folly of one of
his descendants, who should throw away the whole inheritance in a
few years of idle expense and folly, was meant as a personal
incivility to myself, though written fifty or sixty years before
I was born.

A little reflection made me ashamed or this feeling of
impatience, and as I looked at the even, concise, yet tremulous
hand in which the manuscript was written, I could not help
thinking, according to an opinion I have heard seriously
maintained, that something of a man's character may be
conjectured from his handwriting. That neat but crowded and
constrained small-hand argued a man of a good conscience, well-
regulated passions, and, to use his own phrase, an upright walk
in life; but it also indicated narrowness of spirit, inveterate
prejudice, and hinted at some degree of intolerance, which,
though not natural to the disposition, had arisen out of a
limited education. The passages from Scripture and the classics,
rather profusely than happily introduced, and written in a half-
text character to mark their importance, illustrated that
peculiar sort of pedantry which always considers the argument as
gained if secured by a quotation. Then the flourished capital
letters, which ornamented the commencement of each paragraph, and
the names of his family and of his ancestors whenever these
occurred in the page, do they not express forcibly the pride and
sense of importance with which the author undertook and
accomplished his task? I persuaded myself the whole was so
complete a portrait of the man, that it would not have been a
more undutiful act to have defaced his picture, or even to have
disturbed his bones in his coffin, than to destroy his
manuscript. I thought, for a moment, of presenting it to Mr.
Fairscribe; but that confounded passage about the prodigal and
swine-trough--I settled at last it was as well to lock it up in
my own bureau, with the intention to look at it no more.

But I do not know how it was, that the subject began to sit
nearer my heart than I was aware of, and I found myself
repeatedly engaged in reading descriptions of farms which were no
longer mine, and boundaries which marked the property of others.
A love of the NATALE SOLUM, if Swift be right in translating
these words, "family estate," began to awaken in my bosom--the
recollections of my own youth adding little to it, save what was
connected with field-sports. A career of pleasure is
unfavourable for acquiring a taste for natural beauty, and still
more so for forming associations of a sentimental kind,
connecting us with the inanimate objects around us.

I had thought little about my estate while I possessed and was
wasting it, unless as affording the rude materials out of which a
certain inferior race of creatures, called tenants, were bound to
produce (in a greater quantity than they actually did) a certain
return called rent, which was destined to supply my expenses.
This was my general view of the matter. Of particular places, I
recollected that Garval Hill was a famous piece of rough upland
pasture for rearing young colts, and teaching them to throw their
feet; that Minion Burn had the finest yellow trout in the
country; that Seggy-cleugh was unequalled for woodcocks; that
Bengibbert Moors afforded excellent moorfowl-shooting; and that
the clear, bubbling fountain called the Harper's Well was the
best recipe in the world on the morning after a HARD-GO with my
neighbour fox-hunters. Still, these ideas recalled, by degrees,
pictures of which I had since learned to appreciate the merit--
scenes of silent loneliness, where extensive moors, undulating
into wild hills, were only disturbed by the whistle of the plover
or the crow of the heathcock; wild ravines creeping up into
mountains, filled with natural wood, and which, when traced
downwards along the path formed by shepherds and nutters, were
found gradually to enlarge and deepen, as each formed a channel
to its own brook, sometimes bordered by steep banks of earth,
often with the more romantic boundary of naked rocks or cliffs
crested with oak, mountain ash, and hazel--all gratifying the eye
the more that the scenery was, from the bare nature of the
country around, totally unexpected.

I had recollections, too, of fair and fertile holms, or level
plains, extending between the wooded banks and the bold stream of
the Clyde, which, coloured like pure amber, or rather having the
hue of the pebbles called Cairngorm, rushes over sheets of rock
and beds of gravel, inspiring a species of awe from the few and
faithless fords which it presents, and the frequency of fatal
accidents, now diminished by the number of bridges. These
alluvial holms were frequently bordered by triple and quadruple
rows of large trees, which gracefully marked their boundary, and
dipped their long arms into the foaming stream of the river.
Other places I remembered, which had been described by the old
huntsman as the lodge of tremendous wild-cats, or the spot where
tradition stated the mighty stag to have been brought to bay, or
where heroes, whose might was now as much forgotten, were said to
have been slain by surprise, or in battle.

It is not to be supposed that these finished landscapes became
visible before the eyes of my imagination, as the scenery of the
stage is disclosed by the rising of the curtain. I have said
that I had looked upon the country around me, during the hurried
and dissipated period of my life, with the eyes, indeed, of my
body, but without those of my understanding. It was piece by
piece, as a child picks out its lesson, that I began to recollect
the beauties of nature which had once surrounded me in the home
of my forefathers. A natural taste for them must have lurked at
the bottom of my heart, which awakened when I was in foreign
countries, and becoming by degrees a favourite passion, gradually
turned its eyes inwards, and ransacked the neglected stores which
my memory had involuntarily recorded, and, when excited, exerted
herself to collect and to complete.

I began now to regret more bitterly than ever the having fooled
away my family property, the care and improvement of which I saw
might have afforded an agreeable employment for my leisure, which
only went to brood on past misfortunes, and increase useless
repining. "Had but a single farm been reserved, however small,"
said I one day to Mr. Fairscribe, "I should have had a place I
could call my home, and something that I could call business."

"It might have been managed," answered Fairscribe; "and for my
part, I inclined to keep the mansion house, mains, and some of
the old family acres together; but both Mr. -- and you were of
opinion that the money would be more useful."

"True, true, my good friend," said I; "I was a fool then, and did
not think I could incline to be Glentanner with L200 or L300 a
year, instead of Glentanner with as many thousands. I was then a
haughty, pettish, ignorant, dissipated, broken-down Scottish
laird; and thinking my imaginary consequence altogether ruined, I
cared not how soon, or how absolutely, I was rid of everything
that recalled it to my own memory, or that of others."

"And now it is like you have changed your mind?" said
Fairscribe. "Well, fortune is apt to circumduce the term upon us;
but I think she may allow you to revise your condescendence."

"How do you mean, my good friend?"

"Nay," said Fairscribe, "there is ill luck in averring till one
is sure of his facts. I will look back on a file of newspapers,
and to-morrow you shall hear from me. Come, help yourself--I
have seen you fill your glass higher."

"And shall see it again," said I, pouring out what remained of
our bottle of claret; "the wine is capital, and so shall our
toast be--"To your fireside, my good friend. And now we shall go
beg a Scots song without foreign graces from my little siren,
Miss Katie."

The next day, accordingly, I received a parcel from Mr.
Fairscribe with a newspaper enclosed, among the advertisements of
which one was marked with a cross as requiring my attention. I
read, to my surprise:--

"DESIRABLE ESTATE FOR SALE.

"By order of the Lords of Council and Session, will be exposed to
sale in the New Sessions House of Edinburgh, on Wednesday, the
25th November, 18--, all and whole the lands and barony of
Glentanner, now called Castle Treddles, lying in the Middle Ward
of Clydesdale, and shire of Lanark, with the teinds, parsonage
and vicarage, fishings in the Clyde, woods, mosses, moors, and
pasturages," etc., etc.

The advertisement went on to set forth the advantages of the
soil, situation, natural beauties, and capabilities of
improvement, not forgetting its being a freehold estate, with the
particular polypus capacity of being sliced up into two, three,
or, with a little assistance, four freehold qualifications, and a
hint that the county was likely to be eagerly contested between
two great families. The upset price at which "the said lands and
barony and others" were to be exposed was thirty years' purchase
of the proven rental, which was about a fourth more than the
property had fetched at the last sale. This, which was
mentioned, I suppose, to show the improvable character of the
land, would have given another some pain. But let me speak truth
of myself in good as in evil--it pained not me. I was only angry
that Fairscribe, who knew something generally of the extent of my
funds, should have tantalized me by sending me information that
my family property was in the market, since he must have known
that the price was far out of my reach.

But a letter dropped from the parcel on the floor, which
attracted my eye, and explained the riddle. A client of Mr.
Fairscribe's, a moneyed man, thought of buying Glentanner, merely
as an investment of money--it was even unlikely he would ever see
it; and so the price of the whole being some thousand pounds
beyond what cash he had on hand, this accommodating Dives would
gladly take a partner in the sale for any detached farm, and
would make no objection to its including the most desirable part
of the estate in point of beauty, provided the price was made
adequate. Mr. Fairscribe would take care I was not imposed on in
the matter, and said in his card he believed, if I really wished
to make such a purchase, I had better go out and look at the
premises, advising me, at the same time, to keep a strict
incognito--an advice somewhat superfluous, since I am naturally
of a retired and reserved disposition.

Sir Walter Scott

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