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Chapter 3

CHAPTER III.

MR. CROFTANGRY, INTER ALIA, REVISITS GLENTANNER.

Then sing of stage-coaches,
And fear no reproaches
For riding in one;
But daily be jogging,
Whilst, whistling and flogging,
Whilst, whistling and flogging,
The coachman drives on. FARQUHAR.

Disguised in a grey surtout which had seen service, a white
castor on my head, and a stout Indian cane in my hand, the next
week saw me on the top of a mail-coach driving to the westward.

I like mail-coaches, and I hate them. I like them for my
convenience; but I detest them for setting the whole world a-
gadding, instead of sitting quietly still minding their own
business, and preserving the stamp of originality of character
which nature or education may have impressed on them. Off they
go, jingling against each other in the rattling vehicle till they
have no more variety of stamp in them than so many smooth
shillings--the same even in their Welsh wigs and greatcoats, each
without more individuality than belongs to a partner of the
company, as the waiter calls them, of the North Coach.

Worthy Mr. Piper, best of contractors who ever furnished four
frampal jades for public use, I bless you when I set out on a
journey myself; the neat coaches under your contract render the
intercourse, from Johnnie Groat's House to Ladykirk and Cornhill
Bridge, safe, pleasant, and cheap. But, Mr. Piper, you who are a
shrewd arithmetician, did it never occur to you to calculate how
many fools' heads, which might have produced an idea or two in
the year, if suffered to remain in quiet, get effectually addled
by jolting to and fro in these flying chariots of yours; how many
decent countrymen become conceited bumpkins after a cattle-show
dinner in the capital, which they could not have attended save
for your means; how many decent country parsons return critics
and spouters, by way of importing the newest taste from
Edinburgh? And how will your conscience answer one day for
carrying so many bonny lasses to barter modesty for conceit and
levity at the metropolitan Vanity Fair?

Consider, too, the low rate to which you reduce human intellect.
I do not believe your habitual customers have their ideas more
enlarged than one of your coach-horses. They KNOWS the road,
like the English postilion, and they know nothing besides. They
date, like the carriers at Gadshill, from the death of Robin
Ostler; [See Act II. Scene 1 of the First Part of Shakespeare's
Henry IV.] the succession of guards forms a dynasty in their
eyes; coachmen are their ministers of state; and an upset is to
them a greater incident than a change of administration. Their
only point of interest on the road is to save the time, and see
whether the coach keeps the hour. This is surely a miserable
degradation of human intellect. Take my advice, my good sir, and
disinterestedly contrive that once or twice a quarter your most
dexterous whip shall overturn a coachful of these superfluous
travellers, IN TERROREM to those who, as Horace says, "delight in
the dust raised by your chariots."

Your current and customary mail-coach passenger, too, gets
abominably selfish, schemes successfully for the best seat, the
freshest egg, the right cut of the sirloin. The mode of
travelling is death to all the courtesies and kindnesses of life,
and goes a great way to demoralize the character, and cause it to
retrograde to barbarism. You allow us excellent dinners, but
only twenty minutes to eat them. And what is the consequence?
Bashful beauty sits on the one side of us, timid childhood on the
other; respectable, yet somewhat feeble, old age is placed on our
front; and all require those acts of politeness which ought to
put every degree upon a level at the convivial board. But have
we time--we the strong and active of the party--to perform the
duties of the table to the more retired and bashful, to whom
these little attentions are due? The lady should be pressed to
her chicken, the old man helped to his favourite and tender
slice, the child to his tart. But not a fraction of a minute
have we to bestow on any other person than ourselves; and the
PRUT-PRUT--TUT-TUT of the guard's discordant note summons us to
the coach, the weaker party having gone without their dinner, and
the able-bodied and active threatened with indigestion, from
having swallowed victuals like a Lei'stershire clown bolting
bacon.

On the memorable occasion I am speaking of I lost my breakfast,
sheerly from obeying the commands of a respectable-looking old
lady, who once required me to ring the bell, and another time to
help the tea-kettle. I have some reason to think she was
literally an OLD-STAGER, who laughed in her sleeve at my
complaisance; so that I have sworn in my secret soul revenge upon
her sex, and all such errant damsels of whatever age and degree
whom I may encounter in my travels. I mean all this without the
least ill-will to my friend the contractor, who, I think, has
approached as near as any one is like to do towards accomplishing
the modest wish cf the Amatus and Amata of the Peri Bathous,--

"Ye gods, annihilate but time and space,
And make two lovers happy."

I intend to give Mr. P. his full revenge when I come to discuss
the more recent enormity of steamboats; meanwhile, I shall only
say of both these modes of conveyance, that--

"There is no living with them or without them."

I am, perhaps, more critical on the--mail-coach on this
particular occasion, that I did not meet all the respect from the
worshipful company in his Majesty's carriage that I think I was
entitled to. I must say it for myself that I bear, in my own
opinion at least, not a vulgar point about me. My face has seen
service, but there is still a good set of teeth, an aquiline
nose, and a quick, grey eye, set a little too deep under the
eyebrow; and a cue of the kind once called military may serve to
show that my civil occupations have been sometimes mixed with
those of war. Nevertheless, two idle young fellows in the
vehicle, or rather on the top of it, were so much amused with the
deliberation which I used in ascending to the same place of
eminence, that I thought I should have been obliged to pull them
up a little. And I was in no good-humour at an unsuppressed
laugh following my descent when set down at the angle, where a
cross road, striking off from the main one, led me towards
Glentanner, from which I was still nearly five miles distant.

It was an old-fashioned road, which, preferring ascents to
sloughs, was led in a straight line over height and hollow,
through moor and dale. Every object around me; as I passed them
in succession, reminded me of old days, and at the same time
formed the strongest contrast with them possible. Unattended, on
foot, with a small bundle in my hand, deemed scarce sufficient
good company for the two shabby-genteels with whom I had been
lately perched on the top of a mail-coach, I did not seem to be
the same person with the young prodigal, who lived with the
noblest and gayest in the land, and who, thirty years before,
would, in the same country, have, been on the back of a horse
that had been victor for a plate, or smoking aloof in his
travelling chaise-and-four. My sentiments were not less changed
than my condition. I could quite well remember that my ruling
sensation in the days of heady youth was a mere schoolboy's
eagerness to get farthest forward in the race in which I had
engaged; to drink as many bottles as --; to be thought as good a
judge of a horse as --; to have the knowing cut of --'s jacket.
These were thy gods, O Israel!

Now I was a mere looker-on; seldom an unmoved, and sometimes an
angry spectator, but still a spectator only, of the pursuits of
mankind. I felt how little my opinion was valued by those
engaged in the busy turmoil, yet I exercised it with the
profusion of an old lawyer retired from his profession, who
thrusts himself into his neighbour's affairs, and gives advice
where it is not wanted, merely under pretence of loving the crack
of the whip.

I came amid these reflections to the brow of a hill, from which I
expected to see Glentanner, a modest-looking yet comfortable
house, its walls covered with the most productive fruit-trees in
that part of the country, and screened from the most stormy
quarters of the horizon by a deep and ancient wood, which
overhung the neighbouring hill. The house was gone; a great part
of the wood was felled; and instead of the gentlemanlike mansion,
shrouded and embosomed among its old hereditary trees, stood
Castle Treddles, a huge lumping four-square pile of freestone, as
bare as my nail, except for a paltry edging of decayed and
lingering exotics, with an impoverished lawn stretched before it,
which, instead of boasting deep green tapestry, enamelled with
daisies and with crowsfoot and cowslips, showed an extent of
nakedness, raked, indeed, and levelled, but where the sown
grasses had failed with drought, and the earth, retaining its
natural complexion, seemed nearly as brown and bare as when it
was newly dug up.

The house was a large fabric, which pretended to its name of
Castle only from the front windows being finished in acute Gothic
arches (being, by the way, the very reverse of the castellated
style), and each angle graced with a turret about the size of a
pepper-box. In every other respect it resembled a large town-
house, which, like a fat burgess, had taken a walk to the country
on a holiday, and climbed to the top of all eminence to look
around it. The bright red colour of the freestone, the size of
the building, the formality of its shape, and awkwardness of its
position, harmonized as ill with the sweeping Clyde in front, and
the bubbling brook which danced down on the right, as the fat
civic form, with bushy wig, gold-headed cane, maroon-coloured
coat, and mottled silk stockings, would have accorded with the
wild and magnificent scenery of Corehouse Linn.

I went up to the house. It was in that state of desertion which
is perhaps the most unpleasant to look on, for the place was
going to decay without having been inhabited. There were about
the mansion, though deserted, none of the slow mouldering touches
of time, which communicate to buildings, as to the human frame, a
sort of reverence, while depriving them of beauty and of
strength. The disconcerted schemes of the Laird of Castle
Treddles had resembled fruit that becomes decayed without ever
having ripened. Some windows broken, others patched, others
blocked up with deals, gave a disconsolate air to all around, and
seemed to say, "There Vanity had purposed to fix her seat, but
was anticipated by Poverty."

To the inside, after many a vain summons, I was at length
admitted by an old labourer. The house contained every
contrivance for luxury and accommodation. The kitchens were a
model; and there were hot closets on the office staircase, that
the dishes might not cool, as our Scottish phrase goes, between
the kitchen and the hall. But instead of the genial smell of
good cheer, these temples of Comus emitted the damp odour of
sepulchral vaults, and the large cabinets of cast-iron looked
like the cages of some feudal Bastille. The eating room and
drawing-room, with an interior boudoir, were magnificent
apartments, the ceiling was fretted and adorned with stucco-work,
which already was broken in many places, and looked in others
damp and mouldering; the wood panelling was shrunk and warped,
and cracked; the doors, which had not been hung for more than two
years, were, nevertheless, already swinging loose from their
hinges. Desolation, in short, was where enjoyment had never
been; and the want of all the usual means to preserve was fast
performing the work of decay.

The story was a common one, and told in a few words. Mr.
Treddles, senior, who bought the estate, was a cautious, money-
making person. His son, still embarked in commercial
speculations, desired at the same time to enjoy his opulence and
to increase it. He incurred great expenses, amongst which this
edifice was to benumbered. To support these he speculated
boldly, and unfortunately; and thus the whole history is told,
which may serve for more places than Glentanner.

Strange and various feelings ran through my bosom as I loitered
in these deserted apartments, scarce hearing what my guide said
to me about the size and destination of each room. The first
sentiment, I am ashamed to say, was one of gratified spite. My
patrician pride was pleased that the mechanic, who had not
thought the house of the Croftangrys sufficiently good for him,
had now experienced a fall in his turn. My next thought was as
mean, though not so malicious. "I have had the better of this
fellow," thought I. "If I lost the estate, I at least spent the
price; and Mr. Treddles has lost his among paltry commercial
engagements."

"Wretch!" said the secret voice within, "darest thou exult in
thy shame? Recollect how thy youth and fortune was wasted in
those years, and triumph not in the enjoyment of an existence
which levelled thee with the beasts that perish. Bethink thee
how this poor man's vanity gave at least bread to the labourer,
peasant, and citizen; and his profuse expenditure, like water
spilt on the ground, refreshed the lowly herbs and plants where
it fell. But thou! Whom hast thou enriched during thy career of
extravagance, save those brokers of the devil--vintners, panders,
gamblers, and horse-jockeys?" The anguish produced by this self-
reproof was so strong that I put my hand suddenly to my forehead,
and was obliged to allege a sudden megrim to my attendant, in
apology for the action, and a slight groan with which it was
accompanied.

I then made an effort to turn my thoughts into a more
philosophical current, and muttered half aloud, as a charm to
lull any more painful thoughts to rest,--

"NUNC AGER UMBRENI SUB NOMINE, NUPER OFELLI
DICTUS ERIT NULLI PROPRIUS; SED CEDIT IN USUM
NUNC MIHI, NUNC ALII. QUOCIRCA VIVITE FORTES,
FORTIAQUE ADVERSIS OPPONITE PECTORA REBUS."

[Horace Sat.II Lib.2. The meaning will be best conveyed to the
English reader in Pope's imitation:--

"What's property, dear Swift? You see it alter
From you to me, from me to Peter Walter;
Or in a mortgage prove a lawyer's share;
Or in a jointure vanish from the heir.

* * * * * * *

"Shades, that to Bacon could retreat afford,
Become the portion of a booby lord;
And Helmsley, once proud Buckingham's delight,
Slides to a scrivener and city knight.
Let lands and houses have what lords they will,
Let us be fix'd, and our own masters still."]

In my anxiety to fix the philosophical precept in my mind, I
recited the last line aloud, which, joined to my previous
agitation, I afterwards found became the cause of a report that a
mad schoolmaster had come from Edinburgh, with the idea in his
head of buying Castle Treddles.

As I saw my companion was desirous of getting rid of me, I asked
where I was to find the person in whose hands were left the map
of the estate, and other particulars connected with the sale.
The agent who had this in possession, I was told, lived at the
town of --, which I was informed, and indeed knew well, was
distant five miles and a bittock, which may pass in a country
where they are less lavish of their land for two or three more.
Being somewhat afraid of the fatigue of walking so far, I
inquired if a horse or any sort of carriage was to be had, and
was answered in the negative.

"But," said my cicerone, "you may halt a blink till next morning
at the Treddles Arms, a very decent house, scarce a mile off."

"A new house, I suppose?" replied I.

"No, it's a new public, but it's an auld house; it was aye the
Leddy's jointure-house in the Croftangry folk's time. But Mr.
Treddles has fitted it up for the convenience of the country,
poor man, he was a public-spirited man when he had the means."

"Duntarkin a public-house!" I exclaimed.

"Ay!" said the fellow, surprised at my naming the place by its
former title; "ye'll hae been in this country before, I'm
thinking?"

"Long since," I replied. "And there is good accommodation at the
what-d'ye-call-'em arms, and a civil landlord?" This I said by
way of saying something, for the man stared very hard at me.

"Very decent accommodation. Ye'll no be for fashing wi' wine,
I'm thinking; and there's walth o' porter, ale, and a drap gude
whisky" (in an undertone)--"Fairntosh--if you call get on the
lee-side of the gudewife--for there is nae gudeman. They ca' her
Christie Steele."

I almost started at the sound. Christie Steele! Christie Steele
was my mother's body-servant, her very right hand, and, between
ourselves, something like a viceroy over her. I recollected her
perfectly; and though she had in former times been no favourite
of mine, her name now sounded in my ear like that of a friend,
and was the first word I had heard somewhat in unison with the
associations around me. I sallied from Castle Treddles,
determined to make the best of my way to Duntarkin, and my
cicerone hung by me for a little way, giving loose to his love of
talking--an opportunity which, situated as he was, the seneschal
of a deserted castle, was not likely to occur frequently.

"Some folk think," said my companion, "that Mr. Treddles might as
weel have put my wife as Christie Steele into the Treddles Arms;
for Christie had been aye in service, and never in the public
line, and so it's like she is ganging back in the world, as I
hear. Now, my wife had keepit a victualling office."

"That would have been an advantage, certainly," I replied.

"But I am no sure that I wad ha' looten Eppie take it, if they
had put it in her offer."

"That's a different consideration."

"Ony way, I wadna ha' liked to have offended Mr. Treddles. He
was a wee toustie when you rubbed him again the hair; but a kind,
weel-meaning man."

I wanted to get rid of this species of chat, and finding myself
near the entrance of a footpath which made a short cut to
Duntarkin, I put half a crown into my guide's hand, bade him
good-evening, and plunged into the woods.

"Hout, sir--fie, sir--no from the like of you. Stay, sir, ye
wunna find the way that gate.--Odd's mercy, he maun ken the gate
as weel as I do mysel'. Weel, I wad Iike to ken wha the chield
is."

Such were the last words of my guide's drowsy, uninteresting tone
of voice and glad to be rid of him, I strode out stoutly, in
despite of large stones, briers, and BAD STEPS, which abounded in
the road I had chosen. In the interim, I tried as much as I
could, with verses from Horace and Prior, and all who have lauded
the mixture of literary with rural life, to call back the visions
of last night and this morning, imagining myself settled in same
detached farm of the estate of Glentanner,--

"Which sloping hills around enclose--
Where many a birch and brown oak grows,"

when I should have a cottage with a small library, a small
cellar, a spare bed for a friend, and live more happy and more
honoured than when I had the whole barony. But the sight of
Castle Treddles had disturbed all my own castles in the air. The
realities of the matter, like a stone plashed into a limpid
fountain, had destroyed the reflection of the objects around,
which, till this act of violence, lay slumbering on the crystal
surface, and I tried in vain to re-establish the picture which
had been so rudely broken. Well, then, I would try it another
way. I would try to get Christie Steele out of her PUBLIC, since
she was not striving in it, and she who had been my mother's
governante should be mine. I knew all her faults, and I told her
history over to myself.

She was grand-daughter, I believe--at least some relative--of the
famous Covenanter of the name, whom Dean Swift's friend, Captain
Creichton, shot on his own staircase in the times of the
persecutions; [See Note 2.--Steele a Covenanter, shot by Captain
Creichton.] and had perhaps derived from her native stock much
both of its good and evil properties. No one could say of her
that she was the life and spirit of the family, though in my
mother's time she directed all family affairs. Her look was
austere and gloomy, and when she was not displeased with you, you
could only find it out by her silence. If there was cause for
complaint, real or imaginary, Christie was loud enough. She
loved my mother with the devoted attachment of a younger sister;
but she was as jealous of her favour to any one else as if she
had been the aged husband of a coquettish wife, and as severe in
her reprehensions as an abbess over her nuns. The command which
she exercised over her was that, I fear, of a strong and
determined over a feeble and more nervous disposition and though
it was used with rigour, yet, to the best of Christie Steele's
belief, she was urging her mistress to her best and most becoming
course, and would have died rather than have recommended any
other. The attachment of this woman was limited to the family of
Croftangry; for she had few relations, and a dissolute cousin,
whom late in life she had taken as a husband, had long left her a
widow.

To me she had ever a strong dislike. Even from my early
childhood she was jealous, strange as it may seem, of my interest
in my mother's affections. She saw my foibles and vices with
abhorrence, and without a grain of allowance; nor did she pardon
the weakness of maternal affection even when, by the death of two
brothers, I came to be the only child of a widowed parent. At
the time my disorderly conduct induced my mother to leave
Glentanner, and retreat to her jointure-house, I always blamed
Christie Steele for having influenced her resentment and
prevented her from listening to my vows of amendment, which at
times were real and serious, and might, perhaps, have accelerated
that change of disposition which has since, I trust, taken place.
But Christie regarded me as altogether a doomed and predestinated
child of perdition, who was sure to hold on my course, and drag
downwards whosoever might attempt to afford me support.

Still, though I knew such had been Christie's prejudices against
me in other days, yet I thought enough of time had since passed
away to destroy all of them. I knew that when, through the
disorder of my affairs, my mother underwent some temporary
inconvenience about money matters, Christie, as a thing of
course, stood in the gap, and having sold a small inheritance
which had descended to her, brought the purchase money to her
mistress, with a sense of devotion as deep as that which inspired
the Christians of the first age, when they sold all they had, and
followed the apostles of the church. I therefore thought that we
might, in old Scottish phrase, "let byganes be byganes," and
begin upon a new account. Yet I resolved, like a skilful
general, to reconnoitre a little before laying down any precise
scheme of proceeding, and in the interim I determined to preserve
my incognito.

Sir Walter Scott

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