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 13


Let the proud salmon gorge the feather'd hook,
Then strike, and then you have him--He will wince;
Spin out your line that it shall whistle from you
Some twenty yards or so, yet you shall have him--
Marry! you must have patience--the stout rock
Which is his trust, hath edges something sharp;
And the deep pool hath ooze and sludge enough
To mar your fishing--'less you are more careful.
_Albion, or the Double Kings._

It is seldom that a day of pleasure, upon review, seems altogether so
exquisite as the partaker of the festivity may have felt it while
passing over him. Nigel Olifaunt, at least, did not feel it so, and it
required a visit from his new acquaintance, Lord Dalgarno, to
reconcile him entirely to himself. But this visit took place early
after breakfast, and his friend's discourse was prefaced with a
question, How he liked the company of the preceding evening?

"Why, excellently well," said Lord Glenvarloch; "only I should have
liked the wit better had it appeared to flow more freely. Every man's
invention seemed on the stretch, and each extravagant simile seemed to
set one half of your men of wit into a brown study to produce
something which should out-herod it."

"And wherefore not?" said Lord Dalgarno, "or what are these fellows
fit for, but to play the intellectual gladiators before us? He of them
who declares himself recreant, should, d--n him, be restricted to
muddy ale, and the patronage of the Waterman's Company. I promise you,
that many a pretty fellow has been mortally wounded with a quibble or
a carwitchet at the Mermaid, and sent from thence, in a pitiable
estate, to Wit's hospital in the Vintry, where they languish to this
day amongst fools and aldermen."

"It may be so," said Lord Nigel; "yet I could swear by my honour, that
last night I seemed to be in company with more than one man whose
genius and learning ought either to have placed him higher in our
company, or to have withdrawn him altogether from a scene, where,
sooth to speak, his part seemed unworthily subordinate."

"Now, out upon your tender conscience," said Lord Dalgarno; "and the
fico for such outcasts of Parnassus! Why, these are the very leavings
of that noble banquet of pickled herrings and Rhenish, which lost
London so many of her principal witmongers and bards of misrule. What
would you have said had you seen Nash or Green, when you interest
yourself about the poor mimes you supped with last night? Suffice it,
they had their drench and their doze, and they drank and slept as much
as may save them from any necessity of eating till evening, when, if
they are industrious, they will find patrons or players to feed them.
[Footnote: The condition of men of wit and talents was never more
melancholy than about this period. Their lives were so irregular, and
their means of living so precarious, that they were alternately
rioting in debauchery, or encountering and struggling with the meanest
necessities. Two or three lost their lives by a surfeit brought on by
that fatal banquet of Rhenish wine and pickled herrings, which is
familiar to those who study the lighter literature of that age. The
whole history is a most melancholy picture of genius, degraded at once
by its own debaucheries, and the patronage of heartless rakes and
profligates.] For the rest of their wants, they can be at no loss for
cold water while the New River head holds good; and your doublets of
Parnassus are eternal in duration."

"Virgil and Horace had more efficient patronage," said Nigel.

"Ay," replied his countryman, "but these fellows are neither Virgil
nor Horace; besides, we have other spirits of another sort, to whom I
will introduce you on some early occasion. Our Swan of Avon hath sung
his last; but we have stout old Ben, with as much learning and genius
as ever prompted the treader of sock and buskin. It is not, however,
of him I mean now to speak; but I come to pray you, of dear love, to
row up with me as far as Richmond, where two or three of the gallants
whom you saw yesterday, mean to give music and syllabubs to a set of
beauties, with some curious bright eyes among them--such, I promise
you, as might win an astrologer from his worship of the galaxy. My
sister leads the bevy, to whom I desire to present you. She hath her
admirers at Court; and is regarded, though I might dispense with
sounding her praise, as one of the beauties of the time."

There was no refusing an engagement, where the presence of the party
invited, late so low in his own regard, was demanded by a lady of
quality, one of the choice beauties of the time. Lord Glenvarloch
accepted, as was inevitable, and spent a lively day among the gay and
the fair. He was the gallant in attendance, for the day, upon his
friend's sister, the beautiful Countess of Blackchester, who aimed at
once at superiority in the realms of fashion, of power, and of wit.

She was, indeed, considerably older than her brother, and had probably
completed her six lustres; but the deficiency in extreme youth was
more than atoned for, in the most precise and curious accuracy in
attire, an early acquaintance with every foreign mode, and a peculiar
gift in adapting the knowledge which she acquired, to her own
particular features and complexion. At Court, she knew as well as any
lady in the circle, the precise tone, moral, political, learned, or
jocose, in which it was proper to answer the monarch, according to his
prevailing humour; and was supposed to have been very active, by her
personal interest, in procuring her husband a high situation, which
the gouty old viscount could never have deserved by any merit of his
own commonplace conduct and understanding.

It was far more easy for this lady than for her brother, to reconcile
so young a courtier as Lord Glenvarloch to the customs and habits of a
sphere so new to him. In all civilised society, the females of
distinguished rank and beauty give the tone to manners, and, through
these, even to morals. Lady Blackchester had, besides, interest either
in the Court, or over the Court, (for its source could not be well
traced,) which created friends, and overawed those who might have been
disposed to play the part of enemies.

At one time, she was understood to be closely leagued with the
Buckingham family, with whom her brother still maintained a great
intimacy; and, although some coldness had taken place betwixt the
Countess and the Duchess of Buckingham, so that they were little seen
together, and the former seemed considerably to have withdrawn herself
into privacy, it was whispered that Lady Blackchester's interest with
the great favourite was not diminished in consequence of her breach
with his lady.

Our accounts of the private Court intrigues of that period, and of the
persons to whom they were intrusted, are not full enough to enable us
to pronounce upon the various reports which arose out of the
circumstances we have detailed. It is enough to say, that Lady
Blackchester possessed great influence on the circle around her, both
from her beauty, her abilities, and her reputed talents for Court
intrigue; and that Nigel Olifaunt was not long of experiencing its
power, as he became a slave in some degree to that species of habit,
which carries so many men into a certain society at a certain hour,
without expecting or receiving any particular degree of gratification,
or even amusement.

His life for several weeks may be thus described. The ordinary was no
bad introduction to the business of the day; and the young lord
quickly found, that if the society there was not always
irreproachable, still it formed the most convenient and agreeable
place of meeting with the fashionable parties, with whom he visited
Hyde Park, the theatres, and other places of public resort, or joined
the gay and glittering circle which Lady Blackchester had assembled
around her. Neither did he entertain the same scrupulous horror which
led him originally even to hesitate entering into a place where gaming
was permitted; but, on the contrary, began to admit the idea, that as
there could be no harm done in beholding such recreation when only
indulged in to a moderate degree, so, from a parity of reasoning,
there could be no objection to joining in it, always under the same
restrictions. But the young lord was a Scotsman, habituated to early
reflection, and totally unaccustomed to any habit which inferred a
careless risk or profuse waste of money. Profusion was not his natural
vice, or one likely to be acquired in the course of his education;
and, in all probability, while his father anticipated with noble
horror the idea of his son approaching the gaming-table, he was more
startled at the idea of his becoming a gaining than a losing
adventurer. The second, according to his principles, had a
termination, a sad one indeed, in the loss of temporal fortune--the
first quality went on increasing the evil which he dreaded, and
perilled at once both body and soul.

However the old lord might ground his apprehension, it was so far
verified by his son's conduct, that, from an observer of the various
games of chance which he witnessed, he came, by degrees, by moderate
hazards, and small bets or wagers, to take a certain interest in them.
Nor could it be denied, that his rank and expectations entitled him to
hazard a few pieces (for his game went no deeper) against persons,
who, from the readiness with which they staked their money, might be
supposed well able to afford to lose it.

It chanced, or, perhaps, according to the common belief, his evil
genius had so decreed, that Nigel's adventures were remarkably
successful. He was temperate, cautious, cool-headed, had a strong
memory, and a ready power of calculation; was besides, of a daring and
intrepid character, one upon whom no one that had looked even
slightly, or spoken to though but hastily, would readily have ventured
to practise any thing approaching to trick, or which required to be
supported by intimidation. While Lord Glenvarloch chose to play, men
played with him regularly, or, according to the phrase, upon the
square; and, as he found his luck change, or wished to hazard his good
fortune no farther, the more professed votaries of fortune, who
frequented the house of Monsieur le Chevalier de Saint Priest Beaujeu,
did not venture openly to express their displeasure at his rising a
winner. But when this happened repeatedly, the gamesters murmured
amongst themselves equally at the caution and the success of the young
Scotsman; and he became far from being a popular character among their
society.

It was no slight inducement to the continuance of this most evil
habit, when it was once in some degree acquired, that it seemed to
place Lord Glenvarloch, haughty as he naturally was, beyond the
necessity of subjecting himself to farther pecuniary obligations,
which his prolonged residence in London must otherwise have rendered
necessary. He had to solicit from the ministers certain forms of
office, which were to render his sign-manual effectually useful; and
these, though they could not be denied, were delayed in such a manner,
as to lead Nigel to believe there was some secret opposition, which
occasioned the demur in his business. His own impulse was, to have
appeared at Court a second time, with the king's sign-manual in his
pocket, and to have appealed to his Majesty himself, whether the delay
of the public officers ought to render his royal generosity
unavailing. But the Lord Huntinglen, that good old peer, who had so
frankly interfered in his behalf on a former occasion, and whom he
occasionally visited, greatly dissuaded him from a similar adventure,
and exhorted him quietly to await the deliverance of the ministers,
which should set him free from dancing attendance in London.

Lord Dalgarno joined his father in deterring his young friend
from a second attendance at Court, at least till he was reconciled
with the Duke of Buckingham--"a matter in which," he said, addressing
his father, "I have offered my poor assistance, without being able to
prevail on Lord Nigel to make any--not even the least--submission to
the Duke of Buckingham."

"By my faith, and I hold the laddie to be in the right on't, Malcom!"
answered the stout old Scots lord.--"What right hath Buckingham, or,
to speak plainly, the son of Sir George Villiers, to expect homage and
fealty from one more noble than himself by eight quarters? I heard him
myself, on no reason that I could perceive, term Lord Nigel his enemy;
and it will never be by my counsel that the lad speaks soft word to
him, till he recalls the hard one."

"That is precisely my advice to Lord Glenvarloch," answered Lord
Dalgarno; "but then you will admit, my dear father, that it would be
the risk of extremity for our friend to return into the presence, the
duke being his enemy--better to leave it with me to take off the heat
of the distemperature, with which some pickthanks have persuaded the
duke to regard our friend."

"If thou canst persuade Buckingham of his error, Malcolm," said his
father, "for once I will say there hath been kindness and honesty in
Court service. I have oft told your sister and yourself, that in the
general I esteem it as lightly as may be."

"You need not doubt my doing my best in Nigel's case," answered Lord
Dalgarno; "but you must think, my dear father, I must needs use slower
and gentler means than those by which you became a favourite twenty
years ago."

"By my faith, I am afraid thou wilt," answered his father.--"I tell
thee, Malcolm, I would sooner wish myself in the grave, than doubt
thine honesty or honour; yet somehow it hath chanced, that honest,
ready service, hath not the same acceptance at Court which it has in
my younger time--and yet you rise there."

"O, the time permits not your old-world service," said Lord Dalgarno;
"we have now no daily insurrections, no nightly attempts at
assassination, as were the fashion in the Scottish Court. Your prompt
and uncourteous sword-in-hand attendance on the sovereign is no longer
necessary, and would be as unbeseeming as your old-fashioned serving-
men, with their badges, broadswords, and bucklers, would be at a
court-mask. Besides, father, loyal haste hath its inconveniences. I
have heard, and from royal lips too, that when you stuck your dagger
into the traitor Ruthven, it was with such little consideration, that
the point ran a quarter of an inch into the royal buttock. The king
never talks of it but he rubs the injured part, and quotes his
_'infandum-------renovare dolorem.'_ But this comes of old fashions,
and of wearing a long Liddesdale whinger instead of a poniard of
Parma. Yet this, my dear father, you call prompt and valiant service.
The king, I am told, could not sit upright for a fortnight, though all
the cushions in Falkland were placed in his chair of state, and the
Provost of Dunfermline's borrowed to the boot of all."

"It is a lie," said the old earl, "a false lie, forge it who list!--It
is true I wore a dagger of service by my side, and not a bodkin like
yours, to pick one's teeth withal--and for prompt service--Odds nouns!
it should be prompt to be useful when kings are crying treason and
murder with the screech of a half-throttled hen. But you young
courtiers know nought of these matters, and are little better than the
green geese they bring over from the Indies, whose only merit to their
masters is to repeat their own words after them--a pack of mouthers,
and flatterers, and ear-wigs.--Well, I am old and unable to mend, else
I would break all off, and hear the Tay once more flinging himself
over the Campsie Linn."

"But there is your dinner-bell, father," said Lord Dalgarno, "which,
if the venison I sent you prove seasonable, is at least as sweet a
sound."

"Follow me, then, youngsters, if you list," said the old earl; and
strode on from the alcove in which this conversation was held, towards
the house, followed by the two young men.

In their private discourse, Lord Dalgarno had little trouble in
dissuading Nigel from going immediately to Court; while, on the other
hand, the offers he made him of a previous introduction to the Duke of
Buckingham, were received by Lord Glenvarloch with a positive and
contemptuous refusal. His friend shrugged his shoulders, as one who
claims the merit of having given to an obstinate friend the best
counsel, and desires to be held free of the consequences of his
pertinacity.

As for the father, his table indeed, and his best liquor, of which he
was more profuse than necessary, were at the command of his young
friend, as well as his best advice and assistance in the prosecution
of his affairs. But Lord Huntinglen's interest was more apparent than
real; and the credit he had acquired by his gallant defence of the
king's person, was so carelessly managed by himself, and so easily
eluded by the favourites and ministers of the sovereign, that, except
upon one or two occasions, when the king was in some measure taken by
surprise, as in the case of Lord Glenvarloch, the royal bounty was
never efficiently extended either to himself or to his friends.

"There never was a man," said Lord Dalgarno, whose shrewder knowledge
of the English Court saw where his father's deficiency lay, "that had
it so perfectly in his power to have made his way to the pinnacle of
fortune as my poor father. He had acquired a right to build up a
staircase, step by step, slowly and surely, letting every boon, which
he begged year after year, become in its turn the resting-place for
the next annual grant. But your fortunes shall not shipwreck upon the
same coast, Nigel," he would conclude. "If I have fewer means of
influence than my father has, or rather had, till he threw them away
for butts of sack, hawks, hounds, and such carrion, I can, far better
than he, improve that which I possess; and that, my dear Nigel, is all
engaged in your behalf. Do not be surprised or offended that you now
see me less than formerly. The stag-hunting is commenced, and the
prince looks that I should attend him more frequently. I must also
maintain my attendance on the duke, that I may have an opportunity of
pleading your cause when occasion shall permit."

"I have no cause to plead before the duke," said Nigel, gravely; "I
have said so repeatedly."

"Why, I meant the phrase no otherwise, thou churlish and suspicious
disputant," answered Dalgarno, "than as I am now pleading the duke's
cause with thee. Surely I only mean to claim a share in our royal
master's favourite benediction, _Beati Pacifici_."

Upon several occasions, Lord Glenvarloch's conversations, both with
the old earl and his son, took a similar turn and had a like
conclusion. He sometimes felt as if, betwixt the one and the other,
not to mention the more unseen and unboasted, but scarce less certain
influence of Lady Blackchester, his affair, simple as it had become,
might have been somehow accelerated. But it was equally impossible to
doubt the rough honesty of the father, and the eager and officious
friendship of Lord Dalgarno; nor was it easy to suppose that the
countenance of the lady, by whom he was received with such
distinction, would be wanting, could it be effectual in his service.

Nigel was further sensible of the truth of what Lord Dalgarno often
pointed out, that the favourite being supposed to be his enemy, every
petty officer, through whose hands his affair must necessarily pass,
would desire to make a merit of throwing obstacles in his way, which
he could only surmount by steadiness and patience, unless he preferred
closing the breach, or, as Lord Dalgarno called it, making his peace
with the Duke of Buckingham.

Nigel might, and doubtless would, have had recourse to the advice of
his friend George Heriot upon this occasion, having found it so
advantageous formerly; but the only time he saw him after their visit
to Court, he found the worthy citizen engaged in hasty preparations
for a journey to Paris, upon business of great importance in the way
of his profession, and by an especial commission from the Court and
the Duke of Buckingham, which was likely to be attended with
considerable profit. The good man smiled as he named the Duke of
Buckingham. He had been, he said, pretty sure that his disgrace in
that quarter would not be of long duration. Lord Glenvarloch expressed
himself rejoiced at that reconciliation, observing, that it had been a
most painful reflection to him, that Master Heriot should, in his
behalf, have incurred the dislike, and perhaps exposed himself to the
ill offices, of so powerful a favourite.

"My lord," said Heriot, "for your father's son I would do much; and
yet truly, if I know myself, I would do as much and risk as much, for
the sake of justice, in the case of a much more insignificant person,
as I have ventured for yours. But as we shall not meet for some time,
I must commit to your own wisdom the farther prosecution of this
matter."

And thus they took a kind and affectionate leave of each other.

There were other changes in Lord Glenvarloch's situation, which
require to be noticed. His present occupations, and the habits of
amusement which he had acquired, rendered his living so far in the
city a considerable inconvenience. He may also have become a little
ashamed of his cabin on Paul's Wharf, and desirous of being lodged
somewhat more according to his quality. For this purpose, he had hired
a small apartment near the Temple. He was, nevertheless, almost sorry
for what he had done, when he observed that his removal appeared to
give some pain to John Christie, and a great deal to his cordial and
officious landlady. The former, who was grave and saturnine in every
thing he did, only hoped that all had been to Lord Glenvarloch's mind,
and that he had not left them on account of any unbeseeming negligence
on their part. But the tear twinkled in Dame Nelly's eye, while she
recounted the various improvements she had made in the apartment, of
express purpose to render it more convenient to his lordship.

"There was a great sea-chest," she said, "had been taken upstairs to
the shopman's garret, though it left the poor lad scarce eighteen
inches of opening to creep betwixt it and his bed; and Heaven knew--
she did not--whether it could ever be brought down that narrow stair
again. Then the turning the closet into an alcove had cost a matter of
twenty round shillings; and to be sure, to any other lodger but his
lordship, the closet was more convenient. There was all the linen,
too, which she had bought on purpose--But Heaven's will be done--she
was resigned."

Everybody likes marks of personal attachment; and Nigel, whose heart
really smote him,, as if in his rising fortunes he were disdaining the
lowly accommodations and the civilities of the humble friends which
had been but lately actual favours, failed not by every assurance in
his power, and by as liberal payment as they could be prevailed upon
to accept, to alleviate the soreness of their feelings at his
departure; and a parting kiss from the fair lips of his hostess sealed
his forgiveness.

Richie Moniplies lingered behind his master, to ask whether, in case
of need, John Christie could help a canny Scotsman to a passage back
to his own country; and receiving assurance of John's interest to that
effect, he said at parting, he would remind him of his promise soon.--
"For," said he, "if my lord is not weary of this London life, I ken
one that is, videlicet, mysell; and I am weel determined to see
Arthur's Seat again ere I am many weeks older."


Sir Walter Scott