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 6

O I do know him--tis the mouldy lemon
Which our court wits will wet their lips withal,
When they would sauce their honied conversation
With somewhat sharper flavour--Marry sir,
That virtue's wellnigh left him--all the juice
That was so sharp and poignant, is squeezed out,
While the poor rind, although as sour as ever,
Must season soon the draff we give our grunters,
For two legg'd things are weary on't.
_The Chamberlain--A Comedy_

The good company invited by the hospitable citizen assembled at his
house in Lombard Street at the "hollow and hungry hour" of noon, to
partake of that meal which divides the day, being about the time when
modern persons of fashion, turning themselves upon their pillow, begin
to think, not without a great many doubts and much hesitation, that
they will by and by commence it. Thither came the young Nigel, arrayed
plainly, but in a dress, nevertheless, more suitable to his age and
quality than he had formerly worn, accompanied by his servant
Moniplies, whose outside also was considerably improved. His solemn
and stern features glared forth from under a blue velvet bonnet,
fantastically placed sideways on his head--he had a sound and tough
coat of English blue broad-cloth, which, unlike his former vestment,
would have stood the tug of all the apprentices in Fleet Street. The
buckler and broadsword he wore as the arms of his condition, and a
neat silver badge, bearing his lord's arms, announced that he was an
appendage of aristocracy. He sat down in the good citizen's buttery,
not a little pleased to find his attendance upon the table in the hall
was likely to be rewarded with his share of a meal such as he had
seldom partaken of.

Mr. David Ramsay, that profound and ingenious mechanic, was safely
conducted to Lombard Street, according to promise, well washed,
brushed, and cleaned, from the soot of the furnace and the forge. His
daughter, who came with him, was about twenty years old, very pretty,
very demure, yet with lively black eyes, that ever and anon
contradicted the expression of sobriety, to which silence, reserve, a
plain velvet hood, and a cambric ruff, had condemned Mistress Marget,
as the daughter of a quiet citizen.

There were also two citizens and merchants of London, men ample in
cloak, and many-linked golden chain, well to pass in the world, and
experienced in their craft of merchandise, but who require no
particular description. There was an elderly clergyman also, in his
gown and cassock, a decent venerable man, partaking in his manners of
the plainness of the citizens amongst whom he had his cure.

These may be dismissed with brief notice; but not so Sir Mungo
Malagrowther, of Girnigo Castle, who claims a little more attention,
as an original character of the time in which he flourished.

That good knight knocked at Master Heriot's door just as the clock
began to strike twelve, and was seated in his chair ere the last
stroke had chimed. This gave the knight an excellent opportunity of
making sarcastic observations on all who came later than himself, not
to mention a few rubs at the expense of those who had been so
superfluous as to appear earlier.

Having little or no property save his bare designation, Sir Mungo had
been early attached to Court in the capacity of whipping-boy, as the
office was then called, to King James the Sixth, and, with his
Majesty, trained to all polite learning by his celebrated preceptor,
George Buchanan. The office of whipping-boy doomed its unfortunate
occupant to undergo all the corporeal punishment which the Lord's
Anointed, whose proper person was of course sacred, might chance to
incur, in the course of travelling through his grammar and prosody.
Under the stern rule, indeed, of George Buchanan, who did not approve
of the vicarious mode of punishment, James bore the penance of his own
faults, and Mungo Malagrowther enjoyed a sinecure; but James's other
pedagogue, Master Patrick Young, went more ceremoniously to work, and
appalled the very soul of the youthful king by the floggings which he
bestowed on the whipping-boy, when the royal task was not suitably
performed. And be it told to Sir Mungo's praise, that there were
points about him in the highest respect suited to his official
situation. He had even in youth a naturally irregular and grotesque
set of features, which, when distorted by fear, pain, and anger,
looked like one of the whimsical faces which present themselves in a
Gothic cornice. His voice also was high-pitched and querulous, so
that, when smarting under Master Peter Young's unsparing inflictions,
the expression of his grotesque physiognomy, and the superhuman yells
which he uttered, were well suited to produce all the effects on the
Monarch who deserved the lash, that could possibly be produced by
seeing another and an innocent individual suffering for his delict.

Sir Mungo Malagrowther, for such he became, thus got an early footing
at Court, which another would have improved and maintained. But, when
he grew too big to be whipped, he had no other means of rendering
himself acceptable. A bitter, caustic, and backbiting humour, a
malicious wit, and an envy of others more prosperous than the
possessor of such amiable qualities, have not, indeed, always been
found obstacles to a courtier's rise; but then they must be
amalgamated with a degree of selfish cunning and prudence, of which
Sir Mungo had no share. His satire ran riot, his envy could not
conceal itself, and it was not long after his majority till he had as
many quarrels upon his hands as would have required a cat's nine lives
to answer. In one of these rencontres he received, perhaps we should
say fortunately, a wound, which served him as an excuse for answering
no invitations of the kind in future. Sir Rullion Rattray, of
Ranagullion, cut off, in mortal combat, three of the fingers of his
right hand, so that Sir Mungo never could hold sword again. At a later
period, having written some satirical verses upon the Lady Cockpen, he
received so severe a chastisement from some persons employed for the
purpose, that he was found half dead on the spot where they had thus
dealt with him, and one of his thighs having been broken, and ill set,
gave him a hitch in his gait, with which he hobbled to his grave. The
lameness of his leg and hand, besides that they added considerably to
the grotesque appearance of this original, procured him in future a
personal immunity from the more dangerous consequences of his own
humour; and he gradually grew old in the service of the Court, in
safety of life and limb, though without either making friends or
attaining preferment. Sometimes, indeed, the king was amused with his
caustic sallies, but he had never art enough to improve the favourable
opportunity; and his enemies (who were, for that matter, the whole
Court) always found means to throw him out of favour again. The
celebrated Archie Armstrong offered Sir Mungo, in his generosity, a
skirt of his own fool's coat, proposing thereby to communicate to him
the privileges and immunities of a professed jester--"For," said the
man of motley, "Sir Mungo, as he goes on just now, gets no more for a
good jest than just the king's pardon for having made it."

Even in London, the golden shower which fell around him did not
moisten the blighted fortunes of Sir Mungo Malagrowther. He grew old,
deaf, and peevish--lost even the spirit which had formerly animated
his strictures--and was barely endured by James, who, though himself
nearly as far stricken in years, retained, to an unusual and even an
absurd degree, the desire to be surrounded by young people.

Sir Mungo, thus fallen into the yellow leaf of years and fortune,
showed his emaciated form and faded embroidery at Court as seldom as
his duty permitted; and spent his time in indulging his food for
satire in the public walks, and in the aisles of Saint Paul's, which
were then the general resort of newsmongers and characters of all
descriptions, associating himself chiefly with such of his countrymen
as he accounted of inferior birth and rank to himself. In this manner,
hating and contemning commerce, and those who pursued it, he
nevertheless lived a good deal among the Scottish artists and
merchants, who had followed the Court to London. To these he could
show his cynicism without much offence; for some submitted to his
jeers and ill-humour in deference to his birth and knighthood, which
in those days conferred high privileges--and others, of more sense,
pitied and endured the old man, unhappy alike in his fortunes and his

Amongst the latter was George Heriot, who, though his habits and
education induced him to carry aristocratical feelings to a degree
which would now be thought extravagant, had too much spirit and good
sense to permit himself to be intruded upon to an unauthorized excess,
or used with the slightest improper freedom, by such a person as Sir
Mungo, to whom he was, nevertheless, not only respectfully civil, but
essentially kind, and even generous.

Accordingly, this appeared from the manner in which Sir Mungo
Malagrowther conducted himself upon entering the apartment. He paid
his respects to Master Heriot, and a decent, elderly, somewhat severe-
looking female, in a coif, who, by the name of Aunt Judith, did the
honours of his house and table, with little or no portion of the
supercilious acidity, which his singular physiognomy assumed when he
made his bow successively to David Ramsay and the two sober citizens.
He thrust himself into the conversation of the latter, to observe he
had heard in Paul's, that the bankrupt concern of Pindivide, a great
merchant,--who, as he expressed it, had given the crows a pudding, and
on whom he knew, from the same authority, each of the honest citizens
has some unsettled claim,--was like to prove a total loss--"stock and
block, ship and cargo, keel and rigging, all lost, now and for ever."

The two citizens grinned at each other; but, too prudent to make their
private affairs the subject of public discussion, drew their heads
together, and evaded farther conversation by speaking in a whisper.

The old Scots knight next attacked the watchmaker with the same
disrespectful familiarity.--"Davie," he said,--"Davie, ye donnard auld
idiot, have ye no gane mad yet, with applying your mathematical
science, as ye call it, to the book of Apocalypse? I expected to have
heard ye make out the sign of the beast, as clear as a tout on a
bawbee whistle."

"Why, Sir Mungo," said the mechanist, after making an effort to recall
to his recollection what had been said to him, and by whom, "it may
be, that ye are nearer the mark than ye are yoursell aware of; for,
taking the ten horns o' the beast, ye may easily estimate by your

"My digits! you d--d auld, rusty, good-for-nothing time-piece!"
exclaimed Sir Mungo, while, betwixt jest and earnest, he laid on his
hilt his hand, or rather his claw, (for Sir Rullion's broadsword has
abridged it into that form,)--"D'ye mean to upbraid me with my

Master Heriot interfered. "I cannot persuade our friend David," he
said, "that scriptural prophecies are intended to remain in obscurity,
until their unexpected accomplishment shall make, as in former days,
that fulfilled which was written. But you must not exert your knightly
valour on him for all that."

"By my saul, and it would be throwing it away," said Sir Mungo,
laughing. "I would as soon set out, with hound and horn, to hunt a
sturdied sheep; for he is in a doze again, and up to the chin in
numerals, quotients, and dividends.--Mistress Margaret, my pretty
honey," for the beauty of the young citizen made even Sir Mungo
Malagrowther's grim features relax themselves a little, "is your
father always as entertaining as he seems just now?"

Mistress Margaret simpered, bridled, looked to either side, then
straight before her; and, having assumed all the airs of bashful
embarrassment and timidity which were necessary, as she thought, to
cover a certain shrewd readiness which really belonged to her
character, at length replied: "That indeed her father was very
thoughtful, but she had heard that he took the habit of mind from her

"Your grandfather!" said Sir Mungo,--after doubting if he had heard
her aright,--"Said she her grandfather! The lassie is distraught!--I
ken nae wench on this side of Temple Bar that is derived from so
distant a relation."

"She has got a godfather, however, Sir Mungo," said George Heriot,
again interfering; "and I hope you will allow him interest enough with
you, to request you will not put his pretty godchild to so deep a

"The better--the better," said Sir Mungo. "It is a credit to her,
that, bred and born within the sound of Bow-bell, she can blush for
any thing; and, by my saul, Master George," he continued, chucking the
irritated and reluctant damsel under the chin, "she is bonny enough to
make amends for her lack of ancestry--at least, in such a region as
Cheapside, where, d'ye mind me, the kettle cannot call the porridge-

The damsel blushed, but not so angrily as before. Master George Heriot
hastened to interrupt the conclusion of Sir Mungo's homely proverb, by
introducing him personally to Lord Nigel.

Sir Mungo could not at first understand what his host said,--"Bread of
Heaven, wha say ye, man?"

Upon the name of Nigel Olifaunt, Lord Glenvarloch, being again
hollowed into his ear, he drew up, and, regarding his entertainer with
some austerity, rebuked him for not making persons of quality
acquainted with each other, that they might exchange courtesies before
they mingled with other folks. He then made as handsome and courtly a
congee to his new acquaintance as a man maimed in foot and hand could
do; and, observing he had known my lord, his father, bid him welcome
to London, and hoped he should see him at Court.

Nigel in an instant comprehended, as well from Sir Mungo's manner, as
from a strict compression of their entertainer's lips, which intimated
the suppression of a desire to laugh, that he was dealing with an
original of no ordinary description, and accordingly, returned his
courtesy with suitable punctiliousness. Sir Mungo, in the meanwhile,
gazed on him with much earnestness; and, as the contemplation of
natural advantages was as odious to him as that of wealth, or other
adventitious benefits, he had no sooner completely perused the
handsome form and good features of the young lord, than like one of
the comforters of the man of Uz, he drew close up to him, to enlarge
on the former grandeur of the Lords of Glenvarloch, and the regret
with which he had heard, that their representative was not likely to
possess the domains of his ancestry. Anon, he enlarged upon the
beauties of the principal mansion of Glenvarloch--the commanding site
of the old castle--the noble expanse of the lake, stocked with
wildfowl for hawking--the commanding screen of forest, terminating in
a mountain-ridge abounding with deer--and all the other advantages of
that fine and ancient barony, till Nigel, in spite of every effort to
the contrary, was unwillingly obliged to sigh.

Sir Mungo, skilful in discerning when the withers of those he
conversed with were wrung, observed that his new acquaintance winced,
and would willingly have pressed the discussion; but the cook's
impatient knock upon the dresser with the haft of his dudgeon-knife,
now gave a signal loud enough to be heard from the top of the house to
the bottom, summoning, at the same time, the serving-men to place the
dinner upon the table, and the guests to partake of it.

Sir Mungo, who was an admirer of good cheer,--a taste which, by the
way, might have some weight in reconciling his dignity to these city
visits,--was tolled off by the sound, and left Nigel and the other
guests in peace, until his anxiety to arrange himself in his due place
of pre-eminence at the genial board was duly gratified. Here, seated
on the left hand of Aunt Judith, he beheld Nigel occupy the station of
yet higher honour on the right, dividing that matron from pretty
Mistress Margaret; but he saw this with the more patience, that there
stood betwixt him and the young lord a superb larded capon.

The dinner proceeded according to the form of the times. All was
excellent of the kind; and, besides the Scottish cheer promised, the
board displayed beef and pudding, the statutory dainties of Old
England. A small cupboard of plate, very choicely and beautifully
wrought, did not escape the compliments of some of the company, and an
oblique sneer from Sir Mungo, as intimating the owner's excellence in
his own mechanical craft.

"I am not ashamed of the workmanship, Sir Mungo," said the honest
citizen. "They say, a good cook knows how to lick his own fingers;
and, methinks, it were unseemly that I, who have furnished half the
cupboards in broad Britain, should have my own covered with paltry

The blessing of the clergyman now left the guests at liberty to attack
what was placed before them; and the meal went forward with great
decorum, until Aunt Judith, in farther recommendation of the capon,
assured her company that it was of a celebrated breed of poultry,
which she had herself brought from Scotland.

"Then, like some of his countrymen, madam," said the pitiless Sir
Mungo, not without a glance towards his landlord, "he has been well
larded in England."

"There are some others of his countrymen," answered Master Heriot, "to
whom all the lard in England has not been able to render that good

Sir Mungo sneered and reddened, the rest of the company laughed; and
the satirist, who had his reasons for not coming to extremity with
Master George, was silent for the rest of the dinner.

The dishes were exchanged for confections, and wine of the highest
quality and flavour; and Nigel saw the entertainments of the
wealthiest burgomasters, which he had witnessed abroad, fairly
outshone by the hospitality of a London citizen. Yet there was nothing
ostentatious, or which seemed inconsistent with the degree of an
opulent burgher.

While the collation proceeded, Nigel, according to the good-breeding
of the time, addressed his discourse principally to Mrs. Judith, whom
he found to be a woman of a strong Scottish understanding, more
inclined towards the Puritans than was her brother George, (for in
that relation she stood to him, though he always called her aunt,)
attached to him in the strongest degree, and sedulously attentive to
all his comforts. As the conversation of this good dame was neither
lively nor fascinating, the young lord naturally addressed himself
next to the old horologer's very pretty daughter, who sat upon his
left hand. From her, however, there was no extracting any reply beyond
the measure of a monosyllable; and when the young gallant had said the
best and most complaisant things which his courtesy supplied, the
smile that mantled upon her pretty mouth was so slight and evanescent,
as scarce to be discernible.

Nigel was beginning to tire of his company, for the old citizens were
speaking with his host of commercial matters in language to him
totally unintelligible, when Sir Mungo Malagrowther suddenly summoned
their attention.

That amiable personage had for some time withdrawn from the company
into the recess of a projecting window, so formed and placed as to
command a view of the door of the house, and of the street. This
situation was probably preferred by Sir Mungo on account of the number
of objects which the streets of a metropolis usually offer, of a kind
congenial to the thoughts of a splenetic man. What he had hitherto
seen passing there, was probably of little consequence; but now a
trampling of horse was heard without, and the knight suddenly
exclaimed,--"By my faith, Master George, you had better go look to
shop; for here comes Knighton, the Duke of Buckingham's groom, and two
fellows after him, as if he were my Lord Duke himself."

"My cash-keeper is below," said Heriot, without disturbing himself,
"and he will let me know if his Grace's commands require my immediate

"Umph!--cash-keeper?" muttered Sir Mungo to himself; "he would have
had an easy office when I first kend ye.--But," said he, speaking
aloud, "will you not come to the window, at least? for Knighton has
trundled a piece of silver-plate into your house--ha! ha! ha!--
trundled it upon its edge, as a callan' would drive a hoop. I cannot
help laughing--ha! ha! ha!--at the fellow's impudence."

"I believe you could not help laughing," said George Heriot, rising up
and leaving the room, "if your best friend lay dying."

"Bitter that, my lord--ha?" said Sir Mungo, addressing Nigel. "Our
friend is not a goldsmith for nothing--he hath no leaden wit. But I
will go down, and see what comes on't."

Heriot, as he descended the stairs, met his cash-keeper coming up,
with some concern in his face.--"Why, how now, Roberts," said the
goldsmith, "what means all this, man?"

"It is Knighton, Master Heriot, from the Court--Knighton, the Duke's
man. He brought back the salver you carried to Whitehall, flung it
into the entrance as if it had been an old pewter platter, and bade me
tell you the king would have none of your trumpery."

"Ay, indeed," said George Heriot--"None of my trumpery!--Come hither
into the compting-room, Roberts.--Sir Mungo," he added, bowing to the
knight, who had joined, and was preparing to follow them, "I pray your
forgiveness for an instant."

In virtue of this prohibition, Sir Mungo, who, as well as the rest of
the company, had overheard what passed betwixt George Heriot and his
cash-keeper, saw himself condemned to wait in the outer business-room,
where he would have endeavoured to slake his eager curiosity by
questioning Knighton; but that emissary of greatness, after having
added to the uncivil message of his master some rudeness of his own,
had again scampered westward, with his satellites at his heels.

In the meanwhile, the name of the Duke of Buckingham, the omnipotent
favourite both of the king and the Prince of Wales, had struck some
anxiety into the party which remained in the great parlour. He was
more feared than beloved, and, if not absolutely of a tyrannical
disposition, was accounted haughty, violent, and vindictive. It
pressed on Nigel's heart, that he himself, though he could not
conceive how, nor why, might be the original cause of the resentment
of the Duke against his benefactor. The others made their comments in
whispers, until the sounds reached Ramsay, who had not heard a word of
what had previously passed, but, plunged in those studies with which
he connected every other incident and event, took up only the
catchword, and replied,--"The Duke--the Duke of Buckingham--George
Villiers--ay--I have spoke with Lambe about him."

"Our Lord and our Lady! Now, how can you say so, father?" said his
daughter, who had shrewdness enough to see that her father was
touching upon dangerous ground.

"Why, ay, child," answered Ramsay; "the stars do but incline, they
cannot compel. But well you wot, it is commonly said of his Grace, by
those who have the skill to cast nativities, that there was a notable
conjunction of Mars and Saturn--the apparent or true time of which,
reducing the calculations of Eichstadius made for the latitude of
Oranienburgh, to that of London, gives seven hours, fifty-five
minutes, and forty-one seconds----"

"Hold your peace, old soothsayer," said Heriot, who at that instant
entered the room with a calm and steady countenance; "your
calculations are true and undeniable when they regard brass and wire,
and mechanical force; but future events are at the pleasure of Him who
bears the hearts of kings in his hands."

"Ay, but, George," answered the watchmaker, "there was a concurrence
of signs at this gentleman's birth, which showed his course would be a
strange one. Long has it been said of him, he was born at the very
meeting of night and day, and under crossing and contending influences
that may affect both us and him.

'Full moon and high sea,
Great man shalt thou be;
Red dawning, stormy sky,
Bloody death shalt thou die.'"

"It is not good to speak of such things," said Heriot, "especially of
the great; stone walls have ears, and a bird of the air shall carry
the matter."

Several of the guests seemed to be of their host's opinion. The two
merchants took brief leave, as if under consciousness that something
was wrong. Mistress Margaret, her body-guard of 'prentices being in
readiness, plucked her father by the sleeve, and, rescuing him from a
brown study, (whether referring to the wheels of Time, or to that of
Fortune, is uncertain,) wished good-night to her friend Mrs. Judith,
and received her godfather's blessing, who, at the same time, put upon
her slender finger a ring of much taste and some value; for he seldom
suffered her to leave him without some token of his affection. Thus
honourably dismissed, and accompanied by her escort, she set forth on
her return to Fleet Street.

Sir Mungo had bid adieu to Master Heriot as he came out from the back
compting-room, but such was the interest which he took in the affairs
of his friend, that, when Master George went upstairs, he could not
help walking into that sanctum sanctorum, to see how Master Roberts
was employed. The knight found the cash-keeper busy in making extracts
from those huge brass-clasped leathern-bound manuscript folios, which
are the pride and trust of dealers, and the dread of customers whose
year of grace is out. The good knight leant his elbows on the desk,
and said to the functionary in a condoling tone of voice,--"What! you
have lost a good customer, I fear, Master Roberts, and are busied in
making out his bill of charges?"

Now, it chanced that Roberts, like Sir Mungo himself, was a little
deaf, and, like Sir Mungo, knew also how to make the most of it; so
that he answered at cross purposes,--"I humbly crave your pardon, Sir
Mungo, for not having sent in your bill of charge sooner, but my
master bade me not disturb you. I will bring the items together in a
moment." So saying, he began to turn over the leaves of his book of
fate, murmuring, "Repairing ane silver seal-new clasp to his chain of
office--ane over-gilt brooch to his hat, being a Saint Andrew's cross,
with thistles--a copper gilt pair of spurs,--this to Daniel Driver, we
not dealing in the article."

He would have proceeded; but Sir Mungo, not prepared to endure the
recital of the catalogue of his own petty debts, and still less
willing to satisfy them on the spot, wished the bookkeeper,
cavalierly, good-night, and left the house without farther ceremony.
The clerk looked after him with a civil city sneer, and immediately
resumed the more serious labours which Sir Mungo's intrusion had

Sir Walter Scott