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Chapter 7


Things needful we have thought on; but the thing
Of all most needful--that which Scripture terms,
As if alone it merited regard,
The ONE thing needful--that's yet unconsider'd.
_The Chamberlain._

When the rest of the company had taken their departure from Master
Heriot's house, the young Lord of Glenvarloch also offered to take
leave; but his host detained him for a few minutes, until all were
gone excepting the clergyman.

"My lord," then said the worthy citizen, "we have had our permitted
hour of honest and hospitable pastime, and now I would fain delay you
for another and graver purpose, as it is our custom, when we have the
benefit of good Mr. Windsor's company, that he reads the prayers of
the church for the evening before we separate. Your excellent father,
my lord, would not have departed before family worship--I hope the
same from your lordship."

"With pleasure, sir," answered Nigel; "and you add in the invitation
an additional obligation to those with which you have loaded me. When
young men forget what is their duty, they owe deep thanks to the
friend who will remind them of it."

While they talked together in this manner, the serving-men had removed
the folding-tables, brought forward a portable reading-desk, and
placed chairs and hassocks for their master, their mistress, and the
noble stranger. Another low chair, or rather a sort of stool, was
placed close beside that of Master Heriot; and though the circumstance
was trivial, Nigel was induced to notice it, because, when about to
occupy that seat, he was prevented by a sign from the old gentleman,
and motioned to another of somewhat more elevation. The clergyman took
his station behind the reading-desk. The domestics, a numerous family
both of clerks and servants, including Moniplies, attended, with great
gravity, and were accommodated with benches.

The household were all seated, and, externally at least, composed to
devout attention, when a low knock was heard at the door of the
apartment; Mrs. Judith looked anxiously at her brother, as if desiring
to know his pleasure. He nodded his head gravely, and looked to the
door. Mrs. Judith immediately crossed the chamber, opened the door,
and led into the apartment a beautiful creature, whose sudden and
singular appearance might have made her almost pass for an apparition.
She was deadly pale-there was not the least shade of vital red to
enliven features, which were exquisitely formed, and might, but for
that circumstance, have been termed transcendently beautiful. Her long
black hair fell down over her shoulders and down her back, combed
smoothly and regularly, but without the least appearance of decoration
or ornament, which looked very singular at a period when head-gear, as
it was called, of one sort or other, was generally used by all ranks.
Her dress was of white, of the simplest fashion, and hiding all her
person excepting the throat, face, and hands. Her form was rather
beneath than above the middle size, but so justly proportioned and
elegantly made, that the spectator's attention was entirely withdrawn
from her size. In contradiction of the extreme plainness of all the
rest of her attire, she wore a necklace which a duchess might have
envied, so large and lustrous were the brilliants of which it was
composed; and around her waist a zone of rubies of scarce inferior
value.

When this singular figure entered the apartment, she cast her eyes on
Nigel, and paused, as if uncertain whether to advance or retreat. The
glance which she took of him seemed to be one rather of uncertainty
and hesitation, than of bashfulness or timidity. Aunt Judith took her
by the hand, and led her slowly forward--her dark eyes, however,
continued to be fixed on Nigel, with an expression of melancholy by
which he felt strangely affected. Even when she was seated on the
vacant stool, which was placed there probably for her accommodation,
she again looked on him more than once with the same pensive,
lingering, and anxious expression, but without either shyness or
embarrassment, not even so much as to call the slightest degree of
complexion into her cheek.

So soon as this singular female had taken up the prayer-book, which
was laid upon her cushion, she seemed immersed in devotional duty; and
although Nigel's attention to the service was so much disturbed by
this extraordinary apparition, that he looked towards her repeatedly
in the course of the service, he
could never observe that her eyes or her thoughts strayed so much as a
single moment from the task in which she was engaged. Nigel himself
was less attentive, for the appearance of this lady seemed so
extraordinary, that, strictly as he had been bred up by his father to
pay the most reverential attention during performance of divine
service, his thoughts in spite of himself were disturbed by her
presence, and he earnestly wished the prayers were ended, that his
curiosity might obtain some gratification. When the service was
concluded, and each had remained, according to the decent and edifying
practice of the church, concentrated in mental devotion for a short
space, the mysterious visitant arose ere any other person stirred; and
Nigel remarked that none of the domestics left their places, oreven
moved, until she had first kneeled on one knee to Heriot, who seemed
to bless her with his hand laid on her head, and a melancholy
solemnity of look and action. She then bended her body, but without
kneeling, to Mrs. Judith, and having performed these two acts of
reverence, she left the room; yet just in the act of her departure,
she once more turned her penetrating eyes on Nigel with a fixed look,
which compelled him to turn his own aside. When he looked towards her
again, he saw only the skirt of her white mantle as she left the
apartment.

The domestics then rose and dispersed themselves--wine, and fruit, and
spices, were offered to Lord Nigel and to the clergyman, and the
latter took his leave. The young lord would fain have accompanied him,
in hope to get some explanation of the apparition which he had beheld,
but he was stopped by his host, who requested to speak with him in his
compting-room.

"I hope, my lord," said the citizen, "that your preparations for
attending Court are in such forwardness that you can go thither the
day after to-morrow. It is, perhaps, the last day, for some time, that
his Majesty will hold open Court for all who have pretensions by
birth, rank, or office to attend upon him. On the subsequent day he
goes to Theobald's, where he is so much occupied with hunting and
other pleasures, that he cares not to be intruded on."

"I shall be in all outward readiness to pay my duty," said the young
nobleman, "yet I have little heart to do it. The friends from whom I
ought to have found encouragement and protection, have proved cold and
false--I certainly will not trouble _them_ for their countenance on
this occasion--and yet I must confess my childish unwillingness to
enter quite alone upon so new a scene."

"It is bold of a mechanic like me to make such an offer to a
nobleman," said Heriot; "but I must attend at Court to-morrow. I can
accompany you as far as the presence-chamber, from my privilege as
being of the household. I can facilitate your entrance, should you
find difficulty, and I can point out the proper manner and time of
approaching the king. But I do not know," he added, smiling, "whether
these little advantages will not be overbalanced by the incongruity of
a nobleman receiving them from the hands of an old smith."

"From the hands rather of the only friend I have found in London,"
said Nigel, offering his hand.

"Nay, if you think of the matter in that way," replied the honest
citizen, "there is no more to be said--I will come for you to-morrow,
with a barge proper to the occasion.--But remember, my good young
lord, that I do not, like some men of my degree, wish to take
opportunity to step beyond it, and associate with my superiors in
rank, and therefore do not fear to mortify my presumption, by
suffering me to keep my distance in the presence, and where it is
fitting for both of us to separate; and for what remains, most truly
happy shall I be in proving of service to the son of my ancient
patron."

The style of conversation led so far from the point which had
interested the young nobleman's curiosity, that there was no returning
to it that night. He therefore exchanged thanks and greetings with
George Heriot, and took his leave, promising to be equipped and in
readiness to embark with him on the second successive morning at ten
o'clock.

The generation of linkboys, celebrated by Count Anthony Hamilton, as
peculiar to London, had already, in the reign of James I., begun their
functions, and the service of one of them with his smoky torch, had
been secured to light the young Scottish lord and his follower to
their lodgings, which, though better acquainted than formerly with the
city, they might in the dark have run some danger of missing. This
gave the ingenious Mr. Moniplies an opportunity of gathering close up
to his master, after he had gone through the form of slipping his left
arm into the handles of his buckler, and loosening his broadsword in
the sheath, that he might be ready for whatever should befall.

"If it were not for the wine and the good cheer which we have had in
yonder old man's house, my lord," said this sapient follower, "and
that I ken him by report to be a just living man in many respects, and
a real Edinburgh gutterblood, I should have been well pleased to have
seen how his feet were shaped, and whether he had not a cloven cloot
under the braw roses and cordovan shoon of his."

"Why, you rascal," answered Nigel, "you have been too kindly treated,
and now that you have filled your ravenous stomach, you are railing on
the good gentleman that relieved you."

"Under favour, no, my lord," said Moniplies,--"I would only like to
see something mair about him. I have eaten his meat, it is true--more
shame that the like of him should have meat to give, when your
lordship and me could scarce have gotten, on our own account, brose
and a bear bannock--I have drunk his wine, too."

"I see you have," replied his master, "a great deal more than you
should have done."

"Under your patience, my lord," said Moniplies, "you are pleased to
say that, because I crushed a quart with that jolly boy Jenkin, as
they call the 'prentice boy, and that was out of mere acknowledgment
for his former kindness--I own that I, moreover, sung the good old
song of Elsie Marley, so as they never heard it chanted in their
lives----"

And withal (as John Bunyan says) as they went on their way, he sung--

"O, do ye ken Elsie Marley, honey--
The wife that sells the barley, honey?
For Elsie Marley's grown sae fine,
She winna get up to feed the swine.--
O, do ye ken----"

Here in mid career was the songster interrupted by the stern gripe of
his master, who threatened to baton him to death if he brought the
city-watch upon them by his ill-timed melody.

"I crave pardon, my lord--I humbly crave pardon--only when I think of
that Jen Win, as they call him, I can hardly help humming--'O, do ye
ken'--But I crave your honour's pardon, and will be totally dumb, if
you command me so."

"No, sirrah!" said Nigel, "talk on, for I well know you would say and
suffer more under pretence of holding your peace, than when you get an
unbridled license. How is it, then? What have you to say against
Master Heriot?"

It seems more than probable, that in permitting this license, the
young lord hoped his attendant would stumble upon the subject of the
young lady who had appeared at prayers in a manner so mysterious. But
whether this was the case, or whether he merely desired that Moniplies
should utter, in a subdued and under tone of voice, those spirits
which might otherwise have vented themselves in obstreperous song, it
is certain he permitted his attendant to proceed with his story in his
own way.

"And therefore," said the orator, availing himself of his immunity, "I
would like to ken what sort of carle this Maister Heriot is. He hath
supplied your lordship with wealth of gold, as I can understand; and
if he has, I make it for certain he hath had his ain end in it,
according to the fashion of the world. Now, had your lordship your own
good lands at your guiding, doubtless this person, with most of his
craft--goldsmiths they call themselves--I say usurers--wad be glad to
exchange so many pounds of African dust, by whilk I understand gold,
against so many fair acres, and hundreds of acres, of broad Scottish
land."

"But you know I have no land," said the young lord, "at least none
that can be affected by any debt which I can at present become obliged
for--I think you need not have reminded me of that."

"True, my lord, most true; and, as your lordship says, open to the
meanest capacity, without any unnecessary expositions. Now, therefore,
my lord, unless Maister George Heriot has something mair to allege as
a motive for his liberality, vera different from the possession of
your estate--and moreover, as he could gain little by the capture of
your body, wherefore should it not be your soul that he is in pursuit
of?"

"My soul, you rascal!" said the young lord; "what good should my soul
do him?"

"What do I ken about that?" said Moniplies; "they go about roaring and
seeking whom they may devour--doubtless, they like the food that they
rage so much about--and, my lord, they say," added Moniplies, drawing
up still closer to his master's side, "they say that Master Heriot has
one spirit in his house already."

"How, or what do you mean?" said Nigel; "I will break your head, you
drunken knave, if you palter with me any longer."

"Drunken?" answered his trusty adherent, "and is this the story?--why,
how could I but drink your lordship's health on my bare knees, when
Master Jenkin began it to me?--hang them that would not--I would have
cut the impudent knave's hams with my broadsword, that should make
scruple of it, and so have made him kneel when he should have found it
difficult to rise again. But touching the spirit," he proceeded,
finding that his master made no answer to his valorous tirade, "your
lordship has seen her with your own eyes."

"I saw no spirit," said Glenvarloch, but yet breathing thick as one
who expects some singular disclosure, "what mean you by a spirit?"

"You saw a young lady come in to prayers, that spoke not a word to any
one, only made becks and bows to the old gentleman and lady of the
house--ken ye wha she is?"

"No, indeed," answered Nigel; "some relation of the family, I
suppose."

"Deil a bit--deil a bit," answered Moniplies, hastily, "not a blood-
drop's kin to them, if she had a drop of blood in her body--I tell you
but what all human beings allege to be truth, that swell within hue
and cry of Lombard Street--that lady, or quean, or whatever you choose
to call her, has been dead in the body these many a year, though she
haunts them, as we have seen, even at their very devotions."

"You will allow her to be a good spirit at least," said Nigel
Olifaunt, "since she chooses such a time to visit her friends?"

"For that I kenna, my lord," answered the superstitious follower; "I
ken no spirit that would have faced the right down hammer-blow of Mess
John Knox, whom my father stood by in his very warst days, bating a
chance time when the Court, which my father supplied with butcher-
meat, was against him. But yon divine has another airt from powerful
Master Rollock, and Mess David Black, of North Leith, and sic like.--
Alack-a-day! wha can ken, if it please your lordship, whether sic
prayers as the Southron read out of their auld blethering black mess-
book there, may not be as powerful to invite fiends, as a right red-
het prayer warm fraw the heart, may be powerful to drive them away,
even as the Evil Spirit was driven by he smell of the fish's liver
from the bridal-chamber of Sara, the daughter of Raguel? As to whilk
story, nevertheless, I make scruple to say whether it be truth or not,
better men than I am having doubted on that matter."

"Well, well, well," said his master, impatiently, "we are now near
home, and I have permitted you to speak of this matter for once, that
we may have an end to your prying folly, and your idiotical
superstitions, for ever. For whom do you, or your absurd authors or
informers, take this lady?"

"I can sae naething preceesely as to that," answered Moniplies;
"certain it is her body died and was laid in the grave many a day
since, notwithstanding she still wanders on earth, and chiefly amongst
Maister Heriot's family, though she hath been seen in other places by
them that well knew her. But who she is, I will not warrant to say, or
how she becomes attached, like a Highland Brownie, to some peculiar
family. They say she has a row of apartments of her own, ante-room,
parlour, and bedroom; but deil a bed she sleeps in but her own coffin,
and the walls, doors, and windows are so chinked up, as to prevent the
least blink of daylight from entering; and then she dwells by
torchlight--"

"To what purpose, if she be a spirit?" said Nigel Olifaunt.

"How can I tell your lordship?" answered his attendant. "I thank God I
know nothing of her likings, or mislikings--only her coffin is there;
and I leave your lordship to guess what a live person has to do with a
coffin. As little as a ghost with a lantern, I trow."

"What reason," repeated Nigel, "can a creature, so young and so
beautiful, have already habitually to contemplate her bed of last-long
rest?"

"In troth, I kenna, my lord," answered Moniplies; "but there is the
coffin, as they told me who have seen it: it is made of heben-wood,
with silver nails, and lined all through with three-piled damask,
might serve a princess to rest in."

"Singular," said Nigel, whose brain, like that of most active young
spirits, was easily caught by the singular and the romantic; "does she
not eat with the family?"

"Who!--she!"--exclaimed Moniplies, as if surprised at the question;
"they would need a lang spoon would sup with her, I trow. Always there
is something put for her into the Tower, as they call it, whilk is a
whigmaleery of a whirling-box, that turns round half on the tae side
o' the wa', half on the tother."

"I have seen the contrivance in foreign nunneries," said the Lord of
Glenvarloch. "And is it thus she receives her food?"

"They tell me something is put in ilka day, for fashion's sake,"
replied the attendant; "but it's no to be supposed she would consume
it, ony mair than the images of Bel and the Dragon consumed the dainty
vivers that were placed before them. There are stout yeomen and
chamber-queans in the house, enow to play the part of Lick-it-up-a',
as well as the threescore and ten priests of Bel, besides their wives
and children."

"And she is never seen in the family but when the hour of prayer
arrives?" said the master.

"Never, that I hear of," replied the servant.

"It is singular," said Nigel Olifaunt, musing. "Were it not for the
ornaments which she wears, and still more for her attendance upon the
service of the Protestant Church, I should know what to think, and
should believe her either a Catholic votaress, who, for some cogent
reason, was allowed to make her cell here in London, or some unhappy
Popish devotee, who was in the course of undergoing a dreadful
penance. As it is, I know not what to deem of it."

His reverie was interrupted by the linkboy knocking at the door of
honest John Christie, whose wife came forth with "quips, and becks,
and wreathed smiles," to welcome her honoured guest on his return to
his apartment.

Sir Walter Scott