Marall: Sir, the man of honour's come, Newly alighted—— Overreach: In without reply, And do as I command…… Is the loud music I gave order for Ready to receive him?
New Way to pay Old Debts.
SIR WILLIAM ASHTON, although a man of sense, legal information, and great practical knowledge of the world, had yet some points of character which corresponded better with the timidity of his disposition and the supple arts by which he had risen in the world, than to the degree of eminence which he had attained; as they tended to show an original mediocrity of understanding, however highly it had been cultivated, and a native meanness of disposition, however carefully veiled. He loved the ostentatious display of his wealth, less as a man to whom habit has made it necessary, than as one to whom it is still delightful from its novelty. The most trivial details did not escape him; and Lucy soon learned to watch the flush of scorn which crossed Ravenswood's cheek, when he heard her father gravely arguing with Lockhard, nay, even with the old housekeeper, upon circumstances which, in families of rank, are left uncared for, because it is supposed impossible they can be neglected.
"I could pardon Sir William," said Ravenswood, one evening after he had left the room, "some general anxiety upon this occasion, for the Marquis's visit is an honour, and should be received as such; but I am worn out by these miserable minutiae of the buttery, and the larder, and the very hencoop——they drive me beyond my patience; I would rather endure the poverty of Wolf's Crag than be pestered with the wealth of Ravenswood Castle."
"And yet," said Lucy, "it was by attention to these minutiae that my father acquired the property——"
"Which my ancestors sold for lack of it," replied Ravenswood. "Be it so; a porter still bears but a burden, though the burden be of gold."
Lucy sighed; she perceived too plainly that her lover held in scorn the manners and habits of a father to whom she had long looked up as her best and most partial friend, whose fondness had often consoled her for her mother's contemptuous harshness.
The lovers soon discovered that they differed upon other and no less important topics. Religion, the mother of peace, was, in those days of discord, so much misconstrued and mistaken, that her rules and forms were the subject of the most opposite opinions and the most hotsile animosities. The Lord Keeper, being a Whig, was, of course, a Presbyterian, and had found it convenient, at different periods, to express greater zeal for the kirk than perhaps he really felt. His family, equally of course, were trained under the same institution. Ravenswood, as we know, was a High Churchman, or Episcopalian, and frequently objected to Lucy the fanaticism of some of her own communion, while she intimated, rather than expressed , horror at the latitudinarian principles which she had been taught to think connected with the prelatical form of church government.
Thus, although their mutual affection seemed to increase rather than to be diminished as their characters opened more fully on each other, the feelings of each were mingled with some less agreeable ingredients. Lucy felt a secret awe, amid all her affection for Ravenswood. His soul was of an higher, prouder character than those with thom she had hitherto mixed in intercourse; his ideas were more fierce and free; and he contemned many of the opinions which had been inculcated upon her as chiefly demanding her veneration. On the other hand, Ravenswood saw in Lucy a soft and flexible character, which, in his eyes at least, seemed too susceptible of being moulded to any form by those with whom she lived. He felt that his own temper required a partner of a more independent spirit, who could set sail with him on his course of life, resolved as himself to dare indifferently the storm and the favouring breeze. But Lucy was so beautiful, so devoutly attached to him, of a temper so exquisitely soft and kind, that, while he could have wished it were possible to inspire her with a greater degree of firmness and resolution, and while he sometimes became impatient of the extreme fear which she expressed of their attachment being prematurely discovered, he felt that the softness of a mind, amounting almost to feebleness, rendered her even dearer to him, as a being who had voluntarily clung to him for protection, and made him the arbiter of her fate for weal or woe. His feelings towards her at such moments were those which have been since so beautifully expressed by our immortal Joanna Baillie:
Thou sweetest thing, That e'er did fix its lightly-fibred sprays To the rude rock, ah! wouldst thou cling to me? Rough and storm-worn I am; yet love me as Thou truly dost, I will love thee again With true and honest heart, though all unmeet To be the mate of such sweet gentleness.
Thus the very points in which they differed seemed, in some measure, to ensure the continuance of their mutual affection. If, indeed, they had so fully appreciated each other's character before the burst of passion in which they hastily pledged their faith to each other, Lucy might have feared Ravenswood too much ever to have loved him, and he might have construed her softness and docile temper as imbecility, rendering her unworthy of his regard. But they stood pledged to each other; and Lucy only feared that her lover's pride might one day teach him to regret his attachment; Ravenswood, that a mind so ductile as Lucy's might, in absence or difficulties, be induced, by the entreaties or influence of those around her, to renounce the engagement she had formed.
"Do not fear it," said Lucy, when upon one occasion a hint of such suspicion escaped her lover; "the mirrors which receive the reflection of all successive objects are framed of hard materials like glass or steel; the softer substances, when they receive an impression, retain it undefaced."
"This is poetry, Lucy," said Ravenswood; "and in poetry there is always fallacy, and sometimes fiction."
"Believe me, then, once more, in honest prose," said Lucy, "that, though I will never wed man without the consent of my parents, yet neither force nor persuasion shall dispose of my hand till you renounce the right I have given you to it."
The lovers had ample time for such explanations. Henry was now more seldom their companion, being either a most unwilling attendant upon the lessons of his tutor, or a forward volunteer under the instructions of the foresters or grooms. As for the Keeper, his mornings were spent in his study, maintaining correspondences of all kinds, and balancing in his anxious mind the various intelligence which he collected from every quarter concerning the expected change of Scottish politics, and the probable strength of the parties who were about to struggle for power. At other times he busied himself about arranging, and coutermanding, and then again arranging, the preparations which he judged necessary for the reception of the Marquis of A——, whose arrival had been twice delayed by some necessary cause of detention.
In the midst of all these various avocations, political and domestic, he seemed not to observe how much his daughter and his guest were thrown into each other's society, and was censured by many of his neighbours, according to the fashion of neighbours in all countries, for suffering such an intimate connexion to take place betwixt two young persons. The only natural explanation was, that he designed them for each other; while, in truth, his only motive was to temporise and procrastinate until he should discover the real extent of the interest which the Marquis took in Ravenswood's affairs, and the power which he was likely to possess of advancing them. Until these points should be made both clear and manifest, the Lord Keeper resolved that he would do nothing to commit himself, either in one shape or other; and, like many cunning persons, he overreached himself deplorably.
Amongst those who had been disposed to censure, with the greatest severity, the conduct of Sir William Ashton, in permitting the prolonged residence of Ravenswood under his roof, and his constant attendance on Miss Ashton, was the new Laird of Girnington, and his faithful squire and bottleholder, personages formerly well known to us by the names of Hayston and Bucklaw, and his companion Captain Craigengelt. The former had at length succeeded to the extensive property of his long-lived grand-aunt, and to considerable wealth besides, which he had employed in redeeming his paternal acres (by the title appertaining to which he still chose to be designated), notwithstanding Captain Craigengelt had proposed to him a most advantageous mode of vesting the money in Law's scheme, which was just then broached, and offered his services to travel express to Paris for the purpose. But Bucklaw had so far derived wisdom from adversity, that he would listen to no proposal which Craigengelt could invent, which had the slightest tendency to risk his newly- acquired independence. He that had once eat pease-bannocks, drank sour wine, and slept in the secret chamber at Wolf's Crag, would, he said, prize good cheer and a soft bed as long as he lived, and take special care never to need such hospitality again.
Craigengelt, therefore, found himself disappointed in the first hopes he had entertained of making a good hand of the Laird of Bucklaw. Still, however, he reaped many advantages from his friend's good fortune. Bucklaw, who had never been at all scrupulous in choosing his companions, was accustomed to, and entertained by, a fellow whom he could either laugh with or laugh at as he had a mind, who would take, according to Scottish phrase, "the bit and the buffet," understood all sports, whether within or without doors, and, when the laird had a mind for a bottle of wine (no infrequent circumstance), was always ready to save him from the scandal of getting drunk by himself. Upon these terms, Craigengelt was the frequent, almost the constant, inmate of the house of Girnington.
In no time, and under no possibility of circumstances, could good have been derived from such an intimacy, however its bad consequences might be qualified by the thorough knowledge which Bucklaw possessed of his dependant's character, and the high contempt in which he held it. But, as circumstances stood, this evil communication was particularly liable to corrupt what good principles nature had implanted in the patron.
Craigengelt had never forgiven the scorn with which Ravenswood had torn the mask of courage and honesty from his countenance; and to exasperate Bucklaw's resentment against him was the safest mode of revenge which occurred to his cowardly, yet cunning and malignant, disposition.
He brought up on all occasions the story of the challenge which Ravenswood had declined to accept, and endeavoured, by every possible insinuation, to make his patron believe that his honour was concerned in bringing that matter to an issue by a present discussion with Ravenswood. But respecting this subject Bucklaw imposed on him, at length, a peremptory command of silence.
"I think," he said, "the Master has treated me unlike a gentleman, and I see no right he had to send me back a cavalier answer when I demanded the satisfaction of one. But he gave me my life once; and, in looking the matter over at present, I put myself but on equal terms with him. Should he cross me again, I shall consider the old accompt as balanced, and his Mastership will do well to look to himself."
"That he should," re-echoed Craigengelt; "for when you are in practice, Bucklaw, I would bet a magnum you are through him before the third pass."
"Then you know nothing of the matter," said Bucklaw, "and you never saw him fence."
"And I know nothing of the matter?" said the dependant——"a good jest, I promise you! And though I never saw Ravenswood fence, have I not been at Monsieur Sagoon's school, who was the first maitre d'armes at Paris; and have I not been at Signor Poco's at Florence, and Meinheer Durchstossen's at Vienna, and have I not seen all their play?"
"I don't know whether you have or not," said Bucklaw; "but what about it, though you had?"
"Only that I will be d——d if ever I saw French, Italian, or High-Dutchman ever make foot, hand, and eye keep time half so well as you, Bucklaw."
"I believe you lie, Craigie," said Bucklaw; "however, I can hold my own, both with single rapier, backsword, sword and dagger, broadsword, or case of falchions——and that's as much as any gentleman need know of the matter."
"And the doublt of what ninety-nine out of a hundred know," said Craigengelt; "they learn to chanage a few thrusts with the small sword, and then, forsooth, they understand the noble art of defence! Now, when I was at Rouen in the year 1695, there was a Chevalier de Chapon and I went to the opera, where we found three bits of English birkies——" "Is it a long story you are going to tell?" said Bucklaw, interrupting him without ceremony.
"Just as you like," answered the parasite, "for we made short work of it."
"Then I like it short," said Bucklaw. "Is it serious or merry?"
"Devilish serious, I assure you, and so they found it; for the Chevalier and I——"
"Then I don't like it at all," said Bucklaw; "so fill a brimmer of my auld auntie's claret, rest her heart! And, as the Hielandman says, Skioch doch na skiall."
"That was what tough old Sir Even Dhu used to say to me when I was out with the metall'd lads in 1689. 'Craigengelt,' he used to say, 'you are as pretty a fellow as ever held steel in his grip, but you have one fault.'"
"If he had known you as long as I have don," said Bucklaw, "he would have found out some twenty more; but hand long stories, give us your toast, man."
Craigengelt rose, went a -tiptoe to the door, peeped out, shut it carefully, came back again, clapped his tarnished gold-laced hat on one side of his head, took his glass in one hand, and touching the hilt of his hanger with the other, named, "The King over the water."
"I tell you what it is, Captain Craigengelt," said Bucklaw; "I shall keep my mind to myself on thse subjects, having too much respect for the memory of my venerable Aunt Girnington to put her lands and tenements in the way of committing treason against established authority. Bring me King James to Edinburgh, Captain, with thirty thousand men at his back, and I'll tell you what I think about his title; but as for running my neck into a noose, and my good broad lands into the statutory penalties, 'in that case made and provided,' rely upon it, you will find me no such fool. So, when you mean to vapour with your hanger and your dram-cup in support of treasonable toasts, you must find your liquor and company elsewhere."
"Well, then," said Craigengelt, "name the toast yourself, and be it what it like, I'll pledge you, were it a mile to the bottom."
"And I'll give you a toast that deserves it, my boy," said Bucklaw; "what say you to Miss Lucy Ashton?"
"Up with it," said the Captain, as he tossed off his brimmer, "the bonniest lass in Lothian! What a pity the old sneckdrawing Whigamore, her father, is about to throw her away upon that rag of pride and beggary, the Master of Ravenswood!"
"That's not quite so clear," said Bucklaw, in a tone which, though it seemed indifferent, excited his companion's eager curiosity; and not that only, but also his hope of working himself into soem sort of confidence, which might make him necessary to his patron, being by no means satisfied to rest on mere sufferance, if he could form by art or industry a more permanent title to his favour.
"I thought," said he, after a moment's pause, "that was a settled matter; they are continually together, and nothing else is spoken of betwixt Lammer Law and Traprain."
"They may say what they please," replied his patron, "but I know better; and I'll give you Miss Lucy Ashton's health again, my boy."
"And I woul drink it on my knee," said Craigengelt, "if I thought the girl had the spirit to jilt that d——d son of a Spaniard."
"I am to request you will not use the word 'jilt' and Miss Ashton's name together," said Bucklaw, gravely.
"Jilt, did I say? Discard, my lad of acres——by Jove, I meant to discard," replied Craigengelt; "and I hope she'll discard him like a small card at piquet, and take in the king of hearts, my boy! But yet——"
"But what?" said his patron.
"But yet I know for certain they are hours together alone, and in the woods and the fields."
"That's her foolish father's dotage; that will be soon put out of the lass's head, if it ever gets into it," answered Bucklaw. "And now fill your glass again, Captain; I am going to make you happy; I am going to let you into a secret——a plot——a noosing plot——only the noose is but typical."
"A marrying matter?" said Craigengelt, and his jaw fell as he asked the question, for he suspected that matrimony would render his situation at Girnington much more precarious than during the jolly days of his patron's bachelorhood.
"Ay, a marriage, man," said Bucklaw; "but wherefore droops they might spirit, and why grow the rubies on they cheek so pale? The board will have a corner, and the corner will have a trencher, and the trencher will have a glass beside it; and the board-end shall be filled, and the trencher and the glass shall be replenished for thee, if all the petticoats in Lothian had sworn the contrary. What, man! I am not the boy to put myself into leading-strings."
"So says many an honest fellow," said Craigengelt, "and some of my special friends; but, curse me if I know the reason, the women could never bear me, and always contrived to trundle me out of favour before the honeymoon was over."
"If you could have kept your ground till that was over, you might have made a good year's pension," said Bucklaw.
"But I never could," answered the dejected parasite. "There was my Lord Castle-Cuddy——we were hand and glove: I rode his horses, borrowed money both for him and from him, trained his hawks, and taught him how to lay his bets; and when he took a fancy of marrying, I married him to Katie Glegg, whom I thought myself as sure of as man could be of woman. Egad, she had me out of the house, as if I had run on wheels, within the first fortnight!"
"Well!" replied Bucklaw, "I think I have nothing of Castle- Cuddy about me, or Lucy of Katie Glegg. But you see the thing will go on whether you like it or no; the only question is, will you be useful?"
"Useful!" exclaimed the Captain, "and to thee, my lad of lands, my darling boy, whom I would tramp barefooted through the world for! Name time, place, mode, and circumstances, and see if I will not be useful in all uses that can be devised."
"Why, then, you must ride two hundred miles for me," said the patron.
"A thousand, and call them a flea's leap," answered the dependant; "I'll cause saddle my horse directly."
"Better stay till you know where you are to go, and what you are to do," quoth Bucklaw. "You know I have a kinswoman in Northumberland, Lady Blenkensop by name, whose old acquaintance I had the misfortune to lose in the period of my poverty, but the light of whose countenance shone forth upon me when the sun of my prosperity began to arise."
"D——n all such double-faced jades!" exclaimed Craigengelt, heroically; "this I will say for John Craigengelt, that he is his friend's friend through good report and bad report, poverty and riches; and you know something of that yourself, Bucklaw."
"I have not forgot your merits," said his patron; "I do remember that, in my extremities, you had a mind to CRIMP me for the service of the French king, or of the Pretender; and, moreover, that you afterwards lent me a score of pieces, when, as I firmly believe, you had heard the news that old Lady Girnington had a touch of the dead palsy. But don't be downcast, John; I believe, after all, you like me very well in your way, and it is my misfortune to have no better counsellor at present. To return to this Lady Blenkensop, you must know, she is a close confederate of Duchess Sarah."
"What! of Sall Jennings?" exclaimed Craigengelt; "then she must be a good one."
"Hold your tongue, and keep your Tory rants to yourself, if it be possible," said Bucklaw. "I tell you, that through the Duchess of Marlborough has this Northumbrian cousin of mine become a crony of Lady Ashton, the Keeper's wife, or, I may say, the Lord Keeper's Lady Keeper, and she has favoured Lady Blenkensop with a visit on her return from London, and is just now at her old mansion-house on the banks fo the Wansbeck. Now, sir, as it has been the use and wont of these ladies to consider their husbands as of no importance in the management of their own families, it has been their present pleasure, without consulting Sir William Ashton, to put on the tapis a matrimonial alliance, to be concluded between Lucy Ashton and my own right honourable self, Lady Ashton acting as self-constituted plenipotentiary on the part of her daughter and husband, and Mother Blenkensop, equally unaccredited, doing me the honour to be my representative. You may suppose I was a little astonished when I found that a treaty, in which I was so considerably interested, had advanced a good way before I was even consulted."
"Capot me! if I think that was according to the rules of the game," said his confidant; "and pray, what answer did you return?"
"Why, my first thought was to send the treaty to the devil, and the negotiators along with it, for a couple of meddling old women; my next was to laugh very hearily; and my third and last was a settled opinion that the thing was reasonable, and would suit me well enough."
"Why, I thought you had never seen the wench but once, and then she had her riding-mask on; I am sure you told me so."
"Ay, but I liked her very well then. And Ravenswood's dirty usage of me——shutting me out of doors to dine with the lackeys, because he had the Lord Keeper, forsooth, and his daughter, to be guests in his beggarly castle of starvation,——d——n me, Craigengelt, if I ever forgive him till I play him as good a trick!"
"No more you should, if you are a lad of mettle," said Craigengelt, the matter now taking a turn in which he could sympathise; "and if you carry this wench from him, it will break his heart."
"That it will not," said Bucklaw; "his heart is all steeled over with reason and philosophy, things that you, Craigie, know nothing about more than myself, God help me. But it will break his pride, though, and that's what I'm driving at."
"Distance me!" said Craigengelt, "but I know the reason now of his unmannerly behaviour at his old tumble-down tower yonder. Ashamed of your company?——no, no! Gad, he was afraid you would cut in and carry off the girl."
"Eh! Craigengelt?" said Bucklaw, "do you really think so? but no, no! he is a devilish deal prettier man than I am." "Who——he?" exclaimed the parasite. "He's as black as the crook; and for his size——he's a tall fellow, to be sure, but give me a light, stout, middle-sized——"
"Plague on thee!" said Bucklaw, interrupting him, "and on me for listening to you! You would say as much if I were hunch- backed. But as to Ravenswood——he has kept no terms with me, I'll keep none with him; if I CAN win this girl from him, I WILL win her."
"Win her! 'sblood, you SHALL win her, point, quint, and quatorze, my king of trumps; you shall pique, repique, and capot him."
"Prithee, stop thy gambling cant for one instant," said Bucklaw. "Things have come thus far, that I have entertained the proposal of my kinswoman, agreed to the terms of jointure, amount of fortune, and so forth, and that the affair is to go forward when Lady Ashton comes down, for she takes her daughter and her son in her own hand. Now they want me to send up a confidential person with some writings."
"By this good win, I'll ride to the end of the world——the very gates of Jericho, and the judgment-seat of Prester John, for thee!" ejaculated the Captain.
"Why, I believe you would do something for me, and a great deal for yourself. Now, any one could carry the writings; but you will have a little more to do. You must contrive to drop out before my Lady Ashton, just as if it were a matter of little consequence, the residence of Ravenswood at her husband's house, and his close intercourse with Miss Ashton; and you may tell her that all the country talks of a visit from the Marquis of A——, as it is supposed, to make up the match betwixt Ravenswood and her daughter. I should like to hear what she says to all this; for, rat me! if I have any idea of starting for the plate at all if Ravenswood is to win the race, and he has odds against me already."
"Never a bit; the wench has too much sense, and in that belief I drink her health a third time; and, were time and place fitting, I would drink it on bended knees, and he that would not pledge me, I would make his guts garter his stockings."
"Hark ye, Craigengelt; as you are going into the society of women of rank," said Bucklaw, "I'll thank you to forget your strange blackguard oaths and 'damme's.' I'll write to them, though, that you are a blunt, untaught fellow."
"Ay, ay," replied Craigengelt——"a plain, blunt, honest, downright soldier."
"Not too honest, not too much of the soldier neither; but such as thou art, it is my luck to need thee, for I must have spurs put to Lady Ashton's motions." "I'll dash them up to the rowel-heads," said Craigengelt; "she shall come here at the gallop, like a cow chased by a whole nest of hornets, and her tail over her rump like a corkscrew."
"And hear ye, Craigie," said Bucklaw; "your boots and doublet are good enough to drink in, as the man says in the play, but they are somewhat too greasy for tea-table service; prithee, get thyself a little better rigged out, and here is to pay all charges."
"Nay, Bucklaw; on my soul, man, you use me ill. However," added Craigengelt, pocketing the money, "if you will have me so far indebted to you, I must be conforming."
"Well, horse and away!" said the patron, "so soon as you have got your riding livery in trim. You may ride the black crop-ear; and, hark ye, I'll make you a present of him to boot."
"I drink to the good luck of my mission," answered the ambassador, "in a half-pint bumper."
"I thank ye, Craigie, and pledge you; I see nothing against it but the father or the girl taking a tantrum, and I am told the mother can wind them both round her little finger. Take care not to affront her with any of your Jacobite jargon."
"Oh, ay, true——she is a Whig, and a friend of old Sall of Marlborough; thank my stars, I can hoist any colours at a pinch! I have fought as hard under John Churchill as ever I did under Dundee or the Duke of Berwick."
"I verily believe you, Craigie," said the lord of the mansion; "but, Craigie, do you, pray, step down to the cellar, and fetch us up a bottle of the Burgundy, 1678; it is in the fourth bin from the right-hand turn. And I say, Craigie, you may fetch up half a dozen whilst you are about it. Egad, we'll make a night on't!"