Narrative of Alan Fairford
OUR readers may recollect that Fairford had been conducted by Dick Gardener from the house of Fairladies to the inn of old Father Crackenthorp, in order, as he had been informed by the mysterious Father Buonaventure, that he might have the meeting which he desired with Mr. Redgauntlet, to treat with him for the liberty of his friend Darsie. His guide, by the special direction of Mr. Ambrose, had introduced him into the public-house by a back-door, and recommended to the landlord to accommodate him with a private apartment, and to treat him with all civility; but in other respects to keep his eye on him, and even to secure his person, if he saw any reason to suspect him to be a spy. He was not, however, subjected to any direct restraint, but was ushered into an apartment where he was requested to await the arrival of the gentleman with whom he wished to have an interview, and who, as Crackenthorp assured, him with a significant nod, would be certainly there in the course of an hour. In the meanwhile, he recommended to him, with another significant sign, to keep his apartment, “as there were people in the house who were apt to busy themselves about other folk’s matters.”
Alan Fairford complied with the recommendation, so long as he thought it reasonable; but when, among a large party riding up to the house, he discerned Redgauntlet, whom he had seen under the name of Mr. Herries of Birrenswork, and whom, by his height and strength, he easily distinguished from the rest, he thought it proper to go down to the front of the house, in hopes that, by more closely reconnoitring the party, he might discover if his friend Darsie was among them.
The reader is aware that, by doing so, he had an opportunity of breaking Darsie’s fall from his side-saddle, although his disguise and mask prevented his recognizing his friend. It may be also recollected that while Nixon hurried Miss Redgauntlet and her brother into the house, their uncle, somewhat chafed at an unexpected and inconvenient interruption, remained himself in parley with Fairford, who had already successively addressed him by the names of Herries and Redgauntlet; neither of which, any more than the acquaintance of the young lawyer, he seemed at the moment willing to acknowledge, though an air of haughty indifference, which he assumed, could not conceal his vexation and embarrassment.
“If we must needs be acquainted, sir,” he said at last—“for which I am unable to see any necessity, especially as I am now particularly disposed to be private—I must entreat you will tell me at once what you have to say, and permit me to attend to matters of more importance.”
“My introduction,” said Fairford, “is contained in this letter.—(Delivering that of Maxwell.)—I am convinced that, under whatever name it may be your pleasure for the present to be known, it is into your hands, and yours only, that it should be delivered.”
Redgauntlet turned the letter in his hand—then read the contents then again looked upon the letter, and sternly observed, “The seal of the letter has been broken. Was this the case, sir, when it was delivered into your hand?”
Fairford despised a falsehood as much as any man,—unless, perhaps, as Tom Turnpenny might have said, “in the way of business.” He answered readily and firmly, “The seal was whole when the letter was delivered to me by Mr. Maxwell of Summertrees.”
“And did you dare, sir, to break the seal of a letter addressed to me?” said Redgauntlet, not sorry, perhaps, to pick a quarrel upon a point foreign to the tenor of the epistle.
“I have never broken the seal of any letter committed to my charge,” said Alan; “not from fear of those to whom such letter might be addressed, but from respect to myself.”
“That is well worded,” said Redgauntlet; “and yet, young Mr. Counsellor, I doubt whether your delicacy prevented your reading my letter, or listening to the contents as read by some other person after it was opened.”
“I certainly did hear the contents read over,” said Fairford; “and they were such as to surprise me a good deal.”
“Now that,” said Redgauntlet, “I hold to be pretty much the same, in foro conscientiæ, as if you had broken the seal yourself. I shall hold myself excused from entering upon further discourse with a messenger so faithless; and you may thank yourself if your journey has been fruitless.”
“Stay, sir,” said Fairford; “and know that I became acquainted with the contents of the paper without my consent—I may even say, against my will; for Mr. Buonaventure——”
“Who?” demanded Redgauntlet, in a wild and alarmed manner—“Whom was it you named?”
“Father Buonaventure,” said Alan,—“a Catholic priest, as I apprehend, whom I saw at the Misses Arthuret’s house, called Fairladies.”
“Misses Arthuret!—Fairladies!—A Catholic priest!—Father Buonaventure!” said Redgauntlet, repeating the words of Alan with astonishment.—“Is it possible that human rashness can reach such a point of infatuation? Tell me the truth, I conjure you, sir. I have the deepest interest to know whether this is more than an idle legend, picked up from hearsay about the country. You are a lawyer, and know the risk incurred by the Catholic clergy, whom the discharge of their duty sends to these bloody shores.”
“I am a lawyer, certainly,” said Fairford; “but my holding such a respectable condition in life warrants that I am neither an informer nor a spy. Here is sufficient evidence that I have seen Father Buonaventure.”
He put Buonaventure’s letter into Redgauntlet’s hand, and watched his looks closely while he read it. “Double-dyed infatuation!” he muttered, with looks in which sorrow, displeasure, and anxiety were mingled. “‘Save me from the indiscretion of my friends,’ says the Spaniard; “I can save myself from the hostility of my enemies.”
He then read the letter attentively, and for two or three minutes was lost in thought, while some purpose of importance seemed to have gathered and sit brooding upon his countenance. He held up his finger towards his satellite, Cristal Nixon, who replied to his signal with a prompt nod; and with one or two of the attendants approached Fairford in such a manner as to make him apprehensive they were about to lay hold of him.
At this moment a noise was heard from withinside of the house, and presently rushed forth Peter Peebles, pursued by Nanty Ewart with his drawn hanger, and the worthy Quaker, who was endeavouring to prevent mischief to others, at some risk of bringing it on himself.
A wilder and yet a more absurd figure can hardly be imagined, than that of Poor Peter clattering along as fast as his huge boots would permit him, and resembling nothing so much as a flying scarecrow; while the thin emaciated form of Nanty Ewart, with the hue of death on his cheek, and the fire of vengeance glancing from his eye, formed a ghastly contrast with the ridiculous object of his pursuit.
Redgauntlet threw himself between them. “What extravagant folly is this?” he said. “Put up your weapon, captain. Is this a time to indulge in drunken brawls, or is such a miserable object as that a fitting antagonist for a man of courage?”
“I beg pardon,” said the captain, sheathing his weapon—”I was a little bit out of the way, to be sure; but to know the provocation, a man must read my heart, and that I hardly dare to do myself. But the wretch is safe from me. Heaven has done its own vengeance on us both.”
While he spoke in this manner, Peter Peebles, who had at first crept behind Redgauntlet in bodily fear, began now to reassume his spirits. Pulling his protector by the sleeve, “Mr. Herries—Mr. Herries,” he whispered, eagerly, “ye have done me mair than ae gude turn, and if ye will but do me anither at this dead pinch, I’ll forgie the girded keg of brandy that you and Captain Sir Harry Redgimlet drank out yon time. Ye sall hae an ample discharge and renunciation, and, though I should see you walking at the Cross of Edinburgh, or standing at the bar of the Court of Justiciary, no the very thumbikins themselves should bring to my memory that ever I saw you in arms yon day.”
He accompanied this promise by pulling so hard at Redgauntlet’s cloak, that he at last turned round. “Idiot! speak in a word what you want.”
“Aweel, aweel. In a word, then,” said Peter Peebles, “I have a warrant on me to apprehend that man that stands there, Alan Fairford by name, and advocate by calling. I bought it from Maister Justice Foxley’s clerk, Maister Nicholas Faggot, wi’ the guinea that you gied me.
“Ha!” said Redgauntlet, “hast thou really such a warrant? let me see it. Look sharp that no one escape, Cristal Nixon.”
Peter produced a huge, greasy, leathern pocketbook, too dirty to permit its original colour to be visible, filled with scrolls of notes, memorials to counsel, and Heaven knows what besides. From amongst this precious mass he culled forth a paper, and placed it in the hands of Redgauntlet, or Herries, as he continued to call him, saying, at the same time, “It’s a formal and binding warrant, proceeding on my affidavy made, that the said Alan Fairford, being lawfully engaged in my service, had slipped the tether and fled over the Border, and was now lurking there and thereabouts, to elude and evite the discharge of his bounden duty to me; and therefore granting warrant to constables and others, to seek for, take, and apprehend him, that he may be brought before the Honourable Justice Foxley for examination, and, if necessary, for commitment. Now, though a’ this be fairly set down, as I tell ye, yet where am I to get an officer to execute this warrant in sic a country as this, where swords and pistols flee out at a word’s speaking, and folk care as little for the peace of King George as the peace of Auld King Coul? There’s that drunken skipper, and that wet Quaker, enticed me into the public this morning, and because I wadna gie them’ as much brandy as wad have made them blind-drunk, they baith fell on me, and were in the way of guiding me very ill.”
While Peter went on in this manner, Redgauntlet glanced his eye over the warrant, and immediately saw that it must be a trick passed by Nicholas Faggot, to cheat the poor insane wretch out of his solitary guinea. But the Justice had actually subscribed it, as he did whatever his clerk presented to him, and Redgauntlet resolved to use it for his own purposes.
Without making any direct answer, therefore, to Peter Peebles, he walked up gravely to Fairford, who had waited quietly for the termination of a scene in which he was not a little surprised to find his client, Mr. Peebles, a conspicuous actor.
“Mr. Fairford,” said Redgauntlet, “there are many reasons which might induce me to comply with the request, or rather the injunctions, of the excellent Father Buonaventure, that I should communicate with you upon the present condition of my ward, whom you know under the name of Darsie Latimer; but no man is better aware than you that the law must be obeyed, even in contradiction to our own feelings; now this poor man has obtained a warrant for carrying you before a magistrate, and, I am afraid, there is a necessity of your yielding to it, although to the postponement of the business which you may have with me.”
“A warrant against me!” said Alan, indignantly; “and at that poor miserable wretch’s instance?—why, this is a trick, a mere and most palpable trick.”
“It may be so,” replied Redgauntlet, with great equanimity; “doubtless you know best; only the writ appears regular, and with that respect for the law which has been,” he said, with hypocritical formality, “a leading feature of my character through life, I cannot dispense with giving my poor aid to the support of a legal warrant. Look at it yourself, and be satisfied it is no trick of mine.”
Fairford ran over the affidavit and the warrant, and then exclaimed once more, that it was an impudent imposition, and that he would hold those who acted upon such a warrant liable in the highest damages. “I guess at your motive, Mr. Redgauntlet,” he said, “for acquiescing in so ridiculous a proceeding. But be assured you will find that, in this country, one act of illegal violence will not be covered or atoned for by practising another. You cannot, as a man of sense and honour, pretend to say you regard this as a legal warrant.”
“I am no lawyer, sir,” said Redgauntlet; “and pretend not to know what is or is not law—the warrant is quite formal, and that is enough for me.”
“Did ever any one hear,” said Fairford, “of an advocate being compelled to return to his task, like a collier or a salter1 who has deserted his master?”
“I see no reason why he should not,” said Redgauntlet, dryly, “unless on the ground that the services of the lawyer are the most expensive and least useful of the two.”
“You cannot mean this in earnest,” said Fairford; “you cannot really mean to avail yourself of so poor a contrivance, to evade the word pledged by your friend, your ghostly father, in my behalf. I may have been a fool for trusting it too easily, but think what you must be if you can abuse my confidence in this manner. I entreat you to reflect that this usage releases me from all promises of secrecy or connivance at what I am apt to think are very dangerous practices, and that——”
“Hark ye, Mr. Fairford,” said Redgauntlet; “I must here interrupt you for your own sake. One word of betraying what you may have seen, or what you may have suspected, and your seclusion is like to have either a very distant or a very brief termination; in either case a most undesirable one. At present, you are sure of being at liberty in a very few days—perhaps much sooner.”
“And my friend,” said Alan Fairford, “for whose sake I have run myself into this danger, what is to become of him? Dark and dangerous man!” he exclaimed, raising his voice, I will not be again cajoled by deceitful promises——”
“I give you my honour that your friend is well,” interrupted Redgauntlet; “perhaps I may permit you to see him, if you will but submit with patience to a fate which is inevitable.”
But Alan Fairford, considering his confidence as having been abused, first by Maxwell, and next by the priest, raised his voice, and appealed to all the king’s lieges within hearing, against the violence with which he was threatened. He was instantly seized on by Nixon and two assistants, who, holding down his arms, and endeavouring to stop his mouth, were about to hurry him away.
The honest Quaker, who had kept out of Redgauntlet’s presence, now came boldly forward.
“Friend,” said he, “thou dost more than thou canst answer. Thou knowest me well, and thou art aware that in me thou hast a deeply injured neighbour, who was dwelling beside thee in the honesty and simplicity of his heart.”
“Tush, Jonathan,” said Redgauntlet; “talk not to me, man; it is neither the craft of a young lawyer, nor the simplicity of an old hypocrite, can drive me from my purpose.
“By my faith,” said the captain, coming forward in his turn, “this is hardly fair, general; and I doubt,” he added, “whether the will of my owners can make me a party to such proceedings. Nay, never fumble with your sword-hilt, but out with it like a man, if you are for a tilting.” He unsheathed his hanger, and continued—“I will neither see my comrade Fairford, nor the old Quaker, abused. D——n all warrants, false or true—curse the justice—confound the constable!—and here stands little Nanty Ewart to make good what he says against gentle and simple, in spite of horse-shoe or horse-radish either.”
The cry of “Down with all warrants!” was popular in the ears of the militia of the inn, and Nanty Ewart was no less so. Fishers, ostlers, seamen, smugglers, began to crowd to the spot. Crackenthorp endeavoured in vain to mediate. The attendants of Redgauntlet began to handle their firearms; but their master shouted to them to forbear, and, unsheathing his sword as quick as lightning, he rushed on Ewart in the midst of his bravado, and struck his weapon from his hand with such address and force, that it flew three yards from him. Closing with him at the same moment, he gave him a severe fall, and waved his sword over his head, to show he was absolutely at his mercy.
“There, you drunken vagabond,” he said, “I give you your life—you are no bad fellow if you could keep from brawling among your friends. But we all know Nanty Ewart,” he said to the crowd around, with a forgiving laugh, which, joined to the awe his prowess had inspired, entirely confirmed their wavering allegiance.
They shouted, “The laird for ever!” while poor Nanty, rising from the earth, on whose lap he had been stretched so rudely, went in quest of his hanger, lifted it, wiped it, and, as he returned the weapon to the scabbard, muttered between his teeth, “It is true they say of him, and the devil will stand his friend till his hour come; I will cross him no more.”
So saying, he slunk from the crowd, cowed and disheartened by his defeat.
“For you, Joshua Geddes,” said Redgauntlet, approaching the Quaker, who, with lifted hands and eyes, had beheld the scene of violence, “l shall take the liberty to arrest thee for a breach of the peace, altogether unbecoming thy pretended principles; and I believe it will go hard with thee both in a court of justice and among thine own Society of Friends, as they call themselves, who will be but indifferently pleased to see the quiet tenor of their hypocrisy insulted by such violent proceedings.”
“I violent!” said Joshua; “I do aught unbecoming the principles of the Friends! I defy thee, man, and I charge thee, as a Christian, to forbear vexing my soul with such charges: it is grievous enough to me to have seen violences which I was unable to prevent.”
“O Joshua, Joshua!” said Redgauntlet, with a sardonic smile; “thou light of the faithful in the town of Dumfries and the places adjacent, wilt thou thus fall away from the truth? Hast thou not, before us all, attempted to rescue a man from the warrant of law? Didst thou not encourage that drunken fellow to draw his weapon—and didst thou not thyself flourish thy cudgel in the cause? Think’st thou that the oaths of the injured Peter Peebles, and the conscientious Cristal Nixon, besides those of such gentlemen as look on this strange scene, who not only put on swearing as a garment, but to whom, in Custom House matters, oaths are literally meat and drink,—dost thou not think, I say, that these men’s oaths will go further than thy Yea and Nay in this matter?”
“I will swear to anything,” said Peter. “All is fair when it comes to an oath ad litem.”
“You do me foul wrong,” said the Quaker, undismayed by the general laugh. “I encouraged no drawing of weapons, though I attempted to move an unjust man by some use of argument—I brandished no cudgel, although it may be that the ancient Adam struggled within me, and caused my hand to grasp mine oaken staff firmer than usual, when I saw innocence borne down with violence. But why talk I what is true and just to thee, who hast been a man of violence from thy youth upwards? Let me rather speak to thee such language as thou canst comprehend. Deliver these young men up to me,” he said, when he had led Redgauntlet a little apart from the crowd, “and I will not only free thee from the heavy charge of damages which thou hast incurred by thine outrage upon my property, but I will add ransom for them and for myself. What would it profit thee to do the youths wrong, by detaining them in captivity?”
“Mr. Geddes,” said Redgauntlet, in a tone more respectful than he had hitherto used to the Quaker, “your language is disinterested, and I respect the fidelity of your friendship. Perhaps we have mistaken each other’s principles and motives; but if so, we have not at present time for explanation. Make yourself easy. I hope to raise your friend Darsie Latimer to a pitch of eminence which you will witness with pleasure;—nay, do not attempt to answer me. The other young man shall suffer restraint a few days, probably only a few hours,—it is not more than due for his pragmatical interference in what concerned him not. Do you, Mr. Geddes, be so prudent as to take your horse and leave this place, which is growing every moment more unfit for the abode of a man of peace. You may wait the event in safety at Mount Sharon.”
“Friend,” replied Joshua, “I cannot comply with thy advice; I will remain here, even as thy prisoner, as thou didst but now threaten, rather than leave the youth who hath suffered by and through me and my misfortunes, in his present state of doubtful safety. Wherefore I will not mount my steed Solomon; neither will I turn his head towards Mount Sharon, until I see an end of this matter.”
“A prisoner, then, you must be,” said Redgauntlet. “I have no time to dispute the matter further with you. But tell me for what you fix your eyes so attentively on yonder people of mine.”
“To speak the truth,” said the Quaker, “I admire to behold among them a little wretch of a boy called Benjie, to whom I think Satan has given the power of transporting himself wheresoever mischief is going forward; so that it may be truly said, there is no evil in this land wherein he hath not a finger, if not a whole hand.”
The boy, who saw their eyes fixed on him as they spoke, seemed embarrassed, slid rather desirous of making his escape; but at a signal from Redgauntlet he advanced, assuming the sheepish look and rustic manner with which the jackanapes covered much acuteness and roguery.
“How long have you been with the party, sirrah?” said Redgauntlet.
“Since the raid on the stake-nets,” said Benjie, with his finger in his mouth.
“And what made you follow us?”
“I dauredna stay at hame for the constables,” replied the boy.
“And what have you been doing all this time?”
“Doing, sir? I dinna ken what ye ca’ doing—I have been doing naething,” said Benjie; then seeing something in Redgauntlet’s eye which was not to be trifled with, he added, “Naething but waiting on Maister Cristal Nixon.”
“Hum!—aye—indeed?” muttered Redgauntlet. “Must Master Nixon bring his own retinue into the field? This must be seen to.”
He was about to pursue his inquiry, when Nixon himself came to him with looks of anxious haste, “The Father is come,” he whispered, “and the gentlemen are getting together in the largest room of the house, and they desire to see you. Yonder is your nephew, too, making a noise like a man in Bedlam.”
“I will look to it all instantly,” said Redgauntlet. “Is the Father lodged as I directed?”
“Now, then, for the final trial,” said Redgauntlet. He folded his hands—looked upwards—crossed himself—and after this act of devotion (almost the first which any one had observed him make use of) he commanded Nixon to keep good watch—have his horses and men ready for every emergence—look after the safe custody of the prisoners—but treat them at the same time well and civilly. And, these orders given, he darted hastily into the house.
1. NOTE 10.—COLLIER AND SALTER
The persons engaged in these occupations were at this time bondsmen; and in case they left the ground of the farm to which they belonged, and as pertaining to which their services were bought or sold, they were liable to be brought back by a summary process. The existence of this species of slavery being thought irreconcilable with the spirit of liberty, colliers and salters were declared free, and put upon the same footing with other servants, by the Act 15 Geo. III chapter 28th. They were so far from desiring or prizing the blessing conferred on them, that they esteemed the interest taken in their freedom to be a mere decree on the part of the proprietors to get rid of what they called head and harigald money, payable to them when a female of their number, by bearing a child, made an addition to the live stock of their master’s property. [back]