—The time was that I hated thee,|
And yet it is not that I bear thee love.
Thy company, which erst was irksome to me,
I will endure—
But do not look for further recompense.
“I am glad you are come, my fair foe,” said the Antiquary greeting her with much kindness, “for I have had a most refractory, or at least negligent auditor, in my young friend here, while I endeavoured to make him acquainted with the history of Knockwinnock Castle. I think the danger of last night has mazed the poor lad. But you, Miss Isabel,—why, you look as if flying through the night air had been your natural and most congenial occupation; your colour is even better than when you honoured my hospitium yesterday. And Sir Arthur—how fares my good old friend?”
“Indifferently well, Mr. Oldbuck; but I am afraid, not quite able to receive your congratulations, or to pay—to pay—Mr. Lovel his thanks for his unparalleled exertions.”
“I dare say not—A good down pillow for his good white head were more meet than a couch so churlish as Bessy’s-apron, plague on her!”
“I had no thought of intruding,” said Lovel, looking upon the ground, and speaking with hesitation and suppressed emotion; “I did not—did not mean to intrude upon Sir Arthur or Miss Wardour the presence of one who—who must necessarily be unwelcome—as associated, I mean, with painful reflections.”
“Do not think my father so unjust and ungrateful,” said Miss Wardour. “I dare say,” she continued, participating in Lovel’s embarrassment—“I dare say—I am certain—that my father would be happy to show his gratitude—in any way—that is, which Mr. Lovel could consider it as proper to point out.”
“Why the deuce,” interrupted Oldbuck, “what sort of a qualification is that?—On my word, it reminds me of our minister, who, choosing, like a formal old fop as he is, to drink to my sister’s inclinations, thought it necessary to add the saving clause, ‘Provided, madam, they be virtuous.’ Come, let us have no more of this nonsense—I dare say Sir Arthur will bid us welcome on some future day. And what news from the kingdom of subterranean darkness and airy hope?—What says the swart spirit of the mine? Has Sir Arthur had any good intelligence of his adventure lately in Glen-Withershins?”
Miss Wardour shook her head—“But indifferent, I fear, Mr. Oldbuck; but there lie some specimens which have lately been sent down.”
“Ah! my poor dear hundred pounds, which Sir Arthur persuaded me to give for a share in that hopeful scheme, would have bought a porter’s load of mineralogy—But let me see them.”
And so saying, he sat down at the table in the recess, on which the mineral productions were lying, and proceeded to examine them, grumbling and pshawing at each which he took up and laid aside.
In the meantime, Lovel, forced as it were by this secession of Oldbuck, into a sort of tête-à-tête with Miss Wardour, took an opportunity of addressing her in a low and interrupted tone of voice. “I trust Miss Wardour will impute, to circumstances almost irresistible, this intrusion of a person who has reason to think himself—so unacceptable a visitor.”
“Mr. Lovel,” answered Miss Wardour, observing the same tone of caution, “I trust you will not—I am sure you are incapable of abusing the advantages given to you by the services you have rendered us, which, as they affect my father, can never be sufficiently acknowledged or repaid. Could Mr. Lovel see me without his own peace being affected—could he see me as a friend—as a sister—no man will be—and, from all I have ever heard of Mr. Lovel, ought to be, more welcome but”—
Oldbuck’s anathema against the preposition but was internally echoed by Lovel. “Forgive me if I interrupt you, Miss Wardour; you need not fear my intruding upon a subject where I have been already severely repressed;—but do not add to the severity of repelling my sentiments the rigour of obliging me to disavow them.”
“I am much embarrassed, Mr. Lovel,” replied the young lady, “by your—I would not willingly use a strong word—your romantic and hopeless pertinacity. It is for yourself I plead, that you would consider the calls which your country has upon your talents—that you will not waste, in an idle and fanciful indulgence of an ill-placed predilection, time, which, well redeemed by active exertion, should lay the foundation of future distinction. Let me entreat that you would form a manly resolution”—
“It is enough, Miss Wardour;—I see plainly that”—
“Mr. Lovel, you are hurt—and, believe me, I sympathize in the pain which I inflict; but can I, in justice to myself, in fairness to you, do otherwise? Without my father’s consent, I never will entertain the addresses of any one, and how totally impossible it is that he should countenance the partiality with which you honour me, you are yourself fully aware; and, indeed”—
“No, Miss Wardour,” answered Lovel, in a tone of passionate entreaty; “do not go farther—is it not enough to crush every hope in our present relative situation?—do not carry your resolutions farther—why urge what would be your conduct if Sir Arthur’s objections could be removed?”
“It is indeed vain, Mr. Lovel,” said Miss Wardour, “because their removal is impossible; and I only wish, as your friend, and as one who is obliged to you for her own and her father’s life, to entreat you to suppress this unfortunate attachment—to leave a country which affords no scope for your talents, and to resume the honourable line of the profession which you seem to have abandoned.”
“Well, Miss Wardour, your wishes shall be obeyed;—have patience with me one little month, and if, in the course of that space, I cannot show you such reasons for continuing my residence at Fairport, as even you shall approve of, I will bid adieu to its vicinity, and, with the same breath, to all my hopes of happiness.”
“Not so, Mr. Lovel; many years of deserved happiness, founded on a more rational basis than your present wishes, are, I trust, before, you. But it is full time, to finish this conversation. I cannot force you to adopt my advice—I cannot shut the door of my father’s house against the preserver of his life and mine; but the sooner Mr. Lovel can teach his mind to submit to the inevitable disappointment of wishes which have been so rashly formed, the more highly be will rise in my esteem—and, in the meanwhile, for his sake as well as mine, he must excuse my putting an interdict upon conversation on a subject so painful.”
A servant at this moment announced that Sir Arthur desired to speak to Mr. Oldbuck in his dressing-room.
“Let me show you the way,” said Miss Wardour, who apparently dreaded a continuation of her tête-à-tête with Lovel, and she conducted the Antiquary accordingly to her father’s apartment.
Sir Arthur, his legs swathed in flannel, was stretched on the couch. “Welcome, Mr. Oldbuck,” he said; “I trust you have come better off than I have done from the inclemency of yesterday evening?”
“Truly, Sir Arthur, I was not so much exposed to it—I kept terra firma—you fairly committed yourself to the cold night-air in the most literal of all senses. But such adventures become a gallant knight better than a humble esquire,—to rise on the wings of the night-wind—to dive into the bowels of the earth. What news from our subterranean Good Hope!—the terra incognita of Glen-Withershins?”
“Nothing good as yet,” said the Baronet, turning himself hastily, as if stung by a pang of the gout; “but Dousterswivel does not despair.”
“Does he not?” quoth Oldbuck; “I do though, under his favour. Why, old Dr. H——n1 told me, when I was in Edinburgh, that we should never find copper enough, judging from the specimens I showed him, to make a pair of sixpenny knee-buckles—and I cannot see that those samples on the table below differ much in quality.”
“The learned doctor is not infallible, I presume?”
“No; but he is one of our first chemists; and this tramping philosopher of yours—this Dousterswivel—is, I have a notion, one, of those learned adventurers described by Kirchner, Artem habent sine arte, partem sine parte, quorum medium est mentiri, vita eorum mendicatum ire; that is to say, Miss Wardour”—
“It is unnecessary to translate,” said Miss Wardour—“I comprehend your general meaning; but I hope Mr. Dousterswivel will turn out a more trustworthy character.”
“I doubt it not a little,” said the Antiquary,—“and we are a foul way out if we cannot discover this infernal vein that he has prophesied about these two years.”
“You have no great interest in the matter, Mr. Oldbuck,” said the Baronet.
“Too much, too much, Sir Arthur; and yet, for the sake of my fair foe here, I would consent to lose it all so you had no more on the venture.”
There was a painful silence of a few moments, for Sir Arthur was too proud to acknowledge the downfall of his golden dreams, though he could no longer disguise to himself that such was likely to be the termination of the adventure. “I understand,” he at length said, “that the young gentleman, to whose gallantry and presence of mind we were so much indebted last night, has favoured me with a visit—I am distressed that I am unable to see him, or indeed any one, but an old friend like you, Mr. Oldbuck.”
A declination of the Antiquary’s stiff backbone acknowledged the preference.
“You made acquaintance with this young gentleman in Edinburgh, I suppose?”
Oldbuck told the circumstances of their becoming known to each other.
“Why, then, my daughter is an older acquaintance, of Mr. Lovel than you are,” said the Baronet.
“Indeed! I was not aware of that,” answered Oldbuck somewhat surprised.
“I met Mr. Lovel,” said Isabella, slightly colouring, “when I resided this last spring with my aunt, Mrs. Wilmot.”
“In Yorkshire?—and what character did he bear then, or how was he engaged?” said Oldbuck,—“and why did not you recognise him when I introduced you?”
Isabella answered the least difficult question, and passed over the other—“He had a commission in the army, and had, I believe, served with reputation; he was much respected, as an amiable and promising young man.”
“And pray, such being the case,” replied the Antiquary, not disposed to take one reply in answer to two distinct questions, “why did you not speak to the lad at once when you met him at my house? I thought you had less of the paltry pride of womankind about you, Miss Wardour.”
“There was a reason for it,” said Sir Arthur with dignity; “you know the opinions—prejudices, perhaps you will call them—of our house concerning purity of birth. This young gentleman is, it seems, the illegitimate son of a man of fortune; my daughter did not choose to renew their acquaintance till she should know whether I approved of her holding any intercourse with him.”
“If it had been with his mother instead of himself,” answered Oldbuck, with his usual dry causticity of humour, “I could see an excellent reason for it. Ah, poor lad! that was the cause, then, that he seemed so absent and confused while I explained to him the reason of the bend of bastardy upon the shield yonder under the corner turret!”
“True,” said the Baronet, with complacency—“it is the shield of Malcolm the Usurper, as he is called. The tower which he built is termed, after him, Malcolm’s Tower, but more frequently Misticot’s Tower, which I conceive to be a corruption for Misbegot. He is denominated, in the Latin pedigree of our family, Milcolumbus Nothus; and his temporary seizure of our property, and most unjust attempt to establish his own illegitimate line in the estate of Knockwinnock, gave rise to such family feuds and misfortunes, as strongly to found us in that horror and antipathy to defiled blood and illegitimacy which has been handed down to me from my respected ancestry.”
“I know the story,” said Oldbuck, “and I was telling it to Lovel this moment, with some of the wise maxims and consequences which it has engrafted on your family politics. Poor fellow! he must have been much hurt: I took the wavering of his attention for negligence, and was something piqued at it, and it proves to be only an excess of feeling. I hope, Sir Arthur, you will not think the less of your life because it has been preserved by such assistance?”
“Nor the less of my assistant either,” said the Baronet; “my doors and table shall be equally open to him as if he had descended of the most unblemished lineage.”
“Come, I am glad of that—he’ll know where he can get a dinner, then, if he wants one. But what views can he have in this neighbourhood? I must catechise him; and if I find he wants it—or, indeed, whether he does or not—he shall have my best advice.” As the Antiquary made this liberal promise, he took his leave of Miss Wardour and her father, eager to commence operations upon Mr. Lovel. He informed him abruptly that Miss Wardour sent her compliments, and remained in attendance on her father, and then, taking him by the arm, he led him out of the castle.
Knockwinnock still preserved much of the external attributes of a baronial castle. It had its drawbridge, though now never drawn up, and its dry moat, the sides of which had been planted with shrubs, chiefly of the evergreen tribes. Above these rose the old building, partly from a foundation of red rock scarped down to the sea-beach, and partly from the steep green verge of the moat. The trees of the avenue have been already mentioned, and many others rose around of large size,—as if to confute the prejudice that timber cannot be raised near to the ocean. Our walkers paused, and looked back upon the castle, as they attained the height of a small knoll, over which lay their homeward road; for it is to be supposed they did not tempt the risk of the tide by returning along the sands. The building flung its broad shadow upon the tufted foliage of the shrubs beneath it, while the front windows sparkled in the sun. They were viewed by the gazers with very different feelings. Lovel, with the fond eagerness of that passion which derives its food and nourishment from trifles, as the chameleon is said to live on the air, or upon the invisible insects which it contains, endeavoured to conjecture which of the numerous windows belonged to the apartment now graced by Miss Wardour’s presence. The speculations of the Antiquary were of a more melancholy cast, and were partly indicated by the ejaculation of cito peritura! as he turned away from the prospect. Lovel, roused from his reverie, looked at him as if to inquire the meaning of an exclamation so ominous. The old man shook his head. “Yes, my young friend,” said he, “I doubt greatly—and it wrings my heart to say it—this ancient family is going fast to the ground!”
“Indeed!” answered Lovel—“you surprise me greatly.”
“We harden ourselves in vain,” continued the Antiquary, pursuing his own train of thought and feeling—“we harden ourselves in vain to treat with the indifference they deserve, the changes of this trumpery whirligig world. We strive ineffectually to be the self-sufficing invulnerable being, the teres atque rotundus of the poet;—the stoical exemption which philosophy affects to give us over the pains and vexations of human life, is as imaginary as the state of mystical quietism and perfection aimed at by some crazy enthusiasts.”
“And Heaven forbid that it should be otherwise!” said Lovel, warmly—“Heaven forbid that any process of philosophy were capable so to sear and indurate our feelings, that nothing should agitate them but what arose instantly and immediately out of our own selfish interests! I would as soon wish my hand to be as callous as horn, that it might escape an occasional cut or scratch, as I would be ambitious of the stoicism which should render my heart like a piece of the nether millstone.”
The Antiquary regarded his youthful companion with a look half of pity, half of sympathy, and shrugged up his shoulders as he replied—“Wait, young man—wait till your bark has been battered by the storm of sixty years of mortal vicissitude: you will learn by that time, to reef your sails, that she may obey the helm;—or, in the language of this world, you will find distresses enough, endured and to endure, to keep your feelings and sympathies in full exercise, without concerning yourself more in the fate of others than you cannot possibly avoid.”
“Well, Mr. Oldbuck, it may be so;—but as yet I resemble you more in your practice than in your theory, for I cannot help being deeply interested in the fate of the family we have just left.”
“And well you may,” replied Oldbuck. “Sir Arthur’s embarrassments have of late become so many and so pressing, that I am surprised you have not heard of them. And then his absurd and expensive operations carried on by this High-German landlouper, Dousterswivel”—
“I think I have seen that person, when, by some rare chance, I happened to be in the coffee-room at Fairport;—a tall, beetle-browed, awkward-built man, who entered upon scientific subjects, as it appeared to my ignorance at least, with more assurance than knowledge—was very arbitrary in laying down and asserting his opinions, and mixed the terms of science with a strange jargon of mysticism. A simple youth whispered me that he was an Illuminé, and carried on an intercourse with the invisible world.”
“O, the same—the same. He has enough of practical knowledge to speak scholarly and wisely to those of whose intelligence he stands in awe; and, to say the truth, this faculty, joined to his matchless impudence, imposed upon me for some time when I first knew him. But I have since understood, that when he is among fools and womankind, he exhibits himself as a perfect charlatan—talks of the magisterium—of sympathies and antipathies—of the cabala—of the divining-rod—and all the trumpery with which the Rosicrucians cheated a darker age, and which, to our eternal disgrace, has in some degree revived in our own. My friend Heavysterne knew this fellow abroad, and unintentionally (for he, you must know, is, God bless the mark! a sort of believer) let me into a good deal of his real character. Ah! were I caliph for a day, as Honest Abon Hassan wished to be, I would scourge me these jugglers out of the commonwealth with rods of scorpions. They debauch the spirit of the ignorant and credulous with mystical trash, as effectually as if they had besotted their brains with gin, and then pick their pockets with the same facility. And now has this strolling blackguard and mountebank put the finishing blow to the ruin of an ancient and honourable family!”
“But how could he impose upon Sir Arthur to any ruinous extent?”
“Why, I don’t know. Sir Arthur is a good honourable gentleman; but, as you may see from his loose ideas concerning the Pikish language, he is by no means very strong in the understanding. His estate is strictly entailed, and he has been always an embarrassed man. This rapparee promised him mountains of wealth, and an English company was found to advance large sums of money—I fear on Sir Arthur’s guarantee. Some gentlemen—I was ass enough to be one—took small shares in the concern, and Sir Arthur himself made great outlay; we were trained on by specious appearances and more specious lies; and now, like John Bunyan, we awake, and behold it is a dream!”
“I am surprised that you, Mr. Oldbuck, should have encouraged Sir Arthur by your example.”
“Why,” said Oldbuck, dropping his large grizzled eyebrow, “I am something surprised and ashamed at it myself; it was not the lucre of gain—nobody cares less for money (to be a prudent man) than I do—but I thought I might risk this small sum. It will be expected (though I am sure I cannot see why) that I should give something to any one who will be kind enough to rid me of that slip of womankind, my niece, Mary M‘Intyre; and perhaps it may be thought I should do something to get that jackanapes, her brother, on in the army. In either case, to treble my venture, would have helped me out. And besides, I had some idea that the Phoenicians had in former times wrought copper in that very spot. That cunning scoundrel, Dousterswivel, found out my blunt side, and brought strange tales (d—n him) of appearances of old shafts, and vestiges of mining operations, conducted in a manner quite different from those of modern times; and I—in short, I was a fool, and there is an end. My loss is not much worth speaking about; but Sir Arthur’s engagements are, I understand, very deep, and my heart aches for him and the poor young lady who must share his distress.”
Here the conversation paused, until renewed in the next chapter.
1. Probably Dr. Hutton, the celebrated geologist. [back]