The Antiquary

Chapter XVI

Walter Scott

“I am bewitched with the rogue’s company. If the rascal has not given me medicines to make me love him, I’ll be hanged; it could not be else. I have drunk medicines.”


REGULAR for a fortnight were the inquiries of the Antiquary at the veteran Caxon, whether he had heard what Mr. Lovel was about; and as regular were Caxon’s answers, “that the town could learn naething about him whatever, except that he had received anither muckle letter or twa frae the south, and that he was never seen on the plainstanes at a’.”

“How does he live, Caxon?”

“Ou, Mrs. Hadoway just dresses him a beefsteak or a muttonchop, or makes him some Friar’s chicken, or just what she likes hersell, and he eats it in the little red parlour off his bedroom. She canna get him to say that he likes ae thing better than anither; and she makes him tea in a morning, and he settles honourably wi’ her every week.”

“But does he never stir abroad?”

“He has clean gi’en up walking, and he sits a’ day in his room reading or writing; a hantle letters he has written, but he wadna put them into our post-house, though Mrs. Hadoway offered to carry them hersell, but sent them a’ under ae cover to the sheriff; and it’s Mrs. Mailsetter’s belief, that the sheriff sent his groom to put them into the post-office at Tannonburgh; it’s my puir thought, that he jaloused their looking into his letters at Fairport; and weel had he need, for my puir daughter Jenny”—

“Tut, don’t plague me with your womankind, Caxon. About this poor young lad.—Does he write nothing but letters?”

“Ou, ay—hale sheets o’ other things, Mrs. Hadoway says. She wishes muckle he could be gotten to take a walk; she thinks he’s but looking very puirly, and his appetite’s clean gane; but he’ll no hear o’ ganging ower the door-stane—him that used to walk sae muckle too.”

“That’s wrong—I have a guess what he’s busy about; but he must not work too hard neither. I’ll go and see him this very day—he’s deep, doubtless, in the Caledoniad.”

Having formed this manful resolution, Mr. Oldbuck equipped himself for the expedition with his thick walking-shoes and gold-headed cane, muttering the while the words of Falstaff which we have chosen for the motto of this chapter; for the Antiquary was himself rather surprised at the degree of attachment which he could not but acknowledge be entertained for this stranger. The riddle was notwithstanding easily solved. Lovel had many attractive qualities, but he won our Antiquary’s heart by being on most occasions an excellent listener.

A walk to Fairport had become somewhat of an adventure with Mr. Oldbuck, and one which he did not often care to undertake. He hated greetings in the market-place; and there were generally loiterers in the streets to persecute him, either about the news of the day, or about some petty pieces of business. So, on this occasion, he had no sooner entered the streets of Fairport, than it was “Good-morrow, Mr. Oldbuck—a sight o’ you’s gude, for sair een: what d’ye think of the news in the Sun the day?—they say the great attempt will be made in a fortnight.”

“I wish to the Lord it were made and over, that I might hear no more about it.”

“Monkbarns, your honour,” said the nursery and seedsman, “I hope the plants gied satisfaction?—and if ye wanted ony flower-roots fresh frae Holland, or” (this in a lower key) “an anker or twa o’ Cologne gin, ane o’ our brigs cam in yestreen.”

“Thank ye, thank ye,—no occasion at present, Mr. Crabtree,” said the Antiquary, pushing resolutely onward.

“Mr. Oldbuck,” said the town-clerk (a more important person, who came in front and ventured to stop the old gentleman), “the provost, understanding you were in town, begs on no account that you’ll quit it without seeing him; he wants to speak to ye about bringing the water frae the Fairwell-spring through a part o’ your lands.”

“What the deuce!—have they nobody’s land but mine to cut and carve on?—I won’t consent, tell them.”

“And the provost,” said the clerk, going on, without noticing the rebuff, “and the council, wad be agreeable that you should hae the auld stones at Donagild’s chapel, that ye was wussing to hae.”

“Eh!—what?—Oho! that’s another story—Well, well, I’ll call upon the provost, and we’ll talk about it.”

“But ye maun speak your mind on’t forthwith, Monkbarns, if ye want the stones; for Deacon Harlewalls thinks the carved through-stanes might be put with advantage on the front of the new council-house—that is, the twa cross-legged figures that the callants used to ca’ Robin and Bobbin, ane on ilka door-cheek; and the other stane, that they ca’d Ailie Dailie, abune the door. It will be very tastefu’, the Deacon says, and just in the style of modern Gothic.”

“Lord deliver me from this Gothic generation!” exclaimed the Antiquary,—“A monument of a knight-templar on each side of a Grecian porch, and a Madonna on the top of it!—O crimini!—Well, tell the provost I wish to have the stones, and we’ll not differ about the water-course. It’s lucky I happened to come this way to-day.”

They parted mutually satisfied; but the wily clerk had most reason to exult in the dexterity he had displayed, since the whole proposal of an exchange between the monuments (which the council had determined to remove as a nuisance, because they encroached three feet upon the public road), and the privilege of conveying the water to the burgh through the estate of Monkbarns, was an idea which had originated with himself upon the pressure of the moment.

Through these various entanglements, Monkbarns (to use the phrase by which he was distinguished in the country) made his way at length to Mrs. Hadoway’s. This good woman was the widow of a late clergyman at Fairport, who had been reduced by her husband’s untimely death, to that state of straitened and embarrassed circumstances in which the widows of the Scotch clergy are too often found. The tenement which she occupied, and the furniture of which she was possessed, gave her the means of letting a part of her house; and as Lovel had been a quiet, regular, and profitable lodger, and had qualified the necessary intercourse which they had together with a great deal of gentleness and courtesy, Mrs. Hadoway, not, perhaps, much used to such kindly treatment, had become greatly attached to her lodger, and was profuse in every sort of personal attention which circumstances permitted her to render him. To cook a dish somewhat better than ordinary for “the poor young gentleman’s dinner;” to exert her interest with those who remembered her husband, or loved her for her own sake and his, in order to procure scarce vegetables, or something which her simplicity supposed might tempt her lodger’s appetite, was a labour in which she delighted, although she anxiously concealed it from the person who was its object. She did not adopt this secrecy of benevolence to avoid the laugh of those who might suppose that an oval face and dark eyes, with a clear brown complexion, though belonging to a woman of five-and-forty, and enclosed within a widow’s close-drawn pinners, might possibly still aim at making conquests; for, to say truth, such a ridiculous suspicion having never entered into her own head, she could not anticipate its having birth in that of any one else. But she concealed her attentions solely out of delicacy to her guest, whose power of repaying them she doubted as much as she believed in his inclination to do so, and in his being likely to feel extreme pain at leaving any of her civilities unrequited. She now opened the door to Mr. Oldbuck, and her surprise at seeing him brought tears into her eyes, which she could hardly restrain.

“I am glad to see you, sir—I am very glad to see you. My poor gentleman is, I am afraid, very unwell; and oh, Mr. Oldbuck, he’ll see neither doctor, nor minister, nor writer! And think what it would be, if, as my poor Mr. Hadoway used to say, a man was to die without advice of the three learned faculties!”

“Greatly better than with them,” grumbled the cynical Antiquary. “I tell you, Mrs. Hadoway, the clergy live by our sins, the medical faculty by our diseases, and the law gentry by our misfortunes.”

“O fie, Monkbarns!—to hear the like o’ that frae you!—But yell walk up and see the poor young lad?—Hegh sirs? sae young and weel-favoured—and day by day he has eat less and less, and now he hardly touches onything, only just pits a bit on the plate to make fashion—and his poor cheek has turned every day thinner and paler, sae that he now really looks as auld as me, that might be his mother—no that I might be just that neither, but something very near it.”

“Why does he not take some exercise?” said Oldbuck.

“I think we have persuaded him to do that, for he has bought a horse from Gibbie Golightly, the galloping groom. A gude judge o’ horse-flesh Gibbie tauld our lass that he was—for he offered him a beast he thought wad answer him weel eneugh, as he was a bookish man, but Mr. Lovel wadna look at it, and bought ane might serve the Master o’ Morphie—they keep it at the Graeme’s Arms, ower the street;—and he rode out yesterday morning and this morning before breakfast—But winna ye walk up to his room?”

“Presently, presently. But has he no visitors?”

“O dear, Mr. Oldbuck, not ane; if he wadna receive them when he was weel and sprightly, what chance is there of onybody in Fairport looking in upon him now?”

“Ay, ay, very true,—I should have been surprised had it been otherwise—Come, show me up stairs, Mrs. Hadoway, lest I make a blunder, and go where I should not.”

The good landlady showed Mr. Oldbuck up her narrow staircase, warning him of every turn, and lamenting all the while that he was laid under the necessity of mounting up so high. At length she gently tapped at the door of her guest’s parlour. “Come in,” said Lovel; and Mrs. Hadoway ushered in the Laird of Monkbarns.

The little apartment was neat and clean, and decently furnished—ornamented, too, by such relics of her youthful arts of sempstress-ship as Mrs. Hadoway had retained; but it was close, overheated, and, as it appeared to Oldbuck, an unwholesome situation for a young person in delicate health,—an observation which ripened his resolution touching a project that had already occurred to him in Lovel’s behalf. With a writing-table before him, on which lay a quantity of books and papers, Lovel was seated on a couch, in his night-gown and slippers. Oldbuck was shocked at the change which had taken place in his personal appearance. His cheek and brow had assumed a ghastly white, except where a round bright spot of hectic red formed a strong and painful contrast, totally different from the general cast of hale and hardy complexion which had formerly overspread and somewhat embrowned his countenance. Oldbuck observed, that the dress he wore belonged to a deep mourning suit, and a coat of the same colour hung on a chair near to him. As the Antiquary entered, Lovel arose and came forward to welcome him.

“This is very kind,” he said, shaking him by the hand, and thanking him warmly for his visit—“this is very kind, and has anticipated a visit with which I intended to trouble you. You must know I have become a horseman lately.”

“I understand as much from Mrs. Hadoway—I only hope, my good young friend, you have been fortunate in a quiet horse. I myself inadvertently bought one from the said Gibbie Golightly, which brute ran two miles on end with me after a pack of hounds, with which I had no more to do than the last year’s snow; and after affording infinite amusement, I suppose, to the whole hunting field, he was so good as to deposit me in a dry ditch—I hope yours is a more peaceful beast?”

“I hope, at least, we shall make our excursions on a better plan of mutual understanding.”

“That is to say, you think yourself a good horseman?”

“I would not willingly,” answered Lovel, “confess myself a very bad one.”

“No—all you young fellows think that would be equal to calling yourselves tailors at once—But have you had experience? for, crede experto, a horse in a passion is no joker.”

“Why, I should be sorry to boast myself as a great horseman; but when I acted as aide-de-camp to Sir —— —— in the cavalry action at ——, last year, I saw many better cavaliers than myself dismounted.”

“Ah! you have looked in the face of the grisly god of arms then?—you are acquainted with the frowns of Mars armipotent? That experience fills up the measure of your qualifications for the epopea! The Britons, however, you will remember, fought in chariots—covinarii is the phrase of Tacitus;—you recollect the fine description of their dashing among the Roman infantry, although the historian tells us how ill the rugged face of the ground was calculated for equestrian combat; and truly, upon the whole, what sort of chariots could be driven in Scotland anywhere but on turnpike roads, has been to me always matter of amazement. And well now—has the Muse visited you?—have you got anything to show me?”

“My time,” said Lovel, with a glance at his black dress, “has been less pleasantly employed.”

“The death of a friend?” said the Antiquary.

“Yes, Mr. Oldbuck—of almost the only friend I could ever boast of possessing.”

“Indeed? Well, young man,” replied his visitor, in a tone of seriousness very different from his affected gravity, “be comforted. To have lost a friend by death while your mutual regard was warm and unchilled, while the tear can drop unembittered by any painful recollection of coldness or distrust or treachery, is perhaps an escape from a more heavy dispensation. Look round you—how few do you see grow old in the affections of those with whom their early friendships were formed! Our sources of common pleasure gradually dry up as we journey on through the vale of Bacha, and we hew out to ourselves other reservoirs, from which the first companions of our pilgrimage are excluded;—jealousies, rivalries, envy, intervene to separate others from our side, until none remain but those who are connected with us rather by habit than predilection, or who, allied more in blood than in disposition, only keep the old man company in his life, that they may not be forgotten at his death—

“‘Hæc data pœna diu viventibus—’

Ah, Mr. Lovel! if it be your lot to reach the chill, cloudy, and comfortless evening of life, you will remember the sorrows of your youth as the light shadowy clouds that intercepted for a moment the beams of the sun when it was rising. But I cram these words into your ears against the stomach of your sense.”

“I am sensible of your kindness,” answered the youth; “but the wound that is of recent infliction must always smart severely, and I should be little comforted under my present calamity—forgive me for saying so—by the conviction that life had nothing in reserve for me but a train of successive sorrows. And permit me to add, you, Mr. Oldbuck, have least reason of many men to take so gloomy a view of life. You have a competent and easy fortune—are generally respected—may, in your own phrase, vacare musis, indulge yourself in the researches to which your taste addicts you; you may form your own society without doors—and within you have the affectionate and sedulous attention of the nearest relatives.”

“Why, yes—the womankind, for womankind, are, thanks to my training, very civil and tractable—do not disturb me in my morning studies—creep across the floor with the stealthy pace of a cat, when it suits me to take a nap in my easy-chair after dinner or tea. All this is very well; but I want something to exchange ideas with—something to talk to.”

“Then why do you not invite your nephew, Captain M‘Intyre, who is mentioned by every one as a fine spirited young fellow, to become a member of your family?”

“Who?” exclaimed Monkbarns, “my nephew Hector?—the Hotspur of the North? Why, Heaven love you, I would as soon invite a firebrand into my stackyard. He’s an Almanzor, a Chamont—has a Highland pedigree as long as his claymore, and a claymore as long as the High Street of Fairport, which he unsheathed upon the surgeon the last time he was at Fairport. I expect him here one of these days; but I will keep him at staff’s end, I promise you. He an inmate of my house! to make my very chairs and tables tremble at his brawls. No, no—I’ll none of Hector M‘Intyre. But hark ye, Lovel;—you are a quiet, gentle-tempered lad; had not you better set up your staff at Monkbarns for a month or two, since I conclude you do not immediately intend to leave this country?—I will have a door opened out to the garden—it will cost but a trifle—there is the space for an old one which was condemned long ago—by which said door you may pass and repass into the Green Chamber at pleasure, so you will not interfere with the old man, nor he with you. As for your fare, Mrs. Hadoway tells me you are, as she terms it, very moderate of your mouth, so you will not quarrel with my humble table. Your washing”—

“Hold, my dear Mr. Oldbuck,” interposed Lovel, unable to repress a smile; “and before your hospitality settles all my accommodations, let me thank you most sincerely for so kind an offer—it is not at present in my power to accept of it; but very likely, before I bid adieu to Scotland, I shall find an opportunity to pay you a visit of some length.”

Mr. Oldbuck’s countenance fell. “Why, I thought I had hit on the very arrangement that would suit us both,—and who knows what might happen in the long run, and whether we might ever part? Why, I am master of my acres, man—there is the advantage of being descended from a man of more sense than pride—they cannot oblige me to transmit my goods chattels, and heritages, any way but as I please. No string of substitute heirs of entail, as empty and unsubstantial as the morsels of paper strung to the train of a boy’s kite, to cumber my flights of inclination, and my humours of predilection. Well,—I see you won’t be tempted at present—but Caledonia goes on I hope?”

“O certainly,” said Lovel; “I cannot think of relinquishing a plan so hopeful.”

“It is indeed,” said the Antiquary, looking gravely upward,—for, though shrewd and acute enough in estimating the variety of plans formed by others, he had a very natural, though rather disproportioned good opinion of the importance of those which originated with himself—“it is indeed one of those undertakings which, if achieved with spirit equal to that which dictates its conception, may redeem from the charge of frivolity the literature of the present generation.”

Here he was interrupted by a knock at the room door, which introduced a letter for Mr. Lovel. The servant waited, Mrs. Hadoway said, for an answer. “You are concerned in this matter, Mr. Oldbuck,” said Lovel, after glancing over the billet, and handing it to the Antiquary as he spoke.

It was a letter from Sir Arthur Wardour, couched in extremely civil language, regetting that a fit of the gout had prevented his hitherto showing Mr. Lovel the attentions to which his conduct during a late perilous occasion had so well entitled him—apologizing for not paying his respects in person, but hoping Mr. Lovel would dispense with that ceremony, and be a member of a small party which proposed to visit the ruins of Saint Ruth’s priory on the following day, and afterwards to dine and spend the evening at Knockwinnock Castle. Sir Arthur concluded with saying, that he had sent to request the Monkbarns family to join the party of pleasure which he thus proposed. The place of rendezvous was fixed at a turnpike-gate, which was about an equal distance from all the points from which the company were to assemble.

“What shall we do?” said Lovel, looking at the Antiquary, but pretty certain of the part he would take.

“Go, man—we’ll go, by all means. Let me see—it will cost a post-chaise though, which will hold you and me, and Mary M‘Intyre, very well—and the other womankind may go to the manse—and you can come out in the chaise to Monkbarns, as I will take it for the day.”

“Why, I rather think I had better ride.”

“True, true, I forgot your Bucephalus. You are a foolish lad, by the by, for purchasing the brute outright; you should stick to eighteenpence a side, if you will trust any creature’s legs in preference to your own.”

“Why, as the horse’s have the advantage of moving considerably faster, and are, besides, two pair to one, I own I incline”—

“Enough said—enough said—do as you please. Well then, I’ll bring either Grizel or the minister, for I love to have my full pennyworth out of post-horses—and we meet at Tirlingen turnpike on Friday, at twelve o’clock precisely. “—And with this ageement the friends separated.

The Antiquary - Contents    |     Chapter XVII

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