—If you fail Honour here,|
Never presume to serve her any more;
Bid farewell to the integrity of armes;
And the honourable name of soldier
Fall from you, like a shivered wreath of laurel
By thunder struck from a desertlesse forehead.
A Faire Quarrell.
“A message from Captain M‘Intyre, I presume?”
“The same. He holds himself injured by the manner in which you declined yesterday to answer certain inquiries which he conceived himself entitled to make respecting a gentleman whom he found in intimate society with his family.”
“May I ask, if you, Mr. Lesley, would have inclined to satisfy interrogatories so haughtily and unceremoniously put to you?”
“Perhaps not;—and therefore, as I know the warmth of my friend M‘Intyre on such occasions, I feel very desirous of acting as peacemaker. From Mr. Lovel’s very gentleman-like manners, every one must strongly wish to see him repel all that sort of dubious calumny which will attach itself to one whose situation is not fully explained. If he will permit me, in friendly conciliation, to inform Captain M‘Intyre of his real name, for we are led to conclude that of Lovel is assumed”—
“I beg your pardon, sir, but I cannot admit that inference.”
“—Or at least,” said Lesley, proceeding, “that it is not the name by which Mr. Lovel has been at all times distinguished—if Mr. Lovel will have the goodness to explain this circumstance, which, in my opinion, he should do in justice to his own character, I will answer for the amicable arrangement of this unpleasant business.”
“Which is to say, Mr. Lesley, that if I condescend to answer questions which no man has a right to ask, and which are now put to me under penalty of Captain M‘Intyre’s resentment, Captain M‘Intyre will condescend to rest satisfied? Mr. Lesley, I have just one word to say on this subject—I have no doubt my secret, if I had one, might be safely entrusted to your honour, but I do not feel called upon to satisfy the curiosity of any one. Captain M‘Intyre met me in society which of itself was a warrant to all the world, and particularly ought to be such to him, that I was a gentleman. He has, in my opinion, no right to go any further, or to inquire the pedigree, rank, or circumstances, of a stranger, who, without seeking any intimate connection with him, or his, chances to dine with his uncle, or walk in company with his sister.”
“In that case, Captain M‘Intyre requests you to be informed, that your farther visits at Monkbarns, and all connection with Miss M‘Intyre, must be dropt, as disagreeable to him.”
“I shall certainly,” said Lovel, “visit Mr. Oldbuck when it suits me, without paying the least respect to his nephew’s threats or irritable feelings. I respect the young lady’s name too much (though nothing can be slighter than our acquaintance) to introduce it into such a discussion.”
“Since that is your resolution, sir,” answered Lesley, “Captain M‘Intyre requests that Mr. Lovel, unless he wishes to be announced as a very dubious character, will favour him with a meeting this evening, at seven, at the thorn-tree in the little valley close by the ruins of St. Ruth.”
“Most unquestionably, I will wait upon him. There is only one difficulty—I must find a friend to accompany me, and where to seek one on this short notice, as I have no acquaintance in Fairport—I will be on the spot, however—Captain M‘Intyre may be assured of that.”
Lesley had taken his hat, and was as far as the door of the apartment, when, as if moved by the peculiarity of Lovel’s situation, he returned, and thus addressed him: “Mr. Lovel, there is something so singular in all this, that I cannot help again resuming the argument. You must be yourself aware at this moment of the inconvenience of your preserving an incognito, for which, I am convinced, there can be no dishonourable reason. Still, this mystery renders it difficult for you to procure the assistance of a friend in a crisis so delicate—nay, let me add, that many persons will even consider it as a piece of Quixotry in M‘Intyre to give you a meeting, while your character and circumstances are involved in such obscurity.”
“I understand your innuendo, Mr. Lesley,” rejoined Lovel; “and though I might be offended at its severity, I am not so, because it is meant kindly. But, in my opinion, he is entitled to all the privileges of a gentleman, to whose charge, during the time he has been known in the society where he happens to move, nothing can be laid that is unhandsome or unbecoming. For a friend, I dare say I shall find some one or other who will do me that good turn; and if his experience be less than I could wish, I am certain not to suffer through that circumstance when you are in the field for my antagonist.”
“I trust you will not,” said Lesley; “but as I must, for my own sake, be anxious to divide so heavy a responsibility with a capable assistant, allow me to say, that Lieutenant Taffril’s gun-brig is come into the roadstead, and he himself is now at old Caxon’s, where he lodges. I think you have the same degree of acquaintance with him as with me, and, as I am sure I should willingly have rendered you such a service were I not engaged on the other side, I am convinced he will do so at your first request.”
“At the thorn-tree, then, Mr. Lesley, at seven this evening—the arms, I presume, are pistols?”
“Exactly. M‘Intyre has chosen the hour at which he can best escape from Monkbarns—he was with me this morning by five, in order to return and present himself before his uncle was up. Good-morning to you, Mr. Lovel.” And Lesley left the apartment.
Lovel was as brave as most men; but none can internally regard such a crisis as now approached, without deep feelings of awe and uncertainty. In a few hours he might be in another world to answer for an action which his calmer thought told him was unjustifiable in a religious point of view, or he might be wandering about in the present like Cain, with the blood of his brother on his head. And all this might be saved by speaking a single word. Yet pride whispered, that to speak that word now, would be ascribed to a motive which would degrade him more low than even the most injurious reasons that could be assigned for his silence. Every one, Miss Wardour included, must then, he thought, account him a mean dishonoured poltroon, who gave to the fear of meeting Captain M‘Intyre the explanation he had refused to the calm and handsome expostulations of Mr. Lesley. M‘Intyre’s insolent behaviour to himself personally, the air of pretension which he assumed towards Miss Wardour, and the extreme injustice, arrogance, and incivility of his demands upon a perfect stranger, seemed to justify him in repelling his rude investigation. In short, he formed the resolution which might have been expected from so young a man,—to shut the eyes, namely, of his calmer reason, and follow the dictates of his offended pride. With this purpose he sought Lieutenant Taffril.
The lieutenant received him with the good breeding of a gentleman and the frankness of a sailor, and listened with no small surprise to the detail which preceded his request that he might be favoured with his company at his meeting with Captain M‘Intyre. When he had finished, Taffril rose up and walked through his apartment once or twice. “This is a most singular circumstance,” he said, “and really”—
“I am conscious, Mr. Taffril, how little I am entitled to make my present request, but the urgency of circumstances hardly leaves me an alternative.”
“Permit me to ask you one question,” asked the sailor;—“is there anything of which you are ashamed in the circumstances which you have declined to communicate.”
“Upon my honour, no; there is nothing but what, in a very short time, I trust I may publish to the whole world.”
“I hope the mystery arises from no false shame at the lowness of your friends perhaps, or connections?”
“No, on my word,” replied Lovel.
“I have little sympathy for that folly,” said Taffril—“indeed I cannot be supposed to have any; for, speaking of my relations, I may be said to have come myself from before the mast, and I believe I shall very soon form a connection, which the world will think low enough, with a very amiable girl, to whom I have been attached since we were next-door neighbours, at a time when I little thought of the good fortune which has brought me forward in the service.”
“I assure you, Mr. Taffril,” replied Lovel, “whatever were the rank of my parents, I should never think of concealing it from a spirit of petty pride. But I am so situated at present, that I cannot enter on the subject of my family with any propriety.”
“It is quite enough,” said the honest sailor—“give me your hand; I’ll see you as well through this business as I can, though it is but an unpleasant one after all—But what of that? our own honour has the next call on us after our country;—you are a lad of spirit, and I own I think Mr. Hector M‘Intyre, with his long pedigree and his airs of family, very much of a jackanapes. His father was a soldier of fortune as I am a sailor—he himself, I suppose, is little better, unless just as his uncle pleases; and whether one pursues fortune by land, or sea, makes no great difference, I should fancy.”
“None in the universe, certainly,” answered Lovel.
“Well,” said his new ally, “we will dine together and arrange matters for this rencounter. I hope you understand the use of the weapon?”
“Not particularly,” Lovel replied.
“I am sorry for that—M‘Intyre is said to be a marksman.”
“I am sorry for it also,” said Lovel, “both for his sake and my own: I must then, in self-defence, take my aim as well as I can.”
“Well,” added Taffril, “I will have our surgeon’s mate on the field—a good clever young fellow at caulking a shot-hole. I will let Lesley, who is an honest fellow for a landsman, know that he attends for the benefit of either party. Is there anything I can do for you in case of an accident?”
“I have but little occasion to trouble you,” said Lovel. “This small billet contains the key of my escritoir, and my very brief secret. There is one letter in the escritoir” (digesting a temporary swelling of the heart as he spoke), “which I beg the favour of you to deliver with your own hand.”
“I understand,” said the sailor. “Nay, my friend, never be ashamed for the matter—an affectionate heart may overflow for an instant at the eyes, if the ship were clearing for action; and, depend on it, whatever your injunctions are, Dan Taffril will regard them like the bequest of a dying brother. But this is all stuff;—we must get our things in fighting order, and you will dine with me and my little surgeon’s mate, at the Graeme’s-Arms over the way, at four o’clock.”
“Agreed,” said Lovel.
“Agreed,” said Taffril; and the whole affair was arranged.
It was a beautiful summer evening, and the shadow of the solitary thorn-tree was lengthening upon the short greensward of the narrow valley, which was skirted by the woods that closed around the ruins of St. Ruth.
Lovel and Lieutenant Taffril, with the surgeon, came upon the ground with a purpose of a nature very uncongenial to the soft, mild, and pacific character of the hour and scene. The sheep, which during the ardent heat of the day had sheltered in the breaches and hollows of the gravelly bank, or under the roots of the aged and stunted trees, had now spread themselves upon the face of the hill to enjoy their evening’s pasture, and bleated, to each other with that melancholy sound which at once gives life to a landscape, and marks its solitude.—Taffril and Lovel came on in deep conference, having, for fear of discovery, sent their horses back to the town by the Lieutenant’s servant. The opposite party had not yet appeared on the field. But when they came upon the ground, there sat upon the roots of the old thorn a figure as vigorous in his decay as the moss-grown but strong and contorted boughs which served him for a canopy. It was old Ochiltree. “This is embarrassing enough,” said Lovel:—“How shall we get rid of this old fellow?”
“Here, father Adam,” cried Taffril, who knew the mendicant of yore—“here’s half-a-crown for you. You must go to the Four Horse-shoes yonder—the little inn, you know, and inquire for a servant with blue and yellow livery. If he is not come, you’ll wait for him, and tell him we shall be with his master in about an hour’s time. At any rate, wait there till we come back,—and—Get off with you—Come, come, weigh anchor.”
“I thank ye for your awmous,” said Ochiltree, pocketing the piece of money; “but I beg your pardon, Mr. Taffril—I canna gang your errand e’en now.”
“Why not, man? what can hinder you?”
“I wad speak a word wi’ young Mr. Lovel.”
“With me?” answered Lovel: “what would you say with me? Come, say on, and be brief.”
The mendicant led him a few paces aside. “Are ye indebted onything to the Laird o’ Monkbarns?”
“Indebted!—no, not I—what of that?—what makes you think so?”
“Ye maun ken I was at the shirra’s the day; for, God help me, I gang about a’ gates like the troubled spirit; and wha suld come whirling there in a post-chaise, but Monkbarns in an unco carfuffle—now, it’s no a little thing that will make his honour take a chaise and post-horse twa days rinnin’.”
“Well, well; but what is all this to me?”
“Ou, ye’se hear, ye’se hear. Weel, Monkbarns is closeted wi’ the shirra whatever puir folk may be left thereout—ye needna doubt that—the gentlemen are aye unco civil amang themsells.”
“For heaven’s sake, my old friend”—
“Canna ye bid me gang to the deevil at ance, Mr. Lovel? it wad be mair purpose fa’ard than to speak o’ heaven in that impatient gate.”
“But I have private business with Lieutenant Taffril here.”
“Weel, weel, a’ in gude time,” said the beggar—“I can use a little wee bit freedom wi’ Mr. Daniel Taffril;—mony’s the peery and the tap I worked for him langsyne, for I was a worker in wood as weel as a tinkler.”
“You are either mad, Adam, or have a mind to drive me mad.”
“Nane o’ the twa,” said Edie, suddenly changing his manner from the protracted drawl of the mendicant to a brief and decided tone. “The shirra sent for his clerk, and as the lad is rather light o’ the tongue, I fand it was for drawing a warrant to apprehend you—I thought it had been on a fugie warrant for debt; for a’ body kens the laird likes naebody to pit his hand in his pouch—But now I may haud my tongue, for I see the M‘Intyre lad and Mr. Lesley coming up, and I guess that Monkbarns’s purpose was very kind, and that yours is muckle waur than it should be.”
The antagonist now approached, and saluted with the stern civility which befitted the occasion. “What has this old fellow to do here?” said M‘Intyre.
“I am an auld fallow,” said Edie, “but I am also an auld soldier o’ your father’s, for I served wi’ him in the 42d.”
“Serve where you please, you have no title to intrude on us,” said M‘Intyre, “or”—and he lifted his cane in terrorem, though without the idea of touching the old man.
But Ochiltree’s courage was roused by the insult. “Haud down your switch, Captain M‘Intyre! I am an auld soldier, as I said before, and I’ll take muckle frae your father’s son; but no a touch o’ the wand while my pike-staff will haud thegither.”
“Well, well, I was wrong—I was wrong,” said M‘Intyre; “here’s a crown for you—go your ways—what’s the matter now?”
The old man drew himself up to the full advantage of his uncommon height, and in despite of his dress, which indeed had more of the pilgrim than the ordinary beggar, looked from height, manner, and emphasis of voice and gesture, rather like a grey palmer or eremite preacher, the ghostly counsellor of the young men who were around him, than the object of their charity. His speech, indeed, was as homely as his habit, but as bold and unceremonious as his erect and dignified demeanour. “What are ye come here for, young men?” he said, addressing himself to the surprised audience; “are ye come amongst the most lovely works of God to break his laws? Have ye left the works of man, the houses and the cities that are but clay and dust, like those that built them—and are ye come here among the peaceful hills, and by the quiet waters, that will last whiles aught earthly shall endure, to destroy each other’s lives, that will have but an unco short time, by the course of nature, to make up a lang account at the close o’t? O sirs! hae ye brothers, sisters, fathers, that hae tended ye, and mothers that hae travailed for ye, friends that hae ca’d ye like a piece o’ their ain heart? and is this the way ye tak to make them childless and brotherless and friendless? Ohon! it’s an ill feight whar he that wins has the warst o’t. Think on’t, bairns. I’m a puir man—but I’m an auld man too—and what my poverty takes awa frae the weight o’ my counsel, grey hairs and a truthfu’ heart should add it twenty times. Gang hame, gang hame, like gude lads—the French will be ower to harry us ane o’ thae days, and ye’ll hae feighting eneugh, and maybe auld Edie will hirple out himsell if he can get a feal-dyke to lay his gun ower, and may live to tell you whilk o’ ye does the best where there’s a good cause afore ye.”
There was something in the undaunted and independent manner, hardy sentiment, and manly rude elocution of the old man, that had its effect upon the party, and particularly on the seconds, whose pride was uninterested in bringing the dispute to a bloody arbitrament, and who, on the contrary, eagerly watched for an opportunity to recommend reconciliation.
“Upon my word, Mr. Lesley,” said Taffril, “old Adam speaks like an oracle. Our friends here were very angry yesterday, and of course very foolish;—today they should be cool, or at least we must be so in their behalf. I think the word should be forget and forgive on both sides,—that we should all shake hands, fire these foolish crackers in the air, and go home to sup in a body at the Graeme’s-Arms.”
“I would heartily recommend it,” said Lesley; “for, amidst a great deal of heat and irritation on both sides, I confess myself unable to discover any rational ground of quarrel.”
“Gentlemen,” said M‘Intyre, very coldly, “all this should have been thought of before. In my opinion, persons that have carried this matter so far as we have done, and who should part without carrying it any farther, might go to supper at the Graeme’s-Arms very joyously, but would rise the next morning with reputations as ragged as our friend here, who has obliged us with a rather unnecessary display of his oratory. I speak for myself, that I find myself bound to call upon you to proceed without more delay.”
“And I,” said Lovel, “as I never desired any, have also to request these gentlemen to arrange preliminaries as fast as possible.”
“Bairns! bairns!” cried old Ochiltree; but perceiving he was no longer attended to—“Madmen, I should say—but your blood be on your heads!” And the old man drew off from the ground, which was now measured out by the seconds, and continued muttering and talking to himself in sullen indignation, mixed with anxiety, and with a strong feeling of painful curiosity. Without paying farther attention to his presence or remonstrances, Mr. Lesley and the Lieutenant made the necessary arrangements for the duel, and it was agreed that both parties should fire when Mr. Lesley dropped his handkerchief.
The fatal sign was given, and both fired almost in the same moment. Captain M‘Intyre’s ball grazed the side of his opponent, but did not draw blood. That of Lovel was more true to the aim; M‘Intyre reeled and fell. Raising himself on his arm, his first exclamation was, “It is nothing—it is nothing—give us the other pistols.” But in an instant he said, in a lower tone, “I believe I have enough—and what’s worse, I fear I deserve it. Mr. Lovel, or whatever your name is, fly and save yourself—Bear all witness, I provoked this matter.” Then raising himself again on his arm, he added, “Shake hands, Lovel—I believe you to be a gentleman—forgive my rudeness, and I forgive you my death—My poor sister!”
The surgeon came up to perform his part of the tragedy, and Lovel stood gazing on the evil of which he had been the active, though unwilling cause, with a dizzy and bewildered eye. He was roused from his trance by the grasp of the mendicant. “Why stand you gazing on your deed?—What’s doomed is doomed—what’s done is past recalling. But awa, awa, if ye wad save your young blood from a shamefu’ death—I see the men out by yonder that are come ower late to part ye—but, out and alack! sune eneugh, and ower sune, to drag ye to prison.”
“He is right—he is right,” exclaimed Taffril; “you must not attempt to get on the high-road—get into the wood till night. My brig will be under sail by that time, and at three in the morning, when the tide will serve, I shall have the boat waiting for you at the Mussel-crag. Away-away, for Heaven’s sake!”
“O yes! fly, fly!” repeated the wounded man, his words faltering with convulsive sobs.
“Come with me,” said the mendicant, almost dragging him off; “the Captain’s plan is the best—I’ll carry ye to a place where ye might be concealed in the meantime, were they to seek ye ‘wi’ sleuth-hounds.”
“Go, go,” again urged Lieutenant Taffril—“to stay here is mere madness.”
“It was worse madness to have come hither,” said Lovel, pressing his hand—“But farewell!” And he followed Ochiltree into the recesses of the wood.