—The Lord Abbot had a soul|
Subtile and quick, and searching as the fire;
By magic stairs he went as deep as hell,
And if in devils’ possession gold be kept,
He brought some sure from thence—’tis hid in caves,
Known, save to me, to none.—
The Wonder of a Kingdome.
These painful reflections were not interrupted by any conversation on the part of his guide, who threaded the thicket before him, now holding back the sprays to make his path easy, now exhorting him to make haste, now muttering to himself, after the custom of solitary and neglected old age, words which might have escaped Lovel’s ear even had he listened to them, or which, apprehended and retained, were too isolated to convey any connected meaning,—a habit which may be often observed among people of the old man’s age and calling.
At length, as Lovel, exhausted by his late indisposition, the harrowing feelings by which he was agitated, and the exertion necessary to keep up with his guide in a path so rugged, began to flag and fall behind, two or three very precarious steps placed him on the front of a precipice overhung with brushwood and copse. Here a cave, as narrow in its entrance as a fox-earth, was indicated by a small fissure in the rock, screened by the boughs of an aged oak, which, anchored by its thick and twisted roots in the upper part of the cleft, flung its branches almost straight outward from the cliff, concealing it effectually from all observation. It might indeed have escaped the attention even of those who had stood at its very opening, so uninviting was the portal at which the beggar entered. But within, the cavern was higher and more roomy, cut into two separate branches, which, intersecting each other at right angles, formed an emblem of the cross, and indicated the abode of an anchoret of former times. There are many caves of the same kind in different parts of Scotland. I need only instance those of Gorton, near Rosslyn, in a scene well known to the admirers of romantic nature.
The light within the eave was a dusky twilight at the entrance, which failed altogether in the inner recesses. “Few folks ken o’ this place,” said the old man; “to the best o’my knowledge, there’s just twa living by mysell, and that’s Jingling Jock and the Lang Linker. I have had mony a thought, that when I fand mysell auld and forfairn, and no able to enjoy God’s blessed air ony langer, I wad drag mysell here wi’ a pickle ait-meal; and see, there’s a bit bonny dropping well that popples that self-same gate simmer and winter;—and I wad e’en streek mysell out here, and abide my removal, like an auld dog that trails its useless ugsome carcass into some bush or bracken no to gie living things a scunner wi’ the sight o’t when it’s dead—Ay, and then, when the dogs barked at the lone farm-stead, the gudewife wad cry, ‘Whisht, stirra, that’ll be auld Edie,’ and the bits o’ weans wad up, puir things, and toddle to the door to pu’ in the auld Blue-Gown that mends a’ their bonny-dies—But there wad be nae mair word o’ Edie, I trow.”
He then led Lovel, who followed him unresistingly, into one of the interior branches of the cave. “Here,” he said, “is a bit turnpike-stair that gaes up to the auld kirk abune. Some folks say this place was howkit out by the monks lang syne to hide their treasure in, and some said that they used to bring things into the abbey this gate by night, that they durstna sae weel hae brought in by the main port and in open day—And some said that ane o’ them turned a saint (or aiblins wad hae had folk think sae), and settled him down in this Saint Ruth’s cell, as the auld folks aye ca’d it, and garr’d big the stair, that he might gang up to the kirk when they were at the divine service. The Laird o’ Monkbarns wad hae a hantle to say about it, as he has about maist things, if he ken’d only about the place. But whether it was made for man’s devices or God’s service, I have seen ower muckle sin done in it in my day, and far ower muckle have I been partaker of—ay, even here in this dark cove. Mony a gudewife’s been wondering what for the red cock didna craw her up in the morning, when he’s been roasting, puir fallow, in this dark hole—And, ohon! I wish that and the like o’ that had been the warst o’t! Whiles they wad hae heard the din we were making in the very bowels o’ the earth, when Sanders Aikwood, that was forester in thae days, the father o’ Ringan that now is, was gaun daundering about the wood at e’en, to see after the Laird’s game and whiles he wad hae seen a glance o’ the light frae the door o’ the cave, flaughtering against the hazels on the other bank;—and then siccan stories as Sanders had about the worricows and gyre-carlins that haunted about the auld wa’s at e’en, and the lights that he had seen, and the cries that he had heard, when there was nae mortal e’e open but his ain; and eh! as he wad thrum them ower and ower to the like o’ me ayont the ingle at e’en, and as I wad gie the auld silly carle grane for grane, and tale for tale, though I ken’d muckle better about it than ever he did. Ay, ay—they were daft days thae;—but they were a’ vanity, and waur,—and it’s fitting that they wha hae led a light and evil life, and abused charity when they were young, suld aiblins come to lack it when they are auld.”
While Ochiltree was thus recounting the exploits and tricks of his earlier life, with a tone in which glee and compunction alternately predominated, his unfortunate auditor had sat down upon the hermit’s seat, hewn out of the solid rock, and abandoned himself to that lassitude, both of mind and body, which generally follows a course of events that have agitated both, The effect of his late indisposition, which had much weakened his system, contributed to this lethargic despondency. “The puir bairn!” said auld Edie, “an he sleeps in this damp hole, he’ll maybe wauken nae mair, or catch some sair disease. It’s no the same to him as to the like o’ us, that can sleep ony gate an anes our wames are fu’. Sit up, Maister Lovel, lad! After a’s come and gane, I dare say the captain-lad will do weel eneugh—and, after a’, ye are no the first that has had this misfortune. I hae seen mony a man killed, and helped to kill them mysell, though there was nae quarrel between us—and if it isna wrang to kill folk we have nae quarrel wi’, just because they wear another sort of a cockade, and speak a foreign language, I canna see but a man may have excuse for killing his ain mortal foe, that comes armed to the fair field to kill him. I dinna say it’s right—God forbid—or that it isna sinfu’ to take away what ye canna restore, and that’s the breath of man, whilk is in his nostrils; but I say it is a sin to be forgiven if it’s repented of. Sinfu’ men are we a’; but if ye wad believe an auld grey sinner that has seen the evil o’ his ways, there is as much promise atween the twa boards o’ the Testament as wad save the warst o’ us, could we but think sae.”
With such scraps of comfort and of divinity as he possessed, the mendicant thus continued to solicit and compel the attention of Lovel, until the twilight began to fade into night. “Now,” said Ochiltree, “I will carry ye to a mair convenient place, where I hae sat mony a time to hear the howlit crying out of the ivy tod, and to see the moonlight come through the auld windows o’ the ruins. There can be naebody come here after this time o’ night; and if they hae made ony search, thae blackguard shirra’-officers and constables, it will hae been ower lang syne. Od, they are as great cowards as ither folk, wi’ a’ their warrants and king’s keys1—I hae gien some o’ them a gliff in my day, when they were coming rather ower near me—But, lauded be grace for it! they canna stir me now for ony waur than an auld man and a beggar, and my badge is a gude protection; and then Miss Isabella Wardour is a tower o’ strength, ye ken”—(Lovel sighed)—“Aweel, dinna be cast down—bowls may a’ row right yet—gie the lassie time to ken her mind. She’s the wale o’ the country for beauty, and a gude friend o’ mine—I gang by the bridewell as safe as by the kirk on a Sabbath—deil ony o’ them daur hurt a hair o’ auld Edie’s head now; I keep the crown o’ the causey when I gae to the borough, and rub shouthers wi’ a bailie wi’ as little concern as an he were a brock.”
While the mendicant spoke thus, he was busied in removing a few loose stones in one angle of the eave, which obscured the entrance of the staircase of which he had spoken, and led the way into it, followed by Lovel in passive silence.
“The air’s free eneugh,” said the old man; “the monks took care o’ that, for they werena a lang-breathed generation, I reckon; they hae contrived queer tirlie-wirlie holes, that gang out to the open air, and keep the stair as caller as a kail-blade.”
Lovel accordingly found the staircase well aired, and, though narrow, it was neither ruinous nor long, but speedily admitted them into a narrow gallery contrived to run within the side wall of the chancel, from which it received air and light through apertures ingeniously hidden amid the florid ornaments of the Gothic architecture.
“This secret passage ance gaed round great part o’ the biggin,” said the beggar, “and through the wa’ o’ the place I’ve heard Monkbarns ca’ the Refractory” [meaning probably Refectory], “and so awa to the Prior’s ain house. It’s like he could use it to listen what the monks were saying at meal-time,—and then he might come ben here and see that they were busy skreighing awa wi’ the psalms doun below there; and then, when he saw a’ was right and tight, he might step awa and fetch in a bonnie lass at the cove yonder—for they were queer hands the monks, unless mony lees is made on them. But our folk were at great pains lang syne to big up the passage in some parts, and pu’ it down in others, for fear o’ some uncanny body getting into it, and finding their way down to the cove: it wad hae been a fashious job that—by my certie, some o’ our necks wad hae been ewking.”
They now came to a place where the gallery was enlarged into a small circle, sufficient to contain a stone seat. A niche, constructed exactly before it, projected forward into the chancel, and as its sides were latticed, as it were, with perforated stone-work, it commanded a full view of the chancel in every direction, and was probably constructed, as Edie intimated, to be a convenient watch-tower, from which the superior priest, himself unseen, might watch the behaviour of his monks, and ascertain, by personal inspection, their punctual attendance upon those rites of devotion which his rank exempted him from sharing with them. As this niche made one of a regular series which stretched along the wall of the chancel, and in no respect differed from the rest when seen from below, the secret station, screened as it was by the stone figure of St. Michael and the dragon, and the open tracery around the niche, was completely hid from observation. The private passage, confined to its pristine breadth, had originally continued beyond this seat; but the jealous precautions of the vagabonds who frequented the cave of St. Ruth had caused them to build it carefully up with hewn stones from the ruin.
“We shall be better here,” said Edie, seating himself on the stone bench, and stretching the lappet of his blue gown upon the spot, when he motioned Lovel to sit down beside him—“we shall be better here than doun below; the air’s free and mild, and the savour of the wallflowers, and siccan shrubs as grow on thae ruined wa’s, is far mair refreshing than the damp smell doun below yonder. They smell sweetest by night-time thae flowers, and they’re maist aye seen about rained buildings. Now, Maister Lovel, can ony o’ you scholars gie a gude reason for that?”
Lovel replied in the negative.
“I am thinking,” resumed the beggar, “that they’ll be, like mony folk’s gude gifts, that often seem maist gracious in adversity—or maybe it’s a parable, to teach us no to slight them that are in the darkness of sin and the decay of tribulation, since God sends odours to refresh the mirkest hour, and flowers and pleasant bushes to clothe the ruined buildings. And now I wad like a wise man to tell me whether Heaven is maist pleased wi’ the sight we are looking upon—thae pleasant and quiet lang streaks o’ moonlight that are lying sae still on the floor o’ this auld kirk, and glancing through the great pillars and stanchions o’ the carved windows, and just dancing like on the leaves o’ the dark ivy as the breath o’ wind shakes it—I wonder whether this is mair pleasing to Heaven than when it was lighted up wi’ lamps, and candles nae doubt, and roughies,2 and wi’ the mirth and the frankincent that they speak of in the Holy Scripture, and wi’ organs assuredly, and men and women singers, and sackbuts, and dulcimers, and a’ instruments o’ music—I wonder if that was acceptable, or whether it is of these grand parafle o’ ceremonies that holy writ says, ‘It is an abomination to me.’ I am thinking, Maister Lovel, if twa puir contrite spirits like yours and mine fand grace to make our petition”—
Here Lovel laid his hand eagerly on the mendicant’s arm, saying,—“Hush! I heard some one speak.”
“I am dull o’ hearing,” answered Edie, in a whisper, “but we’re surely safe here—where was the sound?”
Lovel pointed to the door of the chancel, which, highly ornamented, occupied the west end of the building, surmounted by the carved window, which let in a flood of moonlight over it.
“They can be nane o’ our folk,” said Edie in the same low and cautious tone; “there’s but twa o’ them kens o’ the place, and they’re mony a mile off, if they are still bound on their weary pilgrimage. I’ll never think it’s the officers here at this time o’ night. I am nae believer in auld wives’ stories about ghaists, though this is gey like a place for them—But mortal, or of the other world, here they come!—twa men and a light.”
And in very truth, while the mendicant spoke, two human figures darkened with their shadows the entrance of the chancel—which had before opened to the moon-lit meadow beyond, and the small lantern which one of them displayed, glimmered pale in the clear and strong beams of the moon, as the evening star does among the lights of the departing day. The first and most obvious idea was, that, despite the asseverations of Edie Ochiltree, the persons who approached the ruins at an hour so uncommon must be the officers of justice in quest of Lovel. But no part of their conduct confirmed the suspicion. A touch and a whisper from the old man warned Lovel that his best course was to remain quiet, and watch their motions from their present place of concealment. Should anything appear to render retreat necessary, they had behind them the private stair-case and cavern, by means of which they could escape into the wood long before any danger of close pursuit. They kept themselves, therefore, as still as possible, and observed with eager and anxious curiosity every accent and motion of these nocturnal wanderers.
After conversing together some time in whispers, the two figures advanced into the middle of the chancel; and a voice, which Lovel at once recognised, from its tone and dialect, to be that of Dousterswivel, pronounced in a louder but still a smothered tone, “Indeed, mine goot sir, dere cannot be one finer hour nor season for dis great purpose. You shall see, mine goot sir, dat it is all one bibble-babble dat Mr. Oldenbuck says, and dat he knows no more of what he speaks than one little child. Mine soul! he expects to get as rich as one Jew for his poor dirty one hundred pounds, which I care no more about, by mine honest wort, than I care for an hundred stivers. But to you, my most munificent and reverend patron, I will show all de secrets dat art can show—ay, de secret of de great Pymander.”
“That other ane,” whispered Edie, “maun be, according to a’ likelihood, Sir Arthur Wardour—I ken naebody but himsell wad come here at this time at e’en wi’ that German blackguard;—ane wad think he’s bewitched him—he gars him e’en trow that chalk is cheese. Let’s see what they can be doing.”
This interruption, and the low tone in which Sir Arthur spoke, made Lovel lose all Sir Arthur’s answer to the adept, excepting the last three emphatic words, “Very great expense;” to which Dousterswivel at once replied—“Expenses!—to be sure—dere must be de great expenses. You do not expect to reap before you do sow de seed: de expense is de seed—de riches and de mine of goot metal, and now de great big chests of plate, they are de crop—vary goot crop too, on mine wort. Now, Sir Arthur, you have sowed this night one little seed of ten guineas like one pinch of snuff, or so big; and if you do not reap de great harvest—dat is, de great harvest for de little pinch of seed, for it must be proportions, you must know—then never call one honest man, Herman Dousterswivel. Now you see, mine patron—for I will not conceal mine secret from you at all—you see this little plate of silver; you know de moon measureth de whole zodiack in de space of twenty-eight day—every shild knows dat. Well, I take a silver plate when she is in her fifteenth mansion, which mansion is in de head of Libra, and I engrave upon one side de worts, Shedbarschemoth Schartachan—dat is, de Emblems of de Intelligence of de moon—and I make this picture like a flying serpent with a turkey-cock’s head—vary well. Then upon this side I make de table of de moon, which is a square of nine, multiplied into itself, with eighty-one numbers on every side, and diameter nine—dere it is done very proper. Now I will make dis avail me at de change of every quarter-moon dat I shall find by de same proportions of expenses I lay out in de suffumigations, as nine, to de product of nine multiplied into itself—But I shall find no more to-night as maybe two or dree times nine, because dere is a thwarting power in de house of ascendency.”
“But, Dousterswivel,” said the simple Baronet, “does not this look like magic?—I am a true though unworthy son of the Episcopal church, and I will have nothing to do with the foul fiend.”
“Bah! bah!—not a bit magic in it at all—not a bit—It is all founded on de planetary influence, and de sympathy and force of numbers. I will show you much finer dan dis. I do not say dere is not de spirit in it, because of de suffumigation; but, if you are not afraid, he shall not be invisible.”
“I have no curiosity to see him at all,” said the Baronet, whose courage seemed, from a certain quaver in his accent, to have taken a fit of the ague.
“Dat is great pity,” said Dousterswivel; “I should have liked to show you de spirit dat guard dis treasure like one fierce watchdog—but I know how to manage him;—you would not care to see him?”
“Not at all,” answered the Baronet, in a tone of feigned indifference; “I think we have but little time.”
“You shall pardon me, my patron; it is not yet twelve, and twelve precise is just our planetary hours; and I could show you de spirit vary well, in de meanwhile, just for pleasure. You see I would draw a pentagon within a circle, which is no trouble at all, and make my suffumigation within it, and dere we would be like in one strong castle, and you would hold de sword while I did say de needful worts. Den you should see de solid wall open like de gate of ane city, and den—let me see—ay, you should see first one stag pursued by three black greyhounds, and they should pull him down as they do at de elector’s great hunting-match; and den one ugly, little, nasty black negro should appear and take de stag from them—and paf—all should be gone; den you should hear horns winded dat all de ruins should ring—mine wort, they should play fine hunting piece, as goot as him you call’d Fischer with his oboi; vary well—den comes one herald, as we call Ernhold, winding his horn—and den come de great Peolphan, called de mighty Hunter of de North, mounted on hims black steed. But you would not care to see all this?”3
“Why, I am not afraid,” answered the poor Baronet,—“if—that is—does anything—any great mischiefs, happen on such occasions?”
“Bah! mischiefs? no!—sometimes if de circle be no quite just, or de beholder be de frightened coward, and not hold de sword firm and straight towards him, de Great Hunter will take his advantage, and drag him exorcist out of de circle and throttle him. Dat does happens.”
“Well then, Dousterswivel, with every confidence in my courage and your skill, we will dispense with this apparition, and go on to the business of the night.”
“With all mine heart—it is just one thing to me—and now it is de time—hold you de sword till I kindle de little what you call chip.”
Dousterswivel accordingly set fire to a little pile of chips, touched and prepared with some bituminous substance to make them burn fiercely; and when the flame was at the highest, and lightened, with its shortlived glare, all the ruins around, the German flung in a handful of perfumes which produced a strong and pungent odour. The exorcist and his pupil both were so much affected as to cough and sneeze heartily; and, as the vapour floated around the pillars of the building, and penetrated every crevice, it produced the same effect on the beggar and Lovel.
“Was that an echo?” said the Baronet, astonished at the sternutation which resounded from above; “or”—drawing close to the adept, “can it be the spirit you talked of, ridiculing our attempt upon his hidden treasures?”
“N—n—no,” muttered the German, who began to partake of his pupil’s terrors, “I hope not.”
Here a violent of sneezing, which the mendicant was unable to suppress, and which could not be considered by any means as the dying fall of an echo, accompanied by a grunting half-smothered cough, confounded the two treasure-seekers. “Lord have mercy on us!” said the Baronet.
“Alle guten Geistern loben den Herrn!” ejaculated the terrified adept. “I was begun to think,” he continued, after a moment’s silence, “that this would be de bestermost done in de day-light—we was bestermost to go away just now.”
“You juggling villain!” said the Baronet, in whom these expressions awakened a suspicion that overcame his terrors, connected as it was with the sense of desperation arising from the apprehension of impending ruin—“you juggling mountebank! this is some legerdemain trick of yours to get off from the performance of your promise, as you have so often done before. But, before Heaven! I will this night know what I have trusted to when I suffered you to fool me on to my ruin! Go on, then—come fairy, come fiend, you shall show me that treasure, or confess yourself a knave and an impostor, or, by the faith of a desperate and ruined man, I’ll send you where you shall see spirits enough.”
The treasure-finder, trembling between his terror for the supernatural beings by whom he supposed himself to be surrounded, and for his life, which seemed to be at the mercy of a desperate man, could only bring out, “Mine patron, this is not the allerbestmost usage. Consider, mine honoured sir, that de spirits”—
Here Edie, who began to enter into the humour of the scene, uttered an extraordinary howl, being an exaltation and a prolongation of the most deplorable whine in which he was accustomed to solicit charity.
Dousterswivel flung himself on his knees—“Dear Sir Arthurs, let us go, or let me go!”
“No, you cheating scoundrel!” said the knight, unsheathing the sword which he had brought for the purposes of the exorcism, “that shift shall not serve you—Monkbarns warned me long since of your juggling pranks—I will see this treasure before you leave this place, or I will have you confess yourself an impostor, or, by Heaven, I’ll run this sword through you, though all the spirits of the dead should rise around us!”
“For de lofe of Heaven be patient, mine honoured patron, and you shall hafe all de treasure as I knows of—yes, you shall indeed—But do not speak about de spirits—it makes dem angry.”
Edie Ochiltree here prepared himself to throw in another groan, but was restrained by Lovel, who began to take a more serious interest, as he observed the earnest and almost desperate demeanour of Sir Arthur. Dousterswivel, having at once before his eyes the fear of the foul fiend, and the violence of Sir Arthur, played his part of a conjuror extremely ill, hesitating to assume the degree of confidence necessary to deceive the latter, lest it should give offence to the invisible cause of his alarm. However, after rolling his eyes, muttering and sputtering German exorcisms, with contortions of his face and person, rather flowing from the impulse of terror than of meditated fraud, he at length proceeded to a corner of the building where a flat stone lay upon the ground, bearing upon its surface the effigy of an armed warrior in a recumbent posture carved in bas-relief. He muttered to Sir Arthur, “Mine patrons, it is here—Got save us all!”
Sir Arthur, who, after the first moment of his superstitious fear was over, seemed to have bent up all his faculties to the pitch of resolution necessary to carry on the adventure, lent the adept his assistance to turn over the stone, which, by means of a lever that the adept had provided, their joint force with difficulty effected. No supernatural light burst forth from below to indicate the subterranean treasury, nor was there any apparition of spirits, earthly or infernal. But when Dousterswivel had, with great trepidation, struck a few strokes with a mattock, and as hastily thrown out a shovelful or two of earth (for they came provided with the tools necessary for digging), something was heard to ring like the sound of a falling piece of metal, and Dousterswivel, hastily catching up the substance which produced it, and which his shovel had thrown out along with the earth, exclaimed, “On mine dear wort, mine patrons, dis is all—it is indeed; I mean all we can do to-night;”—and he gazed round him with a cowering and fearful glance, as if to see from what comer the avenger of his imposture was to start forth.
“Let me see it,” said Sir Arthur; and then repeated, still more sternly, “I will be satisfied—I will judge by mine own eyes.” He accordingly held the object to the light of the lantern. It was a small case, or casket,—for Lovel could not at the distance exactly discern its shape, which, from the Baronet’s exclamation as he opened it, he concluded was filled with coin. “Ay,” said the Baronet, “this is being indeed in good luck! and if it omens proportional success upon a larger venture, the venture shall be made. That six hundred of Goldieword’s, added to the other incumbent claims, must have been ruin indeed. If you think we can parry it by repeating this experiment—suppose when the moon next changes,—I will hazard the necessary advance, come by it how I may.”
“Oh, mine good patrons, do not speak about all dat,” said Dousterswivel, “as just now, but help me to put de shtone to de rights, and let us begone our own ways.” And accordingly, so soon as the stone was replaced, he hurried Sir Arthur, who was now resigned once more to his guidance, away from a spot, where the German’s guilty conscience and superstitious fears represented goblins as lurking behind each pillar with the purpose of punishing his treachery.
“Saw onybody e’er the like o’ that!” said Edie, when they had disappeared like shadows through the gate by which they had entered—“saw ony creature living e’er the like o’ that!—But what can we do for that puir doited deevil of a knight-baronet? Od, he showed muckle mair spunk, too, than I thought had been in him—I thought he wad hae sent cauld iron through the vagabond—Sir Arthur wasna half sae bauld at Bessie’s-apron yon night—but then, his blood was up even now, and that makes an unco difference. I hae seen mony a man wad hae felled another an anger him, that wadna muckle hae liked a clink against Crummies-horn yon time. But what’s to be done?”
“I suppose,” said Lovel, “his faith in this fellow is entirely restored by this deception, which, unquestionably, he had arranged beforehand.”
“What! the siller?—Ay, ay—trust him for that—they that hide ken best where to find. He wants to wile him out o’ his last guinea, and then escape to his ain country, the land-louper. I wad likeit weel just to hae come in at the clipping-time, and gien him a lounder wi’ my pike-staff; he wad hae taen it for a bennison frae some o’ the auld dead abbots. But it’s best no to be rash; sticking disna gang by strength, but by the guiding o’ the gally. I’se be upsides wi’ him ae day.”
“What if you should inform Mr. Oldbuck?” said Lovel.
“Ou, I dinna ken—Monkbarns and Sir Arthur are like, and yet they’re no like neither. Monkbarns has whiles influence wi’ him, and whiles Sir Arthur cares as little about him as about the like o’ me. Monkbarns is no that ower wise himsell, in some things;—he wad believe a bodle to be an auld Roman coin, as he ca’s it, or a ditch to be a camp, upon ony leasing that idle folk made about it. I hae garr’d him trow mony a queer tale mysell, gude forgie me. But wi’ a’ that, he has unco little sympathy wi’ ither folks; and he’s snell and dure eneugh in casting up their nonsense to them, as if he had nane o’ his ain. He’ll listen the hale day, an yell tell him about tales o’ Wallace, and Blind Harry, and Davie Lindsay; but ye maunna speak to him about ghaists or fairies, or spirits walking the earth, or the like o’ that;—he had amaist flung auld Caxon out o’ the window (and he might just as weel hae flung awa his best wig after him), for threeping he had seen a ghaist at the humlock-knowe. Now, if he was taking it up in this way, he wad set up the tother’s birse, and maybe do mair ill nor gude—he’s done that twice or thrice about thae mine-warks; ye wad thought Sir Arthur had a pleasure in gaun on wi’ them the deeper, the mair he was warned against it by Monkbarns.”
“What say you then,” said Lovel, “to letting Miss Wardour know the circumstance?”
“Ou, puir thing, how could she stop her father doing his pleasure?—and, besides, what wad it help? There’s a sough in the country about that six hundred pounds, and there’s a writer chield in Edinburgh has been driving the spur-rowels o’ the law up to the head into Sir Arthur’s sides to gar him pay it, and if he canna, he maun gang to jail or flee the country. He’s like a desperate man, and just catches at this chance as a’ he has left, to escape utter perdition; so what signifies plaguing the puir lassie about what canna be helped? And besides, to say the truth, I wadna like to tell the secret o’ this place. It’s unco convenient, ye see yoursell, to hae a hiding-hole o’ ane’s ain; and though I be out o’ the line o’ needing ane e’en now, and trust in the power o’ grace that I’ll neer do onything to need ane again, yet naebody kens what temptation ane may be gien ower to—and, to be brief, I downa bide the thought of anybody kennin about the place;—they say, keep a thing seven year, an’ yell aye find a use for’t—and maybe I may need the cove, either for mysell, or for some ither body.”
This argument, in which Edie Ochiltree, notwithstanding his scraps of morality and of divinity, seemed to take, perhaps from old habit, a personal interest, could not be handsomely controverted by Lovel, who was at that moment reaping the benefit of the secret of which the old man appeared to be so jealous.
This incident, however, was of great service to Lovel, as diverting his mind from the unhappy occurrence of the evening, and considerably rousing the energies which had been stupefied by the first view of his calamity. He reflected that it by no means necessarily followed that a dangerous wound must be a fatal one—that he had been hurried from the spot even before the surgeon had expressed any opinion of Captain M‘Intyre’s situation—and that he had duties on earth to perform, even should the very worst be true, which, if they could not restore his peace of mind or sense of innocence, would furnish a motive for enduring existence, and at the same time render it a course of active benevolence.—Such were Lovel’s feelings, when the hour arrived when, according to Edie’s calculation—who, by some train or process of his own in observing the heavenly bodies, stood independent of the assistance of a watch or time-keeper—it was fitting they should leave their hiding-place, and betake themselves to the seashore, in order to meet Lieutenant Taffril’s boat according to appointment.
They retreated by the same passage which had admitted them to the prior’s secret seat of observation, and when they issued from the grotto into the wood, the birds which began to chirp, and even to sing, announced that the dawn was advanced. This was confirmed by the light and amber clouds that appeared over the sea, as soon as their exit from the copse permitted them to view the horizon.—Morning, said to be friendly to the muses, has probably obtained this character from its effect upon the fancy and feelings of mankind. Even to those who, like Lovel, have spent a sleepless and anxious night, the breeze of the dawn brings strength and quickening both of mind and body. It was, therefore, with renewed health and vigour that Lovel, guided by the trusty mendicant, brushed away the dew as he traversed the downs which divided the Den of St. Ruth, as the woods surrounding the ruins were popularly called, from the sea-shore.
The first level beam of the sun, as his brilliant disk began to emerge from the ocean, shot full upon the little gun-brig which was lying-to in the offing—close to the shore the boat was already waiting, Taffril himself, with his naval cloak wrapped about him, seated in the stern. He jumped ashore when he saw the mendicant and Lovel approach, and, shaking the latter heartily by the hand, begged him not to be cast down. “M‘Intyre’s wound,” he said, “was doubtful, but far from desperate.” His attention had got Lovel’s baggage privately sent on board the brig; “and,” he said, “he trusted that, if Lovel chose to stay with the vessel, the penalty of a short cruise would be the only disagreeable consequence of his rencontre. As for himself, his time and motions were a good deal at his own disposal, he said, excepting the necessary obligation of remaining on his station.”
“We will talk of our farther motions,” said Lovel, “as we go on board.”
Then turning to Edie, he endeavoured to put money into his hand. “I think,” said Edie, as he tendered it back again, “the hale folk here have either gane daft, or they hae made a vow to rain my trade, as they say ower muckle water drowns the miller. I hae had mair gowd offered me within this twa or three weeks than I ever saw in my life afore. Keep the siller, lad—yell hae need o’t, I’se warrant ye, and I hae nane my claes is nae great things, and I get a blue gown every year, and as mony siller groats as the king, God bless him, is years auld—you and I serve the same master, ye ken, Captain Taffril; there’s rigging provided for—and my meat and drink I get for the asking in my rounds, or, at an orra time, I can gang a day without it, for I make it a rule never to pay for nane;—so that a’ the siller I need is just to buy tobacco and sneeshin, and maybe a dram at a time in a cauld day, though I am nae dram-drinker to be a gaberlunzie;—sae take back your gowd, and just gie me a lily-white shilling.”
Upon these whims, which he imagined intimately connected with the honour of his vagabond profession, Edie was flint and adamant, not to be moved by rhetoric or entreaty; and therefore Lovel was under the necessity of again pocketing his intended bounty, and taking a friendly leave of the mendicant by shaking him by the hand, and assuring him of his cordial gratitude for the very important services which he had rendered him, recommending, at the same time, secrecy as to what they had that night witnessed.—“Ye needna doubt that,” said Ochiltree; “I never tell’d tales out o’ yon cove in my life, though mony a queer thing I hae seen in’t.”
The boat now put off. The old man remained looking after it as it made rapidly towards the brig under the impulse of six stout rowers, and Lovel beheld him again wave his blue bonnet as a token of farewell ere he turned from his fixed posture, and began to move slowly along the sands as if resuming his customary perambulations.
1. The king’s keys are, in law phrase, the crow-bars and hammers used to force doors and locks, in execution of the king’s warrant. [back]
3. Witchcraft.—A great deal of stuff to the same purpose with that placed in the mouth of the German adept, may be found in Reginald Scott’s Discovery of Witchcraft, Third Edition, folio, London, 1665. The Appendix is entitled, “An Excellent Discourse of the Nature and Substances of Devils and Spirits, in two Books; the first by the aforesaid author (Reginald Scott), the Second now added in this Third Edition as succedaneous to the former, and conducing to the completing of the whole work.” This Second Book, though stated as succedaneous to the first, is, in fact, entirely at variance with it; for the work of Reginald Scott is a compilation of the absurd and superstitious ideas concerning witches so generally entertained at the time, and the pretended conclusion is a serious treatise on the various means of conjuring astral spirits. [back]