The Antiquary

Chapter XXIII

Walter Scott

                        —And this Doctor,
Your sooty smoky-bearded compeer, he
Will close you so much gold in a bolt’s head,
And, on a turn, convey in the stead another
With sublimed mercury, that shall burst i’ the heat,
And all fly out in fumo.
The Alchemist.


“HOW do you do, goot Mr. Oldenbuck? and I do hope your young gentleman, Captain M‘Intyre, is getting better again? Ach! it is a bat business when young gentlemens will put lead balls into each other’s body.”

“Lead adventures of all kinds are very precarious, Mr. Dousterswivel; but I am happy to learn,” continued the Antiquary, “from my friend Sir Arthur, that you have taken up a better trade, and become a discoverer of gold.”

“Ach, Mr. Oldenbuck, mine goot and honoured patron should not have told a word about dat little matter; for, though I have all reliance—yes, indeed, on goot Mr. Oldenbuck’s prudence and discretion, and his great friendship for Sir Arthur Wardour—yet, my heavens! it is an great ponderous secret.”

“More ponderous than any of the metal we shall make by it, I fear,” answered Oldbuck.

“Dat is just as you shall have de faith and de patience for de grand experiment—If you join wid Sir Arthur, as he is put one hundred and fifty—see, here is one fifty in your dirty Fairport bank-note—you put one other hundred and fifty in de dirty notes, and you shall have de pure gold and silver, I cannot tell how much.”

“Nor any one for you, I believe,” said the Antiquary. “But, hark you, Mr. Dousterswivel: Suppose, without troubling this same sneezing spirit with any farther fumigations, we should go in a body, and having fair day-light and our good consciences to befriend us, using no other conjuring implements than good substantial pick-axes and shovels, fairly trench the area of the chancel in the ruins of St. Ruth, from one end to the other, and so ascertain the existence of this supposed treasure, without putting ourselves to any farther expense—the ruins belong to Sir Arthur himself, so there can be no objection—do you think we shall succeed in this way of managing the matter?”

“Bah!—you will not find one copper thimble—But Sir Arthur will do his pleasure. I have showed him how it is possible—very possible—to have de great sum of money for his occasions—I have showed him de real experiment. If he likes not to believe, goot Mr. Oldenbuck, it is nothing to Herman Dousterswivel—he only loses de money and de gold and de silvers—dat is all.”

Sir Arthur Wardour cast an intimidated glance at Oldbuck who, especially when present, held, notwithstanding their frequent difference of opinion, no ordinary influence over his sentiments. In truth, the Baronet felt, what he would not willingly have acknowledged, that his genius stood rebuked before that of the Antiquary. He respected him as a shrewd, penetrating, sarcastic character—feared his satire, and had some confidence in the general soundness of his opinions. He therefore looked at him as if desiring his leave before indulging his credulity. Dousterswivel saw he was in danger of losing his dupe, unless he could make some favourable impression on the adviser.

“I know, my goot Mr. Oldenbuck, it is one vanity to speak to you about de spirit and de goblin. But look at this curious horn;—I know, you know de curiosity of all de countries, and how de great Oldenburgh horn, as they keep still in the Museum at Copenhagen, was given to de Duke of Oldenburgh by one female spirit of de wood. Now I could not put one trick on you if I were willing—you who know all de curiosity so well—and dere it is de horn full of coins;—if it had been a box or case, I would have said nothing.”

“Being a horn,” said Oldbuck, “does indeed strengthen your argument. It was an implement of nature’s fashioning, and therefore much used among rude nations, although, it may be, the metaphorical horn is more frequent in proportion to the progress of civilisation. And this present horn,” he continued, rubbing it upon his sleeve, “is a curious and venerable relic, and no doubt was intended to prove a cornucopia, or horn of plenty, to some one or other; but whether to the adept or his patron, may be justly doubted.”

“Well, Mr. Oldenbuck, I find you still hard of belief—but let me assure you, de monksh understood de magisterium.

“Let us leave talking of the magisterium, Mr. Dousterswivel, and think a little about the magistrate. Are you aware that this occupation of yours is against the law of Scotland, and that both Sir Arthur and myself are in the commission of the peace?”

“Mine heaven! and what is dat to de purpose when I am doing you all de goot I can?”

“Why, you must know that when the legislature abolished the cruel laws against witchcraft, they had no hope of destroying the superstitious feelings of humanity on which such chimeras had been founded; and to prevent those feelings from being tampered with by artful and designing persons, it is enacted by the ninth of George the Second, chap. 5, that whosoever shall pretend, by his alleged skill in any occult or crafty science, to discover such goods as are lost, stolen or concealed, he shall suffer punishment by pillory and imprisonment, as a common cheat and impostor.”

“And is dat de laws?” asked Dousterswivel, with some agitation.

“Thyself shall see the act,” replied the Antiquary.

“Den, gentlemens, I shall take my leave of you, dat is all; I do not like to stand on your what you call pillory—it is very bad way to take de air, I think; and I do not like your prisons no more, where one cannot take de air at all.”

“If such be your taste, Mr. Dousterswivel,” said the Antiquary, “I advise you to stay where you are, for I cannot let you go, unless it be in the society of a constable; and, moreover, I expect you will attend us just now to the ruins of St. Ruth, and point out the place where you propose to find this treasure.”

“Mine heaven, Mr. Oldenbuck! what usage is this to your old friend, when I tell you so plain as I can speak, dat if you go now, you will not get so much treasure as one poor shabby sixpence?”

“I will try the experiment, however, and you shall be dealt with according to its success,—always with Sir Arthur’s permission.”

Sir Arthur, during this investigation, had looked extremely embarrassed, and, to use a vulgar but expressive phrase, chop-fallen. Oldbuck’s obstinate disbelief led him strongly to suspect the imposture of Dousterswivel, and the adept’s mode of keeping his ground was less resolute than he had expected. Yet he did not entirely give him up.

“Mr. Oldbuck,” said the Baronet, “you do Mr. Dousterswivel less than justice. He has undertaken to make this discovery by the use of his art, and by applying characters descriptive of the Intelligences presiding over the planetary hour in which the experiment is to be made; and you require him to proceed, under pain of punishment, without allowing him the use of any of the preliminaries which he considers as the means of procuring success.”

“I did not say that exactly—I only required him to be present when we make the search, and not to leave us during the interval. I fear he may have some intelligence with the Intelligences you talk of, and that whatever may be now hidden at Saint Ruth may disappear before we get there.”

“Well, gentlemens,” said Dousterswivel, sullenly, “I will make no objections to go along with you but I tell you beforehand, you shall not find so much of anything as shall be worth your going twenty yard from your own gate.”

“We will put that to a fair trial,” said the Antiquary; and the Baronet’s equipage being ordered, Miss Wardour received an intimation from her father, that she was to remain at Monkbarns until his return from an airing. The young lady was somewhat at a loss to reconcile this direction with the communication which she supposed must have passed between Sir Arthur and the Antiquary; but she was compelled, for the present, to remain in a most unpleasant state of suspense.

The journey of the treasure-seekers was melancholy enough. Dousterswivel maintained a sulky silence, brooding at once over disappointed expectation and the risk of punishment; Sir Arthur, whose golden dreams had been gradually fading away, surveyed, in gloomy prospect, the impending difficulties of his situation; and Oldbuck, who perceived that his having so far interfered in his neighbours affairs gave the Baronet a right to expect some actual and efficient assistance, sadly pondered to what extent it would be necessary to draw open the strings of his purse. Thus each being wrapped in his own unpleasant ruminations, there was hardly a word said on either side, until they reached the Four Horse-shoes, by which sign the little inn was distinguished. They procured at this place the necessary assistance and implements for digging, and, while they were busy about these preparations, were suddenly joined by the old beggar, Edie Ochiltree.

“The Lord bless your honour,” began the Blue-Gown, with the genuine mendicant whine, “and long life to you!—weel pleased am I to hear that young Captain M‘Intyre is like to be on his legs again sune—Think on your poor bedesman the day.”

“Aha, old true-penny!” replied the Antiquary. “Why, thou hast never come to Monkbarns since thy perils by rock and flood—here’s something for thee to buy snuff,”—and, fumbling for his purse, he pulled out at the same time the horn which enclosed the coins.

“Ay, and there’s something to pit it in,” said the mendicant, eyeing the ram’s horn—“that loom’s an auld acquaintance o’ mine. I could take my aith to that sneeshing-mull amang a thousand—I carried it for mony a year, till I niffered it for this tin ane wi’ auld George Glen, the dammer and sinker, when he took a fancy till’t doun at Glen-Withershins yonder.”

“Ay! indeed?” said Oldbuck;—“so you exchanged it with a miner? but I presume you never saw it so well filled before”—and opening it, he showed the coins.

“Troth, ye may swear that, Monkbarns: when it was mine it neer had abune the like o’ saxpenny worth o’ black rappee in’t at ance. But I reckon ye’ll be gaun to mak an antic o’t, as ye hae dune wi’ mony an orra thing besides. Od, I wish anybody wad mak an antic o’ me; but mony ane will find worth in rousted bits o’ capper and horn and airn, that care unco little about an auld carle o’ their ain country and kind.”

“You may now guess,” said Oldbuck, turning to Sir Arthur, “to whose good offices you were indebted the other night. To trace this cornucopia of yours to a miner, is bringing it pretty near a friend of ours—I hope we shall be as successful this morning, without paying for it.”

“And whare is your honours gaun the day,” said the mendicant, “wi’ a’ your picks and shules?—Od, this will be some o’ your tricks, Monkbarns: ye’ll be for whirling some o’ the auld monks down by yonder out o’ their graves afore they hear the last call—but, wi’ your leave, I’se follow ye at ony rate, and see what ye mak o’t.”

The party soon arrived at the ruins of the priory, and, having gained the chancel, stood still to consider what course they were to pursue next. The Antiquary, meantime, addressed the adept.

“Pray, Mr. Dousterswivel, what is your advice in this matter? Shall we have most likelihood of success if we dig from east to west, or from west to east?—or will you assist us with your triangular vial of May-dew, or with your divining-rod of witches-hazel?—or will you have the goodness to supply us with a few thumping blustering terms of art, which, if they fail in our present service, may at least be useful to those who have not the happiness to be bachelors, to still their brawling children withal?”

“Mr. Oldenbuck,” said Dousterswivel, doggedly, “I have told you already that you will make no good work at all, and I will find some way of mine own to thank you for your civilities to me—yes, indeed.”

“If your honours are thinking of tirling the floor,” said old Edie, “and wad but take a puir body’s advice, I would begin below that muckle stane that has the man there streekit out upon his back in the midst o’t.”

“I have some reason for thinking favourably of that plan myself,” said the Baronet.

“And I have nothing to say against it,” said Oldbuck: “it was not unusual to hide treasure in the tombs of the deceased—many instances might be quoted of that from Bartholinus and others.”

The tombstone, the same beneath which the coins had been found by Sir Arthur and the German, was once more forced aside, and the earth gave easy way to the spade.

“It’s travell’d earth that,” said Edie, “it howks gae eithly—I ken it weel, for ance I wrought a simmer wi’ auld Will Winnet, the bedral, and howkit mair graves than ane in my day; but I left him in winter, for it was unco cald wark; and then it cam a green Yule, and the folk died thick and fast—for ye ken a green Yule makes a fat kirkyard; and I never dowed to bide a hard turn o’ wark in my life—sae aff I gaed, and left Will to delve his last dwellings by himsell for Edie.”

The diggers were now so far advanced in their labours as to discover that the sides of the grave which they were clearing out had been originally secured by four walls of freestone, forming a parallelogram, for the reception, probably, of the coffin.

“It is worth while proceeding in our labours,” said the Antiquary to Sir Arthur, “were it but for curiosity’s sake. I wonder on whose sepulchre they have bestowed such uncommon pains.”

“The arms on the shield,” said Sir Arthur, and sighed as he spoke it, “are the same with those on Misticot’s tower, supposed to have been built by Malcolm the usurper. No man knew where he was buried, and there is an old prophecy in our family, that bodes us no good when his grave shall be discovered.”

“I wot,” said the beggar, “I have often heard that when I was a bairn—

“‘If Malcolm the Misticot’s grave were fun’,
The lands of Knockwinnock were lost and won.’”

Oldbuck, with his spectacles on his nose, had already knelt down on the monument, and was tracing, partly with his eye, partly with his finger, the mouldered devices upon the effigy of the deceased warrior. “It is the Knockwinnock arms, sure enough,” he exclaimed, “quarterly with the coat of Wardour.”

“Richard, called the red-handed Wardour, married Sybil Knockwinnock, the heiress of the Saxon family, and by that alliance,” said Sir Arthur, “brought the castle and estate into the name of Wardour, in the year of God 1150.”

“Very true, Sir Arthur; and here is the baton-sinister, the mark of illegitimacy, extended diagonally through both coats upon the shield. Where can our eyes have been, that they did not see this curious monument before?”

“Na, whare was the through-stane, that it didna come before our een till e’enow?” said Ochiltree; “for I hae ken’d this auld kirk, man and bairn, for saxty lang years, and I neer noticed it afore; and it’s nae sic mote neither, but what ane might see it in their parritch.”

All were now induced to tax their memory as to the former state of the ruins in that corner of the chancel, and all agreed in recollecting a considerable pile of rubbish which must have been removed and spread abroad in order to malke the tomb visible. Sir Arthur might, indeed, have remembered seeing the monument on the former occasion, but his mind was too much agitated to attend to the circumstance as a novelty.

While the assistants were engaged in these recollections and discussions, the workmen proceeded with their labour. They had already dug to the depth of nearly five feet, and as the flinging out the soil became more and more difficult, they began at length to tire of the job.

“We’re down to the till now,” said one of them, “and the neer a coffin or onything else is here—some cunninger chiel’s been afore us, I reckon;”—and the labourer scrambled out of the grave.

“Hout, lad,” said Edie, getting down in his room—“let me try my hand for an auld bedral;—ye’re gude seekers, but ill finders.”

So soon as he got into the grave, he struck his pike-staff forcibly down; it encountered resistance in its descent, and the beggar exclaimed, like a Scotch schoolboy when he finds anything, “Nae halvers and quarters—hale o’ mine ain and nane o’ my neighbour’s.”

Everybody, from the dejected Baronet to the sullen adept, now caught the spirit of curiosity, crowded round the grave, and would have jumped into it, could its space have contained them. The labourers, who had begun to flag in their monotonous and apparently hopeless task, now resumed their tools, and plied them with all the ardour of expectation. Their shovels soon grated upon a hard wooden surface, which, as the earth was cleared away, assumed the distinct form of a chest, but greatly smaller than that of a coffin. Now all hands were at work to heave it out of the grave, and all voices, as it was raised, proclaimed its weight and augured its value. They were not mistaken.

When the chest or box was placed on the surface, and the lid forced up by a pickaxe, there was displayed first a coarse canvas cover, then a quantity of oakum, and beneath that a number of ingots of silver. A general exclamation hailed a discovery so surprising and unexpected. The Baronet threw his hands and eyes up to heaven, with the silent rapture of one who is delivered from inexpressible distress of mind. Oldbuck, almost unable to credit his eyes, lifted one piece of silver after another. There was neither inscription nor stamp upon them, excepting one, which seemed to be Spanish. He could have no doubt of the purity and great value of the treasure before him. Still, however, removing piece by piece, he examined row by row, expecting to discover that the lower layers were of inferior value; but he could perceive no difference in this respect, and found himself compelled to admit, that Sir Arthur had possessed himself of bullion to the value, perhaps of a thousand pounds sterling. Sir Arthur now promised the assistants a handsome recompense for their trouble, and began to busy himself about the mode of conveying this rich windfall to the Castle of Knockwinnock, when the adept, recovering from his surprise, which had equalled that exhibited by any other individual of the party, twitched his sleeve, and having offered his humble congratulations, turned next to Oldbuck with an air of triumph.

“I did tell you, my goot friend, Mr. Oldenbuck, dat I was to seek opportunity to thank you for your civility; now do you not think I have found out vary goot way to return thank?”

“Why, Mr. Dousterswivel, do you pretend to have had any hand in our good success?—you forget you refused us all aid of your science, man; and you are here without your weapons that should have fought the battle which you pretend to have gained in our behalf: you have used neither charm, lamen, sigil, talisman, spell, crystal, pentacle, magic mirror, nor geomantic figure. Where be your periapts, and your abracadabras man? your Mayfern, your vervain,

Your toad, your crow, your dragon, and your panther,
Your sun, your moon, your firmament, your adrop,
Your Lato, Azoch, Zernich, Chibrit, Heautarit,
With all your broths, your menstrues, your materials,
Would burst a man to name?—

Ah! rare Ben Jonson! long peace to thy ashes for a scourge of the quacks of thy day!—who expected to see them revive in our own?”

The answer of the adept to the Antiquary’s tirade we must defer to our next chapter.

The Antiquary - Contents    |     Chapter XXIV

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