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Title: St. Ronan's Well
Author: Scott, Walter, Sir, 1771-1832
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration]


_Standard Edition_


St. Ronan's Well

By

Sir Walter Scott, Bart.


[Illustration]


With Introductory Essay and Notes

by Andrew Lang


_Illustrated_

Dana Estes and Company
Publishers ... Boston


The Standard Edition

of the Novels and Poems of Sir Walter Scott. Limited to one thousand
numbered and registered sets, of which this is

No. 835


_Copyright, 1894._
BY ESTES AND LAURIAT



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


ST. RONAN'S WELL


VOLUME I.

                                                                    PAGE
Meg Dods (p. 13)                                           _Frontispiece_
The Meeting in the Wood                                              137
Preparing for the Duel                                               198

       *       *       *       *       *

VOLUME II.

Reappearance of Tyrrel                                               127
Clara entering Tyrrel's Room                                         307



EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION

TO

ST. RONAN'S WELL.


"'St. Ronan's Well' is not so much my favourite as certain of its
predecessors," Lady Louisa Stuart wrote to Scott on March 26, 1824. "Yet
still I see the author's hand in it, _et c'est tout dire_. Meg Dods, the
meeting" (vol. i. chap. ix.), "and the last scene between Clara and her
brother, are marked with the true stamp, not to be matched or mistaken.
Is the Siege of Ptolemais really on the anvil?" she goes on, speaking of
the projected Crusading Tales, and obviously anxious to part company
with "St. Ronan's Well." All judgments have not agreed with Lady
Louisa's. There is a literary legend or fable according to which a
number of distinguished men, all admirers of Scott, wrote down
separately the name of their favourite Waverley novel, and all, when the
papers were compared, had written "St. Ronan's." Sydney Smith, writing
to Constable on Dec. 28, 1823, described the new story as "far the best
that has appeared for some time. Every now and then there is some
mistaken or overcharged humour--but much excellent delineation of
character, the story very well told, and the whole very interesting.
Lady Binks, the old landlady, and Touchwood are all very good. Mrs.
Blower particularly so. So are MacTurk and Lady Penelope. I wish he
would give his people better names; Sir Bingo Binks is quite
ridiculous.... The curtain should have dropped on finding Clara's
glove. Some of the serious scenes with Clara and her brother are very
fine: the knife scene masterly. In her light and gay moments Clara is
very vulgar; but Sir Walter always fails in well-bred men and women, and
yet who has seen more of both? and who, in the ordinary intercourse of
society, is better bred? Upon the whole, I call this a very successful
exhibition."

We have seldom found Sydney Smith giving higher praise, and nobody can
deny the justice of the censure with which it is qualified. Scott
himself explains, in his Introduction, how, in his quest of novelty, he
invaded modern life, and the domain of Miss Austen. Unhappily he proved
by example the truth of his own opinion that he could do "the big
bow-wow strain" very well, but that it was not his _celebrare domestica
facta_. Unlike George Sand, Sir Walter had humour abundantly, but, as
the French writer said of herself, he was wholly destitute of _esprit_.

We need not linger over definition of these qualities; but we must
recognise, in Scott, the absence of lightness of touch, of delicacy in
the small sword-play of conversation. In fencing, all should be done,
the masters tell us, with the fingers. Scott works not even with the
wrist, but with the whole arm. The two-handed sword, the old claymore,
are his weapons, not the rapier. This was plain enough in the
word-combats of Queen Mary and her lady gaoler in Loch Leven. Much more
conspicuous is the "swashing blow" in the repartee of "St. Ronan's." The
insults lavished on Lady Binks are violent and cruel; even Clara Mowbray
taunts her. Now Lady Binks is in the same parlous case as the
postmistress who dreed penance "for ante-nup," as Meg Dods says in an
interrupted harangue, and we know that, to the author's mind, Clara
Mowbray had no right to throw stones. All these jeers are offensive to
generous feeling, and in the mouth of Clara are intolerable. Lockhart
remarked in Scott a singular bluntness of the sense of smell and of
taste. He could drink corked wine without a suspicion that there was
anything wrong with it. This curious obtuseness of a physical sense, in
one whose eyesight was so keen, who, "aye was the first to find the
hare" in coursing, seems to correspond with his want of lightness in the
invention of _badinage_. He tells us that, for a long while at least, he
had been unacquainted with the kind of society, the idle, useless
underbred society, of watering-places. Are we to believe that the
company at Gilsland, for instance, where he met and wooed Miss
Charpentier, was like the company at St. Ronan's? Lockhart vouches for
the snobbishness, "the mean admiration of mean things," the devotion to
the slimmest appearances of rank. All this is credible enough, but, if
there existed a society as dull and base as that which we meet in the
pages of "Mr. Soapy Sponge," and Surtees's other novels, assuredly it
was no theme for the great and generous spirit of Sir Walter. The worst
kind of manners always prevail among people whom moderns call "the
second-rate smart," and these are drawn in "St. Ronan's Well." But we
may believe that, even there, manners are no longer quite so hideous as
in the little Tweedside watering-place. The extinction of duelling has
destroyed, or nearly destroyed, the swaggering style of truculence;
people could not behave as Mowbray and Sir Bingo behave to Tyrrel, in
the after-dinner scene. The Man of Peace, the great MacTurk, with his
harangues translated from the language of Ossian, is no longer needed,
and no longer possible. Supposing manners to be correctly described in
"St. Ronan's," the pessimist himself must admit that manners have
improved. But it is not without regret that we see a genius born for
chivalry labouring in this unworthy and alien matter.

The English critics delighted to accuse Scott of having committed
literary suicide. He had only stepped off the path to which he presently
returned. He was unfitted to write the domestic novel, and even in "St.
Ronan's" he introduces events of romantic improbability. These enable
him to depict scenes of the most passionate tragedy, as in the meeting
of Clara and Tyrrel. They who have loved so blindly and so kindly should
never have met, or never parted. It is like a tragic rendering of the
scene where Diana Vernon and Osbaldistone encounter each other on the
moonlit moor. The wild words of Clara, "Is it so, and was it even
yourself whom I saw even now?... And, all things considered, I do carry
on the farce of life wonderfully well,"--all this passage, with the
silence of the man, is on the highest level of poetic invention, and
Clara ranks with Ophelia. To her strain of madness we may ascribe,
perhaps, what Sydney Smith calls the vulgarity of her lighter moments.
But here the genius of Shakspeare is faultless, where Scott's is most
faulty and most mistaken.

Much confusion is caused in "St. Ronan's Well" by Scott's concession to
the delicacy of James Ballantyne. What has shaken Clara's brain? Not her
sham marriage, for that was innocent, and might be legally annulled.
Lockhart writes (vii. 208): "Sir Walter had shown a remarkable degree of
good-nature in the composition of this novel. When the end came in view,
James Ballantyne suddenly took vast alarm about a particular feature in
the heroine's history. In the original conception, and in the book as
actually written and printed, Miss Mowbray's mock marriage had not
halted at the profane ceremony of the church; and the delicate printer
shrank from the idea of obtruding on the fastidious public the
possibility of any personal contamination having occurred to a high-born
damsel of the nineteenth century." Scott answered: "You would never
have quarrelled with it had the thing happened to a girl in gingham--the
silk petticoat can make little difference." "James reclaimed with double
energy, and called Constable to the rescue; and, after some pause, the
author very reluctantly consented to cancel and re-write about
twenty-four pages, which was enough to obliterate, to a certain extent,
the dreaded scandal--and, in a similar degree, as he always persisted,
to perplex and weaken the course of his narrative, and the dark effect
of its catastrophe."

From a communication printed in the "Athenæum" of Feb. 4, 1893, extracts
from the original proof-sheets, it seems that Lockhart forgot the
original plan of the novel. The mock marriage _did_ halt at the church
door, but Clara's virtue had yielded to her real lover, Tyrrel, before
the ceremony. Hannah Irwin had deliberately made opportunities for the
lovers' meeting, and at last, as she says, in a cancelled passage, "the
devil and Hannah Irwin prevailed." There followed remorse, and a
determination not to meet again before the Church made them one, and, on
the head of this, the mock marriage shook Clara's reason. This was the
original plan; it declares itself in the scene between Tyrrel and Clara
(vol. i. chap, ix.): "Wherefore should not sorrow be the end of sin and
folly?" The reviewer in the "Monthly Review" (1824) says "there is a
hint of some deeper cause of grief (see the confession to the brother),
but it is highly problematical." For all this the delicacy of James
Ballantyne is to blame--his delicacy, and Scott's concessions to a
respectable man and a bad critic.

The origin of "St. Ronan's Well" has been described by Lockhart in a
familiar passage. As Laidlaw, Scott, and Lockhart were riding along the
brow of the triple-peaked Eildon Hills, Scott mentioned "the row" that
was going on in Paris about "Quentin Durward." "I can't but think I
could make better play still with something German," he said. Laidlaw
grumbled at this: "You are always best, like Helen MacGregor, when your
foot is on your native heath; and I have often thought that if you were
to write a novel, and lay the scene _here_ in the very year you were
writing it, you would exceed yourself." "Hame's hame," quoth Scott,
smiling, "be it ever sae hamely," and Laidlaw bade him "stick to Melrose
in 1823." It was now that Scott spoke of the village tragedy, the
romance of every house, of every cottage, and told a tale of some
horrors in the hamlet that lies beyond Melrose, on the north side of
Tweed. Laidlaw and Lockhart believed that this conversation suggested
"St. Ronan's Well," the scene of which has been claimed as their own by
the people of Innerleithen. This little town is beautifully situated
where the hills of Tweed are steepest, and least resemble the _bosses
verdâtres_ of Prosper Mérimée. It is now a manufacturing town, like its
neighbours, and contributes its quota to the pollution of "the
glittering and resolute streams of Tweed." The pilgrim will scarce rival
Tyrrel's feat of catching a clean-run salmon in summer, but the scenes
are extremely pleasing, and indeed, from this point to Dryburgh, the
beautiful and fabled river is at its loveliest. It is possible that a
little inn farther up the water, "The Crook," on the border of the
moorland, and near Tala Linn, where the Covenanters held a famous
assembly, may have suggested the name of the "Cleikum." Lockhart
describes the prosperity which soon flowed into Innerleithen, and the
St. Ronan's Games, at which the Ettrick Shepherd presided gleefully.
They are still held, or were held very lately, but there will never come
again such another Shepherd, or such contests with the Flying Tailor of
Ettrick.

Apart from the tragedy of Clara, doubtless the better parts of "St.
Ronan's Well" are the Scotch characters. Even our generation remembers
many a Meg Dods, and he who writes has vividly in his recollection just
such tartness, such goodness of heart, such ungoverned eloquence and
vigour of rebuke as made Meg famous, successful on the stage, and
welcome to her countrymen. These people, Mrs. Blower and Meg, are
Shakspearean, they live with Dame Quickly and Shallow, in the hearts of
Scots, but to the English general they are possibly caviare. In the
gallant and irascible MacTurk we have the waning Highlander: he
resembles the Captain of Knockdunder in "The Heart of Mid Lothian," or
an exaggerated and ill-educated Hector of "The Antiquary." Concerning
the women of the tale, it may be said that Lady Binks has great
qualities, and appears to have been drawn "with an eye on the object,"
as Wordsworth says, and from the life. Lady Penelope seems more
exaggerated now than she probably did at the time, for the fashion of
affectation changes. The Winterblossoms and Quacklebens are accurate
enough in themselves, but are seen through a Blackwoodian atmosphere, as
it were, through a mist of the temporary and boisterous Scotch humour of
the day. The author occasionally stoops to a pun, and, like that which
Hood made in the hearing of Thackeray, the pun is not good. Indeed the
novel, in its view of the decay of the Border, the ruined Laird, the
frivolous foolish society of the Well, taking the place of sturdy
William of Deloraine, and farmers like Scott's grandfather, makes a
picture of decadence as melancholy as "Redgauntlet." "Not here, O
Apollo, are haunts meet for thee!" Strangely enough, among the features
of the time, Scott mentions reckless borrowings, "accommodation," "Banks
of Air." His own business was based on a "Bank of Air," "wind-capital,"
as Cadell, Constable's partner, calls it, and the bubble was just about
to burst, though Scott had no apprehension of financial ruin. A horrid
power is visible in Scott's second picture of _la mauvaise pauvre_, the
hag who despises and curses the givers of "handfuls of coals and of
rice;" his first he drew in the witches of "The Bride of Lammermoor." He
has himself indicated his desire to press hard on the vice of gambling,
as in "The Fortunes of Nigel." Ruinous at all times and in every shape,
gambling, in Scott's lifetime, during the Regency, had crippled or
destroyed many an historical Scottish family. With this in his mind he
drew the portrait of Mowbray of St. Ronan's. His picture of duelling is
not more seductive; he himself had lost his friend, Sir Alexander
Boswell, in a duel; on other occasions this institution had brought
discomfort into his life, and though he was ready to fight General
Gourgaud with Napoleon's pistols, he cannot have approved of the
practices of the MacTurks and Bingo Binkses. A maniac, as his
correspondence shows, challenged Sir Walter, insisting that he was
pointed at and ridiculed in the character of MacTurk. (Abbotsford MSS.)
It is interesting to have the picture of contemporary manners from
Scott's hand--Meg Dods remains among his immortal portraits; but a novel
in which the absurd will of fiction and the conventional Nabob are
necessary machinery can never be ranked so high as even "The Monastery"
and "Peveril." In Scotland, however, it was infinitely more successful
than its admirable successor "Redgauntlet."

ANDREW LANG.
_December 1893._



INTRODUCTION

TO

ST. RONAN'S WELL.


The novel which follows is upon a plan different from any other that the
author has ever written, although it is perhaps the most legitimate
which relates to this kind of light literature.

It is intended, in a word--_celebrare domestica facta_--to give an
imitation of the shifting manners of our own time, and paint scenes, the
originals of which are daily passing round us, so that a minute's
observation may compare the copies with the originals. It must be
confessed that this style of composition was adopted by the author
rather from the tempting circumstance of its offering some novelty in
his compositions, and avoiding worn-out characters and positions, than
from the hope of rivalling the many formidable competitors who have
already won deserved honours in this department. The ladies, in
particular, gifted by nature with keen powers of observation and light
satire, have been so distinguished by these works of talent, that,
reckoning from the authoress of Evelina to her of Marriage, a catalogue
might be made, including the brilliant and talented names of Edgeworth,
Austin, Charlotte Smith, and others, whose success seems to have
appropriated this province of the novel as exclusively their own. It was
therefore with a sense of temerity that the author intruded upon a
species of composition which had been of late practised with such
distinguished success. This consciousness was lost, however, under the
necessity of seeking for novelty, without which, it was much to be
apprehended, such repeated incursions on his part would nauseate the
long indulgent public at the last.

The scene chosen for the author's little drama of modern life was a
mineral spring, such as are to be found in both divisions of Britain,
and which are supplied with the usual materials for redeeming health, or
driving away care. The invalid often finds relief from his complaints,
less from the healing virtues of the Spa itself, than because his system
of ordinary life undergoes an entire change, in his being removed from
his ledger and account-books--from his legal folios and progresses of
title-deeds--from his counters and shelves,--from whatever else forms
the main source of his constant anxiety at home, destroys his appetite,
mars the custom of his exercise, deranges the digestive powers, and
clogs up the springs of life. Thither, too, comes the saunterer, anxious
to get rid of that wearisome attendant _himself_, and thither come both
males and females, who, upon a different principle, desire to make
themselves double.

The society of such places is regulated, by their very nature, upon a
scheme much more indulgent than that which rules the world of fashion,
and the narrow circles of rank in the metropolis. The titles of rank,
birth, and fortune, are received at a watering-place without any very
strict investigation, as adequate to the purpose for which they are
preferred; and as the situation infers a certain degree of intimacy and
sociability for the time, so to whatever heights it may have been
carried, it is not understood to imply any duration beyond the length of
the season. No intimacy can be supposed more close for the time, and
more transitory in its endurance, than that which is attached to a
watering-place acquaintance. The novelist, therefore, who fixes upon
such a scene for his tale, endeavours to display a species of society,
where the strongest contrast of humorous characters and manners may be
brought to bear on and illustrate each other with less violation of
probability, than could be supposed to attend the same miscellaneous
assemblage in any other situation.

In such scenes, too, are frequently mingled characters, not merely
ridiculous, but dangerous and hateful. The unprincipled gamester, the
heartless fortune-hunter, all those who eke out their means of
subsistence by pandering to the vices and follies of the rich and gay,
who drive, by their various arts, foibles into crimes, and imprudence
into acts of ruinous madness, are to be found where their victims
naturally resort, with the same certainty that eagles are gathered
together at the place of slaughter. By this the author takes a great
advantage for the management of his story, particularly in its darker
and more melancholy passages. The impostor, the gambler, all who live
loose upon the skirts of society, or, like vermin, thrive by its
corruptions, are to be found at such retreats, when they easily, and as
a matter of course, mingle with those dupes, who might otherwise have
escaped their snares. But besides those characters who are actually
dangerous to society, a well-frequented watering-place generally
exhibits for the amusement of the company, and the perplexity and
amazement of the more inexperienced, a sprinkling of persons called by
the newspapers eccentric characters--individuals, namely, who, either
from some real derangement of their understanding, or, much more
frequently, from an excess of vanity, are ambitious of distinguishing
themselves by some striking peculiarity in dress or address,
conversation or manners, and perhaps in all. These affectations are
usually adopted, like Drawcansir's extravagances, to show _they dare_;
and I must needs say, those who profess them are more frequently to be
found among the English, than among the natives of either of the other
two divisions of the united kingdoms. The reason probably is, that the
consciousness of wealth, and a sturdy feeling of independence, which
generally pervade the English nation, are, in a few individuals,
perverted into absurdity, or at least peculiarity. The witty Irishman,
on the contrary, adapts his general behaviour to that of the best
society, or that which he thinks such; nor is it any part of the shrewd
Scot's national character unnecessarily to draw upon himself public
attention. These rules, however, are not without their exceptions; for
we find men of every country playing the eccentric at these independent
resorts of the gay and the wealthy, where every one enjoys the license
of doing what is good in his own eyes.

It scarce needed these obvious remarks to justify a novelist's choice of
a watering-place as the scene of a fictitious narrative. Unquestionably,
it affords every variety of character, mixed together in a manner which
cannot, without a breach of probability, be supposed to exist elsewhere;
neither can it be denied that in the concourse which such miscellaneous
collections of persons afford, events extremely different from those of
the quiet routine of ordinary life may, and often do, take place.

It is not, however, sufficient that a mine be in itself rich and easily
accessible; it is necessary that the engineer who explores it should
himself, in mining phrase, have an accurate knowledge of the _country_,
and possess the skill necessary to work it to advantage. In this
respect, the author of Saint Ronan's Well could not be termed fortunate.
His habits of life had not led him much, of late years at least, into
its general or bustling scenes, nor had he mingled often in the society
which enables the observer to "shoot folly as it flies." The consequence
perhaps was, that the characters wanted that force and precision which
can only be given by a writer who is familiarly acquainted with his
subject. The author, however, had the satisfaction to chronicle his
testimony against the practice of gambling, a vice which the devil has
contrived to render all his own, since it is deprived of whatever pleads
an apology for other vices, and is founded entirely on the cold-blooded
calculation of the most exclusive selfishness. The character of the
traveller, meddling, self-important, and what the ladies call fussing,
but yet generous and benevolent in his purposes, was partly taken from
nature. The story, being entirely modern, cannot require much
explanation, after what has been here given, either in the shape of
notes, or a more prolix introduction.

It may be remarked, that the English critics, in many instances, though
none of great influence, pursued Saint Ronan's Well with hue and cry,
many of the fraternity giving it as their opinion that the author had
exhausted himself, or, as the technical phrase expresses it, written
himself out; and as an unusual tract of success too often provokes many
persons to mark and exaggerate a slip when it does occur, the author was
publicly accused, in prose and verse, of having committed a literary
suicide in this unhappy attempt. The voices, therefore, were, for a
time, against Saint Ronan's on the southern side of the Tweed.

In the author's own country, it was otherwise. Many of the characters
were recognised as genuine Scottish portraits, and the good fortune
which had hitherto attended the productions of the Author of Waverley,
did not desert, notwithstanding the ominous vaticinations of its
censurers, this new attempt, although out of his ordinary style.

_1st February, 1832._



ST. RONAN'S WELL.



CHAPTER I.

AN OLD-WORLD LANDLADY.

    But to make up my tale,
    She breweth good ale,
    And thereof maketh sale.

SKELTON.


Although few, if any, of the countries of Europe, have increased so
rapidly in wealth and cultivation as Scotland during the last half
century, Sultan Mahmoud's owls might nevertheless have found in
Caledonia, at any term within that flourishing period, their dowery of
ruined villages. Accident or local advantages have, in many instances,
transferred the inhabitants of ancient hamlets, from the situations
which their predecessors chose with more respect to security than
convenience, to those in which their increasing industry and commerce
could more easily expand itself; and hence places which stand
distinguished in Scottish history, and which figure in David M'Pherson's
excellent historical map,[I-A][I-1] can now only be discerned from the wild
moor by the verdure which clothes their site, or, at best, by a few
scattered ruins, resembling pinfolds, which mark the spot of their
former existence.

The little village of St. Ronan's, though it had not yet fallen into the
state of entire oblivion we have described, was, about twenty years
since, fast verging towards it. The situation had something in it so
romantic, that it provoked the pencil of every passing tourist; and we
will endeavour, therefore, to describe it in language which can scarcely
be less intelligible than some of their sketches, avoiding, however, for
reasons which seem to us of weight, to give any more exact indication of
the site, than that it is on the southern side of the Forth, and not
above thirty miles distant from the English frontier.

A river of considerable magnitude pours its streams through a narrow
vale, varying in breadth from two miles to a fourth of that distance,
and which, being composed of rich alluvial soil, is, and has long been,
enclosed, tolerably well inhabited, and cultivated with all the skill of
Scottish agriculture. Either side of this valley is bounded by a chain
of hills, which, on the right in particular, may be almost termed
mountains. Little brooks arising in these ridges, and finding their way
to the river, offer each its own little vale to the industry of the
cultivator. Some of them bear fine large trees, which have as yet
escaped the axe, and upon the sides of most there are scattered patches
and fringes of natural copsewood, above and around which the banks of
the stream arise, somewhat desolate in the colder months, but in summer
glowing with dark purple heath, or with the golden lustre of the broom
and gorse. This is a sort of scenery peculiar to those countries, which
abound, like Scotland, in hills and in streams, and where the traveller
is ever and anon discovering in some intricate and unexpected recess, a
simple and silvan beauty, which pleases him the more, that it seems to
be peculiarly his own property as the first discoverer.

In one of these recesses, and so near its opening as to command the
prospect of the river, the broader valley, and the opposite chain of
hills, stood, and, unless neglect and desertion have completed their
work, still stands, the ancient and decayed village of St. Ronan's. The
site was singularly picturesque, as the straggling street of the village
ran up a very steep hill, on the side of which were clustered, as it
were, upon little terraces, the cottages which composed the place,
seeming, as in the Swiss towns on the Alps, to rise above each other
towards the ruins of an old castle, which continued to occupy the crest
of the eminence, and the strength of which had doubtless led the
neighbourhood to assemble under its walls for protection. It must,
indeed, have been a place of formidable defence, for, on the side
opposite to the town, its walls rose straight up from the verge of a
tremendous and rocky precipice, whose base was washed by Saint Ronan's
burn, as the brook was entitled. On the southern side, where the
declivity was less precipitous, the ground had been carefully levelled
into successive terraces, which ascended to the summit of the hill, and
were, or rather had been, connected by staircases of stone, rudely
ornamented. In peaceful periods these terraces had been occupied by the
gardens of the Castle, and in times of siege they added to its security,
for each commanded the one immediately below it, so that they could be
separately and successively defended, and all were exposed to the fire
from the place itself--a massive square tower of the largest size,
surrounded, as usual, by lower buildings, and a high embattled wall. On
the northern side arose a considerable mountain, of which the descent
that lay between the eminence on which the Castle was situated seemed a
detached portion, and which had been improved and deepened by three
successive huge trenches. Another very deep trench was drawn in front of
the main entrance from the east, where the principal gateway formed the
termination of the street, which, as we have noticed, ascended from the
village, and this last defence completed the fortifications of the
tower.

In the ancient gardens of the Castle, and upon all sides of it excepting
the western, which was precipitous, large old trees had found root,
mantling the rock and the ancient and ruinous walls with their dusky
verdure, and increasing the effect of the shattered pile which towered
up from the centre.

Seated on the threshold of this ancient pile, where the "proud porter"
had in former days "rear'd himself,"[I-2] a stranger had a complete and
commanding view of the decayed village, the houses of which, to a
fanciful imagination, might seem as if they had been suddenly arrested
in hurrying down the precipitous hill, and fixed as if by magic in the
whimsical arrangement which they now presented. It was like a sudden
pause in one of Amphion's country-dances, when the huts which were to
form the future Thebes were jigging it to his lute. But, with such an
observer, the melancholy excited by the desolate appearance of the
village soon overcame all the lighter frolics of the imagination.
Originally constructed on the humble plan used in the building of Scotch
cottages about a century ago, the greater part of them had been long
deserted; and their fallen roofs, blackened gables, and ruinous walls,
showed Desolation's triumph over Poverty. On some huts the rafters,
varnished with soot, were still standing, in whole or in part, like
skeletons, and a few, wholly or partially covered with thatch, seemed
still inhabited, though scarce habitable; for the smoke of the
peat-fires, which prepared the humble meal of the indwellers, stole
upwards, not only from the chimneys, its regular vent, but from various
other crevices in the roofs. Nature, in the meanwhile, always changing,
but renewing as she changes, was supplying, by the power of vegetation,
the fallen and decaying marks of human labour. Small pollards, which had
been formerly planted around the little gardens, had now waxed into huge
and high forest trees; the fruit-trees had extended their branches over
the verges of the little yards, and the hedges had shot up into huge and
irregular bushes; while quantities of dock, and nettles, and hemlock,
hiding the ruined walls, were busily converting the whole scene of
desolation into a picturesque forest-bank.

Two houses in St. Ronan's were still in something like decent repair;
places essential--the one to the spiritual weal of the inhabitants, the
other to the accommodation of travellers. These were the clergyman's
manse, and the village inn. Of the former we need only say, that it
formed no exception to the general rule by which the landed proprietors
of Scotland seem to proceed in lodging their clergy, not only in the
cheapest, but in the ugliest and most inconvenient house which the
genius of masonry can contrive. It had the usual number of
chimneys--two, namely--rising like asses' ears at either end, which
answered the purpose for which they were designed as ill as usual. It
had all the ordinary leaks and inlets to the fury of the elements, which
usually form the subject of the complaints of a Scottish incumbent to
his brethren of the presbytery; and, to complete the picture, the
clergyman being a bachelor, the pigs had unmolested admission to the
garden and court-yard, broken windows were repaired with brown paper,
and the disordered and squalid appearance of a low farm-house, occupied
by a bankrupt tenant, dishonoured the dwelling of one, who, besides his
clerical character, was a scholar and a gentleman, though a little of a
humourist.

Beside the manse stood the kirk of St. Ronan's, a little old mansion
with a clay floor, and an assemblage of wretched pews, originally of
carved oak, but heedfully clouted with white fir-deal. But the external
form of the church was elegant in the outline, having been built in
Catholic times, when we cannot deny to the forms of ecclesiastical
architecture that grace, which, as good Protestants, we refuse to their
doctrine. The fabric hardly raised its grey and vaulted roof among the
crumbling hills of mortality by which it was surrounded, and was indeed
so small in size, and so much lowered in height by the graves on the
outside, which ascended half way up the low Saxon windows, that it might
itself have appeared only a funeral vault, or mausoleum of larger size.
Its little square tower, with the ancient belfry, alone distinguished it
from such a monument. But when the grey-headed beadle turned the keys
with his shaking hand, the antiquary was admitted into an ancient
building, which, from the style of its architecture, and some monuments
of the Mowbrays of St. Ronan's, which the old man was accustomed to
point out, was generally conjectured to be as early as the thirteenth
century.

These Mowbrays of St. Ronan's seem to have been at one time a very
powerful family. They were allied to, and friends of the house of
Douglas, at the time when the overgrown power of that heroic race made
the Stewarts tremble on the Scottish throne. It followed that, when, as
our old _naïf_ historian expresses it, "no one dared to strive with a
Douglas, nor yet with a Douglas's man, for if he did, he was sure to
come by the waur," the family of St. Ronan's shared their prosperity,
and became lords of almost the whole of the rich valley of which their
mansion commanded the prospect. But upon the turning of the tide, in the
reign of James II., they became despoiled of the greater part of those
fair acquisitions, and succeeding events reduced their importance still
farther. Nevertheless, they were, in the middle of the seventeenth
century, still a family of considerable note; and Sir Reginald Mowbray,
after the unhappy battle of Dunbar, distinguished himself by the
obstinate defence of the Castle against the arms of Cromwell, who,
incensed at the opposition which he had unexpectedly encountered in an
obscure corner, caused the fortress to be dismantled and blown up with
gunpowder.

After this catastrophe the old Castle was abandoned to ruin; but Sir
Reginald, when, like Allan Ramsay's Sir William Worthy, he returned
after the Revolution, built himself a house in the fashion of that later
age, which he prudently suited in size to the diminished fortunes of his
family. It was situated about the middle of the village, whose vicinity
was not in those days judged any inconvenience, upon a spot of ground
more level than was presented by the rest of the acclivity, where, as we
said before, the houses were notched as it were into the side of the
steep bank, with little more level ground about them than the spot
occupied by their site. But the Laird's house had a court in front and a
small garden behind, connected with another garden, which, occupying
three terraces, descended, in emulation of the orchards of the old
Castle, almost to the banks of the stream.

The family continued to inhabit this new messuage until about fifty
years before the commencement of our history, when it was much damaged
by a casual fire; and the Laird of the day, having just succeeded to a
more pleasant and commodious dwelling at the distance of about three
miles from the village, determined to abandon the habitation of his
ancestors. As he cut down at the same time an ancient rookery, (perhaps
to defray the expenses of the migration,) it became a common remark
among the country folk, that the decay of St. Ronan's began when Laird
Lawrence and the crows flew off.

The deserted mansion, however, was not consigned to owls and birds of
the desert; on the contrary, for many years it witnessed more fun and
festivity than when it had been the sombre abode of a grave Scottish
Baron of "auld lang syne." In short, it was converted into an inn, and
marked by a huge sign, representing on the one side St. Ronan catching
hold of the devil's game leg with his Episcopal crook, as the story may
be read in his veracious legend, and on the other the Mowbray arms. It
was by far the best frequented public-house in that vicinity; and a
thousand stories were told of the revels which had been held within its
walls, and the gambols achieved under the influence of its liquors. All
this, however, had long since passed away, according to the lines in my
frontispiece,

    "A merry place, 'twas said, in days of yore;
    But something ail'd it now,--the place was cursed."

The worthy couple (servants and favourites of the Mowbray family) who
first kept the inn, had died reasonably wealthy, after long carrying on
a flourishing trade, leaving behind them an only daughter. They had
acquired by degrees not only the property of the inn itself, of which
they were originally tenants, but of some remarkably good meadow-land by
the side of the brook, which, when touched by a little pecuniary
necessity, the Lairds of St. Ronan's had disposed of piecemeal, as the
readiest way to portion off a daughter, procure a commission for the
younger son, and the like emergencies. So that Meg Dods, when she
succeeded to her parents, was a considerable heiress, and, as such, had
the honour of refusing three topping-farmers, two bonnet-lairds, and a
horse-couper, who successively made proposals to her.

Many bets were laid on the horse-couper's success, but the knowing ones
were taken in. Determined to ride the fore-horse herself, Meg would
admit no helpmate who might soon assert the rights of a master; and so,
in single blessedness, and with the despotism of Queen Bess herself, she
ruled all matters with a high hand, not only over her men-servants and
maid-servants, but over the stranger within her gates, who, if he
ventured to oppose Meg's sovereign will and pleasure, or desire to have
either fare or accommodation different from that which she chose to
provide for him, was instantly ejected with that answer which Erasmus
tells us silenced all complaints in the German inns of his time, _Quære
aliud hospitium_;[I-3] or, as Meg expressed it, "Troop aff wi' ye to
another public." As this amounted to a banishment in extent equal to
sixteen miles from Meg's residence, the unhappy party on whom it was
passed, had no other refuge save by deprecating the wrath of his
landlady, and resigning himself to her will. It is but justice to Meg
Dods to state, that though hers was a severe and almost despotic
government, it could not be termed a tyranny, since it was exercised,
upon the whole, for the good of the subject.

The vaults of the old Laird's cellar had not, even in his own day, been
replenished with more excellent wines; the only difficulty was to
prevail on Meg to look for the precise liquor you chose;--to which it
may be added, that she often became restiff when she thought a company
had had "as much as did them good," and refused to furnish any more
supplies. Then her kitchen was her pride and glory; she looked to the
dressing of every dish herself, and there were some with which she
suffered no one to interfere. Such were the cock-a-leeky, and the
savoury minced collops, which rivalled in their way even the veal
cutlets of our old friend Mrs. Hall, at Ferrybridge. Meg's table-linen,
bed-linen, and so forth, were always home-made, of the best quality,
and in the best order; and a weary day was that to the chambermaid in
which her lynx eye discovered any neglect of the strict cleanliness
which she constantly enforced. Indeed, considering Meg's country and
calling, we were never able to account for her extreme and scrupulous
nicety, unless by supposing that it afforded her the most apt and
frequent pretext for scolding her maids; an exercise in which she
displayed so much eloquence and energy, that we must needs believe it to
have been a favourite one.[I-4]

We have only further to commemorate, the moderation of Meg's reckonings,
which, when they closed the banquet, often relieved the apprehensions,
instead of saddening the heart, of the rising guest. A shilling for
breakfast, three shillings for dinner, including a pint of old port,
eighteenpence for a snug supper--such were the charges of the inn of St.
Ronan's, under this landlady of the olden world, even after the
nineteenth century had commenced; and they were ever tendered with the
pious recollection, that her good father never charged half so much, but
these weary times rendered it impossible for her to make the lawing
less.[I-5]

Notwithstanding all these excellent and rare properties, the inn at
Saint Ronan's shared the decay of the village to which it belonged. This
was owing to various circumstances. The high-road had been turned aside
from the place, the steepness of the street being murder (so the
postilions declared) to their post-horses. It was thought that Meg's
stern refusal to treat them with liquor, or to connive at their
exchanging for porter and whisky the corn which should feed their
cattle, had no small influence on the opinion of those respectable
gentlemen, and that a little cutting and levelling would have made the
ascent easy enough; but let that pass. This alteration of the highway
was an injury which Meg did not easily forgive to the country gentlemen,
most of whom she had recollected when children. "Their fathers," she
said, "wad not have done the like of it to a lone woman." Then the decay
of the village itself, which had formerly contained a set of feuars and
bonnet-lairds, who, under the name of the Chirupping Club, contrived to
drink twopenny, qualified with brandy or whisky, at least twice or
thrice a-week, was some small loss.

The temper and manners of the landlady scared away all customers of that
numerous class, who will not allow originality to be an excuse for the
breach of decorum, and who, little accustomed perhaps to attendance at
home, loved to play the great man at an inn, and to have a certain
number of bows, deferential speeches, and apologies, in answer to the
G--d d--n ye's which they bestow on the house, attendance, and
entertainment. Unto those who commenced this sort of barter in the
Clachan of Saint Ronan's, well could Meg Dods pay it back, in their own
coin; and glad they were to escape from the house with eyes not quite
scratched out, and ears not more deafened than if they had been within
hearing of a pitched battle.

Nature had formed honest Meg for such encounters; and as her noble soul
delighted in them, so her outward properties were in what Tony Lumpkin
calls a concatenation accordingly. She had hair of a brindled colour,
betwixt black and grey, which was apt to escape in elf-locks from under
her mutch when she was thrown into violent agitation--long skinny hands,
terminated by stout talons--grey eyes, thin lips, a robust person, a
broad, though flat chest, capital wind, and a voice that could match a
choir of fishwomen. She was accustomed to say of herself in her more
gentle moods, that her bark was worse than her bite; but what teeth
could have matched a tongue, which, when in full career, is vouched to
have been heard from the Kirk to the Castle of Saint Ronan's?

These notable gifts, however, had no charms for the travellers of these
light and giddy-paced times, and Meg's inn became less and less
frequented. What carried the evil to the uttermost was, that a fanciful
lady of rank in the neighbourhood chanced to recover of some imaginary
complaint by the use of a mineral well about a mile and a half from the
village; a fashionable doctor was found to write an analysis of the
healing waters, with a list of sundry cures; a speculative builder took
land in feu, and erected lodging-houses, shops, and even streets. At
length a tontine subscription was obtained to erect an inn, which, for
the more grace, was called a hotel; and so the desertion of Meg Dods
became general.[I-6]

She had still, however, her friends and well-wishers, many of whom
thought, that as she was a lone woman, and known to be well to pass in
the world, she would act wisely to retire from public life, and take
down a sign which had no longer fascination for guests. But Meg's spirit
scorned submission, direct or implied. "Her father's door," she said,
"should be open to the road, till her father's bairn should be streekit
and carried out at it with her feet foremost. It was not for the
profit--there was little profit at it;--profit?--there was a dead loss;
but she wad not be dung by any of them. They maun hae a hottle,[I-7] maun
they?--and an honest public canna serve them! They may hottle that
likes; but they shall see that Lucky Dods can hottle on as lang as the
best of them--ay, though they had made a Tamteen of it, and linkit aw
their breaths of lives, whilk are in their nostrils, on end of ilk other
like a string of wild-geese, and the langest liver bruick a', (whilk was
sinful presumption,) she would match ilk ane of them as lang as her ain
wind held out." Fortunate it was for Meg, since she had formed this
doughty resolution, that although her inn had decayed in custom, her
land had risen in value in a degree which more than compensated the
balance on the wrong side of her books, and, joined to her usual
providence and economy, enabled her to act up to her lofty purpose.

She prosecuted her trade too with every attention to its diminished
income; shut up the windows of one half of her house, to baffle the
tax-gatherer; retrenched her furniture; discharged her pair of
post-horses, and pensioned off the old humpbacked postilion who drove
them, retaining his services, however, as an assistant to a still more
aged hostler. To console herself for restrictions by which her pride was
secretly wounded, she agreed with the celebrated Dick Tinto to re-paint
her father's sign, which had become rather undecipherable; and Dick
accordingly gilded the Bishop's crook, and augmented the horrors of the
Devil's aspect, until it became a terror to all the younger fry of the
school-house, and a sort of visible illustration of the terrors of the
arch-enemy, with which the minister endeavoured to impress their infant
minds.

Under this renewed symbol of her profession, Meg Dods, or Meg Dorts, as
she was popularly termed, on account of her refractory humours, was
still patronised by some steady customers. Such were the members of the
Killnakelty Hunt, once famous on the turf and in the field, but now a
set of venerable grey-headed sportsmen, who had sunk from fox-hounds to
basket-beagles and coursing, and who made an easy canter on their quiet
nags a gentle induction to a dinner at Meg's. "A set of honest decent
men they were," Meg said; "had their sang and their joke--and what for
no? Their bind was just a Scots pint over-head, and a tappit-hen to the
bill, and no man ever saw them the waur o't. It was thae cockle-brained
callants of the present day that would be mair owerta'en with a puir
quart than douce folk were with a magnum."

Then there was a set of ancient brethren of the angle from Edinburgh,
who visited Saint Ronan's frequently in the spring and summer, a class
of guests peculiarly acceptable to Meg, who permitted them more latitude
in her premises than she was known to allow to any other body. "They
were," she said, "pawky auld carles, that kend whilk side their bread
was buttered upon. Ye never kend of ony o' them ganging to the spring,
as they behoved to ca' the stinking well yonder.--Na, na--they were up
in the morning--had their parritch, wi' maybe a thimblefull of brandy,
and then awa up into the hills, eat their bit cauld meat on the heather,
and came hame at e'en with the creel full of caller trouts, and had them
to their dinner, and their quiet cogue of ale, and their drap punch, and
were set singing their catches and glees, as they ca'd them, till ten
o'clock, and then to bed, wi' God bless ye--and what for no?"

Thirdly, we may commemorate some ranting blades, who also came from the
metropolis to visit Saint Ronan's, attracted by the humours of Meg, and
still more by the excellence of her liquor, and the cheapness of her
reckonings. These were members of the Helter Skelter Club, of the
Wildfire Club, and other associations formed for the express purpose of
getting rid of care and sobriety. Such dashers occasioned many a racket
in Meg's house, and many a _bourasque_ in Meg's temper. Various were the
arts of flattery and violence by which they endeavoured to get supplies
of liquor, when Meg's conscience told her they had had too much already.
Sometimes they failed, as when the croupier of the Helter Skelter got
himself scalded with the mulled wine, in an unsuccessful attempt to coax
this formidable virago by a salute; and the excellent president of the
Wildfire received a broken head from the keys of the cellar, as he
endeavoured to possess himself of these emblems of authority. But little
did these dauntless officials care for the exuberant frolics of Meg's
temper, which were to them only "pretty Fanny's way"--the _dulces
Amaryllidis iræ_. And Meg, on her part, though she often called them
"drunken ne'er-do-weels, and thoroughbred High-street blackguards,"
allowed no other person to speak ill of them in her hearing. "They were
daft callants," she said, "and that was all--when the drink was in, the
wit was out--ye could not put an auld head upon young shouthers--a young
cowt will canter, be it up-hill or down--and what for no?" was her
uniform conclusion.

Nor must we omit, among Meg's steady customers, "faithful amongst the
unfaithful found," the copper-nosed sheriff-clerk of the county, who,
when summoned by official duty to that district of the shire, warmed by
recollections of her double-brewed ale, and her generous Antigua, always
advertised that his "Prieves," or "Comptis," or whatever other business
was in hand, were to proceed on such a day and hour, "within the house
of Margaret Dods, vintner in Saint Ronan's."

We have only farther to notice Meg's mode of conducting herself towards
chance travellers, who, knowing nothing of nearer or more fashionable
accommodations, or perhaps consulting rather the state of their purse
than of their taste, stumbled upon her house of entertainment. Her
reception of these was as precarious as the hospitality of a savage
nation to sailors shipwrecked on their coast. If the guests seemed to
have made her mansion their free choice--or if she liked their
appearance (and her taste was very capricious)--above all, if they
seemed pleased with what they got, and little disposed to criticise or
give trouble, it was all very well. But if they had come to Saint
Ronan's because the house at the Well was full--or if she disliked what
the sailor calls the cut of their jib--or if, above all, they were
critical about their accommodations, none so likely as Meg to give them
what in her country is called a _sloan_. In fact, she reckoned such
persons a part of that ungenerous and ungrateful public, for whose sake
she was keeping her house open at a dead loss, and who had left her, as
it were, a victim to her patriotic zeal.

Hence arose the different reports concerning the little inn of Saint
Ronan's, which some favoured travellers praised as the neatest and most
comfortable old-fashioned house in Scotland, where you had good
attendance, and good cheer, at moderate rates; while others, less
fortunate, could only talk of the darkness of the rooms, the homeliness
of the old furniture, and the detestable bad humour of Meg Dods, the
landlady.

Reader, if you come from the more sunny side of the Tweed--or even if,
being a Scot, you have had the advantage to be born within the last
twenty-five years, you may be induced to think this portrait of Queen
Elizabeth, in Dame Quickly's piqued hat and green apron, somewhat
overcharged in the features. But I appeal to my own contemporaries, who
have known wheel-road, bridle-way, and footpath, for thirty years,
whether they do not, every one of them, remember Meg Dods--or somebody
very like her. Indeed, so much is this the case, that, about the period
I mention, I should have been afraid to have rambled from the Scottish
metropolis, in almost any direction, lest I had lighted upon some one of
the sisterhood of Dame Quickly, who might suspect me of having showed
her up to the public in the character of Meg Dods. At present, though it
is possible that some one or two of this peculiar class of wild-cats may
still exist, their talons must be much impaired by age; and I think they
can do little more than sit, like the Giant Pope, in the Pilgrim's
Progress, at the door of their unfrequented caverns, and grin at the
pilgrims over whom they used formerly to execute their despotism.

FOOTNOTES:

[I-1] See Editor's Notes at the end of the Volume. Wherever a similar
reference occurs, the reader will understand that the same direction
applies.

[I-2] See the old Ballad of King Estmere, in PERCY'S _Reliques_.

[I-3] In a colloquy of Erasmus, called _Diversaria_, there is a very
unsavoury description of a German inn of the period, where an objection
of the guest is answered in the manner expressed in the text--a great
sign of want of competition on the road.

[I-4] This circumstance shows of itself, that the Meg Dods of the tale
cannot be identified with her namesake Jenny Dods, who kept the inn at
Howgate,[I-B] on the Peebles road; for Jenny, far different from our
heroine, was unmatched as a slattern.

[I-5] This was universally the case in Scotland forty or fifty years ago;
and so little was charged for a domestic's living when the author became
first acquainted with the road, that a shilling or eighteenpence was
sufficient board wages for a man-servant, when a crown would not now
answer the purpose. It is true the cause of these reasonable charges
rested upon a principle equally unjust to the landlord, and inconvenient
to the guest. The landlord did not expect to make any thing upon the
charge for eating which his bill contained; in consideration of which,
the guest was expected to drink more wine than might be convenient or
agreeable to him, "_for the good_," as it was called, "_of the house_."
The landlord indeed was willing and ready to assist, in this duty, every
stranger who came within his gates. Other things were in proportion. A
charge for lodging, fire, and candle, was long a thing unheard of in
Scotland. A shilling to the housemaid settled all such considerations. I
see, from memorandums of 1790, that a young man, with two ponies and a
serving-lad, might travel from the house of one Meg Dods to another,
through most parts of Scotland, for about five or six shillings a-day.

[I-6] Note I.--Building-Feus in Scotland.

[I-7] This Gallic word (hôtel) was first introduced in Scotland during the
author's childhood, and was so pronounced by the lower class.



CHAPTER II.

THE GUEST.

    Quis novus hic hospes?
                         _Dido apud Virgilium._

    Ch'am-maid! The Gemman in the front parlour!

BOOTS'S _free Translation of the Æneid_.


It was on a fine summer's day that a solitary traveller rode under the
old-fashioned archway, and alighted in the court-yard of Meg Dods's inn,
and delivered the bridle of his horse to the humpbacked postilion.
"Bring my saddle-bags," he said, "into the house--or stay--I am abler, I
think, to carry them than you." He then assisted the poor meagre groom
to unbuckle the straps which secured the humble and now despised
convenience, and meantime gave strict charges that his horse should be
unbridled, and put into a clean and comfortable stall, the girths
slacked, and a cloth cast over his loins; but that the saddle should not
be removed until he himself came to see him dressed.

The companion of his travels seemed in the hostler's eye deserving of
his care, being a strong active horse, fit either for the road or field,
but rather high in bone from a long journey, though from the state of
his skin it appeared the utmost care had been bestowed to keep him in
condition. While the groom obeyed the stranger's directions, the latter,
with the saddle-bags laid over his arm, entered the kitchen of the inn.

Here he found the landlady herself in none of her most blessed humours.
The cook-maid was abroad on some errand, and Meg, in a close review of
the kitchen apparatus, was making the unpleasant discovery, that
trenchers had been broken or cracked, pots and saucepans not so
accurately scoured as her precise notions of cleanliness required,
which, joined to other detections of a more petty description, stirred
her bile in no small degree; so that while she disarranged and arranged
the _bink_, she maundered, in an under tone, complaints and menaces
against the absent delinquent.

The entrance of a guest did not induce her to suspend this agreeable
amusement--she just glanced at him as he entered, then turned her back
short on him, and continued her labour and her soliloquy of lamentation.
Truth is, she thought she recognised in the person of the stranger, one
of those useful envoys of the commercial community, called, by
themselves and the waiters, _Travellers_, par excellence--by others,
Riders and Bagmen. Now against this class of customers Meg had peculiar
prejudices; because, there being no shops in the old village of Saint
Ronan's, the said commercial emissaries, for the convenience of their
traffic, always took up their abode at the New Inn, or Hotel, in the
rising and rival village called Saint Ronan's Well, unless when some
straggler, by chance or dire necessity, was compelled to lodge himself
at the Auld Town, as the place of Meg's residence began to be generally
termed. She had, therefore, no sooner formed the hasty conclusion, that
the individual in question belonged to this obnoxious class, than she
resumed her former occupation, and continued to soliloquize and
apostrophize her absent handmaidens, without even appearing sensible of
his presence.

"The huzzy Beenie--the jaud Eppie--the deil's buckie of a
callant!--Another plate gane--they'll break me out of house and ha'!"

The traveller, who, with his saddle-bags rested on the back of a chair,
had waited in silence for some note of welcome, now saw that, ghost or
no ghost, he must speak first, if he intended to have any notice from
his landlady.

"You are my old acquaintance, Mrs. Margaret Dods?" said the stranger.

"What for no?--and wha are ye that speers?" said Meg, in the same
breath, and began to rub a brass candlestick with more vehemence than
before--the dry tone in which she spoke, indicating plainly how little
concern she took in the conversation.

"A traveller, good Mistress Dods, who comes to take up his lodgings here
for a day or two."

"I am thinking ye will be mista'en," said Meg; "there's nae room for
bags or jaugs here--ye've mista'en your road, neighbour--ye maun e'en
bundle yoursell a bit farther down hill."

"I see you have not got the letter I sent you, Mistress Dods?" said the
guest.

"How should I, man?" answered the hostess; "they have ta'en awa the
post-office from us--moved it down till the Spa-well yonder, as they
ca'd."

"Why, that is but a step off," observed the guest.

"Ye will get there the sooner," answered the hostess.

"Nay, but," said the guest, "if you had sent there for my letter, you
would have learned"----

"I'm no wanting to learn ony thing at my years," said Meg. "If folk have
ony thing to write to me about, they may gie the letter to John Hislop,
the carrier, that has used the road these forty years. As for the
letters at the post-mistress's, as they ca' her, down by yonder, they
may bide in her shop-window, wi' the snaps and bawbee rows, till
Beltane, or I loose them. I'll never file my fingers with them.
Post-mistress, indeed!--Upsetting cutty! I mind her fu' weel when she
dree'd penance for ante-nup"----

Laughing, but interrupting Meg in good time for the character of the
post-mistress, the stranger assured her he had sent his fishing-rod and
trunk to her confidential friend the carrier, and that he sincerely
hoped she would not turn an old acquaintance out of her premises,
especially as he believed he could not sleep in a bed within five miles
of Saint Ronan's, if he knew that her Blue room was unengaged.

"Fishing-rod!--Auld acquaintance!--Blue room!" echoed Meg, in some
surprise; and, facing round upon the stranger, and examining him with
some interest and curiosity,--"Ye'll be nae bagman, then, after a'?"

"No," said the traveller; "not since I have laid the saddle-bags out of
my hand."

"Weel, I canna say but I am glad of that--I canna bide their yanking way
of knapping English at every word.--I have kent decent lads amang them
too--What for no?--But that was when they stopped up here whiles, like
other douce folk; but since they gaed down, the hail flight of them,
like a string of wild-geese, to the new-fashioned hottle yonder, I am
told there are as mony hellicate tricks played in the travellers' room,
as they behove to call it, as if it were fu' of drunken young lairds."

"That is because they have not you to keep good order among them,
Mistress Margaret."

"Ay, lad?" replied Meg, "ye are a fine blaw-in-my-lug, to think to
cuittle me off sae cleverly!" And, facing about upon her guest, she
honoured him with a more close and curious investigation than she had at
first designed to bestow upon him.

All that she remarked was in her opinion rather favourable to the
stranger. He was a well-made man, rather above than under the middle
size, and apparently betwixt five-and-twenty and thirty years of
age--for, although he might, at first glance, have passed for one who
had attained the latter period, yet, on a nearer examination, it seemed
as if the burning sun of a warmer climate than Scotland, and perhaps
some fatigue, both of body and mind, had imprinted the marks of care and
of manhood upon his countenance, without abiding the course of years.
His eyes and teeth were excellent, and his other features, though they
could scarce be termed handsome, expressed sense and acuteness; he bore,
in his aspect, that ease and composure of manner, equally void of
awkwardness and affectation, which is said emphatically to mark the
gentleman; and, although neither the plainness of his dress, nor the
total want of the usual attendants, allowed Meg to suppose him a wealthy
man, she had little doubt that he was above the rank of her lodgers in
general. Amidst these observations, and while she was in the course of
making them, the good landlady was embarrassed with various obscure
recollections of having seen the object of them formerly; but when, or
on what occasion, she was quite unable to call to remembrance. She was
particularly puzzled by the cold and sarcastic expression of a
countenance, which she could not by any means reconcile with the
recollections which it awakened. At length she said, with as much
courtesy as she was capable of assuming,--"Either I have seen you
before, sir, or some ane very like ye?--Ye ken the Blue room, too, and
you a stranger in these parts?"

"Not so much a stranger as you may suppose, Meg," said the guest,
assuming a more intimate tone, "when I call myself Frank Tyrrel."

"Tirl!" exclaimed Meg, with a tone of wonder--"It's impossible! You
cannot be Francie Tirl, the wild callant that was fishing and
bird-nesting here seven or eight years syne--it canna be--Francie was
but a callant!"

"But add seven or eight years to that boy's life, Meg," said the
stranger gravely, "and you will find you have the man who is now before
you."

"Even sae!" said Meg, with a glance at the reflection of her own
countenance in the copper coffee-pot, which she had scoured so brightly
that it did the office of a mirror--"Just e'en sae--but folk maun grow
auld or die.--But, Maister Tirl, for I mauna ca' ye Francie now, I am
thinking"----

"Call me what you please, good dame," said the stranger; "it has been so
long since I heard any one call me by a name that sounded like former
kindness, that such a one is more agreeable to me than a lord's title
would be."

"Weel, then, Maister Francie--if it be no offence to you--I hope ye are
no a Nabob?"

"Not I, I can safely assure you, my old friend;--but what an I were?"

"Naething--only maybe I might bid ye gang farther, and be waur
served.--Nabobs, indeed! the country's plagued wi' them. They have
raised the price of eggs and pootry for twenty miles round--But what is
my business?--They use amaist a' of them the Well down by--they need it,
ye ken, for the clearing of their copper complexions, that need scouring
as much as my saucepans, that naebody can clean but mysell."

"Well, my good friend," said Tyrrel, "the upshot of all this is, I hope,
that I am to stay and have dinner here?"

"What for no?" replied Mrs. Dods.

"And that I am to have the Blue room for a night or two--perhaps
longer?"

"I dinna ken that," said the dame.--"The Blue room is the best--and they
that get neist best, are no ill aff in this warld."

"Arrange it as you will," said the stranger, "I leave the whole matter
to you, mistress.--Meantime, I will go see after my horse."

"The merciful man," said Meg, when her guest had left the kitchen, "is
merciful to his beast.--He had aye something about him by ordinar, that
callant--But eh, sirs! there is a sair change on his cheek-haffit since
I saw him last!--He sall no want a good dinner for auld lang syne, that
I'se engage for."

Meg set about the necessary preparations with all the natural energy of
her disposition, which was so much exerted upon her culinary cares, that
her two maids, on their return to the house, escaped the bitter
reprimand which she had been previously conning over, in reward for
their alleged slatternly negligence. Nay, so far did she carry her
complaisance, that when Tyrrel crossed the kitchen to recover his
saddle-bags, she formally rebuked Eppie for an idle taupie, for not
carrying the gentleman's things to his room.

"I thank you, mistress," said Tyrrel; "but I have some drawings and
colours in these saddle-bags, and I always like to carry them myself."

"Ay, and are you at the painting trade yet?" said Meg; "an unco slaister
ye used to make with it lang syne."

"I cannot live without it," said Tyrrel; and taking the saddle-bags, was
formally inducted by the maid into a snug apartment, where he soon had
the satisfaction to behold a capital dish of minced collops, with
vegetables, and a jug of excellent ale, placed on the table by the
careful hand of Meg herself. He could do no less, in acknowledgment of
the honour, than ask Meg for a bottle of the yellow seal, "if there was
any of that excellent claret still left."

"Left?--ay is there, walth of it," said Meg; "I dinna gie it to every
body--Ah! Maister Tirl, ye have not got ower your auld tricks!--I am
sure, if ye are painting for your leeving, as you say, a little rum and
water would come cheaper, and do ye as much good. But ye maun hae your
ain way the day, nae doubt, if ye should never have it again."

Away trudged Meg, her keys clattering as she went, and, after much
rummaging, returned with such a bottle of claret as no fashionable
tavern could have produced, were it called for by a duke, or at a duke's
price; and she seemed not a little gratified when her guest assured her
that he had not yet forgotten its excellent flavour. She retired after
these acts of hospitality, and left the stranger to enjoy in quiet the
excellent matters which she had placed before him.

But there was that on Tyrrel's mind which defied the enlivening power of
good cheer and of wine, which only maketh man's heart glad when that
heart has no secret oppression to counteract its influence. Tyrrel found
himself on a spot which he had loved in that delightful season, when
youth and high spirits awaken all those flattering promises which are so
ill kept to manhood. He drew his chair into the embrasure of the
old-fashioned window, and throwing up the sash to enjoy the fresh air,
suffered his thoughts to return to former days, while his eyes wandered
over objects which they had not looked upon for several eventful years.
He could behold beneath his eye, the lower part of the decayed village,
as its ruins peeped from the umbrageous shelter with which they were
shrouded. Still lower down, upon the little holm which formed its
church-yard, was seen the Kirk of Saint Ronan's; and looking yet
farther, towards the junction of Saint Ronan's burn with the river which
traversed the larger dale or valley, he could see whitened, by the
western sun, the rising houses, which were either newly finished, or in
the act of being built, about the medicinal spring.

"Time changes all around us," such was the course of natural though
trite reflection, which flowed upon Tyrrel's mind; "wherefore should
loves and friendships have a longer date than our dwellings and our
monuments?" As he indulged these sombre recollections, his officious
landlady disturbed their tenor by her entrance.

"I was thinking to offer you a dish of tea, Maister Francie, just for
the sake of auld lang syne, and I'll gar the quean Beenie bring it
here, and mask it mysell.--But ye arena done with your wine yet?"

"I am indeed, Mrs. Dods," answered Tyrrel; "and I beg you will remove
the bottle."

"Remove the bottle, and the wine no half drank out!" said Meg,
displeasure lowering on her brow; "I hope there is nae fault to be found
wi' the wine, Maister Tirl?"

To this answer, which was put in a tone resembling defiance, Tyrrel
submissively replied, by declaring "the claret not only unexceptionable,
but excellent."

"And what for dinna ye drink it, then?" said Meg, sharply; "folk should
never ask for mair liquor than they can make a gude use of. Maybe ye
think we have the fashion of the table-dot, as they ca' their newfangled
ordinary down-by yonder, where a' the bits of vinegar cruets are put awa
into an awmry, as they tell me, and ilk ane wi' the bit dribbles of
syndings in it, and a paper about the neck o't, to show which of the
customers is aught it--there they stand like doctor's drogs--and no an
honest Scottish mutchkin will ane o' their viols haud, granting it were
at the fouest."

"Perhaps," said Tyrrel, willing to indulge the spleen and prejudice of
his old acquaintance, "perhaps the wine is not so good as to make full
measure desirable."

"Ye may say that, lad--and yet them that sell it might afford a gude
penniworth, for they hae it for the making--maist feck of it ne'er saw
France or Portugal. But as I was saying--this is no ane of their
newfangled places, where wine is put by for them that canna drink
it--when the cork's drawn the bottle maun be drank out--and what for
no?--unless it be corkit."

"I agree entirely, Meg," said her guest; "but my ride to-day has
somewhat heated me--and I think the dish of tea you promise me, will do
me more good than to finish my bottle."

"Na, then, the best I can do for you is to put it by, to be sauce for
the wild-duck the morn; for I think ye said ye were to bide here for a
day or twa."

"It is my very purpose, Meg, unquestionably," replied Tyrrel.

"Sae be it then," said Mrs. Dods; "and then the liquor's no lost--it has
been seldom sic claret as that has simmered in a saucepan, let me tell
you that, neighbour;--and I mind the day, when, headache or nae
headache, ye wad hae been at the hinder-end of that bottle, and maybe
anither, if ye could have gotten it wiled out of me. But then ye had
your cousin to help you--Ah! he was a blithe bairn that Valentine
Bulmer!--Ye were a canty callant too, Maister Francie, and muckle ado I
had to keep ye baith in order when ye were on the ramble. But ye were a
thought doucer than Valentine--But O! he was a bonny laddie!--wi' e'en
like diamonds, cheeks like roses, a head like a heather-tap--he was the
first I ever saw wear a crap, as they ca' it, but a' body cheats the
barber now--and he had a laugh that wad hae raised the dead!--What wi'
flyting on him, and what wi' laughing at him, there was nae minding ony
other body when that Valentine was in the house.--And how is your cousin
Valentine Bulmer, Maister Francie?"

Tyrrel looked down, and only answered with a sigh.

"Ay--and is it even sae?" said Meg; "and has the puir bairn been sae
soon removed frae this fashious warld?--Ay--ay--we maun a' gang ae
gate--crackit quart stoups and geisen'd barrels--leaky quaighs are we
a', and canna keep in the liquor of life--Ohon, sirs!--Was the puir lad
Bulmer frae Bu'mer bay, where they land the Hollands, think ye, Maister
Francie?--They whiles rin in a pickle tea there too--I hope that is good
that I have made you, Maister Francie?"

"Excellent, my good dame," said Tyrrel; but it was in a tone of voice
which intimated that she had pressed upon a subject that awakened some
unpleasant reflections.

"And when did this puir lad die?" continued Meg, who was not without her
share of Eve's qualities, and wished to know something concerning what
seemed to affect her guest so particularly; but he disappointed her
purpose, and at the same time awakened another train of sentiment in her
mind, by turning again to the window, and looking upon the distant
buildings of Saint Ronan's Well. As if he had observed for the first
time these new objects, he said to Mistress Dods in an indifferent tone,
"You have got some gay new neighbours yonder, mistress."

"Neighbours!" said Meg, her wrath beginning to arise, as it always did
upon any allusion to this sore subject--"Ye may ca' them neighbours, if
ye like--but the deil flee awa wi' the neighbourhood for Meg Dods!"

"I suppose," said Tyrrel, as if he did not observe her displeasure,
"that yonder is the Fox Hotel they told me of?"

"The Fox!" said Meg: "I am sure it is the fox that has carried off a' my
geese.--I might shut up house, Maister Francie, if it was the thing I
lived by--me, that has seen a' our gentlefolk bairns, and gien them
snaps and sugar-biscuit maist of them wi' my ain hand! They wad hae seen
my father's roof-tree fa' down and smoor me before they wad hae gien a
boddle a-piece to have propped it up--but they could a' link out their
fifty pounds ower head to bigg a hottle at the Well yonder. And muckle
they hae made o't--the bankrupt body, Sandie Lawson, hasna paid them a
bawbee of four terms' rent."

"Surely, mistress, I think if the Well became so famous for its cures,
the least the gentlemen could have done was to make you the priestess."

"Me priestess! I am nae Quaker, I wot, Maister Francie; and I never
heard of alewife that turned preacher, except Luckie Buchan in the
west.[I-8] And if I were to preach, I think I have mair the spirit of a
Scottishwoman, than to preach in the very room they hae been dancing in
ilka night in the week, Saturday itsell not excepted, and that till twal
o'clock at night. Na, na, Maister Francie; I leave the like o' that to
Mr. Simon Chatterly, as they ca' the bit prelatical sprig of divinity
from the town yonder, that plays at cards, and dances six days in the
week, and on the seventh reads the Common Prayer-book in the ball-room,
with Tam Simson, the drunken barber, for his clerk."

"I think I have heard of Mr. Chatterly," said Tyrrel.

"Ye'll be thinking o' the sermon he has printed," said the angry dame,
"where he compares their nasty puddle of a Well yonder to the pool of
Bethseda, like a foul-mouthed, fleeching, feather-headed fule as he is!
He should hae kend that the place got a' its fame in the times of black
Popery; and though they pat it in St. Ronan's name, I'll never believe
for one that the honest man had ony hand in it; for I hae been tell'd by
ane that suld ken, that he was nae Roman, but only a Cuddie, or
Culdee,[I-C] or such like.--But will ye not take anither dish of tea,
Maister Francie? and a wee bit of the diet-loaf, raised wi' my ain fresh
butter, Maister Francie? and no wi' greasy kitchen-fee, like the
seedcake down at the confectioner's yonder, that has as mony dead flees
as carvy in it. Set him up for a confectioner!--Wi' a penniworth of
rye-meal, and anither of tryacle, and twa or three carvy-seeds, I will
make better confections than ever cam out of his oven."

"I have no doubt of that, Mrs. Dods," said the guest; "and I only wish
to know how these new comers were able to establish themselves against a
house of such good reputation and old standing as yours?--It was the
virtues of the mineral, I dare say; but how came the waters to recover a
character all at once, mistress?"

"I dinna ken, sir--they used to be thought good for naething, but here
and there for a puir body's bairn, that had gotten the cruells,[I-9] and
could not afford a penniworth of salts. But my Leddy Penelope Penfeather
had fa'an ill, it's like, as nae other body ever fell ill, and sae she
was to be cured some gate naebody was ever cured, which was naething
mair than was reasonable--and my leddy, ye ken, has wit at wull, and has
a' the wise folk out from Edinburgh at her house at Windywa's yonder,
which it is her leddyship's wull and pleasure to call Air-castle--and
they have a' their different turns, and some can clink verses, wi' their
tale, as weel as Rob Burns or Allan Ramsay--and some rin up hill and
down dale, knapping the chucky stanes to pieces wi' hammers, like sae
mony road-makers run daft--they say it is to see how the warld was
made!--and some that play on all manner of ten-stringed instruments--and
a wheen sketching souls, that ye may see perched like craws on every
craig in the country, e'en working at your ain trade, Maister Francie;
forby men that had been in foreign parts, or said they had been there,
whilk is a' ane, ye ken; and maybe twa or three draggletailed misses,
that wear my Leddy Penelope's follies when she has dune wi' them, as her
queans of maids wear her second-hand claithes. So, after her leddyship's
happy recovery, as they ca'd it, down cam the hail tribe of wild-geese,
and settled by the Well, to dine thereout on the bare grund, like a
wheen tinklers; and they had sangs, and tunes, and healths, nae doubt,
in praise of the fountain, as they ca'd the Well, and of Leddy Penelope
Penfeather; and, lastly, they behoved a' to take a solemn bumper of the
spring, which, as I'm tauld, made unco havoc amang them or they wan
hame; and this they ca'd picknick, and a plague to them! And sae the jig
was begun after her leddyship's pipe, and mony a mad measure has been
danced sin' syne; for down cam masons and murgeon-makers, and preachers
and player-folk, and Episcopalians and Methodists, and fools and
fiddlers, and Papists and pie-bakers, and doctors and drugsters; by the
shop-folk, that sell trash and trumpery at three prices--and so up got
the bonny new Well, and down fell the honest auld town of Saint Ronan's,
where blithe decent folk had been heartsome eneugh for mony a day before
ony o' them were born, or ony sic vapouring fancies kittled in their
cracked brains."

"What said your landlord, the Laird of Saint Ronan's, to all this?" said
Tyrrel.

"Is't _my_ landlord ye are asking after, Maister Francie?--the Laird of
Saint Ronan's is nae landlord of mine, and I think ye might hae minded
that.--Na, na, thanks be to Praise! Meg Dods is baith land_lord_ and
land_leddy_. Ill eneugh to keep the doors open as it is, let be facing
Whitsunday and Martinmas--an auld leather pock there is, Maister
Francie, in ane of worthy Maister Bindloose the sheriff-clerk's
pigeon-holes, in his dowcot of a closet in the burgh; and therein is
baith charter and sasine, and special service to boot; and that will be
chapter and verse, speer when ye list."

"I had quite forgotten," said Tyrrel, "that the inn was your own; though
I remember you were a considerable landed proprietor."

"Maybe I am," replied Meg, "maybe I am not: and if I be, what for
no?--But as to what the Laird, whose grandfather was my father's
landlord, said to the new doings yonder--he just jumped at the ready
penny, like a cock at a grosert, and feu'd the bonny holm beside the
Well, that they ca'd the Saint-Well-holm, that was like the best land in
his aught, to be carved, and biggit, and howkit up, just at the pleasure
of Jock Ashler the stane-mason, that ca's himsell an arkiteck--there's
nae living for new words in this new warld neither, and that is another
vex to auld folk such as me.--It's a shame o' the young Laird, to let
his auld patrimony gang the gate it's like to gang, and my heart is sair
to see't, though it has but little cause to care what comes of him or
his."

"Is it the same Mr. Mowbray," said Mr. Tyrrel, "who still holds the
estate?--the old gentleman, you know, whom I had some dispute with"----

"About hunting moorfowl upon the Spring-well-head muirs?" said Meg. "Ah,
lad! honest Mr. Bindloose brought you neatly off there--Na, it's no that
honest man, but his son John Mowbray--the t'other has slept down-by in
Saint Ronan's Kirk for these six or seven years."

"Did he leave," asked Tyrrel, with something of a faltering voice, "no
other child than the present Laird?"

"No other son," said Meg; "and there's e'en eneugh, unless he could have
left a better ane."

"He died then," said Tyrrel, "excepting this son, without children?"

"By your leave, no," said Meg; "there is the lassie Miss Clara, that
keeps house for the Laird, if it can be ca'd keeping house, for he is
almost aye down at the Well yonder--so a sma' kitchen serves them at the
Shaws."

"Miss Clara will have but a dull time of it there during her brother's
absence?" said the stranger.

"Out no!--he has her aften jinketing about, and back and forward, wi' a'
the fine flichtering fools that come yonder; and clapping palms wi'
them, and linking at their dances and daffings. I wuss nae ill come o't,
but it's a shame her father's daughter should keep company wi' a' that
scauff and raff of physic-students, and writers' prentices, and bagmen,
and siclike trash as are down at the Well yonder."

"You are severe, Mrs. Dods," replied the guest. "No doubt Miss Clara's
conduct deserves all sort of freedom."

"I am saying naething against her conduct," said the dame; "and there's
nae ground to say onything that I ken of--But I wad hae like draw to
like, Maister Francie. I never quarrelled the ball that the gentry used
to hae at my bit house a gude wheen years bygane--when they came, the
auld folk in their coaches, wi' lang-tailed black horses, and a wheen
galliard gallants on their hunting horses, and mony a decent leddy
behind her ain goodman, and mony a bonny smirking lassie on her pownie,
and wha sae happy as they--And what for no? And then there was the
farmers' ball, wi' the tight lads of yeomen with the bran new blues and
the buckskins--These were decent meetings--but then they were a' ae
man's bairns that were at them, ilk ane kend ilk other--they danced
farmers wi' farmers' daughters, at the tane, and gentles wi' gentle
blood, at the t'other, unless maybe when some of the gentlemen of the
Killnakelty Club would gie me a round of the floor mysell, in the way of
daffing and fun, and me no able to flyte on them for laughing--I am sure
I never grudged these innocent pleasures, although it has cost me maybe
a week's redding up, before I got the better of the confusion."

"But, dame," said Tyrrel, "this ceremonial would be a little hard upon
strangers like myself, for how were we to find partners in these family
parties of yours?"

"Never you fash your thumb about that, Maister Francie," returned the
landlady, with a knowing wink.--"Every Jack will find a Jill, gang the
world as it may--and, at the warst o't, better hae some fashery in
finding a partner for the night, than get yoked with ane that you may
not be able to shake off the morn."

"And does that sometimes happen?" asked the stranger.

"Happen!--and is't amang the Well folk that ye mean?" exclaimed the
hostess. "Was it not the last season, as they ca't, no farther gane,
that young Sir Bingo Binks, the English lad wi' the red coat, that keeps
a mail-coach, and drives it himsell, gat cleekit with Miss Rachel
Bonnyrigg, the auld Leddy Loupengirth's lang-legged daughter--and they
danced sae lang thegither, that there was mair said than suld hae been
said about it--and the lad would fain hae louped back, but the auld
leddy held him to his tackle, and the Commissary Court and somebody else
made her Leddy Binks in spite of Sir Bingo's heart--and he has never
daured take her to his friends in England, but they have just wintered
and summered it at the Well ever since--and that is what the Well is
good for!"

"And does Clara,--I mean does Miss Mowbray, keep company with such women
as these?" said Tyrrel, with a tone of interest which he checked as he
proceeded with the question.

"What can she do, puir thing?" said the dame. "She maun keep the company
that her brother keeps, for she is clearly dependent.--But, speaking of
that, I ken what I have to do, and that is no little, before it darkens.
I have sat clavering with you ower lang, Maister Francie."

And away she marched with a resolved step, and soon the clear octaves of
her voice were heard in shrill admonition to her handmaidens.

Tyrrel paused a moment in deep thought, then took his hat, paid a visit
to the stable, where his horse saluted him with feathering ears, and
that low amicable neigh, with which that animal acknowledges the
approach of a loving and beloved friend. Having seen that the faithful
creature was in every respect attended to, Tyrrel availed himself of the
continued and lingering twilight, to visit the old Castle, which, upon
former occasions, had been his favourite evening walk. He remained while
the light permitted, admiring the prospect we attempted to describe in
the first chapter, and comparing, as in his former reverie, the faded
hues of the glimmering landscape to those of human life, when early
youth and hope have ceased to gild them.

A brisk walk to the inn, and a light supper on a Welsh rabbit and the
dame's home-brewed, were stimulants of livelier, at least more resigned
thoughts--and the Blue bedroom, to the honours of which he had been
promoted, received him a contented, if not a cheerful tenant.

FOOTNOTES:

[I-8] The foundress of a sect called Buchanites; a species of Joanna
Southcote, who long after death was expected to return and head her
disciples on the road to Jerusalem.

[I-9] _Escrouelles_, King's Evil.



CHAPTER III.

ADMINISTRATION.

    There must be government in all society--
    Bees have their Queen, and stag-herds have their leader;
    Rome had her Consuls, Athens had her Archons,
    And we, sir, have our Managing Committee.

_The Album of St. Ronan's._


Francis Tyrrel was, in the course of the next day, formally settled in
his old quarters, where he announced his purpose of remaining for
several days. The old-established carrier of the place brought his
fishing-rod and travelling-trunk, with a letter to Meg, dated a week
previously, desiring her to prepare to receive an old acquaintance. This
annunciation, though something of the latest, Meg received with great
complacency, observing it was a civil attention in Maister Tirl; and
that John Hislop, though he was not just sae fast, was far surer than
ony post of them a', or express either. She also observed with
satisfaction, that there was no gun-case along with her guest's baggage;
"for that weary gunning had brought him and her into trouble--the lairds
had cried out upon't, as if she made her house a howff for common
fowlers and poachers; and yet how could she hinder twa daft hempie
callants from taking a start and an ower-loup?[I-10] They had been ower
the neighbour's ground they had leave on up to the march, and they
werena just to ken meiths when the moorfowl got up."

In a day or two, her guest fell into such quiet and solitary habits,
that Meg, herself the most restless and bustling of human creatures,
began to be vexed, for want of the trouble which she expected to have
had with him, experiencing, perhaps, the same sort of feeling from his
extreme and passive indifference on all points, that a good horseman has
for the over-patient steed, which he can scarce feel under him. His
walks were devoted to the most solitary recesses among the neighbouring
woods and hills--his fishing-rod was often left behind him, or carried
merely as an apology for sauntering slowly by the banks of some little
brooklet--and his success so indifferent, that Meg said the piper of
Peebles[I-11] would have caught a creelfu' before Maister Francie made out
the half-dozen; so that he was obliged, for peace's sake, to vindicate
his character, by killing a handsome salmon.

Tyrrel's painting, as Meg called it, went on equally slowly: He often,
indeed, showed her the sketches which he brought from his walks, and
used to finish at home; but Meg held them very cheap. What signified,
she said, a wheen bits of paper, wi' black and white scarts upon them,
that he ca'd bushes, and trees, and craigs?--Couldna he paint them wi'
green, and blue, and yellow, like the other folk? "Ye will never mak
your bread that way, Maister Francie. Ye suld munt up a muckle square of
canvass, like Dick Tinto, and paint folks ainsells, that they like
muckle better to see than ony craig in the haill water; and I wadna
muckle objeck even to some of the Wallers coming up and sitting to ye.
They waste their time waur, I wis--and, I warrant, ye might make a
guinea a-head of them. Dick made twa, but he was an auld used hand, and
folk maun creep before they gang."

In answer to these remonstrances, Tyrrel assured her, that the sketches
with which he busied himself were held of such considerable value, that
very often an artist in that line received much higher remuneration for
these, than for portraits or coloured drawings. He added, that they were
often taken for the purpose of illustrating popular poems, and hinted as
if he himself were engaged in some labour of that nature.

Eagerly did Meg long to pour forth to Nelly Trotter, the
fishwoman,--whose cart formed the only neutral channel of communication
between the Auld Town and the Well, and who was in favour with Meg,
because, as Nelly passed her door in her way to the Well, she always had
the first choice of her fish,--the merits of her lodger as an artist.
Luckie Dods had, in truth, been so much annoyed and bullied, as it were,
with the report of clever persons, accomplished in all sorts of
excellence, arriving day after day at the Hotel, that she was overjoyed
in this fortunate opportunity to triumph over them in their own way; and
it may be believed, that the excellences of her lodger lost nothing by
being trumpeted through her mouth.

"I maun hae the best of the cart, Nelly--if you and me can gree--for it
is for ane of the best of painters. Your fine folk down yonder would gie
their lugs to look at what he has been doing--he gets gowd in goupins,
for three downright skarts and three cross anes--And he is no an
ungrateful loon, like Dick Tinto, that had nae sooner my good
five-and-twenty shillings in his pocket, than he gaed down to birl it
awa at their bonny hottle yonder, but a decent quiet lad, that kens when
he is weel aff, and bides still at the auld howff--And what for
no?--Tell them all this, and hear what they will say till't."

"Indeed, mistress, I can tell ye that already, without stirring my
shanks for the matter," answered Nelly Trotter; "they will e'en say that
ye are ae auld fule, and me anither, that may hae some judgment in
cock-bree or in scate-rumples, but mauna fash our beards about ony thing
else."

"Wad they say sae, the frontless villains! and me been a housekeeper
this thirty year!" exclaimed Meg; "I wadna hae them say it to my face!
But I am no speaking without warrant--for what an I had spoken to the
minister, lass, and shown him ane of the loose skarts of paper that
Maister Tirl leaves fleeing about his room?--and what an he had said he
had kend Lord Bidmore gie five guineas for the waur on't? and a' the
warld kens he was lang tutor in the Bidmore family."

"Troth," answered her gossip, "I doubt if I was to tell a' this they
would hardly believe me, mistress; for there are sae mony judges amang
them, and they think sae muckle of themsells, and sae little of other
folk, that unless ye were to send down the bit picture, I am no thinking
they will believe a word that I can tell them."

"No believe what an honest woman says--let abee to say twa o' them?"
exclaimed Meg; "O the unbelieving generation!--Weel, Nelly, since my
back is up, ye sall tak down the picture, or sketching, or whatever it
is, (though I thought sketchers[I-12] were aye made of airn,) and shame
wi' it the conceited crew that they are.--But see and bring't back wi'
ye again, Nelly, for it's a thing of value; and trustna it out o' your
hand, _that_ I charge you, for I lippen no muckle to their
honesty.--And, Nelly, ye may tell them he has an illustrated
poem--_illustrated_--mind the word, Nelly--that is to be stuck as fou o'
the like o' that, as ever turkey was larded wi' dabs o' bacon."

Thus furnished with her credentials, and acting the part of a herald
betwixt two hostile countries, honest Nelly switched her little
fish-cart downwards to St. Ronan's Well.

In watering-places, as in other congregated assemblies of the human
species, various kinds of government have been dictated, by chance,
caprice, or convenience; but in almost all of them, some sort of
direction has been adopted, to prevent the consequences of anarchy.
Sometimes the sole power has been vested in a Master of Ceremonies; but
this, like other despotisms, has been of late unfashionable, and the
powers of this great officer have been much limited even at Bath, where
Nash once ruled with undisputed supremacy. Committees of management,
chosen from among the most steady guests, have been in general resorted
to, as a more liberal mode of sway, and to such was confided the
administration of the infant republic of St. Ronan's Well. This little
senate, it must be observed, had the more difficult task in discharging
their high duties, that, like those of other republics, their subjects
were divided into two jarring and contending factions, who every day
eat, drank, danced, and made merry together, hating each other all the
while with all the animosity of political party, endeavouring by every
art to secure the adherence of each guest who arrived, and ridiculing
the absurdities and follies of each other, with all the wit and
bitterness of which they were masters.

At the head of one of these parties was no less a personage than Lady
Penelope Penfeather, to whom the establishment owed its fame, nay, its
existence; and whose influence could only have been balanced by that of
the Lord of the Manor, Mr. Mowbray of St. Ronan's, or, as he was called
usually by the company who affected what Meg called knapping English,
The Squire, who was leader of the opposite faction.

The rank and fortune of the lady, her pretensions to beauty as well as
talent, (though the former was something faded,) and the consequence
which she arrogated to herself as a woman of fashion, drew round her
painters and poets, and philosophers, and men of science, and lecturers,
and foreign adventurers, _et hoc genus omne_.

On the contrary, the Squire's influence, as a man of family and property
in the immediate neighbourhood, who actually kept greyhounds and
pointers, and at least talked of hunters and of racers, ascertained him
the support of the whole class of bucks, half and whole bred, from the
three next counties; and if more inducements were wanting, he could
grant his favourites the privilege of shooting over his moors, which is
enough to turn the head of a young Scottishman at any time. Mr. Mowbray
was of late especially supported in his pre-eminence, by a close
alliance with Sir Bingo Binks, a sapient English Baronet, who, ashamed,
as many thought, to return to his own country, had set him down at the
Well of St. Ronan's, to enjoy the blessing which the Caledonian Hymen
had so kindly forced on him in the person of Miss Rachel Bonnyrigg. As
this gentleman actually drove a regular-built mail-coach, not in any
respect differing from that of his Majesty, only that it was more
frequently overturned, his influence with a certain set was
irresistible, and the Squire of St. Ronan's, having the better sense of
the two, contrived to reap the full benefit of the consequence attached
to his friendship.

These two contending parties were so equally balanced, that the
predominance of the influence of either was often determined by the
course of the sun. Thus, in the morning and forenoon, when Lady Penelope
led forth her herd to lawn and shady bower, whether to visit some ruined
monument of ancient times, or eat their pic-nic luncheon, to spoil good
paper with bad drawings, and good verses with repetition--in a word,

    "To rave, recite, and madden round the land,"

her ladyship's empire over the loungers seemed uncontrolled and
absolute, and all things were engaged in the _tourbillon_, of which she
formed the pivot and centre. Even the hunters, and shooters, and hard
drinkers, were sometimes fain reluctantly to follow in her train,
sulking, and quizzing, and flouting at her solemn festivals, besides
encouraging the younger nymphs to giggle when they should have looked
sentimental. But after dinner the scene was changed, and her ladyship's
sweetest smiles, and softest invitations, were often insufficient to
draw the neutral part of the company to the tea-room; so that her
society was reduced to those whose constitution or finances rendered
early retirement from the dining-parlour a matter of convenience,
together with the more devoted and zealous of her own immediate
dependents and adherents. Even the faith of the latter was apt to be
debauched. Her ladyship's poet-laureate, in whose behalf she was teazing
each new-comer for subscriptions, got sufficiently independent to sing
in her ladyship's presence, at supper, a song of rather equivocal
meaning; and her chief painter, who was employed upon an illustrated
copy of the Loves of the Plants, was, at another time, seduced into such
a state of pot-valour, that, upon her ladyship's administering her usual
dose of criticism upon his works, he not only bluntly disputed her
judgment, but talked something of his right to be treated like a
gentleman.

These feuds were taken up by the Managing Committee, who interceded for
the penitent offenders on the following morning, and obtained their
re-establishment in Lady Penelope's good graces, upon moderate terms.
Many other acts of moderating authority they performed, much to the
assuaging of faction, and the quiet of the Wellers; and so essential was
their government to the prosperity of the place, that, without them, St.
Ronan's spring would probably have been speedily deserted. We must,
therefore, give a brief sketch of that potential Committee, which both
factions, acting as if on a self-denying ordinance, had combined to
invest with the reins of government.

Each of its members appeared to be selected, as Fortunio, in the
fairy-tale,[I-D] chose his followers, for his peculiar gifts. First on the
list stood the MAN OF MEDICINE, Dr. Quentin Quackleben, who claimed
right to regulate medical matters at the spring, upon the principle
which, of old, assigned the property of a newly discovered country to
the bucanier who committed the earliest piracy on its shores. The
acknowledgment of the Doctor's merit as having been first to proclaim
and vindicate the merits of these healing fountains, had occasioned his
being universally installed First Physician and Man of Science, which
last qualification he could apply to all purposes, from the boiling of
an egg to the giving a lecture. He was, indeed, qualified, like many of
his profession, to spread both the bane and antidote before a dyspeptic
patient, being as knowing a gastronome as Dr. Redgill himself, or any
other worthy physician who has written for the benefit of the _cuisine_,
from Dr. Moncrieff of Tippermalloch, to the late Dr. Hunter of York, and
the present Dr. Kitchiner of London. But pluralities are always
invidious, and therefore the Doctor prudently relinquished the office of
caterer and head-carver to the Man of Taste, who occupied regularly, and
_ex officio_, the head of the table, reserving to himself the occasional
privilege of criticising, and a principal share in consuming, the good
things which the common entertainment afforded. We have only to sum up
this brief account of the learned Doctor, by informing the reader that
he was a tall, lean, beetle-browed man, with an ill-made black
scratch-wig, that stared out on either side from his lantern jaws. He
resided nine months out of the twelve at St. Ronan's, and was supposed
to make an indifferent good thing of it,--especially as he played whist
to admiration.

First in place, though perhaps second to the Doctor in real authority,
was Mr. Winterblossom; a civil sort of person, who was nicely precise in
his address, wore his hair cued, and dressed with powder, had
knee-buckles set with Bristol stones, and a seal-ring as large as Sir
John Falstaff's. In his heyday he had a small estate, which he had spent
like a gentleman, by mixing with the gay world. He was, in short, one of
those respectable links that connect the coxcombs of the present day
with those of the last age, and could compare, in his own experience,
the follies of both. In latter days, he had sense enough to extricate
himself from his course of dissipation, though with impaired health and
impoverished fortune.

Mr. Winterblossom now lived upon a moderate annuity, and had discovered
a way of reconciling his economy with much company and made dishes, by
acting as perpetual president of the table-d'hote at the Well. Here he
used to amuse the society by telling stories about Garrick, Foote,
Bonnel Thornton, and Lord Kelly, and delivering his opinions in matters
of taste and vertu. An excellent carver, he knew how to help each guest
to what was precisely his due; and never failed to reserve a proper
slice as the reward of his own labours. To conclude, he was possessed of
some taste in the fine arts, at least in painting and music, although it
was rather of the technical kind, than that which warms the heart and
elevates the feelings. There was, indeed, about Winterblossom, nothing
that was either warm or elevated. He was shrewd, selfish, and sensual;
the last two of which qualities he screened from observation, under a
specious varnish of exterior complaisance. Therefore, in his professed
and apparent anxiety to do the honours of the table, to the most
punctilious point of good breeding, he never permitted the attendants
upon the public taste to supply the wants of others, until all his own
private comforts had been fully arranged and provided for.

Mr. Winterblossom was also distinguished for possessing a few curious
engravings, and other specimens of art, with the exhibition of which he
occasionally beguiled a wet morning at the public room. They were
collected, "_viis et modis_," said the Man of Law, another distinguished
member of the Committee, with a knowing cock of his eye to his next
neighbour.

Of this person little need be said. He was a large-boned, loud-voiced,
red-faced man, named Meiklewham; a country writer, or attorney, who
managed the matters of the Squire much to the profit of one or
other,--if not of both. His nose projected from the front of his broad
vulgar face, like the stile of an old sun-dial, twisted all of one side.
He was as great a bully in his profession, as if it had been military
instead of civil: conducted the whole technicalities concerning the
cutting up the Saint's-Well-haugh, so much lamented by Dame Dods, into
building-stances, and was on excellent terms with Doctor Quackleben, who
always recommended him to make the wills of his patients.

After the Man of Law comes Captain Mungo MacTurk, a Highland lieutenant
on half-pay, and that of ancient standing; one who preferred toddy of
the strongest to wine, and in that fashion and cold drams finished about
a bottle of whisky _per diem_, whenever he could come by it. He was
called the Man of Peace, on the same principle which assigns to
constables, Bow-street runners, and such like, who carry bludgeons to
break folk's heads, and are perpetually and officially employed in
scenes of riot, the title of peace-officers--that is, because by his
valour he compelled others to act with discretion. The Captain was the
general referee in all those abortive quarrels, which, at a place of
this kind, are so apt to occur at night, and to be quietly settled in
the morning; and occasionally adopted a quarrel himself, by way of
taking down any guest who was unusually pugnacious. This occupation
procured Captain MacTurk a good deal of respect at the Well; for he was
precisely that sort of person who is ready to fight with any one,--whom
no one can find an apology for declining to fight with,--in fighting
with whom considerable danger was incurred, for he was ever and anon
showing that he could snuff a candle with a pistol ball,--and lastly,
through fighting with whom no eclat or credit could redound to the
antagonist. He always wore a blue coat and red collar, had a
supercilious taciturnity of manner, ate sliced leeks with his cheese,
and resembled in complexion a Dutch red-herring.

Still remains to be mentioned the Man of Religion--the gentle Mr. Simon
Chatterly, who had strayed to St. Ronan's Well from the banks of Cam or
Isis, and who piqued himself, first on his Greek, and secondly, on his
politeness to the ladies. During all the week days, as Dame Dods has
already hinted, this reverend gentleman was the partner at the
whist-table, or in the ball-room, to what maid or matron soever lacked a
partner at either; and on the Sundays, he read prayers in the public
room to all who chose to attend. He was also a deviser of charades, and
an unriddler of riddles; he played a little on the flute, and was Mr.
Winterblossom's principal assistant in contriving those ingenious and
romantic paths, by which, as by the zig-zags which connect military
parallels, you were enabled to ascend to the top of the hill behind the
hotel, which commands so beautiful a prospect, at exactly that precise
angle of ascent, which entitles a gentleman to offer his arm, and a lady
to accept it, with perfect propriety.

There was yet another member of this Select Committee, Mr. Michael
Meredith, who might be termed the Man of Mirth, or, if you please, the
Jack Pudding to the company, whose business it was to crack the best
joke, and sing the best song,--he could. Unluckily, however, this
functionary was for the present obliged to absent himself from St.
Ronan's; for, not recollecting that he did not actually wear the
privileged motley of his profession, he had passed some jest upon
Captain MacTurk, which cut so much to the quick, that Mr. Meredith was
fain to go to goat-whey quarters, at some ten miles' distance, and
remain there in a sort of concealment, until the affair should be made
up through the mediation of his brethren of the Committee.

Such were the honest gentlemen who managed the affairs of this rising
settlement, with as much impartiality as could be expected. They were
not indeed without their own secret predilections; for the lawyer and
the soldier privately inclined to the party of the Squire, while the
parson, Mr. Meredith, and Mr. Winterblossom, were more devoted to the
interests of Lady Penelope; so that Doctor Quackleben alone, who
probably recollected that the gentlemen were as liable to stomach
complaints, as the ladies to nervous disorders, seemed the only person
who preserved in word and deed the most rigid neutrality. Nevertheless,
the interests of the establishment being very much at the heart of this
honourable council, and each feeling his own profit, pleasure, or
comfort, in some degree involved, they suffered not their private
affections to interfere with their public duties, but acted, every one
in his own sphere, for the public benefit of the whole community.

FOOTNOTES:

[I-10] The usual expression for a slight encroachment on a neighbour's
property.

[I-11] The said piper was famous at the mystery.

[I-12] Skates are called sketchers in Scotland.



CHAPTER IV.

THE INVITATION.

    Thus painters write their names at Co.

PRIOR.


The clamour which attends the removal of dinner from a public room had
subsided; the clatter of plates, and knives and forks--the bustling
tread of awkward boobies of country servants, kicking each other's
shins, and wrangling, as they endeavour to rush out of the door three
abreast--the clash of glasses and tumblers, borne to earth in the
tumult--the shrieks of the landlady--the curses, not loud, but deep, of
the landlord--had all passed away; and those of the company who had
servants, had been accommodated by their respective Ganymedes with such
remnants of their respective bottles of wine, spirits, &c., as the said
Ganymedes had not previously consumed, while the rest, broken in to such
observance by Mr. Winterblossom, waited patiently until the worthy
president's own special and multifarious commissions had been executed
by a tidy young woman and a lumpish lad, the regular attendants
belonging to the house, but whom he permitted to wait on no one, till,
as the hymn says,

    "All his wants were well supplied."

"And, Dinah--my bottle of pale sherry, Dinah--place it on this
side--there's a good girl;--and, Toby--get my jug with the hot
water--and let it be boiling--and don't spill it on Lady Penelope, if
you can help it, Toby."

"No--for her ladyship has been in hot water to-day already," said the
Squire; a sarcasm to which Lady Penelope only replied with a look of
contempt.

"And, Dinah, bring the sugar--the soft East India sugar, Dinah--and a
lemon, Dinah, one of those which came fresh to-day--Go fetch it from the
bar, Toby--and don't tumble down stairs, if you can help it.--And,
Dinah--stay, Dinah--the nutmeg, Dinah, and the ginger, my good
girl--And, Dinah--put the cushion up behind my back--and the footstool
to my foot, for my toe is something the worse of my walk with your
ladyship this morning to the top of Belvidere."

"Her ladyship may call it what she pleases in common parlance," said the
writer; "but it must stand Munt-grunzie in the stamped paper, being so
nominated in the ancient writs and evidents thereof."

"And, Dinah," continued the president, "lift up my handkerchief--and--a
bit of biscuit, Dinah--and--and I do not think I want any thing
else--Look to the company, my good girl.--I have the honour to drink the
company's very good health--Will your ladyship honour me by accepting a
glass of negus?--I learned to make negus from old Dartineuf's son.--He
always used East India sugar and added a tamarind--it improves the
flavour infinitely.--Dinah, see your father sends for some
tamarinds--Dartineuf knew a good thing almost as well as his father--I
met him at Bath in the year--let me see--Garrick was just taking leave,
and that was in," &c. &c. &c.--"And what is this now, Dinah?" he said,
as she put into his hand a roll of paper.

"Something that Nelly Trotter" (Trotting Nelly, as the company called
her) "brought from a sketching gentleman that lives at the woman's"
(thus bluntly did the upstart minx describe the reverend Mrs. Margaret
Dods) "at the Cleikum of Aultoun yonder"--A name, by the way, which the
inn had acquired from the use which the saint upon the sign-post was
making of his pastoral crook.

"Indeed, Dinah?" said Mr. Winterblossom, gravely taking out his
spectacles, and wiping them before he opened the roll of paper; "some
boy's daubing, I suppose, whose pa and ma wish to get him into the
Trustees' School, and so are beating about for a little interest.--But I
am drained dry--I put three lads in last season; and if it had not been
my particular interest with the secretary, who asks my opinion now and
then, I could not have managed it. But giff-gaff, say I.--Eh! What, in
the devil's name, is this?--Here is both force and keeping--Who can this
be, my lady?--Do but see the sky-line--why, this is really a little
bit--an exquisite little bit--Who the devil can it be? and how can he
have stumbled upon the dog-hole in the Old Town, and the snarling b----I
beg your ladyship ten thousand pardons--that kennels there?"

"I dare say, my lady," said a little miss of fourteen, her eyes growing
rounder and rounder, and her cheeks redder and redder, as she found
herself speaking, and so many folks listening--"O la! I dare say it is
the same gentleman we met one day in the Low-wood walk, that looked like
a gentleman, and yet was none of the company, and that you said was a
handsome man."

"I did not say handsome, Maria," replied her ladyship; "ladies never say
men are handsome--I only said he looked genteel and interesting."

"And that, my lady," said the young parson, bowing and smiling, "is, I
will be judged by the company, the more flattering compliment of the
two--We shall be jealous of this Unknown presently."

"Nay, but," continued the sweetly communicative Maria, with some real
and some assumed simplicity, "your ladyship forgets--for you said
presently after, you were sure he was no gentleman, for he did not run
after you with your glove which you had dropped--and so I went back
myself to find your ladyship's glove, and he never offered to help me,
and I saw him closer than your ladyship did, and I am sure he is
handsome, though he is not very civil."

"You speak a little too much and too loud, miss," said Lady Penelope, a
natural blush reinforcing the _nuance_ of rouge by which it was usually
superseded.

"What say you to that, Squire Mowbray?" said the elegant Sir Bingo
Binks.

"A fair challenge to the field, Sir Bingo," answered the squire; "when a
lady throws down the gauntlet, a gentleman may throw the handkerchief."

"I have always the benefit of _your_ best construction, Mr. Mowbray,"
said the lady, with dignity. "I suppose Miss Maria has contrived this
pretty story for your amusement. I can hardly answer to Mr. Digges, for
bringing her into company where she receives encouragement to behave
so."

"Nay, nay, my lady," said the president, "you must let the jest pass by;
and since this is really such an admirable sketch, you must honour us
with your opinion, whether the company can consistently with propriety
make any advances to this man."

"In my opinion," said her ladyship, the angry spot still glowing on her
brow, "there are enough of _men_ among us already--I wish I could say
gentlemen--As matters stand, I see little business _ladies_ can have at
St. Ronan's."

This was an intimation which always brought the Squire back to
good-breeding, which he could make use of when he pleased. He deprecated
her ladyship's displeasure, until she told him, in returning good
humour, that she really would not trust him unless he brought his sister
to be security for his future politeness.

"Clara, my lady," said Mowbray, "is a little wilful; and I believe your
ladyship must take the task of unharbouring her into your own hands.
What say you to a gipsy party up to my old shop?--It is a bachelor's
house--you must not expect things in much order; but Clara would be
honoured"----

The Lady Penelope eagerly accepted the proposal of something like a
party, and, quite reconciled with Mowbray, began to enquire whether she
might bring the stranger artist with her; "that is," said her ladyship,
looking to Dinah, "if he be a gentleman."

Here Dinah interposed her assurance, "that the gentleman at Meg Dods's
was quite and clean a gentleman, and an illustrated poet besides."

"An illustrated poet, Dinah?" said Lady Penelope; "you must mean an
illustrious poet."

"I dare to say your ladyship is right," said Dinah, dropping a curtsy.

A joyous flutter of impatient anxiety was instantly excited through all
the blue-stocking faction of the company, nor were the news totally
indifferent to the rest of the community. The former belonged to that
class, who, like the young Ascanius, are ever beating about in quest of
a tawny lion, though they are much more successful in now and then
starting a great bore;[I-13] and the others, having left all their own
ordinary affairs and subjects of interest at home, were glad to make a
matter of importance of the most trivial occurrence. A mighty poet, said
the former class--who could it possibly be?--All names were recited--all
Britain scrutinized, from Highland hills to the Lakes of
Cumberland--from Sydenham Common to St. James's Place--even the Banks of
the Bosphorus were explored for some name which might rank under this
distinguished epithet.--And then, besides his illustrious poesy, to
sketch so inimitably!--who _could_ it be? And all the gapers, who had
nothing of their own to suggest, answered with the antistrophe, "Who
could it be?"

The Claret-Club, which comprised the choicest and firmest adherents of
Squire Mowbray and the Baronet--men who scorned that the reversion of
one bottle of wine should furnish forth the feast of to-morrow, though
caring nought about either of the fine arts in question, found out an
interest of their own, which centred in the same individual.

"I say, little Sir Bingo," said the Squire, "this is the very fellow
that we saw down at the Willow-slack on Saturday--he was tog'd
gnostically enough, and cast twelve yards of line with one hand--the fly
fell like a thistledown on the water."

"Uich!" answered the party he addressed, in the accents of a dog choking
in the collar.

"We saw him pull out the salmon yonder," said Mowbray; "you
remember--clean fish--the tide-ticks on his gills--weighed, I dare say,
a matter of eighteen pounds."

"Sixteen!" replied Sir Bingo, in the same tone of strangulation.

"None of your rigs, Bing!" said his companion, "--nearer eighteen than
sixteen!"

"Nearer sixteen, by ----!"

"Will you go a dozen of blue on it to the company?" said the Squire.

"No, d---- me!" croaked the Baronet--"to our own set I will."

"Then, I say done!" quoth the Squire.

And "Done!" responded the Knight; and out came their red pocketbooks.

"But who shall decide the bet?" said the Squire, "The genius himself, I
suppose; they talk of asking him here, but I suppose he will scarce mind
quizzes like them."

"Write myself--John Mowbray," said the Baronet.

"You, Baronet!--you write!" answered the Squire, "d---- me, that cock
won't fight--you won't."

"I will," growled Sir Bingo, more articulately than usual.

"Why, you can't!" said Mowbray. "You never wrote a line in your life,
save those you were whipped for at school."

"I can write--I will write!" said Sir Bingo. "Two to one I will."

And there the affair rested, for the council of the company were in high
consultation concerning the most proper manner of opening a
communication with the mysterious stranger; and the voice of Mr.
Winterblossom, whose tones, originally fine, age had reduced to
falsetto, was calling upon the whole party for "Order, order!" So that
the bucks were obliged to lounge in silence, with both arms reclined on
the table, and testifying, by coughs and yawns, their indifference to
the matters in question, while the rest of the company debated upon
them, as if they were matters of life and death.

"A visit from one of the gentlemen--Mr. Winterblossom, if he would take
the trouble--in name of the company at large--would, Lady Penelope
Penfeather presumed to think, be a necessary preliminary to an
invitation."

Mr. Winterblossom was "quite of her ladyship's opinion, and would gladly
have been the personal representative of the company at St. Ronan's
Well--but it was up hill--her ladyship knew his tyrant, the gout, was
hovering upon the frontiers--there were other gentlemen, younger and
more worthy to fly at the lady's command than an ancient Vulcan like
him--there was the valiant Mars and the eloquent Mercury."

Thus speaking, he bowed to Captain MacTurk and the Rev. Mr. Simon
Chatterly, and reclined on his chair, sipping his negus with the
self-satisfied smile of one, who, by a pretty speech, has rid himself
of a troublesome commission. At the same time, by an act probably of
mental absence, he put in his pocket the drawing, which, after
circulating around the table, had returned back to the chair of the
president, being the point from which it had set out.

"By Cot, madam," said Captain MacTurk, "I should be proud to obey your
leddyship's commands--but, by Cot, I never call first on any man that
never called upon me at all, unless it were to carry him a friend's
message, or such like."

"Twig the old connoisseur," said the Squire to the Knight.--"He is
condiddling the drawing."

"Go it, Johnnie Mowbray--pour it into him," whispered Sir Bingo.

"Thank ye for nothing, Sir Bingo," said the Squire, in the same tone.
"Winterblossom is one of us--_was_ one of us at least--and won't stand
the ironing. He has his Wogdens still, that were right things in his
day, and can hit the hay-stack with the best of us--but stay, they are
hallooing on the parson."

They were indeed busied on all hands, to obtain Mr. Chatterly's consent
to wait on the Genius unknown; but though he smiled and simpered, and
was absolutely incapable of saying No, he begged leave, in all humility,
to decline that commission. "The truth was," he pleaded in his excuse,
"that having one day walked to visit the old Castle of St. Ronan's, and
returning through the Auld Town, as it was popularly called, he had
stopped at the door of the _Cleikum_," (pronounced _Anglicé_, with the
open diphthong,) "in hopes to get a glass of syrup of capillaire, or a
draught of something cooling; and had in fact expressed his wishes, and
was knocking pretty loudly, when a sash-window was thrown suddenly up,
and ere he was aware what was about to happen, he was soused with a
deluge of water," (as he said,) "while the voice of an old hag from
within assured him, that if that did not cool him there was another
biding him,--an intimation which induced him to retreat in all haste
from the repetition of the shower-bath."

All laughed at the account of the chaplain's misfortune, the history of
which seemed to be wrung from him reluctantly, by the necessity of
assigning some weighty cause for declining to execute the ladies'
commands. But the Squire and Baronet continued their mirth far longer
than decorum allowed, flinging themselves back in their chairs, with
their hands thrust into their side-pockets, and their mouths expanded
with unrestrained enjoyment, until the sufferer, angry, disconcerted,
and endeavouring to look scornful, incurred another general burst of
laughter on all hands.

When Mr. Winterblossom had succeeded in restoring some degree of order,
he found the mishaps of the young divine proved as intimidating as
ludicrous. Not one of the company chose to go Envoy Extraordinary to the
dominions of Queen Meg, who might be suspected of paying little respect
to the sanctity of an ambassador's person. And what was worse, when it
was resolved that a civil card from Mr. Winterblossom, in the name of
the company, should be sent to the stranger, instead of a personal
visit, Dinah informed them that she was sure no one about the house
could be bribed to carry up a letter of the kind; for, when such an
event had taken place two summers since, Meg, who construed it into an
attempt to seduce from her tenement the invited guest, had so handled a
ploughboy who carried the letter, that he fled the country-side
altogether, and never thought himself safe till he was at a village ten
miles off, where it was afterwards learned he enlisted with a recruiting
party, choosing rather to face the French than to return within the
sphere of Meg's displeasure.

Just while they were agitating this new difficulty, a prodigious clamour
was heard without, which, to the first apprehensions of the company,
seemed to be Meg, in all her terrors, come to anticipate the proposed
invasion. Upon enquiry, however, it proved to be her gossip, Trotting
Nelly, or Nelly Trotter, in the act of forcing her way up stairs,
against the united strength of the whole household of the hotel, to
reclaim Luckie Dods's picture, as she called it. This made the
connoisseur's treasure tremble in his pocket, who, thrusting a
half-crown into Toby's hand, exhorted him to give it her, and try his
influence in keeping her back. Toby, who knew Nelly's nature, put the
half-crown into his own pocket, and snatched up a gill-stoup of whisky
from the sideboard. Thus armed, he boldly confronted the virago, and
interposing a _remora_, which was able to check poor Nelly's course in
her most determined moods, not only succeeded in averting the immediate
storm which approached the company in general, and Mr. Winterblossom in
particular, but brought the guests the satisfactory information, that
Trotting Nelly had agreed, after she had slept out her nap in the barn,
to convey their commands to the Unknown of Cleikum of Aultoun.

Mr. Winterblossom, therefore, having authenticated his proceedings, by
inserting in the Minutes of the Committee, the authority which he had
received, wrote his card in the best style of diplomacy, and sealed it
with the seal of the Spa, which bore something like a nymph, seated
beside what was designed to represent an urn.

The rival factions, however, did not trust entirely to this official
invitation. Lady Penelope was of opinion that they should find some way
of letting the stranger--a man of talent unquestionably--understand that
there were in the society to which he was invited, spirits of a more
select sort, who felt worthy to intrude themselves on his solitude.

Accordingly, her ladyship imposed upon the elegant Mr. Chatterly the
task of expressing the desire of the company to see the unknown artist,
in a neat occasional copy of verses. The poor gentleman's muse, however,
proved unpropitious; for he was able to proceed no farther than two
lines in half an hour, which, coupled with its variations, we insert
from the blotted manuscript, as Dr. Johnson has printed the alterations
in Pope's version of the Iliad:

    1. _Maids._ 2. _Dames._ unity joining.
    The [nymphs] of St. Ronan's [in purpose combining]

    1. _Swain._ 2. _Man._
    To the [youth] who is great both in verse and designing,
    ......... dining.

The eloquence of a prose billet was necessarily resorted to in the
absence of the heavenly muse, and the said billet was secretly intrusted
to the care of Trotting Nelly. The same trusty emissary, when refreshed
by her nap among the pease-straw, and about to harness her cart for her
return to the seacoast, (in the course of which she was to pass the
Aultoun,) received another card, written, as he had threatened, by Sir
Bingo Binks himself, who had given himself this trouble to secure the
settlement of the bet; conjecturing that a man with a fashionable
exterior, who could throw twelve yards of line at a cast with such
precision, might consider the invitation of Winterblossom as that of an
old twaddler, and care as little for the good graces of an affected
blue-stocking and her _côterie_, whose conversation, in Sir Bingo's
mind, relished of nothing but of weak tea and bread and butter. Thus the
happy Mr. Francis Tyrrel received, considerably to his surprise, no less
than three invitations at once from the Well of St. Ronan's.

FOOTNOTE:

[I-13] The one or the other was equally _in votis_ to Ascanius,--

    "Optat aprum, aut fulvum descendere monte leonem."

Modern Trojans make a great distinction betwixt these two objects of
chase.



CHAPTER V.

EPISTOLARY ELOQUENCE.

    But how can I answer, since first I must read thee?

PRIOR.


Desirous of authenticating our more important facts, by as many original
documents as possible, we have, after much research, enabled ourselves
to present the reader with the following accurate transcripts of the
notes intrusted to the care of Trotting Nelly. The first ran thus:

    "Mr. Winterblossom [of Silverhed] has the commands of Lady Penelope
    Penfeather, Sir Bingo and Lady Binks, Mr. and Miss Mowbray [of St.
    Ronan's], and the rest of the company at the Hotel and Tontine Inn
    of St. Ronan's Well, to express their hope that the gentleman lodged
    at the Cleikum Inn, Old Town of St. Ronan's, will favour them with
    his company at the Ordinary, as early and as often as may suit his
    convenience. The COMPANY think it necessary to send this intimation,
    because, according to the RULES of the place, the Ordinary can only
    be attended by such gentlemen and ladies as lodge at St. Ronan's
    Well; but they are happy to make a distinction in favour of a
    gentleman so distinguished for success in the fine arts as Mr. ----
    ----, residing at Cleikum. If Mr. ---- ---- should be inclined, upon
    becoming further acquainted with the COMPANY and RULES of the
    Place, to remove his residence to the Well, Mr. Winterblossom,
    though he would not be understood to commit himself by a positive
    assurance to that effect, is inclined to hope that an arrangement
    might be made, notwithstanding the extreme crowd of the season, to
    accommodate Mr. ---- ---- at the lodging-house, called
    Lilliput-Hall. It will much conduce to facilitate this negotiation,
    if Mr. ---- ---- would have the goodness to send an exact note of
    his stature, as Captain Rannletree seems disposed to resign the
    folding-bed at Lilliput-Hall, on account of his finding it rather
    deficient in length. Mr. Winterblossom begs farther to assure Mr.
    ---- ---- of the esteem in which he holds his genius, and of his
    high personal consideration.

    "For ---- ----, Esquire,
    Cleikum Inn, Old Town of St. Ronan's.

    "_The Public Rooms,_
    _Hotel and Tontine, St. Ronan's Well,_
    _&c. &c. &c._"

The above card was written (we love to be precise in matters concerning
orthography) in a neat, round, clerk-like hand, which, like Mr.
Winterblossom's character, in many particulars was most accurate and
commonplace, though betraying an affectation both of flourish and of
facility.

The next billet was a contrast to the diplomatic gravity and accuracy of
Mr. Winterblossom's official communication, and ran thus, the young
divine's academic jests and classical flowers of eloquence being mingled
with some wild flowers from the teeming fancy of Lady Penelope.

    "A choir of Dryads and Naiads, assembled at the healing spring of
    St. Ronan's, have learned with surprise that a youth, gifted by
    Apollo, when the Deity was prodigal, with two of his most esteemed
    endowments, wanders at will among their domains, frequenting grove
    and river, without once dreaming of paying homage to its tutelary
    deities. He is, therefore, summoned to their presence, and prompt
    obedience will insure him forgiveness; but in case of contumacy, let
    him beware how he again essays either the lyre or the pallet.

    "_Postscript._ The adorable Penelope, long enrolled among the
    Goddesses for her beauty and virtues, gives Nectar and Ambrosia,
    which mortals call tea and cake, at the Public Rooms, near the
    Sacred Spring, on Thursday evening, at eight o'clock, when the Muses
    never fail to attend. The stranger's presence is requested to
    participate in the delights of the evening.

    "_Second Postscript._ A shepherd, ambitiously aiming at more
    accommodation than his narrow cot affords, leaves it in a day or
    two.

        'Assuredly the thing is to be hired.'

            _As You Like It._

    "_Postscript third._ Our Iris, whom mortals know as Trotting Nelly
    in her tartan cloak, will bring us the stranger's answer to our
    celestial summons."

This letter was written in a delicate Italian hand, garnished with fine
hair-strokes and dashes, which were sometimes so dexterously thrown off
as to represent lyres, pallets, vases, and other appropriate
decorations, suited to the tenor of the contents.

The third epistle was a complete contrast to the other two. It was
written in a coarse, irregular, schoolboy half-text, which, however,
seemed to have cost the writer as much pains as if it had been a
specimen of the most exquisite caligraphy. And these were the
contents:--

    "SUR--Jack Moobray has betted with me that the samon you killed on
    Saturday last weyd ni to eiteen pounds,--I say nyer sixteen.--So you
    being a spurtsman, 'tis refer'd.--So hope you will come or send
    me't; do not doubt you will be on honour. The bet is a dozen of
    claret, to be drank at the hotel by our own sett, on Monday next;
    and we beg you will make one; and Moobray hopes you will come
    down.--Being, sir, your most humbel servant,--Bingo Binks Baronet,
    and of Block-hall.

    "_Postscript._ Have sent some loops of Indian gout, also some black
    hakkels of my groom's dressing; hope they will prove killing, as
    suiting river and season."

No answer was received to any of these invitations for more than three
days; which, while it secretly rather added to than diminished the
curiosity of the Wellers concerning the Unknown, occasioned much railing
in public against him, as ill-mannered and rude.

Meantime, Francis Tyrrel, to his great surprise, began to find, like the
philosophers, that he was never less alone than when alone. In the most
silent and sequestered walks, to which the present state of his mind
induced him to betake himself, he was sure to find some strollers from
the Well, to whom he had become the object of so much solicitous
interest. Quite innocent of the knowledge that he himself possessed the
attraction which occasioned his meeting them so frequently, he began to
doubt whether the Lady Penelope and her maidens--Mr. Winterblossom and
his grey pony--the parson and his short black coat and raven-grey
pantaloons--were not either actually polygraphic copies of the same
individuals, or possessed of a celerity of motion resembling
omnipresence and ubiquity; for nowhere could he go without meeting
them, and that oftener than once a-day, in the course of his walks.
Sometimes the presence of the sweet Lycoris was intimated by the sweet
prattle in an adjacent shade; sometimes, when Tyrrel thought himself
most solitary, the parson's flute was heard snoring forth Gramachree
Molly; and if he betook himself to the river, he was pretty sure to find
his sport watched by Sir Bingo or some of his friends.

The efforts which Tyrrel made to escape from this persecution, and the
impatience of it which his manner indicated, procured him, among the
Wellers, the name of the _Misanthrope_; and, once distinguished as an
object of curiosity, he was the person most attended to, who could at
the ordinary of the day give the most accurate account of where the
Misanthrope had been, and how occupied in the course of the morning. And
so far was Tyrrel's shyness from diminishing the desire of the Wellers
for his society, that the latter feeling increased with the difficulty
of gratification,--as the angler feels the most peculiar interest when
throwing his fly for the most cunning and considerate trout in the pool.

In short, such was the interest which the excited imaginations of the
company took in the Misanthrope, that, notwithstanding the unamiable
qualities which the word expresses, there was only one of the society
who did not desire to see the specimen at their rooms, for the purpose
of examining him closely and at leisure; and the ladies were
particularly desirous to enquire whether he was actually a Misanthrope?
Whether he had been always a Misanthrope? What had induced him to become
a Misanthrope? And whether there were no means of inducing him to cease
to be a Misanthrope?

One individual only, as we have said, neither desired to see nor hear
more of the supposed Timon of Cleikum, and that was Mr. Mowbray of St.
Ronan's. Through the medium of that venerable character John Pirner,
professed weaver and practical black-fisher in the Aultoun of St.
Ronan's, who usually attended Tyrrel, to show him the casts of the
river, carry his bag, and so forth, the Squire had ascertained that the
judgment of Sir Bingo regarding the disputed weight of the fish was more
correct than his own. This inferred an immediate loss of honour, besides
the payment of a heavy bill. And the consequences might be yet more
serious; nothing short of the emancipation of Sir Bingo, who had
hitherto been Mowbray's convenient shadow and adherent, but who, if
triumphant, confiding in his superiority of judgment upon so important a
point, might either cut him altogether, or expect that, in future, the
Squire, who had long seemed the planet of their set, should be content
to roll around himself, Sir Bingo, in the capacity of a satellite.

The Squire, therefore, devoutly hoped that Tyrrel's restive disposition
might continue, to prevent the decision of the bet, while, at the same
time, he nourished a very reasonable degree of dislike to that stranger,
who had been the indirect occasion of the unpleasant predicament in
which he found himself, by not catching a salmon weighing a pound
heavier. He, therefore, openly censured the meanness of those who
proposed taking further notice of Tyrrel, and referred to the unanswered
letters, as a piece of impertinence which announced him to be no
gentleman.

But though appearances were against him, and though he was in truth
naturally inclined to solitude, and averse to the affectation and
bustle of such a society, that part of Tyrrel's behaviour which
indicated ill-breeding was easily accounted for, by his never having
received the letters which required an answer. Trotting Nelly, whether
unwilling to face her gossip, Meg Dods, without bringing back the
drawing, or whether oblivious through the influence of the double dram
with which she had been indulged at the Well, jumbled off with her cart
to her beloved village of Scate-raw, from which she transmitted the
letters by the first bare-legged gillie who travelled towards Aultoun of
St. Ronan's; so that at last, but after a long delay, they reached the
Cleikum Inn and the hands of Mr. Tyrrel.

The arrival of these documents explained some part of the oddity of
behaviour which had surprised him in his neighbours of the Well; and as
he saw they had got somehow an idea of his being a lion extraordinary,
and was sensible that such is a character equally ridiculous, and
difficult to support, he hastened to write to Mr. Winterblossom a card
in the style of ordinary mortals. In this he stated the delay occasioned
by miscarriage of the letter, and his regret on that account; expressed
his intention of dining with the company at the Well on the succeeding
day, while he regretted that other circumstances, as well as the state
of his health and spirits, would permit him this honour very
infrequently during his stay in the country, and begged no trouble might
be taken about his accommodation at the Well, as he was perfectly
satisfied with his present residence. A separate note to Sir Bingo, said
he was happy he could verify the weight of the fish, which he had noted
in his diary; ("D--n the fellow, does he keep a diary?" said the
Baronet,) and though the result could only be particularly agreeable to
one party, he should wish both winner and loser mirth with their
wine;--he was sorry he was unable to promise himself the pleasure of
participating in either. Enclosed was a signed note of the weight of the
fish. Armed with this, Sir Bingo claimed his wine--triumphed in his
judgment--swore louder and more articulately than ever he was known to
utter any previous sounds, that this Tyrrel was a devilish honest
fellow, and he trusted to be better acquainted with him; while the
crestfallen Squire, privately cursing the stranger by all his gods, had
no mode of silencing his companion but by allowing his loss, and fixing
a day for discussing the bet.

In the public rooms the company examined even microscopically the
response of the stranger to Mr. Winterblossom, straining their ingenuity
to discover, in the most ordinary expressions, a deeper and esoteric
meaning, expressive of something mysterious, and not meant to meet the
eye. Mr. Meiklewham, the writer, dwelt on the word _circumstances_,
which he read with peculiar emphasis.

"Ah, poor lad!" he concluded, "I doubt he sits cheaper at Meg Dorts's
chimney-corner than he could do with the present company."

Doctor Quackleben, in the manner of a clergyman selecting a word from
his text, as that which is to be particularly insisted upon, repeated in
an under tone, the words, "_State of health?_--umph--state of
health?--Nothing acute--no one has been sent for--must be
chronic--tending to gout, perhaps.--Or his shyness to society--light
wild eye--irregular step--starting when met suddenly by a stranger, and
turning abruptly and angrily away--Pray, Mr. Winterblossom, let me have
an order to look over the file of newspapers--it's very troublesome that
restriction about consulting them."

"You know it is a necessary one, Doctor," said the president; "because
so few of the good company read any thing else, that the old newspapers
would have been worn to pieces long since."

"Well, well, let me have the order," said the Doctor; "I remember
something of a gentleman run away from his friends--I must look at the
description.--I believe I have a strait-jacket somewhere about the
Dispensary."

While this suggestion appalled the male part of the company, who did not
much relish the approaching dinner in company with a gentleman whose
situation seemed so precarious, some of the younger Misses whispered to
each other--"Ah, poor fellow!--and if it be as the Doctor supposes, my
lady, who knows what the cause of his illness may have been?--His
_spirits_ he complains of--ah, poor man!"

And thus, by the ingenious commentaries of the company at the Well, on
as plain a note as ever covered the eighth part of a sheet of foolscap,
the writer was deprived of his property, his reason, and his heart, "all
or either, or one or other of them," as is briefly and distinctly
expressed in the law phrase.

In short, so much was said _pro_ and _con_, so many ideas started and
theories maintained, concerning the disposition and character of the
Misanthrope, that, when the company assembled at the usual time, before
proceeding to dinner, they doubted, as it seemed, whether the expected
addition to their society was to enter the room on his hands or his
feet; and when "Mr. Tyrrel" was announced by Toby, at the top of his
voice, the gentleman who entered the room had so very little to
distinguish him from others, that there was a momentary disappointment.
The ladies, in particular, began to doubt whether the compound of
talent, misanthropy, madness, and mental sensibility, which they had
pictured to themselves, actually was the same with the genteel, and even
fashionable-looking man whom they saw before them; who, though in a
morning-dress, which the distance of his residence, and the freedom of
the place, made excusable, had, even in the minute points of his
exterior, none of the negligence, or wildness, which might be supposed
to attach to the vestments of a misanthropic recluse, whether sane or
insane. As he paid his compliments round the circle, the scales seemed
to fall from the eyes of those he spoke to; and they saw with surprise,
that the exaggerations had existed entirely in their own preconceptions,
and that whatever the fortunes, or rank in life, of Mr. Tyrrel might be,
his manners, without being showy, were gentlemanlike and pleasing. He
returned his thanks to Mr. Winterblossom in a manner which made that
gentleman recall his best breeding to answer the stranger's address in
kind. He then escaped from the awkwardness of remaining the sole object
of attention, by gliding gradually among the company,--not like an owl,
which seeks to hide itself in a thicket, or an awkward and retired man,
shrinking from the society into which he is compelled, but with the air
of one who could maintain with ease his part in a higher circle. His
address to Lady Penelope was adapted to the romantic tone of Mr.
Chatterly's epistle, to which it was necessary to allude. He was afraid,
he said, he must complain to Juno of the neglect of Iris, for her
irregularity in delivery of a certain ethereal command, which he had not
dared to answer otherwise than by mute obedience--unless, indeed, as the
import of the letter seemed to infer, the invitation was designed for
some more gifted individual than he to whom chance had assigned it.

Lady Penelope by her lips, and many of the young ladies with their eyes,
assured him there was no mistake in the matter; that he was really the
gifted person whom the nymphs had summoned to their presence, and that
they were well acquainted with his talents as a poet and a painter.
Tyrrel disclaimed, with earnestness and gravity, the charge of poetry,
and professed, that, far from attempting the art itself, he "read with
reluctance all but the productions of the very first-rate poets, and
some of these--he was almost afraid to say--he should have liked better
in humble prose."

"You have now only to disown your skill as an artist," said Lady
Penelope, "and we must consider Mr. Tyrrel as the falsest and most
deceitful of his sex, who has a mind to deprive us of the opportunity of
benefiting by the productions of his unparalleled endowments. I assure
you I shall put my young friends on their guard. Such dissimulation
cannot be without its object."

"And I," said Mr. Winterblossom, "can produce a piece of real evidence
against the culprit."

So saying, he unrolled the sketch which he had filched from Trotting
Nelly, and which he had pared and pasted, (arts in which he was
eminent,) so as to take out its creases, repair its breaches, and vamp
it as well as my old friend Mrs. Weir could have repaired the damages of
time on a folio Shakspeare.

"The vara _corpus delicti_," said the writer, grinning and rubbing his
hands.

"If you are so good as to call such scratches drawings," said Tyrrel, "I
must stand so far confessed. I used to do them for my own amusement; but
since my landlady, Mrs. Dods, has of late discovered that I gain my
livelihood by them, why should I disown it?"

This avowal, made without the least appearance either of shame or
_retenue_, seemed to have a striking effect on the whole society. The
president's trembling hand stole the sketch back to the portfolio,
afraid doubtless it might be claimed in form, or else compensation
expected by the artist. Lady Penelope was disconcerted, like an awkward
horse when it changes the leading foot in galloping. She had to recede
from the respectful and easy footing on which he had contrived to place
himself, to one which might express patronage on her own part, and
dependence on Tyrrel's; and this could not be done in a moment.

The Man of Law murmured, "Circumstances--circumstances--I thought so!"

Sir Bingo whispered to his friend the Squire, "Run out--blown up--off
the course--pity--d----d pretty fellow he has been!"

"A raff from the beginning!" whispered Mowbray.--"I never thought him
any thing else."

"I'll hold ye a poney of that, my dear, and I'll ask him."

"Done, for a poney, provided you ask him in ten minutes," said the
Squire; "but you dare not, Bingie--he has a d----d cross game look,
with all that civil chaff of his."

"Done," said Sir Bingo, but in a less confident tone than before, and
with a determination to proceed with some caution in the matter.--"I
have got a rouleau above, and Winterblossom shall hold stakes."

"I have no rouleau," said the Squire; "but I'll fly a cheque on
Meiklewham."

"See it be better than your last," said Sir Bingo, "for I won't be
skylarked again. Jack, my boy, you are had."

"Not till the bet's won; and I shall see yon walking dandy break your
head, Bingie, before that," answered Mowbray. "Best speak to the Captain
before hand--it is a hellish scrape you are running into--I'll let you
off yet, Bingie, for a guinea forfeit.--See, I am just going to start
the tattler."

"Start, and be d----d!" said Sir Bingo. "You are gotten, I assure you o'
that, Jack." And with a bow and a shuffle, he went up and introduced
himself to the stranger as Sir Bingo Binks.

"Had--honour--write--sir," were the only sounds which his throat, or
rather his cravat, seemed to send forth.

"Confound the booby!" thought Mowbray; "he will get out of leading
strings, if he goes on at this rate; and doubly confounded be this
cursed tramper, who, the Lord knows why, has come hither from the Lord
knows where, to drive the pigs through my game."

In the meantime, while his friend stood with his stop-watch in his hand,
with a visage lengthened under the influence of these reflections, Sir
Bingo, with an instinctive tact, which self-preservation seemed to
dictate to a brain neither the most delicate nor subtle in the world,
premised his enquiry by some general remark on fishing and field-sports.
With all these, he found Tyrrel more than passably acquainted. Of
fishing and shooting, particularly, he spoke with something like
enthusiasm; so that Sir Bingo began to hold him in considerable respect,
and to assure himself that he could not be, or at least could not
originally have been bred, the itinerant artist which he now gave
himself out--and this, with the fast lapse of the time, induced him thus
to address Tyrrel.--"I say, Mr. Tyrrel--why, you have been one of us--I
say"----

"If you mean a sportsman, Sir Bingo--I have been, and am a pretty keen
one still," replied Tyrrel.

"Why, then, you did not always do them sort of things?"

"What sort of things do you mean, Sir Bingo?" said Tyrrel. "I have not
the pleasure of understanding you."

"Why, I mean them sketches," said Sir Bingo. "I'll give you a handsome
order for them, if you will tell me. I will, on my honour."

"Does it concern you particularly, Sir Bingo, to know any thing of my
affairs?" said Tyrrel.

"No--certainly--not immediately," answered Sir Bingo, with some
hesitation, for he liked not the dry tone in which Tyrrel's answers were
returned, half so well as a bumper of dry sherry; "only I said you were
a d----d gnostic fellow, and I laid a bet you have not been always
professional--that's all."

Mr. Tyrrel replied, "A bet with Mr. Mowbray, I suppose?"

"Yes, with Jack," replied the Baronet--"you have hit it--I hope I have
done him?"

Tyrrel bent his brows, and looked first at Mr. Mowbray, then at the
Baronet, and, after a moment's thought, addressed the latter.--"Sir
Bingo Binks, you are a gentleman of elegant enquiry and acute
judgment.--You are perfectly right--I was _not_ bred to the profession
of an artist, nor did I practise it formerly, whatever I may do now; and
so that question is answered."

"And Jack is diddled," said the Baronet, smiting his thigh in triumph,
and turning towards the Squire and the stake-holder, with a smile of
exultation.

"Stop a single moment, Sir Bingo," said Tyrrel; "take one word with you.
I have a great respect for bets,--it is part of an Englishman's
character to bet on what he thinks fit, and to prosecute his enquiries
over hedge and ditch, as if he were steeple-hunting. But as I have
satisfied you on the subject of two bets, that is sufficient compliance
with the custom of the country; and therefore I request, Sir Bingo, you
will not make me or my affairs the subject of any more wagers."

"I'll be d----d if I do," was the internal resolution of Sir Bingo.
Aloud he muttered some apologies, and was heartily glad that the
dinner-bell, sounding at the moment, afforded him an apology for
shuffling off in a different direction.



CHAPTER VI.

TABLE-TALK.

    And, sir, if these accounts be true,
    The Dutch have mighty things in view;
    The Austrians--I admire French beans,
    Dear ma'am, above all other greens.

       *       *       *       *       *

    And all as lively and as brisk
    As--Ma'am, d'ye choose a game at whisk?

_Table-Talk._


When they were about to leave the room, Lady Penelope assumed Tyrrel's
arm with a sweet smile of condescension, meant to make the honoured
party understand in its full extent the favour conferred. But the
unreasonable artist, far from intimating the least confusion at an
attention so little to be expected, seemed to consider the distinction
as one which was naturally paid to the greatest stranger present; and
when he placed Lady Penelope at the head of the table, by Mr.
Winterblossom the president, and took a chair for himself betwixt her
ladyship and Lady Binks, the provoking wretch appeared no more sensible
of being exalted above his proper rank in society, than if he had been
sitting at the bottom of the table by honest Mrs. Blower from the
Bow-head, who had come to the Well to carry off the dregs of the
_Inflienzie_, which she scorned to term a surfeit.

Now this indifference puzzled Lady Penelope's game extremely, and
irritated her desire to get at the bottom of Tyrrel's mystery, if there
was one, and secure him to her own party. If you were ever at a
watering-place, reader, you know that while the guests do not always pay
the most polite attention to unmarked individuals, the appearance of a
stray lion makes an interest as strong as it is reasonable, and the
Amazonian chiefs of each coterie, like the hunters of Buenos-Ayres,
prepare their _lasso_, and manoeuvre to the best advantage they can,
each hoping to noose the unsuspicious monster, and lead him captive to
her own menagerie. A few words concerning Lady Penelope Penfeather will
explain why she practised this sport with even more than common zeal.

She was the daughter of an earl, possessed a showy person, and features
which might be called handsome in youth, though now rather too much
_prononcés_ to render the term proper. The nose was become sharper; the
cheeks had lost the roundness of youth; and as, during fifteen years
that she had reigned a beauty and a ruling toast, the right man had not
spoken, or, at least, had not spoken at the right time, her ladyship,
now rendered sufficiently independent by the inheritance of an old
relation, spoke in praise of friendship, began to dislike the town in
summer, and to "babble of green fields."

About the time Lady Penelope thus changed the tenor of her life, she was
fortunate enough, with Dr. Quackleben's assistance, to find out the
virtues of St Ronan's spring; and having contributed her share to
establish the _urbs in rure_, which had risen around it, she sat herself
down as leader of the fashions in the little province which she had in a
great measure both discovered and colonized. She was, therefore, justly
desirous to compel homage and tribute from all who should approach the
territory.

In other respects, Lady Penelope pretty much resembled the numerous
class she belonged to. She was at bottom a well-principled woman, but
too thoughtless to let her principles control her humour, therefore not
scrupulously nice in her society. She was good-natured, but capricious
and whimsical, and willing enough to be kind or generous, if it neither
thwarted her humour, nor cost her much trouble; would have chaperoned a
young friend any where, and moved the world for subscription tickets;
but never troubled herself how much her giddy charge flirted, or with
whom; so that, with a numerous class of Misses, her ladyship was the
most delightful creature in the world. Then Lady Penelope had lived so
much in society, knew so exactly when to speak, and how to escape from
an embarrassing discussion by professing ignorance, while she looked
intelligence, that she was not generally discovered to be a fool, unless
when she set up for being remarkably clever. This happened more
frequently of late, when, perhaps, as she could not but observe that the
repairs of the toilet became more necessary, she might suppose that new
lights, according to the poet, were streaming on her mind through the
chinks that Time was making. Many of her friends, however, thought that
Lady Penelope would have better consulted her genius by remaining in
mediocrity, as a fashionable and well-bred woman, than by parading her
new-founded pretensions to taste and patronage; but such was not her own
opinion, and doubtless, her ladyship was the best judge.

On the other side of Tyrrel sat Lady Binks, lately the beautiful Miss
Bonnyrigg, who, during the last season, had made the company at the Well
alternately admire, smile, and stare, by dancing the highest Highland
fling, riding the wildest pony, laughing the loudest laugh at the
broadest joke, and wearing the briefest petticoat of any nymph of St.
Ronan's. Few knew that this wild, hoydenish, half-mad humour, was only
superinduced over her real character, for the purpose of--getting well
married. She had fixed her eyes on Sir Bingo, and was aware of his
maxim, that to catch him, "a girl must be," in his own phrase, "bang up
to every thing;" and that he would choose a wife for the neck-or-nothing
qualities which recommend a good hunter. She made out her catch-match,
and she was miserable. Her wild good-humour was entirely an assumed part
of her character, which was passionate, ambitious, and thoughtful.
Delicacy she had none--she knew Sir Bingo was a brute and a fool, even
while she was hunting him down; but she had so far mistaken her own
feelings, as not to have expected that when she became bone of his bone,
she should feel so much shame and anger when she saw his folly expose
him to be laughed at and plundered, or so disgusted when his brutality
became intimately connected with herself. It is true, he was on the
whole rather an innocent monster; and between bitting and bridling,
coaxing and humouring, might have been made to pad on well enough. But
an unhappy boggling which had taken place previous to the declaration of
their private marriage, had so exasperated her spirits against her
helpmate, that modes of conciliation were the last she was likely to
adopt. Not only had the assistance of the Scottish Themis, so
propitiously indulgent to the foibles of the fair, been resorted to on
the occasion, but even Mars seemed ready to enter upon the tapis, if
Hymen had not intervened. There was, _de par le monde_, a certain
brother of the lady--an officer--and, as it happened, on leave of
absence,--who alighted from a hack-chaise at the Fox Hotel, at eleven
o'clock at night, holding in his hand a slip of well-dried oak,
accompanied by another gentleman, who, like himself, wore a military
travelling-cap and a black stock; out of the said chaise, as was
reported by the trusty Toby, was handed a small reise-sac, an Andrew
Ferrara, and a neat mahogany box, eighteen inches long, three deep, and
some six broad. Next morning a solemn _palaver_ (as the natives of
Madagascar call their national convention) was held at an unusual hour,
at which Captain MacTurk and Mr. Mowbray assisted; and the upshot was,
that at breakfast the company were made happy by the information, that
Sir Bingo had been for some weeks the happy bridegroom of their general
favourite; which union, concealed for family reasons, he was now at
liberty to acknowledge, and to fly with the wings of love to bring his
sorrowing turtle from the shades to which she had retired, till the
obstacles to their mutual happiness could be removed. Now, though all
this sounded very smoothly, that gall-less turtle, Lady Binks, could
never think of the tenor of the proceedings without the deepest feelings
of resentment and contempt for the principal actor, Sir Bingo.

Besides all these unpleasant circumstances, Sir Bingo's family had
refused to countenance her wish that he should bring her to his own
seat; and hence a new shock to her pride, and new matter of contempt
against poor Sir Bingo, for being ashamed and afraid to face down the
opposition of his kins-folk, for whose displeasure, though never
attending to any good advice from them, he retained a childish awe.

The manners of the young lady were no less changed than was her temper;
and, from being much too careless and free, were become reserved,
sullen, and haughty. A consciousness that many scrupled to hold
intercourse with her in society, rendered her disagreeably tenacious of
her rank, and jealous of every thing that appeared like neglect. She had
constituted herself mistress of Sir Bingo's purse; and, unrestrained in
the expenses of dress and equipage, chose, contrary to her maiden
practice, to be rather rich and splendid than gay, and to command that
attention by magnificence, which she no longer deigned to solicit by
rendering herself either agreeable or entertaining. One secret source of
her misery was, the necessity of showing deference to Lady Penelope
Penfeather, whose understanding she despised, and whose pretensions to
consequence, to patronage, and to literature, she had acuteness enough
to see through, and to contemn; and this dislike was the more grievous,
that she felt she depended a good deal on Lady Penelope's countenance
for the situation she was able to maintain even among the not very
select society of St. Ronan's Well; and that, neglected by her, she must
have dropped lower in the scale even there. Neither was Lady Penelope's
kindness to Lady Binks extremely cordial. She partook in the ancient and
ordinary dislike of single nymphs of a certain age, to those who made
splendid alliances under their very eye--and she more than suspected the
secret disaffection of the lady. But the name sounded well; and the
style in which Lady Binks lived was a credit to the place. So they
satisfied their mutual dislike with saying a few sharp things to each
other occasionally, but all under the mask of civility.

Such was Lady Binks; and yet, being such, her dress, and her equipage,
and carriages, were the envy of half the Misses at the Well, who, while
she sat disfiguring with sullenness her very lovely face, (for it was as
beautiful as her shape was exquisite,) only thought she was proud of
having carried her point, and felt herself, with her large fortune and
diamond bandeau, no fit company for the rest of the party. They gave
way, therefore, with meekness to her domineering temper, though it was
not the less tyrannical, that in her maiden state of hoyden-hood, she
had been to some of them an object of slight and of censure; and Lady
Binks had not forgotten the offences offered to Miss Bonnyrigg. But the
fair sisterhood submitted to her retaliations, as lieutenants endure the
bullying of a rude and boisterous captain of the sea, with the secret
determination to pay it home to their underlings, when they shall become
captains themselves.

In this state of importance, yet of penance, Lady Binks occupied her
place at the dinner-table, alternately disconcerted by some stupid
speech of her lord and master, and by some slight sarcasm from Lady
Penelope, to which she longed to reply, but dared not.

She looked from time to time at her neighbour Frank Tyrrel, but without
addressing him, and accepted in silence the usual civilities which he
proffered to her. She had remarked keenly his interview with Sir Bingo,
and knowing by experience the manner in which her honoured lord was wont
to retreat from a dispute in which he was unsuccessful, as well as his
genius for getting into such perplexities, she had little doubt that he
had sustained from the stranger some new indignity; whom, therefore, she
regarded with a mixture of feeling, scarce knowing whether to be pleased
with him for having given pain to him whom she hated, or angry with him
for having affronted one in whose degradation her own was necessarily
involved. There might be other thoughts--on the whole, she regarded him
with much though with mute attention. He paid her but little in return,
being almost entirely occupied in replying to the questions of the
engrossing Lady Penelope Penfeather.

Receiving polite though rather evasive answers to her enquiries
concerning his late avocations, her ladyship could only learn that
Tyrrel had been travelling in several remote parts of Europe, and even
of Asia. Baffled, but not repulsed, the lady continued her courtesy, by
pointing out to him, as a stranger, several individuals of the company
to whom she proposed introducing him, as persons from whose society he
might derive either profit or amusement. In the midst of this sort of
conversation, however, she suddenly stopped short.

"Will you forgive me, Mr. Tyrrel," she said, "if I say I have been
watching your thoughts for some moments, and that I have detected you?
All the while that I have been talking of these good folks, and that you
have been making such civil replies, that they might be with great
propriety and utility inserted in the 'Familiar Dialogues, teaching
foreigners how to express themselves in English upon ordinary
occasions'--your mind has been entirely fixed upon that empty chair,
which hath remained there opposite betwixt our worthy president and Sir
Bingo Binks."

"I own, madam," he answered, "I was a little surprised at seeing such a
distinguished seat unoccupied, while the table is rather crowded."

"O, confess more, sir!--Confess that to a poet a seat unoccupied--the
chair of Banquo--has more charms than if it were filled even as an
alderman would fill it.--What if 'the Dark Ladye'[I-14] should glide in
and occupy it?--would you have courage to stand the vision, Mr.
Tyrrel?--I assure you the thing is not impossible."

"_What_ is not impossible, Lady Penelope?" said Tyrrel, somewhat
surprised.

"Startled already?--Nay, then, I despair of your enduring the awful
interview."

"What interview? who is expected?" said Tyrrel, unable with the utmost
exertion to suppress some signs of curiosity, though he suspected the
whole to be merely some mystification of her ladyship.

"How delighted I am," she said, "that I have found out where you are
vulnerable!--Expected--did I say expected?--no, not expected.

    'She glides, like Night, from land to land,
    She hath strange power of speech.'

--But come, I have you at my mercy, and I will be generous and
explain.--We call--that is, among ourselves, you understand--Miss Clara
Mowbray, the sister of that gentleman that sits next to Miss Parker, the
Dark Ladye, and that seat is left for her.--For she was expected--no,
not expected--I forget again!--but it was thought _possible_ she might
honour us to-day, when our feast was so full and piquant.--Her brother
is our Lord of the Manor--and so they pay her that sort of civility to
regard her as a visitor--and neither Lady Binks nor I think of
objecting--She is a singular young person, Clara Mowbray--she amuses me
very much--I am always rather glad to see her."

"She is not to come hither to-day," said Tyrrel; "am I so to understand
your ladyship?"

"Why, it is past her time--even _her_ time," said Lady Penelope--"dinner
was kept back half an hour, and our poor invalids were famishing, as you
may see by the deeds they have done since.--But Clara is an odd
creature, and if she took it into her head to come hither at this
moment, hither she would come--she is very whimsical.--Many people think
her handsome--but she looks so like something from another world, that
she makes me always think of Mat Lewis's Spectre Lady."

And she repeated with much cadence,

    "There is a thing--there is a thing,
      I fain would have from thee;
    I fain would have that gay gold ring,
      O warrior, give it me!"

"And then you remember his answer:

    'This ring Lord Brooke from his daughter took,
      And a solemn oath he swore,
    That that ladye my bride should be
      When this crusade was o'er.'

You do figures as well as landscapes, I suppose, Mr. Tyrrel?--You shall
make a sketch for me--a slight thing--for sketches, I think, show the
freedom of art better than finished pieces--I dote on the first
coruscations of genius--flashing like lightning from the cloud!--You
shall make a sketch for my boudoir--my dear sulky den at Air Castle, and
Clara Mowbray shall sit for the Ghost Ladye."

"That would be but a poor compliment to your ladyship's friend," replied
Tyrrel.

"Friend? We don't get quite that length, though I like Clara very
well.--Quite sentimental cast of face--I think I saw an antique in the
Louvre very like her--(I was there in 1800)--quite an antique
countenance--eyes something hollowed--care has dug caves for them, but
they are caves of the most beautiful marble, arched with jet--a straight
nose, and absolutely the Grecian mouth and chin--a profusion of long
straight black hair, with the whitest skin you ever saw--as white as the
whitest parchment--and not a shade of colour in her cheek--none
whatever--If she would be naughty, and borrow a prudent touch of
complexion, she might be called beautiful. Even as it is, many think her
so, although surely, Mr. Tyrrel, three colours are necessary to the
female face. However, we used to call her the Melpomene of the Spring
last season, as we called Lady Binks--who was not then Lady Binks--our
Euphrosyne--did we not, my dear?"

"Did we not what, madam?" said Lady Binks, in a tone something sharper
than ought to have belonged to so beautiful a countenance.

"I am sorry I have started you out of your reverie, my love," answered
Lady Penelope. "I was only assuring Mr. Tyrrel that you were once
Euphrosyne, though now so much under the banners of Il Penseroso."

"I do not know that I have been either one or the other," answered Lady
Binks; "one thing I certainly am not--I am not capable of understanding
your ladyship's wit and learning."

"Poor soul," whispered Lady Penelope to Tyrrel; "we know what we are, we
know not what we may be.--And now, Mr. Tyrrel, I have been your sibyl to
guide you through this Elysium of ours, I think, in reward, I deserve a
little confidence in return."

"If I had any to bestow, which could be in the slightest degree
interesting to your ladyship," answered Tyrrel.

"Oh! cruel man--he will not understand me!" exclaimed the lady--"In
plain words, then, a peep into your portfolio--just to see what objects
you have rescued from natural decay, and rendered immortal by the
pencil. You do not know--indeed, Mr. Tyrrel, you do not know how I dote
upon your 'serenely silent art,' second to poetry alone--equal--superior
perhaps--to music."

"I really have little that could possibly be worth the attention of such
a judge as your ladyship," answered Tyrrel; "such trifles as your
ladyship has seen, I sometimes leave at the foot of the tree I have been
sketching."

"As Orlando left his verses in the Forest of Ardennes?--Oh, the
thoughtless prodigality!--Mr. Winterblossom, do you hear this?--We must
follow Mr. Tyrrel in his walks, and glean what he leaves behind him."

Her ladyship was here disconcerted by some laughter on Sir Bingo's side
of the table, which she chastised by an angry glance, and then proceeded
emphatically.

"Mr. Tyrrel--this must _not_ be--this is not the way of the world, my
good sir, to which even genius must stoop its flight. We must consult
the engraver--though perhaps you etch as well as you draw?"

"I should suppose so," said Mr. Winterblossom, edging in a word with
difficulty, "from the freedom of Mr. Tyrrel's touch."

"I will not deny my having spoiled a little copper now and then," said
Tyrrel, "since I am charged with the crime by such good judges; but it
has only been by way of experiment."

"Say no more," said the lady; "my darling wish is accomplished!--We have
long desired to have the remarkable and most romantic spots of our
little Arcadia here--spots consecrated to friendship, the fine arts, the
loves and the graces, immortalized by the graver's art, faithful to its
charge of fame--you shall labour on this task, Mr. Tyrrel; we will all
assist with notes and illustrations--we will all contribute--only some
of us must be permitted to remain anonymous--Fairy favours, you know,
Mr. Tyrrel, must be kept secret--And you shall be allowed the pillage of
the Album--some sweet things there of Mr. Chatterly's--and Mr. Edgeit, a
gentleman of your own profession, I am sure will lend his aid--Dr.
Quackleben will contribute some scientific notices.--And for
subscription"----

"Financial--financial--your leddyship, I speak to order!" said the
writer, interrupting Lady Penelope with a tone of impudent familiarity,
which was meant doubtless for jocular ease.

"How am I out of order, Mr. Meiklewham?" said her ladyship, drawing
herself up.

"I speak to order!--No warrants for money can be extracted before
intimation to the Committee of Management."

"Pray, who mentioned money, Mr. Meiklewham?" said her ladyship.--"That
wretched old pettifogger," she added in a whisper to Tyrrel, "thinks of
nothing else but the filthy pelf."

"Ye spake of subscription, my leddy, whilk is the same thing as money,
differing only in respect of time--the subscription being a contract _de
futuro_, and having a _tractus temporis in gremio_--And I have kend mony
honest folks in the company at the Well, complain of the subscriptions
as a great abuse, as obliging them either to look unlike other folk, or
to gie good lawful coin for ballants and picture-books, and things they
caredna a pinch of snuff for."

Several of the company, at the lower end of the table, assented both by
nods and murmurs of approbation; and the orator was about to proceed,
when Tyrrel with difficulty procured a hearing before the debate went
farther, and assured the company that her ladyship's goodness had led
her into an error; that he had no work in hand worthy of their
patronage, and, with the deepest gratitude for Lady Penelope's goodness,
had it not in his power to comply with her request. There was some
tittering at her ladyship's expense, who, as the writer slyly observed,
had been something _ultronious_ in her patronage. Without attempting for
the moment any rally, (as indeed the time which had passed since the
removal of the dinner scarce permitted an opportunity,) Lady Penelope
gave the signal for the ladies' retreat, and left the gentlemen to the
circulation of the bottle.

FOOTNOTE:

[I-14] Note II.--The Dark Ladye.



CHAPTER VII.

THE TEA-TABLE.

                ----While the cups,
    Which cheer, but not inebriate, wait on each.

COWPER.


It was common at the Well, for the fair guests occasionally to give tea
to the company,--such at least as from their rank and leading in the
little society, might be esteemed fit to constitute themselves
patronesses of an evening; and the same lady generally carried the
authority she had acquired into the ball-room, where two fiddles and a
bass, at a guinea a night, with a _quantum sufficit_ of tallow candles,
(against the use of which Lady Penelope often mutinied,) enabled the
company--to use the appropriate phrase--"to close the evening on the
light fantastic toe."

On the present occasion, the lion of the hour, Mr. Francis Tyrrel, had
so little answered the high-wrought expectations of Lady Penelope, that
she rather regretted having ever given herself any trouble about him,
and particularly that of having manoeuvred herself into the patronage
of the tea-table for the evening, to the great expenditure of souchong
and congo. Accordingly, her ladyship had no sooner summoned her own
woman, and her _fille de chambre_, to make tea, with her page, footman,
and postilion, to hand it about, (in which duty they were assisted by
two richly-laced and thickly-powdered footmen of Lady Binks's, whose
liveries put to shame the more modest garb of Lady Penelope's, and even
dimmed the glory of the suppressed coronet upon the buttons,) than she
began to vilipend and depreciate what had been so long the object of her
curiosity.

"This Mr. Tyrrel," she said, in a tone of authoritative decision, "seems
after all a very ordinary sort of person, quite a commonplace man, who,
she dared say, had considered his condition, in going to the old
alehouse, much better than they had done for him, when they asked him to
the Public Rooms. He had known his own place better than they did--there
was nothing uncommon in his appearance or conversation--nothing at all
_frappant_--she scarce believed he could even draw that sketch. Mr.
Winterblossom, indeed, made a great deal of it; but then all the world
knew that every scrap of engraving or drawing, which Mr. Winterblossom
contrived to make his own, was, the instant it came into his collection,
the finest thing that ever was seen--that was the way with
collectors--their geese were all swans."

"And your ladyship's swan has proved but a goose, my dearest Lady Pen,"
said Lady Binks.

"_My_ swan, dearest Lady Binks! I really do not know how I have deserved
the appropriation."

"Do not be angry, my dear Lady Penelope; I only mean, that for a
fortnight and more you have spoke constantly _of_ this Mr. Tyrrel, and
all dinner-time you spoke _to_ him."

The fair company began to collect around, at hearing the word _dear_ so
often repeated in the same brief dialogue, which induced them to expect
sport, and, like the vulgar on a similar occasion, to form a ring for
the expected combatants.

"He sat betwixt us, Lady Binks," answered Lady Penelope, with dignity.
"You had your usual headache, you know, and, for the credit of the
company, I spoke for one."

"For _two_, if your ladyship pleases," replied Lady Binks. "I mean," she
added, softening the expression, "for yourself and me."

"I am sorry," said Lady Penelope, "I should have spoken for one who can
speak so smartly for herself, as my dear Lady Binks--I did not, by any
means, desire to engross the conversation--I repeat it, there is a
mistake about this man."

"I think there is," said Lady Binks, in a tone which implied something
more than mere assent to Lady Penelope's proposition.

"I doubt if he is an artist at all," said the Lady Penelope; "or if he
is, he must be doing things for some Magazine, or Encyclopedia, or some
such matter."

"_I_ doubt, too, if he be a professional artist," said Lady Binks. "If
so, he is of the very highest class, for I have seldom seen a
better-bred man."

"There are very well-bred artists," said Lady Penelope. "It is the
profession of a gentleman."

"Certainly," answered Lady Binks; "but the poorer class have often to
struggle with poverty and dependence. In general society, they are like
commercial people in presence of their customers; and that is a
difficult part to sustain. And so you see them of all sorts--shy and
reserved, when they are conscious of merit--petulant and whimsical, by
way of showing their independence--intrusive, in order to appear
easy--and sometimes obsequious and fawning, when they chance to be of a
mean spirit. But you seldom see them quite at their ease, and therefore
I hold this Mr. Tyrrel to be either an artist of the first class, raised
completely above the necessity and degradation of patronage, or else to
be no professional artist at all."

Lady Penelope looked at Lady Binks with much such a regard as Balaam may
have cast upon his ass, when he discovered the animal's capacity for
holding an argument with him. She muttered to herself--

    _"Mon ane parle, et même il parle bien!"_

But, declining the altercation which Lady Binks seemed disposed to enter
into, she replied, with good-humour, "Well, dearest Rachel, we will not
pull caps about this man--nay, I think your good opinion of him gives
him new value in my eyes. That is always the way with us, my good
friend! We may confess it, when there are none of these conceited male
wretches among us. We will know what he really is--he shall not wear
fern-seed, and walk among us invisible thus--what say you, Maria?"

"Indeed, I say, dear Lady Penelope," answered Miss Digges, whose ready
chatter we have already introduced to the reader, "he is a very handsome
man, though his nose is too big, and his mouth too wide--but his teeth
are like pearl--and he has such eyes!--especially when your ladyship
spoke to him. I don't think you looked at his eyes--they are quite deep
and dark, and full of glow, like what you read to us in the letter from
that lady, about Robert Burns."

"Upon my word, miss, you come on finely!" said Lady Penelope.--"One had
need take care what they read or talk about before you, I see--Come,
Jones, have mercy upon us--put an end to that symphony of tinkling cups
and saucers, and let the first act of the tea-table begin, if you
please."

"Does her leddyship mean the grace?" said honest Mrs. Blower, for the
first time admitted into this worshipful society, and busily employed in
arranging an Indian handkerchief, that might have made a mainsail for
one of her husband's smuggling luggers, which she spread carefully on
her knee, to prevent damage to a flowered black silk gown from the
repast of tea and cake, to which she proposed to do due honour--"Does
her leddyship mean the grace? I see the minister is just coming in.--Her
leddyship waits till ye say a blessing, an ye please, sir."

Mr. Winterblossom, who _toddled_ after the chaplain, his toe having
given him an alert hint to quit the dining-table, though he saw every
feature in the poor woman's face swoln with desire to procure
information concerning the ways and customs of the place, passed on the
other side of the way, regardless of her agony of curiosity.

A moment after, she was relieved by the entrance of Dr. Quackleben,
whose maxim being, that one patient was as well worth attention as
another, and who knew by experience, that the _honoraria_ of a godly
wife of the Bow-head were as apt to be forthcoming, (if not more so,) as
my Lady Penelope's, he e'en sat himself quietly down by Mrs. Blower, and
proceeded with the utmost kindness to enquire after her health, and to
hope she had not forgotten taking a table-spoonful of spirits burnt to a
_residuum_, in order to qualify the crudities.

"Indeed, Doctor," said the honest woman, "I loot the brandy burn as lang
as I dought look at the gude creature wasting itsell that gate--and
then, when I was fain to put it out for very thrift, I did take a
thimbleful of it, (although it is not the thing I am used to, Dr.
Quackleben,) and I winna say but that it did me good."

"Unquestionably, madam," said the Doctor, "I am no friend to the use of
alcohol in general, but there are particular cases--there are particular
cases, Mrs. Blower--My venerated instructor, one of the greatest men in
our profession that ever lived, took a wine-glassful of old rum, mixed
with sugar, every day after his dinner."

"Ay? dear heart, he would be a comfortable doctor that," said Mrs.
Blower. "He wad maybe ken something of my case. Is he leevin' think ye,
sir?"

"Dead for many years, madam," said Dr. Quackleben; "and there are but
few of his pupils that can fill his place, I assure ye. If I could be
thought an exception, it is only because I was a favourite. Ah!
blessings on the old red cloak of him!--It covered more of the healing
science than the gowns of a whole modern university."

"There is ane, sir," said Mrs. Blower, "that has been muckle recommended
about Edinburgh--Macgregor, I think they ca' him--folk come far and near
to see him."[I-15]

"I know whom you mean, ma'am--a clever man--no denying it--a clever
man--but there are certain cases--yours, for example--and I think that
of many that come to drink this water--which I cannot say I think he
perfectly understands--hasty--very hasty and rapid. Now I--I give the
disease its own way at first--then watch it, Mrs. Blower--watch the turn
of the tide."

"Ay, troth, that's true," responded the widow; "John Blower was aye
watching turn of tide, puir man."

"Then he is a starving doctor, Mrs. Blower--reduces diseases as soldiers
do towns--by famine, not considering that the friendly inhabitants
suffer as much as the hostile garrison--ahem!"

Here he gave an important and emphatic cough, and then proceeded.

"I am no friend either to excess or to violent stimulus, Mrs.
Blower--but nature must be supported--a generous diet--cordials
judiciously thrown in--not without the advice of a medical man--that is
my opinion, Mrs. Blower, to speak as a friend--others may starve their
patients if they have a mind."

"It wadna do for me, the starving, Dr. Keekerben," said the alarmed
relict,--"it wadna do for me at a'--Just a' I can do to wear through the
day with the sma' supports that nature requires--not a soul to look
after me, Doctor, since John Blower was ta'en awa.--Thank ye kindly,
sir," (to the servant who handed the tea,)--"thank ye, my bonny man,"
(to the page who served the cake)--"Now, dinna ye think, Doctor," (in a
low and confidential voice,) "that her leddyship's tea is rather of the
weakliest--water bewitched, I think--and Mrs. Jones, as they ca' her,
has cut the seedcake very thin?"

"It is the fashion, Mrs. Blower," answered Dr. Quackleben; "and her
ladyship's tea is excellent. But your taste is a little chilled, which
is not uncommon at the first use of the waters, so that you are not
sensible of the flavour--we must support the system--reinforce the
digestive powers--give me leave--you are a stranger, Mrs. Blower, and we
must take care of you--I have an elixir which will put that matter to
rights in a moment."

So saying, Dr. Quackleben pulled from his pocket a small portable case
of medicines--"Catch me without my tools,"--he said; "here I have the
real useful pharmacopoeia--the rest is all humbug and hard names--this
little case, with a fortnight or month, spring and fall, at St. Ronan's
Well, and no one will die till his day come."

Thus boasting, the Doctor drew from his case a large vial or small
flask, full of a high-coloured liquid, of which he mixed three
tea-spoonfuls in Mrs. Blower's cup, who, immediately afterwards, allowed
that the flavour was improved beyond all belief, and that it was "vera
comfortable and restorative indeed."

"Will it not do good to my complaints, Doctor?" said Mr. Winterblossom,
who had strolled towards them, and held out his cup to the physician.

"I by no means recommend it, Mr. Winterblossom," said Dr. Quackleben,
shutting up his case with great coolness; "your case is oedematous,
and you treat it your own way--you are as good a physician as I am, and
I never interfere with another practitioner's patient."

"Well, Doctor," said Winterblossom, "I must wait till Sir Bingo comes
in--he has a hunting-flask usually about him, which contains as good
medicine as yours to the full."

"You will wait for Sir Bingo some time," said the Doctor; "he is a
gentleman of sedentary habits--he has ordered another magnum."

"Sir Bingo is an unco name for a man o' quality, dinna ye think sae, Dr.
Cocklehen?" said Mrs. Blower. "John Blower, when he was a wee bit in the
wind's eye, as he ca'd it, puir fallow--used to sing a sang about a dog
they ca'd Bingo, that suld hae belanged to a farmer."

"Our Bingo is but a puppy yet, madam--or if a dog, he is a sad dog,"
said Mr. Winterblossom, applauding his own wit, by one of his own
inimitable smiles.

"Or a mad dog, rather," said Mr. Chatterly, "for he drinks no water;"
and he also smiled gracefully at the thoughts of having trumped, as it
were, the president's pun.

"Twa pleasant men, Doctor," said the widow, "and so is Sir Bungy too,
for that matter; but O! is nae it a pity he should bide sae lang by the
bottle? It was puir John Blower's faut too, that weary tippling; when he
wan to the lee-side of a bowl of punch, there was nae raising him.--But
they are taking awa the things, and, Doctor, is it not an awfu' thing
that the creature-comforts should hae been used without grace or
thanksgiving?--that Mr. Chitterling, if he really be a minister, has
muckle to answer for, that he neglects his Master's service."

"Why, madam," said the Doctor, "Mr. Chatterly is scarce arrived at the
rank of a minister plenipotentiary."

"A minister potentiary--ah, Doctor, I doubt that is some jest of yours,"
said the widow; "that's sae like puir John Blower. When I wad hae had
him gie up the lovely Peggy, ship and cargo, (the vessel was named after
me, Doctor Kittleben,) to be remembered in the prayers o' the
congregation, he wad say to me, 'they may pray that stand the risk,
Peggy Bryce, for I've made insurance.' He was a merry man, Doctor; but
he had the root of the matter in him, for a' his light way of speaking,
as deep as ony skipper that ever loosed anchor from Leith Roads. I hae
been a forsaken creature since his death--O the weary days and nights
that I have had!--and the weight on the spirits--the spirits,
Doctor!--though I canna say I hae been easier since I hae been at the
Wall than even now--if I kend what I was awing ye for elickstir, Doctor,
for it's done me muckle heart's good, forby the opening of my mind to
you."

"Fie, fie, ma'am," said the Doctor, as the widow pulled out a seal-skin
pouch, such as sailors carry tobacco in, but apparently well stuffed
with bank-notes,--"Fie, fie, madam--I am no apothecary--I have my
diploma from Leyden--a regular physician, madam,--the elixir is heartily
at your service; and should you want any advice, no man will be prouder
to assist you than your humble servant."

"I am sure I am muckle obliged to your kindness, Dr. Kickalpin," said
the widow, folding up her pouch; "this was puir John Blower's
_spleuchan_,[I-16] as they ca' it--I e'en wear it for his sake. He was a
kind man, and left me comfortable in warld's gudes; but comforts hae
their cumbers,--to be a lone woman is a sair weird, Dr. Kittlepin."

Dr. Quackleben drew his chair a little nearer that of the widow, and
entered into a closer communication with her, in a tone doubtless of
more delicate consolation than was fit for the ears of the company at
large.

One of the chief delights of a watering-place is, that every one's
affairs seem to be put under the special surveillance of the whole
company, so that, in all probability, the various flirtations,
_liaisons_, and so forth, which naturally take place in the society, are
not only the subject of amusement to the parties engaged, but also to
the lookers on; that is to say, generally speaking, to the whole
community, of which for the time the said parties are members. Lady
Penelope, the presiding goddess of the region, watchful over all her
circle, was not long of observing that the Doctor seemed to be suddenly
engaged in close communication with the widow, and that he had even
ventured to take hold of her fair plump hand, with a manner which
partook at once of the gallant suitor, and of the medical adviser.

"For the love of Heaven," said her ladyship, "who can that comely dame
be, on whom our excellent and learned Doctor looks with such uncommon
regard?"

"Fat, fair, and forty," said Mr. Winterblossom; "that is all I know of
her--a mercantile person."

"A carrack, Sir President," said the chaplain, "richly laden with
colonial produce, by name the Lovely Peggy Bryce--no master--the late
John Blower of North Leith having pushed off his boat for the Stygian
Creek, and left the vessel without a hand on board."

"The Doctor," said Lady Penelope, turning her glass towards them, "seems
willing to play the part of pilot."

"I dare say he will be willing to change her name and register," said
Mr. Chatterly.

"He can be no less in common requital," said Winterblossom. "She has
changed _his_ name six times in the five minutes that I stood within
hearing of them."

"What do you think of the matter, my dear Lady Binks?" said Lady
Penelope.

"Madam?" said Lady Binks, starting from a reverie, and answering as one
who either had not heard, or did not understand the question.

"I mean, what think you of what is going on yonder?"

Lady Binks turned her glass in the direction of Lady Penelope's glance,
fixed the widow and the Doctor with one bold fashionable stare, and then
dropping her hand slowly, said with indifference, "I really see nothing
there worth thinking about."

"I dare say it is a fine thing to be married," said Lady Penelope;
"one's thoughts, I suppose, are so much engrossed with one's own perfect
happiness, that they have neither time nor inclination to laugh like
other folks. Miss Rachel Bonnyrigg would have laughed till her eyes ran
over, had she seen what Lady Binks cares so little about--I dare say it
must be an all-sufficient happiness to be married."

"He would be a happy man that could convince your ladyship of that in
good earnest," said Mr. Winterblossom.

"Oh, who knows--the whim may strike me," replied the lady; "but
no--no--no;--and that is three times."

"Say it sixteen times more," said the gallant president, "and let
nineteen nay-says be a grant."

"If I should say a thousand Noes, there exists not the alchymy in living
man that could extract one Yes out of the whole mass," said her
ladyship. "Blessed be the memory of Queen Bess!--She set us all an
example to keep power when we have it--What noise is that?"

"Only the usual after-dinner quarrel," said the divine. "I hear the
Captain's voice, else most silent, commanding them to keep peace, in the
devil's name and that of the ladies."

"Upon my word, dearest Lady Binks, this is too bad of that lord and
master of yours, and of Mowbray, who might have more sense, and of the
rest of that claret-drinking set, to be quarrelling and alarming our
nerves every evening with presenting their pistols perpetually at each
other, like sportsmen confined to the house upon a rainy 12th of August.
I am tired of the Peace-maker--he but skins the business over in one
case to have it break out elsewhere.--What think you, love, if we were
to give out in orders, that the next quarrel which may arise, shall be
_bona fide_ fought to an end?--We will all go out and see it, and wear
the colours on each side; and if there should a funeral come of it, we
will attend it in a body.--Weeds are so becoming!--Are they not, my dear
Lady Binks? Look at Widow Blower in her deep black--don't you envy her,
my love?"

Lady Binks seemed about to make a sharp and hasty answer, but checked
herself, perhaps under the recollection that she could not prudently
come to an open breach with Lady Penelope.--At the same moment the door
opened, and a lady dressed in a riding-habit, and wearing a black veil
over her hat, appeared at the entry of the apartment.

"Angels and ministers of grace!" exclaimed Lady Penelope, with her very
best tragic start--"my dearest Clara, why so late? and why thus? Will
you step to my dressing-room--Jones will get you one of my gowns--we are
just of a size, you know--do, pray--let me be vain of something of my
own for once, by seeing you wear it."

This was spoken in the tone of the fondest female friendship, and at the
same time the fair hostess bestowed on Miss Mowbray one of those tender
caresses, which ladies--God bless them!--sometimes bestow on each other
with unnecessary prodigality, to the great discontent and envy of the
male spectators.

"You are fluttered, my dearest Clara--you are feverish--I am sure you
are," continued the sweetly anxious Lady Penelope; "let me persuade you
to lie down."

"Indeed you are mistaken, Lady Penelope," said Miss Mowbray, who seemed
to receive much as a matter of course her ladyship's profusion of
affectionate politeness:--"I am heated, and my pony trotted hard, that
is the whole mystery.--Let me have a cup of tea, Mrs. Jones, and the
matter is ended."

"Fresh tea, Jones, directly," said Lady Penelope, and led her passive
friend to her own corner, as she was pleased to call the recess, in
which she held her little court--ladies and gentlemen curtsying and
bowing as she passed; to which civilities the new guest made no more
return, than the most ordinary politeness rendered unavoidable.

Lady Binks did not rise to receive her, but sat upright in her chair,
and bent her head very stiffly; a courtesy which Miss Mowbray returned
in the same stately manner, without farther greeting on either side.

"Now, wha can that be, Doctor?" said the Widow Blower--"mind ye have
promised to tell me all about the grand folk--wha can that be that Leddy
Penelope hauds such a racket wi'?--and what for does she come wi' a
habit and a beaver-hat, when we are a' (a glance at her own gown) in our
silks and satins?"

"To tell you who she is, my dear Mrs. Blower, is very easy," said the
officious Doctor. "She is Miss Clara Mowbray, sister to the Lord of the
Manor--the gentleman who wears the green coat, with an arrow on the
cape. To tell why she wears that habit, or does any thing else, would be
rather beyond doctor's skill. Truth is, I have always thought she was a
little--a very little--touched--call it nerves--hypochondria--or what
you will."

"Lord help us, puir thing!" said the compassionate widow.--"And troth it
looks like it. But it's a shame to let her go loose, Doctor--she might
hurt hersell, or somebody. See, she has ta'en the knife!--O, it's only
to cut a shave of the diet-loaf. She winna let the powder-monkey of a
boy help her. There's judgment in that though, Doctor, for she can cut
thick or thin as she likes.--Dear me! she has not taken mair than a
crumb, than ane would pit between the wires of a canary-bird's cage,
after all.--I wish she would lift up that lang veil, or put off that
riding-skirt, Doctor. She should really be showed the regulations,
Doctor Kickelshin."

"She cares about no rules we can make, Mrs. Blower," said the Doctor;
"and her brother's will and pleasure, and Lady Penelope's whim of
indulging her, carry her through in every thing. They should take
advice on her case."

"Ay, truly, it's time to take advice, when young creatures like her
caper in amang dressed leddies, just as if they were come from
scampering on Leith sands.--Such a wark as my leddy makes wi' her,
Doctor! Ye would think they were baith fools of a feather."

"They might have flown on one wing, for what I know," said Dr.
Quackleben; "but there was early and sound advice taken in Lady
Penelope's case. My friend, the late Earl of Featherhead, was a man of
judgment--did little in his family but by rule of medicine--so that,
what with the waters, and what with my own care, Lady Penelope is only
freakish--fanciful--that's all--and her quality bears it out--the
peccant principle might have broken out under other treatment."

"Ay--she has been weel-friended," said the widow; "but this bairn
Mowbray, puir thing! how came she to be sae left to hersell?"

"Her mother was dead--her father thought of nothing but his sports,"
said the Doctor. "Her brother was educated in England, and cared for
nobody but himself, if he had been here. What education she got was at
her own hand--what reading she read was in a library full of old
romances--what friends or company she had was what chance sent her--then
no family-physician, not even a good surgeon, within ten miles! And so
you cannot wonder if the poor thing became unsettled."

"Puir thing!--no doctor!--nor even a surgeon!--But, Doctor," said the
widow, "maybe the puir thing had the enjoyment of her health, ye ken,
and, then"----

"Ah! ha, ha!--why _then_, madam, she needed a physician far more than if
she had been delicate. A skilful physician, Mrs. Blower, knows how to
bring down that robust health, which is a very alarming state of the
frame when it is considered _secundum artem_. Most sudden deaths happen
when people are in a robust state of health. Ah! that state of perfect
health is what the doctor dreads most on behalf of his patient."

"Ay, ay, Doctor?--I am quite sensible, nae doubt," said the widow, "of
the great advantage of having a skeelfu' person about ane."

Here the Doctor's voice, in his earnestness to convince Mrs. Blower of
the danger of supposing herself capable of living and breathing without
a medical man's permission, sunk into a soft pleading tone, of which our
reporter could not catch the sound. He was, as great orators will
sometimes be, "inaudible in the gallery."

Meanwhile, Lady Penelope overwhelmed Clara Mowbray with her caresses. In
what degree her ladyship, at her heart, loved this young person, might
be difficult to ascertain,--probably in the degree in which a child
loves a favourite toy. But Clara was a toy not always to be come by--as
whimsical in her way as her ladyship in her own, only that poor Clara's
singularities were real, and her ladyship's chiefly affected. Without
adopting the harshness of the Doctor's conclusions concerning the
former, she was certainly unequal in her spirits; and her occasional
fits of levity were chequered by very long intervals of sadness. Her
levity also appeared, in the world's eye, greater than it really was;
for she had never been under the restraint of society which was really
good, and entertained an undue contempt for that which she sometimes
mingled with; having unhappily none to teach her the important truth,
that some forms and restraints are to be observed, less in respect to
others than to ourselves. Her dress, her manners, and her ideas, were
therefore very much her own; and though they became her wonderfully,
yet, like Ophelia's garlands, and wild snatches of melody, they were
calculated to excite compassion and melancholy, even while they amused
the observer.

"And why came you not to dinner?--We expected you--your throne was
prepared."

"I had scarce come to tea," said Miss Mowbray, "of my own freewill. But
my brother says your ladyship proposes to come to Shaws-Castle, and he
insisted it was quite right and necessary, to confirm you in so
flattering a purpose, that I should come and say, Pray do, Lady
Penelope; and so now here am I to say, Pray, do come."

"Is an invitation so flattering limited to me alone, my dear
Clara?--Lady Binks will be jealous."

"Bring Lady Binks, if she has the condescension to honour us"--[a bow
was very stiffly exchanged between the ladies]--"bring Mr.
Springblossom--Winterblossom--and all the lions and lionesses--we have
room for the whole collection. My brother, I suppose, will bring his own
particular regiment of bears, which, with the usual assortment of
monkeys seen in all caravans, will complete the menagerie. How you are
to be entertained at Shaws-Castle, is, I thank Heaven, not my business,
but John's."

"We shall want no formal entertainment, my love," said Lady Penelope; "a
_déjeûner à la fourchette_--we know, Clara, you would die of doing the
honours of a formal dinner."

"Not a bit; I should live long enough to make my will, and bequeath all
large parties to old Nick, who invented them."

"Miss Mowbray," said Lady Binks, who had been thwarted by this
free-spoken young lady, both in her former character of a coquette and
romp, and in that of a prude which she at present wore--"Miss Mowbray
declares for

    'Champagne and a chicken at last.'"

"The chicken without the champagne, if you please," said Miss Mowbray;
"I have known ladies pay dear to have champagne on the board.--By the
by, Lady Penelope, you have not your collection in the same order and
discipline as Pidcock and Polito. There was much growling and snarling
in the lower den when I passed it."

"It was feeding-time, my love," said Lady Penelope; "and the lower
animals of every class become pugnacious at that hour--you see all our
safer and well-conditioned animals are loose, and in good order."

"Oh, yes--in the keeper's presence, you know--Well, I must venture to
cross the hall again among all that growling and grumbling--I would I
had the fairy prince's quarters of mutton to toss among them if they
should break out--He, I mean, who fetched water from the Fountain of
Lions. However, on second thoughts, I will take the back way, and avoid
them.--What says honest Bottom?--

    'For if they should as lions come in strife
    Into such place, 'twere pity of their life.'"

"Shall I go with you, my dear?" said Lady Penelope.

"No--I have too great a soul for that--I think some of them are lions
only as far as the hide is concerned."

"But why would you go so soon, Clara?"

"Because my errand is finished--have I not invited you and yours? and
would not Lord Chesterfield himself allow I have done the polite thing?"

"But you have spoke to none of the company--how can you be so odd, my
love?" said her ladyship.

"Why, I spoke to them all when I spoke to you and Lady Binks--but I am a
good girl, and will do as I am bid."

So saying, she looked round the company, and addressed each of them with
an affectation of interest and politeness, which thinly concealed scorn
and contempt.

"Mr. Winterblossom, I hope the gout is better--Mr. Robert Rymar--(I have
escaped calling him Thomas for once)--I hope the public give
encouragement to the muses--Mr. Keelavine, I trust your pencil is
busy--Mr. Chatterly, I have no doubt your flock improves--Dr.
Quackleben, I am sure your patients recover--These are all the especials
of the worthy company I know--for the rest, health to the sick, and
pleasure to the healthy!"

"You are not going in reality, my love?" said Lady Penelope; "these
hasty rides agitate your nerves--they do, indeed--you should be
cautious--Shall I speak to Quackleben?"

"To neither Quack nor quackle, on my account, my dear lady. It is not as
you would seem to say, by your winking at Lady Binks--it is not,
indeed--I shall be no Lady Clementina, to be the wonder and pity of the
spring of St. Ronan's--No Ophelia neither--though I will say with her,
Good-night, ladies--Good night, sweet ladies!--and now--not my coach, my
coach--but my horse, my horse!"

So saying, she tripped out of the room by a side passage, leaving the
ladies looking at each other significantly, and shaking their heads with
an expression of much import.

"Something has ruffled the poor unhappy girl," said Lady Penelope; "I
never saw her so very odd before."

"Were I to speak my mind," said Lady Binks, "I think, as Mrs. Highmore
says in the farce, her madness is but a poor excuse for her
impertinence."

"Oh fie! my sweet Lady Binks," said Lady Penelope, "spare my poor
favourite! You, surely, of all others, should forgive the excesses of an
amiable eccentricity of temper.--Forgive me, my love, but I must defend
an absent friend--My Lady Binks, I am very sure, is too generous and
candid to

    'Hate for arts which caused herself to rise.'"

"Not being conscious of any high elevation, my lady," answered Lady
Binks, "I do not know any arts I have been under the necessity of
practising to attain it. I suppose a Scotch lady of an ancient family
may become the wife of an English baronet, and no very extraordinary
great cause to wonder at it."

"No, surely--but people in this world will, you know, wonder at
nothing," answered Lady Penelope.

"If you envy me my poor quiz, Sir Bingo, I'll get you a better, Lady
Pen."

"I don't doubt your talents, my dear, but when I want one, I will get
one for myself.--But here comes the whole party of quizzes.--Joliffe,
offer the gentlemen tea--then get the floor ready for the dancers, and
set the card-tables in the next room."

FOOTNOTES:

[I-15] The late Dr. Gregory is probably intimated, as one of the
celebrated Dr. Cullen's personal habits is previously mentioned. Dr.
Gregory was distinguished for putting his patients on a severe regimen.

[I-16] A fur pouch for keeping tobacco.



CHAPTER VIII.

AFTER DINNER.

    They draw the cork, they broach the barrel,
    And first they kiss, and then they quarrel.

PRIOR.


If the reader has attended much to the manners of the canine race, he
may have remarked the very different manner in which the individuals of
the different sexes carry on their quarrels among each other. The
females are testy, petulant, and very apt to indulge their impatient
dislike of each other's presence, or the spirit of rivalry which it
produces, in a sudden bark and snap, which last is generally made as
much at advantage as possible. But these ebullitions of peevishness lead
to no very serious or prosecuted conflict; the affair begins and ends in
a moment. Not so the ire of the male dogs, which, once produced and
excited by growls of mutual offence and defiance, leads generally to a
fierce and obstinate contest; in which, if the parties be dogs of game,
and well-matched, they grapple, throttle, tear, roll each other in the
kennel, and can only be separated by choking them with their own
collars, till they lose wind and hold at the same time, or by surprising
them out of their wrath by sousing them with cold water.

The simile, though a currish one, will hold good in its application to
the human race. While the ladies in the tea-room of the Fox Hotel were
engaged in the light snappish velitation, or skirmish, which we have
described, the gentlemen who remained in the parlour were more than once
like to have quarrelled more seriously.

We have mentioned the weighty reasons which induced Mr. Mowbray to look
upon the stranger whom a general invitation had brought into their
society, with unfavourable prepossessions; and these were far from being
abated by the demeanour of Tyrrel, which, though perfectly well-bred,
indicated a sense of equality, which the young Laird of St. Ronan's
considered as extremely presumptuous.

As for Sir Bingo, he already began to nourish the genuine hatred always
entertained by a mean spirit against an antagonist, before whom it is
conscious of having made a dishonourable retreat. He forgot not the
manner, look, and tone, with which Tyrrel had checked his unauthorized
intrusion; and though he had sunk beneath it at the moment, the
recollection rankled in his heart as an affront to be avenged. As he
drank his wine, courage, the want of which was, in his more sober
moments, a check upon his bad temper, began to inflame his malignity,
and he ventured upon several occasions to show his spleen, by
contradicting Tyrrel more flatly than good manners permitted upon so
short an acquaintance, and without any provocation. Tyrrel saw his ill
humour and despised it, as that of an overgrown schoolboy, whom it was
not worth his while to answer according to his folly.

One of the apparent causes of the Baronet's rudeness was indeed childish
enough. The company were talking of shooting, the most animating topic
of conversation among Scottish country gentlemen of the younger class,
and Tyrrel had mentioned something of a favourite setter, an uncommonly
handsome dog, from which he had been for some time separated, but which
he expected would rejoin him in the course of next week.

"A setter!" retorted Sir Bingo, with a sneer; "a pointer I suppose you
mean?"

"No, sir," said Tyrrel; "I am perfectly aware of the difference betwixt
a setter and a pointer, and I know the old-fashioned setter is become
unfashionable among modern sportsmen. But I love my dog as a companion,
as well as for his merits in the field; and a setter is more sagacious,
more attached, and fitter for his place on the hearth-rug, than a
pointer--not," he added, "from any deficiency of intellects on the
pointer's part, but he is generally so abused while in the management of
brutal breakers and grooms, that he loses all excepting his professional
accomplishments, of finding and standing steady to game."

"And who the d----l desires he should have more?" said Sir Bingo.

"Many people, Sir Bingo," replied Tyrrel, "have been of opinion, that
both dogs and men may follow sport indifferently well, though they do
happen, at the same time, to be fit for mixing in friendly intercourse
in society."

"That is for licking trenchers, and scratching copper, I suppose," said
the Baronet, _sotto voce_; and added, in a louder and more distinct
tone,--"He never before heard that a setter was fit to follow any man's
heels but a poacher's."

"You know it now then, Sir Bingo," answered Tyrrel; "and I hope you will
not fall into so great a mistake again."

The Peace-maker here seemed to think his interference necessary, and,
surmounting his tactiturnity, made the following pithy speech:--"By Cot!
and do you see, as you are looking for my opinion, I think there is no
dispute in the matter--because, by Cot! it occurs to me, d'ye see, that
ye are both right, by Cot! It may do fery well for my excellent friend
Sir Bingo, who hath stables, and kennels, and what not, to maintain the
six filthy prutes that are yelping and yowling all the tay, and all the
neight too, under my window, by Cot!--And if they are yelping and
yowling there, may I never die but I wish they were yelping and yowling
somewhere else. But then there is many a man who may be as cood a
gentleman at the bottom as my worthy friend Sir Bingo, though it may be
that he is poor; and if he is poor--and as if it might be my own case,
or that of this honest gentleman, Mr. Tirl--is that a reason or a law,
that he is not to keep a prute of a tog, to help him to take his sports
and his pleasures? and if he has not a stable or a kennel to put the
crature into, must he not keep it in his pit of ped-room, or upon his
parlour hearth, seeing that Luckie Dods would make the kitchen too hot
for the paist--and so, if Mr. Tirl finds a setter more fitter for his
purpose than a pointer, by Cot, I know no law against it, else may I
never die the black death."

If this oration appear rather long for the occasion, the reader must
recollect that Captain MacTurk had in all probability the trouble of
translating it from the periphrastic language of Ossian, in which it was
originally conceived in his own mind.

The Man of Law replied to the Man of Peace, "Ye are mistaken for ance in
your life, Captain, for there is a law against setters; and I will
undertake to prove them to be the 'lying dogs,' which are mentioned in
the auld Scots statute, and which all and sundry are discharged to keep,
under a penalty of"----

Here the Captain broke in, with a very solemn mien and dignified
manner--"By Cot! Master Meiklewham, and I shall be asking what you mean
by talking to me of peing mistaken, and apout lying togs, sir--because I
would have you to know, and to pelieve, and to very well consider, that
I never was mistaken in my life, sir, unless it was when I took you for
a gentleman."

"No offence, Captain," said Mr. Meiklewham; "dinna break the wand of
peace, man, you that should be the first to keep it.--He is as
cankered," continued the Man of Law, apart to his patron, "as an auld
Hieland terrier, that snaps at whatever comes near it--but I tell you ae
thing, St. Ronan's, and that is on saul and conscience, that I believe
this is the very lad Tirl, that I raised a summons against before the
justices--him and another hempie--in your father's time, for shooting on
the Spring-well-head muirs."

"The devil you did, Mick!" replied the Lord of the Manor, also
aside;--"Well, I am obliged to you for giving me some reason for the ill
thoughts I had of him--I knew he was some trumpery scamp--I'll blow him,
by"----

"Whisht--stop--hush--haud your tongue, St. Ronan's,--keep a calm
sough--ye see, I intended the process, by your worthy father's desire,
before the Quarter Sessions--but I ken na--The auld sheriff-clerk stood
the lad's friend--and some of the justices thought it was but a mistake
of the marches, and sae we couldna get a judgment--and your father was
very ill of the gout, and I was feared to vex him, and so I was fain to
let the process sleep, for fear they had been assoilzied.--Sae ye had
better gang cautiously to wark, St. Ronan's, for though they were
summoned, they were not convict."

"Could you not take up the action again?" said Mr. Mowbray.

"Whew! it's been prescribed sax or seeven year syne. It is a great
shame, St. Ronan's, that the game laws, whilk are the very best
protection that is left to country gentlemen against the encroachment of
their inferiors, rin sae short a course of prescription--a poacher may
just jink ye back and forward like a flea in a blanket, (wi'
pardon)--hap ye out of ae county and into anither at their pleasure,
like pyots--and unless ye get your thum-nail on them in the very nick o'
time, ye may dine on a dish of prescription, and sup upon an
absolvitor."

"It is a shame indeed," said Mowbray, turning from his confident and
agent, and addressing himself to the company in general, yet not without
a peculiar look directed to Tyrrel.

"What is a shame, sir?" said Tyrrel, conceiving that the observation was
particularly addressed to him.

"That we should have so many poachers upon our muirs, sir," answered St.
Ronan's. "I sometimes regret having countenanced the Well here, when I
think how many guns it has brought on my property every season."

"Hout fie! hout awa, St. Ronan's!" said his Man of Law; "no countenance
the Waal? What would the country-side be without it, I would be glad to
ken? It's the greatest improvement that has been made on this country
since the year forty-five. Na, na, it's no the Waal that's to blame for
the poaching and delinquencies on the game. We maun to the Aultoun for
the howf of that kind of cattle. Our rules at the Waal are clear and
express against trespassers on the game."

"I can't think," said the Squire, "what made my father sell the property
of the old change-house yonder, to the hag that keeps it open out of
spite, I think, and to harbour poachers and vagabonds!--I cannot
conceive what made him do so foolish a thing!"

"Probably because your father wanted money, sir," said Tyrrel, dryly;
"and my worthy landlady, Mrs. Dods, had got some.--You know, I presume,
sir, that I lodge there?"

"Oh, sir," replied Mowbray, in a tone betwixt scorn and civility, "you
cannot suppose the present company is alluded to; I only presumed to
mention as a fact, that we have been annoyed with unqualified people
shooting on our grounds, without either liberty or license. And I hope
to have her sign taken down for it--that is all.--There was the same
plague in my father's days, I think, Mick?"

But Mr. Meiklewham, who did not like Tyrrel's looks so well as to induce
him to become approver on the occasion, replied with an inarticulate
grunt, addressed to the company, and a private admonition to his
patron's own ear, "to let sleeping dogs lie."

"I can scarce forbear the fellow," said St. Ronan's; "and yet I cannot
well tell where my dislike to him lies--but it would be d----d folly to
turn out with him for nothing; and so, honest Mick, I will be as quiet
as I can."

"And that you may be so," said Meiklewham, "I think you had best take no
more wine."

"I think so too," said the Squire; "for each glass I drink in his
company gives me the heartburn--yet the man is not different from other
raffs either--but there is a something about him intolerable to me."

So saying, he pushed back his chair from the table, and--_regis ad
exemplar_--after the pattern of the Laird, all the company arose.

Sir Bingo got up with reluctance, which he testified by two or three
deep growls, as he followed the rest of the company into the outer
apartment, which served as an entrance-hall, and divided the
dining-parlour from the tea-room, as it was called. Here, while the
party were assuming their hats, for the purpose of joining the ladies'
society, (which old-fashioned folk used only to take up for that of
going into the open air,) Tyrrel asked a smart footman, who stood near,
to hand him the hat which lay on the table beyond.

"Call your own servant, sir," answered the fellow, with the true
insolence of a pampered menial.

"Your master," answered Tyrrel, "ought to have taught you good manners,
my friend, before bringing you here."

"Sir Bingo Binks is my master," said the fellow, in the same insolent
tone as before.

"Now for it, Bingie," said Mowbray, who was aware that the Baronet's
pot-courage had arrived at fighting pitch.

"Yes!" said Sir Bingo aloud, and more articulately than usual--"The
fellow is my servant--what has any one to say to it?"

"I at least have my mouth stopped," answered Tyrrel, with perfect
composure. "I should have been surprised to have found Sir Bingo's
servant better bred than himself."

"What d'ye mean by that, sir?" said Sir Bingo, coming up in an offensive
attitude, for he was no mean pupil of the Fives-Court--"What d'ye mean
by that? D----n you, sir! I'll serve you out before you can say
dumpling."

"And I, Sir Bingo, unless you presently lay aside that look and manner,
will knock you down before you can cry help."

The visitor held in his hand a slip of oak, with which he gave a
flourish, that, however slight, intimated some acquaintance with the
noble art of single-stick. From this demonstration Sir Bingo thought it
prudent somewhat to recoil, though backed by a party of friends, who, in
their zeal for his honour, would rather have seen his bones broken in
conflict bold, than his honour injured by a discreditable retreat; and
Tyrrel seemed to have some inclination to indulge them. But, at the very
instant when his hand was raised with a motion of no doubtful import, a
whispering voice, close to his ear, pronounced the emphatic words--"Are
you a man?"

Not the thrilling tone with which our inimitable Siddons used to
electrify the scene, when she uttered the same whisper, ever had a more
powerful effect upon an auditor, than had these unexpected sounds on
him, to whom they were now addressed. Tyrrel forgot every thing--his
quarrel--the circumstances in which he was placed--the company. The
crowd was to him at once annihilated, and life seemed to have no other
object than to follow the person who had spoken. But suddenly as he
turned, the disappearance of the monitor was at least equally so, for,
amid the group of commonplace countenances by which he was surrounded,
there was none which assorted to the tone and words, which possessed
such a power over him. "Make way," he said, to those who surrounded him;
and it was in the tone of one who was prepared, if necessary, to make
way for himself.

Mr. Mowbray of St. Ronan's stepped forward. "Come, sir," said he, "this
will not do--you have come here, a stranger among us, to assume airs and
dignities, which, by G--d, would become a duke, or a prince! We must
know who or what you are, before we permit you to carry your high tone
any farther."

This address seemed at once to arrest Tyrrel's anger, and his impatience
to leave the company. He turned to Mowbray, collected his thoughts for
an instant, and then answered him thus:--"Mr. Mowbray, I seek no quarrel
with any one here--with you, in particular, I am most unwilling to have
any disagreement. I came here by invitation, not certainly expecting
much pleasure, but, at the same time, supposing myself secure from
incivility. In the last point, I find myself mistaken, and therefore
wish the company good-night. I must also make my adieus to the ladies."

So saying, he walked several steps, yet, as it seemed, rather
irresolutely, towards the door of the card-room--and then, to the
increased surprise of the company, stopped suddenly, and muttering
something about the "unfitness of the time," turned on his heel, and
bowing haughtily, as there was way made for him, walked in the opposite
direction towards the door which led to the outer hall.

"D----me, Sir Bingo, will you let him off?" said Mowbray, who seemed to
delight in pushing his friend into new scrapes--"To him, man--to him--he
shows the white feather."

Sir Bingo, thus encouraged, planted himself with a look of defiance
exactly between Tyrrel and the door; upon which the retreating guest,
bestowing on him most emphatically the epithet Fool, seized him by the
collar, and flung him out of his way with some violence.

"I am to be found at the Old Town of St. Ronan's by whomsoever has any
concern with me."--Without waiting the issue of this aggression farther
than to utter these words, Tyrrel left the hotel. He stopped in the
court-yard, however, with the air of one uncertain whither he intended
to go, and who was desirous to ask some question, which seemed to die
upon his tongue. At length his eye fell upon a groom, who stood not far
from the door of the inn, holding in his hand a handsome pony, with a
side-saddle.

"Whose"----said Tyrrel--but the rest of the question he seemed unable to
utter.

The man, however, replied, as if he had heard the whole
interrogation.--"Miss Mowbray's, sir, of St. Ronan's--she leaves
directly--and so I am walking the pony--a clever thing, sir, for a
lady."

"She returns to Shaws-Castle by the Buck-stane road?"

"I suppose so, sir," said the groom. "It is the nighest, and Miss Clara
cares little for rough roads. Zounds! She can spank it over wet and
dry."

Tyrrel turned away from the man, and hastily left the hotel--not,
however, by the road which led to the Aultoun, but by a footpath among
the natural copsewood, which, following the course of the brook,
intersected the usual horse-road to Shaws-Castle, the seat of Mr.
Mowbray, at a romantic spot called the Buck-stane.

In a small peninsula, formed by a winding of the brook, was situated, on
a rising hillock, a large rough-hewn pillar of stone, said by tradition
to commemorate the fall of a stag of unusual speed, size, and strength,
whose flight, after having lasted through a whole summer's day, had
there terminated in death, to the honour and glory of some ancient baron
of St. Ronan's, and of his stanch hounds. During the periodical cuttings
of the copse, which the necessities of the family of St. Ronan's brought
round more frequently than Ponty would have recommended, some oaks had
been spared in the neighbourhood of this massive obelisk, old enough
perhaps to have heard the whoop and halloo which followed the fall of
the stag, and to have witnessed the raising of the rude monument by
which that great event was commemorated. These trees, with their broad
spreading boughs, made a twilight even of noon-day; and, now that the
sun was approaching its setting point, their shade already anticipated
night. This was especially the case where three or four of them
stretched their arms over a deep gully, through which winded the
horse-path to Shaws-Castle, at a point about a pistol-shot distant from
the Buck-stane. As the principal access to Mr. Mowbray's mansion was by
a carriage-way, which passed in a different direction, the present path
was left almost in a state of nature, full of large stones, and broken
by gullies, delightful, from the varied character of its banks, to the
picturesque traveller, and most inconvenient, nay dangerous, to him who
had a stumbling horse.

The footpath to the Buck-stane, which here joined the bridle-road, had
been constructed, at the expense of a subscription, under the direction
of Mr. Winterblossom, who had taste enough to see the beauties of this
secluded spot, which was exactly such as in earlier times might have
harboured the ambush of some marauding chief. This recollection had not
escaped Tyrrel, to whom the whole scenery was familiar, who now hastened
to the spot, as one which peculiarly suited his present purpose. He sat
down by one of the larger projecting trees, and, screened by its
enormous branches from observation, was enabled to watch the road from
the Hotel for a great part of its extent, while he was himself invisible
to any who might travel upon it.

Meanwhile his sudden departure excited a considerable sensation among
the party whom he had just left, and who were induced to form
conclusions not very favourable to his character. Sir Bingo, in
particular, blustered loudly and more loudly, in proportion to the
increasing distance betwixt himself and his antagonist, declaring his
resolution to be revenged on the scoundrel for his insolence--to drive
him from the neighbourhood--and I know not what other menaces of
formidable import. The devil, in the old stories of _diàblerie_, was
always sure to start up at the elbow of any one who nursed diabolical
purposes, and only wanted a little backing from the foul fiend to carry
his imaginations into action. The noble Captain MacTurk had so far this
property of his infernal majesty, that the least hint of an approaching
quarrel drew him always to the vicinity of the party concerned. He was
now at Sir Bingo's side, and was taking his own view of the matter, in
his character of peace-maker.

"By Cot! and it's very exceedingly true, my goot friend, Sir Binco--and
as you say, it concerns your honour, and the honour of the place, and
credit and character of the whole company, by Cot! that this matter be
properly looked after; for, as I think, he laid hands on your body, my
excellent goot friend."

"Hands, Captain MacTurk!" exclaimed Sir Bingo, in some confusion; "no,
blast him--not so bad as that neither--if he had, I should have handed
_him_ over the window--but, by ----, the fellow had the impudence to
offer to collar me--I had just stepped back to square at him, when,
curse me, the blackguard ran away."

"Right, vara right, Sir Bingo," said the Man of Law, "a vara perfect
blackguard, a poaching sorning sort of fallow, that I will have scoured
out of the country before he be three days aulder. Fash you your beard
nae farther about the matter, Sir Bingo."

"By Cot! but I can tell you, Mr. Meiklewham," said the Man of Peace,
with great solemnity of visage, "that you are scalding your lips in
other folk's kale, and that it is necessary for the credit, and honour,
and respect of this company, at the Well of St. Ronan's, that Sir Bingo
goes by more competent advice than yours upon the present occasion, Mr.
Meiklewham; for though your counsel may do very well in a small debt
court, here, you see, Mr. Meiklewham, is a question of honour, which is
not a thing in your line, as I take it."

"No, before George! it is not," answered Meiklewham; "e'en take it all
to yoursell, Captain, and meikle ye are likely to make on't."

"Then," said the Captain, "Sir Binco, I will beg the favour of your
company to the smoking room, where we may have a cigar and a glass of
gin-twist; and we will consider how the honour of the company must be
supported and upholden upon the present conjuncture."

The Baronet complied with this invitation, as much, perhaps, in
consequence of the medium through which the Captain intended to convey
his warlike counsels, as for the pleasure with which he anticipated the
result of these counsels themselves. He followed the military step of
his leader, whose stride was more stiff, and his form more
perpendicular, when exalted by the consciousness of an approaching
quarrel, to the smoking-room, where, sighing as he lighted his cigar,
Sir Bingo prepared to listen to the words of wisdom and valour, as they
should flow in mingled stream from the lips of Captain MacTurk.

Meanwhile the rest of the company joined the ladies. "Here has been
Clara," said Lady Penelope to Mr. Mowbray; "here has been Miss Mowbray
among us, like the ray of a sun which does but dazzle and die."

"Ah, poor Clara," said Mowbray; "I thought I saw her thread her way
through the crowd a little while since, but I was not sure."

"Well," said Lady Penelope, "she has asked us all up to Shaws-Castle on
Thursday, to a _déjeûner à la fourchette_--I trust you confirm your
sister's invitation, Mr. Mowbray?"

"Certainly, Lady Penelope," replied Mowbray; "and I am truly glad Clara
has had the grace to think of it--How we shall acquit ourselves is a
different question, for neither she nor I are much accustomed to play
host or hostess."

"Oh! it will be delightful, I am sure," said Lady Penelope; "Clara has a
grace in every thing she does; and you, Mr. Mowbray, can be a perfectly
well-bred gentleman--when you please."

"That qualification is severe--Well--good manners be my speed--I will
certainly please to do my best, when I see your ladyship at
Shaws-Castle, which has received no company this many a day.--Clara and
I have lived a wild life of it, each in their own way."

"Indeed, Mr. Mowbray," said Lady Binks, "if I might presume to speak--I
think you do suffer your sister to ride about a little too much without
an attendant. I know Miss Mowbray rides as woman never rode before, but
still an accident may happen."

"An accident?" replied Mowbray--"Ah, Lady Binks! accidents happen as
frequently when ladies _have_ attendants as when they are without them."

Lady Binks, who, in her maiden state, had cantered a good deal about
these woods under Sir Bingo's escort, coloured, looked spiteful, and was
silent.

"Besides," said John Mowbray, more lightly, "where is the risk, after
all? There are no wolves in our woods to eat up our pretty Red-Riding
Hoods; and no lions either--except those of Lady Penelope's train."

"Who draw the car of Cybele," said Mr. Chatterly.

Lady Penelope luckily did not understand the allusion, which was indeed
better intended than imagined.

"Apropos!" she said; "what have you done with the great lion of the day?
I see Mr. Tyrrel nowhere--Is he finishing an additional bottle with Sir
Bingo?"

"Mr. Tyrrel, madam," said Mowbray, "has acted successively the lion
rampant, and the lion passant: he has been quarrelsome, and he has run
away--fled from the ire of your doughty knight, Lady Binks."

"I am sure I hope not," said Lady Binks; "my Chevalier's unsuccessful
campaigns have been unable to overcome his taste for quarrels--a victory
would make a fighting-man of him for life."

"That inconvenience might bring its own consolations," said
Winterblossom, apart to Mowbray; "quarrellers do not usually live long."

"No, no," replied Mowbray, "the lady's despair, which broke out just
now, even in her own despite, is quite natural--absolutely legitimate.
Sir Bingo will give her no chance that way."

Mowbray then made his bow to Lady Penelope, and in answer to her request
that he would join the ball or the card-table, observed, that he had no
time to lose; that the heads of the old domestics at Shaws-Castle would
be by this time absolutely turned, by the apprehensions of what Thursday
was to bring forth; and that as Clara would certainly give no directions
for the proper arrangements, it was necessary that he should take that
trouble himself.

"If you ride smartly," said Lady Penelope, "you may save even a
temporary alarm, by overtaking Clara, dear creature, ere she gets
home--She sometimes suffers her pony to go at will along the lane, as
slow as Betty Foy's."

"Ah, but then," said little Miss Digges, "Miss Mowbray sometimes gallops
as if the lark was a snail to her pony--and it quite frights one to see
her."

The Doctor touched Mrs. Blower, who had approached so as to be on the
verge of the genteel circle, though she did not venture within it--they
exchanged sagacious looks, and a most pitiful shake of the head.
Mowbray's eye happened at that moment to glance on them; and doubtless,
notwithstanding their hasting to compose their countenances to a
different expression, he comprehended what was passing through their
minds;--and perhaps it awoke a corresponding note in his own. He took
his hat, and with a cast of thought upon his countenance which it seldom
wore, left the apartment. A moment afterwards his horse's feet were
heard spurning the pavement, as he started off at a sharp pace.

"There is something singular about these Mowbrays to-night," said Lady
Penelope.--"Clara, poor dear angel, is always particular; but I should
have thought Mowbray had too much worldly wisdom to be fanciful.--What
are you consulting your _souvenir_ for with such attention, my dear Lady
Binks?"

"Only for the age of the moon," said her ladyship, putting the little
tortoise-shell-bound calendar into her reticule; and having done so, she
proceeded to assist Lady Penelope in the arrangements for the evening.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER IX.

THE MEETING.

    We meet as shadows in the land of dreams,
    Which speak not but in signs.

_Anonymous._


Behind one of the old oaks which we have described in the preceding
chapter, shrouding himself from observation like a hunter watching for
his game, or an Indian for his enemy, but with different, very different
purpose, Tyrrel lay on his breast near the Buck-stane, his eye on the
horse-road which winded down the valley, and his ear alertly awake to
every sound which mingled with the passing breeze, or with the ripple of
the brook.

"To have met her in yonder congregated assembly of brutes and
fools"--such was a part of his internal reflections,--"had been little
less than an act of madness--madness almost equal in its degree to that
cowardice which has hitherto prevented my approaching her, when our
eventful meeting might have taken place unobserved.--But now--now--my
resolution is as fixed as the place is itself favourable. I will not
wait till some chance again shall throw us together, with an hundred
malignant eyes to watch, and wonder, and stare, and try in vain to
account for the expression of feelings which I might find it impossible
to suppress.--Hark--hark!--I hear the tread of a horse--No--it was the
changeful sound of the water rushing over the pebbles. Surely she cannot
have taken the other road to Shaws-Castle!--No--the sounds become
distinct--her figure is visible on the path, coming swiftly
forward.--Have I the courage to show myself?--I have--the hour is come,
and what must be shall be."

Yet this resolution was scarcely formed ere it began to fluctuate, when
he reflected upon the fittest manner of carrying it into execution. To
show himself at a distance, might give the lady an opportunity of
turning back and avoiding the interview which he had determined upon--to
hide himself till the moment when her horse, in rapid motion, should
pass his lurking-place, might be attended with danger to the rider--and
while he hesitated which course to pursue, there was some chance of his
missing the opportunity of presenting himself to Miss Mowbray at all. He
was himself sensible of this, formed a hasty and desperate resolution
not to suffer the present moment to escape, and, just as the ascent
induced the pony to slacken its pace, Tyrrel stood in the middle of the
defile, about six yards distant from the young lady.

She pulled up the reins, and stopped as if arrested by a
thunderbolt.--"Clara!"--"Tyrrel!" These were the only words which were
exchanged between them, until Tyrrel, moving his feet as slowly as if
they had been of lead, began gradually to diminish the distance which
lay betwixt them. It was then that, observing his closer approach, Miss
Mowbray called out with great eagerness,--"No nearer--no nearer!--So
long have I endured your presence, but if you approach me more closely,
I shall be mad indeed!"

"What do you fear?" said Tyrrel, in a hollow voice--"What can you fear?"
and he continued to draw nearer, until they were within a pace of each
other.

Clara, meanwhile, dropping her bridle, clasped her hands together, and
held them up towards Heaven, muttering, in a voice scarcely audible,
"Great God!--If this apparition be formed by my heated fancy, let it
pass away; if it be real, enable me to bear its presence!--Tell me, I
conjure you, are you Francis Tyrrel in blood and body, or is this but
one of those wandering visions, that have crossed my path and glared on
me, but without daring to abide my steadfast glance?"

"I am Francis Tyrrel," answered he, "in blood and body, as much as she
to whom I speak is Clara Mowbray."

"Then God have mercy on us both!" said Clara, in a tone of deep feeling.

"Amen!" said Tyrrel.--"But what avails this excess of agitation?--You
saw me but now, Miss Mowbray--Your voice still rings in my ears--You saw
me but now--you spoke to me--and that when I was among strangers--Why
not preserve your composure, when we are where no human eye can see--no
human ear can hear?"

"Is it so?" said Clara; "and was it indeed yourself whom I saw even
now?--I thought so, and something I said at the time--but my brain has
been but ill settled since we last met--But I am well now--quite well--I
have invited all the people yonder to come to Shaws-Castle--my brother
desired me to do it--I hope I shall have the pleasure of seeing Mr.
Tyrrel there--though I think there is some old grudge between my brother
and you."

"Alas! Clara, you mistake. Your brother I have scarcely seen," replied
Tyrrel, much distressed, and apparently uncertain in what tone to
address her, which might soothe, and not irritate her mental malady, of
which he could now entertain no doubt.

"True--true," she said, after a moment's reflection, "my brother was
then at college. It was my father, my poor father, whom you had some
quarrel with.--But you will come to Shaws-Castle on Thursday, at two
o'clock?--John will be glad to see you--he can be kind when he
pleases--and then we will talk of old times--I must get on, to have
things ready--Good evening."

She would have passed him, but he took gently hold of the rein of her
bridle.--"I will walk with you, Clara," he said; "the road is rough and
dangerous--you ought not to ride fast.--I will walk along with you, and
we will talk of former times now, more conveniently than in company."

"True--true--very true, Mr. Tyrrel--it shall be as you say. My brother
obliges me sometimes to go into company at that hateful place down
yonder; and I do so because he likes it, and because the folks let me
have my own way, and come and go as I list. Do you know, Tyrrel, that
very often when I am there, and John has his eye on me, I can carry it
on as gaily as if you and I had never met?"

"I would to God we never had," said Tyrrel, in a trembling voice, "since
this is to be the end of all!"

"And wherefore should not sorrow be the end of sin and of folly? And
when did happiness come of disobedience?--And when did sound sleep visit
a bloody pillow? That is what I say to myself, Tyrrel, and that is what
you must learn to say too, and then you will bear your burden as
cheerfully as I endure mine. If we have no more than our deserts, why
should we complain?--You are shedding tears, I think--Is not that
childish?--They say it is a relief--if so, weep on, and I will look
another way."

Tyrrel walked on by the pony's side, in vain endeavouring to compose
himself so as to reply.

"Poor Tyrrel," said Clara, after she had remained silent for some
time--"Poor Frank Tyrrel!--Perhaps you will say in your turn, Poor
Clara--but I am not so poor in spirit as you--the blast may bend, but it
shall never break me."

There was another long pause; for Tyrrel was unable to determine with
himself in what strain he could address the unfortunate young lady,
without awakening recollections equally painful to her feelings, and
dangerous, when her precarious state of health was considered. At length
she herself proceeded:--

"What needs all this, Tyrrel?--and indeed, why came you here?--Why did I
find you but now brawling and quarrelling among the loudest of the
brawlers and quarrellers of yonder idle and dissipated debauchees?--You
were used to have more temper--more sense. Another person--ay, another
that you and I once knew--he might have committed such a folly, and he
would have acted perhaps in character.--But you, who pretend to
wisdom--for shame, for shame!--And indeed, when we talk of that, what
wisdom was there in coming hither at all?--or what good purpose can your
remaining here serve?--Surely you need not come, either to renew your
own unhappiness or to augment mine?"

"To augment yours--God forbid!" answered Tyrrel. "No--I came hither only
because, after so many years of wandering, I longed to revisit the spot
where all my hopes lay buried."

"Ay--buried is the word," she replied, "crushed down and buried when
they budded fairest. I often think of it, Tyrrel; and there are times
when, Heaven help me! I can think of little else.--Look at me--you
remember what I was--see what grief and solitude have made me."

She flung back the veil which surrounded her riding-hat, and which had
hitherto hid her face. It was the same countenance which he had formerly
known in all the bloom of early beauty; but though the beauty remained,
the bloom was fled for ever. Not the agitation of exercise--not that
which arose from the pain and confusion of this unexpected interview,
had called to poor Clara's cheek even the momentary semblance of colour.
Her complexion was marble-white, like that of the finest piece of
statuary.

"Is it possible?" said Tyrrel; "can grief have made such ravages?"

"Grief," replied Clara, "is the sickness of the mind, and its sister is
the sickness of the body--they are twin-sisters, Tyrrel, and are seldom
long separate. Sometimes the body's disease comes first, and dims our
eyes and palsies our hands, before the fire of our mind and of our
intellect is quenched. But mark me--soon after comes her cruel sister
with her urn, and sprinkles cold dew on our hopes and on our loves, our
memory, our recollections, and our feelings, and shows us that they
cannot survive the decay of our bodily powers."

"Alas!" said Tyrrel, "is it come to this?"

"To this," she replied, speaking from the rapid and irregular train of
her own ideas, rather than comprehending the purport of his sorrowful
exclamation,--"to this it must ever come, while immortal souls are
wedded to the perishable substance of which our bodies are composed.
There is another state, Tyrrel, in which it will be otherwise--God grant
our time of enjoying it were come!"

She fell into a melancholy pause, which Tyrrel was afraid to disturb.
The quickness with which she spoke, marked but too plainly the irregular
succession of thought, and he was obliged to restrain the agony of his
own feelings, rendered more acute by a thousand painful recollections,
lest, by giving way to his expressions of grief, he should throw her
into a still more disturbed state of mind.

"I did not think," she proceeded, "that after so horrible a separation,
and so many years, I could have met you thus calmly and reasonably. But
although what we were formerly to each other can never be forgotten, it
is now all over, and we are only friends--Is it not so?"

Tyrrel was unable to reply.

"But I must not remain here," she said, "till the evening grows darker
on me.--We shall meet again, Tyrrel--meet as friends--nothing more--You
will come up to Shaws-Castle and see me?--no need of secrecy now--my
poor father is in his grave, and his prejudices sleep with him--my
brother John is kind, though he is stern and severe sometimes--Indeed,
Tyrrel, I believe he loves me, though he has taught me to tremble at his
frown when I am in spirits, and talk too much--But he loves me, at least
I think so, for I am sure I love him; and I try to go down amongst them
yonder, and to endure their folly, and, all things considered, I do
carry on the farce of life wonderfully well--We are but actors, you
know, and the world but a stage."

"And ours has been a sad and tragic scene," said Tyrrel, in the
bitterness of his heart, unable any longer to refrain from speech.

"It has indeed--but, Tyrrel, when was it otherwise with engagements
formed in youth and in folly? You and I would, you know, become men and
women, while we were yet scarcely more than children--We have run, while
yet in our nonage, through the passions and adventures of youth, and
therefore we are now old before our day, and the winter of our life has
come on ere its summer was well begun.--O Tyrrel! often and often have I
thought of this!--Thought of it often? Alas, when will the time come
that I shall be able to think of any thing else!"

The poor young woman sobbed bitterly, and her tears began to flow with a
freedom which they had not probably enjoyed for a length of time. Tyrrel
walked on by the side of her horse, which now prosecuted its road
homewards, unable to devise a proper mode of addressing the unfortunate
young lady, and fearing alike to awaken her passions and his own.
Whatever he might have proposed to say, was disconcerted by the plain
indications that her mind was clouded, more or less slightly, with a
shade of insanity, which deranged, though it had not destroyed, her
powers of judgment.

At length he asked her, with as much calmness as he could assume--if she
was contented--if aught could be done to render her situation more
easy--if there was aught of which she could complain which he might be
able to remedy? She answered gently, that she was calm and resigned,
when her brother would permit her to stay at home; but that when she was
brought into society, she experienced such a change as that which the
water of the brook that slumbers in a crystalline pool of the rock may
be supposed to feel, when, gliding from its quiet bed, it becomes
involved in the hurry of the cataract.

"But my brother Mowbray," she said, "thinks he is right,--and perhaps he
is so. There are things on which we may ponder too long;--and were he
mistaken, why should I not constrain myself in order to please
him--there are so few left to whom I can now give either pleasure or
pain?--I am a gay girl, too, in conversation, Tyrrel--still as gay for a
moment, as when you used to chide me for my folly. So, now I have told
you all,--I have one question to ask on my part--one question--if I had
but breath to ask it--Is _he_ still alive?"

"He lives," answered Tyrrel, but in a tone so low, that nought but the
eager attention which Miss Mowbray paid could possibly have caught such
feeble sounds.

"Lives!" she exclaimed,--"lives!--he lives, and the blood on your hand
is not then indelibly imprinted--O Tyrrel, did you but know the joy
which this assurance gives to me!"

"Joy!" replied Tyrrel--"joy, that the wretch lives who has poisoned our
happiness for ever?--lives, perhaps, to claim you for his own?"

"Never, never shall he--dare he do so," replied Clara, wildly, "while
water can drown, while cords can strangle, steel pierce--while there is
a precipice on the hill, a pool in the river--never--never!"

"Be not thus agitated, my dearest Clara," said Tyrrel; "I spoke I know
not what--he lives indeed--but far distant, and, I trust, never again to
revisit Scotland."

He would have said more, but that, agitated with fear or passion, she
struck her horse impatiently with her riding-whip. The spirited animal,
thus stimulated and at the same time restrained, became intractable, and
reared so much, that Tyrrel, fearful of the consequences, and trusting
to Clara's skill as a horsewoman, thought he best consulted her safety
in letting go the rein. The animal instantly sprung forward on the
broken and hilly path at a very rapid pace, and was soon lost to
Tyrrel's anxious eyes.

As he stood pondering whether he ought not to follow Miss Mowbray
towards Shaws-Castle, in order to be satisfied that no accident had
befallen her on the road, he heard the tread of a horse's feet advancing
hastily in the same direction, leading from the hotel. Unwilling to be
observed at this moment, he stepped aside under shelter of the
underwood, and presently afterwards saw Mr. Mowbray of St. Ronan's,
followed by a groom, ride hastily past his lurking-place, and pursue the
same road which had been just taken by his sister. The presence of her
brother seemed to assure Miss Mowbray's safety, and so removed Tyrrel's
chief reason for following her. Involved in deep and melancholy
reflection upon what had passed, nearly satisfied that his longer
residence in Clara's vicinity could only add to her unhappiness and his
own, yet unable to tear himself from that neighbourhood, or to
relinquish feelings which had become entwined with his heart-strings, he
returned to his lodgings in the Aultoun, in a state of mind very little
to be envied.

Tyrrel, on entering his apartment, found that it was not lighted, nor
were the Abigails of Mrs. Dods quite so alert as a waiter at Long's
might have been, to supply him with candles. Unapt at any time to exact
much personal attendance, and desirous to shun at that moment the
necessity of speaking to any person whatever, even on the most trifling
subject, he walked down into the kitchen to supply himself with what he
wanted. He did not at first observe that Mrs. Dods herself was present
in this the very centre of her empire, far less that a lofty air of
indignation was seated on the worthy matron's brow. At first it only
vented itself in broken soliloquy and interjections; as, for example,
"Vera bonny wark this!--vera creditable wark, indeed!--a decent house to
be disturbed at these hours--Keep a public--as weel keep a bedlam!"

Finding these murmurs attracted no attention, the dame placed herself
betwixt her guest and the door, to which he was now retiring with his
lighted candle, and demanded of him what was the meaning of such
behaviour.

"Of what behaviour, madam?" said her guest, repeating her question in a
tone of sternness and impatience so unusual with him, that perhaps she
was sorry at the moment that she had provoked him out of his usual
patient indifference; nay, she might even feel intimidated at the
altercation she had provoked, for the resentment of a quiet and patient
person has always in it something formidable to the professed and
habitual grumbler. But her pride was too great to think of a retreat,
after having sounded the signal for contest, and so she continued,
though in a tone somewhat lowered.

"Maister Tirl, I wad but just ask you, that are a man of sense, whether
I hae ony right to take your behaviour weel? Here have you been these
ten days and mair, eating the best, and drinking the best, and taking up
the best room in my house; and now to think of your gaun doun and taking
up with yon idle harebrained cattle at the Waal--I maun e'en be plain
wi' ye--I like nane of the fair-fashioned folk that can say My Jo and
think it no; and therefore"----

"Mrs. Dods," said Tyrrel, interrupting her, "I have no time at present
for trifles. I am obliged to you for your attention while I have been in
your house; but the disposal of my time, here or elsewhere, must be
according to my own ideas of pleasure or business--If you are tired of
me as a guest, send in your bill to-morrow."

"My bill!" said Mrs. Dods; "my bill to-morrow! And what for no wait till
Saturday, when it may be cleared atween us, plack and bawbee, as it was
on Saturday last?"

"Well--we will talk of it to-morrow, Mrs. Dods--Good-night." And he
withdrew accordingly.

Luckie Dods stood ruminating for a moment. "The deil's in him," she
said, "for he winna bide being thrawn. And I think the deil's in me too
for thrawing him, sic a canny lad, and sae gude a customer;--and I am
judging he has something on his mind--want of siller it canna be--I am
sure if I thought that, I wadna care about my small thing.--But want o'
siller it canna be--he pays ower the shillings as if they were sclate
stanes, and that's no the way that folk part with their siller when
there's but little on't--I ken weel eneugh how a customer looks that's
near the grund of the purse.--Weel! I hope he winna mind ony thing of
this nonsense the morn, and I'll try to guide my tongue something
better.--Hegh, sirs! but, as the minister says, it's an unruly
member--troth, I am whiles ashamed o't mysell."



CHAPTER X.

RESOURCES.

    Come, let me have thy counsel, for I need it;
    Thou art of those, who better help their friends
    With sage advice, than usurers with gold,
    Or brawlers with their swords--I'll trust to thee,
    For I ask only from thee words, not deeds.

_The Devil hath met his Match._


The day of which we last gave the events chanced to be Monday, and two
days therefore intervened betwixt it and that for which the
entertainment was fixed, that was to assemble in the halls of the Lord
of the Manor the flower of the company now at St. Ronan's Well. The
interval was but brief for the preparations necessary on an occasion so
unusual; since the house, though delightfully situated, was in very
indifferent repair, and for years had never received any visitors,
except when some blithe bachelor or fox-hunter shared the hospitality of
Mr. Mowbray; an event which became daily more and more uncommon; for, as
he himself almost lived at the Well, he generally contrived to receive
his companions where it could be done without expense to himself.
Besides, the health of his sister afforded an irresistible apology to
any of those old-fashioned Scottish gentlemen, who might be too apt (in
the rudeness of more primitive days) to consider a friend's house as
their own. Mr. Mowbray was now, however, to the great delight of all
his companions, nailed down, by invitation given and accepted, and they
looked forward to the accomplishment of his promise, with the eagerness
which the prospect of some entertaining novelty never fails to produce
among idlers.

A good deal of trouble devolved on Mr. Mowbray, and his trusty agent Mr.
Meiklewham, before any thing like decent preparation could be made for
the ensuing entertainment; and they were left to their unassisted
endeavours by Clara, who, during both the Tuesday and Wednesday,
obstinately kept herself secluded; nor could her brother, either by
threats or flattery, extort from her any light concerning her purpose on
the approaching and important Thursday. To do John Mowbray justice, he
loved his sister as much as he was capable of loving any thing but
himself; and when, in several arguments, he had the mortification to
find that she was not to be prevailed on to afford her assistance, he,
without complaint, quietly set himself to do the best he could by his
own unassisted judgment or opinion with regard to the necessary
preparations.

This was not, at present, so easy a task as might be supposed: for
Mowbray was ambitious of that character of _ton_ and elegance, which
masculine faculties alone are seldom capable of attaining on such
momentous occasions. The more solid materials of a collation were indeed
to be obtained for money from the next market-town, and were purchased
accordingly; but he felt it was likely to present the vulgar plenty of a
farmer's feast, instead of the elegant entertainment, which might be
announced in a corner of the county paper, as given by John Mowbray,
Esq. of St. Ronan's, to the gay and fashionable company assembled at
that celebrated spring. There was likely to be all sorts of error and
irregularity in dishing, and in sending up; for Shaws-Castle boasted
neither an accomplished housekeeper, nor a kitchenmaid with a hundred
pair of hands to execute her mandates. All the domestic arrangements
were on the minutest system of economy consistent with ordinary decency,
except in the stables, which were excellent and well kept. But can a
groom of the stables perform the labours of a groom of the chambers? or
can the gamekeeper arrange in tempting order the carcasses of the birds
he has shot, strew them with flowers, and garnish them with piquant
sauces? It would be as reasonable to expect a gallant soldier to act as
undertaker, and conduct the funeral of the enemy he has slain.

In a word, Mowbray talked, and consulted, and advised, and squabbled,
with the deaf cook, and a little old man whom he called the butler,
until he at length perceived so little chance of bringing order out of
confusion, or making the least advantageous impression on such obdurate
understandings as he had to deal with, that he fairly committed the
whole matter of the collation, with two or three hearty curses, to the
charge of the officials principally concerned, and proceeded to take the
state of the furniture and apartments under his consideration.

Here he found himself almost equally helpless; for what male wit is
adequate to the thousand little coquetries practised in such
arrangements? how can masculine eyes judge of the degree of _demi-jour_
which is to be admitted into a decorated apartment, or discriminate
where the broad light should be suffered to fall on a tolerable picture,
where it should be excluded, lest the stiff daub of a periwigged
grandsire should become too rigidly prominent? And if men are unfit for
weaving such a fairy web of light and darkness as may best suit
furniture, ornaments, and complexions, how shall they be adequate to the
yet more mysterious office of arranging, while they disarrange, the
various movables in the apartment? so that while all has the air of
negligence and chance, the seats are placed as if they had been
transported by a wish to the spot most suitable for accommodation;
stiffness and confusion are at once avoided, the company are neither
limited to a formal circle of chairs, nor exposed to break their noses
over wandering stools; but the arrangements seem to correspond to what
ought to be the tone of the conversation, easy, without being confused,
and regulated, without being constrained or stiffened.

Then how can a clumsy male wit attempt the arrangement of all the
_chiffonerie_, by which old snuff-boxes, heads of canes, pomander boxes,
lamer beads, and all the trash usually found in the pigeon-holes of the
bureaus of old-fashioned ladies, may be now brought into play, by
throwing them, carelessly grouped with other unconsidered trifles, such
as are to be seen in the windows of a pawnbroker's shop, upon a marble
_encognure_, or a mosaic work-table, thereby turning to advantage the
trash and trinketry, which all the old maids or magpies, who have
inhabited the mansion for a century, have contrived to accumulate. With
what admiration of the ingenuity of the fair artist have I sometimes
pried into these miscellaneous groups of _pseudo-bijouterie_, and seen
the great grandsire's thumb-ring couchant with the coral and bells of
the first-born--and the boatswain's whistle of some old naval uncle, or
his silver tobacco-box, redolent of Oroonoko, happily grouped with the
mother's ivory comb-case, still odorous of musk, and with some virgin
aunt's tortoise-shell spectacle-case, and the eagle's talon of ebony,
with which, in the days of long and stiff stays, our grandmothers were
wont to alleviate any little irritation in their back or shoulders! Then
there was the silver strainer, on which, in more economical times than
ours, the lady of the house placed the tea-leaves, after the very last
drop had been exhausted, that they might afterwards be hospitably
divided among the company, to be eaten with sugar, and with bread and
butter. Blessings upon a fashion which has rescued from the claws of
abigails, and the melting-pot of the silversmith, those neglected
_cimelia_, for the benefit of antiquaries and the decoration of
side-tables! But who shall presume to place them there, unless under the
direction of female taste? and of that Mr. Mowbray, though possessed of
a large stock of such treasures, was for the present entirely deprived.

This digression upon his difficulties is already too long, or I might
mention the Laird's inexperience in the art of making the worse appear
the better garnishment, of hiding a darned carpet with a new
floor-cloth, and flinging an Indian shawl over a faded and threadbare
sofa. But I have said enough, and more than enough, to explain his
dilemma to an unassisted bachelor, who, without mother, sister, or
cousin, without skilful housekeeper, or experienced clerk of the
kitchen, or valet of parts and figure, adventures to give an
entertainment, and aspires to make it elegant and _comme il faut_.

The sense of his insufficiency was the more vexatious to Mowbray, as he
was aware he would find sharp critics in the ladies, and particularly in
his constant rival, Lady Penelope Penfeather. He was, therefore,
incessant in his exertions; and for two whole days ordered and
disordered, demanded, commanded, countermanded, and reprimanded, without
pause or cessation. The companion, for he could not be termed an
assistant, of his labours, was his trusty agent, who trotted from room
to room after him, affording him exactly the same degree of sympathy
which a dog doth to his master when distressed in mind, by looking in
his face from time to time with a piteous gaze, as if to assure him that
he partakes of his trouble, though he neither comprehends the cause or
the extent of it, nor has in the slightest degree the power to remove
it.

At length when Mowbray had got some matters arranged to his mind, and
abandoned a great many which he would willingly have put in better
order, he sat down to dinner upon the Wednesday preceding the appointed
day, with his worthy aide-de-camp, Mr. Meiklewham; and after bestowing a
few muttered curses upon the whole concern, and the fantastic old maid
who had brought him into the scrape, by begging an invitation, declared
that all things might now go to the devil their own way, for so sure as
his name was John Mowbray, he would trouble himself no more about them.

Keeping this doughty resolution, he sat down to dinner with his counsel
learned in the law; and speedily they dispatched the dish of chops which
was set before them, and the better part of the bottle of old port,
which served for its menstruum.

"We are well enough now," said Mowbray, "though we have had none of
their d----d kickshaws."

"A wamefou' is a wamefou'," said the writer, swabbing his greasy chops,
"whether it be of the barleymeal or the bran."

"A cart-horse thinks so," said Mowbray; "but we must do as others do,
and gentlemen and ladies are of a different opinion."

"The waur for themselves and the country baith, St. Ronan's--it's the
jinketing and the jirbling wi' tea and wi' trumpery that brings our
nobles to nine-pence, and mony a het ha'-house to a hired lodging in the
Abbey."

The young gentleman paused for a few minutes--filled a bumper, and
pushed the bottle to the senior--then said abruptly, "Do you believe in
luck, Mick?"

"In luck?" answered the attorney; "what do you mean by the question?"

"Why, because I believe in luck myself--in a good or bad run of luck at
cards."

"You wad have mair luck the day, if you had never touched them," replied
his confident.

"That is not the question now," said Mowbray; "but what I wonder at is
the wretched chance that has attended us miserable Lairds of St. Ronan's
for more than a hundred years, that we have always been getting worse in
the world, and never better. Never has there been such a backsliding
generation, as the parson would say--half the country once belonged to
my ancestors, and now the last furrows of it seem to be flying."

"Fleeing!" said the writer, "they are barking and fleeing baith.--This
Shaws-Castle here, I'se warrant it flee up the chimney after the rest,
were it not weel fastened down with your grandfather's tailzie."

"Damn the tailzie!" said Mowbray; "if they had meant to keep up their
estate, they should have entailed it when it was worth keeping: to tie a
man down to such an insignificant thing as St. Ronan's, is like
tethering a horse on six roods of a Highland moor."

"Ye have broke weel in on the mailing by your feus down at the Well,"
said Meiklewham, "and raxed ower the tether maybe a wee bit farther than
ye had ony right to do."

"It was by your advice, was it not?" said the Laird.

"I'se ne'er deny it, St. Ronan's," answered the writer; "but I am such a
gude-natured guse, that I just set about pleasing you as an auld wife
pleases a bairn."

"Ay," said the man of pleasure, "when she reaches it a knife to cut its
own fingers with.--These acres would have been safe enough, if it had
not been for your d----d advice."

"And yet you were grumbling e'en now," said the man of business, "that
you have not the power to gar the whole estate flee like a wild-duck
across a bog? Troth, you need care little about it; for if you have
incurred an irritancy--and sae thinks Mr. Wisebehind, the advocate, upon
an A. B. memorial that I laid before him--your sister, or your sister's
goodman, if she should take the fancy to marry, might bring a
declarator, and evict St. Ronan's frae ye in the course of twa or three
sessions."

"My sister will never marry," said John Mowbray.

"That's easily said," replied the writer; "but as broken a ship's come
to land. If ony body kend o' the chance she has o' the estate, there's
mony a weel-doing man would think little of the bee in her bonnet."

"Harkye, Mr. Meiklewham," said the Laird, "I will be obliged to you if
you will speak of Miss Mowbray with the respect due to her father's
daughter, and my sister."

"Nae offence, St. Ronan's, nae offence," answered the man of law; "but
ilka man maun speak sae as to be understood,--that is, when he speaks
about business. Ye ken yoursell, that Miss Clara is no just like other
folk; and were I you--it's my duty to speak plain--I wad e'en gie in a
bit scroll of a petition to the Lords, to be appointed Curator Bonis, in
respect of her incapacity to manage her own affairs."

"Meiklewham," said Mowbray, "you are a"----and then stopped short.

"What am I, Mr. Mowbray?" said Meiklewham, somewhat sternly--"What am I?
I wad be glad to ken what I am."

"A very good lawyer, I dare say," replied St. Ronan's, who was too much
in the power of his agent to give way to his first impulse. "But I must
tell you, that rather than take such a measure against poor Clara, as
you recommend, I would give her up the estate, and become an ostler or a
postilion for the rest of my life."

"Ah, St. Ronan's," said the man of law, "if you had wished to keep up
the auld house, you should have taken another trade, than to become an
ostler or a postilion. What ailed you, man, but to have been a lawyer as
weel as other folk? My auld Maister had a wee bit Latin about _rerum
dominos gentemque togatam_, whilk signified, he said, that all lairds
should be lawyers."

"All lawyers are likely to become lairds, I think," replied Mowbray;
"they purchase our acres by the thousand, and pay us, according to the
old story, with a multiplepoinding, as your learned friends call it, Mr.
Meiklewham."

"Weel--and mightna you have purchased as weel as other folk?"

"Not I," replied the Laird; "I have no turn for that service, I should
only have wasted bombazine on my shoulders, and flour upon my
three-tailed wig--should but have lounged away my mornings in the
Outer-House, and my evenings at the play-house, and acquired no more law
than what would have made me a wise justice at a Small-debt Court."

"If you gained little, you would have lost as little," said Meiklewham;
"and albeit ye were nae great gun at the bar, ye might aye have gotten a
Sheriffdom, or a Commissaryship, amang the lave, to keep the banes
green; and sae ye might have saved your estate from deteriorating, if ye
didna mend it muckle."

"Yes, but I could not have had the chance of doubling it, as I might
have done," answered Mowbray, "had that inconstant jade, Fortune, but
stood a moment faithful to me. I tell you, Mick, that I have been,
within this twelvemonth, worth a hundred thousand--worth fifty
thousand--worth nothing, but the remnant of this wretched estate, which
is too little to do one good while it is mine, though, were it sold, I
could start again, and mend my hand a little."

"Ay, ay, just fling the helve after the hatchet," said his legal
adviser--"that's a' you think of. What signifies winning a hundred
thousand pounds, if you win them to lose them a' again?"

"What signifies it?" replied Mowbray. "Why, it signifies as much to a
man of spirit, as having won a battle signifies to a general--no matter
that he is beaten afterwards in his turn, he knows there is luck for him
as well as others, and so he has spirit to try it again. Here is the
young Earl of Etherington will be amongst us in a day or two--they say
he is up to every thing--if I had but five hundred to begin with, I
should be soon up to him."

"Mr. Mowbray," said Meiklewham, "I am sorry for ye. I have been your
house's man-of-business--I may say, in some measure, your house's
servant--and now I am to see an end of it all, and just by the lad that
I thought maist likely to set it up again better than ever; for, to do
ye justice, you have aye had an ee to your ain interest, sae far as your
lights gaed. It brings tears into my auld een."

"Never weep for the matter, Mick," answered Mowbray; "some of it will
stick, my old boy, in your pockets, if not in mine--your service will
not be altogether gratuitous, my old friend--the labourer is worthy of
his hire."

"Weel I wot is he," said the writer; "but double fees would hardly carry
folk through some wark. But if ye will have siller, ye maun have
siller--but, I warrant, it goes just where the rest gaed."

"No, by twenty devils!" exclaimed Mowbray, "to fail this time is
impossible--Jack Wolverine was too strong for Etherington at any thing
he could name; and I can beat Wolverine from the Land's-End to Johnnie
Groat's--but there must be something to go upon--the blunt must be had,
Mick."

"Very likely--nae doubt--that is always provided it _can_ be had,"
answered the legal adviser.

"That's your business, my old cock," said Mowbray. "This youngster will
be here perhaps to-morrow, with money in both pockets--he takes up his
rents as he comes down, Mick--think of that, my old friend."

"Weel for them that have rents to take up," said Meiklewham; "ours are
lying rather ower low to be lifted at present.--But are you sure this
Earl is a man to mell with?--are you sure ye can win of him, and that if
you do, he can pay his losings, Mr. Mowbray?--because I have kend mony
are come for wool, and gang hame shorn; and though ye are a clever young
gentleman, and I am bound to suppose ye ken as much about life as most
folk, and all that; yet some gate or other ye have aye come off at the
losing hand, as ye have ower much reason to ken this day--howbeit"----

"O, the devil take your gossip, my dear Mick! If you can give no help,
spare drowning me with your pother.--Why, man, I was a fresh hand--had
my apprentice-fees to pay--and these are no trifles, Mick.--But what of
that?--I am free of the company now, and can trade on my own bottom."

"Aweel, aweel, I wish it may be sae," said Meiklewham.

"It will be so, and it shall be so, my trusty friend," replied Mowbray,
cheerily, "so you will but help me to the stock to trade with."

"The stock?--what d'ye ca' the stock? I ken nae stock that ye have
left."

"But _you_ have plenty, my old boy--Come, sell out a few of your three
per cents; I will pay difference--interest--exchange--every thing."

"Ay, ay--every thing or naething," answered Meiklewham; "but as you are
sae very pressing, I hae been thinking--Whan is the siller wanted?"

"This instant--this day--to-morrow at farthest!" exclaimed the proposed
borrower.

"Wh--ew!" whistled the lawyer, with a long prolongation of the note;
"the thing is impossible."

"It must be, Mick, for all that," answered Mr. Mowbray, who knew by
experience that _impossible_, when uttered by his accommodating friend
in this tone, meant only, when interpreted, extremely difficult, and
very expensive.

"Then it must be by Miss Clara selling her stock, now that ye speak of
stock," said Meiklewham; "I wonder ye didna think of this before."

"I wish you had been dumb rather than that you had mentioned it now,"
said Mowbray, starting, as if stung by an adder--"What, Clara's
pittance!--the trifle my aunt left her for her own fanciful
expenses--her own little private store, that she puts to so many good
purposes--Poor Clara, that has so little!--And why not rather your own,
Master Meiklewham, who call yourself the friend and servant of our
family?"

"Ay, St. Ronan's," answered Meiklewham, "that is a' very true--but
service is nae inheritance; and as for friendship, it begins at hame, as
wise folk have said lang before our time. And for that matter, I think
they that are nearest sib should take maist risk. You are nearer and
dearer to your sister, St. Ronan's, than you are to poor Saunders
Meiklewham, that hasna sae muckle gentle blood as would supper up an
hungry flea."

"I will not do this," said St. Ronan's, walking up and down with much
agitation; for, selfish as he was, he loved his sister, and loved her
the more on account of those peculiarities which rendered his protection
indispensable to her comfortable existence--"I will not," he said,
"pillage her, come on't what will. I will rather go a volunteer to the
continent, and die like a gentleman."

He continued to pace the room in a moody silence, which began to disturb
his companion, who had not been hitherto accustomed to see his patron
take matters so deeply. At length he made an attempt to attract the
attention of the silent and sullen ponderer.

"Mr. Mowbray"--no answer--"I was saying, St. Ronan's"--still no reply.
"I have been thinking about this matter--and"----

"And _what_, sir?" said St. Ronan's, stopping short, and speaking in a
stern tone of voice.

"And, to speak truth, I see little feasibility in the matter ony way;
for if ye had the siller in your pocket to-day, it would be a' in the
Earl of Etherington's the morn."

"Pshaw! you are a fool," answered Mowbray.

"That is not unlikely," said Meiklewham; "but so is Sir Bingo Binks, and
yet he's had the better of you, St. Ronan's, this twa or three times."

"It is false!--he has not," answered St. Ronan's, fiercely.

"Weel I wot," resumed Meiklewham, "he took you in about the saumon fish,
and some other wager ye lost to him this very day."

"I tell you once more, Meiklewham, you are a fool, and no more up to my
trim than you are to the longitude.--Bingo is got shy--I must give him
a little line, that is all--then I shall strike him to purpose--I am as
sure of him as I am of the other--I know the fly they will both rise
to--this cursed want of five hundred will do me out of ten thousand!"

"If you are so certain of being the bangster--so very certain, I mean,
of sweeping stakes,--what harm will Miss Clara come to by your having
the use of her siller? You can make it up to her for the risk ten times
told."

"And so I can, by Heaven!" said St. Ronan's. "Mick, you are right, and I
am a scrupulous, chicken-hearted fool. Clara shall have a thousand for
her poor five hundred--she shall, by ----. And I will carry her to
Edinburgh for a season, or perhaps to London, and we will have the best
advice for her case, and the best company to divert her. And if they
think her a little odd--why, d---- me, I am her brother, and will bear
her through it. Yes--yes--you're right; there can be no hurt in
borrowing five hundred of her for a few days, when such profit may be
made on't, both for her and me.--Here, fill the glasses, my old boy, and
drink success to it, for you are right."

"Here is success to it, with all my heart," answered Meiklewham,
heartily glad to see his patron's sanguine temper arrive at this
desirable conclusion, and yet willing to hedge in his own credit; "but
it is _you_ are right, and not _me_, for I advise nothing except on your
assurances, that you can make your ain of this English earl, and of this
Sir Bingo--and if you can but do that, I am sure it would be unwise and
unkind in ony ane of your friends to stand in your light."

"True, Mick, true," answered Mowbray.--"And yet dice and cards are but
bones and pasteboard, and the best horse ever started may slip a
shoulder before he get to the winning-post--and so I wish Clara's
venture had not been in such a bottom.--But, hang it, care killed a
cat--I can hedge as well as any one, if the odds turn up against me--so
let us have the cash, Mick."

"Aha! but there go two words to that bargain--the stock stands in my
name, and Tam Turnpenny the banker's, as trustees for Miss Clara--Now,
get you her letter to us, desiring us to sell out and to pay you the
proceeds, and Tam Turnpenny will let you have five hundred pounds
_instanter_, on the faith of the transaction; for I fancy you would
desire a' the stock to be sold out, and it will produce more than six
hundred, or seven hundred pounds either--and I reckon you will be
selling out the whole--it's needless making twa bites of a cherry."

"True," answered Mowbray; "since we must be rogues, or something like
it, let us make it worth our while at least; so give me a form of the
letter, and Clara shall copy it--that is, if she consents; for you know
she can keep her own opinion as well as any other woman in the world."

"And that," said Meiklewham, "is as the wind will keep its way, preach
to it as ye like. But if I might advise about Miss Clara--I wad say
naething mair than that I was stressed for the penny money; for I
mistake her muckle if she would like to see you ganging to pitch and
toss wi' this lord and tither baronet for her aunt's three per cents--I
ken she has some queer notions--she gies away the feck of the dividends
on that very stock in downright charity."

"And I am in hazard to rob the poor as well as my sister!" said Mowbray,
filling once more his own glass and his friend's. "Come, Mick, no
sky-lights--here is Clara's health--she is an angel--and I am--what I
will not call myself, and suffer no other man to call me.--But I shall
win this time--I am sure I shall, since Clara's fortune depends upon
it."

"Now, I think, on the other hand," said Meiklewham, "that if any thing
should chance wrang, (and Heaven kens that the best-laid schemes will
gang ajee,) it will be a great comfort to think that the ultimate losers
will only be the poor folk, that have the parish between them and
absolute starvation--if your sister spent her ain siller, it would be a
very different story."

"Hush, Mick--for God's sake, hush, mine honest friend," said Mowbray;
"it is quite true; thou art a rare counsellor in time of need, and hast
as happy a manner of reconciling a man's conscience with his
necessities, as might set up a score of casuists; but beware, my most
zealous counsellor and confessor, how you drive the nail too far--I
promise you some of the chaffing you are at just now rather abates my
pluck.--Well--give me your scroll--I will to Clara with it--though I
would rather meet the best shot in Britain, with ten paces of green sod
betwixt us." So saying, he left the apartment.



CHAPTER XI.

FRATERNAL LOVE.

    Nearest of blood should still be next in love;
    And when I see these happy children playing,
    While William gathers flowers for Ellen's ringlets,
    And Ellen dresses flies for William's angle,
    I scarce can think, that in advancing life,
    Coldness, unkindness, interest, or suspicion,
    Will e'er divide that unity so sacred,
    Which Nature bound at birth.

_Anonymous._



When Mowbray had left his dangerous adviser, in order to steer the
course which his agent had indicated, without offering to recommend it,
he went to the little parlour which his sister was wont to term her own,
and in which she spent great part of her time. It was fitted up with a
sort of fanciful neatness; and in its perfect arrangement and good
order, formed a strong contrast to the other apartments of the old and
neglected mansion-house. A number of little articles lay on the
work-table, indicating the elegant, and, at the same time, the unsettled
turn of the inhabitant's mind. There were unfinished drawings, blotted
music, needlework of various kinds, and many other little female tasks;
all undertaken with zeal, and so far prosecuted with art and elegance,
but all flung aside before any one of them was completed.

Clara herself sat upon a little low couch by the window, reading, or at
least turning over the leaves of a book, in which she seemed to read.
But instantly starting up when she saw her brother, she ran towards him
with the most cordial cheerfulness.

"Welcome, welcome, my dear John; this is very kind of you to come to
visit your recluse sister. I have been trying to nail my eyes and my
understanding to a stupid book here, because they say too much thought
is not quite good for me. But, either the man's dulness, or my want of
the power of attending, makes my eyes pass over the page, just as one
seems to read in a dream, without being able to comprehend one word of
the matter. You shall talk to me, and that will do better. What can I
give you to show that you are welcome? I am afraid tea is all I have to
offer, and that you set too little store by."

"I shall be glad of a cup at present," said Mowbray, "for I wish to
speak with you."

"Then Jessy shall make it ready instantly," said Miss Mowbray, ringing,
and giving orders to her waiting-maid--"but you must not be ungrateful,
John, and plague me with any of the ceremonial for your
fête--'sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.' I will attend, and
play my part as prettily as you can desire; but to think of it
beforehand, would make both my head and my heart ache; and so I beg you
will spare me on the subject."

"Why, you wild kitten," said Mowbray, "you turn every day more shy of
human communication--we shall have you take the woods one day, and
become as savage as the Princess Caraboo. But I will plague you about
nothing if I can help it. If matters go not smooth on the great day,
they must e'en blame the dull thick head that had no fair lady to help
him in his need. But, Clara, I had something more material to say to
you--something indeed of the last importance."

"What is it?" said Clara, in a tone of voice approaching to a
scream--"in the name of God, what is it? You know not how you terrify
me!"

"Nay, you start at a shadow, Clara," answered her brother. "It is no
such uncommon matter neither--good faith, it is the most common distress
in the world, so far as I know the world--I am sorely pinched for
money."

"Is that all?" replied Clara, in a tone which seemed to her brother as
much to underrate the difficulty, when it was explained, as her fears
had exaggerated it before she heard its nature.

"Is that all? Indeed it is all, and comprehends a great deal of
vexation. I shall be hard run unless I can get a certain sum of
money--and I must e'en ask you if you can help me?"

"Help you?" replied Clara; "Yes, with all my heart--but you know my
purse is a light one--more than half of my last dividend is in it,
however, and I am sure, John, I shall be happy if it can serve
you--especially as that will at least show that your wants are but small
ones."

"Alas, Clara, if you would help me," said her brother, half repentant of
his purpose, "you must draw the neck of the goose which lays the golden
eggs--you must lend me the whole stock."

"And why not, John," said the simple-hearted girl, "if it will do you a
kindness? Are you not my natural guardian? Are you not a kind one? And
is not my little fortune entirely at your disposal? You will, I am
sure, do all for the best."

"I fear I may not," said Mowbray, starting from her, and more distressed
by her sudden and unsuspicious compliance, than he would have been by
difficulties, or remonstrance. In the latter case, he would have stifled
the pangs of conscience amid the manoeuvres which he must have
resorted to for obtaining her acquiescence; as matters stood, there was
all the difference that there is between slaughtering a tame and
unresisting animal, and pursuing wild game, until the animation of the
sportsman's exertions overcomes the internal sense of his own
cruelty.[I-E] The same idea occurred to Mowbray himself.

"By G--," he said, "this is like shooting the bird sitting.--Clara," he
added, "I fear this money will scarce be employed as you would wish."

"Employ it as you yourself please, my dearest brother," she replied,
"and I will believe it is all for the best."

"Nay, I am doing for the best," he replied; "at least, I am doing what
must be done, for I see no other way through it--so all you have to do
is to copy this paper, and bid adieu to bank dividends--for a little
while at least. I trust soon to double this little matter for you, if
Fortune will but stand my friend."

"Do not trust to Fortune, John," said Clara, smiling, though with an
expression of deep melancholy. "Alas! she has never been a friend to our
family--not at least for many a day."

"She favours the bold, say my old grammatical exercises," answered her
brother; "and I must trust her, were she as changeable as a
weathercock.--And yet--if she should jilt me!--What will you do--what
will you say, Clara, if I am unable, contrary to my hope, trust, and
expectation, to repay you this money within a short time?"

"Do?" replied Clara; "I must do without it, you know; and for saying, I
will not say a word."

"True," replied Mowbray, "but your little expenses--your charities--your
halt and blind--your round of paupers?"

"Well, I can manage all that too. Look you here, John, how many
half-worked trifles there are. The needle or the pencil is the resource
of all distressed heroines, you know; and I promise you, though I have
been a little idle and unsettled of late, yet, when I do set about it,
no Emmeline or Ethelinde of them all ever sent such loads of trumpery to
market as I shall, or made such wealth as I will do. I dare say Lady
Penelope, and all the gentry at the Well, will purchase, and will
raffle, and do all sort of things to encourage the pensive performer. I
will send them such lots of landscapes with sap-green trees, and
mazareen-blue rivers, and portraits that will terrify the originals
themselves--and handkerchiefs and turbans, with needlework scallopped
exactly like the walks on the Belvidere--Why, I shall become a little
fortune in the first season."

"No, Clara," said John, gravely, for a virtuous resolution had gained
the upperhand in his bosom, while his sister ran on in this manner,--"We
will do something better than all this. If this kind help of yours does
not fetch me through, I am determined I will cut the whole concern. It
is but standing a laugh or two, and hearing a gay fellow say, D---- me,
Jack, are you turned clodhopper at last?--that is the worst. Dogs,
horses, and all, shall go to the hammer; we will keep nothing but your
pony, and I will trust to a pair of excellent legs. There is enough left
of the old acres to keep us in the way you like best, and that I will
learn to like. I will work in the garden, and work in the forest, mark
my own trees, and cut them myself, keep my own accounts, and send
Saunders Meiklewham to the devil."

"That last is the best resolution of all, John," said Clara; "and if
such a day should come round, I should be the happiest of living
creatures--I should not have a grief left in the world--if I had, you
should never see or hear of it--it should lie here," she said, pressing
her hand on her bosom, "buried as deep as a funereal urn in a cold
sepulchre. Oh! could we not begin such a life to-morrow? If it is
absolutely necessary that this trifle of money should be got rid of
first, throw it into the river, and think you have lost it amongst
gamblers and horse-jockeys."

Clara's eyes, which she fondly fixed on her brother's face, glowed
through the tears which her enthusiasm called into them, while she thus
addressed him. Mowbray, on his part, kept his looks fixed on the ground,
with a flush on his cheek, that expressed at once false pride and real
shame.

At length he looked up:--"My dear girl," he said, "how foolishly you
talk, and how foolishly I, that have twenty things to do, stand here
listening to you! All will go smooth on _my_ plan--if it should not, we
have yours in reserve, and I swear to you I will adopt it. The trifle
which this letter of yours enables me to command, may have luck in it,
and we must not throw up the cards while we have a chance of the
game.--Were I to cut from this moment, these few hundreds would make us
little better or little worse--so you see we have two strings to our
bow. Luck is sometimes against me, that is true--but upon true
principle, and playing on the square, I can manage the best of them, or
my name is not Mowbray. Adieu, my dearest Clara." So saying, he kissed
her cheek with a more than usual degree of affection.

Ere he could raise himself from his stooping posture, she threw her arm
kindly over his neck, and said with a tone of the deepest interest, "My
dearest brother, your slightest wish has been, and ever shall be, a law
to me--Oh! if you would but grant me one request in return!"

"What is it, you silly girl?" said Mowbray, gently disengaging himself
from her hold.--"What is it you can have to ask that needs such a solemn
preface?--Remember, I hate prefaces; and when I happen to open a book,
always skip them."

"Without preface, then, my dearest brother, will you, for my sake, avoid
those quarrels in which the people yonder are eternally engaged? I never
go down there but I hear of some new brawl; and I never lay my head down
to sleep, but I dream that you are the victim of it. Even last
night"----

"Nay, Clara, if you begin to tell your dreams, we shall never have done.
Sleeping, to be sure, is the most serious employment of your life--for
as to eating, you hardly match a sparrow; but I entreat you to sleep
without dreaming, or to keep your visions to yourself.--Why do you keep
such fast hold of me?--What on earth can you be afraid of?--Surely you
do not think the blockhead Binks, or any other of the good folks below
yonder, dared to turn on me? Egad, I wish they would pluck up a little
mettle, that I might have an excuse for drilling them. Gad, I would soon
teach them to follow at heel."

"No, John," replied his sister; "it is not of such men as these that I
have any fear--and yet, cowards are sometimes driven to desperation, and
become more dangerous than better men--but it is not such as these that
I fear. But there are men in the world whose qualities are beyond their
seeming--whose spirit and courage lie hidden, like metals in the mine,
under an unmarked or a plain exterior.--You may meet with such--you are
rash and headlong, and apt to exercise your wit without always weighing
consequences, and thus"----

"On my word, Clara," answered Mowbray, "you are in a most sermonizing
humour this morning! the parson himself could not have been more logical
or profound. You have only to divide your discourse into heads, and
garnish it with conclusions for use, and conclusions for doctrine, and
it might be preached before a whole presbytery, with every chance of
instruction and edification. But I am a man of the world, my little
Clara; and though I wish to go in death's way as little as possible, I
must not fear the raw-head and bloody-bones neither.--And who the devil
is to put the question to me?--I must know that, Clara, for you have
some especial person in your eye when you bid me take care of
quarrelling."

Clara could not become paler than was her usual complexion; but her
voice faltered as she eagerly assured her brother, that she had no
particular person in her thoughts.

"Clara," said her brother, "do you remember, when there was a report of
a bogle[I-17] in the upper orchard, when we were both children?--Do you
remember how you were perpetually telling me to take care of the bogle,
and keep away from its haunts?--And do you remember my going on purpose
to detect the bogle, finding the cow-boy, with a shirt about him, busied
in pulling pears, and treating him to a handsome drubbing?--I am the
same Jack Mowbray still, as ready to face danger, and unmask imposition;
and your fears, Clara, will only make me watch more closely, till I find
out the real object of them. If you warn me of quarrelling with some
one, it must be because you know some one who is not unlikely to quarrel
with me. You are a flighty and fanciful girl, but you have sense enough
not to trouble either yourself or me on a point of honour, save when
there is some good reason for it."

Clara once more protested, and it was with the deepest anxiety to be
believed, that what she had said arose only out of the general
consequences which she apprehended from the line of conduct her brother
had adopted, and which, in her apprehension, was so likely to engage him
in the broils that divided the good company at the Spring. Mowbray
listened to her explanation with an air of doubt, or rather incredulity,
sipped a cup of tea which had for some time been placed before him, and
at length replied, "Well, Clara, whether I am right or wrong in my
guess, it would be cruel to torment you any more, remembering what you
have just done for me. But do justice to your brother, and believe, that
when you have any thing to ask of him, an explicit declaration of your
wishes will answer your purpose much better than any ingenious oblique
attempts to influence me. Give up all thoughts of such, my dear
Clara--you are but a poor manoeuvrer, but were you the very Machiavel
of your sex, you should not turn the flank of John Mowbray."

He left the room as he spoke, and did not return, though his sister
twice called upon him. It is true that she uttered the word brother so
faintly, that perhaps the sound did not reach his ears.--"He is gone,"
she said, "and I have had no power to speak out! I am like the wretched
creatures, who, it is said, lie under a potent charm, that prevents them
alike from shedding tears and from confessing their crimes--Yes, there
is a spell on this unhappy heart, and either that must be dissolved, or
this must break."

FOOTNOTE:

[I-17] Bogle--in English, Goblin.



CHAPTER XII.

THE CHALLENGE.

    A slight note I have about me, for the delivery of which you must
    excuse me. It is an office which friendship calls upon me to do, and
    no way offensive to you, as I desire nothing but right on both
    sides.

_King and No King._


The intelligent reader may recollect, that Tyrrel departed from the Fox
Hotel on terms not altogether so friendly towards the company as those
under which he entered it. Indeed, it occurred to him, that he might
probably have heard something farther on the subject, though, amidst
matters of deeper and more anxious consideration, the idea only passed
hastily through his mind; and two days having gone over without any
message from Sir Bingo Binks, the whole affair glided entirely out of
his memory.

The truth was, that although never old woman took more trouble to
collect and blow up with her bellows the embers of her decayed fire,
than Captain MacTurk kindly underwent for the purpose of puffing into a
flame the dying sparkles of the Baronet's courage; yet two days were
spent in fruitless conferences before he could attain the desired point.
He found Sir Bingo on these different occasions in all sorts of
different moods of mind, and disposed to view the thing in all shades of
light, except what the Captain thought was the true one.--He was in a
drunken humour--in a sullen humour--in a thoughtless and vilipending
humour--in every humour but a fighting one. And when Captain MacTurk
talked of the reputation of the company at the Well, Sir Bingo pretended
to take offence, said the company might go to the devil, and hinted that
he "did them sufficient honour by gracing them with his countenance, but
did not mean to constitute them any judges of his affairs. The fellow
was a raff, and he would have nothing to do with him."

Captain MacTurk would willingly have taken measures against the Baronet
himself, as in a state of contumacy, but was opposed by Winterblossom
and other members of the committee, who considered Sir Bingo as too
important and illustrious a member of their society to be rashly
expelled from a place not honoured by the residence of many persons of
rank; and finally insisted that nothing should be done in the matter
without the advice of Mowbray, whose preparations for his solemn
festival on the following Thursday had so much occupied him, that he had
not lately appeared at the Well.

In the meanwhile, the gallant Captain seemed to experience as much
distress of mind, as if some stain had lain on his own most unblemished
of reputations. He went up and down upon the points of his toes, rising
up on his instep with a jerk which at once expressed vexation and
defiance--He carried his nose turned up in the air, like that of a pig
when he snuffs the approaching storm--He spoke in monosyllables when he
spoke at all; and--what perhaps illustrated in the strongest manner the
depth of his feelings--he refused, in face of the whole company, to
pledge Sir Bingo in a glass of the Baronet's peculiar cogniac.

At length, the whole Well was alarmed by the report brought by a smart
outrider, that the young Earl of Etherington, reported to be rising on
the horizon of fashion as a star of the first magnitude, intended to
pass an hour, or a day, or a week, as it might happen, (for his lordship
could not be supposed to know his own mind,) at St. Ronan's Well.

This suddenly put all in motion. Almanacks were opened to ascertain his
lordship's age, enquiries were made concerning the extent of his
fortune, his habits were quoted, his tastes were guessed at; and all
that the ingenuity of the Managing Committee could devise was resorted
to, in order to recommend their Spa to this favourite of fortune. An
express was dispatched to Shaws-Castle with the agreeable intelligence,
which fired the train of hope that led to Mowbray's appropriation of his
sister's capital. He did not, however, think proper to obey the summons
to the Spring; for, not being aware in what light the Earl might regard
the worthies there assembled, he did not desire to be found by his
lordship in any strict connexion with them.

Sir Bingo Binks was in a different situation. The bravery with which he
had endured the censure of the place began to give way, when he
considered that a person of such distinction as that which public
opinion attached to Lord Etherington, should find him bodily indeed at
St. Ronan's, but, so far as society was concerned, on the road towards
the ancient city of Coventry; and his banishment thither, incurred by
that most unpardonable offence in modern morality, a solecism in the
code of honour. Though sluggish and inert when called to action, the
Baronet was by no means an absolute coward; or, if so, he was of that
class which fights when reduced to extremity. He manfully sent for
Captain MacTurk, who waited upon him with a grave solemnity of aspect,
which instantly was exchanged for a radiant joy, when Sir Bingo, in a
few words, empowered him to carry a message to that d----d strolling
artist, by whom he had been insulted three days since.

"By Cot," said the Captain, "my exceedingly goot and excellent friend,
and I am happy to do such a favour for you! And it's well you have
thought of it yourself; because, if it had not been for some of our very
goot and excellent friends, that would be putting their spoon into other
folk's dish, I should have been asking you a civil question myself, how
you came to dine with us, with all that mud and mire which Mr. Tyrrel's
grasp has left upon the collar of your coat--you understand me.--But it
is much better as it is, and I will go to the man with all the speed of
light; and though, to be sure, it should have been sooner thought of,
yet let me alone to make an excuse for that, just in my own civil
way--better late thrive than never do well, you know, Sir Bingo; and if
you have made him wait a little while for his morning, you must give him
the better measure, my darling."

So saying, he awaited no reply, lest peradventure the commission with
which he was so hastily and unexpectedly charged, should have been
clogged with some condition of compromise. No such proposal, however,
was made on the part of the doughty Sir Bingo, who eyed his friend as he
hastily snatched up his rattan to depart, with a dogged look of
obstinacy, expressive, to use his own phrase, of a determined resolution
to come up to the scratch; and when he heard the Captain's parting
footsteps, and saw the door shut behind him, he valiantly whistled a few
bars of Jenny Sutton, in token he cared not a farthing how the matter
was to end.

With a swifter pace than his half-pay leisure usually encouraged, or
than his habitual dignity permitted, Captain MacTurk cleared the ground
betwixt the Spring and its gay vicinity, and the ruins of the Aultoun,
where reigned our friend Meg Dods, the sole assertor of its ancient
dignities. To the door of the Cleikum Inn the Captain addressed himself,
as one too much accustomed to war to fear a rough reception; although at
the very first aspect of Meg, who presented her person at the half
opened door, his military experience taught him that his entrance into
the place would, in all probability, be disputed.

"Is Mr. Tyrrel at home?" was the question; and the answer was conveyed,
by the counter-interrogation, "Wha may ye be that speers?"

As the most polite reply to this question, and an indulgence, at the
same time, of his own taciturn disposition, the Captain presented to
Luckie Dods the fifth part of an ordinary playing card, much grimed with
snuff, which bore on its blank side his name and quality. But Luckie
Dods rejected the information thus tendered, with contemptuous scorn.

"Nane of your deil's play-books for me," said she; "it's an ill world
since sic prick-my-dainty doings came in fashion--It's a poor tongue
that canna tell its ain name, and I'll hae nane of your scarts upon
pasteboard."

"I am Captain MacTurk, of the ---- regiment," said the Captain,
disdaining further answer.

"MacTurk?" repeated Meg, with an emphasis, which induced the owner of
the name to reply, "Yes, honest woman--MacTurk--Hector MacTurk--have you
any objections to my name, goodwife?"

"Nae objections have I," answered Meg; "it's e'en an excellent name for
a heathen.--But, Captain MacTurk, since sae it be that ye are a captain,
ye may e'en face about and march your ways hame again, to the tune of
Dumbarton drums; for ye are ganging to have nae speech of Maister Tirl,
or ony lodger of mine."

"And wherefore not?" demanded the veteran; "and is this of your own
foolish head, honest woman, or has your lodger left such orders?"

"Maybe he has and maybe no," answered Meg, sturdily; "and I ken nae mair
right that ye suld ca' me honest woman, than I have to ca' you honest
man, whilk is as far frae my thoughts as it wad be from heaven's truth."

"The woman is deleerit!" said Captain MacTurk; "but coom, coom--a
gentleman is not to be misused in this way when he comes on a
gentleman's business; so make you a bit room on the door-stane, that I
may pass by you, or I will make room for myself, by Cot! to your small
pleasure."

And so saying he assumed the air of a man who was about to make good his
passage. But Meg, without deigning farther reply, flourished around her
head the hearth-broom, which she had been employing to its more
legitimate purpose, when disturbed in her housewifery by Captain
MacTurk.

"I ken your errand weel eneugh, Captain--and I ken yoursell. Ye are ane
of the folk that gang about yonder setting folk by the lugs, as callants
set their collies to fight. But ye sall come to nae lodger o' mine, let
a-be Maister Tirl, wi' ony sic ungodly errand; for I am ane that will
keep God's peace and the King's within my dwelling."

So saying, and in explicit token of her peaceable intentions, she again
flourished her broom.

The veteran instinctively threw himself under Saint George's guard, and
drew two paces back, exclaiming, "That the woman was either mad, or as
drunk as whisky could make her;" an alternative which afforded Meg so
little satisfaction, that she fairly rushed on her retiring adversary,
and began to use her weapon to fell purpose.

"Me drunk, ye scandalous blackguard!" (a blow with the broom interposed
as parenthesis,) "me, that am fasting from all but sin and bohea!"
(another whack.)

The Captain, swearing, exclaiming, and parrying, caught the blows as
they fell, showing much dexterity in single-stick. The people began to
gather; and how long his gallantry might have maintained itself against
the spirit of self-defence and revenge, must be left uncertain, for the
arrival of Tyrrel, returned from a short walk, put a period to the
contest.

Meg, who had a great respect for her guest, began to feel ashamed of her
own violence, and slunk into the house; observing, however, that she
trewed she had made her hearth-broom and the auld heathen's pow right
weel acquainted. The tranquillity which ensued upon her departure, gave
Tyrrel an opportunity to ask the Captain, whom he at length recognised,
the meaning of this singular affray, and whether the visit was intended
for him; to which the veteran replied very discomposedly, that "he
should have known that long enough ago, if he had had decent people to
open his door, and answer a civil question, instead of a flyting
madwoman, who was worse than an eagle," he said, "or a mastiff-bitch, or
a she-bear, or any other female beast in the creation."

Half suspecting his errand, and desirous to avoid unnecessary notoriety,
Tyrrel, as he showed the Captain to the parlour, which he called his
own, entreated him to excuse the rudeness of his landlady, and to pass
from the topic to that which had procured him the honour of this visit.

"And you are right, my good Master Tyrrel," said the Captain, pulling
down the sleeves of his coat, adjusting his handkerchief and
breast-ruffle, and endeavouring to recover the composure of manner
becoming his mission, but still adverting indignantly to the usage he
had received--"By Cot! if she had but been a man, if it were the King
himself--However, Mr. Tyrrel, I am come on a civil errand--and very
civilly I have been treated--the auld bitch should be set in the stocks,
and be tamned!--My friend, Sir Bingo--By Cot! I shall never forget that
woman's insolence--if there be a constable or a cat-o'-nine-tails within
ten miles"----

"I perceive, Captain," said Tyrrel, "that you are too much disturbed at
this moment to enter upon the business which has brought you here--if
you will step into my bedroom, and make use of some cold water and a
towel, it will give you the time to compose yourself a little."

"I shall do no such thing, Mr. Tyrrel," answered the Captain,
snappishly; "I do not want to be composed at all, and I do not want to
stay in this house a minute longer than to do my errand to you on my
friend's behalf--And as for this tamned woman Dods"----

"You will in that case forgive my interrupting you, Captain MacTurk, as
I presume your errand to me can have no reference to this strange
quarrel with my landlady, with which I have nothing to"----

"And if I thought that it had, sir," said the Captain, interrupting
Tyrrel in his turn, "you should have given me satisfaction before you
was a quarter of an hour older--Oh, I would give five pounds to the
pretty fellow that would say, Captain MacTurk, the woman did right!"

"I certainly will not be that person you wish for, Captain," replied
Tyrrel, "because I really do not know who was in the right or wrong; but
I am certainly sorry that you should have met with ill usage, when your
purpose was to visit me."

"Well, sir, if you are concerned," said the man of peace, snappishly,
"so am I, and there is an end of it.--And touching my errand to you--you
cannot have forgotten that you treated my friend, Sir Bingo Binks, with
singular incivility?"

"I recollect nothing of the kind, Captain," replied Tyrrel. "I remember
that the gentleman, so called, took some uncivil liberties in laying
foolish bets concerning me, and that I treated him, from respect to the
rest of the company, and the ladies in particular, with a great degree
of moderation and forbearance."

"And you must have very fine ideas of forbearance," replied the Captain,
"when you took my good friend by the collar of the coat, and lifted him
out of your way as if he had been a puppy dog! My good Mr. Tyrrel, I can
assure you he does not think that you have forborne him at all, and he
has no purpose to forbear you; and I must either carry back a sufficient
apology, or you must meet in a quiet way, with a good friend on each
side.--And this was the errand I came on, when this tamned woman, with
the hearth-broom, who is an enemy to all quiet and peaceable
proceedings"----

"We will forget Mrs. Dods for the present, if you please, Captain
MacTurk," said Tyrrel--"and, to speak to the present subject, you will
permit me to say, that I think this summons comes a little of the
latest. You know best as a military man, but I have always understood
that such differences are usually settled immediately after they
occur--not that I intend to baulk Sir Bingo's inclinations upon the
score of delay, or any other account."

"I dare say you will not--I dare say you will not, Mr. Tyrrel," answered
the Captain--"I am free to think that you know better what belongs to a
gentleman.--And as to time--look you, my good sir, there are different
sorts of people in this world, as there are different sorts of
fire-arms. There are your hair-trigger'd rifles, that go off just at the
right moment, and in the twinkling of an eye, and that, Mr. Tyrrel, is
your true man of honour;--and there is a sort of person that takes a
thing up too soon, and sometimes backs out of it, like your rubbishy
Birmingham pieces, that will at one time go off at half-cock, and at
another time burn priming without going off at all;--then again pieces
that hang fire--or I should rather say, that are like the matchlocks
which the black fellows use in the East Indies--there must be some
blowing of the match, and so forth, which occasions delay, but the piece
carries true enough after all."

"And your friend Sir Bingo's valour is of this last kind, Captain--I
presume that is the inference. I should have thought it more like a
boy's cannon, which is fired by means of a train, and is but a pop-gun
after all."

"I cannot allow of such comparisons, sir," said the Captain; "you will
understand that I come here as Sir Bingo's friend, and a reflection on
him will be an affront to me."

"I disclaim all intended offence to you, Captain--I have no wish to
extend the number of my adversaries, or to add to them the name of a
gallant officer like yourself," replied Tyrrel.

"You are too obliging, sir," said the Captain, drawing himself up with
dignity. "By Cot! and that was said very handsomely!--Well, sir, and
shall I not have the pleasure of carrying back any explanation from you
to Sir Bingo?--I assure you it would give me pleasure to make this
matter handsomely up."

"To Sir Bingo, Captain MacTurk, I have no apology to offer--I think I
treated him more gently than his impertinence deserved."

"Och, Och!" sighed the Captain, with a strong Highland intonation; "then
there is no more to be said, but just to settle time and place; for
pistols I suppose must be the weapons."

"All these matters are quite the same to me," said Tyrrel; "only, in
respect of time, I should wish it to be as speedy as possible.--What say
you to one, afternoon, this very day?--You may name the place."

"At one, afternoon," replied the Captain deliberately, "Sir Bingo will
attend you--the place may be the Buck-stane; for as the whole company go
to the water-side to-day to eat a kettle of fish,[I-18] there will be no
risk of interruption.--And who shall I speak to, my good friend, on your
side of the quarrel?"

"Really, Captain," replied Tyrrel, "that is a puzzling question--I have
no friend here--I suppose you could hardly act for both?"

"It would be totally, absolutely, and altogether out of the question, my
good friend," replied MacTurk. "But if you will trust to me, I will
bring up a friend on your part from the Well, who, though you have
hardly seen him before, will settle matters for you as well as if you
had been intimate for twenty years--and I will bring up the Doctor too,
if I can get him unloosed from the petticoat of that fat widow Blower,
that he has strung himself upon."

"I have no doubt you will do every thing with perfect accuracy, Captain.
At one o'clock, then, we meet at the Buck-stane--Stay, permit me to see
you to the door."

"By Cot! and it is not altogether so unnecessary," said the Captain;
"for the tamned woman with the besom might have some advantage in that
long dark passage, knowing the ground better than I do--tamn her, I will
have amends on her, if there be whipping-post, or ducking-stool, or a
pair of stocks in the parish!" And so saying, the Captain trudged off,
his spirits ever and anon agitated by recollection of the causeless
aggression of Meg Dods, and again composed to a state of happy serenity
by the recollection of the agreeable arrangement which he had made
between Mr. Tyrrel, and his friend Sir Bingo Binks.

We have heard of men of undoubted benevolence of character and
disposition, whose principal delight was to see a miserable criminal,
degraded alike by his previous crimes, and the sentence which he had
incurred, conclude a vicious and wretched life, by an ignominious and
painful death. It was some such inconsistency of character which induced
honest Captain MacTurk, who had really been a meritorious officer, and
was a good-natured, honourable, and well-intentioned man, to place his
chief delight in setting his friends by the ears, and then acting as
umpire in the dangerous rencontres, which, according to his code of
honour, were absolutely necessary to restore peace and cordiality. We
leave the explanation of such anomalies to the labours of craniologists,
for they seem to defy all the researches of the Ethic philosopher.

FOOTNOTE:

[I-18] A kettle of fish is a _fête-champêtre_ of a particular kind, which
is to other _fêtes-champêtres_ what the piscatory eclogues of Brown or
Sannazario are to pastoral poetry. A large caldron is boiled by the side
of a salmon river, containing a quantity of water, thickened with salt
to the consistence of brine. In this the fish is plunged when taken, and
eaten by the company _fronde super viridi_. This is accounted the best
way of eating salmon, by those who desire to taste the fish in a state
of extreme freshness. Others prefer it after being kept a day or two,
when the curd melts into oil, and the fish becomes richer and more
luscious. The more judicious gastronomes eat no other sauce than a
spoonful of the water in which the salmon is boiled, together with a
little pepper and vinegar.



CHAPTER XIII.

DISAPPOINTMENT.

    _Evans._ I pray you now, good Master Slender's serving-man, and
    friend Simple by your name, which way have you looked for Master
    Caius?

    _Slender._ Marry, sir, the City-ward, the Park-ward, every way; Old
    Windsor way, and every way.

_Merry Wives of Windsor._


Sir Bingo Binks received the Captain's communication with the same
dogged sullenness he had displayed at sending the challenge; a most
ungracious _humph_, ascending, as it were, from the very bottom of his
stomach, through the folds of a Belcher handkerchief, intimating his
acquiescence, in a tone nearly as gracious as that with which the drowsy
traveller acknowledges the intimation of the slipshod ostler, that it is
on the stroke of five, and the horn will sound in a minute. Captain
MacTurk by no means considered this ejaculation as expressing a proper
estimate of his own trouble and services. "Humph?" he replied; "and what
does that mean, Sir Bingo? Have not I here had the trouble to put you
just into the neat road; and would you have been able to make a handsome
affair out of it at all, after you had let it hang so long in the wind,
if I had not taken on myself to make it agreeable to the gentleman, and
cooked as neat a mess out of it as I have seen a Frenchman do out of a
stale sprat?"

Sir Bingo saw it was necessary to mutter some intimation of acquiescence
and acknowledgment, which, however inarticulate, was sufficient to
satisfy the veteran, to whom the adjustment of a personal affair of this
kind was a labour of love, and who now, kindly mindful of his promise to
Tyrrel, hurried away as if he had been about the most charitable action
upon earth, to secure the attendance of some one as a witness on the
stranger's part.

Mr. Winterblossom was the person whom MacTurk had in his own mind
pitched upon as the fittest person to perform this act of benevolence,
and he lost no time in communicating his wish to that worthy gentleman.
But Mr. Winterblossom, though a man of the world, and well enough
acquainted with such matters, was by no means so passionately addicted
to them as was the man of peace, Captain Hector MacTurk. As a _bon
vivant_, he hated trouble of any kind, and the shrewd selfishness of his
disposition enabled him to foresee, that a good deal might accrue to all
concerned in the course of this business. He, therefore, coolly replied,
that he knew nothing of Mr. Tyrrel--not even whether he was a gentleman
or not; and besides, he had received no regular application in his
behalf--he did not, therefore, feel himself at all inclined to go to the
field as his second. This refusal drove the poor Captain to despair. He
conjured his friend to be more public-spirited, and entreated him to
consider the reputation of the Well, which was to them as a common
country, and the honour of the company to which they both belonged, and
of which Mr. Winterblossom was in a manner the proper representative, as
being, with consent of all, the perpetual president. He reminded him
how many quarrels had been nightly undertaken and departed from on the
ensuing morning, without any suitable consequences--said, "that people
began to talk of the place oddly; and that, for his own part, he found
his own honour so nearly touched, that he had begun to think he himself
would be obliged to bring somebody or other to account, for the general
credit of the Well; and now, just when the most beautiful occasion had
arisen to put every thing on a handsome footing, it was hard--it was
cruel--it was most unjustifiable--in Mr. Winterblossom, to decline so
simple a matter as was requested of him."

Dry and taciturn as the Captain was on all ordinary occasions, he
proved, on the present, eloquent and almost pathetic; for the tears came
into his eyes when he recounted the various quarrels which had become
addled, notwithstanding his best endeavours to hatch them into an
honourable meeting; and here was one, at length, just chipping the
shell, like to be smothered, for want of the most ordinary concession on
the part of Winterblossom. In short, that gentleman could not hold out
any longer. "It was," he said, "a very foolish business, he thought; but
to oblige Sir Bingo and Captain MacTurk, he had no objection to walk
with them about noon as far as the Buck-stane, although he must observe
the day was hazy, and he had felt a prophetic twinge or two, which
looked like a visit of his old acquaintance podagra."

"Never mind that, my excellent friend," said the Captain, "a sup out of
Sir Bingo's flask is like enough to put that to rights; and by my soul,
it is not the thing he is like to leave behind him on this sort of
occasion, unless I be far mistaken in my man."

"But," said Winterblossom, "although I comply with your wishes thus far,
Captain MacTurk, I by no means undertake for certain to back this same
Master Tyrrel, of whom I know nothing at all, but only agree to go to
the place in hopes of preventing mischief."

"Never fash your beard about that, Mr. Winterblossom," replied the
Captain; "for a little mischief, as you call it, is become a thing
absolutely necessary to the credit of the place; and I am sure, whatever
be the consequences, they cannot in the present instance be very fatal
to any body; for here is a young fellow that, if he should have a
misfortune, nobody will miss, for nobody knows him; then there is Sir
Bingo, whom every body knows so well, that they will miss him all the
less."

"And there will be Lady Bingo, a wealthy and handsome young widow," said
Winterblossom, throwing his hat upon his head with the grace and
pretension of former days, and sighing to see, as he looked in the
mirror, how much time, that had whitened his hair, rounded his stomach,
wrinkled his brow, and bent down his shoulders, had disqualified him, as
he expressed it, "for entering for such a plate."

Secure of Winterblossom, the Captain's next anxiety was to obtain the
presence of Dr. Quackleben, who, although he wrote himself M.D., did not
by any means decline practice as a surgeon, when any job offered for
which he was likely to be well paid, as was warranted in the present
instance, the wealthy baronet being a party principally concerned. The
Doctor, therefore, like the eagle scenting the carnage, seized, at the
first word, the huge volume of morocco leather which formed his case of
portable instruments, and uncoiled before the Captain, with ostentatious
display, its formidable and glittering contents, upon which he began to
lecture as upon a copious and interesting text, until the man of war
thought it necessary to give him a word of caution.

"Och," says he, "I do pray you, Doctor, to carry that packet of yours
under the breast of your coat, or in your pocket, or somewhere out of
sight, and by no means to produce or open it before the parties. For
although scalpels, and tourniquets, and pincers, and the like, are very
ingenious implements, and pretty to behold, and are also useful when
time and occasion call for them, yet I have known the sight of them take
away a man's fighting stomach, and so lose their owner a job, Dr.
Quackleben."

"By my faith, Captain MacTurk," said the Doctor, "you speak as if you
were graduated!--I have known these treacherous articles play their
master many a cursed trick. The very sight of my forceps, without the
least effort on my part, once cured an inveterate toothache of three
days' duration, prevented the extraction of a carious molendinar, which
it was the very end of their formation to achieve, and sent me home
minus a guinea.--But hand me that great-coat, Captain, and we will place
the instruments in ambuscade, until they are called into action in due
time. I should think something will happen--Sir Bingo is a sure shot at
a moorcock."

"Cannot say," replied MacTurk; "I have known the pistol shake many a
hand that held the fowlingpiece fast enough. Yonder Tyrrel looks like a
teevilish cool customer--I watched him the whole time I was delivering
my errand, and I can promise you he is mettle to the backbone."

"Well--I will have my bandages ready _secundum artem_," replied the man
of medicine. "We must guard against hæmorrhage--Sir Bingo is a plethoric
subject.--One o'clock, you say--at the Buck-stane--I will be punctual."

"Will you not walk with us?" said Captain MacTurk, who seemed willing to
keep his whole convoy together on this occasion, lest, peradventure, any
of them had fled from under his patronage.

"No," replied the Doctor, "I must first make an apology to worthy Mrs.
Blower, for I had promised her my arm down to the river-side, where they
are all to eat a kettle of fish."

"By Cot! and I hope we shall make them a prettier kettle of fish than
was ever seen at St. Ronan's," said the Captain, rubbing his hands.

"Don't say _we_, Captain," replied the cautious Doctor; "I for one have
nothing to do with the meeting--wash my hands of it. No, no, I cannot
afford to be clapt up as accessory.--You ask me to meet you at the
Buck-stane--no purpose assigned--I am willing to oblige my worthy
friend, Captain MacTurk--walk that way, thinking of nothing
particular--hear the report of pistols--hasten to the spot--fortunately
just in time to prevent the most fatal consequences--chance most
opportunely to have my case of instruments with me--indeed, generally
walk with them about me--_nunquam non paratus_--then give my
professional definition of the wound and state of the patient. That is
the way to give evidence, Captain, before sheriffs, coroners, and such
sort of folk--never commit one's self--it is a rule of our profession."

"Well, well, Doctor," answered the Captain, "you know your own ways
best; and so you are but there to give a chance of help in case of
accident, all the laws of honour will be fully complied with. But it
would be a foul reflection upon me, as a man of honour, if I did not
take care that there should be somebody to come in thirdsman between
Death and my principal."

At the awful hour of one afternoon, there arrived upon the appointed
spot Captain MacTurk, leading to the field the valorous Sir Bingo, not
exactly straining like a greyhound in the slips, but rather looking
moody like a butcher's bull-dog, which knows he must fight since his
master bids him. Yet the Baronet showed no outward flinching or
abatement of courage, excepting, that the tune of Jenny Sutton, which he
had whistled without intermission since he left the Hotel, had, during
the last half mile of their walk, sunk into silence; although, to look
at the muscles of the mouth, projection of the lip, and vacancy of the
eye, it seemed as if the notes were still passing through his mind, and
that he whistled Jenny Sutton in his imagination. Mr. Winterblossom came
two minutes after this happy pair, and the Doctor was equally punctual.

"Upon my soul," said the former, "this is a mighty silly affair, Sir
Bingo, and might, I think, be easily taken up, at less risk to all
parties than a meeting of this kind. You should recollect, Sir Bingo,
that you have much depending upon your life--you are a married man, Sir
Bingo."

Sir Bingo turned the quid in his mouth, and squirted out the juice in a
most coachman-like manner.

"Mr. Winterblossom," said the Captain, "Sir Bingo has in this matter put
himself in my hands, and unless you think yourself more able to direct
his course than I am, I must frankly tell you, that I will be disobliged
by your interference. You may speak to your own friend as much as you
please; and if you find yourself authorized to make any proposal, I
shall be desirous to lend an ear to it on the part of my worthy
principal, Sir Bingo. But I will be plain with you, that I do not
greatly approve of settlements upon the field, though I hope I am a
quiet and peaceable man. But here is our honour to be looked after in
the first place; and moreover, I must insist that every proposal for
accommodation shall originate with your party or yourself."

"_My_ party?" answered Winterblossom; "why really, though I came hither
at your request, Captain MacTurk, yet I must see more of the matter, ere
I can fairly pronounce myself second to a man I never saw but once."

"And, perhaps, may never see again," said the Doctor, looking at his
watch; "for it is ten minutes past the hour, and here is no Mr. Tyrrel."

"Hey! what's that you say, Doctor?" said the Baronet, awakened from his
apathy.

"He speaks tamned nonsense," said the Captain, pulling out a huge,
old-fashioned, turnip-shaped implement, with a blackened silver
dial-plate. "It is not above three minutes after one by the true time,
and I will uphold Mr. Tyrrel to be a man of his word--never saw a man
take a thing more coolly."

"Not more coolly than he takes his walk this way," said the Doctor; "for
the hour is as I tell you--remember, I am professional--have pulses to
count by the second and half-second--my timepiece must go as true as the
sun."

"And I have mounted guard a thousand times by my watch," said the
Captain; "and I defy the devil to say that Hector MacTurk did not always
discharge his duty to the twentieth part of the fraction of a second--it
was my great grandmother, Lady Killbracklin's, and I will maintain its
reputation against any timepiece that ever went upon wheels."

"Well, then, look at your own watch, Captain," said Winterblossom, "for
time stands still with no man, and while we speak the hour advances. On
my word, I think this Mr. Tyrrel intends to humbug us."

"Hey! what's that you say?" said Sir Bingo, once more starting from his
sullen reverie.

"I shall not look at my watch upon no such matter," said the Captain;
"nor will I any way be disposed to doubt your friend's honour, Mr.
Winterblossom."

"_My_ friend?" said Mr. Winterblossom; "I must tell you once more,
Captain, that this Mr. Tyrrel is no friend of mine--none in the world.
He is your friend, Captain MacTurk; and I own, if he keeps us waiting
much longer on this occasion, I will be apt to consider his friendship
as of very little value."

"And how dare you, then, say that the man is my friend?" said the
Captain, knitting his brows in a most formidable manner.

"Pooh! pooh! Captain," answered Winterblossom, coolly, if not
contemptuously--"keep all that for silly boys; I have lived in the world
too long either to provoke quarrels, or to care about them. So, reserve
your fire; it is all thrown away on such an old cock as I am. But I
really wish we knew whether this fellow means to come--twenty minutes
past the hour--I think it is odds that you are bilked, Sir Bingo?"

"Bilked! hey!" cried Sir Bingo; "by Gad, I always thought so--I wagered
with Mowbray he was a raff--I am had, by Gad. I'll wait no longer than
the half hour, by Gad, were he a field-marshal."

"You will be directed in that matter by your friend, if you please, Sir
Bingo," said the Captain.

"D---- me if I will," returned the Baronet--"Friend? a pretty friend, to
bring me out here on such a fool's errand! I knew the fellow was a
raff--but I never thought you, with all your chaff about honour, such a
d----d spoon as to bring a message from a fellow who has fled the pit!"

"If you regret so much having come here to no purpose," said the
Captain, in a very lofty tone, "and if you think I have used you like a
spoon, as you say, I will have no objection in life to take Mr. Tyrrel's
place, and serve your occasion, my boy!"

"By ----! and if you like it, you may fire away, and welcome," said Sir
Bingo; "and I'll spin a crown for first shot, for I do not understand
being brought here for nothing, d---- me!"

"And there was never man alive so ready as I am to give you something to
stay your stomach," said the irritable Highlander.

[Illustration]

"Oh fie, gentlemen! fie, fie, fie!" exclaimed the pacific Mr.
Winterblossom--"For shame, Captain--Out upon you, Sir Bingo, are you
mad?--what, principal and second!--the like was never heard of--never."

The parties were in some degree recalled to their more cool
recollections by this expostulation, yet continued a short quarter-deck
walk to and fro, upon parallel lines, looking at each other sullenly as
they passed, and bristling like two dogs who have a mind to quarrel, yet
hesitate to commence hostilities. During this promenade, also, the
perpendicular and erect carriage of the veteran, rising on his toes at
every step, formed a whimsical contrast with the heavy loutish shuffle
of the bulky Baronet, who had, by dint of practice, very nearly attained
that most enviable of all carriages, the gait of a shambling Yorkshire
ostler. His coarse spirit was now thoroughly kindled, and like iron, or
any other baser metal, which is slow in receiving heat, it retained long
the smouldering and angry spirit of resentment that had originally
brought him to the place, and now rendered him willing to wreak his
uncomfortable feelings upon the nearest object which occurred, since the
first purpose of his coming thither was frustrated. In his own phrase,
his pluck was up, and finding himself in a fighting humour, he thought
it a pity, like Bob Acres, that so much good courage should be thrown
away. As, however, that courage after all consisted chiefly in ill
humour; and as, in the demeanour of the Captain, he read nothing
deferential or deprecatory of his wrath, he began to listen with more
attention to the arguments of Mr. Winterblossom, who entreated them not
to sully, by private quarrel, the honour they had that day so happily
acquired without either blood or risk.

"It was now," he said, "three quarters of an hour past the time
appointed for this person, who calls himself Tyrrel, to meet Sir Bingo
Binks. Now, instead of standing squabbling here, which serves no
purpose, I propose we should reduce to writing the circumstances which
attend this affair, for the satisfaction of the company at the Well, and
that the memorandum shall be regularly attested by our subscriptions;
after which, I shall farther humbly propose that it be subjected to the
revision of the Committee of Management."

"I object to any revision of a statement to which my name shall be
appended," said the Captain.

"Right--very true, Captain," said the complaisant Mr. Winterblossom;
"undoubtedly you know best, and your signature is completely sufficient
to authenticate this transaction--however, as it is the most important
which has occurred since the Spring was established, I propose we shall
all sign the _procès-verbal_, as I may term it."

"Leave me out, if you please," said the Doctor, not much satisfied that
both the original quarrel and the by-battle had passed over without any
occasion for the offices of a Machaon; "leave me out, if you please; for
it does not become me to be ostensibly concerned in any proceedings,
which have had for their object a breach of the peace. And for the
importance of waiting here for an hour, in a fine afternoon, it is my
opinion there was a more important service done to the Well of St.
Ronan's, when I, Quentin Quackleben, M.D., cured Lady Penelope
Penfeather of her seventh attack upon the nerves, attended with febrile
symptoms."

"No disparagement to your skill at all, Doctor," said Mr. Winterblossom;
"but I conceive the lesson which this fellow has received will be a
great means to prevent improper persons from appearing at the Spring
hereafter; and, for my part, I shall move that no one be invited to dine
at the table in future, till his name is regularly entered as a member
of the company, in the lists at the public room. And I hope both Sir
Bingo and the Captain will receive the thanks of the company, for their
spirited conduct in expelling the intruder.--Sir Bingo, will you allow
me to apply to your flask--a little twinge I feel, owing to the dampness
of the grass."

Sir Bingo, soothed by the consequence he had acquired, readily imparted
to the invalid a thimbleful of his cordial, which, we believe, had been
prepared by some cunning chemist in the wilds of Glenlivat. He then
filled a bumper, and extended it towards the veteran, as an unequivocal
symptom of reconciliation. The real turbinacious flavour no sooner
reached the nose of the Captain, than the beverage was turned down his
throat with symptoms of most unequivocal applause.

"I shall have some hope of the young fellows of this day," he said, "now
that they begin to give up their Dutch and French distilled waters, and
stick to genuine Highland ware. By Cot, it is the only liquor fit for a
gentleman to drink in a morning, if he can have the good fortune to come
by it, you see."

"Or after dinner either, Captain," said the Doctor, to whom the glass
had passed in rotation; "it is worth all the wines in France for
flavour, and more cordial to the system besides."

"And now," said the Captain, "that we may not go off the ground with any
thing on our stomachs worse than the whisky, I can afford to say, (as
Captain Hector MacTurk's character is tolerably well established,) that
I am sorry for the little difference that has occurred betwixt me and my
worthy friend, Sir Bingo, here."

"And since you are so civil, Captain," said Sir Bingo, "why, I am sorry
too--only it would put the devil out of temper to lose so fine a fishing
day--wind south--fine air on the pool--water settled from the
flood--just in trim--and I dare say three pairs of hooks have passed
over my cast before this time!"

He closed this elaborate lamentation with a libation of the same cordial
which he had imparted to his companions; and they returned in a body to
the Hotel, where the transactions of the morning were soon afterwards
announced to the company, by the following program:--


    STATEMENT.

    "Sir Bingo Binks, baronet, having found himself aggrieved by the
    uncivil behaviour of an individual calling himself Francis Tyrrel,
    now or lately a resident at the Cleikum Inn, Aultoun of St. Ronan's;
    and having empowered Captain Hector MacTurk to wait upon the said
    Mr. Tyrrel to demand an apology, under the alternative of personal
    satisfaction, according to the laws of honour and the practice of
    gentlemen, the said Tyrrel voluntarily engaged to meet the said Sir
    Bingo Binks, baronet, at the Buck-stane, near St. Ronan's Burn, upon
    this present day, being Wednesday ---- August. In consequence of
    which appointment, we, the undersigned, did attend at the place
    named, from one o'clock till two, without seeing or hearing any
    thing whatever of the said Francis Tyrrel, or any one in his
    behalf--which fact we make thus publicly known, that all men, and
    particularly the distinguished company assembled at the Fox Hotel,
    may be duly apprized of the character and behaviour of the said
    Francis Tyrrel, in case of his again presuming to intrude himself
    into the society of persons of honour.

    "The Fox Inn and Hotel, St. Ronan's Well--August 18--.

    (Signed)
    "BINGO BINKS,
    HECTOR MACTURK,
    PHILIP WINTERBLOSSOM."

A little lower followed this separate attestation:

    "I, Quentin Quackleben, M.D., F.R.S., D.E., B.L., X.Z., &c. &c.,
    being called upon to attest what I know in the said matter, do
    hereby verify, that being by accident at the Buck-stane, near St.
    Ronan's Burn, on this present day, at the hour of one afternoon, and
    chancing to remain there for the space of nearly an hour, conversing
    with Sir Bingo Binks, Captain MacTurk, and Mr. Winterblossom, we did
    not, during that time, see or hear any thing of or from the person
    calling himself Francis Tyrrel, whose presence at that place seemed
    to be expected by the gentlemen I have just named."

This affiche was dated like the former, and certified under the august
hand of Quentin Quackleben, M.D., &c. &c. &c.

Again, and prefaced by the averment that an improper person had been
lately introduced into the company of St. Ronan's Well, there came forth
a legislative enactment, on the part of the Committee, declaring, "that
no one shall in future be invited to the dinners, or balls, or other
entertainments of the Well, until their names shall be regularly entered
in the books kept for the purpose at the rooms." Lastly, there was a
vote of thanks to Sir Bingo Binks and Captain MacTurk for their
spirited conduct, and the pains which they had taken to exclude an
improper person from the company at St. Ronan's Well.

These annunciations speedily became the magnet of the day. All idlers
crowded to peruse them; and it would be endless to notice the "God bless
me's"--the "Lord have a care of us"--the "Saw you ever the like's" of
gossips, any more than the "Dear me's" and "Oh, laa's" of the titupping
misses, and the oaths of the pantalooned or buck-skin'd beaux. The
character of Sir Bingo rose like the stocks at the news of a dispatch
from the Duke of Wellington, and, what was extraordinary, attained some
consequence even in the estimation of his lady. All shook their heads at
the recollection of the unlucky Tyrrel, and found out much in his manner
and address which convinced them that he was but an adventurer and
swindler. A few, however, less partial to the Committee of Management,
(for whenever there is an administration, there will soon arise an
opposition,) whispered among themselves, that, to give the fellow his
due, the man, be he what he would, had only come among them, like the
devil, when he was called for; and honest Dame Blower blessed herself
when she heard of such bloodthirsty doings as had been intended, and
"thanked God that honest Doctor Kickherben had come to nae harm amang a'
their nonsense."



CHAPTER XIV.

THE CONSULTATION.

     _Clown._ I hope here be proofs.--

_Measure for Measure._


The borough of ---- lies, as all the world knows, about fourteen miles
distant from St. Ronan's, being the county town of that shire, which, as
described in the Tourist's Guide, numbers among its objects of interest
that gay and popular watering-place, whose fame, no doubt, will be
greatly enhanced by the present annals of its earlier history. As it is
at present unnecessary to be more particular concerning the scene of our
story, we will fill up the blank left in the first name with the
fictitious appellation of Marchthorn, having often found ourselves
embarrassed in the course of a story, by the occurrence of an ugly
hiatus, which we cannot always at first sight fill up, with the proper
reference to the rest of the narrative.

Marchthorn, then, was an old-fashioned Scottish town, the street of
which, on market-day, showed a reasonable number of stout great-coated
yeomen, bartering or dealing for the various commodities of their farms;
and on other days of the week, only a few forlorn burghers, crawling
about like half-awakened flies, and watching the town steeple till the
happy sound of twelve strokes from Time's oracle should tell them it
was time to take their meridian dram. The narrow windows of the shops
intimated very imperfectly the miscellaneous contents of the interior,
where every merchant, as the shopkeepers of Marchthorn were termed,
_more Scotico_, sold every thing that could be thought of. As for
manufactures, there were none, except that of the careful Town-Council,
who were mightily busied in preparing the warp and woof, which, at the
end of every five or six years, the town of Marchthorn contributed, for
the purpose of weaving the fourth or fifth part of a member of
Parliament.

In such a town, it usually happens, that the Sheriff-clerk, especially
supposing him agent for several lairds of the higher order, is possessed
of one of the best-looking houses; and such was that of Mr. Bindloose.
None of the smartness of the brick-built and brass-hammered mansion of a
southern attorney appeared indeed in this mansion, which was a tall,
thin, grim-looking building, in the centre of the town, with narrow
windows and projecting gables, notched into that sort of descent, called
crow-steps, and having the lower casements defended by stancheons of
iron; for Mr. Bindloose, as frequently happens, kept a branch of one of
the two national banks, which had been lately established in the town of
Marchthorn.

Towards the door of this tenement, there advanced slowly up the ancient,
but empty streets of this famous borough, a vehicle, which, had it
appeared in Piccadilly, would have furnished unremitted laughter for a
week, and conversation for a twelvemonth. It was a two-wheeled vehicle,
which claimed none of the modern appellations of tilbury, tandem,
dennet, or the like; but aspired only to the humble name of that almost
forgotten accommodation, a whiskey; or, according to some authorities, a
tim-whiskey. Green was, or had been, its original colour, and it was
placed sturdily and safely low upon its little old-fashioned wheels,
which bore much less than the usual proportion to the size of the
carriage which they sustained. It had a calash head, which had been
pulled up, in consideration either to the dampness of the morning air,
or to the retiring delicacy of the fair form which, shrouded by leathern
curtains, tenanted this venerable specimen of antediluvian
coach-building.

But, as this fair and modest dame noway aspired to the skill of a
charioteer, the management of a horse, which seemed as old as the
carriage he drew, was in the exclusive charge of an old fellow in a
postilion's jacket, whose grey hairs escaped on each side of an
old-fashioned velvet jockey-cap, and whose left shoulder was so
considerably elevated above his head, that it seemed, as if, with little
effort, his neck might have been tucked under his arm, like that of a
roasted grouse-cock. This gallant equerry was mounted on a steed as old
as that which toiled betwixt the shafts of the carriage, and which he
guided by a leading rein. Goading one animal with his single spur, and
stimulating the other with his whip, he effected a reasonable trot upon
the causeway, which only terminated when the whiskey stopped at Mr.
Bindloose's door--an event of importance enough to excite the curiosity
of the inhabitants of that and the neighbouring houses. Wheels were laid
aside, needles left sticking in the half-finished seams, and many a
nose, spectacled and unspectacled, was popped out of the adjoining
windows, which had the good fortune to command a view of Mr. Bindloose's
front door. The faces of two or three giggling clerks were visible at
the barred casements of which we have spoken, much amused at the descent
of an old lady from this respectable carriage, whose dress and
appearance might possibly have been fashionable at the time when her
equipage was new. A satin cardinal, lined with grey squirrels' skin, and
a black silk bonnet, trimmed with crape, were garments which did not now
excite the respect, which in their fresher days they had doubtless
commanded. But there was that in the features of the wearer, which would
have commanded Mr. Bindloose's best regard, though it had appeared in
far worse attire; for he beheld the face of an ancient customer, who had
always paid her law expenses with the ready penny, and whose accompt
with the bank was balanced by a very respectable sum at her credit. It
was, indeed, no other than our respected friend, Mrs. Dods of the
Cleikum Inn, St. Ronan's, Aultoun.

Now her arrival intimated matter of deep import. Meg was a person of all
others most averse to leave her home, where, in her own opinion at
least, nothing went on well without her immediate superintendence.
Limited, therefore, as was her sphere, she remained fixed in the centre
thereof; and few as were her satellites, they were under the necessity
of performing their revolutions around her, while she herself continued
stationary. Saturn, in fact, would be scarce more surprised at a passing
call from the Sun, than Mr. Bindloose at this unexpected visit of his
old client. In one breath he rebuked the inquisitive impertinence of his
clerks, in another stimulated his housekeeper, old Hannah--for Mr.
Bindloose was a bluff bachelor--to get tea ready in the green parlour;
and while yet speaking, was at the side of the whiskey, unclasping the
curtains, rolling down the apron, and assisting his old friend to
dismount.

"The japanned tea-caddie, Hannah--the best bohea--bid Tib kindle a spark
of fire--the morning's damp--Draw in the giggling faces of ye, ye d----d
idle scoundrels, or laugh at your ain toom pouches--it will be lang or
your weeldoing fill them." This was spoken, as the honest lawyer himself
might have said, _in transitu_, the rest by the side of the carriage.
"My stars, Mrs. Dods, and is this really your ain sell, _in propria
persona_?--Wha lookit for you at such a time of day?--Anthony, how's a'
wi' ye, Anthony?--so ye hae taen the road again, Anthony--help us down
wi' the apron, Anthony--that will do.--Lean on me, Mrs. Dods--help your
mistress, Anthony--put the horses in my stable--the lads will give you
the key.--Come away, Mrs. Dods--I am blithe to see you straight your
legs on the causeway of our auld borough again--come in by, and we'll
see to get you some breakfast, for ye hae been asteer early this
morning."

"I am a sair trouble to you, Mr. Bindloose," said the old lady,
accepting the offer of his arm, and accompanying him into the house; "I
am e'en a sair trouble to you, but I could not rest till I had your
advice on something of moment."

"Happy will I be to serve you, my gude auld acquaintance," said the
Clerk; "but sit you down--sit you down--sit you down, Mrs. Dods--meat
and mess never hindered wark. Ye are something overcome wi' your
travel--the spirit canna aye bear through the flesh, Mrs. Dods; ye
should remember that your life is a precious one, and ye should take
care of your health, Mrs. Dods."

"My life precious!" exclaimed Meg Dods; "nane o' your whullywhaing, Mr.
Bindloose--Deil ane wad miss the auld girning alewife, Mr. Bindloose,
unless it were here and there a puir body, and maybe the auld
house-tyke, that wadna be sae weel guided, puir fallow."

"Fie, fie! Mrs. Dods," said the Clerk, in a tone of friendly rebuke; "it
vexes an auld friend to hear ye speak of yourself in that respectless
sort of a way; and, as for quitting us, I bless God I have not seen you
look better this half score of years. But maybe you will be thinking of
setting your house in order, which is the act of a carefu' and of a
Christian woman--O! it's an awfu' thing to die intestate, if we had
grace to consider it."

"Aweel, I daur say I'll consider that some day soon, Mr. Bindloose; but
that's no my present errand."

"Be it what it like, Mrs. Dods, ye are right heartily welcome here, and
we have a' the day to speak of the business in hand--_festina lente_,
that is the true law language--hooly and fairly, as one may say--ill
treating of business with an empty stomach--and here comes your tea, and
I hope Hannah has made it to your taste."

Meg sipped her tea--confessed Hannah's skill in the mysteries of the
Chinese herb--sipped again, then tried to eat a bit of bread and butter,
with very indifferent success; and notwithstanding the lawyer's
compliments to her good looks, seemed in reality, on the point of
becoming ill.

"In the deil's name, what is the matter!" said the lawyer, too well
read in a profession where sharp observation is peculiarly necessary, to
suffer these symptoms of agitation to escape him. "Ay, dame? ye are
taking this business of yours deeper to heart than ever I kend you take
ony thing. Ony o' your banded debtors failed, or like to fail? What
then! cheer ye up--you can afford a little loss, and it canna be ony
great matter, or I would doubtless have heard of it."

"In troth, but it _is_ a loss, Mr. Bindloose; and what say ye to the
loss of a friend?"

This was a possibility which had never entered the lawyer's long list of
calamities, and he was at some loss to conceive what the old lady could
possibly mean by so sentimental a prolusion. But just as he began to
come out with his "Ay, ay, we are all mortal, _Vita incerta, mors
certissima!_" and two or three more pithy reflections, which he was in
the habit of uttering after funerals, when the will of the deceased was
about to be opened,--just then Mrs. Dods was pleased to become the
expounder of her own oracle.

"I see how it is, Mr. Bindloose," she said; "I maun tell my ain ailment,
for you are no likely to guess it; and so, if ye will shut the door, and
see that nane of your giggling callants are listening in the passage, I
will e'en tell you how things stand with me."

Mr. Bindloose hastily arose to obey her commands, gave a cautionary
glance into the Bank-office, and saw that his idle apprentices were fast
at their desks--turned the key upon them, as if it were in a fit of
absence, and then returned, not a little curious to know what could be
the matter with his old friend; and leaving off all further attempts to
put cases, quietly drew his chair near hers, and awaited her own time to
make her communication.

"Mr. Bindloose," said she, "I am no sure that you may mind, about six or
seven years ago, that there were twa daft English callants, lodgers of
mine, that had some trouble from auld St. Ronan's about shooting on the
Springwell-head muirs."

"I mind it as weel as yesterday, Mistress," said the Clerk; "by the same
token you gave me a note for my trouble, (which wasna worth speaking
about,) and bade me no bring in a bill against the puir bairns--ye had
aye a kind heart, Mrs. Dods."

"Maybe, and maybe no, Mr. Bindloose--that is just as I find folk.--But
concerning these lads, they baith left the country, and, as I think, in
some ill blude wi' ane another, and now the auldest and the doucest of
the twa came back again about a fortnight sin' syne, and has been my
guest ever since."

"Aweel, and I trust he is not at his auld tricks again, goodwife?"
answered the Clerk. "I havena sae muckle to say either wi' the new
Sheriff or the Bench of Justices as I used to hae, Mrs. Dods--and the
Procurator-fiscal is very severe on poaching, being borne out by the new
Association--few of our auld friends of the Killnakelty are able to come
to the sessions now, Mrs. Dods."

"The waur for the country, Mr. Bindloose," replied the old lady--"they
were decent, considerate men, that didna plague a puir herd callant
muckle about a moorfowl or a mawkin, unless he turned common fowler--Sir
Robert Ringhorse used to say, the herd lads shot as mony gleds and pyots
as they did game.--But new lords new laws--naething but fine and
imprisonment, and the game no a feather the plentier. If I wad hae a
brace or twa of birds in the house, as every body looks for them after
the twelfth--I ken what they are like to cost me--And what for no?--risk
maun be paid for.--There is John Pirner himsell, that has keepit the
muir-side thirty year in spite of a' the lairds in the country, shoots,
he tells me, now-a-days, as if he felt a rape about his neck."

"It wasna about ony game business, then, that you wanted advice?" said
Bindloose, who, though somewhat of a digresser himself, made little
allowance for the excursions of others from the subject in hand.

"Indeed is it no, Mr. Bindloose," said Meg; "but it is e'en about this
unhappy callant that I spoke to you about.--Ye maun ken I have cleiket a
particular fancy to this lad, Francis Tirl--a fancy that whiles
surprises my very sell, Mr. Bindloose, only that there is nae sin in
it."

"None--none in the world, Mrs. Dods," said the lawyer, thinking at the
same time within his own mind, "Oho! the mist begins to clear up--the
young poacher has hit the mark, I see--winged the old barren grey
hen!--ay, ay,--a marriage-contract, no doubt--but I maun gie her
line.--Ye are a wise woman, Mrs. Dods," he continued aloud, "and can
doubtless consider the chances and the changes of human affairs."

"But I could never have considered what has befallen this puir lad, Mr.
Bindloose," said Mrs. Dods, "through the malice of wicked men.--He
lived, then, at the Cleikum, as I tell you, for mair than a fortnight,
as quiet as a lamb on a lea-rig--a decenter lad never came within my
door--ate and drank eneugh for the gude of the house, and nae mair than
was for his ain gude, whether of body or soul--cleared his bills ilka
Saturday at e'en, as regularly as Saturday came round."

"An admirable customer, no doubt, Mrs. Dods," said the lawyer.

"Never was the like of him for that matter," answered the honest dame.
"But to see the malice of men!--some of thae landloupers and gill-flirts
down at the filthy puddle yonder, that they ca' the Waal, had heard of
this puir lad, and the bits of pictures that he made fashion of drawing,
and they maun cuitle him awa doun to the bottle, where mony a bonny
story they had clecked, Mr. Bindloose, baith of Mr. Tirl and of mysell."

"A Commissary Court business," said the writer, going off again upon a
false scent. "I shall trim their jackets for them, Mrs. Dods, if you can
but bring tight evidence of the facts--I will soon bring them to fine
and palinode--I will make them repent meddling with your good name."

"My gude name! What the sorrow is the matter wi' my name, Mr.
Bindloose?" said the irritable client. "I think ye hae been at the wee
cappie this morning, for as early as it is--My gude name!--if ony body
touched my gude name, I would neither fash counsel nor commissary--I wad
be down amang them, like a jer-falcon amang a wheen wild-geese, and the
best amang them that dared to say ony thing of Meg Dods by what was
honest and civil, I wad sune see if her cockernonnie was made of her ain
hair or other folk's. _My_ gude name, indeed!"

"Weel, weel, Mrs. Dods, I was mista'en, that's a'," said the writer, "I
was mista'en; and I dare to say you would haud your ain wi' your
neighbours as weel as ony woman in the land--But let us hear now what
the grief is, in one word."

"In one word, then, Clerk Bindloose, it is little short of--murder,"
said Meg, in a low tone, as if the very utterance of the word startled
her.

"Murder! murder, Mrs. Dods?--it cannot be--there is not a word of it in
the Sheriff-office--the Procurator-fiscal kens nothing of it--there
could not be murder in the country, and me not hear of it--for God's
sake, take heed what you say, woman, and dinna get yourself into
trouble."

"Mr. Bindloose, I can but speak according to my lights," said Mrs. Dods;
"you are in a sense a judge in Israel, at least you are one of the
scribes having authority--and I tell you, with a wae and bitter heart,
that this puir callant of mine that was lodging in my house has been
murdered or kidnapped awa amang thae banditti folk down at the New Waal;
and I'll have the law put in force against them, if it should cost me a
hundred pounds."

The Clerk stood much astonished at the nature of Meg's accusation, and
the pertinacity with which she seemed disposed to insist upon it.

"I have this comfort," she continued, "that whatever has happened, it
has been by no fault of mine, Mr. Bindloose; for weel I wot, before that
bloodthirsty auld half-pay Philistine, MacTurk, got to speech of him, I
clawed his cantle to some purpose with my hearth-besom.--But the poor
simple bairn himsell, that had nae mair knowledge of the wickedness of
human nature than a calf has of a flesher's gully, he threepit to see
the auld hardened bloodshedder, and trysted wi' him to meet wi' some of
the gang at an hour certain that same day, and awa he gaed to keep
tryst, but since that hour naebody ever has set een on him.--And the
mansworn villains now want to put a disgrace on him, and say that he
fled the country rather than face them!--a likely story--fled the
country for them!--and leave his bill unsettled--him that was sae
regular--and his portmantle and his fishing-rod and the pencils and
pictures he held sic a wark about!--It's my faithful belief, Mr.
Bindloose--and ye may trust me or no as ye like--that he had some foul
play between the Cleikum and the Buck-stane. I have thought it, and I
have dreamed it, and I will be at the bottom of it, or my name is not
Meg Dods, and that I wad have them a' to reckon on.--Ay, ay, that's
right, Mr. Bindloose, tak out your pen and inkhorn, and let us set about
it to purpose."

With considerable difficulty, and at the expense of much
cross-examination, Mr. Bindloose extracted from his client a detailed
account of the proceedings of the company at the Well towards Tyrrel, so
far as they were known to, or suspected by Meg, making notes, as the
examination proceeded, of what appeared to be matter of consequence.
After a moment's consideration, he asked the dame the very natural
question, how she came to be acquainted with the material fact, that a
hostile appointment was made between Captain MacTurk and her lodger,
when, according to her own account, it was made _intra parietes_, and
_remotis testibus_?

"Ay, but we victuallers ken weel eneugh what goes on in our ain houses,"
said Meg--"And what for no?--If ye _maun_ ken a' about it, I e'en
listened through the keyhole of the door."

"And do you say you heard them settle an appointment for a duel?" said
the Clerk; "and did you no take ony measures to hinder mischief, Mrs.
Dods, having such a respect for this lad as you say you have, Mrs.
Dods?--I really wadna have looked for the like o' this at your hands."

"In truth, Mr. Bindloose," said Meg, putting her apron to her eyes, "and
that's what vexes me mair than a' the rest, and ye needna say muckle to
ane whose heart is e'en the sairer that she has been a thought to blame.
But there has been mony a challenge, as they ca' it, passed in my house,
when thae daft lads of the Wildfire Club and the Helter-skelter were
upon their rambles; and they had aye sense eneugh to make it up without
fighting, sae that I really did not apprehend ony thing like
mischief.--And ye maun think, moreover, Mr. Bindloose, that it would
have been an unco thing if a guest, in a decent and creditable public
like mine, was to have cried coward before ony of thae landlouping
blackguards that live down at the hottle yonder."

"That is to say, Mrs. Dods, you were desirous your guest should fight
for the honour of your house," said Bindloose.

"What for no, Mr. Bindloose?--Isna that kind of fray aye about honour?
and what for should the honour of a substantial, four-nooked, sclated
house of three stories, no be foughten for, as weel as the credit of ony
of these feckless callants that make such a fray about their
reputation?--I promise you my house, the Cleikum, stood in the Auld Town
of St. Ronan's before they were born, and it will stand there after they
are hanged, as I trust some of them are like to be."

"Well, but perhaps your lodger had less zeal for the honour of the
house, and has quietly taken himself out of harm's way," said Mr.
Bindloose; "for if I understand your story, this meeting never took
place."

"Have less zeal!" said Meg, determined to be pleased with no supposition
of her lawyer, "Mr. Bindloose, ye little ken him--I wish ye had seen him
when he was angry!--I dared hardly face him mysell, and there are no
mony folk that I am feared for--Meeting! there was nae meeting, I
trow--they never dared to meet him fairly--but I am sure waur came of it
than ever would have come of a meeting; for Anthony heard twa shots gang
off as he was watering the auld naig down at the burn, and that is not
far frae the footpath that leads to the Buck-stane. I was angry at him
for no making on to see what the matter was, but he thought it was auld
Pirner out wi' the double barrel, and he wasna keen of making himself a
witness, in case he suld have been caa'd on in the Poaching Court."

"Well," said the Sheriff-clerk, "and I dare say he did hear a poacher
fire a couple of shots--nothing more likely. Believe me, Mrs. Dods, your
guest had no fancy for the party Captain MacTurk invited him to--and
being a quiet sort of man, he has just walked away to his own home, if
he has one--I am really sorry you have given yourself the trouble of
this long journey about so simple a matter."

Mrs. Dods remained with her eyes fixed on the ground in a very sullen
and discontented posture, and when she spoke, it was in a tone of
corresponding displeasure.

"Aweel--aweel--live and learn, they say--I thought I had a friend in
you, Mr. Bindloose--I am sure I aye took your part when folk miscaa'd
ye, and said ye were this, that, and the other thing, and little better
than an auld sneck-drawing loon, Mr. Bindloose.--And ye have aye keepit
my penny of money, though, nae doubt, Tam Turnpenny lives nearer me, and
they say he allows half a per cent mair than ye do if the siller lies,
and mine is but seldom steered."

"But ye have not the Bank's security, madam," said Mr. Bindloose,
reddening. "I say harm of nae man's credit--ill would it beseem me--but
there is a difference between Tam Turnpenny and the Bank, I trow."

"Weel, weel, Bank here Bank there, I thought I had a friend in you, Mr.
Bindloose; and here am I, come from my ain house all the way to yours
for sma' comfort, I think."

"My stars, madam," said the perplexed scribe, "what would you have me to
do in such a blind story as yours, Mrs. Dods?--Be a thought
reasonable--consider that there is no _Corpus delicti_."

_"Corpus delicti?_ and what's that?" said Meg; "something to be paid
for, nae doubt, for your hard words a' end in that.--And what for suld I
no have a Corpus delicti, or a Habeas Corpus, or ony other Corpus that I
like, sae lang as I am willing to lick and lay down the ready siller?"

"Lord help and pardon us, Mrs. Dods," said the distressed agent, "ye
mistake the matter a'thegether! When I say there is no Corpus delicti, I
mean to say there is no proof that a crime has been committed."[I-19]

"And does the man say that murder is not a crime, than?" answered Meg,
who had taken her own view of the subject far too strongly to be
converted to any other--"Weel I wot it's a crime, baith by the law of
God and man, and mony a pretty man has been strapped for it."

"I ken all that very weel," answered the writer; "but, my stars, Mrs.
Dods, there is nae evidence of murder in this case--nae proof that a man
has been slain--nae production of his dead body--and that is what we
call the Corpus delicti."

"Weel, than, the deil lick it out of ye," said Meg, rising in wrath,
"for I will awa hame again; and as for the puir lad's body, I'll hae it
fund, if it cost me turning the earth for three miles round wi' pick and
shool--if it were but to give the puir bairn Christian burial, and to
bring punishment on MacTurk and the murdering crew at the Waal, and to
shame an auld doited fule like yoursell, John Bindloose."

She rose in wrath to call her vehicle; but it was neither the interest
nor the intention of the writer that his customer and he should part on
such indifferent terms. He implored her patience, and reminded her that
the horses, poor things, had just come off their stage--an argument
which sounded irresistible in the ears of the old she-publican, in whose
early education due care of the post-cattle mingled with the most sacred
duties. She therefore resumed her seat again in a sullen mood, and Mr.
Bindloose was cudgelling his brains for some argument which might bring
the old lady to reason, when his attention was drawn by a noise in the
passage.

FOOTNOTE:

[I-19] For example, a man cannot be tried for murder merely in the case of
the non-appearance of an individual; there must be proof that the party
has been murdered.



CHAPTER XV.

A PRAISER OF PAST TIMES.

    ----Now your traveller,
    He and his toothpick at my worship's mess.

_King John._


The noise stated at the conclusion of last chapter to have disturbed Mr.
Bindloose, was the rapping of one, as in haste and impatience, at the
Bank-office door, which office was an apartment of the Banker's house,
on the left hand of his passage, as the parlour in which he had received
Mrs. Dods was upon the right.

In general, this office was patent to all having business there; but at
present, whatever might be the hurry of the party who knocked, the
clerks within the office could not admit him, being themselves made
prisoners by the prudent jealousy of Mr. Bindloose, to prevent them from
listening to his consultation with Mrs. Dods. They therefore answered
the angry and impatient knocking of the stranger only with stifled
giggling from within, finding it no doubt an excellent joke, that their
master's precaution was thus interfering with their own discharge of
duty.

With one or two hearty curses upon them, as the regular plagues of his
life, Mr. Bindloose darted into the passage, and admitted the stranger
into his official apartment. The doors both of the parlour and office
remaining open, the ears of Luckie Dods (experienced, as the reader
knows, in collecting intelligence) could partly overhear what passed.
The conversation seemed to regard a cash transaction of some importance,
as Meg became aware when the stranger raised a voice which was naturally
sharp and high, as he did when uttering the following words, towards the
close of a conversation which had lasted about five minutes--"Premium?--Not
a pice, sir--not a courie--not a farthing--premium for a Bank of England
bill?--d'ye take me for a fool, sir?--do not I know that you call forty
days par when you give remittances to London?"

Mr. Bindloose was here heard to mutter something indistinctly about the
custom of the trade.

"Custom!" retorted the stranger, "no such thing--damn'd bad custom, if
it is one--don't tell me of customs--'Sbodikins, man, I know the rate of
exchange all over the world, and have drawn bills from Timbuctoo--My
friends in the Strand filed it along with Bruce's from Gondar--talk to
me of premium on a Bank of England post-bill!--What d'ye look at the
bill for?--D'ye think it doubtful--I can change it."

"By no means necessary," answered Bindloose, "the bill is quite right;
but it is usual to indorse, sir."

"Certainly--reach me a pen--d'ye think I can write with my rattan?--What
sort of ink is this?--yellow as curry sauce--never mind--there is my
name--Peregrine Touchwood--I got it from the Willoughbies, my Christian
name--Have I my full change here?"

"Your full change, sir," answered Bindloose.

"Why, you should give _me_ a premium, friend, instead of me giving you
one."

"It is out of our way, I assure you, sir," said the Banker, "quite out
of our way--but if you would step into the parlour and take a cup of
tea"----

"Why, ay," said the stranger, his voice sounding more distinctly as
(talking all the while, and ushered along by Mr. Bindloose) he left the
office and moved towards the parlour, "a cup of tea were no such bad
thing, if one could come by it genuine--but as for your premium"----So
saying, he entered the parlour and made his bow to Mrs. Dods, who,
seeing what she called a decent, purpose-like body, and aware that his
pocket was replenished with English and Scottish paper currency,
returned the compliment with her best curtsy.

Mr. Touchwood, when surveyed more at leisure, was a short, stout, active
man, who, though sixty years of age and upwards, retained in his sinews
and frame the elasticity of an earlier period. His countenance expressed
self-confidence, and something like a contempt for those who had neither
seen nor endured so much as he had himself. His short black hair was
mingled with grey, but not entirely whitened by it. His eyes were
jet-black, deep-set, small, and sparkling, and contributed, with a short
turned-up nose, to express an irritable and choleric habit. His
complexion was burnt to a brick-colour by the vicissitudes of climate,
to which it had been subjected; and his face, which at the distance of a
yard or two seemed hale and smooth, appeared, when closely examined, to
be seamed with a million of wrinkles, crossing each other in every
direction possible, but as fine as if drawn by the point of a very
small needle.[I-20] His dress was a blue coat and buff waistcoat, half
boots remarkably well blacked, and a silk handkerchief tied with
military precision. The only antiquated part of his dress was a cocked
hat of equilateral dimensions, in the button-hole of which he wore a
very small cockade. Mrs. Dods, accustomed to judge of persons by their
first appearance, said, that in the three steps which he made from the
door to the tea-table, she recognised, without the possibility of
mistake, the gait of a person who was well to pass in the world; "and
that," she added with a wink, "is what we victuallers are seldom
deceived in. If a gold-laced waistcoat has an empty pouch, the plain
swan's-down will be the brawer of the twa."

"A drizzling morning, good madam," said Mr. Touchwood, as with a view of
sounding what sort of company he had got into.

"A fine saft morning for the crap, sir," answered Mrs. Dods, with equal
solemnity.

"Right, my good madam; _soft_ is the very word, though it has been some
time since I heard it. I have cast a double hank about the round world
since I last heard of a soft[I-21] morning."

"You will be from these parts, then?" said the writer, ingeniously
putting a case, which, he hoped, would induce the stranger to explain
himself. "And yet, sir," he added, after a pause, "I was thinking that
Touchwood is not a Scottish name, at least that I ken of."

"Scottish name?--no," replied the traveller; "but a man may have been in
these parts before, without being a native--or, being a native, he may
have had some reason to change his name--there are many reasons why men
change their names."

"Certainly, and some of them very good ones," said the lawyer; "as in
the common case of an heir of entail, where deed of provision and
tailzie is maist ordinarily implemented by taking up name and arms."

"Ay, or in the case of a man having made the country too hot for him
under his own proper appellative," said Mr. Touchwood.

"That is a supposition, sir," replied the lawyer, "which it would ill
become me to put.--But at any rate, if you knew this country formerly,
ye cannot but be marvellously pleased with the change we have been
making since the American war--hill-sides bearing clover instead of
heather--rents doubled, trebled, quadrupled--the auld reekie dungeons
pulled down, and gentlemen living in as good houses as you will see any
where in England."

"Much good may it do them, for a pack of fools!" replied Mr. Touchwood,
hastily.

"You do not seem much delighted with our improvements, sir?" said the
banker, astonished to hear a dissentient voice where he conceived all
men were unanimous.

"Pleased!" answered the stranger--"Yes, as much pleased as I am with the
devil, who I believe set many of them agoing. Ye have got an idea that
every thing must be changed--Unstable as water, ye shall not excel--I
tell ye, there have been more changes in this poor nook of yours within
the last forty years, than in the great empires of the East for the
space of four thousand, for what I know."

"And why not," replied Bindloose, "if they be changes for the better?"

"But they are _not_ for the better," replied Mr. Touchwood, eagerly. "I
left your peasantry as poor as rats indeed, but honest and industrious,
enduring their lot in this world with firmness, and looking forward to
the next with hope--Now they are mere eye-servants--looking at their
watches, forsooth, every ten minutes, lest they should work for their
master half an instant after loosing-time--And then, instead of studying
the Bible on the work days, to kittle the clergymen with doubtful points
of controversy on the Sabbath, they glean all their theology from Tom
Paine and Voltaire."

"Weel I wot the gentleman speaks truth," said Mrs. Dods. "I fand a
bundle of their bawbee blasphemies in my ain kitchen--But I trow I made
a clean house of the packman loon that brought them!--No content wi'
turning the tawpies' heads wi' ballants, and driving them daft wi'
ribands, to cheat them out of their precious souls, and gie them the
deevil's ware, that I suld say sae, in exchange for the siller that suld
support their puir father that's aff wark and bedridden!"

"Father! madam," said the stranger; "they think no more of their father
than Regan or Goneril."

"In gude troth, ye have skeel of our sect, sir," replied the dame; "they
are gomerils, every one of them--I tell them sae every hour of the day,
but catch them profiting by the doctrine."

"And then the brutes are turned mercenary, madam," said Mr. Touchwood,
"I remember when a Scottishman would have scorned to touch a shilling
that he had not earned, and yet was as ready to help a stranger as an
Arab of the desert. And now, I did but drop my cane the other day as I
was riding--a fellow who was working at the hedge made three steps to
lift it--I thanked him, and my friend threw his hat on his head, and
'damned my thanks, if that were all'--Saint Giles could not have
excelled him."

"Weel, weel," said the banker, "that may be a' as you say, sir, and nae
doubt wealth makes wit waver; but the country's wealthy, that cannot be
denied, and wealth, sir, ye ken"----

"I know wealth makes itself wings," answered the cynical stranger; "but
I am not quite sure we have it even now. You make a great show, indeed,
with building and cultivation; but stock is not capital, any more than
the fat of a corpulent man is health or strength."

"Surely, Mr. Touchwood," said Bindloose, who felt his own account in the
modern improvements, "a set of landlords, living like lairds in good
earnest, and tenants with better housekeeping than the lairds used to
have, and facing Whitsunday and Martinmas as I would face my
breakfast--if these are not signs of wealth, I do not know where to seek
for them."

"They are signs of folly, sir," replied Touchwood; "folly that is poor,
and renders itself poorer by desiring to be thought rich; and how they
come by the means they are so ostentatious of, you, who are a banker,
perhaps can tell me better than I can guess."

"There is maybe an accommodation bill discounted now and then, Mr.
Touchwood; but men must have accommodation, or the world would stand
still--accommodation is the grease that makes the wheels go."

"Ay, makes them go down hill to the devil," answered Touchwood. "I left
you bothered about one Ayr bank, but the whole country is an Air bank
now, I think--And who is to pay the piper?--But it's all one--I will see
little more of it--it is a perfect Babel, and would turn the head of a
man who has spent his life with people who love sitting better than
running, silence better than speaking, who never eat but when they are
hungry, never drink but when thirsty, never laugh without a jest, and
never speak but when they have something to say. But here, it is all
run, ride, and drive--froth, foam, and flippancy--no steadiness--no
character."

"I'll lay the burden of my life," said Dame Dods, looking towards her
friend Bindloose, "that the gentleman has been at the new Spaw-waal
yonder!"

"Spaw do you call it, madam?--If you mean the new establishment that has
been spawned down yonder at St. Ronan's, it is the very fountain-head of
folly and coxcombry--a Babel for noise, and a Vanity-fair for
nonsense--no well in your swamps tenanted by such a conceited colony of
clamorous frogs."

"Sir, sir!" exclaimed Dame Dods, delighted with the unqualified sentence
passed upon her fashionable rivals, and eager to testify her respect for
the judicious stranger who had pronounced it,--"will you let me have the
pleasure of pouring you out a dish of tea?" And so saying, she took
bustling possession of the administration which had hitherto remained in
the hands of Mr. Bindloose himself.

"I hope it is to your taste, sir," she continued, when the traveller
had accepted her courtesy with the grateful acknowledgment, which men
addicted to speak a great deal usually show to a willing auditor.

"It is as good as we have any right to expect, ma'am," answered Mr.
Touchwood; "not quite like what I have drunk at Canton with old Fong
Qua--but the Celestial Empire does not send its best tea to Leadenhall
Street, nor does Leadenhall Street send its best to Marchthorn."

"That may be very true, sir," replied the dame; "but I will venture to
say that Mr. Bindloose's tea is muckle better than you had at the
Spaw-waal yonder."

"Tea, madam!--I saw none--Ash leaves and black-thorn leaves were brought
in in painted canisters, and handed about by powder-monkeys in livery,
and consumed by those who liked it, amidst the chattering of parrots and
the squalling of kittens. I longed for the days of the Spectator, when I
might have laid my penny on the bar, and retired without ceremony--But
no--this blessed decoction was circulated under the auspices of some
half-crazed blue-stocking or other, and we were saddled with all the
formality of an entertainment, for this miserable allowance of a
cockle-shell full of cat-lap per head."

"Weel, sir," answered Dame Dods, "all I can say is, that if it had been
my luck to have served you at the Cleikum Inn, which our folk have kept
for these twa generations, I canna pretend to say ye should have had
such tea as ye have been used to in foreign parts where it grows, but
the best I had I wad have gi'en it to a gentleman of your appearance,
and I never charged mair than six-pence in all my time, and my father's
before me."

"I wish I had known the Old Inn was still standing, madam," said the
traveller; "I should certainly have been your guest, and sent down for
the water every morning--the doctors insist I must use Cheltenham, or
some substitute, for the bile--though, d--n them, I believe it's only
to hide their own ignorance. And I thought this Spaw would have been the
least evil of the two; but I have been fairly overreached--one might as
well live in the inside of a bell. I think young St. Ronan's must be
mad, to have established such a Vanity-fair upon his father's old
property."

"Do you ken this St. Ronan's that now is?" enquired the dame.

"By report only," said Mr. Touchwood; "but I have heard of the family,
and I think I have read of them, too, in Scottish history. I am sorry to
understand they are lower in the world than they have been. This young
man does not seem to take the best way to mend matters, spending his
time among gamblers and black-legs."

"I should be sorry if it were so," said honest Meg Dods, whose
hereditary respect for the family always kept her from joining in any
scandal affecting the character of the young Laird--"My forbears, sir,
have had kindness frae his; and although maybe he may have forgotten all
about it, it wad ill become me to say ony thing of him that should not
be said of his father's son."

Mr. Bindloose had not the same motive for forbearance; he declaimed
against Mowbray as a thoughtless dissipater of his own fortune, and that
of others. "I have some reason to speak," he said, "having two of his
notes for L.100 each, which I discounted out of mere kindness and
respect for his ancient family, and which he thinks nae mair of
retiring, than he does of paying the national debt--And here has he been
raking every shop in Marchthorn, to fit out an entertainment for all the
fine folk at the Well yonder; and tradesfolk are obliged to take his
acceptances for their furnishings. But they may cash his bills that
will; I ken ane that will never advance a bawbee on ony paper that has
John Mowbray either on the back or front of it. He had mair need to be
paying the debts which he has made already, than making new anes, that
he may feed fules and flatterers."

"I believe he is likely to lose his preparations, too," said Mr.
Touchwood, "for the entertainment has been put off, as I heard, in
consequence of Miss Mowbray's illness."

"Ay, ay, puir thing!" said Dame Margaret Dods: "her health has been
unsettled for this mony a day."

"Something wrong here, they tell me," said the traveller, pointing to
his own forehead significantly.

"God only kens," replied Mrs. Dods; "but I rather suspect the heart than
the head--the puir thing is hurried here and there, and down to the
Waal, and up again, and nae society or quiet at hame; and a' thing
ganging this unthrifty gait--nae wonder she is no that weel settled."

"Well," replied Touchwood, "she is worse they say than she has been, and
that has occasioned the party at Shaws-Castle having been put off.
Besides, now this fine young lord has come down to the Well, undoubtedly
they will wait her recovery."

"A lord!" ejaculated the astonished Mrs. Dods; "a lord come down to the
Waal--they will be neither to haud nor to bind now--ance wud and aye
waur--a lord!--set them up and shute them forward--a lord!--the Lord
have a care o' us!--a lord at the hottle!--Maister Touchwood, it's my
mind he will only prove to be a Lord o' Session."

"Nay, not so, my good lady," replied the traveller "he is an English
lord, and, as they say, a Lord of Parliament--but some folk pretend to
say there is a flaw in the title."

"I'll warrant is there--a dozen of them!" said Meg, with alacrity--for
she could by no means endure to think on the accumulation of dignity
likely to accrue to the rival establishment, from its becoming the
residence of an actual nobleman. "I'll warrant he'll prove a landlouping
lord on their hand, and they will be e'en cheap o' the loss--And he has
come down out of order it's like, and nae doubt he'll no be lang there
before he will recover his health, for the credit of the Spaw."

"Faith, madam, his present disorder is one which the Spaw will hardly
cure--he is shot in the shoulder with a pistol-bullet--a robbery
attempted, it seems--that is one of your new accomplishments--no such
thing happened in Scotland in my time--men would have sooner expected to
meet with the phoenix than with a highwayman."

"And where did this happen, if you please, sir?" asked the man of bills.

"Somewhere near the old village," replied the stranger; "and, if I am
rightly informed, on Wednesday last."

"This explains your twa shots, I am thinking, Mrs. Dods," said Mr.
Bindloose; "your groom heard them on the Wednesday--it must have been
this attack on the stranger nobleman."

"Maybe it was, and maybe it was not," said Mrs. Dods; "but I'll see gude
reason before I give up my ain judgment in that case.--I wad like to
ken if this gentleman," she added, returning to the subject from which
Mr. Touchwood's interesting conversation had for a few minutes diverted
her thoughts, "has heard aught of Mr. Tirl?"

"If you mean the person to whom this paper relates," said the stranger,
taking a printed handbill from his pocket, "I heard of little else--the
whole place rang of him, till I was almost as sick of Tyrrel as William
Rufus was. Some idiotical quarrel which he had engaged in, and which he
had not fought out, as their wisdom thought he should have done, was the
principal cause of censure. That is another folly now, which has gained
ground among you. Formerly, two old proud lairds, or cadets of good
family, perhaps, quarrelled, and had a rencontre, or fought a duel after
the fashion of their old Gothic ancestors; but men who had no
grandfathers never dreamt of such folly--And here the folk denounce a
trumpery dauber of canvass, for such I understand to be this hero's
occupation, as if he were a field-officer, who made valour his
profession; and who, if you deprived him of his honour, was like to be
deprived of his bread at the same time.--Ha, ha, ha! it reminds one of
Don Quixote, who took his neighbour, Samson Carrasco, for a
knight-errant."

The perusal of this paper, which contained the notes formerly laid
before the reader, containing the statement of Sir Bingo, and the
censure which the company at the Well had thought fit to pass upon his
affair with Mr. Tyrrel, induced Mr. Bindloose to say to Mrs. Dods, with
as little exultation on the superiority of his own judgment as human
nature would permit,--

"Ye see now that I was right, Mrs. Dods, and that there was nae earthly
use in your fashing yoursell wi' this lang journey--The lad had just
ta'en the bent rather than face Sir Bingo; and troth, I think him the
wiser of the twa for sae doing--There ye hae print for it."

Meg answered somewhat sullenly, "Ye may be mista'en, for a' that, your
ainsell, for as wise as ye are, Mr. Bindloose; I shall hae that matter
mair strictly enquired into."

This led to a renewal of the altercation concerning the probable fate of
Tyrrel, in the course of which the stranger was induced to take some
interest in the subject.

At length Mrs. Dods, receiving no countenance from the experienced
lawyer for the hypothesis she had formed, rose, in something like
displeasure, to order her whiskey to be prepared. But hostess as she was
herself, when in her own dominions, she reckoned without her host in the
present instance; for the humpbacked postilion, as absolute in his
department as Mrs. Dods herself, declared that the cattle would not be
fit for the road these two hours yet. The good lady was therefore
obliged to wait his pleasure, bitterly lamenting all the while the loss
which a house of public entertainment was sure to sustain by the absence
of the landlord or landlady, and anticipating a long list of broken
dishes, miscalculated reckonings, unarranged chambers, and other
disasters, which she was to expect at her return. Mr. Bindloose, zealous
to recover the regard of his good friend and client, which he had in
some degree forfeited by contradicting her on a favourite subject, did
not choose to offer the unpleasing, though obvious topic of consolation,
that an unfrequented inn is little exposed to the accidents she
apprehended. On the contrary, he condoled with her very cordially, and
went so far as to hint, that if Mr. Touchwood had come to Marchthorn
with post-horses, as he supposed from his dress, she could have the
advantage of them to return with more despatch to St. Ronan's.

"I am not sure," said Mr. Touchwood, suddenly, "but I may return there
myself. In that case I will be glad to set this good lady down, and to
stay a few days at her house if she will receive me.--I respect a woman
like you, ma'am, who pursue the occupation of your father--I have been
in countries, ma'am, where people have followed the same trade, from
father to son, for thousands of years--And I like the fashion--it shows
a steadiness and sobriety of character."

Mrs. Dods put on a joyous countenance at this proposal, protesting that
all should be done in her power to make things agreeable; and while her
good friend, Mr. Bindloose, expatiated upon the comfort her new guest
would experience at the Cleikum, she silently contemplated with delight
the prospect of a speedy and dazzling triumph, by carrying off a
creditable customer from her showy and successful rival at the Well.

"I shall be easily accommodated, ma'am," said the stranger; "I have
travelled too much and too far to be troublesome. A Spanish venta, a
Persian khan, or a Turkish caravanserail, is all the same to me--only,
as I have no servant--indeed, never can be plagued with one of these
idle loiterers,--I must beg you will send to the Well for a bottle of
the water on such mornings as I cannot walk there myself--I find it is
really of some service to me."

Mrs. Dods readily promised compliance with this reasonable request;
graciously conceding, that there "could be nae ill in the water itsell,
but maybe some gude--it was only the New Inn, and the daft haverils that
they caa'd the Company, that she misliked. Folk had a jest that St.
Ronan dookit the Deevil in the Waal, which garr'd it taste aye since of
brimstane--but she dared to say that was a' papist nonsense, for she was
tell't by him that kend weel, and that was the minister himsell, that
St. Ronan was nane of your idolatrous Roman saunts, but a Chaldee,"
(meaning probably a Culdee,) "whilk was doubtless a very different
story."

Matters being thus arranged to the satisfaction of both parties, the
post-chaise was ordered, and speedily appeared at the door of Mr.
Bindloose's mansion. It was not without a private feeling of reluctance,
that honest Meg mounted the step of a vehicle, on the door of which was
painted, "FOX INN AND HOTEL, ST. RONAN'S WELL;" but it was too late to
start such scruples.

"I never thought to have entered ane o' their hurley-hackets," she said,
as she seated herself; "and sic a like thing as it is--scarce room for
twa folk!--Weel I wot, Mr. Touchwood, when I was in the hiring line, our
twa chaises wad hae carried, ilk ane o' them, four grown folk and as
mony bairns. I trust that doited creature Anthony will come awa back wi'
my whiskey and the cattle, as soon as they have had their feed.--Are ye
sure ye hae room eneugh, sir?--I wad fain hotch mysell farther yont."

"O, ma'am," answered the Oriental, "I am accustomed to all sorts of
conveyances--a dooly, a litter, a cart, a palanquin, or a post-chaise,
are all alike to me--I think I could be an inside with Queen Mab in a
nutshell, rather than not get forward.--Begging you many pardons, if you
have no particular objections, I will light my sheroot," &c. &c. &c.

FOOTNOTES:

[I-20] This was a peculiarity in the countenance of the celebrated Cossack
leader, Platoff.

[I-21] An epithet which expresses, in Scotland, what the barometer calls
rainy.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE CLERGYMAN.

    A man he was to all the country dear,
    And passing rich with forty pounds a-year.

GOLDSMITH'S _Deserted Village_.


Mrs. Dods's conviction, that her friend Tyrrel had been murdered by the
sanguinary Captain MacTurk remained firm and unshaken; but some
researches for the supposed body having been found fruitless, as well as
expensive, she began to give up the matter in despair. "She had done her
duty"--"she left the matter to them that had a charge anent such
things"--and "Providence would bring the mystery to light in his own
fitting time"--such were the moralities with which the good dame
consoled herself; and, with less obstinacy than Mr. Bindloose had
expected, she retained her opinion without changing her banker and man
of business.

Perhaps Meg's acquiescent inactivity in a matter which she had
threatened to probe so deeply, was partly owing to the place of poor
Tyrrel being supplied in her blue chamber, and in her daily thoughts and
cares, by her new guest, Mr. Touchwood; in possessing whom, a deserter
as he was from the Well, she obtained, according to her view of the
matter, a decided triumph over her rivals. It sometimes required,
however, the full force of this reflection, to induce Meg, old and
crabbed as she was, to submit to the various caprices and exactions of
attention which were displayed by her new lodger. Never any man talked
so much as Touchwood, of his habitual indifference to food, and
accommodation in travelling; and probably there never was any traveller
who gave more trouble in a house of entertainment. He had his own whims
about cookery; and when these were contradicted, especially if he felt
at the same time a twinge of incipient gout, one would have thought he
had taken his lessons in the pastry-shop of Bedreddin Hassan, and was
ready to renew the scene of the unhappy cream-tart, which was compounded
without pepper. Every now and then he started some new doctrine in
culinary matters, which Mrs. Dods deemed a heresy; and then the very
house rang with their disputes. Again, his bed must necessarily be made
at a certain angle from the pillow to the footposts; and the slightest
deviation from this disturbed, he said, his nocturnal rest, and did
certainly ruffle his temper. He was equally whimsical about the brushing
of his clothes, the arrangement of the furniture in his apartment, and a
thousand minutiæ, which, in conversation, he seemed totally to contemn.

It may seem singular, but such is the inconsistency of human nature,
that a guest of this fanciful and capricious disposition gave much more
satisfaction to Mrs. Dods, than her quiet and indifferent friend, Mr.
Tyrrel. If her present lodger could blame, he could also applaud; and no
artist, conscious of such skill as Mrs. Dods possessed, is indifferent
to the praises of such a connoisseur as Mr. Touchwood. The pride of art
comforted her for the additional labour; nor was it a matter unworthy
of this most honest publican's consideration, that the guests who give
most trouble, are usually those who incur the largest bills, and pay
them with the best grace. On this point Touchwood was a jewel of a
customer. He never denied himself the gratification of the slightest
whim, whatever expense he might himself incur, or whatever trouble he
might give to those about him; and all was done under protestation, that
the matter in question was the most indifferent thing to him in the
world. "What the devil did he care for Burgess's sauces, he that had eat
his kouscousou, spiced with nothing but the sand of the desert? only it
was a shame for Mrs. Dods to be without what every decent house, above
the rank of an alehouse, ought to be largely provided with."

In short, he fussed, fretted, commanded, and was obeyed; kept the house
in hot water, and yet was so truly good-natured when essential matters
were in discussion, that it was impossible to bear him the least
ill-will; so that Mrs. Dods, though in a moment of spleen she sometimes
wished him at the top of Tintock,[I-F] always ended by singing forth his
praises. She could not, indeed, help suspecting that he was a Nabob, as
well from his conversation about foreign parts, as from his freaks of
indulgence to himself, and generosity to others,--attributes which she
understood to be proper to most "Men of Ind." But although the reader
has heard her testify a general dislike to this species of Fortune's
favourites, Mrs. Dods had sense enough to know, that a Nabob living in
the neighbourhood, who raises the price of eggs and poultry upon the
good housewives around, was very different from a Nabob residing within
her own gates, drawing all his supplies from her own larder, and
paying, without hesitation or question, whatever bills her conscience
permitted her to send in. In short, to come back to the point at which
we perhaps might have stopped some time since, landlady and guest were
very much pleased with each other.

But Ennui finds entrance into every scene, when the gloss of novelty is
over; and the fiend began to seize upon Mr. Touchwood just when he had
got all matters to his mind in the Cleikum Inn--had instructed Dame Dods
in the mysteries of curry and mullegatawny--drilled the chambermaid into
the habit of making his bed at the angle recommended by Sir John
Sinclair--and made some progress in instructing the humpbacked postilion
in the Arabian mode of grooming. Pamphlets and newspapers, sent from
London and from Edinburgh by loads, proved inadequate to rout this
invader of Mr. Touchwood's comfort; and, at last, he bethought himself
of company. The natural resource would have been the Well--but the
traveller had a holy shivering of awe, which crossed him at the very
recollection of Lady Penelope, who had worked him rather hard during his
former brief residence; and although Lady Binks's beauty might have
charmed an Asiatic, by the plump graces of its contour, our senior was
past the thoughts of a Sultana and a haram. At length a bright idea
crossed his mind, and he suddenly demanded of Mrs. Dods, who was pouring
out his tea for breakfast, into a large cup of a very particular species
of china, of which he had presented her with a service on condition of
her rendering him this personal good office,--"Pray, Mrs. Dods, what
sort of a man is your minister?"

"He's just a man like other men, Maister Touchwood," replied Meg; "what
sort of a man should he be?"

"A man like other men?--ay--that is to say, he has the usual complement
of legs and arms, eyes and ears--But is he a sensible man?"

"No muckle o' that, sir," answered Dame Dods; "for if he was drinking
this very tea that ye gat doun from London wi' the mail, he wad mistake
it for common bohea."

"Then he has not all his organs--wants a nose, or the use of one at
least," said Mr. Touchwood; "the tea is right gunpowder--a perfect
nosegay."

"Aweel, that may be," said the landlady; "but I have gi'en the minister
a dram frae my ain best bottle of real Coniac brandy, and may I never
stir frae the bit, if he didna commend my whisky when he set down the
glass! There is no ane o' them in the Presbytery but himsell--ay, or in
the Synod either--but wad hae kend whisky frae brandy."

"But what _sort_ of man is he?--Has he learning?" demanded Touchwood.

"Learning?--eneugh o' that," answered Meg; "just dung donnart wi'
learning--lets a' things about the Manse gang whilk gate they will, sae
they dinna plague him upon the score. An awfu' thing it is to see sic an
ill-red-up house!--If I had the twa tawpies that sorn upon the honest
man ae week under my drilling, I think I wad show them how to sort a
lodging!"

"Does he preach well?" asked the guest.

"Oh, weel eneugh, weel eneugh--sometimes he will fling in a lang word or
a bit of learning that our farmers and bannet lairds canna sae weel
follow--But what of that, as I am aye telling them?--them that pay
stipend get aye the mair for their siller."

"Does he attend to his parish?--Is he kind to the poor?"

"Ower muckle o' that, Maister Touchwood--I am sure he makes the Word
gude, and turns not away from those that ask o' him--his very pocket is
picked by a wheen ne'er-do-weel blackguards, that gae sorning through
the country."

"Sorning through the country, Mrs. Dods?--what would you think if you
had seen the Fakirs, the Dervises, the Bonzes, the Imaums, the monks,
and the mendicants, that I have seen?--But go on, never mind--Does this
minister of yours come much into company?"

"Company?--gae wa'," replied Meg, "he keeps nae company at a', neither
in his ain house or ony gate else. He comes down in the morning in a
lang ragged nightgown, like a potato bogle, and down he sits amang his
books; and if they dinna bring him something to eat, the puir demented
body has never the heart to cry for aught, and he has been kend to sit
for ten hours thegither, black fasting, whilk is a' mere papistrie,
though he does it just out o' forget."

"Why, landlady, in that case, your parson is any thing but the ordinary
kind of man you described him--Forget his dinner!--the man must be
mad--he shall dine with me to-day--he shall have such a dinner as I'll
be bound he won't forget in a hurry."

"Ye'll maybe find that easier said than dune," said Mrs. Dods; "the
honest man hasna, in a sense, the taste of his mouth--forby, he never
dines out of his ain house--that is, when he dines at a'--A drink of
milk and a bit of bread serves his turn, or maybe a cauld potato.--It's
a heathenish fashion of him, for as good a man as he is, for surely
there is nae Christian man but loves his own bowels."

"Why, that may be," answered Touchwood; "but I have known many who took
so much care of their own bowels, my good dame, as to have none for any
one else.--But come--bustle to the work--get us as good a dinner for two
as you can set out--have it ready at three to an instant--get the old
hock I had sent me from Cockburn--a bottle of the particular Indian
Sherry--and another of your own old claret--fourth bin, you know,
Meg.--And stay, he is a priest, and must have port--have all ready, but
don't bring the wine into the sun, as that silly fool Beck did the other
day.--I can't go down to the larder myself, but let us have no
blunders."

"Nae fear, nae fear," said Meg, with a toss of the head, "I need naebody
to look into my larder but mysell, I trow--but it's an unco order of
wine for twa folk, and ane o' them a minister."

"Why, you foolish person, is there not the woman up the village that has
just brought another fool into the world, and will she not need sack and
caudle, if we leave some of our wine?"

"A gude ale-posset wad set her better," said Meg; "however, if it's your
will, it shall be my pleasure.--But the like of sic a gentleman as
yoursell never entered my doors!"

The traveller was gone before she had completed the sentence; and,
leaving Meg to bustle and maunder at her leisure, away he marched, with
the haste that characterised all his motions when he had any new project
in his head, to form an acquaintance with the minister of St. Ronan's,
whom, while he walks down the street to the Manse, we will endeavour to
introduce to the reader.

The Rev. Josiah Cargill was the son of a small farmer in the south of
Scotland; and a weak constitution, joined to the disposition for study
which frequently accompanies infirm health, induced his parents, though
at the expense of some sacrifices, to educate him for the ministry. They
were the rather led to submit to the privations which were necessary to
support this expense, because they conceived, from their family
traditions, that he had in his veins some portion of the blood of that
celebrated Boanerges of the Covenant, Donald Cargill,[I-G] who was slain
by the persecutors at the town of Queensferry, in the melancholy days of
Charles II., merely because, in the plenitude of his sacerdotal power,
he had cast out of the church, and delivered over to Satan by a formal
excommunication, the King and Royal Family, with all the ministers and
courtiers thereunto belonging. But if Josiah was really derived from
this uncompromising champion, the heat of the family spirit which he
might have inherited was qualified by the sweetness of his own
disposition, and the quiet temper of the times in which he had the good
fortune to live. He was characterised by all who knew him as a mild,
gentle, and studious lover of learning, who, in the quiet prosecution of
his own sole object, the acquisition of knowledge, and especially of
that connected with his profession, had the utmost indulgence for all
whose pursuits were different from his own. His sole relaxations were
those of a retiring, mild, and pensive temper, and were limited to a
ramble, almost always solitary, among the woods and hills, in praise of
which, he was sometimes guilty of a sonnet, but rather because he could
not help the attempt, than as proposing to himself the fame or the
rewards which attend the successful poet. Indeed, far from seeking to
insinuate his fugitive pieces into magazines and newspapers, he blushed
at his poetical attempts even while alone, and, in fact, was rarely so
indulgent to his vein as to commit them to paper.

From the same maid-like modesty of disposition, our student suppressed a
strong natural turn towards drawing, although he was repeatedly
complimented upon the few sketches which he made, by some whose judgment
was generally admitted. It was, however, this neglected talent, which,
like the swift feet of the stag in the fable, was fated to render him a
service which he might in vain have expected from his worth and
learning.

My Lord Bidmore, a distinguished connoisseur, chanced to be in search of
a private tutor for his son and heir, the Honourable Augustus Bidmore,
and for this purpose had consulted the Professor of Theology, who passed
before him in review several favourite students, any of whom he
conceived well suited for the situation; but still his answer to the
important and unlooked-for question, "Did the candidate understand
drawing?" was answered in the negative. The Professor, indeed, added his
opinion, that such an accomplishment was neither to be desired nor
expected in a student of theology; but, pressed hard with this condition
as a _sine qua non_, he at length did remember a dreaming lad about the
Hall, who seldom could be got to speak above his breath, even when
delivering his essays, but was said to have a strong turn for drawing.
This was enough for my Lord Bidmore, who contrived to obtain a sight of
some of young Cargill's sketches, and was satisfied that, under such a
tutor, his son could not fail to maintain that character for hereditary
taste which his father and grandfather had acquired at the expense of a
considerable estate, the representative value of which was now the
painted canvass in the great gallery at Bidmore-House.

Upon following up the enquiry concerning the young man's character, he
was found to possess all the other necessary qualifications of learning
and morals, in a greater degree than perhaps Lord Bidmore might have
required; and, to the astonishment of his fellow-students, but more
especially to his own, Josiah Cargill was promoted to the desired and
desirable situation of private tutor to the Honourable Mr. Bidmore.

Mr. Cargill did his duty ably and conscientiously, by a spoiled though
good-humoured lad, of weak health and very ordinary parts. He could not,
indeed, inspire into him any portion of the deep and noble enthusiasm
which characterises the youth of genius; but his pupil made such
progress in each branch of his studies as his capacity enabled him to
attain. He understood the learned languages, and could be very profound
on the subject of various readings--he pursued science, and could class
shells, pack mosses, and arrange minerals--he drew without taste, but
with much accuracy; and although he attained no commanding height in any
pursuit, he knew enough of many studies, literary and scientific, to
fill up his time, and divert from temptation a head, which was none of
the strongest in point of resistance.

Miss Augusta Bidmore, his lordship's only other child, received also the
instructions of Cargill in such branches of science as her father chose
she should acquire, and her tutor was capable to teach. But her progress
was as different from that of her brother, as the fire of heaven differs
from that grosser element which the peasant piles upon his smouldering
hearth. Her acquirements in Italian and Spanish literature, in history,
in drawing, and in all elegant learning, were such as to enchant her
teacher, while at the same time it kept him on the stretch, lest, in her
successful career, the scholar should outstrip the master.

Alas! such intercourse, fraught as it is with dangers arising out of the
best and kindest, as well as the most natural feelings on either side,
proved in the present, as in many other instances, fatal to the peace of
the preceptor. Every feeling heart will excuse a weakness, which we
shall presently find carried with it its own severe punishment. Cadenus,
indeed, believe him who will, has assured us, that, in such a perilous
intercourse, he himself preserved the limits which were unhappily
transgressed by the unfortunate Vanessa, his more impassioned pupil:--

    "The innocent delight he took
    To see the virgin mind her book,
    Was but the master's secret joy,
    In school to hear the finest boy."

But Josiah Cargill was less fortunate, or less cautious. He suffered his
fair pupil to become inexpressibly dear to him, before he discovered the
precipice towards which he was moving under the direction of a blind and
misplaced passion. He was indeed utterly incapable of availing himself
of the opportunities afforded by his situation, to involve his pupil in
the toils of a mutual passion. Honour and gratitude alike forbade such a
line of conduct, even had it been consistent with the natural
bashfulness, simplicity, and innocence of his disposition. To sigh and
suffer in secret, to form resolutions of separating himself from a
situation so fraught with danger, and to postpone from day to day the
accomplishment of a resolution so prudent, was all to which the tutor
found himself equal; and it is not improbable, that the veneration with
which he regarded his patron's daughter, with the utter hopelessness of
the passion which he nourished, tended to render his love yet more pure
and disinterested.

At length, the line of conduct which reason had long since recommended,
could no longer be the subject of procrastination. Mr. Bidmore was
destined to foreign travel for a twelvemonth, and Mr. Cargill received
from his patron the alternative of accompanying his pupil, or retiring
upon a suitable provision, the reward of his past instructions. It can
hardly be doubted which he preferred; for while he was with young
Bidmore, he did not seem entirely separated from his sister. He was sure
to hear of Augusta frequently, and to see some part, at least, of the
letters which she was to write to her brother; he might also hope to be
remembered in these letters as her "good friend and tutor;" and to these
consolations his quiet, contemplative, and yet enthusiastic disposition,
clung as to a secret source of pleasure, the only one which life seemed
to open to him.

But fate had a blow in store, which he had not anticipated. The chance
of Augusta's changing her maiden condition for that of a wife, probable
as her rank, beauty, and fortune rendered such an event, had never once
occurred to him; and although he had imposed upon himself the unwavering
belief that she could never be his, he was inexpressibly affected by the
intelligence that she had become the property of another.

The Honourable Mr. Bidmore's letters to his father soon after announced
that poor Mr. Cargill had been seized with a nervous fever, and again,
that his reconvalescence was attended with so much debility, it seemed
both of mind and body, as entirely to destroy his utility as a
travelling companion. Shortly after this the travellers separated, and
Cargill returned to his native country alone, indulging upon the road in
a melancholy abstraction of mind, which he had suffered to grow upon him
since the mental shock which he had sustained, and which in time became
the most characteristical feature of his demeanour. His meditations were
not even disturbed by any anxiety about his future subsistence, although
the cessation of his employment seemed to render that precarious. For
this, however, Lord Bidmore had made provision; for, though a coxcomb
where the fine arts were concerned, he was in other particulars a just
and honourable man, who felt a sincere pride in having drawn the talents
of Cargill from obscurity, and entertained due gratitude for the manner
in which he had achieved the important task intrusted to him in his
family.

His lordship had privately purchased from the Mowbray family the
patronage or advowson of the living of St. Ronan's, then held by a very
old incumbent, who died shortly afterwards; so that upon arriving in
England Cargill found himself named to the vacant living. So
indifferent, however, did he feel himself towards this preferment, that
he might possibly not have taken the trouble to go through the necessary
steps previous to his ordination, had it not been on account of his
mother, now a widow, and unprovided for, unless by the support which he
afforded her. He visited her in her small retreat in the suburbs of
Marchthorn, heard her pour out her gratitude to Heaven, that she should
have been granted life long enough to witness her son's promotion to a
charge, which in her eyes was more honourable and desirable than an
Episcopal see--heard her chalk out the life which they were to lead
together in the humble independence which had thus fallen on him--he
heard all this, and had no power to crush her hopes and her triumph by
the indulgence of his own romantic feelings. He passed almost
mechanically through the usual forms, and was inducted into the living
of St. Ronan's.

Although fanciful and romantic, it was not in Josiah Cargill's nature to
yield to unavailing melancholy; yet he sought relief, not in society,
but in solitary study. His seclusion was the more complete, that his
mother, whose education had been as much confined as her fortunes, felt
awkward under her new dignities, and willingly acquiesced in her son's
secession from society, and spent her whole time in superintending the
little household, and in her way providing for all emergencies, the
occurrence of which might call Josiah out of his favourite book-room. As
old age rendered her inactive, she began to regret the incapacity of her
son to superintend his own household, and talked something of matrimony,
and the mysteries of the muckle wheel. To these admonitions Mr. Cargill
returned only slight and evasive answers; and when the old lady slept in
the village churchyard, at a reverend old age, there was no one to
perform the office of superintendent in the minister's family. Neither
did Josiah Cargill seek for any, but patiently submitted to all the
evils with which a bachelor estate is attended, and which were at least
equal to those which beset the renowned Mago-Pico during his state of
celibacy.[I-22] His butter was ill churned, and declared by all but
himself and the quean who made it, altogether uneatable; his milk was
burnt in the pan, his fruit and vegetables were stolen, and his black
stockings mended with blue and white thread.

For all these things the minister cared not, his mind ever bent upon far
different matters. Do not let my fair readers do Josiah more than
justice, or suppose that, like Beltenebros in the desert, he remained
for years the victim of an unfortunate and misplaced passion. No--to the
shame of the male sex be it spoken, that no degree of hopeless love,
however desperate and sincere, can ever continue for years to embitter
life. There must be hope--there must be uncertainty--there must be
reciprocity, to enable the tyrant of the soul to secure a dominion of
very long duration over a manly and well-constituted mind, which is
itself desirous to _will_ its freedom. The memory of Augusta had long
faded from Josiah's thoughts, or was remembered only as a pleasing, but
melancholy and unsubstantial dream, while he was straining forward in
pursuit of a yet nobler and coyer mistress, in a word, of Knowledge
herself.

Every hour that he could spare from his parochial duties, which he
discharged with zeal honourable to his heart and head, was devoted to
his studies, and spent among his books. But this chase of wisdom, though
in itself interesting and dignified, was indulged to an excess which
diminished the respectability, nay, the utility, of the deceived
student; and he forgot, amid the luxury of deep and dark investigations,
that society has its claims, and that the knowledge which is unimparted,
is necessarily a barren talent, and is lost to society, like the miser's
concealed hoard, by the death of the proprietor. His studies were also
under the additional disadvantage, that, being pursued for the
gratification of a desultory longing after knowledge, and directed to no
determined object, they turned on points rather curious than useful, and
while they served for the amusement of the student himself, promised
little utility to mankind at large.

Bewildered amid abstruse researches, metaphysical and historical, Mr.
Cargill, living only for himself and his books, acquired many ludicrous
habits, which exposed the secluded student to the ridicule of the world,
and which tinged, though they did not altogether obscure, the natural
civility of an amiable disposition, as well as the acquired habits of
politeness which he had learned in the good society that frequented Lord
Bidmore's mansion. He not only indulged in neglect of dress and
appearance, and all those ungainly tricks which men are apt to acquire
by living very much alone, but besides, and especially, he became
probably the most abstracted and absent man of a profession peculiarly
liable to cherish such habits. No man fell so regularly into the painful
dilemma of mistaking, or, in Scottish phrase, _miskenning_, the person
he spoke to, or more frequently enquired of an old maid for her
husband, of a childless wife about her young people, of the distressed
widower for the spouse at whose funeral he himself had assisted but a
fortnight before; and none was ever more familiar with strangers whom he
had never seen, or seemed more estranged from those who had a title to
think themselves well known to him. The worthy man perpetually
confounded sex, age, and calling; and when a blind beggar extended his
hand for charity, he has been known to return the civility by taking off
his hat, making a low bow, and hoping his worship was well.

Among his brethren, Mr. Cargill alternately commanded respect by the
depth of his erudition, and gave occasion to laughter from his odd
peculiarities. On the latter occasions he used abruptly to withdraw from
the ridicule he had provoked; for notwithstanding the general mildness
of his character, his solitary habits had engendered a testy impatience
of contradiction, and a keener sense of pain arising from the satire of
others, than was natural to his unassuming disposition. As for his
parishioners, they enjoyed, as may reasonably be supposed, many a hearty
laugh at their pastor's expense, and were sometimes, as Mrs. Dods
hinted, more astonished than edified by his learning; for in pursuing a
point of biblical criticism, he did not altogether remember that he was
addressing a popular and unlearned assembly, not delivering a _concio ad
clerum_--a mistake, not arising from any conceit of his learning, or
wish to display it, but from the same absence of mind which induced an
excellent divine, when preaching before a party of criminals condemned
to death, to break off by promising the wretches, who were to suffer
next morning, "the rest of the discourse at the first proper
opportunity." But all the neighbourhood acknowledged Mr. Cargill's
serious and devout discharge of his ministerial duties; and the poorer
parishioners forgave his innocent peculiarities, in consideration of his
unbounded charity; while the heritors, if they ridiculed the
abstractions of Mr. Cargill on some subjects, had the grace to recollect
that they had prevented him from suing an augmentation of stipend,
according to the fashion of the clergy around him, or from demanding at
their hands a new manse, or the repair of the old one. He once, indeed,
wished that they would amend the roof of his book-room, which "rained
in"[I-23] in a very pluvious manner; but receiving no direct answer from
our friend Meiklewham, who neither relished the proposal nor saw means
of eluding it, the minister quietly made the necessary repairs at his
own expense, and gave the heritors no farther trouble on the subject.

Such was the worthy divine whom our _bon vivant_ at the Cleikum Inn
hoped to conciliate by a good dinner and Cockburn's particular; an
excellent menstruum in most cases, but not likely to be very efficacious
on the present occasion.

FOOTNOTES:

[I-22] Note III.--Mago-Pico.

[I-23] _Scotticé_, for "admitted the rain."



CHAPTER XVII.

THE ACQUAINTANCE.

    'Twixt us thus the difference trims:--
    Using head instead of limbs,
      You have read what I have seen;
    Using limbs instead of head,
    I have seen what you have read--
      Which way does the balance lean?

BUTLER.


Our traveller, rapid in all his resolutions and motions, strode stoutly
down the street, and arrived at the Manse, which was, as we have already
described it, all but absolutely ruinous. The total desolation and want
of order about the door, would have argued the place uninhabited, had it
not been for two or three miserable tubs with suds, or such like
sluttish contents, which were left there, that those who broke their
shins among them might receive a sensible proof, that "here the hand of
woman had been." The door being half off its hinges, the entrance was
for the time protected by a broken harrow, which must necessarily be
removed before entry could be obtained. The little garden, which might
have given an air of comfort to the old house had it been kept in any
order, was abandoned to a desolation, of which that of the sluggard was
only a type; and the minister's man, an attendant always proverbial for
doing half work, and who seemed in the present instance to do none, was
seen among docks and nettles, solacing himself with the few gooseberries
which remained on some moss-grown bushes. To him Mr. Touchwood called
loudly, enquiring after his master; but the clown, conscious of being
taken in flagrant delict, as the law says, fled from him like a guilty
thing, instead of obeying his summons, and was soon heard _hupping_ and
_geeing_ to the cart, which he had left on the other side of the broken
wall.

Disappointed in his application to the man-servant, Mr. Touchwood
knocked with his cane, at first gently, then harder, holloaed, bellowed,
and shouted, in the hope of calling the attention of some one within
doors, but received not a word in reply. At length, thinking that no
trespass could be committed upon so forlorn and deserted an
establishment, he removed the obstacles to entrance with such a noise as
he thought must necessarily have alarmed some one, if there was any live
person about the house at all. All was still silent; and, entering a
passage where the damp walls and broken flags corresponded to the
appearance of things out of doors, he opened a door to the left, which,
wonderful to say, still had a latch remaining, and found himself in the
parlour, and in the presence of the person whom he came to visit.

Amid a heap of books and other literary lumber, which had accumulated
around him, sat, in his well-worn leathern elbow chair, the learned
minister of St. Ronan's; a thin, spare man, beyond the middle age, of a
dark complexion, but with eyes which, though now obscured and vacant,
had been once bright, soft, and expressive, and whose features seemed
interesting, the rather that, notwithstanding the carelessness of his
dress, he was in the habit of performing his ablutions with Eastern
precision; for he had forgot neatness, but not cleanliness. His hair
might have appeared much more disorderly, had it not been thinned by
time, and disposed chiefly around the sides of his countenance and the
back part of his head; black stockings, ungartered, marked his
professional dress, and his feet were thrust into the old slipshod
shoes, which served him instead of slippers. The rest of his garments,
as far as visible, consisted in a plaid nightgown wrapt in long folds
round his stooping and emaciated length of body, and reaching down to
the slippers aforesaid. He was so intently engaged in studying the book
before him, a folio of no ordinary bulk, that he totally disregarded the
noise which Mr. Touchwood made in entering the room, as well as the
coughs and hems with which he thought it proper to announce his
presence.

No notice being taken of these inarticulate signals, Mr. Touchwood,
however great an enemy he was to ceremony, saw the necessity of
introducing his business, as an apology for his intrusion.

"Hem! sir--Ha, hem!--You see before you a person in some distress for
want of society, who has taken the liberty to call on you as a good
pastor, who may be, in Christian charity, willing to afford him a little
of your company, since he is tired of his own."

Of this speech Mr. Cargill only understood the words "distress" and
"charity," sounds with which he was well acquainted, and which never
failed to produce some effect on him. He looked at his visitor with
lack-lustre eye, and, without correcting the first opinion which he had
formed, although the stranger's plump and sturdy frame, as well as his
nicely-brushed coat, glancing cane, and, above all, his upright and
self-satisfied manner, resembled in no respect the dress, form, or
bearing of a mendicant, he quietly thrust a shilling into his hand, and
relapsed into the studious contemplation which the entrance of Touchwood
had interrupted.

"Upon my word, my good sir," said his visitor, surprised at a degree of
absence of mind which he could hardly have conceived possible, "you have
entirely mistaken my object."

"I am sorry my mite is insufficient, my friend," said the clergyman,
without again raising his eyes, "it is all I have at present to bestow."

"If you will have the kindness to look up for a moment, my good sir,"
said the traveller, "you may possibly perceive that you labour under a
considerable mistake."

Mr. Cargill raised his head, recalled his attention, and, seeing that he
had a well-dressed, respectable-looking person before him, he exclaimed
in much confusion, "Ha!--yes--on my word, I was so immersed in my
book--I believe--I think I have the pleasure to see my worthy friend,
Mr. Lavender?"

"No such thing, Mr. Cargill," replied Mr Touchwood. "I will save you the
trouble of trying to recollect me--you never saw me before.--But do not
let me disturb your studies--I am in no hurry, and my business can wait
your leisure."

"I am much obliged," said Mr. Cargill; "have the goodness to take a
chair, if you can find one--I have a train of thought to recover--a
slight calculation to finish--and then I am at your command."

The visitor found among the broken furniture, not without difficulty, a
seat strong enough to support his weight, and sat down, resting upon
his cane, and looking attentively at his host, who very soon became
totally insensible of his presence. A long pause of total silence
ensued, only disturbed by the rustling leaves of the folio from which
Mr. Cargill seemed to be making extracts, and now and then by a little
exclamation of surprise and impatience, when he dipped his pen, as
happened once or twice, into his snuff-box, instead of the inkstandish
which stood beside it. At length, just as Mr. Touchwood began to think
the scene as tedious as it was singular, the abstracted student raised
his head, and spoke as if in soliloquy, "From Acon, Accor, or St. John
d'Acre, to Jerusalem, how far?"

"Twenty-three miles north north-west," answered his visitor, without
hesitation.

Mr. Cargill expressed no more surprise at a question which he had put to
himself being answered by the voice of another, than if he had found the
distance on the map, and indeed, was not probably aware of the medium
through which his question had been solved; and it was the tenor of the
answer alone which he attended to in his reply.--"Twenty-three
miles--Ingulphus," laying his hand on the volume, "and Jeffrey Winesauf,
do not agree in this."

"They may both be d----d, then, for lying block-heads," answered the
traveller.

"You might have contradicted their authority, sir, without using such an
expression," said the divine, gravely.

"I cry you mercy, Doctor," said Mr. Touchwood; "but would you compare
these parchment fellows with me, that have made my legs my compasses
over great part of the inhabited world?"

"You have been in Palestine, then?" said Mr. Cargill, drawing himself
upright in his chair, and speaking with eagerness and with interest.

"You may swear that, Doctor, and at Acre too. Why, I was there the month
after Boney had found it too hard a nut to crack.--I dined with Sir
Sydney's chum, old Djezzar Pacha, and an excellent dinner we had, but
for a dessert of noses and ears brought on after the last remove, which
spoiled my digestion. Old Djezzar thought it so good a joke, that you
hardly saw a man in Acre whose face was not as flat as the palm of my
hand--Gad, I respect my olfactory organ, and set off the next morning as
fast as the most cursed hard-trotting dromedary that ever fell to poor
pilgrim's lot could contrive to tramp."

"If you have really been in the Holy Land, sir," said Mr. Cargill, whom
the reckless gaiety of Touchwood's manner rendered somewhat suspicious
of a trick, "you will be able materially to enlighten me on the subject
of the Crusades."

"They happened before my time, Doctor," replied the traveller.

"You are to understand that my curiosity refers to the geography of the
countries where these events took place," answered Mr. Cargill.

"O! as to that matter, you are lighted on your feet," said Mr.
Touchwood; "for the time present I can fit you. Turk, Arab, Copt, and
Druse, I know every one of them, and can make you as well acquainted
with them as myself. Without stirring a step beyond your threshold, you
shall know Syria as well as I do.--But one good turn deserves
another--in that case, you must have the goodness to dine with me."

"I go seldom abroad, sir," said the minister, with a good deal of
hesitation, for his habits of solitude and seclusion could not be
entirely overcome, even by the expectation raised by the traveller's
discourse; "yet I cannot deny myself the pleasure of waiting on a
gentleman possessed of so much experience."

"Well then," said Mr. Touchwood, "three be the hour--I never dine later,
and always to a minute--and the place, the Cleikum Inn, up the way;
where Mrs. Dods is at this moment busy in making ready such a dinner as
your learning has seldom seen, Doctor, for I brought the receipts from
the four different quarters of the globe."

Upon this treaty they parted; and Mr. Cargill, after musing for a short
while upon the singular chance which had sent a living man to answer
those doubts for which he was in vain consulting ancient authorities, at
length resumed, by degrees, the train of reflection and investigation
which Mr. Touchwood's visit had interrupted, and in a short time lost
all recollection of his episodical visitor, and of the engagement which
he had formed.

Not so Mr. Touchwood, who, when not occupied with business of real
importance, had the art, as the reader may have observed, to make a
prodigious fuss about nothing at all. Upon the present occasion, he
bustled in and out of the kitchen, till Mrs. Dods lost patience, and
threatened to pin the dish-clout to his tail; a menace which he
pardoned, in consideration, that in all the countries which he had
visited, which are sufficiently civilized to boast of cooks, these
artists, toiling in their fiery element, have a privilege to be testy
and impatient. He therefore retreated from the torrid region of Mrs.
Dods's microcosm, and employed his time in the usual devices of
loiterers, partly by walking for an appetite, partly by observing the
progress of his watch towards three o'clock, when he had happily
succeeded in getting an employment more serious. His table, in the blue
parlour, was displayed with two covers, after the fairest fashion of the
Cleikum Inn; yet the landlady, with a look "civil but sly," contrived to
insinuate a doubt whether the clergyman would come, "when a' was dune."

Mr. Touchwood scorned to listen to such an insinuation until the fated
hour arrived, and brought with it no Mr. Cargill. The impatient
entertainer allowed five minutes for difference of clocks, and variation
of time, and other five for the procrastination of one who went little
into society. But no sooner were the last five minutes expended, than he
darted off for the Manse, not, indeed, much like a greyhound or a deer,
but with the momentum of a corpulent and well-appetized elderly
gentleman, who is in haste to secure his dinner. He bounced without
ceremony into the parlour, where he found the worthy divine clothed in
the same plaid nightgown, and seated in the very elbow-chair, in which
he had left him five hours before. His sudden entrance recalled to Mr.
Cargill, not an accurate, but something of a general, recollection, of
what had passed in the morning, and he hastened to apologize with
"Ha!--indeed--already?--upon my word, Mr. A--a--, I mean my dear
friend--I am afraid I have used you ill--I forgot to order any
dinner--but we will do our best.--Eppie--Eppie!"

Not at the first, second, nor third call, but _ex intervallo_, as the
lawyers express it, Eppie, a bare-legged, shock-headed, thick-ankled,
red-armed wench, entered, and announced her presence by an emphatic
"What's your wull?"

"Have you got any thing in the house for dinner, Eppie?"

"Naething but bread and milk, plenty o't--what should I have?"

"You see, sir," said Mr. Cargill, "you are like to have a Pythagorean
entertainment; but you are a traveller, and have doubtless been in your
time thankful for bread and milk."

"But never when there was any thing better to be had," said Mr.
Touchwood. "Come, Doctor, I beg your pardon, but your wits are fairly
gone a wool-gathering; it was _I_ invited _you_ to dinner, up at the inn
yonder, and not you me."

"On my word, and so it was," said Mr. Cargill; "I knew I was quite
right--I knew there was a dinner engagement betwixt us, I was sure of
that, and that is the main point.--Come, sir, I wait upon you."

"Will you not first change your dress?" said the visitor, seeing with
astonishment that the divine proposed to attend him in his plaid
nightgown; "why, we shall have all the boys in the village after us--you
will look like an owl in sunshine, and they will flock round you like so
many hedge-sparrows."

"I will get my clothes instantly," said the worthy clergyman; "I will
get ready directly--I am really ashamed to keep you waiting, my dear
Mr.--eh--eh--your name has this instant escaped me."

"It is Touchwood, sir, at your service; I do not believe you ever heard
it before," answered the traveller.

"True--right--no more I have--well, my good Mr. Touchstone, will you sit
down an instant until we see what we can do?--strange slaves we make
ourselves to these bodies of ours, Mr. Touchstone--the clothing and the
sustaining of them costs us much thought and leisure, which might be
better employed in catering for the wants of our immortal spirits."

Mr. Touchwood thought in his heart that never had Bramin or Gymnosophist
less reason to reproach himself with excess in the indulgence of the
table, or of the toilet, than the sage before him; but he assented to
the doctrine, as he would have done to any minor heresy, rather than
protract matters by farther discussing the point at present. In a short
time the minister was dressed in his Sunday's suit, without any farther
mistake than turning one of his black stockings inside out; and Mr.
Touchwood, happy as was Boswell when he carried off Dr. Johnson in
triumph to dine with Strahan and John Wilkes, had the pleasure of
escorting him to the Cleikum Inn.

In the course of the afternoon they became more familiar, and the
familiarity led to their forming a considerable estimate of each other's
powers and acquirements. It is true, the traveller thought the student
too pedantic, too much attached to systems, which, formed in solitude,
he was unwilling to renounce, even when contradicted by the voice and
testimony of experience; and, moreover, considered his utter inattention
to the quality of what he eat and drank, as unworthy of a rational, that
is, of a cooking creature, or of a being who, as defined by Johnson,
holds his dinner as the most important business of the day. Cargill did
not act up to this definition, and was, therefore, in the eyes of his
new acquaintance, so far ignorant and uncivilized. What then? He was
still a sensible, intelligent man, however abstemious and bookish.

On the other hand, the divine could not help regarding his new friend as
something of an epicure or belly-god, nor could he observe in him either
the perfect education, or the polished bearing, which mark the gentleman
of rank, and of which, while he mingled with the world, he had become a
competent judge. Neither did it escape him, that in the catalogue of Mr.
Touchwood's defects, occurred that of many travellers, a slight
disposition to exaggerate his own personal adventures, and to prose
concerning his own exploits. But then, his acquaintance with Eastern
manners, existing now in the same state in which they were found during
the time of the Crusades, formed a living commentary on the works of
William of Tyre, Raymund of Saint Giles, the Moslem annals of
Abulfaragi, and other historians of the dark period, with which his
studies were at present occupied.

A friendship, a companionship at least, was therefore struck up hastily
betwixt these two originals; and to the astonishment of the whole parish
of St. Ronan's, the minister thereof was seen once more leagued and
united with an individual of his species, generally called among them
the Cleikum Nabob. Their intercourse sometimes consisted in long walks,
which they took in company, traversing, however, as limited a space of
ground, as if it had been actually roped in for their pedestrian
exercise. Their parade was, according to circumstances, a low haugh at
the nether end of the ruinous hamlet, or the esplanade in the front of
the old castle; and, in either case, the direct longitude of their
promenade never exceeded a hundred yards. Sometimes, but rarely, the
divine took share of Mr. Touchwood's meal, though less splendidly set
forth than when he was first invited to partake of it; for, like the
owner of the gold cup in Parnell's Hermit, when cured of his
ostentation,

    ----"Still he welcomed, but with less of cost."

On these occasions, the conversation was not of the regular and
compacted nature, which passes betwixt men, as they are ordinarily
termed, of this world. On the contrary, the one party was often thinking
of Saladin and Coeur de Lion, when the other was haranguing on Hyder
Ali and Sir Eyre Coote. Still, however, the one spoke, and the other
seemed to listen; and, perhaps, the lighter intercourse of society,
where amusement is the sole object, can scarcely rest on a safer and
more secure basis.

It was on one of the evenings when the learned divine had taken his
place at Mr. Touchwood's social board, or rather at Mrs. Dods's,--for a
cup of excellent tea, the only luxury which Mr. Cargill continued to
partake of with some complacence, was the regale before them,--that a
card was delivered to the Nabob.

    "Mr. and Miss Mowbray see company at Shaws-Castle on the twentieth
    current, at two o'clock--a _déjeûner_--dresses in character
    admitted--A dramatic picture."

"See company? the more fools they," he continued by way of comment. "See
company?--choice phrases are ever commendable--and this piece of
pasteboard is to intimate that one may go and meet all the fools of the
parish, if they have a mind--in my time they asked the honour, or the
pleasure, of a stranger's company. I suppose, by and by, we shall have
in this country the ceremonial of a Bedouin's tent, where every ragged
Hadgi, with his green turban, comes in slap without leave asked, and has
his black paw among the rice, with no other apology than Salam
Alicum.--'Dresses in character--Dramatic picture'--what new tomfoolery
can that be?--but it does not signify.--Doctor! I say Doctor!--but he is
in the seventh heaven--I say, Mother Dods, you who know all the news--Is
this the feast that was put off until Miss Mowbray should be better?"

"Troth is it, Maister Touchwood--they are no in the way of giving twa
entertainments in one season--no very wise to gie ane maybe--but they
ken best."

"I say, Doctor, Doctor!--Bless his five wits, he is charging the
Moslemah with stout King Richard--I say, Doctor, do you know any thing
of these Mowbrays?"

"Nothing extremely particular," answered Mr. Cargill, after a pause; "it
is an ordinary tale of greatness, which blazes in one century, and is
extinguished in the next. I think Camden says, that Thomas Mowbray, who
was Grand-Marshal of England, succeeded to that high office, as well as
to the Dukedom of Norfolk, as grandson of Roger Bigot, in 1301."

"Pshaw, man, you are back into the 14th century--I mean these Mowbrays
of St. Ronan's--now, don't fall asleep again until you have answered my
question--and don't look so like a startled hare--I am speaking no
treason."

The clergyman floundered a moment, as is usual with an absent man who is
recovering the train of his ideas, or a somnambulist when he is suddenly
awakened, and then answered, still with hesitation,--

"Mowbray of St. Ronan's?--ha--eh--I know--that is--I did know the
family."

"Here they are going to give a masquerade, a _bal paré_, private
theatricals, I think, and what not," handing him the card.

"I saw something of this a fortnight ago," said Mr. Cargill; "indeed, I
either had a ticket myself, or I saw such a one as that."

"Are you sure you did not attend the party, Doctor?" said the Nabob.

"Who attend? I? you are jesting, Mr. Touchwood."

"But are you quite positive?" demanded Mr. Touchwood, who had observed,
to his infinite amusement, that the learned and abstracted scholar was
so conscious of his own peculiarities, as never to be very sure on any
such subject.

"Positive!" he repeated with embarrassment; "my memory is so wretched
that I never like to be positive--but had I done any thing so far out of
my usual way, I must have remembered it, one would think--and--I _am_
positive I was not there."

"Neither could you, Doctor," said the Nabob, laughing at the process by
which his friend reasoned himself into confidence, "for it did not take
place--it was adjourned, and this is the second invitation--there will
be one for you, as you had a card to the former.--Come, Doctor, you must
go--you and I will go together--I as an Imaum--I can say my Bismillah
with any Hadgi of them all--You as a cardinal, or what you like best."

"Who, I?--it is unbecoming my station, Mr. Touchwood," said the
clergyman--"a folly altogether inconsistent with my habits."

"All the better--you shall change your habits."

"You had better gang up and see them, Mr. Cargill," said Mrs. Dods; "for
it's maybe the last sight ye may see of Miss Mowbray--they say she is to
be married and off to England ane of thae odd-come-shortlies, wi' some
of the gowks about the Waal down-by."

"Married!" said the clergyman; "it is impossible!"

"But where's the impossibility, Mr. Cargill, when ye see folk marry
every day, and buckle them yoursell into the bargain?--Maybe ye think
the puir lassie has a bee in her bannet; but ye ken yoursell if naebody
but wise folk were to marry, the warld wad be ill peopled. I think it's
the wise folk that keep single, like yoursell and me, Mr. Cargill.--Gude
guide us!--are ye weel?--will ye taste a drap o' something?"

"Sniff at my ottar of roses," said Mr. Touchwood; "the scent would
revive the dead--why, what in the devil's name is the meaning of
this?--you were quite well just now."

"A sudden qualm," said Mr. Cargill, recovering himself.

"Oh! Mr. Cargill," said Dame Dods, "this comes of your lang fasts."

"Right, dame," subjoined Mr. Touchwood; "and of breaking them with sour
milk and pease bannock--the least morsel of Christian food is rejected
by stomach, just as a small gentleman refuses the visit of a creditable
neighbour, lest he see the nakedness of the land--ha! ha!"

"And there is really a talk of Miss Mowbray of St Ronan's being
married?" said the clergyman.

"Troth is there," said the dame; "it's Trotting Nelly's news; and though
she likes a drappie, I dinna think she would invent a lee or carry
ane--at least to me, that am a gude customer."

"This must be looked to," said Mr. Cargill, as if speaking to himself.

"In troth, and so it should," said Dame Dods; "it's a sin and a shame if
they should employ the tinkling cymbal they ca' Chatterly, and sic a
Presbyterian trumpet as yoursell in the land, Mr. Cargill; and if ye
will take a fule's advice, ye winna let the multure be ta'en by your ain
mill, Mr. Cargill."

"True, true, good Mother Dods," said the Nabob; "gloves and hatbands are
things to be looked after, and Mr. Cargill had better go down to this
cursed festivity with me, in order to see after his own interest."

"I must speak with the young lady," said the clergyman, still in a brown
study.

"Right, right, my boy of black-letter," said the Nabob; "with me you
shall go, and we'll bring them to submission to mother-church, I warrant
you--Why, the idea of being cheated in such a way, would scare a Santon
out of his trance.--What dress will you wear?"

"My own, to be sure," said the divine, starting from his reverie.

"True, thou art right again--they may want to knit the knot on the spot,
and who would be married by a parson in masquerade?--We go to the
entertainment though--it is a done thing."

The clergyman assented, provided he should receive an invitation; and as
that was found at the Manse, he had no excuse for retracting, even if he
had seemed to desire one.



CHAPTER XVIII.

FORTUNE'S FROLICS.

    _Count Basset._ We gentlemen, whose carriages run on the four aces,
    are apt to have a wheel out of order.

_The Provoked Husband._


Our history must now look a little backwards; and although it is rather
foreign to our natural style of composition, it must speak more in
narrative, and less in dialogue, rather telling what happened, than its
effects upon the actors. Our purpose, however, is only conditional, for
we foresee temptations which may render it difficult for us exactly to
keep it.

The arrival of the young Earl of Etherington at the salutiferous
fountain of St. Ronan's had produced the strongest sensation;
especially, as it was joined with the singular accident of the attempt
upon his lordship's person, as he took a short cut through the woods on
foot, at a distance from his equipage and servants. The gallantry with
which he beat off the highwayman, was only equal to his generosity; for
he declined making any researches after the poor devil, although his
lordship had received a severe wound in the scuffle.

Of the "three black Graces," as they have been termed by one of the most
pleasant companions of our time, Law and Physic hastened to do homage
to Lord Etherington, represented by Mr. Meiklewham and Dr. Quackleben;
while Divinity, as favourable, though more coy, in the person of the
Reverend Mr. Simon Chatterly, stood on tiptoe to offer any service in
her power.

For the honourable reason already assigned, his lordship, after thanking
Mr. Meiklewham, and hinting, that he might have different occasion for
his services, declined his offer to search out the delinquent by whom he
had been wounded; while to the care of the Doctor he subjected the cure
of a smart flesh-wound in the arm, together with a slight scratch on the
temple; and so very genteel was his behaviour on the occasion, that the
Doctor, in his anxiety for his safety, enjoined him a month's course of
the waters, if he would enjoy the comfort of a complete and perfect
recovery. Nothing so frequent, he could assure his lordship, as the
opening of cicatrized wounds; and the waters of St. Ronan's spring
being, according to Dr. Quackleben, a remedy for all the troubles which
flesh is heir to, could not fail to equal those of Barege, in
facilitating the discharge of all splinters or extraneous matter, which
a bullet may chance to incorporate with the human frame, to its great
annoyance. For he was wont to say, that although he could not declare
the waters which he patronised to be an absolute _panpharmacon_, yet he
would with word and pen maintain, that they possessed the principal
virtues of the most celebrated medicinal springs in the known world. In
short, the love of Alpheus for Arethusa was a mere jest, compared to
that which the Doctor entertained for his favourite fountain.

The new and noble guest, whose arrival so much illustrated these scenes
of convalescence and of gaiety, was not at first seen so much at the
ordinary, and other places of public resort, as had been the hope of the
worthy company assembled. His health and his wound proved an excuse for
making his visits to the society few and far between.

But when he did appear, his manners and person were infinitely
captivating; and even the carnation-coloured silk handkerchief, which
suspended his wounded arm, together with the paleness and languor which
loss of blood had left on his handsome and open countenance, gave a
grace to the whole person which many of the ladies declared
irresistible. All contended for his notice, attracted at once by his
affability, and piqued by the calm and easy nonchalance with which it
seemed to be blended. The scheming and selfish Mowbray, the
coarse-minded and brutal Sir Bingo, accustomed to consider themselves,
and to be considered, as the first men of the party, sunk into
comparative insignificance. But chiefly Lady Penelope threw out the
captivations of her wit and her literature; while Lady Binks, trusting
to her natural charms, endeavoured equally to attract his notice. The
other nymphs of the Spa held a little back, upon the principle of that
politeness, which, at continental hunting parties, affords the first
shot at a fine piece of game, to the person of the highest rank present;
but the thought throbbed in many a fair bosom, that their ladyships
might miss their aim, in spite of the advantages thus allowed them, and
that there might then be room for less exalted, but perhaps not less
skilful, markswomen, to try their chance.

But while the Earl thus withdrew from public society, it was necessary,
at least natural, that he should choose some one with whom to share the
solitude of his own apartment; and Mowbray, superior in rank to the
half-pay whisky-drinking Captain MacTurk; in dash to Winterblossom, who
was broken down, and turned twaddler; and in tact and sense to Sir Bingo
Binks, easily manoeuvred himself into his lordship's more intimate
society; and internally thanking the honest footpad, whose bullet had
been the indirect means of secluding his intended victim from all
society but his own, he gradually began to feel the way, and prove the
strength of his antagonist, at the various games of skill and hazard
which he introduced, apparently with the sole purpose of relieving the
tedium of a sick-chamber.

Meiklewham, who felt, or affected, the greatest possible interest in his
patron's success, and who watched every opportunity to enquire how his
schemes advanced, received at first such favourable accounts as made him
grin from ear to ear, rub his hands, and chuckle forth such bursts of
glee as only the success of triumphant roguery could have extorted from
him. Mowbray looked grave, however, and checked his mirth.

"There was something in it after all," he said, "that he could not
perfectly understand. Etherington, an used hand--d----d sharp--up to
every thing, and yet he lost his money like a baby."

"And what the matter how he loses it, so you win it like a man?" said
his legal friend and adviser.

"Why, hang it, I cannot tell," replied Mowbray--"were it not that I
think he has scarce the impudence to propose such a thing to succeed,
curse me but I should think he was coming the old soldier over me, and
keeping up his game.--But no--he can scarce have the impudence to think
of that.--I find, however, that he has done Wolverine--cleaned out poor
Tom--though Tom wrote to me the precise contrary, yet the truth has
since come out--Well, I shall avenge him, for I see his lordship is to
be had as well as other folk."

"Weel, Mr. Mowbray," said the lawyer, in a tone of affected sympathy,
"ye ken your own ways best--but the heavens will bless a moderate mind.
I would not like to see you ruin this poor lad, _funditus_, that is to
say, out and out. To lose some of the ready will do him no great harm,
and maybe give him a lesson he may be the better of as long as he
lives--but I wad not, as an honest man, wish you to go deeper--you
should spare the lad, Mr. Mowbray."

"Who spared _me_, Meiklewham?" said Mowbray, with a look and tone of
deep emphasis--"No, no--he must go through the mill--money and money's
worth.--His seat is called Oakendale--think of that, Mick--Oakendale!
Oh, name of thrice happy augury!--Speak not of mercy, Mick--the
squirrels of Oakendale must be dismounted, and learn to go a-foot.--What
mercy can the wandering lord of Troy expect among the Greeks?--The
Greeks!--I am a very Suliote--the bravest of Greeks.

    'I think not of pity, I think not of fear,
    He neither must know who would serve the Vizier.'

And necessity, Mick," he concluded, with a tone something altered,
"necessity is as unrelenting a leader as any Vizier or Pacha, whom
Scanderbeg ever fought with, or Byron has sung."

Meiklewham echoed his patron's ejaculation with a sound betwixt a
whine, a chuckle, and a groan; the first being designed to express his
pretended pity for the destined victim; the second his sympathy with his
patron's prospects of success; and the third being a whistle admonitory
of the dangerous courses through which his object was to be pursued.

Suliote as he boasted himself, Mowbray had, soon after this
conversation, some reason to admit that,

    "When Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war."

The light skirmishing betwixt the parties was ended, and the serious
battle commenced with some caution on either side; each perhaps,
desirous of being master of his opponent's system of tactics, before
exposing his own. Piquet, the most beautiful game at which a man can
make sacrifice of his fortune, was one with which Mowbray had, for his
misfortune perhaps, been accounted, from an early age, a great
proficient, and in which the Earl of Etherington, with less experience,
proved no novice. They now played for such stakes as Mowbray's state of
fortune rendered considerable to him, though his antagonist appeared not
to regard the amount. And they played with various success; for, though
Mowbray at times returned with a smile of confidence the enquiring looks
of his friend Meiklewham, there were other occasions on which he seemed
to evade them, as if his own had a sad confession to make in reply.

These alternations, though frequent, did not occupy, after all, many
days; for Mowbray, a friend of all hours, spent much of his time in Lord
Etherington's apartment, and these few days were days of battle. In the
meantime, as his lordship was now sufficiently recovered to join the
Party at Shaws-Castle, and Miss Mowbray's health being announced as
restored, that proposal was renewed, with the addition of a dramatic
entertainment, the nature of which we shall afterwards have occasion to
explain. Cards were anew issued to all those who had been formerly
included in the invitation, and of course to Mr. Touchwood, as formerly
a resident at the Well, and now in the neighbourhood; it being
previously agreed among the ladies, that a Nabob, though sometimes a
dingy or damaged commodity, was not to be rashly or unnecessarily
neglected. As to the parson, he had been asked, of course, as an old
acquaintance of the Mowbray house, not to be left out when the friends
of the family were invited on a great scale; but his habits were well
known, and it was no more expected that he would leave his manse on such
an occasion, than that the kirk should loosen itself from its
foundations.

It was after these arrangements had been made, that the Laird of St.
Ronan's suddenly entered Meiklewham's private apartment with looks of
exultation. The worthy scribe turned his spectacled nose towards his
patron, and holding in one hand the bunch of papers which he had been
just perusing, and in the other the tape with which he was about to tie
them up again, suspended that operation to await with open eyes and ears
the communication of Mowbray.

"I have done him!" he said, exultingly, yet in a tone of voice lowered
almost to a whisper; "capotted his lordship for this bout--doubled my
capital, Mick, and something more.--Hush, don't interrupt me--we must
think of Clara now--she must share the sunshine, should it prove but a
blink before a storm.--You know, Mick, these two d----d women, Lady
Penelope and the Binks, have settled that they will have something like
a _bal paré_ on this occasion, a sort of theatrical exhibition, and that
those who like it shall be dressed in character.--I know their
meaning--they think Clara has no dress fit for such foolery, and so they
hope to eclipse her; Lady Pen, with her old-fashioned, ill-set diamonds,
and my Lady Binks, with the new-fashioned finery which she swopt her
character for. But Clara shan't borne down so, by ----! I got that
affected slut, Lady Binks's maid, to tell me what her mistress had set
her mind on, and she is to wear a Grecian habit, forsooth, like one of
Will Allan's Eastern subjects.--But here's the rub--there is only one
shawl for sale in Edinburgh that is worth showing off in, and that is at
the Gallery of Fashion.--Now, Mick, my friend, that shawl must be had
for Clara, with the other trankums of muslin and lace, and so forth,
which you will find marked in the paper there.--Send instantly and
secure it, for, as Lady Binks writes by to-morrow's post, your order can
go by to-night's mail--There is a note for L.100."

From a mechanical habit of never refusing any thing, Meiklewham readily
took the note, but having looked at it through his spectacles, he
continued to hold it in his hand as he remonstrated with his
patron.--"This is a' very kindly meant, St. Ronan's--very kindly meant;
and I wad be the last to say that Miss Clara does not merit respect and
kindness at your hand; but I doubt mickle if she wad care a bodle for
thae braw things. Ye ken yoursell, she seldom alters her fashions. Od,
she thinks her riding-habit dress eneugh for ony company; and if you
were ganging by good looks, so it is--if she had a thought mair colour,
poor dear."

"Well, well," said Mowbray, impatiently, "let me alone to reconcile a
woman and a fine dress."

"To be sure, ye ken best," said the writer; "but, after a', now, wad it
no be better to lay by this hundred pound in Tam Turnpenny's, in case
the young lady should want it afterhend, just for a sair foot?"

"You are a fool, Mick; what signifies healing a sore foot, when there
will be a broken heart in the case?--No, no--get the things as I desire
you--we will blaze them down for one day at least; perhaps it will be
the beginning of a proper dash."

"Weel, weel, I wish it may be so," answered Meiklewham; "but this young
Earl--hae ye found the weak point?--Can ye get a decerniture against
him, with expenses?--that is the question."

"I wish I could answer it," said Mowbray, thoughtfully.--"Confound the
fellow--he is a cut above me in rank and in society too--belongs to the
great clubs, and is in with the Superlatives and Inaccessibles, and all
that sort of folk.--My training has been a peg lower--but, hang it,
there are better dogs bred in the kennel than in the parlour. I am up to
him, I think--at least I will soon know, Mick, whether I am or no, and
that is always one comfort. Never mind--do you execute my commission,
and take care you name no names--I must save my little Abigail's
reputation."

They parted, Meiklewham to execute his patron's commission--his patron
to bring to the test those hopes, the uncertainty of which he could not
disguise from his own sagacity.

Trusting to the continuance of his run of luck, Mowbray resolved to
bring affairs to a crisis that same evening. Every thing seemed in the
outset to favour his purpose. They had dined together in Lord
Etherington's apartments--his state of health interfered with the
circulation of the bottle, and a drizzly autumnal evening rendered
walking disagreeable, even had they gone no farther than the private
stable where Lord Etherington's horses were kept, under the care of a
groom of superior skill. Cards were naturally, almost necessarily,
resorted to, as the only alternative for helping away the evening, and
piquet was, as formerly, chosen for the game.

Lord Etherington seemed at first indolently careless and indifferent
about his play, suffering advantages to escape him, of which, in a more
attentive state of mind, he could not have failed to avail himself.
Mowbray upbraided him with his inattention, and proposed a deeper stake,
in order to interest him in the game. The young nobleman complied; and
in the course of a few hands, the gamesters became both deeply engaged
in watching and profiting by the changes of fortune. These were so many,
so varied, and so unexpected, that the very souls of the players seemed
at length centred in the event of the struggle; and, by dint of doubling
stakes, the accumulated sum of a thousand pounds and upwards, upon each
side, came to be staked in the issue of the game.--So large a risk
included all those funds which Mowbray commanded by his sister's
kindness, and nearly all his previous winnings, so to him the
alternative was victory or ruin. He could not hide his agitation,
however desirous to do so. He drank wine to supply himself with
courage--he drank water to cool his agitation; and at length bent
himself to play with as much care and attention as he felt himself
enabled to command.

In the first part of the game their luck appeared tolerably equal, and
the play of both befitting gamesters who had dared to place such a sum
on the cast. But, as it drew towards a conclusion, fortune altogether
deserted him who stood most in need of her favour, and Mowbray, with
silent despair, saw his fate depend on a single trick, and that with
every odds against him, for Lord Etherington was elder hand. But how can
fortune's favour secure any one who is not true to himself?--By an
infraction of the laws of the game, which could only have been expected
from the veriest bungler that ever touched a card, Lord Etherington
called a point without showing it, and, by the ordinary rule, Mowbray
was entitled to count his own--and in the course of that and the next
hand, gained the game and swept the stakes. Lord Etherington showed
chagrin and displeasure, and seemed to think that the rigour of the game
had been more insisted upon than in courtesy it ought to have been, when
men were playing for so small a stake. Mowbray did not understand this
logic. A thousand pounds, he said, were in his eyes no nutshells; the
rules of piquet were insisted on by all but boys and women; and for his
part, he had rather not play at all than not play the game.

"So it would seem, my dear Mowbray," said the Earl; "for on my soul, I
never saw so disconsolate a visage as thine during that unlucky
game--it withdrew all my attention from my hand; and I may safely say,
your rueful countenance has stood me in a thousand pounds. If I could
transfer thy long visage to canvass, I should have both my revenge and
my money; for a correct resemblance would be worth not a penny less than
the original has cost me."

"You are welcome to your jest, my lord," said Mowbray, "it has been well
paid for; and I will serve you in ten thousand at the same rate. What
say you?" he proceeded, taking up and shuffling the cards, "will you do
yourself more justice in another game?--Revenge, they say, is sweet."

"I have no appetite for it this evening," said the Earl, gravely; "if I
had, Mowbray, you might come by the worse. I do not _always_ call a
point without showing it."

"Your lordship is out of humour with yourself for a blunder that might
happen to any man--it was as much my good luck as a good hand would have
been, and so fortune be praised."

"But what if with this Fortune had nought to do?" replied Lord
Etherington.--"What if, sitting down with an honest fellow and a friend
like yourself, Mowbray, a man should rather choose to lose his own
money, which he could afford, than to win what it might distress his
friend to part with?"

"Supposing a case so far out of supposition, my lord," answered Mowbray,
who felt the question ticklish--"for, with submission, the allegation is
easily made, and is totally incapable of proof--I should say, no one had
a right to think for me in such a particular, or to suppose that I
played for a higher stake than was convenient."

"And thus your friend, poor devil," replied Lord Etherington, "would
lose his money, and run the risk of a quarrel into the boot!--We will
try it another way--Suppose this good-humoured and simple-minded
gamester had a favour of the deepest import to ask of his friend, and
judged it better to prefer his request to a winner than to a loser?"

"If this applies to me, my lord," replied Mowbray, "it is necessary I
should learn how I can oblige your lordship."

"That is a word soon spoken, but so difficult to be recalled, that I am
almost tempted to pause--but yet it must be said.--Mowbray, you have a
sister."

Mowbray started.--"I have indeed a sister, my lord; but I can conceive
no case in which her name can enter with propriety into our present
discussion."

"Again in the menacing mood!" said Lord Etherington, in his former tone;
"now, here is a pretty fellow--he would first cut my throat for having
won a thousand pounds from me, and then for offering to make his sister
a countess!"

"A countess, my lord?" said Mowbray; "you are but jesting--you have
never even seen Clara Mowbray."

"Perhaps not--but what then?--I may have seen her picture, as Puff says
in the Critic, or fallen in love with her from rumour--or, to save
farther suppositions, as I see they render you impatient, I may be
satisfied with knowing that she is a beautiful and accomplished young
lady, with a large fortune."

"What fortune do you mean, my lord?" said Mowbray, recollecting with
alarm some claims, which, according to Meiklewham's view of the
subject, his sister might form upon his property.--"What estate?--there
is nothing belongs to our family, save these lands of St. Ronan's, or
what is left of them; and of these I am, my lord, an undoubted heir of
entail in possession."

"Be it so," said the Earl, "for I have no claim on your mountain realms
here, which are, doubtless,

    ----'renown'd of old
    For knights, and squires, and barons bold;'

my views respect a much richer, though less romantic domain--a large
manor, hight Nettlewood. House old, but standing in the midst of such
glorious oaks--three thousand acres of land, arable, pasture, and
woodland, exclusive of the two closes, occupied by Widow Hodge and
Goodman Trampclod--manorial rights--mines and minerals--and the devil
knows how many good things besides, all lying in the vale of Bever."

"And what has my sister to do with all this?" asked Mowbray, in great
surprise.

"Nothing; but that it belongs to her when she becomes Countess of
Etherington."

"It is, then, your lordship's property already?"

"No, by Jove! nor can it, unless your sister honours me with her
approbation of my suit," replied the Earl.

"This is a sorer puzzle than one of Lady Penelope's charades, my lord,"
said Mr. Mowbray; "I must call in the assistance of the Reverend Mr.
Chatterly."

"You shall not need," said Lord Etherington; "I will give you the key,
but listen to me with patience.--You know that we nobles of England,
less jealous of our sixteen quarters than those on the continent, do
not take scorn to line our decayed ermines with the little cloth of gold
from the city; and my grandfather was lucky enough to get a wealthy
wife, with a halting pedigree,--rather a singular circumstance,
considering that her father was a countryman of yours. She had a
brother, however, still more wealthy than herself, and who increased his
fortune by continuing to carry on the trade which had first enriched his
family. At length he summed up his books, washed his hands of commerce,
and retired to Nettlewood, to become a gentleman; and here my much
respected grand-uncle was seized with the rage of making himself a man
of consequence. He tried what marrying a woman of family would do; but
he soon found that whatever advantage his family might derive from his
doing so, his own condition was but little illustrated. He next resolved
to become a man of family himself. His father had left Scotland when
very young, and bore, I blush to say, the vulgar name of Scrogie. This
hapless dissyllable my uncle carried in person to the herald office in
Scotland; but neither Lyon, nor Marchmont, nor Islay, nor Snadoun,
neither herald nor pursuivant, would patronise Scrogie.--Scrogie!--there
could nothing be made out of it--so that my worthy relative had recourse
to the surer side of the house, and began to found his dignity on his
mother's name of Mowbray. In this he was much more successful, and I
believe some sly fellow stole for him a slip from your own family tree,
Mr. Mowbray of St. Ronan's, which, I daresay, you have never missed. At
any rate, for his _argent_ and _or_, he got a handsome piece of
parchment, blazoned with a white lion for Mowbray, to be borne
quarterly, with three stunted or scrog-bushes for Scrogie, and became
thenceforth Mr. Scrogie Mowbray, or rather, as he subscribed himself,
Reginald (his former Christian name was Ronald) S. Mowbray. He had a son
who most undutifully laughed at all this, refused the honours of the
high name of Mowbray, and insisted on retaining his father's original
appellative of Scrogie, to the great annoyance of his said father's
ears, and damage of his temper."

"Why, faith, betwixt the two," said Mowbray, "I own I should have
preferred my own name, and I think the old gentleman's taste rather
better than the young one's."

"True; but both were wilful, absurd originals, with a happy obstinacy of
temper, whether derived from Mowbray or Scrogie I know not, but which
led them so often into opposition, that the offended father, Reginald S.
Mowbray, turned his recusant son Scrogie fairly out of doors; and the
fellow would have paid for his plebeian spirit with a vengeance, had he
not found refuge with a surviving partner of the original Scrogie of
all, who still carried on the lucrative branch of traffic by which the
family had been first enriched. I mention these particulars to account,
in so far as I can, for the singular predicament in which I now find
myself placed."

"Proceed, my lord," said Mr. Mowbray; "there is no denying the
singularity of your story, and I presume you are quite serious in giving
me such an extraordinary detail."

"Entirely so, upon my honour--and a most serious matter it is, you will
presently find. When my worthy uncle, Mr. S. Mowbray, (for I will not
call him Scrogie even in the grave,) paid his debt to nature, every
body concluded he would be found to have disinherited his son, the
unfilial Scrogie, and so far every body was right--But it was also
generally believed that he would settle the estate on my father, Lord
Etherington, the son of his sister, and therein every one was wrong. For
my excellent grand-uncle had pondered with himself, that the favoured
name of Mowbray would take no advantage, and attain no additional
elevation, if his estate of Nettlewood (otherwise called Mowbray-Park)
should descend to our family without any condition; and with the
assistance of a sharp attorney, he settled it on me, then a schoolboy,
_on condition_ that I should, before attaining the age of twenty-five
complete, take unto myself in holy wedlock a young lady of good fame, of
the name of Mowbray, and, by preference, of the house of St. Ronan's,
should a damsel of that house exist.--Now my riddle is read."

"And a very extraordinary one it is," replied Mowbray, thoughtfully.

"Confess the truth," said Lord Etherington, laying his hand on his
shoulder; "you think the story will bear a grain of a scruple of doubt,
if not a whole scruple itself?"

"At least, my lord," answered Mowbray, "your lordship will allow, that,
being Miss Mowbray's only near relation, and sole guardian, I may,
without offence, pause upon a suit for her hand, made under such odd
circumstances."

"If you have the least doubt either respecting my rank or fortune, I can
give, of course, the most satisfactory references," said the Earl of
Etherington.

"That I can easily believe, my lord," said Mowbray; "nor do I in the
least fear deception, where detection would be so easy. Your lordship's
proceedings towards me, too," (with a conscious glance at the bills he
still held in his hand,) "have, I admit, been such as to intimate some
such deep cause of interest as you have been pleased to state. But it
seems strange that your lordship should have permitted years to glide
away, without so much as enquiring after the young lady, who, I believe,
is the only person qualified as your grand-uncle's will requires, with
whom you can form an alliance. It appears to me, that long before now,
this matter ought to have been investigated; and that, even now, it
would have been more natural and more decorous to have at least seen my
sister before proposing for her hand."

"On the first point, my dear Mowbray," said Lord Etherington, "I am free
to own to you, that, without meaning your sister the least affront, I
would have got rid of this clause if I could; for every man would fain
choose a wife for himself, and I feel no hurry to marry at all. But the
rogue-lawyers, after taking fees, and keeping me in hand for years, have
at length roundly told me the clause must be complied with, or
Nettlewood must have another master. So I thought it best to come down
here in person, in order to address the fair lady; but as accident has
hitherto prevented my seeing her, and as I found in her brother a man
who understands the world, I hope you will not think the worse of me,
that I have endeavoured in the outset to make you my friend. Truth is, I
shall be twenty-five in the course of a month; and without your favour,
and the opportunities which only you can afford me, that seems a short
time to woo and win a lady of Miss Mowbray's merit."

"And what is the alternative if you do not form this proposed alliance,
my lord?" said Mowbray.

"The bequest of my grand-uncle lapses," said the Earl, "and fair
Nettlewood, with its old house, and older oaks, manorial rights, Hodge
Trampclod, and all, devolves on a certain cousin-german of mine, whom
Heaven of his mercy confound!"

"You have left yourself little time to prevent such an event, my lord,"
said Mowbray; "but things being as I now see them, you shall have what
interest I can give you in the affair.--We must stand, however, on more
equal terms, my lord--I will condescend so far as to allow it would have
been inconvenient for me at this moment to have lost that game, but I
cannot in the circumstances think of acting as if I had fairly won it.
We must draw stakes, my lord."

"Not a word of that, if you really mean me kindly, my dear Mowbray. The
blunder was a real one, for I was indeed thinking, as you may suppose,
on other things than the showing my point--All was fairly lost and
won.--I hope I shall have opportunities of offering real services, which
may perhaps give me some right to your partial regard--at present we are
on equal footing on all sides--perfectly so."

"If your lordship thinks so," said Mowbray,--and then passing rapidly to
what he felt he could say with more confidence,--"Indeed, at any rate,
no personal obligation to myself could prevent my doing my full duty as
guardian to my sister."

"Unquestionably, I desire nothing else," replied the Earl of
Etherington.

"I must therefore understand that your lordship is quite serious in your
proposal; and that it is not to be withdrawn, even if upon acquaintance
with Miss Mowbray, you should not perhaps think her so deserving of your
lordship's attentions, as report may have spoken her."

"Mr. Mowbray," replied the Earl, "the treaty between you and me shall be
as definite as if I were a sovereign prince, demanding in marriage the
sister of a neighbouring monarch, whom, according to royal etiquette, he
neither has seen nor could see. I have been quite frank with you, and I
have stated to you that my present motives for entering upon negotiation
are not personal, but territorial; when I know Miss Mowbray, I have no
doubt they will be otherwise. I have heard she is beautiful."

"Something of the palest, my lord," answered Mowbray.

"A fine complexion is the first attraction which is lost in the world of
fashion, and that which it is easiest to replace."

"Dispositions, my lord, may differ," said Mowbray, "without faults on
either side. I presume your lordship has enquired into my sister's. She
is amiable, accomplished, sensible, and high-spirited; but yet"----

"I understand you, Mr. Mowbray, and will spare you the pain of speaking
out. I have heard Miss Mowbray is in some respects--particular; to use a
broader word--a little whimsical.--No matter. She will have the less to
learn when she becomes a countess, and a woman of fashion."

"Are you serious, my lord?" said Mowbray.

"I am--and I will speak my mind still more plainly. I have good temper,
and excellent spirits, and can endure a good deal of singularity in
those I live with. I have no doubt your sister and I will live happily
together--But in case it should prove otherwise, arrangements may be
made previously, which will enable us in certain circumstances to live
happily apart. My own estate is large, and Nettlewood will bear
dividing."

"Nay, then," said Mowbray, "I have little more to say--nothing indeed
remains for enquiry, so far as your lordship is concerned. But my sister
must have free liberty of choice--so far as I am concerned, your
lordship's suit has my interest."

"And I trust we may consider it as a done thing?"

"With Clara's approbation--certainly," answered Mowbray.

"I trust there is no chance of personal repugnance on the young lady's
part?" said the young peer.

"I anticipate nothing of the kind, my lord," answered Mowbray, "as I
presume there is no reason for any; but young ladies will be capricious,
and if Clara, after I have done and said all that a brother ought to do,
should remain repugnant, there is a point in the exertion of my
influence which it would be cruelty to pass."

The Earl of Etherington walked a turn through the apartment, then
paused, and said, in a grave and doubtful tone, "In the meanwhile, I am
bound, and the young lady is free, Mowbray. Is this quite fair?"

"It is what happens in every case, my lord, where a gentleman proposes
for a lady," answered Mowbray; "he must remain, of course, bound by his
offer, until, within a reasonable time, it is accepted or rejected. It
is not my fault that your lordship has declared your wishes to me,
before ascertaining Clara's inclination. But while as yet the matter is
between ourselves--I make you welcome to draw back if you think proper.
Clara Mowbray needs not push for a catch-match."

"Nor do I desire," said the young nobleman, "any time to reconsider the
resolution which I have confided to you. I am not in the least fearful
that I shall change my mind on seeing your sister, and I am ready to
stand by the proposal which I have made to you.--If, however, you feel
so extremely delicately on my account," he continued, "I can see and
even converse with Miss Mowbray at this fête of yours, without the
necessity of being at all presented to her--The character which I have
assumed in a manner obliges me to wear a mask."

"Certainly," said the Laird of St. Ronan's, "and I am glad, for both our
sakes, your lordship thinks of taking a little law upon this occasion."

"I shall profit nothing by it," said the Earl; "my doom is fixed before
I start--but if this mode of managing the matter will save your
conscience, I have no objection to it--it cannot consume much time,
which is what I have to look to."

They then shook hands and parted, without any farther discourse which
could interest the reader.

Mowbray was glad to find himself alone, in order to think over what had
happened, and to ascertain the state of his own mind, which at present
was puzzling even to himself. He could not but feel that much greater
advantages of every kind might accrue to himself and his family from the
alliance of the wealthy young Earl, than could have been derived from
any share of his spoils which he had proposed to gain by superior
address in play, or greater skill on the turf. But his pride was hurt
when he recollected that he had placed himself entirely in Lord
Etherington's power; and the escape from absolute ruin which he had
made, solely by the sufferance of his opponent, had nothing in it
consolatory to his wounded feelings. He was lowered in his own eyes,
when he recollected how completely the proposed victim of his ingenuity
had seen through his schemes, and only abstained from baffling them
entirely, because to do so suited best with his own. There was a shade
of suspicion, too, which he could not entirely eradicate from his
mind.--What occasion had this young nobleman to preface, by the
voluntary loss of a brace of thousands, a proposal which must have been
acceptable in itself, without any such sacrifice? And why should he,
after all, have been so eager to secure his accession to the proposed
alliance, before he had even seen the lady who was the object of it?
However hurried for time, he might have waited the event at least of the
entertainment at Shaws-Castle, at which Clara was necessarily obliged to
make her appearance.--Yet such conduct, however unusual, was equally
inconsistent with any sinister intentions; since the sacrifice of a
large sum of money, and the declaration of his views upon a portionless
young lady of family, could scarcely be the preface to any unfair
practice. So that, upon the whole, Mowbray settled, that what was
uncommon in the Earl's conduct arose from the hasty and eager
disposition of a rich young Englishman, to whom money is of little
consequence, and who is too headlong in pursuit of the favourite plan of
the moment, to proceed in the most rational or most ordinary manner. If,
however, there should prove any thing farther in the matter than he
could at present discover, Mowbray promised himself that the utmost
circumspection on his part could not fail to discover it, and that in
full time to prevent any ill consequences to his sister or himself.

Immersed in such cogitations, he avoided the inquisitive presence of Mr.
Meiklewham, who, as usual, had been watching for him to learn how
matters were going on; and although it was now late, he mounted his
horse, and rode hastily to Shaws-Castle. On the way, he deliberated with
himself whether to mention to his sister the application which had been
made to him, in order to prepare her to receive the young Earl as a
suitor, favoured with her brother's approbation. "But no, no, no;" such
was the result of his contemplation. "She might take it into her head
that his thoughts were bent less upon having her for a countess, than on
obtaining possession of his grand-uncle's estate.--We must keep quiet,"
concluded he, "until her personal appearance and accomplishments may
appear at least to have some influence upon his choice.--We must say
nothing till this blessed entertainment has been given and received."



CHAPTER XIX.

A LETTER.

    "Has he so long held out with me untired,
    And stops he now for breath?--Well--Be it so."

_Richard III._


Mowbray had no sooner left the Earl's apartment, than the latter
commenced an epistle to a friend and associate, which we lay before the
reader, as best calculated to illustrate the views and motives of the
writer. It was addressed to Captain Jekyl, of the ---- regiment of
Guards, at the Green Dragon, Harrowgate, and was of the following
tenor:--

    "Dear Harry,

    "I have expected you here these ten days past, anxiously as ever man
    was looked for; and have now to charge your absence as high treason
    to your sworn allegiance. Surely you do not presume, like one of
    Napoleon's new-made monarchs, to grumble for independence, as if
    your greatness were of your own making, or as if I had picked you
    out of the whole of St. James's coffee-house to hold my back-hand,
    for your sake, forsooth, not for my own? Wherefore, lay aside all
    your own proper business, be it the pursuit of dowagers, or the
    plucking of pigeons, and instantly repair to this place, where I may
    speedily want your assistance.--_May_ want it, said I? Why, most
    negligent of friends and allies, I _have_ wanted it already, and
    that when it might have done me yeoman's service. Know that I have
    had an affair since I came hither--have got hurt myself, and have
    nearly shot my friend; and if I had, I might have been hanged for
    it, for want of Harry Jekyl to bear witness in my favour. I was so
    far on my road to this place, when, not choosing, for certain
    reasons, to pass through the old village, I struck by a footpath
    into the woods which separate it from the new Spa, leaving my
    carriage and people to go the carriage-way. I had not walked half a
    mile when I heard the footsteps of some one behind, and, looking
    round, what should I behold but the face in the world which I most
    cordially hate and abhor--I mean that which stands on the shoulders
    of my right trusty and well-beloved cousin and counsellor, Saint
    Francis. He seemed as much confounded as I was at our unexpected
    meeting; and it was a minute ere he found breath to demand what I
    did in Scotland, contrary to my promise, as he was pleased to
    express it.--I retaliated, and charged him with being here, in
    contradiction to his.--He justified, and said he had only come down
    upon the express information that I was upon my road to St.
    Ronan's.--Now, Harry, how the devil should he have known this hadst
    thou been quite faithful? for I am sure, to no ear but thine own did
    I breathe a whisper of my purpose.--Next, with the insolent
    assumption of superiority, which he founds on what he calls the
    rectitude of his purpose, he proposed we should both withdraw from a
    neighbourhood into which we could bring nothing but wretchedness.--I
    have told you how difficult it is to cope with the calm and resolute
    manner that the devil gifts him with on such occasions; but I was
    determined he should not carry the day this time. I saw no chance
    for it, however, but to put myself into a towering passion, which,
    thank Heaven, I can always do on short notice.--I charged him with
    having imposed formerly on my youth, and made himself judge of my
    rights; and I accompanied my defiance with the strongest terms of
    irony and contempt, as well as with demand of instant satisfaction.
    I had my travelling pistols with me, (_et pour cause_,) and, to my
    surprise, my gentleman was equally provided.--For fair play's sake,
    I made him take one of my pistols--right Kuchenritters--a brace of
    balls in each, but that circumstance I forgot.--I would fain have
    argued the matter a little longer; but I thought at the time, and
    think still, that the best arguments which he and I can exchange,
    must come from the point of the sword, or the muzzle of the
    pistol.--We fired nearly together, and I think both dropped--I am
    sure I did, but recovered in a minute, with a damaged arm and a
    scratch on the temple--it was the last which stunned me--so much for
    double-loaded pistols.--My friend was invisible, and I had nothing
    for it but to walk to the Spa, bleeding all the way like a calf, and
    tell a raw-head-and-bloody-bone story about a footpad, which, but
    for my earldom, and my gory locks, no living soul would have
    believed.

    "Shortly after, when I had been installed in a sick room, I had the
    mortification to learn, that my own impatience had brought all this
    mischief upon me, at a moment when I had every chance of getting rid
    of my friend without trouble, had I but let him go on his own
    errand; for it seems he had an appointment that morning with a booby
    Baronet, who is said to be a bullet-slitter, and would perhaps have
    rid me of Saint Francis without any trouble or risk on my part.
    Meantime, his non-appearance at this rendezvous has placed Master
    Francis Tyrrel, as he chooses to call himself, in the worst odour
    possible with the gentry at the Spring, who have denounced him as a
    coward and no gentleman.--What to think of the business myself, I
    know not; and I much want your assistance to see what can have
    become of this fellow, who, like a spectre of ill omen, has so often
    thwarted and baffled my best plans. My own confinement renders me
    inactive, though my wound is fast healing. Dead he cannot be; for,
    had he been mortally wounded, we should have heard of him somewhere
    or other--he could not have vanished from the earth like a bubble of
    the elements. Well and sound he cannot be; for, besides that I am
    sure I saw him stagger and drop, firing his pistol as he fell, I
    know him well enough to swear, that, had he not been severely
    wounded, he would have first pestered me with his accursed presence
    and assistance, and then walked forward with his usual composure to
    settle matters with Sir Bingo Binks. No--no--Saint Francis is none
    of those who leave such jobs half finished--it is but doing him
    justice to say, he has the devil's courage to back his own
    deliberate impertinence. But then, if wounded severely, he must be
    still in this neighbourhood, and probably in concealment--this is
    what I must discover, and I want your assistance in my enquiries
    among the natives.--Haste hither, Harry, as ever you look for good
    at my hand.

    "A good player, Harry, always studies to make the best of bad
    cards--and so I have endeavoured to turn my wound to some account;
    and it has given me the opportunity to secure Monsieur le Frere in
    my interests. You say very truly, that it is of consequence to me to
    know the character of this new actor on the disordered scene of my
    adventures.--Know, then, he is that most incongruous of all
    monsters--a Scotch Buck--how far from being buck of the season you
    may easily judge. Every point of national character is opposed to
    the pretensions of this luckless race, when they attempt to take on
    them a personage which is assumed with so much facility by their
    brethren of the Isle of Saints. They are a shrewd people, indeed,
    but so destitute of ease, grace, pliability of manners, and
    insinuation of address, that they eternally seem to suffer actual
    misery in their attempts to look gay and careless. Then their pride
    heads them back at one turn, their poverty at another, their
    pedantry at a third, their _mauvaise honte_ at a fourth; and with
    so many obstacles to make them bolt off the course, it is positively
    impossible they should win the plate. No, Harry, it is the grave
    folk in Old England who have to fear a Caledonian invasion--they
    will make no conquests in the world of fashion. Excellent bankers
    the Scots may be, for they are eternally calculating how to add
    interest to principal;--good soldiers, for they are, if not such
    heroes as they would be thought, as brave, I suppose, as their
    neighbours, and much more amenable to discipline;--lawyers they are
    born; indeed every country gentleman is bred one, and their patient
    and crafty disposition enables them, in other lines, to submit to
    hardships which other natives could not bear, and avail themselves
    of advantages which others would let pass under their noses
    unavailingly. But assuredly Heaven did not form the Caledonian for
    the gay world; and his efforts at ease, grace, and gaiety, resemble
    only the clumsy gambols of the ass in the fable. Yet the Scot has
    his sphere too, (in his own country only,) where the character which
    he assumes is allowed to pass current. This Mowbray, now--this
    brother-in-law of mine--might do pretty well at a Northern Meeting,
    or the Leith races, where he could give five minutes to the sport of
    the day, and the next half hour to county politics, or to farming;
    but it is scarce necessary to tell you, Harry, that this half
    fellowship will not pass on the better side of the Tweed.

    "Yet, for all I have told you, this trout was not easily tickled;
    nor should I have made much of him, had he not, in the plenitude of
    his northern conceit, entertained that notion of my being a good
    subject of plunder, which you had contrived (blessings on your
    contriving brain!) to insinuate into him by means of Wolverine. He
    commenced this hopeful experiment, and, as you must have
    anticipated, caught a Tartar with a vengeance. Of course, I used my
    victory only so far as to secure his interest in accomplishing my
    principal object; and yet, I could see my gentleman's pride was so
    much injured in the course of the negotiation, that not all the
    advantages which the match offered to his damned family, were able
    entirely to subdue the chagrin arising from his defeat. He did gulp
    it down, though, and we are friends and allies, for the present at
    least--not so cordially so, however, as to induce me to trust him
    with the whole of the strangely complicated tale. The circumstance
    of the will it was necessary to communicate, as affording a
    sufficiently strong reason for urging my suit; and this partial
    disclosure enabled me for the present to dispense with farther
    confidence.

    "You will observe, that I stand by no means secure; and besides the
    chance of my cousin's reappearance--a certain event, unless he is
    worse than I dare hope for--I have perhaps to expect the fantastic
    repugnance of Clara herself, or some sulky freak on her brother's
    part.--In a word--and let it be such a one as conjurers raise the
    devil with--Harry Jekyl, I _want_ you.

    "As well knowing the nature of my friend, I can assure you that his
    own interest, as well as mine, may be advanced by his coming hither
    on duty. Here is a blockhead, whom I already mentioned, Sir Bingo
    Binks, with whom something may be done worth _your_ while, though
    scarce worth _mine_. The Baronet is a perfect buzzard, and when I
    came here he was under Mowbray's training. But the awkward Scot had
    plucked half-a-dozen penfeathers from his wing with so little
    precaution, that the Baronet has become frightened and shy, and is
    now in the act of rebelling against Mowbray, whom he both hates and
    fears--the least backing from a knowing hand like you, and the bird
    becomes your own, feathers and all.--Moreover,

            ----'by my life,
    This Bingo hath a mighty pretty wife.'

    A lovely woman, Harry--rather plump, and above the middle
    size--quite your taste--A Juno in beauty, looking with such scorn on
    her husband, whom she despises and hates, and seeming, as if she
    _could_ look so differently on any one whom she might like better,
    that, on my faith, 'twere sin not to give her occasion. If you
    please to venture your luck, either with the knight or the lady, you
    shall have fair play, and no interference--that is, provided you
    appear upon this summons; for, otherwise, I may be so placed, that
    the affairs of the knight and the lady may fall under my own
    immediate cognizance. And so, Harry, if you wish to profit by these
    hints, you had best make haste, as well for your own concerns, as to
    assist me in mine.--Yours, Harry, as you behave yourself,

    "ETHERINGTON."

Having finished this eloquent and instructive epistle, the young Earl
demanded the attendance of his own valet Solmes, whom he charged to put
it into the post-office without delay, and with his own hand.



AUTHOR'S NOTES.


Note I., p. 14.--BUILDING-FEUS IN SCOTLAND.

In Scotland a village is erected upon a species of landright, very
different from the copyhold so frequent in England. Every alienation or
sale of landed property must be made in the shape of a feudal
conveyance, and the party who acquires it holds thereby an absolute and
perfect right of property in the fief, while he discharges the
stipulations of the vassal, and, above all, pays the feu-duties. The
vassal or tenant of the site of the smallest cottage holds his
possession as absolutely as the proprietor, of whose large estate it is
perhaps scarce a perceptible portion. By dint of excellent laws, the
sasines, or deeds of delivery of such fiefs, are placed on record in
such order, that every burden affecting the property can be seen for
payment of a very moderate fee; so that a person proposing to lend money
upon it, knows exactly the nature and extent of his security.

From the nature of these landrights being so explicit and secure, the
Scottish people have been led to entertain a jealousy of
building-leases, of however long duration. Not long ago, a great landed
proprietor took the latter mode of disposing of some ground near a
thriving town in the west country. The number of years in the lease was
settled at nine hundred and ninety-nine. All was agreed to, and the
deeds were ordered to be drawn. But the tenant, as he walked down the
avenue, began to reflect that the lease, though so very long as to be
almost perpetual, nevertheless had a termination; and that after the
lapse of a thousand years, lacking one, the connexion of his family and
representatives with the estate would cease. He took a qualm at the
thought of the loss to be sustained by his posterity a thousand years
hence; and going back to the house of the gentleman who feued the
ground, he demanded, and readily obtained, the additional term of fifty
years to be added to the lease.


Note II., p. 90.--DARK LADYE.

The Dark Ladye is one of those tantalizing fragments, in which Mr.
Coleridge has shown us what exquisite powers of poetry he has suffered
to remain uncultivated. Let us be thankful for what we have received,
however. The unfashioned ore, drawn from so rich a mine, is worth all to
which art can add its highest decorations, when drawn from less abundant
sources. The verses beginning the poem which are published separately,
are said to have soothed the last hours of Mr. Fox. They are the stanzas
entitled LOVE.


Note III., p. 252.--MAGO-PICO.

This satire, very popular even in Scotland, at least with one party, was
composed at the expense of a reverend presbyterian divine, of whom many
stories are preserved, being Mr. Pyet, the Mago-Pico of the Tale,
minister of Dunbar. The work is now little known in Scotland, and not at
all in England, though written with much strong and coarse humour,
resembling the style of Arbuthnot. It was composed by Mr. Haliburton, a
military chaplain. The distresses attending Mago-Pico's bachelor life,
are thus stated:--

    "At the same time I desire you will only figure out to yourself his
    situation during his celibacy in the ministerial charge--a house
    lying all heaps upon heaps; his bed ill-made, swarming with fleas,
    and very cold on the winter nights; his sheep's-head not to be eaten
    for wool and hair, his broth singed, his bread mouldy, his lamb and
    pig all scouthered, his house neither washed nor plastered; his
    black stockings darned with white worsted above the shoes; his
    butter made into cat's harns; his cheese one heap of mites and
    maggots, and full of large avenues for rats and mice to play at
    hide-and-seek and make their nests in. Frequent were the admonitions
    he had given his maid-servants on this score, and every now and then
    he was turning them off; but still the last was the worst, and in
    the meanwhile the poor man was the sufferer. At any rate, therefore,
    matrimony must turn to his account, though his wife should prove to
    be nothing but a creature of the feminine gender, with a tongue in
    her head, and ten fingers on her hands, to clear out the papers of
    the housemaid, not to mention the convenience of a man's having it
    in his power lawfully to beget sons and daughters in his own
    house."--_Memoirs of Mago-Pico. Second edition. Edinburgh_, 1761, p.
    19.



EDITOR'S NOTES.


[I-A] p. 1. "David M'Pherson's map." In his "Geographical History,"
London, 4to, 1796.

[I-B] p. 11. "Jenny Dods ... at Howgate." Scott admitted to Erskine that
the name of "Dods" was borrowed from this slatternly heroine.

[I-C] p. 33. "He was nae Roman, but only a Cuddie, or Culdee." Some
Scottish Protestants took pride in believing that their Kirk descended
from Culdees, who were not of the Roman Communion. The Culdees have
given rise to a world of dispute, and he would be a bold man who
pretended to understand their exact position. The name seems to be _Cele
De_, "servant [gillie] of God." They were not Columban monks, but fill a
gap between the expulsion of the Columbans by the Picts, and the
Anglicising and Romanising of the Scottish Church by St. Margaret and
her sons. Originally solitary ascetics, they clustered into groups, and,
if we are to believe their supplanters at St. Andrews, the Canons
Regular, they were married men, and used church property for family
profit. Their mass they celebrated with a rite of their own, in their
little church. They were gradually merged in, and overpowered at St.
Andrews, for example, by the Canons Regular, and are last heard of in
prosecuting a claim to elect the Bishop, at the time of Edward the
First's interference with Scottish affairs. The points on which they
differed from Roman practice would probably have seemed very
insignificant to such a theologian as Meg Dods.

[I-D] p. 47. "Fortunio, in the fairy-tale." The gifted companions of
Fortunio, Keen-eye, Keen-ear, and so forth, are very old stock
characters in Märchen: their first known appearance is in the saga of
Jason and the Fleece of Gold.

[I-E] p. 169. "The sportsman's sense of his own cruelty." In the
reminiscences of Captain Basil Hall, published by Lockhart, he mentions
that Scott himself had a dislike of shooting, from a sentiment as to the
cruelty of the sport. "I was never quite at ease when I had knocked down
my blackcock, and going to pick him up he cast back his dying eye with a
look of reproach. I don't affect to be more squeamish than my
neighbours, but I am not ashamed to say that no practice ever reconciled
me fully to the cruelty of the affair. At all events, now that I can do
as I like without fear of ridicule, I take more pleasure in seeing the
birds fly past me unharmed." (Lockhart, vii. 331.)

[I-F] p. 240. "Tintock." A hill on the Upper Tweed, celebrated in local
rhyme as--

    On Tintock tap there is a mist,
    And in the mist there is a kist,
    And in the kist there is a cap,
    And in the cap there is a drap.
    Tak' up the cap, drink out the drap,
    And set it down on Tintock tap.

[I-G] p. 245. "Donald Cargill." See Editor's Notes to "Redgauntlet." Howie
of Lochgoin says Cargill was executed in Edinburgh, not at Queensferry,
as stated here.

ANDREW LANG
_December 1893._



GLOSSARY.


A', all

"A. B. Memorial," a legal statement which does not give the names of the
parties concerned.

Abee, alone.

Ae, one.

Aff, off.

Afterhend, afterwards.

Ain, own.

Airn, iron.

Ajee, awry.

Amaist, almost.

Andrew Ferrara, a sword.

Ane, one.

Assoilzie, to acquit.

Asteer, astir.

Atween, between.

Aught, possession; to own, to possess.

Auld, old. "Auld lang syne," the days of long ago.

Aw, all.

Awa, away.

Awing, owing, or bill.

Awmry, a cupboard.


Bairn, a child.

Baith, both.

Ballant, a ballad.

Bane, a bone.

Bangster, a victor

Bawbee, a halfpenny.

Bee--"to hae a bee in one's bonnet," to be harebrained.

Beltane, a festival on the first of May, hence Whitsuntide.

"Bent, to take the," to provide for one's safety, to flee country.

Bide, to stay, to remain; to bear, to endure.

Bigg, to build.

Bind, one's ability or power.

Bink, a plate-rack.

Birl, to turn, to toss.

"Blaw in my lug," a flatterer.

Blude, bluid, blood.

Bodle, a small copper coin.

Bogle, a scarecrow.

Bombazine, the silk and worsted stuff of which a lawyer's gown was made.

Bonnet-laird, a small proprietor or freeholder who farms his own land.

"Bow Street runners," London detectives.

Braw, brave, fine.

Bruick, possessed.

"By ordinar," out of the common run.


Ca', to call. Ca'd, called.

Callant, a lad.

Caller, fresh.

Canna, cannot.

Cantle, the crown of the head.

Canty, lively, cheerful.

Capillaire, a syrup made from maidenhair fern.

Cappie, a kind of beer.

Carle, a fellow.

Carline, a witch.

Carvy, carraway.

Cauld, cold.

Cheek-haffit, side of the cheek.

Chucky, a pebble.

Claithes, clothes.

Claver, gossip.

Claw, to beat.

Cleck, clack or hatch.

Cleeket, cleiket, caught, ensnared, taken.

Clink, to chime, to rhyme.

Clouted, patched, and so strengthened.

Cock-a-leeky, cockie-leekie, soup made of a cock boiled with leeks.

Cock-bree, cock-broth.

Cockernonnie, a top-knot.

Cogue, a wooden measure.

Condiddling, appropriating.

Courie, cowry, a shell used as money in parts of Southern Asia and
Africa.

Coventry. To send one to Coventry is to refuse to have anything to do
with him socially, not even to speak to him.

Cowt, a colt.

Craig, a rock.

Crap, a wig of rough short hair.

Craw, a crow.

Cuitle, to wheedle.

Cumbers, drawbacks, vexations.

Cutty, a jade.


Daffing, frolicking.

Daft, crazy.

Daur, to dare.

"Day, the," to-day.

Decerniture, a decree of the court.

Deil, the devil. "Deil's buckie," devil's imp.

Deleerit, distracted.

Diet-loaf, a kind of spongecake.

Dinna, don't.

Doited, dotard.

Donnart, stupid.

Dookit, ducked.

Douce, quiet, sensible.

Dought, was able.

Doun, down.

Dowcot, a dovecot.

Drap, a drop.

Drappie, a drop of spirits.

Dree'd, endured.

Drogs, drugs.

Dung, knocked, beaten.


Ee, the eye

Een, eyes.

Eneugh, enough.


Fa'an, fallen.

Fash, trouble.

Fashious, troublesome.

Faut, fault.

Feck, part, the greater part.

Feckless, spiritless.

Fend, defence.

Fern-seed. Certain kinds were supposed to render invisible those who
carried it on their person.

Feuar, one who holds lands in feu--_i.e._, on lease.

File, foul.

Flee, a fly.

Fleeching, flattering.

Flesher, a butcher.

Flichtering, fluttering, fussing.

Flight--"hail flight," the whole lot.

Flyting, scolding.

Follies, ornaments, laces, &c.

Forbears, ancestors.

Forby, besides.

Fou, full.

Fouest, fullest.

Frae, from.

Fu', full.

Fule, a fool.


Gaed, went.

Gaen, gone.

Galliard, sprightly.

Gane, gone.

Gang, go.

Ganging, going.

Gar, to force, to make.

Gate, way, direction.

Gaun, going.

Geisen'd, leaking.

Gie, give.

Gill-flirt, a giddy flirt.

Girning, crabbed, ill-tempered.

Gled, a kite.

Gnostic, knowing, sharp.

Gomeril, an ass, a fool.

Goupin, a double handful.

Gowd, gold.

Gowk, a fool.

Gree, to agree.

Grosert, a gooseberry.

Gude, good.

Gudes, possessions, property.

Gully, a large knife.


Ha', a hall.

Hae, have.

Hail, haill, whole.

Harns, brains.

Haud, hold. "Neither to haud nor to bind," a proverbial phrase
expressive of violent excitement.

Haugh, low-lying flat ground, properly on the border of a river, and
such as is sometimes overflowed.

Haverils, foolish chatterers.

Heather-tap, a tuft or bunch of heather.

Hellicate, giddy, wild.

Hempie, roguish, romping.

Het, hot.

Holm, the level low ground on the banks of a river.

Hooly, softly, slowly.

Hotch, to jerk oneself along in a sitting posture.

Hottle, an hotel.

"Hout fie! hout awa!" expressions of dissatisfaction.

Howff, a favourite resort.

Howk, to dig.

Hurley-hacket, a badly hung carriage.

Huzzie, a jade.


Ilk, ilka, each, every.

I'se, I shall.


Jaugs, saddle bags.

Jer-falcon, a species of hawk.

Jirbling, emptying liquids from vessel to vessel.


Kale, broth.

Ken, to know.

Ken'd, knew.

Kitchen-fee, dripping.

Kittle, to tickle, to manage.

Kittled, were born.

Knap, to break in two; also, to speak after the manner of the English.

Kouscousou, a Moorish dish of various compounds.


Laird, a squire, lord of the manor.

Lamer, amber.

Landlouper, a charlatan, an adventurer.

Lang, long.

Lave, the remainder.

Lawing, a tavern reckoning.

Lea-rig, unploughed land or hill-side.

Lee, a lie.

Leeving, living.

"Let abee," let alone.

Lick, to beat, to overcome.

Linking, walking arm in arm.

Linkit, linked.

"Link out," to pay down smartly.

Lippen, to trust.

Loon, a fellow, a person.

Loot, allowed.

Loup, leap.

Lug, the ear.


Mailing, a farm.

Mair, more.

Maist, most.

Mansworn, perjured.

Mask, to brew.

Maun, must. Maunna, must not.

Mawkin, a hare.

Mazareen, mazarin, a deep blue colour.

Meith, a mark.

Mell, to maul, to meddle with.

"Minced collops," meat cut up very fine.

Mind, to remember.

Muckle, much.

Muir, a moor.

Multiplepoinding, a method of settling rival claims to the same fund.

Multure, the miller's fee for grinding grain.

Murgeons, mouths, distorted gestures.

Mutch, a woman's cap.

Mutchkin, a measure equal to an English pint.


Na, nae, no, not.

Naig, a nag.

Neist, next.


Odd-come-shortlies, chance times not far off.

Ony, any.

Or, before. "Or they wan hame," before they get home.

Ower, over.

Owerta'en, overtaken.


Palinode, in Scotch libel cases a formal recantation exacted in addition
to damages.

Parritch, porridge.

Pat, put.

Pawky, shrewd.

Pice, an Indian coin.

Plack, a small copper coin = 1/3_d._

Pock, a poke, a bag.

Poney, £25.

Pootry, poultry.

Pow, the head.

Pownie, a pony.

Prieve, proof, legal probation.

Puir, poor.

Pyot, a magpie.


Quaigh, a whisky measure.


Raff, a worthless fellow, a nobody.

Rattan, a cane or walking-stick.

Rax, to stretch.

Redd, to tidy. "An ill-red-up house," an untidy house.

Reekie, smoky.

Reise-sac, a travelling-bag.

Rin, run.

Rouleau, a roll of coined money.

Row, roll.


Sae, so.

Sair, sore.

"Salam alicum!" The usual Mohammedan greeting, meaning, Peace be with
you!

Sall, shall.

Sasine, a mode of investiture in lands, according to ancient Scottish
law.

Saumon, salmon.

Sax, six.

Scart, scratch.

Scate-rumple, skate-tail.

"Scauff and raff," tag-rag and bobtail.

Sclate, slate.

Scouthered, slightly toasted or singed.

Seeven, seven.

Shave, a slice.

Shool, a shovel.

Shouther, the shoulder.

Sib, related by blood.

Sic, such.

Siller, money.

Skeely, skilful.

Skylarked, tricked.

Slaister, a mess.

Sloan, a rebuff.

Smoor, to smother.

Snap, a small biscuit.

Sneck-drawing, crafty.

Snooded, bound up with a snood or fillet for the hair.

Sorn, to spunge, to live upon.

Sort, to arrange, to manage.

Sough, a sigh. "To keep a calm sough," to keep a quiet tongue.

Speer, to inquire.

Steer, stir.

Steered, disturbed.

Streekit, stretched (applied to a corpse).

Suld, should.

Syllabub, a curd made of wins or cider with milk or cream.

Synd, to rinse.

Syne, since, ago.


Tailzie, a bond of entail.

Tane, the one.

Tappet-hen, a large measure of claret holding three magnums or Scots
pints.

Tauld, told.

Taupie, tawpie, an awkward girl, a tomboy.

Thae, these, those.

Thrawn, thwarted or twisted.

Threepit, averred, persisted.

Till't, to it.

Tither, the other.

Toom, empty.

Topping, excellent.

Trankums, flimsy ornaments, laces, &c.

Trewed, believed.

Twa, two.

Twal, twelve.


Unco, very, particular, uncommon.


Vilipend, to slight, to undervalue.


Wad, would.

Wadna, would not.

Wae, woful, sad.

Walth, wealth.

Wame-fou, bellyful.

"Wan to," reached.

Warld, world.

Waur, worse.

Weel, well.

Weird, destiny.

Wha, who.

"What for no?" why not?

Wheen, a few.

Whiles, sometimes.

Whilk, which.

Whully-whaing, flattery.

Wi', with.

Winna, will not.

Wud, mad. "Ance wud and aye waur," increasing in insanity--applied to
one who, being in a passion, still waxes more furious.

Wull, will.

Wuss, wish.


Yanking, smart, active.

Yont, beyond.



ST. RONAN'S WELL.


    A merry place, 'tis said, in days of yore;
    But something ails it now,--the place is cursed.

WORDSWORTH.



ST. RONAN'S WELL.



CHAPTER I.

THEATRICALS.

    ----The play's the thing.

_Hamlet._


The important day had now arrived, the arrangement for which had for
some time occupied all the conversation and thoughts of the good company
at the Well of St. Ronan's. To give it, at the same time, a degree of
novelty and consequence, Lady Penelope Penfeather had long since
suggested to Mr. Mowbray, that the more gifted and accomplished part of
the guests might contribute to furnish out entertainment for the rest,
by acting a few scenes of some popular drama; an accomplishment in which
her self-conceit assured her that she was peculiarly qualified to excel.
Mr. Mowbray, who seemed on this occasion to have thrown the reins
entirely into her ladyship's hands, made no objection to the plan which
she proposed, excepting that the old-fashioned hedges and walks of the
garden at Shaws-Castle must necessarily serve for stage and scenery, as
there was no time to fit up the old hall for the exhibition of the
proposed theatricals.[II-1] But upon enquiry among the company, this plan
was wrecked upon the ordinary shelve, to wit, the difficulty of finding
performers who would consent to assume the lower characters of the
drama. For the first parts there were candidates more than enough; but
most of these were greatly too high-spirited to play the fool, except
they were permitted to top the part. Then amongst the few unambitious
underlings, who could be coaxed or cajoled to undertake subordinate
characters, there were so many bad memories, and short memories, and
treacherous memories, that at length the plan was resigned in despair.

A substitute, proposed by Lady Penelope, was next considered. It was
proposed to act what the Italians call a Comedy of Character; that is,
not an exact drama, in which the actors deliver what is set down for
them by the author; but one, in which the plot having been previously
fixed upon, and a few striking scenes adjusted, the actors are expected
to supply the dialogue extempore, or, as Petruchio says, from their
mother wit. This is an amusement which affords much entertainment in
Italy, particularly in the state of Venice, where the characters of
their drama have been long since all previously fixed, and are handed
down by tradition; and this species of drama, though rather belonging to
the mask than the theatre, is distinguished by the name of Commedia
dell' Arte.[II-2] But the shamefaced character of Britons is still more
alien from a species of display, where there is a constant and
extemporaneous demand for wit, or the sort of ready small-talk which
supplies its place, than from the regular exhibitions of the drama,
where the author, standing responsible for language and sentiment,
leaves to the personators of the scenes only the trouble of finding
enunciation and action.

But the ardent and active spirit of Lady Penelope, still athirst after
novelty, though baffled in her two first projects, brought forward a
third, in which she was more successful. This was the proposal to
combine a certain number, at least, of the guests, properly dressed for
the occasion, as representing some well-known historical or dramatic
characters, in a group, having reference to history, or to a scene of
the drama. In this representation, which may be called playing a
picture, action, even pantomimical action, was not expected; and all
that was required of the performers, was to throw themselves into such a
group as might express a marked and striking point of an easily
remembered scene, but where the actors are at a pause, and without
either speech or motion. In this species of representation there was no
tax, either on the invention or memory of those who might undertake
parts; and, what recommended it still farther to the good company, there
was no marked difference betwixt the hero and heroine of the group, and
the less distinguished characters by whom they were attended on the
stage; and every one who had confidence in a handsome shape and a
becoming dress, might hope, though standing in not quite so broad and
favourable a light as the principal personages, to draw, nevertheless, a
considerable portion of attention and applause. This motion, therefore,
that the company, or such of them as might choose to appear properly
dressed for the occasion, should form themselves into one or more
groups, which might be renewed and varied as often as they pleased, was
hailed and accepted as a bright idea, which assigned to every one a
share of the importance attached to its probable success.

Mowbray, on his side, promised to contrive some arrangement which should
separate the actors in this mute drama from the spectators, and enable
the former to vary the amusement, by withdrawing themselves from the
scene, and again appearing upon it under a different and new
combination. This plan of exhibition, where fine clothes and affected
attitudes supplied all draughts upon fancy or talent, was highly
agreeable to most of the ladies present; and even Lady Binks, whose
discontent seemed proof against every effort that could be proposed to
soothe it, acquiesced in the project, with perfect indifference indeed,
but with something less of sullenness than usual.

It now only remained to rummage the circulating library, for some piece
of sufficient celebrity to command attention, and which should be at the
same time suited to the execution of their project. Bell's British
Theatre, Miller's Modern and Ancient Drama, and about twenty odd
volumes, in which stray tragedies and comedies were associated, like the
passengers in a mail-coach, without the least attempt at selection or
arrangement, were all examined in the course of their researches. But
Lady Penelope declared loftily and decidedly for Shakspeare, as the
author whose immortal works were fresh in every one's recollection.
Shakspeare was therefore chosen, and from his works the Midsummer
Night's Dream was selected, as the play which afforded the greatest
variety of characters, and most scope of course for the intended
representation. An active competition presently occurred among the
greater part of the company, for such copies of the Midsummer Night's
Dream, or the volume of Shakspeare containing it, as could be got in the
neighbourhood; for, notwithstanding Lady Penelope's declaration, that
every one who could read had Shakspeare's plays by heart, it appeared
that such of his dramas as have not kept possession of the stage, were
very little known at St. Ronan's, save among those people who are
emphatically called readers.

The adjustment of the parts was the first subject of consideration, so
soon as those who intended to assume characters had refreshed their
recollection on the subject of the piece. Theseus was unanimously
assigned to Mowbray, the giver of the entertainment, and therefore
justly entitled to represent the Duke of Athens. The costume of an
Amazonian crest and plume, a tucked-up vest, and a tight buskin of
sky-blue silk, buckled with diamonds, reconciled Lady Binks to the part
of Hippolyta. The superior stature of Miss Mowbray to Lady Penelope,
made it necessary that the former should perform the part of Helena, and
her ladyship rest contented with the shrewish character of Hermia. It
was resolved to compliment the young Earl of Etherington with the part
of Lysander, which, however, his lordship declined, and, preferring
comedy to tragedy, refused to appear in any other character than that of
the magnanimous Bottom; and he gave them such a humorous specimen of his
quality in that part, that all were delighted at once with his
condescension in assuming, and his skill in performing, the presenter of
Pyramus.

The part of Egeus was voted to Captain MacTurk, whose obstinacy in
refusing to appear in any other than the full Highland garb, had nearly
disconcerted the whole affair. At length this obstacle was got over, on
the authority of Childe Harold, who remarks the similarity betwixt the
Highland and Grecian costume,[II-3] and the company, dispensing with the
difference of colour, voted the Captain's variegated kilt, of the
MacTurk tartan, to be the kirtle of a Grecian mountaineer,--Egeus to be
an Arnout, and the Captain to be Egeus. Chatterly and the painter,
walking gentlemen by profession, agreed to walk through the parts of
Demetrius and Lysander, the two Athenian lovers; and Mr. Winterblossom,
loath and lazy, after many excuses, was bribed by Lady Penelope with an
antique, or supposed antique cameo, to play the part of Philostratus,
master of the revels, provided his gout would permit him to remain so
long upon the turf, which was to be their stage.

Muslin trowsers, adorned with spangles, a voluminous turban of silver
gauze, and wings of the same, together with an embroidered slipper,
converted at once Miss Digges into Oberon, the King of Shadows, whose
sovereign gravity, however, was somewhat indifferently represented by
the silly gaiety of Miss in her Teens, and the uncontrolled delight
which she felt in her fine clothes. A younger sister represented
Titania; and two or three subordinate elves were selected, among
families attending the salutiferous fountain, who were easily persuaded
to let their children figure in fine clothes at so juvenile an age,
though they shook their head at Miss Digges and her pantaloons, and no
less at the liberal display of Lady Binks's right leg, with which the
Amazonian garb gratified the public of St. Ronan's.

Dr. Quackleben was applied to to play Wall, by the assistance of such a
wooden horse, or screen, as clothes are usually dried upon; the old
Attorney stood for Lion; and the other characters of Bottom's drama were
easily found among the unnamed frequenters of the Spring. Dressed
rehearsals, and so forth, went merrily on--all voted there was a play
fitted.

But even the Doctor's eloquence could not press Mrs. Blower into the
scheme, although she was particularly wanted to represent Thisbe.

"Truth is," she replied, "I dinna greatly like stage-plays. John Blower,
honest man, as sailors are aye for some spree or another, wad take me
ance to see ane Mrs. Siddons--I thought we should hae been crushed to
death before we gat in--a' my things riven aff my back, forby the four
lily-white shillings that it cost us--and then in came three frightsome
carlines wi' besoms, and they wad bewitch a sailor's wife--I was lang
eneugh there--and out I wad be, and out John Blower gat me, but wi' nae
sma' fight and fend.--My Lady Penelope Penfitter, and the great folk,
may just take it as they like; but in my mind, Dr. Cacklehen, it's a
mere blasphemy for folk to gar themselves look otherwise than their
Maker made them; and then the changing the name which was given them at
baptism, is, I think, an awful falling away from our vows; and though
Thisby, which I take to be Greek for Tibbie, may be a very good name,
yet Margaret was I christened, and Margaret will I die."

"You mistake the matter entirely, my dear Mrs. Blower," said the Doctor;
"there is nothing serious intended--a mere _placebo_--just a
divertisement to cheer the spirits, and assist the effect of the
waters--cheerfulness is a great promoter of health."

"Dinna tell me o' health, Dr. Kittlepin!--Can it be for the puir body
M'Durk's health to major about in the tartans like a tobacconist's sign
in a frosty morning, wi' his poor wizzened houghs as blue as a
blawort?--weel I wot he is a humbling spectacle. Or can it gie ony body
health or pleasure either to see your ainsell, Doctor, ganging about wi'
a claise screen tied to your back, covered wi' paper, and painted like a
stane and lime wa'?--I'll gang to see nane o' their vanities, Dr.
Kittlehen; and if there is nae other decent body to take care o' me, as
I dinna like to sit a haill afternoon by mysell, I'll e'en gae doun to
Mr. Sowerbrowst the maltster's--he is a pleasant, sensible man, and a
sponsible man in the world, and his sister's a very decent woman."

"Confound Sowerbrowst," thought the Doctor; "if I had guessed he was to
come across me thus, he should not have got the better of his dyspepsy
so early.--My dear Mrs. Blower," he continued, but aloud, "it is a
foolish affair enough, I must confess; but every person of style and
fashion at the Well has settled to attend this exhibition; there has
been nothing else talked of for this month through the whole country,
and it will be a year before it is forgotten. And I would have you
consider how ill it will look, my dear Mrs. Blower, to stay away--nobody
will believe you had a card--no, not though you were to hang it round
your neck like a label round a vial of tincture, Mrs. Blower."

"If ye thought _that_, Doctor Kickherben," said the widow, alarmed at
the idea of losing caste, "I wad e'en gang to the show, like other folk;
sinful and shameful if it be, let them that make the sin bear the shame.
But then I will put on nane of their Popish disguises--me that has lived
in North Leith, baith wife and lass, for I shanna say how mony years,
and has a character to keep up baith with saint and sinner.--And then,
wha's to take care of me, since you are gaun to make a lime-and-stane
wa' of yoursell, Dr. Kickinben?"

"My dear Mrs. Blower, if such is your determination, I will not make a
wall of myself. Her ladyship must consider my profession--she must
understand it is my function to look after my patients, in preference to
all the stage-plays in this world--and to attend on a case like yours,
Mrs. Blower, it is my duty to sacrifice, were it called for, the whole
drama from Shakspeare to O'Keefe."

On hearing this magnanimous resolution, the widow's heart was greatly
cheered; for, in fact, she might probably have considered the Doctor's
perseverance in the plan, of which she had expressed such high
disapprobation, as little less than a symptom of absolute defection from
his allegiance. By an accommodation, therefore, which suited both
parties, it was settled that the Doctor should attend his loving widow
to Shaws-Castle, without mask or mantle; and that the painted screen
should be transferred from Quackleben's back to the broad shoulders of a
briefless barrister, well qualified for the part of Wall, since the
composition of his skull might have rivalled in solidity the mortar and
stone of the most approved builder.

We must not pause to dilate upon the various labours of body and spirit
which preceded the intervening space, betwixt the settlement of this gay
scheme, and the time appointed to carry it into execution. We will not
attempt to describe how the wealthy, by letter and by commissioners,
urged their researches through the stores of the Gallery of Fashion for
specimens of Oriental finery--how they that were scant of diamonds
supplied their place with paste and Bristol stones--how the country
dealers were driven out of patience by the demand for goods of which
they had never before heard the name--and, lastly, how the busy fingers
of the more economical damsels twisted handkerchiefs into turbans, and
converted petticoats into pantaloons, shaped and sewed, cut and clipped,
and spoiled many a decent gown and petticoat, to produce something like
a Grecian habit. Who can describe the wonders wrought by active needles
and scissors, aided by thimbles and thread, upon silver gauze, and
sprigged muslin? or who can show how, if the fair nymphs of the Spring
did not entirely succeed in attaining the desired resemblance to
heathen Greeks, they at least contrived to get rid of all similitude to
sober Christians?

Neither is it necessary to dwell upon the various schemes of conveyance
which were resorted to, in order to transfer the beau monde of the Spa
to the scene of revelry at Shaws-Castle. These were as various as the
fortunes and pretensions of the owners; from the lordly curricle, with
its outriders, to the humble taxed cart, nay, untaxed cart, which
conveyed the personages of lesser rank. For the latter, indeed, the two
post-chaises at the Inn seemed converted into hourly stages, so often
did they come and go between the Hotel and the Castle--a glad day for
the postilions, and a day of martyrdom for the poor post-horses; so
seldom is it that every department of any society, however constituted,
can be injured or benefited by the same occurrence.

Such, indeed, was the penury of vehicular conveyance, that applications
were made in manner most humble, even to Meg Dods herself, entreating
she would permit her old whiskey to _ply_ (for such might have been the
phrase) at St. Ronan's Well, for that day only, and that upon good cause
shown. But not for sordid lucre would the undaunted spirit of Meg
compound her feud with her neighbours of the detested Well. "Her
carriage," she briefly replied, "was engaged for her ain guest and the
minister, and deil anither body's fit should gang intill't. Let every
herring hing by its ain head." And, accordingly, at the duly appointed
hour, creaked forth, the leathern convenience, in which, carefully
screened by the curtain from the gaze of the fry of the village, sat
Nabob Touchwood, in the costume of an Indian merchant, or Shroff, as
they are termed. The clergyman would not, perhaps, have been so
punctual, had not a set of notes and messages from his friend at the
Cleikum, ever following each other as thick as the papers which decorate
the tail of a schoolboy's kite, kept him so continually on the alert
from daybreak till noon, that Mr. Touchwood found him completely
dressed; and the whiskey was only delayed for about ten minutes before
the door of the manse, a space employed by Mr. Cargill in searching for
the spectacles, which at last were happily discovered upon his own nose.

At length, seated by the side of his new friend, Mr. Cargill arrived
safe at Shaws-Castle, the gate of which mansion was surrounded by a
screaming group of children, so extravagantly delighted at seeing the
strange figures to whom each successive carriage gave birth, that even
the stern brow and well-known voice of Johnie Tirlsneck, the beadle,
though stationed in the court on express purpose, was not equal to the
task of controlling them. These noisy intruders, however, who, it was
believed, were somewhat favoured by Clara Mowbray, were excluded from
the court which opened before the house, by a couple of grooms or
helpers armed with their whips, and could only salute, with their shrill
and wondering hailing, the various personages, as they passed down a
short avenue leading from the exterior gate.

The Cleikum nabob and the minister were greeted with shouts not the
least clamorous; which the former merited by the ease with which he wore
the white turban, and the latter, by the infrequency of his appearance
in public, and both, by the singular association of a decent clergyman
of the church of Scotland, in a dress more old-fashioned than could now
be produced in the General Assembly, walking arm in arm, and seemingly
in the most familiar terms, with a Parsee merchant. They stopped a
moment at the gate of the court-yard to admire the front of the old
mansion, which had been disturbed with so unusual a scene of gaiety.

Shaws-Castle, though so named, presented no appearance of defence; and
the present edifice had never been designed for more than the
accommodation of a peaceful family, having a low, heavy front, loaded
with some of that meretricious ornament, which, uniting, or rather
confounding, the Gothic and Grecian architecture, was much used during
the reigns of James VI. of Scotland, and his unfortunate son. The court
formed a small square, two sides of which were occupied by such
buildings as were required for the family, and the third by the stables,
the only part to which much attention had been paid, the present Mr.
Mowbray having put them into excellent order. The fourth side of the
square was shut up by a screen wall, through which a door opened to the
avenue; the whole being a kind of structure, which may be still found on
those old Scottish properties, where a rage to render their place
_Parkish_, as was at one time the prevailing phrase, has not induced the
owners to pull down the venerable and sheltering appendages with which
their wiser fathers had screened their mansion, and to lay the whole
open to the keen north-east; much after the fashion of a spinster of
fifty, who chills herself to gratify the public by an exposure of her
thin red elbows, and shrivelled neck and bosom.

A double door, thrown hospitably open on the present occasion, admitted
the company into a dark and low hall, where Mowbray himself, wearing
the under dress of Theseus, but not having yet assumed his ducal cap and
robes, stood to receive his guests with due courtesy, and to indicate to
each the road allotted to him. Those who were to take a share in the
representation of the morning, were conducted to an old saloon, destined
for a green-room, and which communicated with a series of apartments on
the right, hastily fitted with accommodations for arranging and
completing their toilet; while others, who took no part in the intended
drama, were ushered to the left, into a large, unfurnished, and long
disused dining parlour, where a sashed door opened into the gardens,
crossed with yew and holly hedges, still trimmed and clipped by the old
grey-headed gardener, upon those principles which a Dutchman thought
worthy of commemorating in a didactic poem upon the _Ars Topiaria_.

A little wilderness, surrounding a beautiful piece of the smoothest
turf, and itself bounded by such high hedges as we have described, had
been selected as the stage most proper for the exhibition of the
intended dramatic picture. It afforded many facilities; for a rising
bank exactly in front was accommodated with seats for the spectators,
who had a complete view of the silvan theatre, the bushes and shrubs
having been cleared away, and the place supplied with a temporary
screen, which, being withdrawn by the domestics appointed for that
purpose, was to serve for the rising of the curtain. A covered trellis,
which passed through another part of the garden, and terminated with a
private door opening from the right wing of the building, seemed as if
it had been planted on purpose for the proposed exhibition, as it served
to give the personages of the drama a convenient and secret access from
the green-room to the place of representation. Indeed, the dramatis
personæ, at least those who adopted the management of the matter, were
induced, by so much convenience, to extend, in some measure, their
original plan; and, instead of one group, as had been at first proposed,
they now found themselves able to exhibit to the good company a
succession of three or four, selected and arranged from different parts
of the drama; thus giving some duration, as well as some variety, to the
entertainment, besides the advantage of separating and contrasting the
tragic and the comic scenes.

After wandering about amongst the gardens, which contained little to
interest any one, and endeavouring to recognise some characters, who,
accommodating themselves to the humours of the day, had ventured to
appear in the various disguises of ballad-singers, pedlars, shepherds,
Highlanders, and so forth, the company began to draw together towards
the spot where the seats prepared for them, and the screen drawn in
front of the bosky stage, induced them to assemble, and excited
expectation, especially as a scroll in front of the esplanade set forth,
in the words of the play, "This green plot shall be our stage, this
hawthorn brake our tiring-house, and we will do it in action." A delay
of about ten minutes began to excite some suppressed murmurs of
impatience among the audience, when the touch of Gow's fiddle suddenly
burst from a neighbouring hedge, behind which he had established his
little orchestra. All were of course silent,

    "As through his dear strathspeys he bore with Highland rage."

And when he changed his strain to an adagio, and suffered his music to
die away in the plaintive notes of Roslin Castle, the echoes of the old
walls were, after a long slumber, awakened by that enthusiastic burst of
applause, with which the Scots usually received and rewarded their
country's gifted minstrel.

"He is his father's own son," said Touchwood to the clergyman, for both
had gotten seats near about the centre of the place of audience. "It is
many a long year since I listened to old Neil at Inver, and, to say
truth, spent a night with him over pancakes and Athole brose; and I
never expected to hear his match again in my lifetime. But stop--the
curtain rises."

The screen was indeed withdrawn, and displayed Hermia, Helena, and their
lovers, in attitudes corresponding to the scene of confusion occasioned
by the error of Puck.

Messrs. Chatterly and the Painter played their parts neither better nor
worse than amateur actors in general; and the best that could be said of
them was, that they seemed more than half ashamed of their exotic
dresses, and of the public gaze.

But against this untimely weakness Lady Penelope was guarded, by the
strong shield of self-conceit. She minced, ambled, and, notwithstanding
the slight appearance of her person, and the depredations which time had
made on a countenance that had never been very much distinguished for
beauty, seemed desirous to top the part of the beautiful daughter of
Egeus. The sullenness which was proper to the character of Hermia, was
much augmented by the discovery that Miss Mowbray was so much better
dressed than herself,--a discovery which she had but recently made, as
that young lady had not attended on the regular rehearsals at the Well,
but once, and then without her stage habit. Her ladyship, however, did
not permit this painful sense of inferiority, where she had expected
triumph, so far to prevail over her desire of shining, as to interrupt
materially the manner in which she had settled to represent her portion
of the scene. The nature of the exhibition precluded much action, but
Lady Penelope made amends by such a succession of grimaces, as might
rival, in variety at least, the singular display which Garrick used to
call "going his rounds." She twisted her poor features into looks of
most desperate love towards Lysander; into those of wonder and offended
pride, when she turned them upon Demetrius; and finally settled them on
Helena, with the happiest possible imitation of an incensed rival, who
feels the impossibility of relieving her swollen heart by tears alone,
and is just about to have recourse to her nails.

No contrast could be stronger in looks, demeanour, and figure, than that
between Hermia and Helena. In the latter character, the beautiful form
and foreign dress of Miss Mowbray attracted all eyes. She kept her place
on the stage, as a sentinel does that which his charge assigns him; for
she had previously told her brother, that though she consented, at his
importunity, to make part of the exhibition, it was as a piece of the
scene, not as an actor, and accordingly a painted figure could scarce be
more immovable. The expression of her countenance seemed to be that of
deep sorrow and perplexity, belonging to her part, over which wandered
at times an air of irony or ridicule, as if she were secretly scorning
the whole exhibition, and even herself for condescending to become part
of it. Above all, a sense of bashfulness had cast upon her cheek a
colour, which, though sufficiently slight, was more than her countenance
was used to display; and when the spectators beheld, in the splendour
and grace of a rich Oriental dress, her whom they had hitherto been
accustomed to see attired only in the most careless manner, they felt
the additional charms of surprise and contrast; so that the bursts of
applause which were vollied towards the stage, might be said to be
addressed to her alone, and to vie in sincerity with those which have
been forced from an audience by the most accomplished performer.

"Oh, that puir Lady Penelope!" said honest Mrs. Blower, who, when her
scruples against the exhibition were once got over, began to look upon
it with particular interest,--"I am really sorry for her puir face, for
she gars it work like the sails of John Blower's vesshel in a stiff
breeze.--Oh, Doctor Cacklehen, dinna ye think she wad need, if it were
possible, to rin ower her face wi' a gusing iron, just to take the
wrunkles out o't?"

"Hush, hush! my good dear Mrs. Blower," said the Doctor; "Lady Penelope
is a woman of quality, and my patient, and such people always act
charmingly--you must understand there is no hissing at a private
theatre--Hem!"

"Ye may say what ye like, Doctor, but there is nae fule like an auld
fule--To be sure, if she was as young and beautiful as Miss
Mowbray--hegh me, and I didna use to think her sae bonny neither--but
dress--dress makes an unco difference--That shawl o' hers--I daur say
the like o't was ne'er seen in braid Scotland--It will be real Indian,
I'se warrant."

"Real Indian!" said Mr. Touchwood, in an accent of disdain, which rather
disturbed Mrs. Blower's equanimity,--"why, what do you suppose it should
be, madam?"

"I dinna ken, sir," said she, edging somewhat nearer the Doctor, not
being altogether pleased, as she afterwards allowed, with the outlandish
appearance and sharp tone of the traveller; then pulling her own drapery
round her shoulders, she added, courageously, "There are braw shawls
made at Paisley, that ye will scarce ken frae foreign."

"Not know Paisley shawls from Indian, madam?" said Touchwood; "why, a
blind man could tell by the slightest touch of his little finger. Yon
shawl, now, is the handsomest I have seen in Britain--and at this
distance I can tell it to be a real _Tozie_."

"Cozie may she weel be that wears it," said Mrs. Blower. "I declare, now
I look on't again, it's a perfect beauty."

"It is called Tozie, ma'am, not cozie," continued the traveller; "the
Shroffs at Surat told me in 1801, that it is made out of the inner coat
of a goat."

"Of a sheep, sir, I am thinking ye mean, for goats has nae woo'."

"Not much of it, indeed, madam, but you are to understand they use only
the inmost coat; and then their dyes--that Tozie now will keep its
colour while there is a rag of it left--men bequeath them in legacies to
their grandchildren."

"And a very bonny colour it is," said the dame; "something like a
mouse's back, only a thought redder--I wonder what they ca' that
colour."

"The colour is much admired, madam," said Touchwood, who was now on a
favourite topic; "the Mussulmans say the colour is betwixt that of an
elephant and the breast of the _faughta_."

"In troth, I am as wise as I was," said Mrs. Blower.

"The _faughta_, madam, so called by the Moors, (for the Hindhus call it
_hollah_,) is a sort of pigeon, held sacred among the Moslem of India,
because they think it dyed its breast in the blood of Ali.--But I see
they are closing the scene.--Mr. Cargill, are you composing your sermon,
my good friend, or what can you be thinking of?"

Mr. Cargill had, during the whole scene, remained with his eyes fixed,
in intent and anxious, although almost unconscious gaze, upon Clara
Mowbray; and when the voice of his companion startled him out of his
reverie, he exclaimed, "Most lovely--most unhappy--yes--I must and will
see her!"

"See her?" replied Touchwood, too much accustomed to his friend's
singularities to look for much reason or connexion in any thing he said
or did; "Why, you shall see her and talk to her too, if that will give
you pleasure.--They say now," he continued, lowering his voice to a
whisper, "that this Mowbray is ruined. I see nothing like it, since he
can dress out his sister like a Begum. Did you ever see such a splendid
shawl?"

"Dearly purchased splendour," said Mr. Cargill, with a deep sigh; "I
wish that the price be yet fully paid!"

"Very likely not," said the traveller; "very likely it's gone to the
book; and for the price, I have known a thousand rupees given for such a
shawl in the country.--But hush, hush, we are to have another tune from
Nathaniel--faith, and they are withdrawing the screen--Well, they have
some mercy--they do not let us wait long between the acts of their
follies at least--I love a quick and rattling fire in these
vanities--Folly walking a funeral pace, and clinking her bells to the
time of a passing knell, makes sad work indeed."

A strain of music, beginning slowly, and terminating in a light and wild
allegro, introduced on the stage those delightful creatures of the
richest imagination that ever teemed with wonders, the Oberon and
Titania of Shakspeare. The pigmy majesty of the captain of the fairy
band had no unapt representative in Miss Digges, whose modesty was not
so great an intruder as to prevent her desire to present him in all his
dignity, and she moved, conscious of the graceful turn of a pretty
ankle, which, encircled with a string of pearls, and clothed in
flesh-coloured silk, of the most cobweb texture, rose above the crimson
sandal. Her jewelled tiara, too, gave dignity to the frown with which
the offended King of Shadows greeted his consort, as each entered upon
the scene at the head of their several attendants.

The restlessness of the children had been duly considered; and,
therefore, their part of the exhibition had been contrived to represent
dumb show, rather than a stationary picture. The little Queen of Elves
was not inferior in action to her moody lord, and repaid, with a look of
female impatience and scorn, the haughty air which seemed to express his
sullen greeting,

    "Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania."

The other children were, as usual, some clever and forward, some loutish
and awkward enough; but the gambols of childhood are sure to receive
applause, paid, perhaps, with a mixture of pity and envy, by those in
advanced life; and besides, there were in the company several fond papas
and mammas, whose clamorous approbation, though given apparently to the
whole performers, was especially dedicated in their hearts to their own
little Jackies and Marias,--for _Mary_, though the prettiest and most
classical of Scottish names, is now unknown in the land. The elves,
therefore, played their frolics, danced a measure, and vanished with
good approbation.

The anti-mask, as it may be called, of Bottom, and his company of
actors, next appeared on the stage, and a thunder of applause received
the young Earl, who had, with infinite taste and dexterity, transformed
himself into the similitude of an Athenian clown; observing the Grecian
costume, yet so judiciously discriminated from the dress of the higher
characters, as at once to fix the character of a thick-skinned mechanic
on the wearer. Touchwood, in particular, was loud in his approbation,
from which the correctness of the costume must be inferred; for that
honest gentleman, like many other critics, was indeed not very much
distinguished for good taste, but had a capital memory for petty matters
of fact; and, while the most impressive look or gesture of an actor
might have failed to interest him, would have censured most severely the
fashion of a sleeve, or the colour of a shoe-tie.

But the Earl of Etherington's merits were not confined to his external
appearance; for, had his better fortunes failed him, his deserts, like
those of Hamlet, might have got him a fellowship in a cry of players. He
presented, though in dumb show, the pragmatic conceit of Bottom, to the
infinite amusement of all present, especially of those who were well
acquainted with the original; and when he was "translated" by Puck, he
bore the ass's head, his newly-acquired dignity, with an appearance of
conscious greatness, which made the metamorphosis, though in itself
sufficiently farcical, irresistibly comic. He afterwards displayed the
same humour in his frolics with the fairies, and the intercourse which
he held with Messrs. Cobweb, Mustard-seed, Pease-blossom, and the rest
of Titania's cavaliers, who lost all command of their countenances at
the gravity with which he invited them to afford him the luxury of
scratching his hairy snout. Mowbray had also found a fitting
representative for Puck in a queer-looking, small-eyed boy of the
Aultoun of St. Ronan's, with large ears projecting from his head like
turrets from a Gothic building. This exotic animal personified the merry
and mocking spirit of Hobgoblin with considerable power, so that the
group bore some resemblance to the well-known and exquisite delineation
of Puck by Sir Joshua, in the select collection of the Bard of Memory.
It was, however, the ruin of the St. Ronan's Robin Goodfellow, who did
no good afterwards,--"gaed an ill gate," as Meg Dods said, and "took on"
with a party of strolling players.

The entertainment closed with a grand parade of all the characters that
had appeared, during which Mowbray concluded that the young lord
himself, unremarked, might have time enough to examine the outward form,
at least, of his sister Clara, whom, in the pride of his heart, he could
not help considering superior in beauty, dressed as she now was, with
every advantage of art, even to the brilliant Amazon, Lady Binks. It is
true, Mowbray was not a man to give preference to the intellectual
expression of poor Clara's features over the sultana-like beauty of the
haughty dame, which promised to an admirer all the vicissitudes that can
be expressed by a countenance lovely in every change, and changing as
often as an ardent and impetuous disposition, unused to constraint, and
despising admonition, should please to dictate. Yet, to do him justice,
though his preference was perhaps dictated more by fraternal partiality
than by purity of taste, he certainly, on the present occasion, felt the
full extent of Clara's superiority; and there was a proud smile on his
lip, as, at the conclusion of the divertisement, he asked the Earl how
he had been pleased. The rest of the performers had separated, and the
young lord remained on the stage, employed in disembarrassing himself of
his awkward visor, when Mowbray put this question, to which, though
general in terms, he naturally gave a particular meaning.

"I could wear my ass's head for ever," he said, "on condition my eyes
were to be so delightfully employed as they have been during the last
scene.--Mowbray, your sister is an angel!"

"Have a care that that headpiece of yours has not perverted your taste,
my lord," said Mowbray. "But why did you wear that disguise on your last
appearance? You should, I think, have been uncovered."

"I am ashamed to answer you," said the Earl; "but truth is, first
impressions are of consequence, and I thought I might do as wisely not
to appear before your sister, for the first time, in the character of
Bully Bottom."

"Then you change your dress, my lord, for dinner, if we call our
luncheon by that name?" said Mowbray.

"I am going to my room this instant for that very purpose," replied the
Earl.

"And I," said Mowbray, "must step in front, and dismiss the audience;
for I see they are sitting gaping there, waiting for another scene."

They parted upon this; and Mowbray, as Duke Theseus, stepped before the
screen, and announcing the conclusion of the dramatic pictures which
they had had the honour to present before the worshipful company,
thanked the spectators for the very favourable reception which they had
afforded; and intimated to them, that if they could amuse themselves by
strolling for an hour among the gardens, a bell would summon to the
house at the expiry of that time, when some refreshments would wait
their acceptance. This annunciation was received with the applause due
to the _Amphitryon ou l'on dine_; and the guests, arising from before
the temporary theatre, dispersed through the gardens, which were of some
extent, to seek for or create amusement to themselves. The music greatly
aided them in this last purpose, and it was not long ere a dozen of
couples and upwards, were "tripping it on the light fantastic toe," (I
love a phrase that is not hackneyed,) to the tune of Monymusk.

Others strolled through the grounds, meeting some quaint disguise at the
end of every verdant alley, and communicating to others the surprise and
amusement which they themselves were receiving. The scene, from the
variety of dresses, the freedom which it gave to the display of humour
amongst such as possessed any, and the general disposition to give and
receive pleasure, rendered the little masquerade more entertaining than
others of the kind for which more ample and magnificent preparations
have been made. There was also a singular and pleasing contrast between
the fantastic figures who wandered through the gardens, and the quiet
scene itself, to which the old clipt hedges, the formal distribution of
the ground, and the antiquated appearance of one or two fountains and
artificial cascades, in which the naiads had been for the nonce
compelled to resume their ancient frolics, gave an appearance of unusual
simplicity and seclusion, and which seemed rather to belong to the last
than to the present generation.

FOOTNOTES:

[II-1] At Kilruddery, the noble seat of Lord Meath, in the county of
Wicklow, there is a situation for private theatrical exhibitions in the
open air, planted out with the evergreens which arise there in the most
luxuriant magnificence. It has a wild and romantic effect, reminding one
of the scene in which Bottom rehearsed his pageant, with a green plot
for a stage, and a hawthorn brake for a tiringroom.

[II-2] See Mr. William Stewart Rose's very interesting Letters from the
North of Italy, Vol. I. Letter XXX., where this curious subject is
treated with the information and precision which distinguish that
accomplished author.

[II-3] "The Arnaouts or Albanese," (says Lord Byron,) "struck me forcibly
by their resemblance to the Highlanders of Scotland, in dress, figure,
and manner of living. Their very mountains seem Caledonian, with a
kinder climate. The kilt, though white; the spare, active form; their
dialect Celtic, in the sound, and their hardy habits, all carried me
back to Morven."--_Notes to the Second Chapter of Childe Harold's
Pilgrimage._



CHAPTER II.

PERPLEXITIES.

    For revels, dances, masks, and merry hours,
    Fore-run fair Love, strewing his way with flowers.

_Love's Labour's Lost._

    Worthies, away--the scene begins to cloud.

_Ibidem._


Mr. Touchwood, and his inseparable friend, Mr. Cargill, wandered on
amidst the gay groups we have described, the former censuring with great
scorn the frequent attempts which he observed towards an imitation of
the costume of the East, and appealing with self-complacence to his own
superior representation, as he greeted, in Moorish and in Persic, the
several turban'd figures who passed his way; while the clergyman, whose
mind seemed to labour with some weighty and important project, looked in
every direction for the fair representative of Helena, but in vain. At
length he caught a glimpse of the memorable shawl, which had drawn forth
so learned a discussion from his companion; and, starting from
Touchwood's side with a degree of anxious alertness totally foreign to
his usual habits, he endeavoured to join the person by whom it was worn.

"By the Lord," said his companion, "the Doctor is beside himself!--the
parson is mad!--the divine is out of his senses, that is clear; and how
the devil can he, who scarce can find his road from the Cleikum to his
own manse, venture himself unprotected into such a scene of
confusion?--he might as well pretend to cross the Atlantic without a
pilot--I must push off in chase of him, lest worse come of it."

But the traveller was prevented from executing his friendly purpose by a
sort of crowd which came rushing down the alley, the centre of which was
occupied by Captain MacTurk, in the very act of bullying two pseudo
Highlanders, for having presumed to lay aside their breeches before they
had acquired the Gaelic language. The sounds of contempt and insult with
which the genuine Celt was overwhelming the unfortunate impostors, were
not, indeed, intelligible otherwise than from the tone and manner of the
speaker; but these intimated so much displeasure, that the plaided forms
whose unadvised choice of a disguise had provoked it--two raw lads from
a certain great manufacturing town--heartily repented their temerity,
and were in the act of seeking for the speediest exit from the gardens;
rather choosing to resign their share of the dinner, than to abide the
farther consequences that might follow from the displeasure of this
highland Termagant.

Touchwood had scarcely extricated himself from this impediment, and
again commenced his researches after the clergyman, when his course was
once more interrupted by a sort of pressgang, headed by Sir Bingo Binks,
who, in order to play his character of a drunken boatswain to the life,
seemed certainly drunk enough, however little of a seaman. His cheer
sounded more like a view-hollo than a hail, when, with a volley of such
oaths as would have blown a whole fleet of the Bethel Union out of the
water, he ordered Touchwood "to come under his lee, and be d----d; for,
smash his old timbers, he must go to sea again, for as weather-beaten a
hulk as he was."

Touchwood answered instantly, "To sea with all my heart, but not with a
land-lubber for commander.--Harkye, brother, do you know how much of a
horse's furniture belongs to a ship?"

"Come, none of your quizzing, my old buck," said Sir Bingo--"What the
devil has a ship to do with horse's furniture?--Do you think we belong
to the horse-marines?--ha! ha! I think you're matched, brother."

"Why, you son of a fresh-water gudgeon," replied the traveller, "that
never in your life sailed farther than the Isle of Dogs, do you pretend
to play a sailor, and not know the bridle of the bow-line, and the
saddle of the boltsprit, and the bit for the cable, and the girth to
hoist the rigging, and the whip to serve for small tackle?--There is a
trick for you to find out an Abram-man, and save sixpence when he begs
of you as a disbanded seaman.--Get along with you! or the constable
shall be charged with the whole pressgang to man the workhouse."

A general laugh arose at the detection of the swaggering boatswain; and
all that the Baronet had for it was to sneak off, saying, "D--n the old
quiz, who the devil thought to have heard so much slang from an old
muslin nightcap!"

Touchwood being now an object of some attention, was followed by two or
three stragglers, whom he endeavoured to rid himself of the best way he
could, testifying an impatience a little inconsistent with the decorum
of his Oriental demeanour, but which arose from his desire to rejoin his
companion, and some apprehension of inconvenience which he feared
Cargill might sustain during his absence. For, being in fact as
good-natured a man as any in the world, Mr. Touchwood was at the same
time one of the most conceited, and was very apt to suppose, that his
presence, advice, and assistance, were of the most indispensable
consequence to those with whom he lived; and that not only on great
emergencies, but even in the most ordinary occurrences of life.

Meantime, Mr. Cargill, whom he sought in vain, was, on his part,
anxiously keeping in sight of the beautiful Indian shawl, which served
as a flag to announce to him the vessel which he held in chase. At
length he approached so close as to say, in an anxious whisper, "Miss
Mowbray--Miss Mowbray--I must speak with you."

"And what would you have with Miss Mowbray?" said the fair wearer of the
beautiful shawl, but without turning round her head.

"I have a secret--an important secret, of which to make you aware; but
it is not for this place.--Do not turn from me!--Your happiness in this,
and perhaps in the next life, depends on your listening to me."

The lady led the way, as if to give him an opportunity of speaking with
her more privately, to one of those old-fashioned and deeply-embowered
recesses, which are commonly found in such gardens as that of
Shaws-Castle; and, with her shawl wrapped around her head, so as in some
degree to conceal her features, she stood before Mr. Cargill in the
doubtful light and shadow of a huge platanus tree, which formed the
canopy of the arbour, and seemed to await the communication he had
promised.

"Report says," said the clergyman, speaking in an eager and hurried
manner, yet with a low voice, and like one desirous of being heard by
her whom he addressed, and by no one else,--"Report says that you are
about to be married."

"And is report kind enough to say to whom?" answered the lady, with a
tone of indifference which seemed to astound her interrogator.

"Young lady," he answered, with a solemn voice, "had this levity been
sworn to me, I could never have believed it! Have you forgot the
circumstances in which you stand?--Have you forgotten that my promise of
secrecy, sinful perhaps even in that degree, was but a conditional
promise?--or did you think that a being so sequestered as I am was
already dead to the world, even while he was walking upon its
surface?--Know, young lady, that I am indeed dead to the pleasures and
the ordinary business of life, but I am even therefore the more alive to
its duties."

"Upon my honour, sir, unless you are pleased to be more explicit, it is
impossible for me either to answer or understand you," said the lady;
"you speak too seriously for a masquerade pleasantry, and yet not
clearly enough to make your earnest comprehensible."

"Is this sullenness, Miss Mowbray?" said the clergyman, with increased
animation; "Is it levity?--Or is it alienation of mind?--Even after a
fever of the brain, we retain a recollection of the causes of our
illness.--Come, you must and do understand me, when I say, that I will
not consent to your committing a great crime to attain temporal wealth
and rank, no, not to make you an empress. My path is a clear one; and
should I hear a whisper breathed of your alliance with this Earl, or
whatever he may be, rely upon it, that I will withdraw the veil, and
make your brother, your bridegroom, and the whole world, acquainted with
the situation in which you stand, and the impossibility of your forming
the alliance which you propose to yourself, I am compelled to say,
against the laws of God and man."

"But, sir--sir," answered the lady, rather eagerly than anxiously, "you
have not yet told me what business you have with my marriage, or what
arguments you can bring against it."

"Madam," replied Mr. Cargill, "in your present state of mind, and in
such a scene as this, I cannot enter upon a topic for which the season
is unfit, and you, I am sorry to say, are totally unprepared. It is
enough that you know the grounds on which you stand. At a fitter
opportunity, I will, as it is my duty, lay before you the enormity of
what you are said to have meditated, with the freedom which becomes one,
who, however humble, is appointed to explain to his fellow-creatures the
laws of his Maker. In the meantime, I am not afraid that you will take
any hasty step, after such a warning as this."

So saying, he turned from the lady with that dignity which a conscious
discharge of duty confers, yet, at the same time, with a sense of deep
pain, inflicted by the careless levity of her whom he addressed. She did
not any longer attempt to detain him, but made her escape from the
arbour by one alley, as she heard voices which seemed to approach it
from another. The clergyman, who took the opposite direction, met in
full encounter a whispering and tittering pair, who seemed, at his
sudden appearance, to check their tone of familiarity, and assume an
appearance of greater distance towards each other. The lady was no other
than the fair Queen of the Amazons, who seemed to have adopted the
recent partiality of Titania towards Bully Bottom, being in conference
such and so close as we have described, with the late representative of
the Athenian weaver, whom his recent visit to his chamber had
metamorphosed into the more gallant disguise of an ancient Spanish
cavalier. He now appeared with cloak and drooping plume, sword, poniard,
and guitar, richly dressed at all points, as for a serenade beneath his
mistress's window; a silk mask at the breast of his embroidered doublet
hung ready to be assumed in case of intrusion, as an appropriate part of
the national dress.

It sometimes happened to Mr. Cargill, as we believe it may chance to
other men much subject to absence of mind, that, contrary to their wont,
and much after the manner of a sunbeam suddenly piercing a deep mist,
and illuminating one particular object in the landscape, some sudden
recollection rushes upon them, and seems to compel them to act under it,
as under the influence of complete certainty and conviction. Mr. Cargill
had no sooner set eyes on the Spanish cavalier, in whom he neither knew
the Earl of Etherington, nor recognised Bully Bottom, than with hasty
emotion he seized on his reluctant hand, and exclaimed, with a mixture
of eagerness and solemnity, "I rejoice to see you!--Heaven has sent you
here in its own good time."

"I thank you, sir," replied Lord Etherington, very coldly, "I believe
you have the joy of the meeting entirely on your side, as I cannot
remember having seen you before."

"Is not your name Bulmer?" said the clergyman. "I--I know--I am
sometimes apt to make mistakes--But I am sure your name is Bulmer?"

"Not that ever I or my godfathers heard of--my name was Bottom half an
hour ago--perhaps that makes the confusion," answered the Earl, with
very cold and distant politeness;--"Permit me to pass, sir, that I may
attend the lady."

"Quite unnecessary," answered Lady Binks; "I leave you to adjust your
mutual recollections with your new old friend, my lord--he seems to have
something to say." So saying, the lady walked on, not perhaps sorry of
an opportunity to show apparent indifference for his lordship's society
in the presence of one who had surprised them in what might seem a
moment of exuberant intimacy.

"You detain me, sir," said the Earl of Etherington to Mr. Cargill, who,
bewildered and uncertain, still kept himself placed so directly before
the young nobleman, as to make it impossible for him to pass, without
absolutely pushing him to one side. "I must really attend the lady," he
added, making another effort to walk on.

"Young man," said Mr. Cargill, "you cannot disguise yourself from me. I
am sure--my mind assures me, that you are that very Bulmer whom Heaven
hath sent here to prevent crime."

"And you," said Lord Etherington, "whom my mind assures me I never saw
in my life, are sent hither by the devil, I think, to create confusion."

"I beg pardon, sir," said the clergyman, staggered by the calm and
pertinacious denial of the Earl--"I beg pardon if I am in a
mistake--that is, if I am _really_ in a mistake--but I am not--I am
sure I am not!--That look--that smile--I am NOT mistaken. You _are_
Valentine Bulmer--the very Valentine Bulmer whom I--but I will not make
your private affairs any part of this exposition--enough, you _are_
Valentine Bulmer."

"Valentine?--Valentine?" answered Lord Etherington, impatiently,--"I am
neither Valentine nor Orson--I wish you good-morning, sir."

"Stay, sir, stay, I charge you," said the clergyman; "if you are
unwilling to be known yourself, it may be because you have forgotten who
I am--Let me name myself as the Reverend Josiah Cargill, minister of St.
Ronan's."

"If you bear a character so venerable, sir," replied the young
nobleman,--"in which, however, I am not in the least interested,--I
think when you make your morning draught a little too potent, it might
be as well for you to stay at home and sleep it off, before coming into
company."

"In the name of Heaven, young gentleman," said Mr. Cargill, "lay aside
this untimely and unseemly jesting! and tell me if you be not--as I
cannot but still believe you to be--that same youth, who, seven years
since, left in my deposit a solemn secret, which, if I should unfold to
the wrong person, woe would be my own heart, and evil the consequences
which might ensue!"

"You are very pressing with me, sir," said the Earl; "and, in exchange,
I will be equally frank with you.--I am not the man whom you mistake me
for, and you may go seek him where you will--It will be still more lucky
for you if you chance to find your own wits in the course of your
researches; for I must tell you plainly, I think they are gone somewhat
astray." So saying, with a gesture expressive of a determined purpose to
pass on, Mr. Cargill had no alternative but to make way, and suffer him
to proceed.

The worthy clergyman stood as if rooted to the ground, and, with his
usual habit of thinking aloud exclaimed to himself, "My fancy has played
me many a bewildering trick, but this is the most extraordinary of them
all!--What can this young man think of me? It must have been my
conversation with that unhappy young lady that has made such an
impression upon me as to deceive my very eyesight, and causes me to
connect with her history the face of the next person that I met--What
_must_ the stranger think of me!"

"Why, what every one thinks of thee that knows thee, prophet," said the
friendly voice of Touchwood, accompanying his speech with an awakening
slap on the clergyman's shoulder; "and that is, that thou art an
unfortunate philosopher of Laputa, who has lost his flapper in the
throng.--Come along--having me once more by your side, you need fear
nothing. Why, now I look at you closer, you look as if you had seen a
basilisk--not that there is any such thing, otherwise I must have seen
it myself, in the course of my travels--but you seem pale and
frightened--What the devil is the matter?"

"Nothing," answered the clergyman, "except that I have even this very
moment made an egregious fool of myself."

"Pooh, pooh, that is nothing to sigh over, prophet.--Every man does so
at least twice in the four-and-twenty hours," said Touchwood.

"But I had nearly betrayed to a stranger, a secret deeply concerning the
honour of an ancient family."

"That was wrong, Doctor," said Touchwood; "take care of that in future;
and, indeed, I would advise you not to speak even to your beadle, Johnie
Tirlsneck, until you have assured yourself, by at least three pertinent
questions and answers, that you have the said Johnie corporeally and
substantially in presence before you, and that your fancy has not
invested some stranger with honest Johnie's singed periwig and
threadbare brown joseph--Come along--come along."

So saying, he hurried forward the perplexed clergyman, who in vain made
all the excuses he could think of in order to effect his escape from the
scene of gaiety, in which he was so unexpectedly involved. He pleaded
headache; and his friend assured him that a mouthful of food, and a
glass of wine, would mend it. He stated he had business; and Touchwood
replied that he could have none but composing his next sermon, and
reminded him that it was two days till Sunday. At length, Mr. Cargill
confessed that he had some reluctance again to see the stranger, on whom
he had endeavoured with such pertinacity to fix an acquaintance, which
he was now well assured existed only in his own imagination. The
traveller treated his scruples with scorn, and said, that guests meeting
in this general manner, had no more to do with each other than if they
were assembled in a caravansary.

"So that you need not say a word to him in the way of apology or
otherwise--or, what will be still better, I, who have seen so much of
the world, will make the pretty speech for you." As they spoke, he
dragged the divine towards the house, where they were now summoned by
the appointed signal, and where the company were assembling in the old
saloon already noticed, previous to passing into the dining-room, where
the refreshments were prepared. "Now, Doctor," continued the busy friend
of Mr. Cargill, "let us see which of all these people has been the
subject of your blunder. Is it yon animal of a Highlandman?--or the
impertinent brute that wants to be thought a boatswain?--or which of
them all is it?--Ay, here they come, two and two, Newgate fashion--the
young Lord of the Manor with old Lady Penelope--does he set up for
Ulysses, I wonder?--The Earl of Etherington with Lady Bingo--methinks it
should have been with Miss Mowbray."

"The Earl of what, did you say?" quoth the clergyman, anxiously. "How is
it you titled that young man in the Spanish dress?"

"Oho!" said the traveller; "what, I have discovered the goblin that has
scared you?--Come along--come along--I will make you acquainted with
him." So saying, he dragged him towards Lord Etherington; and before the
divine could make his negative intelligible, the ceremony of
introduction had taken place. "My Lord Etherington, allow me to present
Mr. Cargill, minister of this parish--a learned gentleman, whose head is
often in the Holy Land, when his person seems present among his friends.
He suffers extremely, my lord, under the sense of mistaking your
lordship for the Lord knows who; but when you are acquainted with him,
you will find that he can make a hundred stranger mistakes than that, so
we hope that your lordship will take no prejudice or offence."

"There can be no offence taken where no offence is intended," said Lord
Etherington, with much urbanity. "It is I who ought to beg the reverend
gentleman's pardon, for hurrying from him without allowing him to make a
complete eclaircissement. I beg his pardon for an abruptness which the
place and the time--for I was immediately engaged in a lady's
service--rendered unavoidable."

Mr. Cargill gazed on the young nobleman as he pronounced these words,
with the easy indifference of one who apologizes to an inferior in order
to maintain his own character for politeness, but with perfect
indifference whether his excuses are or are not held satisfactory. And
as the clergyman gazed, the belief which had so strongly clung to him
that the Earl of Etherington and young Valentine Bulmer were the same
individual person, melted away like frostwork before the morning sun,
and that so completely, that he marvelled at himself for having ever
entertained it. Some strong resemblance of features there must have been
to have led him into such a delusion; but the person, the tone, the
manner of expression, were absolutely different; and his attention being
now especially directed towards these particulars, Mr. Cargill was
inclined to think the two personages almost totally dissimilar.

The clergyman had now only to make his apology, and fall back from the
head of the table to some lower seat, which his modesty would have
preferred, when he was suddenly seized upon by the Lady Penelope
Penfeather, who, detaining him in the most elegant and persuasive manner
possible, insisted that they should be introduced to each other by Mr.
Mowbray, and that Mr. Cargill should sit beside her at table.--She had
heard so much of his learning--so much of his excellent
character--desired so much to make his acquaintance, that she could not
think of losing an opportunity, which Mr. Cargill's learned seclusion
rendered so very rare--in a word, catching the Black Lion was the order
of the day; and her ladyship having trapped her prey, soon sat
triumphant with him by her side.

A second separation was thus effected betwixt Touchwood and his friend;
for the former, not being included in the invitation, or, indeed, at all
noticed by Lady Penelope, was obliged to find room at a lower part of
the table, where he excited much surprise by the dexterity with which he
dispatched boiled rice with chop-sticks.

Mr. Cargill being thus exposed, without a consort, to the fire of Lady
Penelope, speedily found it so brisk and incessant, as to drive his
complaisance, little tried as it had been for many years by small talk,
almost to extremity. She began by begging him to draw his chair close,
for an instinctive terror of fine ladies had made him keep his distance.
At the same time, she hoped "he was not afraid of her as an
Episcopalian; her father had belonged to that communion; for," she
added, with what was intended for an arch smile, "we were somewhat
naughty in the forty-five, as you may have heard; but all that was over,
and she was sure Mr. Cargill was too liberal to entertain any dislike or
shyness on that score.--She could assure him she was far from disliking
the Presbyterian form--indeed she had often wished to hear it, where she
was sure to be both delighted and edified" (here a gracious smile) "in
the church of St. Ronan's--and hoped to do so whenever Mr. Mowbray had
got a stove, which he had ordered from Edinburgh, on purpose to air his
pew for her accommodation."

All this, which was spoken with wreathed smiles and nods, and so much
civility as to remind the clergyman of a cup of tea over-sweetened to
conceal its want of strength, and flavour, required and received no
farther answer than an accommodating look and acquiescent bow.

"Ah, Mr. Cargill," continued the inexhaustible Lady Penelope, "your
profession has so many demands on the heart as well as the
understanding--is so much connected with the kindnesses and charities of
our nature--with our best and purest feelings, Mr. Cargill! You know
what Goldsmith says:--

    ----'to his duty prompt at every call,
    He watch'd, and wept, and felt, and pray'd for all.'

And then Dryden has such a picture of a parish priest, so inimitable,
one would think, did we not hear now and then of some living mortal
presuming to emulate its features," (here another insinuating nod and
expressive smile.)

    "'Refined himself to soul to curb the sense,
    And almost made a sin of abstinence.
    Yet had his aspect nothing of severe,
    But such a face as promised him sincere;
    Nothing reserved or sullen was to see,
    But sweet regard and pleasing sanctity.'"

While her ladyship declaimed, the clergyman's wandering eye confessed
his absent mind; his thoughts travelling, perhaps, to accomplish a truce
betwixt Saladin and Conrade of Mountserrat, unless they chanced to be
occupied with some occurrences of that very day, so that the lady was
obliged to recall her indocile auditor with the leading question, "You
are well acquainted with Dryden, of course, Mr. Cargill?"

"I have not the honour, madam," said Mr. Cargill, starting from his
reverie, and but half understanding the question he replied to.

"Sir!" said the lady in surprise.

"Madam!--my lady!" answered Mr. Cargill, in embarrassment.

"I asked you if you admired Dryden;--but you learned men are so
absent--perhaps you thought I said Leyden."

"A lamp too early quenched, madam," said Mr Cargill; "I knew him well."

"And so did I," eagerly replied the lady of the cerulean buskin; "he
spoke ten languages--how mortifying to poor me, Mr. Cargill, who could
only boast of five!--but I have studied a little since that time--I must
have you to help me in my studies, Mr. Cargill--it will be
charitable--but perhaps you are afraid of a female pupil?"

A thrill, arising from former recollections, passed through poor
Cargill's mind, with as much acuteness as the pass of a rapier might
have done through his body; and we cannot help remarking, that a forward
prater in society, like a busy bustler in a crowd, besides all other
general points of annoyance, is eternally rubbing upon some tender
point, and galling men's feelings, without knowing or regarding it.

"You must assist me, besides, in my little charities, Mr. Cargill, now
that you and I are become so well acquainted.--There is that Anne
Heggie--I sent her a trifle yesterday, but I am told--I should not
mention it, but only one would not have the little they have to bestow
lavished on an improper object--I am told she is not quite proper--an
unwedded mother, in short, Mr. Cargill--and it would be especially
unbecoming in me to encourage profligacy."

"I believe, madam," said the clergyman, gravely, "the poor woman's
distress may justify your ladyship's bounty, even if her conduct has
been faulty."

"O, I am no prude, neither, I assure you, Mr. Cargill," answered the
Lady Penelope. "I never withdraw my countenance from any one but on the
most irrefragable grounds. I could tell you of an intimate friend of my
own, whom I have supported against the whole clamour of the people at
the Well, because I believe, from the bottom of my soul, she is only
thoughtless--nothing in the world but thoughtless--O Mr. Cargill, how
can you look across the table so intelligently?--who would have thought
it of you?--Oh fie, to make such personal applications!"

"Upon my word, madam, I am quite at a loss to comprehend"----

"Oh fie, fie, Mr. Cargill," throwing in as much censure and surprise as
a confidential whisper can convey--"you looked at my Lady Binks--I know
what you think, but you are quite wrong, I assure you; you are entirely
wrong.--I wish she would not flirt quite so much with that young Lord
Etherington though, Mr. Cargill--her situation is particular.--Indeed, I
believe she wears out his patience; for see he is leaving the room
before we sit down--how singular!--And then, do you not think it very
odd, too, that Miss Mowbray has not come down to us?"

"Miss Mowbray!--what of Miss Mowbray--is she not here?" said Mr.
Cargill, starting, and with an expression of interest which he had not
yet bestowed on any of her ladyship's liberal communications.

"Ay, poor Miss Mowbray," said Lady Penelope, lowering her voice, and
shaking her head; "she has not appeared--her brother went up stairs a
few minutes since, I believe, to bring her down, and so we are all left
here to look at each other.--How very awkward!--But you know Clara
Mowbray."

"I, madam?" said Mr. Cargill, who was now sufficiently attentive; "I
really--I know Miss Mowbray--that is, I knew her some years since--but
your ladyship knows she has been long in bad health--uncertain health at
least, and I have seen nothing of the young lady for a very long time."

"I know it, my dear Mr. Cargill--I know it," continued the Lady
Penelope, in the same tone of deep sympathy, "I know it; and most
unhappy surely have been the circumstances that have separated her from
your advice and friendly counsel.--All this I am aware of--and to say
truth, it has been chiefly on poor Clara's account that I have been
giving you the trouble of fixing an acquaintance upon you.--You and I
together, Mr. Cargill, might do wonders to cure her unhappy state of
mind--I am sure we might--that is, if you could bring your mind to
repose absolute confidence in me."

"Has Miss Mowbray desired your ladyship to converse with me upon any
subject which interests her?" said the clergyman, with more cautious
shrewdness than Lady Penelope had suspected him of possessing. "I will
in that case be happy to hear the nature of her communication; and
whatever my poor services can perform, your ladyship may command them."

"I--I--I cannot just assert," said her ladyship with hesitation, "that I
have Miss Mowbray's direct instructions to speak to you, Mr. Cargill,
upon the present subject. But my affection for the dear girl is so very
great--and then, you know, the inconveniences which may arise from this
match."

"From which match, Lady Penelope?" said Mr. Cargill.

"Nay, now, Mr. Cargill, you really carry the privilege of Scotland too
far--I have not put a single question to you, but what you have answered
by another--let us converse intelligibly for five minutes, if you can
but condescend so far."

"For any length of time which your ladyship may please to command," said
Mr. Cargill, "provided the subject regard your ladyship's own affairs or
mine,--could I suppose these last for a moment likely to interest you."

"Out upon you," said the lady, laughing affectedly; "you should really
have been a Catholic priest instead of a Presbyterian. What an
invaluable father confessor have the fair sex lost in you, Mr. Cargill,
and how dexterously you would have evaded any cross-examinations which
might have committed your penitents!"

"Your ladyship's raillery is far too severe for me to withstand or reply
to," said Mr. Cargill, bowing with more ease than her ladyship expected;
and, retiring gently backward, he extricated himself from a conversation
which he began to find somewhat embarrassing.

At that moment a murmur of surprise took place in the apartment, which
was just entered by Miss Mowbray, leaning on her brother's arm. The
cause of this murmur will be best understood, by narrating what had
passed betwixt the brother and sister.



CHAPTER III.

EXPOSTULATION.

    Seek not the feast in these irreverent robes;
    Go to my chamber--put on clothes of mine.

_The Taming of the Shrew._


It was with a mixture of anxiety, vexation, and resentment, that
Mowbray, just when he had handed Lady Penelope into the apartment where
the tables were covered, observed that his sister was absent, and that
Lady Binks was hanging on the arm of Lord Etherington, to whose rank it
would properly have fallen to escort the lady of the house. An anxious
and hasty glance cast through the room, ascertained that she was absent,
nor could the ladies present give any account of her after she had
quitted the gardens, except that Lady Penelope had spoken a few words
with her in her own apartment, immediately after the scenic
entertainment was concluded.

Thither Mowbray hurried, complaining aloud of his sister's laziness in
dressing, but internally hoping that the delay was occasioned by nothing
of a more important character.

He hastened up stairs, entered her sitting-room without ceremony, and
knocking at the door of her dressing-room, begged her to make haste.

"Here is the whole company impatient," he said, assuming a tone of
pleasantry; "and Sir Bingo Binks exclaiming for your presence, that he
may be let loose on the cold meat."

"Paddock calls," said Clara from within; "anon--anon!"

"Nay, it is no jest, Clara," continued her brother; "for here is Lady
Penelope miauling like a starved cat!"

"I come--I come, greymalkin," answered Clara, in the same vein as
before, and entered the parlour as she spoke, her finery entirely thrown
aside, and dressed in the riding-habit which was her usual and favourite
attire.

Her brother was both surprised and offended. "On my soul," he said,
"Clara, this is behaving very ill. I indulge you in every freak upon
ordinary occasions, but you might surely on this day, of all others,
have condescended to appear something like my sister, and a gentlewoman
receiving company in her own house."

"Why, dearest John," said Clara, "so that the guests have enough to eat
and drink, I cannot conceive why I should concern myself about their
finery, or they trouble themselves about my plain clothes."

"Come, come, Clara, this will not do," answered Mowbray; "you must
positively go back into your dressing-room, and huddle your things on as
fast as you can. You cannot go down to the company dressed as you are."

"I certainly can, and I certainly will, John--I have made a fool of
myself once this morning to oblige you, and for the rest of the day I am
determined to appear in my own dress; that is, in one which shows I
neither belong to the world, nor wish to have any thing to do with its
fashions."

"By my soul, Clara, I will make you repent this!" said Mowbray, with
more violence than he usually exhibited where his sister was concerned.

"You cannot, dear John," she coolly replied, "unless by beating me; and
that I think you would repent of yourself."

"I do not know but what it were the best way of managing you," said
Mowbray, muttering between his teeth; but, commanding his violence, he
only said aloud, "I am sure, from long experience, Clara, that your
obstinacy will at the long run beat my anger. Do let us compound the
point for once--keep your old habit, since you are so fond of making a
sight of yourself, and only throw the shawl round your shoulders--it has
been exceedingly admired, and every woman in the house longs to see it
closer--they can hardly believe it genuine."

"Do be a man, Mowbray," answered his sister; "meddle with your
horse-sheets, and leave shawls alone."

"Do you be a woman, Clara, and think a little on them, when custom and
decency render it necessary.--Nay, is it possible!--Will you not
stir--not oblige me in such a trifle as this?"

"I would indeed if I could," said Clara; "but since you must know the
truth--do not be angry--I have not the shawl. I have given it
away--given it up, perhaps I should say, to the rightful owner.--She has
promised me something or other in exchange for it, however. I have given
it to Lady Penelope."

"Yes," answered Mowbray, "some of the work of her own fair hands, I
suppose, or a couple of her ladyship's drawings, made up into
fire-screens.--On my word--on my soul, this is too bad!--It is using me
too ill, Clara--far too ill. If the thing had been of no value, my
giving it to you should have fixed some upon it.--Good-even to you; we
will do as well as we can without you."

"Nay, but, my dear John--stay but a moment," said Clara, taking his arm
as he sullenly turned towards the door; "there are but two of us on the
earth--do not let us quarrel about a trumpery shawl."

"Trumpery!" said Mowbray; "It cost fifty guineas, by G--, which I can
but ill spare--trumpery!"

"O, never think of the cost," said Clara; "it was your gift, and that
should, I own, have been enough to have made me keep to my death's day
the poorest rag of it. But really Lady Penelope looked so very
miserable, and twisted her poor face into so many odd expressions of
anger and chagrin, that I resigned it to her, and agreed to say she had
lent it to me for the performance. I believe she was afraid that I would
change my mind, or that you would resume it as a seignorial waif; for,
after she had walked a few turns with it wrapped around her, merely by
way of taking possession, she dispatched it by a special messenger to
her apartment at the Well."

"She may go to the devil," said Mowbray, "for a greedy unconscionable
jade, who has varnished over a selfish, spiteful heart, that is as hard
as a flint, with a fine glossing of taste and sensibility!"

"Nay, but, John," replied his sister, "she really had something to
complain of in the present case. The shawl had been bespoken on her
account, or very nearly so--she showed me the tradesman's letter--only
some agent of yours had come in between with the ready money, which no
tradesman can resist.--Ah, John! I suspect half of your anger is owing
to the failure of a plan to mortify poor Lady Pen, and that she has more
to complain of than you have.--Come, come, you have had the advantage of
her in the first display of this fatal piece of finery, if wearing it on
my poor shoulders can be called a display--e'en make her welcome to the
rest for peace's sake, and let us go down to these good folks, and you
shall see how pretty and civil I shall behave."

Mowbray, a spoiled child, and with all the petted habits of indulgence,
was exceedingly fretted at the issue of the scheme which he had formed
for mortifying Lady Penelope; but he saw at once the necessity of saying
nothing more to his sister on the subject. Vengeance he privately
muttered against Lady Pen, whom he termed an absolute harpy in
blue-stockings; unjustly forgetting, that in the very important affair
at issue, he himself had been the first to interfere with and defeat her
ladyship's designs on the garment in question.

"But I will blow her," he said, "I will blow her ladyship's conduct in
the business! She shall not outwit a poor whimsical girl like Clara,
without hearing it on more sides than one."

With this Christian and gentlemanlike feeling towards Lady Penelope, he
escorted his sister into the eating-room, and led her to her proper
place at the head of the table. It was the negligence displayed in her
dress, which occasioned the murmur of surprise that greeted Clara on her
entrance. Mowbray, as he placed his sister in her chair, made her
general apology for her late appearance, and her riding-habit. "Some
fairies," he supposed, "Puck, or such like tricksy goblin, had been in
her wardrobe, and carried off whatever was fit for wearing."

There were answers from every quarter--that it would have been too much
to expect Miss Mowbray to dress for their amusement a second time--that
nothing she chose to wear could misbecome Miss Mowbray--that she had set
like the sun, in her splendid scenic dress, and now rose like the full
moon in her ordinary attire, (this flight was by the Reverend Mr.
Chatterly,)--and that "Miss Mowbray being at hame, had an unco gude
right to please hersell;" which last piece of politeness, being at least
as much to the purpose as any that had preceded it, was the contribution
of honest Mrs. Blower; and was replied to by Miss Mowbray with a
particular and most gracious bow.

Mrs. Blower ought to have rested her colloquial fame, as Dr. Johnson
would have said, upon a compliment so evidently acceptable, but no one
knows where to stop. She thrust her broad, good-natured, delighted
countenance forward, and sending her voice from the bottom to the top of
the table, like her umquhile husband when calling to his mate during a
breeze, wondered "why Miss Clara Moubrie didna wear that grand shawl she
had on at the play-making, and her just sitting upon the wind of a door.
Nae doubt it was for fear of the soup, and the butter-boats, and the
like;--but _she_ had three shawls, which she really fand was ane ower
mony--if Miss Moubrie wad like to wear ane o' them--it was but
imitashion, to be sure--but it wad keep her shouthers as warm as if it
were real Indian, and if it were dirtied it was the less matter."

"Much obliged, Mrs. Blower," said Mowbray unable to resist the
temptation which this speech offered; "but my sister is not yet of
quality sufficient, to entitle her to rob her friends of their shawls."

Lady Penelope coloured to the eyes, and bitter was the retort that arose
to her tongue; but she suppressed it, and nodding to Miss Mowbray in the
most friendly way in the world, yet with a very particular expression,
she only said, "So you have told your brother of the little transaction
which we have had this morning?--_Tu me lo pagherai_--I give you fair
warning, take care none of your secrets come into my keeping--that's
all."

Upon what mere trifles do the important events of human life sometimes
depend! If Lady Penelope had given way to her first movements of
resentment, the probable issue would have been some such half-comic
half-serious skirmish, as her ladyship and Mr. Mowbray had often amused
the company withal. But revenge which is suppressed and deferred, is
always most to be dreaded; and to the effects of the deliberate
resentment which Lady Penelope cherished upon this trifling occasion,
must be traced the events which our history has to record. Secretly did
she determine to return the shawl, which she had entertained hopes of
making her own upon very reasonable terms; and as secretly did she
resolve to be revenged both upon brother and sister, conceiving herself
already possessed, to a certain degree, of a clew to some part of their
family history, which might serve for a foundation on which to raise her
projected battery. The ancient offences and emulation of importance of
the Laird of St. Ronan's, and the superiority which had been given to
Clara in the exhibition of the day, combined with the immediate cause of
resentment; and it only remained for her to consider how her revenge
should be most signally accomplished.

Whilst such thoughts were passing through Lady Penelope's mind, Mowbray
was searching with his eyes for the Earl of Etherington, judging that it
might be proper, in the course of the entertainment, or before the
guests had separated, to make him formally acquainted with his sister,
as a preface to the more intimate connexion which must, in prosecution
of the plan agreed upon, take place betwixt them. Greatly to his
surprise, the young Earl was no where visible, and the place which he
had occupied by the side of Lady Binks had been quietly appropriated by
Winterblossom, as the best and softest chair in the room, and nearest to
the head of the table, where the choicest of the entertainment is
usually arranged. This honest gentleman, after a few insipid compliments
to her ladyship upon her performance as Queen of the Amazons, had
betaken himself to the much more interesting occupation of ogling the
dishes, through the glass which hung suspended at his neck by a gold
chain of Maltese workmanship. After looking and wondering for a few
seconds, Mowbray addressed himself to the old beau-garçon, and asked him
what had become of Etherington.

"Retreated," said Winterblossom, "and left but his compliments to you
behind him--a complaint, I think, in his wounded arm.--Upon my word,
that soup has a most appetizing flavour!--Lady Penelope, shall I have
the honour to help you?--no!--nor you, Lady Binks?--you are too
cruel!--I must comfort myself, like a heathen priest of old, by eating
the sacrifice which the deities have scorned to accept of."

Here he helped himself to the plate of soup which he had in vain offered
to the ladies, and transferred the further duty of dispensing it to Mr.
Chatterly; "it is your profession, sir, to propitiate the
divinities--ahem!"

"I did not think Lord Etherington would have left us so soon," said
Mowbray; "but we must do the best we can without his countenance."

So saying, he assumed his place at the bottom of the table, and did his
best to support the character of a hospitable and joyous landlord, while
on her part, with much natural grace, and delicacy of attention
calculated to set every body at their ease, his sister presided at the
upper end of the board. But the vanishing of Lord Etherington in a
manner so sudden and unaccountable--the obvious ill-humour of Lady
Penelope--and the steady, though passive, sullenness of Lady Binks,
spread among the company a gloom like that produced by an autumnal mist
upon a pleasing landscape. The women were low-spirited, dull, nay,
peevish, they did not well know why; and the men could not be joyous,
though the ready resource of old hock and champagne made some of them
talkative.--Lady Penelope broke up the party by well-feigned
apprehension of the difficulties, nay, dangers, of returning by so rough
a road. Lady Binks begged a seat with her ladyship, as Sir Bingo, she
said, judging from his devotion to the green flask, was likely to need
their carriage home. From the moment of their departure, it became bad
tone to remain behind; and all, as in a retreating army, were eager to
be foremost, excepting MacTurk and a few stanch topers, who, unused to
meet with such good cheer every day of their lives, prudently determined
to make the most of the opportunity.

We will not dwell on the difficulties attending the transportation of a
large company by few carriages, though the delay and disputes thereby
occasioned were of course more intolerable than in the morning, for the
parties had no longer the hopes of a happy day before them, as a bribe
to submit to temporary inconvenience. The impatience of many was so
great, that, though the evening was raw, they chose to go on foot rather
than await the dull routine of the returning carriages; and as they
retired they agreed, with one consent, to throw the blame of whatever
inconvenience they might sustain on their host and hostess, who had
invited so large a party before getting a shorter and better road made
between the Well and Shaws-Castle.

"It would have been so easy to repair the path by the Buck-stane!"

And this was all the thanks which Mr. Mowbray received for an
entertainment which had cost him so much trouble and expense, and had
been looked forward to by the good society at the Well with such
impatient expectation.

"It was an unco pleasant show," said the good-natured Mrs. Blower, "only
it was a pity it was sae tediousome; and there was surely an awfu' waste
of gauze and muslin."

But so well had Dr. Quackleben improved his numerous opportunities, that
the good lady was much reconciled to affairs in general, by the prospect
of coughs, rheumatisms, and other maladies acquired upon the occasion,
which were likely to afford that learned gentleman, in whose prosperity
she much interested herself, a very profitable harvest.

Mowbray, somewhat addicted to the service of Bacchus, did not find
himself freed, by the secession of so large a proportion of the company,
from the service of the jolly god, although, upon the present occasion,
he could well have dispensed with his orgies. Neither the song, nor the
pun, nor the jest, had any power to kindle his heavy spirit, mortified
as he was by the event of his party being so different from the
brilliant consummation which he had anticipated. The guests, stanch boon
companions, suffered not, however, their party to flag for want of the
landlord's participation, but continued to drink bottle after bottle,
with as little regard for Mr. Mowbray's grave looks, as if they had been
carousing at the Mowbray Arms, instead of the Mowbray mansion-house.
Midnight at length released him, when, with an unsteady step, he sought
his own apartment; cursing himself and his companions, consigning his
own person with all dispatch to his bed, and bequeathing those of the
company to as many mosses and quagmires, as could be found betwixt
Shaws-Castle and St. Ronan's Well.



CHAPTER IV.

THE PROPOSAL.

    Oh! you would be a vestal maid, I warrant,
    The bride of Heaven--Come--we may shake your purpose;
    For here I bring in hand a jolly suitor
    Hath ta'en degrees in the seven sciences
    That ladies love best--He is young and noble,
    Handsome and valiant, gay, and rich, and liberal.

_The Nun._


The morning after a debauch is usually one of reflection, even to the
most determined boon companion; and, in the retrospect of the preceding
day, the young Laird of St. Ronan's saw nothing very consolatory, unless
that the excess was not, in the present case, of his own seeking, but
had arisen out of the necessary duties of a landlord, or what were
considered as such by his companions.

But it was not so much his dizzy recollections of the late carouse which
haunted him on awakening, as the inexplicability which seemed to shroud
the purposes and conduct of his new ally, the Earl of Etherington.

That young nobleman had seen Miss Mowbray, had declared his high
satisfaction, had warmly and voluntarily renewed the proposal which he
had made ere she was yet known to him--and yet, far from seeking an
opportunity to be introduced to her, he had even left the party
abruptly, in order to avoid the necessary intercourse which must there
have taken place between them. His lordship's flirtation with Lady
Binks had not escaped the attention of the sagacious Mowbray--her
ladyship also had been in a hurry to leave Shaws-Castle; and Mowbray
promised to himself to discover the nature of this connexion through
Mrs. Gingham, her ladyship's attendant, or otherwise; vowing deeply at
the same time, that no peer in the realm should make an affectation of
addressing Miss Mowbray a cloak for another and more secret intrigue.
But his doubts on this subject were in great measure removed by the
arrival of one of Lord Etherington's grooms with the following letter:--

    "My Dear Mowbray,--You would naturally be surprised at my escape
    from the table yesterday before you returned to it, or your lovely
    sister had graced it with her presence. I must confess my folly; and
    I may do so the more boldly, for, as the footing on which I first
    opened this treaty was not a very romantic one, you will scarce
    suspect me of wishing to render it such. But I did in reality feel,
    during the whole of yesterday, a reluctance which I cannot express,
    to be presented to the lady on whose favour the happiness of my
    future life is to depend, upon such a public occasion, and in the
    presence of so promiscuous a company. I had my mask, indeed, to wear
    while in the promenade, but, of course, that was to be laid aside at
    table, and, consequently, I must have gone through the ceremony of
    introduction; a most interesting moment, which I was desirous to
    defer till a fitter season. I trust you will permit me to call upon
    you at Shaws-Castle this morning, in the hope--the anxious hope--of
    being allowed to pay my duty to Miss Mowbray, and apologize for not
    waiting upon her yesterday. I expect your answer with the utmost
    impatience, being always yours, &c. &c. &c.

"ETHERINGTON."

"This," said St. Ronan's to himself, as he folded the letter
deliberately, after having twice read it over, "seems all fair and above
board; I could not wish any thing more explicit; and, moreover, it puts
into black and white, as old Mick would say, what only rested before on
our private conversation. An especial cure for the headache, such a
billet as this in a morning."

So saying, he sat him down and wrote an answer, expressing the pleasure
he should have in seeing his lordship as soon as he thought proper. He
watched even the departure of the groom, and beheld him gallop off, with
the speed of one who knows that his quick return was expected by an
impatient master.

Mowbray remained for a few minutes by himself, and reflected with
delight upon the probable consequences of this match;--the advancement
of his sister--and, above all, the various advantages which must
necessarily accrue to himself, by so close an alliance with one whom he
had good reason to think deep _in the secret_, and capable of rendering
him the most material assistance in his speculations on the turf and in
the sporting world. He then sent a servant to let Miss Mowbray know that
he intended to breakfast with her.

"I suppose, John," said Clara, as her brother entered the apartment,
"you are glad of a weaker cup this morning than those you were drinking
last night--you were carousing till after the first cock."

"Yes," said Mowbray, "that sandbed, old MacTurk, upon whom whole
hogsheads make no impression, did make a bad boy of me--but the day is
over, and they will scarce catch me in such another scrape.--What did
you think of the masks?"

"Supported as well," said Clara, "as such folk support the disguise of
gentlemen and ladies during life; and that is, with a great deal of
bustle, and very little propriety."

"I saw only one good mask there, and that was a Spaniard," said her
brother.

"O, I saw him too," answered Clara; "but he wore his visor on. An old
Indian merchant, or some such thing, seemed to me a better
character--the Spaniard did nothing but stalk about and twangle his
guitar, for the amusement of my Lady Binks, as I think."

"He is a very clever fellow, though, that same Spaniard," rejoined
Mowbray--"Can you guess who he is?"

"No, indeed; nor shall I take the trouble of trying. To set to guessing
about it, were as bad as seeing the whole mummery over again."

"Well," replied her brother, "you will allow one thing at least--Bottom
was well acted--you cannot deny that."

"Yes," replied Clara, "that worthy really deserved to wear his ass's
head to the end of the chapter--but what of him?"

"Only conceive that he should be the very same person with that handsome
Spaniard," replied Mowbray.

"Then there is one fool fewer than I thought there was," replied Clara,
with the greatest indifference.

Her brother bit his lip.

"Clara," he said, "I believe you are an excellent good girl, and clever
to boot, but pray do not set up for wit and oddity; there is nothing in
life so intolerable as pretending to think differently from other
people.--That gentleman was the Earl of Etherington."

This annunciation, though made in what was meant to be an imposing tone,
had no impression on Clara.

"I hope he plays the peer better than the Fidalgo," she replied,
carelessly.

"Yes," answered Mowbray, "he is one of the handsomest men of the time,
and decidedly fashionable--you will like him much when you see him in
private."

"It is of little consequence whether I do or no," answered Clara.

"You mistake the matter," said Mowbray, gravely; "it may be of
considerable consequence."

"Indeed!" said Clara, with a smile; "I must suppose myself, then, too
important a person not to make my approbation necessary to one of your
first-rates? He cannot pretend to pass muster at St. Ronan's without
it?--Well, I will depute my authority to Lady Binks, and she shall pass
your new recruits instead of me."

"This is all nonsense, Clara," said Mowbray. "Lord Etherington calls
here this very morning, and wishes to be made known to you. I expect you
will receive him as a particular friend of mine."

"With all my heart--so you will engage, after this visit, to keep him
down with your other particular friends at the Well--you know it is a
bargain that you bring neither buck nor pointer into my parlour--the one
worries my cat, and the other my temper."

"You mistake me entirely, Clara--this is a very different visitor from
any I have ever introduced to you--I expect to see him often here, and
I hope you and he will be better friends than you think of. I have more
reasons for wishing this, than I have now time to tell you."

Clara remained silent for an instant, then looked at her brother with an
anxious and scrutinizing glance, as if she wished to penetrate into his
inmost purpose.

"If I thought,"--she said, after a minute's consideration, and with an
altered and disturbed tone; "but no--I will not think that Heaven
intends me such a blow--least of all, that it should come from your
hands." She walked hastily to the window, and threw it open--then shut
it again, and returned to her seat, saying, with a constrained smile,
"May Heaven forgive you, brother, but you frightened me heartily."

"I did not mean to do so, Clara," said Mowbray, who saw the necessity of
soothing her; "I only alluded in joke to those chances that are never
out of other girls' heads, though you never seem to calculate on them."

"I wish you, my dear John," said Clara, struggling to regain entire
composure, "I wish _you_ would profit by my example, and give up the
science of chance also--it will not avail you."

"How d'ye know that?--I'll show you the contrary, you silly wench,"
answered Mowbray--"Here is a banker's bill, payable to your own order,
for the cash you lent me, and something over--don't let old Mick have
the fingering, but let Bindloose manage it for you--he is the honester
man between two d----d knaves."

"Will not you, brother, send it to the man Bindloose yourself?"

"No,--no," replied Mowbray--"he might confuse it with some of my
transactions, and so you forfeit your stake."

"Well, I am glad you are able to pay me, for I want to buy Campbell's
new work."

"I wish you joy of your purchase--but don't scratch me for not caring
about it--I know as little of books as you of the long odds. And come
now, be serious, and tell me if you will be a good girl--lay aside your
whims, and receive this English young nobleman like a lady as you are?"

"That were easy," said Clara--"but--but--Pray, ask no more of me than
just to see him.--Say to him at once, I am a poor creature in body, in
mind, in spirits, in temper, in understanding--above all, say that I can
receive him only once."

"I shall say no such thing," said Mowbray, bluntly; "it is good to be
plain with you at once--I thought of putting off this discussion--but
since it must come, the sooner it is over the better.--You are to
understand, Clara Mowbray, that Lord Etherington has a particular view
in this visit, and that his view has my full sanction and approbation."

"I thought so," said Clara, in the same altered tone of voice in which
she had before spoken; "my mind foreboded this last of misfortunes!--But,
Mowbray, you have no child before you--I neither will nor can see this
nobleman."

"How!" exclaimed Mowbray, fiercely; "do you dare return me so peremptory
an answer?--Think better of it, for, if we differ, you will find you
will have the worst of the game."

"Rely upon it," she continued, with more vehemence, "I will see him nor
no man upon the footing you mention--my resolution is taken, and
threats and entreaties will prove equally unavailing."

"Upon my word, madam," said Mowbray, "you have, for a modest and retired
young lady, plucked up a goodly spirit of your own!--But you shall find
mine equals it. If you do not agree to see my friend Lord Etherington,
ay, and to receive him with the politeness due to the consideration I
entertain for him, by Heaven! Clara, I will no longer regard you as my
father's daughter. Think what you are giving up--the affection and
protection of a brother--and for what?--merely for an idle point of
etiquette.--You cannot, I suppose, even in the workings of your romantic
brain, imagine that the days of Clarissa Harlowe and Harriet Byron are
come back again, when women were married by main force? and it is
monstrous vanity in you to suppose that Lord Etherington, since he has
honoured you with any thoughts at all, will not be satisfied with a
proper and civil refusal--You are no such prize, methinks, that the days
of romance are to come back for you."

"I care not what days they are," said Clara--"I tell you I will not see
Lord Etherington, or any one else, upon such preliminaries as you have
stated--I cannot--I will not--and I ought not.--Had you meant me to
receive him, which can be a matter of no consequence whatever, you
should have left him on the footing of an ordinary visitor--as it is, I
will not see him."

"You _shall_ see and hear him both," said Mowbray; "you shall find me as
obstinate as you are--as willing to forget I am a brother, as you to
forget that you have one."

"It is time, then," replied Clara, "that this house, once our father's,
should no longer hold us both. I can provide for myself, and may God
bless you!"

"You take it coolly, madam," said her brother, walking through the
apartment with much anxiety both of look and gesture.

"I do," she answered, "for it is what I have often foreseen--Yes,
brother, I have often foreseen that you would make your sister the
subject of your plots and schemes, so soon as other stakes failed you.
That hour is come, and I am, as you see, prepared to meet it."

"And where may you propose to retire to?" said Mowbray. "I think that I,
your only relation and natural guardian, have a right to know that--my
honour and that of my family is concerned."

"Your honour!" she retorted, with a keen glance at him; "your interest,
I suppose you mean, is somehow connected with the place of my
abode.--But keep yourself patient--the den of the rock, the linn of the
brook, should be my choice, rather than a palace without my freedom."

"You are mistaken, however," said Mowbray, sternly, "if you hope to
enjoy more freedom than I think you capable of making a good use of. The
law authorizes, and reason, and even affection, require, that you should
be put under restraint for your own safety, and that of your character.
You roamed the woods a little too much in my father's time, if all
stories be true."

"I did--I did indeed, Mowbray," said Clara, weeping; "God pity me, and
forgive you for upbraiding me with my state of mind--I know I cannot
sometimes trust my own judgment; but is it for you to remind me of
this?"

Mowbray was at once softened and embarrassed.

"What folly is this?" he said; "you say the most cutting things to
me--are ready to fly from my house--and when I am provoked to make an
angry answer, you burst into tears!"

"Say you did not mean what you said, my dearest brother!" exclaimed
Clara; "O say you did not mean it!--Do not take my liberty from me--it
is all I have left, and, God knows, it is a poor comfort in the sorrows
I undergo. I will put a fair face on every thing--will go down to the
Well--will wear what you please, and say what you please--but O! leave
me the liberty of my solitude here--let me weep alone in the house of my
father--and do not force a broken-hearted sister to lay her death at
your door.--My span must be a brief one, but let not your hand shake the
sand-glass!--Disturb me not--let me pass quietly--I do not ask this so
much for my sake as for your own. I would have you think of me,
sometimes, Mowbray, after I am gone, and without the bitter reflections
which the recollection of harsh usage will assuredly bring with it. Pity
me, were it but for your own sake.--I have deserved nothing but
compassion at your hand--There are but two of us on earth, why should we
make each other miserable?"

She accompanied these entreaties with a flood of tears, and the most
heart-bursting sobs. Mowbray knew not what to determine. On the one
hand, he was bound by his promise to the Earl; on the other, his sister
was in no condition to receive such a visitor; nay, it was most
probable, that if he adopted the strong measure of compelling her to
receive him, her behaviour would probably be such as totally to break
off the projected match, on the success of which he had founded so many
castles in the air. In this dilemma, he had again recourse to argument.

"Clara," he said, "I am, as I have repeatedly said, your only relation
and guardian--if there be any real reason why you ought not to receive,
and, at least, make a civil reply to such a negotiation as the Earl of
Etherington has thought fit to open, surely I ought to be intrusted with
it. You enjoyed far too much of that liberty which you seem to prize so
highly during my father's lifetime--in the last years of it at
least--have you formed any foolish attachment during that time, which
now prevents you from receiving such a visit as Lord Etherington has
threatened?"

"Threatened!--the expression is well chosen," said Miss Mowbray; "and
nothing can be more dreadful than such a threat, excepting its
accomplishment."

"I am glad your spirits are reviving," replied her brother; "but that is
no answer to my question."

"Is it necessary," said Clara, "that one must have actually some
engagement or entanglement, to make them unwilling to be given in
marriage, or even to be pestered upon such a subject?--Many young men
declare they intend to die bachelors, why may not I be permitted to
commence old maid at three-and-twenty?--Let me do so, like a kind
brother, and there were never nephews and nieces so petted and so
scolded, so nursed and so cuffed by a maiden aunt, as your children,
when you have them, shall be by aunt Clara."

"And why not say all this to Lord Etherington?" said Mowbray; "wait
until he propose such a terrible bugbear as matrimony, before you refuse
to receive him. Who knows, the whim that he hinted at may have passed
away--he was, as you say, flirting with Lady Binks, and her ladyship has
a good deal of address, as well as beauty."

"Heaven improve both, (in an honest way,) if she will but keep his
lordship to herself!" said Clara.

"Well, then," continued her brother, "things standing thus, I do not
think you will have much trouble with his lordship--no more, perhaps,
than just to give him a civil denial. After having spoken on such a
subject to a man of my condition, he cannot well break off without you
give him an apology."

"If that is all," said Clara, "he shall, as soon as he gives me an
opportunity, receive such an answer as will leave him at liberty to woo
any one whatsoever of Eve's daughters, excepting Clara Mowbray. Methinks
I am so eager to set the captive free, that I now wish as much for his
lordship's appearance as I feared it a little while since."

"Nay, nay, but let us go fair and softly," said her brother. "You are
not to refuse him before he asks the question."

"Certainly," said Clara; "but I well know how to manage that--he shall
never ask the question at all. I will restore Lady Binks's admirer,
without accepting so much as a civility in ransom."

"Worse and worse, Clara," answered Mowbray; "you are to remember he is
my friend and guest, and he must not be affronted in my house. Leave
things to themselves.--Besides, consider an instant, Clara--had you not
better take a little time for reflection in this case? The offer is a
splendid one--title--fortune--and, what is more, a fortune which you
will be well entitled to share largely in."

"This is beyond our implied treaty," said Clara. "I have yielded more
than ever I thought I should have done, when I agreed that this Earl
should be introduced to me on the footing of a common visitor; and now
you talk favourably of his pretensions. This is an encroachment,
Mowbray, and now I shall relapse into my obstinacy, and refuse to see
him at all."

"Do as you will," replied Mowbray, sensible that it was only by working
on her affections that he had any chance of carrying a point against her
inclination,--"Do as you will, my dear Clara; but, for Heaven's sake,
wipe your eyes."

"And behave myself," said she, trying to smile as she obeyed
him,--"behave myself, you would say, like folks of this world; but the
quotation is lost on you, who never read either Prior or Shakspeare."

"I thank Heaven for that," said Mowbray. "I have enough to burden my
brain, without carrying such a lumber of rhymes in it as you and Lady
Pen do.--Come, that is right; go to the mirror, and make yourself
decent."

A woman must be much borne down indeed by pain and suffering, when she
loses all respect for her external appearance. The madwoman in Bedlam
wears her garland of straw with a certain air of pretension; and we have
seen a widow whom we knew to be most sincerely affected by a recent
deprivation, whose weeds, nevertheless, were arranged with a dolorous
degree of grace, which amounted almost to coquetry. Clara Mowbray had
also, negligent as she seemed to be of appearances, her own art of the
toilet, although of the most rapid and most simple character. She took
off her little riding-hat, and, unbinding a lace of Indian gold which
retained her locks, shook them in dark and glossy profusion over her
very handsome form, which they overshadowed down to her slender waist;
and while her brother stood looking on her with a mixture of pride,
affection, and compassion, she arranged them with a large comb, and,
without the assistance of any _femme d'atours_, wove them, in the course
of a few minutes, into such a natural head-dress as we see on the
statues of the Grecian nymphs.

"Now let me but find my best muff," she said, "come prince and peer, I
shall be ready to receive them."

"Pshaw! your muff--who has heard of such a thing these twenty years?
Muffs were out of fashion before you were born."

"No matter, John," replied his sister; "when a woman wears a muff,
especially a determined old maid like myself, it is a sign she has no
intentions to scratch; and therefore the muff serves all the purposes of
a white flag, and prevents the necessity of drawing on a glove, so
prudentially recommended by the motto of our cousins, the
M'Intoshes."[II-4]

"Be it as you will, then," said Mowbray; "for other than you do will it,
you will not suffer it to be.--But how is this!--another billet?--We are
in request this morning."

"Now, Heaven send his lordship may have judiciously considered all the
risks which he is sure to encounter on this charmed ground, and resolved
to leave his adventure unattempted," said Miss Mowbray.

Her brother glanced a look of displeasure at her, as he broke the seal
of the letter, which was addressed to him with the words, "Haste and
secrecy," written on the envelope. The contents, which greatly surprised
him, we remit to the commencement of the next chapter.

FOOTNOTE:

[II-4] The well known crest of this ancient race, is a cat rampant with a
motto bearing the caution--"Touch not the cat, but [_i.e._ _be out_, or
without] the glove."



CHAPTER V.

PRIVATE INFORMATION.

    ----Ope this letter;
    I can produce a champion that will prove
    What is avouched there.----

_King Lear._


The billet which Mowbray received, and read in his sister's presence,
contained these words:--

    "Sir,--Clara Mowbray has few friends--none, perhaps, excepting
    yourself, in right of blood, and the writer of this letter, by right
    of the fondest, truest, and most disinterested attachment, that ever
    man bore to woman. I am thus explicit with you, because, though it
    is unlikely that I should ever again see or speak to your sister, I
    am desirous that you should be clearly acquainted with the cause of
    that interest, which I must always, even to my dying breath, take in
    her affairs.

    "The person, calling himself Lord Etherington, is, I am aware, in
    the neighbourhood of Shaws-Castle, with the intention of paying his
    addresses to Miss Mowbray; and it is easy for me to foresee, arguing
    according to the ordinary views of mankind, that he may place his
    proposals in such a light as may make them seem highly desirable.
    But ere you give this person the encouragement which his offers may
    seem to deserve, please to enquire whether his fortune is certain,
    or his rank indisputable; and be not satisfied with light evidence
    on either point. A man may be in possession of an estate and title,
    to which he has no better right than his own rapacity and
    forwardness of assumption; and supposing Mr. Mowbray jealous, as he
    must be, of the honour of his family, the alliance of such a one
    cannot but bring disgrace. This comes from one who will make good
    what he has written."

On the first perusal of a billet so extraordinary, Mowbray was inclined
to set it down to the malice of some of the people at the Well,
anonymous letters being no uncommon resource of the small wits who
frequent such places of general resort, as a species of deception safely
and easily executed, and well calculated to produce much mischief and
confusion. But upon closer consideration, he was shaken in this opinion,
and, starting suddenly from the reverie into which he had fallen, asked
for the messenger who had brought the letter. "He was in the hall," the
servant thought, and Mowbray ran to the hall. No--the messenger was not
there, but Mowbray might see his back as he walked up the avenue.--He
hollo'd--no answer was returned--he ran after the fellow, whose
appearance was that of a countryman. The man quickened his pace as he
saw himself pursued, and when he got out of the avenue, threw himself
into one of the numerous bypaths which wanderers, who strayed in quest
of nuts, or for the sake of exercise, had made in various directions
through the extensive copse which surrounded the Castle, and were
doubtless the reason of its acquiring the name of Shaws, which
signifies, in the Scottish dialect, a wood of this description.

Irritated by the man's obvious desire to avoid him, and naturally
obstinate in all his resolutions, Mowbray pursued for a considerable
way, until he fairly lost breath; and the flier having been long out of
sight, he recollected at length that his engagement with the Earl of
Etherington required his attendance at the Castle.

The young lord, indeed, had arrived at Shaws-Castle, so few minutes
after Mowbray's departure, that it was wonderful they had not met in the
avenue. The servant to whom he applied, conceiving that his master must
return instantly, as he had gone out without his hat, ushered the Earl,
without farther ceremony, into the breakfast-room, where Clara was
seated upon one of the window-seats, so busily employed with a book, or
perhaps with her own thoughts while she held a book in her hands, that
she scarce raised her head, until Lord Etherington, advancing,
pronounced the words, "Miss Mowbray." A start, and a loud scream,
announced her deadly alarm, and these were repeated as he made one pace
nearer, and in a firmer accent said, "Clara."

"No nearer--no nearer," she exclaimed, "if you would have me look upon
you and live!" Lord Etherington remained standing, as if uncertain
whether to advance or retreat, while with incredible rapidity she poured
out her hurried entreaties that he would begone, sometimes addressing
him as a real personage, sometimes, and more frequently, as a delusive
phantom, the offspring of her own excited imagination. "I knew it," she
muttered, "I knew what would happen, if my thoughts were forced into
that fearful channel.--Speak to me, brother! speak to me while I have
reason left, and tell me that what stands before me is but an empty
shadow! But it is no shadow--it remains before me in all the lineaments
of mortal substance!"

"Clara," said the Earl, with a firm, yet softened voice, "collect and
compose yourself. I am, indeed, no shadow--I am a much-injured man, come
to demand rights which have been unjustly withheld from me. I am now
armed with power as well as justice, and my claims shall be heard."

"Never--never!" replied Clara Mowbray; "since extremity is my portion,
let extremity give me courage.--You have no rights--none--I know you
not, and I defy you."

"Defy me not, Clara Mowbray," answered the Earl, in a tone, and with a
manner how different from those which delighted society! for now he was
solemn, tragic, and almost stern, like the judge when he passes sentence
upon a criminal. "Defy me not," he repeated. "I am your Fate, and it
rests with you to make me a kind or severe one."

"Dare you speak thus?" said Clara, her eyes flashing with anger, while
her lips grew white, and quivered for fear--"Dare you speak thus, and
remember that the same heaven is above our heads, to which you so
solemnly vowed you would never see me more without my own consent?"

"That vow was conditional--Francis Tyrrel, as he calls himself, swore
the same--hath _he_ not seen you?" He fixed a piercing look on her; "He
has--you dare not disown it!--And shall an oath, which to him is but a
cobweb, be to me a shackle of iron?"

"Alas! it was but for a moment," said Miss Mowbray, sinking in courage,
and drooping her head as she spoke.

"Were it but the twentieth part of an instant--the least conceivable
space of subdivided time--still, you _did_ meet--he saw you--you spoke
to him. And me also you must see--me also you must hear! Or I will first
claim you for my own in the face of the world; and, having vindicated my
rights, I will seek out and extinguish the wretched rival who has dared
to interfere with them."

"Can you speak thus?" said Clara--"can you so burst through the ties of
nature?--Have you a heart!"

"I have; and it shall be moulded like wax to your slightest wishes, if
you agree to do me justice; but not granite, nor aught else that nature
has of hardest, will be more inflexible if you continue an useless
opposition!--Clara Mowbray, I am your Fate."

"Not so, proud man," said Clara, rising, "God gave not one potsherd the
power to break another, save by his divine permission--my fate is in the
will of Him, without whose will even a sparrow falls not to the
ground.--Begone--I am strong in faith of heavenly protection."

"Do you speak thus in sincerity?" said the Earl of Etherington;
"consider first what is the prospect before you. I stand here in no
doubtful or ambiguous character--I offer not the mere name of a
husband--propose to you not a humble lot of obscurity and hardship, with
fears for the past and doubts for the future; yet there _was_ a time
when to a suit like this you could listen favourably.--I stand high
among the nobles of the country, and offer you, as my bride, your share
in my honours, and in the wealth which becomes them.--Your brother is my
friend, and favours my suit. I will raise from the ground, and once more
render illustrious, your ancient house--your motions shall be regulated
by your wishes, even by your caprices--I will even carry my self-denial
so far, that you shall, should you insist on so severe a measure, have
your own residence, your own establishment, and without intrusion on my
part, until the most devoted love, the most unceasing attentions, shall
make way on your inflexible disposition.--All this I will consent to for
the future--all that is past shall be concealed from the public.--But
mine, Clara Mowbray, you must be."

"Never--never!" she said with increasing vehemence. "I can but repeat a
negative, but it shall have all the force of an oath.--Your rank is
nothing to me--your fortune I scorn--my brother has no right, by the law
of Scotland, or of nature, to compel my inclinations.--I detest your
treachery, and I scorn the advantage you propose to attain by
it.--Should the law give you my hand, it would but award you that of a
corpse."

"Alas! Clara," said the Earl, "you do but flutter in the net; but I will
urge you no farther, now--there is another encounter before me."

He was turning away, when Clara, springing forward, caught him by the
arm, and repeated, in a low and impressive voice, the commandment,--"Thou
shalt do no murder!"

"Fear not any violence," he said, softening his voice, and attempting to
take her hand, "but what may flow from your own severity.--Francis is
safe from me, unless you are altogether unreasonable.--Allow me but what
you cannot deny to any friend of your brother, the power of seeing you
at times--suspend at least the impetuosity of your dislike to me, and I
will, on my part, modify the current of my just and otherwise
uncontrollable resentment."

Clara, extricating herself, and retreating from him, only replied,
"There is a Heaven above us, and THERE shall be judged our actions
towards each other! You abuse a power most treacherously obtained--you
break a heart that never did you wrong--you seek an alliance with a
wretch who only wishes to be wedded to her grave.--If my brother brings
you hither, I cannot help it--and if your coming prevents bloody and
unnatural violence, it is so far well.--But by my consent you come
_not_; and, were the choice mine, I would rather be struck with
life-long blindness, than that my eyes should again open on your
person--rather that my ears were stuffed with the earth of the grave,
than that they should again hear your voice!"

The Earl of Etherington smiled proudly, and replied, "Even this, madam,
I can hear without resentment. Anxious and careful as you are to deprive
your compliance of every grace and of every kindness, I receive the
permission to wait on you, as I interpret your words."

"Do not so interpret them," she replied; "I do but submit to your
presence as an unavoidable evil. Heaven be my witness, that, were it not
to prevent greater and more desperate evil, I would not even so far
acquiesce."

"Let acquiescence, then, be the word," he said; "and so thankful will I
be, even for your acquiescence, Miss Mowbray, that all shall remain
private, which I conceive you do not wish to be disclosed; and, unless
absolutely compelled to it in self-defence, you may rely, no violence
will be resorted to by me in any quarter.--I relieve you from my
presence."

So saying, he withdrew from the apartment.



CHAPTER VI.

EXPLANATORY.

    ----By your leave, gentle wax.

SHAKSPEARE.


In the hall of Shaws-Castle the Earl of Etherington met Mowbray,
returned from his fruitless chase after the bearer of the anonymous
epistle before recited; and who had but just learned, on his return,
that the Earl of Etherington was with his sister. There was a degree of
mutual confusion when they met; for Mowbray had the contents of the
anonymous letter fresh in his mind, and Lord Etherington,
notwithstanding all the coolness which he had endeavoured to maintain,
had not gone through the scene with Clara without discomposure. Mowbray
asked the Earl whether he had seen his sister, and invited him, at the
same time, to return to the parlour; and his lordship replied, in a tone
as indifferent as he could assume, that he had enjoyed the honour of the
lady's company for several minutes, and would not now intrude farther
upon Miss Mowbray's patience.

"You have had such a reception as was agreeable, my lord, I trust?" said
Mowbray. "I hope Clara did the honours of the house with propriety
during my absence?"

"Miss Mowbray seemed a little fluttered with my sudden appearance," said
the Earl; "the servant showed me in rather abruptly; and, circumstanced
as we were, there is always awkwardness in a first meeting, where there
is no third party to act as master of the ceremonies.--I suspect, from
the lady's looks, that you have not quite kept my secret, my good
friend. I myself, too, felt a little consciousness in approaching Miss
Mowbray--but it is over now; and, the ice being fairly broken, I hope to
have other and more convenient opportunities to improve the advantage I
have just gained in acquiring your lovely sister's personal
acquaintance."

"So be it," said Mowbray; "but, as you declare for leaving the castle
just now, I must first speak a single word with your lordship, for which
this place is not altogether convenient."

"I can have no objections, my dear Jack," said Etherington, following
him with a thrill of conscious feeling, somewhat perhaps like that of
the spider when he perceives his deceitful web is threatened with
injury, and sits balanced in the centre, watching every point, and
uncertain which he may be called upon first to defend. Such is one part,
and not the slightest part, of the penance which never fails to wait on
those, who, abandoning the "fair play of the world," endeavour to work
out their purposes by a process of deception and intrigue.

"My lord," said Mowbray, when they had entered a little apartment, in
which the latter kept his guns, fishing-tackle, and other implements of
sport, "you have played on the square with me; nay, more--I am bound to
allow you have given me great odds. I am therefore not entitled to hear
any reports to the prejudice of your lordship's character, without
instantly communicating them. There is an anonymous letter which I have
just received. Perhaps your lordship may know the hand, and thus be
enabled to detect the writer."

"I do know the hand," said the Earl, as he received the note from
Mowbray; "and, allow me to say, it is the only one which could have
dared to frame any calumny to my prejudice. I hope, Mr. Mowbray, it is
impossible for you to consider this infamous charge as any thing but a
falsehood?"

"My placing it in your lordship's hands, without farther enquiry, is a
sufficient proof that I hold it such, my lord; at the same time that I
cannot doubt for a moment that your lordship has it in your power to
overthrow so frail a calumny by the most satisfactory evidence."

"Unquestionably I can, Mr. Mowbray," said the Earl; "for, besides my
being in full possession of the estate and title of my father, the late
Earl of Etherington, I have my father's contract of marriage, my own
certificate of baptism, and the evidence of the whole country, to
establish my right. All these shall be produced with the least delay
possible. You will not think it surprising that one does not travel with
this sort of documents in one's post-chaise."

"Certainly not, my lord," said Mowbray; "it is sufficient they are
forthcoming when called for. But, may I enquire, my lord, who the writer
of this letter is, and whether he has any particular spleen to gratify
by this very impudent assertion, which is so easily capable of being
disproved?"

"He is," said Etherington, "or, at least, has the reputation of being, I
am sorry to say, a near--a very near relation of my own--in fact, a
brother by the father's side, but illegitimate.--My father was fond of
him--I loved him also, for he has uncommonly fine parts, and is
accounted highly accomplished. But there is a strain of something
irregular in his mind--a vein, in short, of madness, which breaks out in
the usual manner, rendering the poor young man a dupe to vain
imaginations of his own dignity and grandeur, which is perhaps the most
ordinary effect of insanity, and inspiring the deepest aversion against
his nearest relatives, and against myself in particular. He is a man
extremely plausible, both in speech and manners; so much so, that many
of my friends think there is more vice than insanity in the
irregularities which he commits; but I may, I hope, be forgiven, if I
have formed a milder judgment of one supposed to be my father's son.
Indeed, I cannot help being sorry for poor Frank, who might have made a
very distinguished figure in the world."

"May I ask the gentleman's name, my lord?" said Mowbray.

"My father's indulgence gave him our family name of Tyrrel, with his own
Christian name Francis; but his proper name, to which alone he has a
right, is Martigny."

"Francis Tyrrel!" exclaimed Mowbray; "why, that is the name of the very
person who made some disturbance at the Well just before your lordship
arrived.--You may have seen an advertisement--a sort of placard."

"I have, Mr. Mowbray," said the Earl. "Spare me on that subject, if you
please--it has formed a strong reason why I did not mention my connexion
with this unhappy man before; but it is no unusual thing for persons,
whose imaginations are excited, to rush into causeless quarrels, and
then to make discreditable retreats from them."

"Or," said Mr. Mowbray, "he may have, after all, been prevented from
reaching the place of rendezvous--it was that very day on which your
lordship, I think, received your wound; and, if I mistake not, you hit
the man from whom you got the hurt."

"Mowbray," said Lord Etherington, lowering his voice, and taking him by
the arm, "it is true that I did so--and truly glad I am to observe,
that, whatever might have been the consequences of such an accident,
they cannot have been serious.--It struck me afterwards, that the man by
whom I was so strangely assaulted, had some resemblance to the
unfortunate Tyrrel--but I had not seen him for years.--At any rate, he
cannot have been much hurt, since he is now able to resume his intrigues
to the prejudice of my character."

"Your lordship views the thing with a firm eye," said Mowbray; "firmer
than I think most people would be able to command, who had so narrow a
chance of a scrape so uncomfortable."

"Why, I am, in the first place, by no means sure that the risk existed,"
said the Earl of Etherington; "for, as I have often told you, I had but
a very transient glimpse of the ruffian; and, in the second place, I
_am_ sure that no permanent bad consequences have ensued. I am too old a
fox-hunter to be afraid of a leap after it is cleared, as they tell of
the fellow who fainted in the morning at the sight of the precipice he
had clambered over when he was drunk on the night before. The man who
wrote that letter," touching it with his finger, "is alive, and able to
threaten me; and if he did come to any hurt from my hand, it was in the
act of attempting my life, of which I shall carry the mark to my
grave."

"Nay, I am far from blaming your lordship," said Mowbray, "for what you
did in self-defence, but the circumstance might have turned out very
unpleasant.--May I ask what you intend to do with this unfortunate
gentleman, who is in all probability in the neighbourhood?"

"I must first discover the place of his retreat," said Lord Etherington,
"and then consider what is to be done both for his safety, poor fellow,
and my own. It is probable, too, that he may find sharpers to prey upon
what fortune he still possesses, which, I assure you, is sufficient to
attract a set of folk, who may ruin while they humour him.--May I beg
that you, too, will be on the outlook, and let me know if you hear or
see more of him?"

"I shall, most certainly, my lord," answered Mowbray; "but the only one
of his haunts which I know, is the old Cleikum Inn, where he chose to
take up his residence. He has now left it, but perhaps the old crab-fish
of a landlady may know something of him."

"I will not fail to enquire," said Lord Etherington; and, with these
words, he took a kind farewell of Mowbray, mounted his horse, and rode
up the avenue.

"A cool fellow," said Mowbray, as he looked after him, "a d--d cool
fellow, this brother-in-law of mine, that is to be--takes a shot at his
father's son with as little remorse as at a blackcock--what would he do
with me, were we to quarrel?--Well, I can snuff a candle, and strike out
the ace of hearts; and so, should things go wrong, he has no Jack Raw to
deal with, but Jack Mowbray."

Meanwhile the Earl of Etherington hastened home to his own apartments at
the Hotel; and, not entirely pleased with the events of the day,
commenced a letter to his correspondent, agent, and confidant, Captain
Jekyl, which we have fortunately the means of presenting to our
readers.--

    "Friend Harry,--They say a falling house is best known by the rats
    leaving it--a falling state, by the desertion of confederates and
    allies--and a falling man, by the desertion of his friends. If this
    be true augury; your last letter may be considered as ominous of my
    breaking down. Methinks, you have gone far enough, and shared deep
    enough with me, to have some confidence in my _savoir faire_--some
    little faith both in my means and management. What crossgrained
    fiend has at once inspired you with what I suppose you wish me to
    call politic doubts and scruples of conscience, but which I can only
    regard as symptoms of fear and disaffection? You can have no idea of
    'duels betwixt relations so nearly connected'--and 'the affair seems
    very delicate and intricate'--and again, 'the matter has never been
    fully explained to you'--and, moreover, 'if you are expected to take
    an active part in the business, it must be when you are honoured
    with my full and unreserved confidence, otherwise how could you be
    of the use to me which I might require?' Such are your expressions.

    "Now, as to scruples of conscience about near relations, and so
    forth, all that has blown by without much mischief, and certainly is
    not likely to occur again--besides, did you never hear of friends
    quarrelling before? And are they not to exercise the usual
    privileges of gentlemen when they do? Moreover, how am I to know
    that this plaguy fellow _is_ actually related to me?--They say it is
    a wise child knows its own father; and I cannot be expected wise
    enough to know to a certainty my father's son.--So much for
    relationship.--Then, as to full and unreserved confidence--why,
    Harry, this is just as if I were to ask you to look at a watch, and
    tell what it was o'clock, and you were to reply, that truly you
    could not inform me, because you had not examined the springs, the
    counter-balances, the wheels, and the whole internal machinery of
    the little timepiece.--But the upshot of the whole is this. Harry
    Jekyl, who is as sharp a fellow as any other, thinks he has his
    friend Lord Etherington at a dead lock, and that he knows already so
    much of the said noble lord's history as to oblige his lordship to
    tell him the whole. And perhaps he not unreasonably concludes, that
    the custody of a whole secret is more creditable, and probably more
    lucrative, than that of a half one; and, in short,--he is resolved
    to make the most of the cards in his hand. Another, mine honest
    Harry, would take the trouble to recall to your mind past times and
    circumstances, and conclude with expressing a humble opinion, that
    if Harry Jekyl were asked _now_ to do any service for the noble lord
    aforesaid, Harry had got his reward in his pocket aforehand. But I
    do not argue thus, because I would rather be leagued with a friend
    who assists me with a view to future profit, than from respect to
    benefits already received. The first lies like the fox's scent when
    on his last legs, increasing every moment; the other is a
    back-scent, growing colder the longer you follow it, until at last
    it becomes impossible to puzzle it out. I will, therefore, submit to
    circumstances, and tell you the whole story, though somewhat
    tedious, in hopes that I can conclude with such a trail as you will
    open upon breast-high.

    "Thus then it was.--Francis, fifth Earl of Etherington, and my
    much-honoured father, was what is called a very eccentric man--that
    is, he was neither a wise man nor a fool--had too much sense to walk
    into a well, and yet in some of the furious fits which he was
    visited with, I have seen him quite mad enough to throw any one
    else into it.--Men said there was a lurking insanity--but it is an
    ill bird, &c., and I will say no more about it. This shatterbrained
    peer was, in other respects, a handsome accomplished man, with an
    expression somewhat haughty, yet singularly pleasing when he chose
    it--a man, in short, who might push his fortune with the fair sex.

    "Lord Etherington, such as I have described him, being upon his
    travels in France, formed an attachment of the heart--ay, and some
    have pretended, of the hand also, with a certain beautiful orphan,
    Marie de Martigny. Of this union is said to have sprung (for I am
    determined not to be certain on that point) that most incommodious
    person, Francis Tyrrel, as he calls himself, but as I would rather
    call him, Francis Martigny; the latter suiting my views, as perhaps
    the former name agrees better with his pretensions. Now, I am too
    good a son to subscribe to the alleged regularity of the marriage
    between my right honourable and very good lord father, because my
    said right honourable and very good lord did, on his return to
    England, become wedded, in the face of the church, to my very
    affectionate and well-endowed mother, Ann Bulmer of Bulmer-hall,
    from which happy union sprung I, Francis Valentine Bulmer Tyrrel,
    lawful inheritor of my father and mother's joint estates, as I was
    the proud possessor of their ancient names. But the noble and
    wealthy pair, though blessed with such a pledge of love as myself,
    lived mighty ill together, and the rather, when my right honourable
    father, sending for this other Sosia, this unlucky Francis Tyrrel,
    senior, from France, insisted, in the face of propriety, that he
    should reside in his house, and share, in all respects, in the
    opportunities of education by which the real Sosia, Francis
    Valentine Bulmer Tyrrel, then commonly called Lord Oakendale, hath
    profited in such an uncommon degree.

    "Various were the matrimonial quarrels which arose between the
    honoured lord and lady, in consequence of this unseemly conjunction
    of the legitimate and illegitimate; and to these, we, the subjects
    of the dispute, were sometimes very properly, as well as decorously,
    made the witnesses. On one occasion, my right honourable mother, who
    was a free-spoken lady, found the language of her own rank quite
    inadequate to express the strength of her generous feelings, and
    borrowing from the vulgar two emphatic words, applied them to Marie
    de Martigny, and her son Francis Tyrrel. Never did Earl that ever
    wore coronet fly into a pitch of more uncontrollable rage, than did
    my right honourable father: and in the ardour of his reply, he
    adopted my mother's phraseology, to inform her, that if there _was_
    a whore and bastard connected with his house, it was herself and her
    brat.

    "I was even then a sharp little fellow, and was incredibly struck
    with the communication, which, in this hour of ungovernable
    irritation, had escaped my right honourable father. It is true, he
    instantly gathered himself up again; and, he perhaps recollecting
    such a word as _bigamy_, and my mother, on her side, considering the
    consequences of such a thing as a descent from the Countess of
    Etherington into Mrs. Bulmer, neither wife, maid, nor widow, there
    was an apparent reconciliation between them, which lasted for some
    time. But the speech remained deeply imprinted on my remembrance;
    the more so, that once, when I was exerting over my friend Francis
    Tyrrel, the authority of a legitimate brother, and Lord Oakendale,
    old Cecil, my father's confidential valet, was so much scandalized,
    as to intimate a possibility that we might one day change
    conditions. These two accidental communications seemed to me a key
    to certain long lectures, with which my father used to regale us
    boys, but me in particular, upon the extreme mutability of human
    affairs,--the disappointment of the best-grounded hopes and
    expectations,--and the necessity of being so accomplished in all
    useful branches of knowledge, as might, in case of accidents, supply
    any defalcation in our rank and fortune;--as if any art or science
    could make amends for the loss of an Earldom, and twelve thousand
    a-year! All this prosing seemed to my anxious mind designed to
    prepare me for some unfortunate change; and when I was old enough to
    make such private enquiries as lay in my power, I became still more
    persuaded that my right honourable father nourished some thoughts of
    making an honest woman of Marie de Martigny, and a legitimate elder
    brother of Francis, after his death at least, if not during his
    life. I was the more convinced of this, when a little affair, which
    I chanced to have with the daughter of my Tu----, drew down my
    father's wrath upon me in great abundance, and occasioned my being
    banished to Scotland, along with my brother, under a very poor
    allowance, without introductions, except to one steady, or call it
    rusty, old Professor, and with the charge that I should not assume
    the title of Lord Oakendale, but content myself with my maternal
    grandfather's name of Valentine Bulmer, that of Francis Tyrrel being
    pre-occupied.

    "Upon this occasion, notwithstanding the fear which I entertained of
    my father's passionate temper, I did venture to say, that since I
    was to resign my title, I thought I had a right to keep my family
    name, and that my brother might take his mother's. I wish you had
    seen the look of rage with which my father regarded me when I gave
    him this spirited hint. 'Thou art,' he said, and paused, as if to
    find out the bitterest epithet to supply the blank--'thou art thy
    mother's child, and her perfect picture'--(this seemed the severest
    reproach that occurred to him.)--'Bear her name then, and bear it
    with patience and in secrecy; or, I here give you my word, you shall
    never bear another the whole days of your life.' This sealed my
    mouth with a witness; and then, in allusion to my flirtation with
    the daughter of my Tu---- aforesaid, he enlarged on the folly and
    iniquity of private marriages, warned me that in the country I was
    going to, the matrimonial noose often lies hid under flowers, and
    that folks find it twitched round their neck when they least expect
    such a cravat; assured me, that he had very particular views for
    settling Francis and me in life, and that he would forgive neither
    of us who should, by any such rash entanglements, render them
    unavailing.

    "This last minatory admonition was the more tolerable, that my rival
    had his share of it; and so we were bundled off to Scotland, coupled
    up like two pointers in a dog-cart, and--I can speak for one at
    least--with much the same uncordial feelings towards each other. I
    often, indeed, detected Francis looking at me with a singular
    expression, as of pity and anxiety, and once or twice he seemed
    disposed to enter on something respecting the situation in which we
    stood towards each other; but I felt no desire to encourage his
    confidence. Meantime, as we were called, by our father's directions,
    not brothers, but cousins, so we came to bear towards each other the
    habits of companionship, though scarcely of friendship. What Francis
    thought, I know not; for my part, I must confess, that I lay by on
    the watch for some opportunity when I might mend my own situation
    with my father, though at the prejudice of my rival. And Fortune,
    while she seemed to prevent such an opportunity, involved us both in
    one of the strangest and most entangled mazes that her capricious
    divinityship ever wove, and out of which I am even now struggling,
    by sleight or force, to extricate myself. I can hardly help
    wondering, even yet, at the odd conjunction, which has produced such
    an intricacy of complicated incidents.

    "My father was a great sportsman, and Francis and I had both
    inherited his taste for field-sports; but I in a keener and more
    ecstatic degree. Edinburgh, which is a tolerable residence in winter
    and spring, becomes disagreeable in summer, and in autumn is the
    most melancholy _sejour_ that ever poor mortals were condemned to.
    No public places are open, no inhabitant of any consideration
    remains in the town; those who cannot get away, hide themselves in
    obscure corners, as if ashamed to be seen in the streets. The gentry
    go to their country-houses--the citizens to their sea-bathing
    quarters--the lawyers to their circuits--the writers to visit their
    country clients--and all the world to the moors to shoot grouse. We,
    who felt the indignity of remaining in town during this deserted
    season, obtained, with some difficulty, permission from the Earl to
    betake ourselves to any obscure corner, and shoot grouse, if we
    could get leave to do so on our general character of English
    students at the University of Edinburgh, without quoting any thing
    more.

    "The first year of our banishment we went to the neighbourhood of
    the Highlands; but finding our sport interrupted by gamekeepers and
    their gillies, on the second occasion we established ourselves at
    this little village of St. Ronan's, where there were then no Spa, no
    fine people, no card tables, no quizzes, excepting the old quiz of a
    landlady with whom we lodged. We found the place much to our mind;
    the old landlady had interest with some old fellow, agent of a
    non-residing nobleman, who gave us permission to sport over his
    moors, of which I availed myself keenly, and Francis with more
    moderation. He was, indeed, of a grave musing sort of habit, and
    often preferred solitary walks, in the wild and beautiful scenery
    with which the village is surrounded, to the use of the gun. He was
    attached to fishing, moreover, that dullest of human amusements, and
    this also tended to keep us considerably apart. This gave me rather
    pleasure than concern;--not that I hated Francis at that time; nay,
    not that I greatly disliked his society; but merely because it was
    unpleasant to be always with one, whose fortunes I looked upon as
    standing in direct opposition to my own. I also rather despised the
    indifference about sport, which indeed seemed to grow upon him; but
    my gentleman had better taste than I was aware of. If he sought no
    grouse on the hill, he had flushed a pheasant in the wood.

    "Clara Mowbray, daughter of the Lord of the more picturesque than
    wealthy domain of St. Ronan's, was at that time scarce sixteen years
    old, and as wild and beautiful a woodland nymph as the imagination
    can fancy--simple as a child in all that concerned the world and its
    ways, acute as a needle in every point of knowledge which she had
    found an opportunity of becoming acquainted with; fearing harm from
    no one, and with, a lively and natural strain of wit, which brought
    amusement and gaiety wherever she came. Her motions were under no
    restraint, save that of her own inclination; for her father, though
    a cross, peevish, old man, was confined to his chair with the gout,
    and her only companion, a girl of somewhat inferior caste, bred up
    in the utmost deference to Miss Mowbray's fancies, served for
    company indeed in her strolls through the wild country on foot and
    on horseback, but never thought of interfering with her will and
    pleasure.

    "The extreme loneliness of the country, (at that time,) and the
    simplicity of its inhabitants, seemed to render these excursions
    perfectly safe. Francis, happy dog, became the companion of the
    damsels on such occasions through the following accident. Miss
    Mowbray had dressed herself and her companion like country wenches,
    with a view to surprise the family of one of their better sort of
    farmers. They had accomplished their purpose greatly to their
    satisfaction, and were hying home after sunset, when they were
    encountered by a country fellow--a sort of Harry Jekyl in his
    way--who, being equipped with a glass or two of whisky, saw not the
    nobility of blood through her disguise, and accosted the daughter of
    a hundred sires as he would have done a ewe-milker. Miss Mowbray
    remonstrated--her companion screamed--up came cousin Francis with a
    fowlingpiece on his shoulder, and soon put the sylvan to flight.

    "This was the beginning of an acquaintance, which had gone great
    lengths before I found it out. The fair Clara, it seems, found it
    safer to roam in the woods with an escort than alone, and my
    studious and sentimental relative was almost her constant companion.
    At their age, it was likely that some time might pass ere they came
    to understand each other; but full confidence and intimacy was
    established between them ere I heard of their amour.

    "And here, Harry, I must pause till next morning, and send you the
    conclusion under a separate cover. The rap which I had over the
    elbow the other day, is still tingling at the end of my fingers, and
    you must not be critical with my manuscript."



CHAPTER VII.

LETTER CONTINUED.

    --------Must I then ravel out
    My weaved-up follies?--------

SHAKSPEARE.


    "I resume my pen, Harry, to mention, without attempting to describe
    my surprise, that Francis, compelled by circumstances, made me the
    confidant of his love-intrigue. My grave cousin in love, and very
    much in the mind of approaching the perilous verge of clandestine
    marriage--he who used every now and then, not much to the
    improvement of our cordial regard, to lecture me upon filial duty,
    just upon the point of slipping the bridle himself! I could not for
    my life tell whether surprise, or a feeling of mischievous
    satisfaction, was predominant. I tried to talk to him as he used to
    talk to me; but I had not the gift of persuasion, or he the power of
    understanding the words of wisdom. He insisted our situation was
    different--that his unhappy birth, as he termed it, freed him at
    least from dependence on his father's absolute will--that he had, by
    bequest from some relative of his mother, a moderate competence,
    which Miss Mowbray had consented to share with him; in fine, that he
    desired not my counsel but my assistance. A moment's consideration
    convinced me, that I should be unkind, not to him only, but to
    myself, unless I gave him all the backing I could in this his most
    dutiful scheme. I recollected our right honourable father's
    denunciations against Scottish marriages, and secret marriages of
    all sorts,--denunciations perhaps not the less vehement, that he
    might feel some secret prick of conscience on the subject himself. I
    remembered that my grave brother had always been a favourite, and I
    forgot not--how was it possible I could forget--those ominous
    expressions, which intimated a possibility of the hereditary estate
    and honours being transferred to the elder, instead of the younger
    son. Now, it required no conjurer to foresee, that should Francis
    commit this inexpiable crime of secretly allying himself with a
    Scottish beauty, our sire would lose all wish to accomplish such a
    transference in his favour; and while my brother's merits were
    altogether obscured by such an unpardonable act of disobedience, my
    own, no longer overshadowed by prejudice or partiality, would shine
    forth in all their natural brilliancy. These considerations, which
    flashed on me with the rapidity of lightning, induced me to consent
    to hold Frank's back-hand, during the perilous game he proposed to
    play. I had only to take care that my own share in the matter should
    not be so prominent as to attract my father's attention; and this I
    was little afraid of, for his wrath was usually of that vehement and
    forcible character, which, like lightning, is attracted to one
    single point, there bursting with violence as undivided as it was
    uncontrollable.

    "I soon found the lovers needed my assistance more than I could have
    supposed; for they were absolute novices in any sort of intrigue,
    which to me seemed as easy and natural as lying. Francis had been
    detected by some tattling spy in his walks with Clara, and the news
    had been carried to old Mowbray, who was greatly incensed at his
    daughter, though little knowing that her crime was greater than
    admitting an unknown English student to form a personal acquaintance
    with her. He prohibited farther intercourse--resolved, in
    justice-of-peace phrase, to rid the country of us; and, prudently
    sinking all mention of his daughter's delinquency, commenced an
    action against Francis, under pretext of punishing him as an
    encroacher upon his game, but in reality to scare him from the
    neighbourhood. His person was particularly described to all the
    keepers and satellites about Shaws-Castle, and any personal
    intercourse betwixt him and Clara became impossible, except under
    the most desperate risks. Nay, such was their alarm, that Master
    Francis thought it prudent, for Miss Mowbray's sake, to withdraw as
    far as a town called Marchthorn, and there to conceal himself,
    maintaining his intercourse with Clara only by letter.

    "It was then I became the sheet-anchor of the hope of the lovers; it
    was then my early dexterity and powers of contrivance were first put
    to the test; and it would be too long to tell you in how many
    shapes, and by how many contrivances, I acted as agent,
    letter-carrier, and go-between, to maintain the intercourse of these
    separated turtles. I have had a good deal of trouble in that way on
    my own account, but never half so much as I took on account of this
    brace of lovers. I scaled walls and swam rivers, set bloodhounds,
    quarterstaves, and blunderbusses at defiance; and, excepting the
    distant prospect of self-interest which I have hinted at, I was
    neither to have honour nor reward for my pains. I will own to you,
    that Clara Mowbray was so very beautiful--so absolutely confiding in
    her lover's friend--and thrown into such close intercourse with me,
    that there were times when I thought that, in conscience, she ought
    not to have scrupled to have contributed a mite to reward the
    faithful labourer. But then, she looked like purity itself; and I
    was such a novice at that time of day, that I did not know how it
    might have been possible for me to retreat, if I had made too bold
    an advance--and, in short, I thought it best to content myself with
    assisting true love to run smooth, in the hope that its course
    would assure me, in the long-run, an Earl's title, and an Earl's
    fortune.

    "Nothing was, therefore, ventured on my part which could raise
    suspicion, and, as the confidential friend of the lovers, I prepared
    every thing for their secret marriage. The pastor of the parish
    agreed to perform the ceremony, prevailed upon by an argument which
    I used to him, and which Clara, had she guessed it, would have
    little thanked me for. I led the honest man to believe, that, in
    declining to do his office, he might prevent a too successful lover
    from doing justice to a betrayed maiden; and the parson, who, I
    found, had a spice of romance in his disposition, resolved, under
    such pressing circumstances, to do them the kind office of binding
    them together, although the consequence might be a charge of
    irregularity against himself. Old Mowbray was much confined to his
    room, his daughter less watched since Frank had removed from the
    neighbourhood--the brother (which, by the by, I should have said
    before) not then in the country--and it was settled that the lovers
    should meet at the Old Kirk of Saint Ronan's when the twilight
    became deep, and go off in a chaise for England so soon as the
    ceremony was performed.

    "When all this was arranged save the actual appointment of the day,
    you cannot conceive the happiness and the gratitude of my sage
    brother. He looked upon himself as approaching to the seventh
    heaven, instead of losing his chance of a good fortune, and
    encumbering himself at nineteen with a wife, and all the
    probabilities of narrow circumstances, and an increasing family.
    Though so much younger myself, I could not help wondering at his
    extreme want of knowledge of the world, and feeling ashamed that I
    had ever allowed him to take the airs of a tutor with me; and this
    conscious superiority supported me against the thrill of jealousy
    which always seized me when I thought of his carrying off the
    beautiful prize, which, without my address, he could never have
    made his own.--But at this important crisis, I had a letter from my
    father, which, by some accident, had long lain at our lodgings in
    Edinburgh; and then visited our former quarters in the Highlands;
    again returned to Edinburgh, and at length reached me at Marchthorn
    in a most critical time.

    "It was in reply to a letter of mine, in which, among other matters,
    such as good boys send to their papas, descriptions of the country,
    accounts of studies, exercises, and so forth, I had, to fill up the
    sheet to a dutiful length, thrown in something about the family of
    St. Ronan's, in the neighbourhood of which I was writing. I had no
    idea what an effect the name would produce on the mind of my right
    honourable father, but his letter sufficiently expressed it. He
    charged me to cultivate the acquaintance of Mr. Mowbray as fast and
    as intimately as possible; and, if need were, to inform him candidly
    of our real character and situation in life. Wisely considering, at
    the same time, that his filial admonition might be neglected if not
    backed by some sufficient motive, his lordship frankly let me into
    the secret of my granduncle by the mother's side, Mr. S. Mowbray of
    Nettlewood's last will and testament, by which I saw, to my
    astonishment and alarm, that a large and fair estate was bequeathed
    to the eldest son and heir of the Earl of Etherington, on condition
    of his forming a matrimonial alliance with a lady of the house of
    Mowbray, of St. Ronan's.--Mercy of Heaven! how I stared! Here had I
    been making every preparation for wedding Francis to the very girl,
    whose hand would insure to myself wealth and independence!--And even
    the first loss, though great, was not likely to be the last. My
    father spoke of the marriage like a land-surveyor, but of the estate
    of Nettlewood like an impassioned lover. He seemed to dote on every
    acre of it, and dwelt on its contiguity to his own domains as a
    circumstance which rendered the union of the estates not desirable
    merely, but constituted an arrangement, pointed out by the hand of
    nature. And although he observed, that, on account of the youth of
    the parties, treaty of marriage could not be immediately undertaken,
    it was yet clear he would approve at heart of any bold stroke which
    would abolish the interval of time that might otherwise intervene,
    ere Oakendale and Nettlewood became one property.

    "Here, then, were shipwrecked my fair hopes. It was clear as
    sunshine, that a private marriage, unpardonable in the abstract,
    would become venial, nay, highly laudable, in my father's eyes, if
    it united his heir with Clara Mowbray; and if he really had, as my
    fears suggested, the means of establishing legitimacy on my
    brother's part, nothing was so likely to tempt him to use them, as
    the certainty that, by his doing so, Nettlewood and Oakendale would
    be united into one. The very catastrophe which I had prepared, as
    sure to exclude my rival from his father's favour, was thus likely,
    unless it could be prevented, to become a strong motive and argument
    for the Earl placing his rights above mine.

    "I shut myself up in my bedroom; locked the door; read, and again
    read my father's letter; and, instead of giving way to idle passion,
    (beware of that, Harry, even in the most desperate circumstances,) I
    considered, with keen investigation, whether some remedy could not
    yet be found.--To break off the match for the time, would have been
    easy--a little private information to Mr. Mowbray would have done
    that with a vengeance--But then the treaty might be renewed under my
    father's auspices;--at all events, the share which I had taken in
    the intrigue between Clara and my brother, rendered it almost
    impossible for me to become a suitor in my own person.--Amid these
    perplexities, it suddenly occurred to my adventurous heart and
    contriving brain--what if I should personate the bridegroom?--This
    strange thought, you will recollect, occurred to a very youthful
    brain--it was banished--it returned--returned again and again--was
    viewed under every different shape--became familiar--was
    adopted.--It was easy to fix the appointment with Clara and the
    clergyman for I managed the whole correspondence--the resemblance
    between Francis and me in stature and in proportion--the disguise
    which we were to assume--the darkness of the church--the hurry of
    the moment--might, I trusted, prevent Clara from recognising me. To
    the minister I had only to say, that though I had hitherto talked of
    a friend, I myself was the happy man. My first name was Francis as
    well as his; and I had found Clara so gentle, so confiding, so
    flatteringly cordial in her intercourse with me, that, once within
    my power, and prevented from receding by shame, and a thousand
    contradictory feelings, I had, with the vanity of an _amoureux de
    seize ans_, the confidence to believe I could reconcile the fair
    lady to the exchange.

    "There certainly never came such a thought into a madcap's brain;
    and, what is more extraordinary--but that you already know--it was
    so far successful, that the marriage ceremony was performed between
    us in the presence of a servant of mine, Clara's accommodating
    companion, and the priest.--We got into the carriage, and were a
    mile from the church, when my unlucky or lucky brother stopped the
    chaise by force--through what means he had obtained knowledge of my
    little trick, I never have been able to learn. Solmes has been
    faithful to me in too many instances, that I should suspect him in
    this important crisis. I jumped out of the carriage, pitched
    fraternity to the devil, and, betwixt desperation and something very
    like shame, began to cut away with a couteau de chasse, which I had
    provided in case of necessity.--All was in vain--I was hustled down
    under the wheel of the carriage, and, the horses taking fright, it
    went over my body.

    "Here ends my narrative; for I neither heard not saw more until I
    found myself stretched on a sick-bed many miles from the scene of
    action, and Solmes engaged in attending on me. In answer to my
    passionate enquiries, he briefly informed me, that Master Francis
    had sent back the young lady to her own dwelling, and that she
    appeared to be extremely ill in consequence of the alarm she had
    sustained. My own health, he assured me, was considered as very
    precarious, and added, that Tyrrel, who was in the same house, was
    in the utmost perturbation on my account. The very mention of his
    name brought on a crisis in which I brought up much blood; and it is
    singular that the physician who attended me--a grave gentleman, with
    a wig--considered that this was of service to me. I know it
    frightened me heartily, and prepared me for a visit from Master
    Frank, which I endured with a tameness he would not have
    experienced, had the usual current of blood flowed in my veins. But
    sickness and the lancet make one very tolerant of sermonizing.--At
    last, in consideration of being relieved from his accursed presence,
    and the sound of his infernally calm voice, I slowly and reluctantly
    acquiesced in an arrangement, by which he proposed that we should
    for ever bid adieu to each other, and to Clara Mowbray. I would have
    hesitated at this last stipulation. 'She was,' I said, 'my wife, and
    I was entitled to claim her as such.'

    "This drew down a shower of most moral reproaches, and an assurance
    that Clara disowned and detested my alliance; and that where there
    had been an essential error in the person, the mere ceremony could
    never be accounted binding by the law of any Christian country. I
    wonder this had not occurred to me; but my ideas of marriage were
    much founded on plays and novels, where such devices as I had
    practised are often resorted to for winding up the plot, without any
    hint of their illegality; besides, I had confided, as I mentioned
    before, a little too rashly perhaps, in my own powers of persuading
    so young a bride as Clara to be contented with one handsome fellow
    instead of another.

    "Solmes took up the argument, when Francis released me by leaving
    the room. He spoke of my father's resentment, should this enterprise
    reach his ears--of the revenge of Mowbray of St. Ronan's, whose
    nature was both haughty and rugged--of risk from the laws of the
    country, and God knows what bugbears besides, which, at a more
    advanced age, I would have laughed at. In a word, I sealed the
    capitulation, vowed perpetual absence, and banished myself, as they
    say in this country, forth of Scotland.

    "And here, Harry, observe and respect my genius. Every circumstance
    was against me in this negotiation. I had been the aggressor in the
    war; I was wounded, and, it might be said, a prisoner in my
    antagonist's hands; yet I could so far avail myself of Monsieur
    Martigny's greater eagerness for peace, that I clogged the treaty
    with a condition highly advantageous to myself, and equally
    unfavourable to him.--Said Mr. Francis Martigny was to take upon
    himself the burden of my right honourable father's displeasure; and
    our separation, which was certain to give immense offence, was to be
    represented as his work, not as mine. I insisted, tender-hearted,
    dutiful soul, as I was, that I would consent to no measure which was
    to bring down papa's displeasure. This was a _sine qua non_ in our
    negotiation.

        'Voila ce que c'est d'avoir des talens!'

    "Monsieur Francis would, I suppose, have taken the world on his
    shoulders, to have placed an eternal separation betwixt his
    turtledove and the falcon who had made so bold a pounce at
    her.--What he wrote to my father, I know not; as for myself, in all
    duty, I represented the bad state of my health from an accident, and
    that my brother and companion having been suddenly called from me
    by some cause which he had not explained, I had thought it necessary
    to get to London for the best advice, and only waited his lordship's
    permission to return to the paternal mansion. This I soon received,
    and found, as I expected, that he was in towering wrath against my
    brother for his disobedience; and, after some time, I even had
    reason to think, (as how could it be otherwise, Harry?) that, on
    becoming better acquainted with the merits and amiable manners of
    his apparent heir, he lost any desire which he might formerly have
    entertained, of accomplishing any change in my circumstances in
    relation to the world. Perhaps the old peer turned a little ashamed
    of his own conduct, and dared not aver to the congregation of the
    righteous, (for he became saintly in his latter days,) the very
    pretty frolics which he seems to have been guilty of in his youth.
    Perhaps, also, the death of my right honourable mother operated in
    my favour, since, while she lived, my chance was the worse--there is
    no saying what a man will do to spite his wife.--Enough, he
    died--slept with his right honourable fathers, and I became, without
    opposition, Right Honourable in his stead.

    "How I have borne my new honours, thou, Harry, and our merry set,
    know full well. Newmarket and Tattersal's may tell the rest. I think
    I have been as lucky as most men where luck is most prized, and so I
    shall say no more on that subject.

    "And now, Harry, I will suppose thee in a moralizing mood; that is,
    I will fancy the dice have run wrong--or your double-barrel has hung
    fire--or a certain lady has looked cross--or any such weighty cause
    of gravity has occurred, and you give me the benefit of your
    seriousness.--'My dear Etherington,' say you pithily, 'you are a
    precious fool!--Here you are, stirring up a business rather
    scandalous in itself, and fraught with mischief to all concerned--a
    business which might sleep for ever, if you let it alone, but which
    is sure, like a sea-coal fire, to burst into a flame if you go on
    poking it. I would like to ask your lordship only two
    questions,'--say you, with your usual graceful attitude of adjusting
    your perpendicular shirt-collar, and passing your hand over the knot
    of your cravat, which deserves a peculiar place in the
    _Tietania_[II-A][II-5]--'only two questions--that is, Whether you do
    not repent the past, and whether you do not fear the future?' Very
    comprehensive queries, these of yours, Harry; for they respect both
    the time past and the time to come--one's whole life, in short.
    However, I shall endeavour to answer them as well as I may.

    "Repent the past, said you?--Yes, Harry, I think I do repent the
    past--that is, not quite in the parson's style of repentance, which
    resembles yours when you have a headache, but as I would repent a
    hand at cards which I had played on false principles. I should have
    begun with the young lady--availed myself in a very different manner
    of Monsieur Martigny's absence, and my own intimacy with her, and
    thus superseded him, if possible, in the damsel's affections. The
    scheme I adopted, though there was, I think, both boldness and
    dexterity in it, was that of a novice of premature genius, who could
    not calculate chances. So much for repentance.--Do I not fear the
    future?--Harry, I will not cut your throat for supposing you to have
    put the question, but calmly assure you, that I never feared any
    thing in my life. I was born without the sensation, I believe; at
    least, it is perfectly unknown to me. When I felt that cursed wheel
    pass across my breast, when I felt the pistol-ball benumb my arm, I
    felt no more agitation than at the bounce of a champagne-cork. But I
    would not have you think that I am fool enough to risk plague,
    trouble, and danger, all of which, besides considerable expense, I
    am now prepared to encounter, without some adequate motive,--and
    here it is.

    "From various quarters, hints, rumours, and surmises have reached
    me, that an attack will be made on my rank and status in society,
    which can only be in behalf of this fellow Martigny, (for I will not
    call him by his stolen name of Tyrrel.) Now, this I hold to be a
    breach of the paction betwixt us, by which--that is, by that which I
    am determined to esteem its true meaning and purport--he was to
    leave my right honourable father and me to settle our own matters
    without his interference, which amounted to a virtual resignation of
    his rights, if the scoundrel ever had any. Can he expect I am to
    resign my wife, and what is a better thing, old Scrogie Mowbray's
    estate of Nettlewood, to gratify the humour of a fellow who sets up
    claims to my title and whole property? No, by ----! If he assails me
    in a point so important, I will retaliate upon him in one where he
    will feel as keenly; and that he may depend upon.--And now,
    methinks, you come upon me with a second edition of your grave
    remonstrances, about family feuds, unnatural rencontres, offence to
    all the feelings of all the world, et cetera, et cetera, which you
    might usher in most delectably with the old stave about brethren
    dwelling together in unity. I will not stop to enquire, whether all
    these delicate apprehensions are on account of the Earl of
    Etherington, his safety, and his reputation; or whether my friend
    Harry Jekyl be not considering how far his own interference with
    such a naughty business will be well taken at Head-quarters; and so,
    without pausing on that question, I shall barely and briefly say,
    that you cannot be more sensible than I am of the madness of
    bringing matters to such an extremity--I have no such intention, I
    assure you, and it is with no such purpose that I invite you
    here.--Were I to challenge Martigny, he would refuse me the
    meeting; and all less ceremonious ways of arranging such an affair
    are quite old-fashioned.

    "It is true, at our first meeting, I was betrayed into the scrape I
    told you of--just as you may have shot (or shot _at_, for I think
    you are no downright hitter) a hen-pheasant, when flushed within
    distance, by a sort of instinctive movement, without reflecting on
    the enormity you are about to commit. The truth is, there is an
    ignis fatuus influence, which seems to govern our house--it poured
    its wildfire through my father's veins--it has descended to me in
    full vigour, and every now and then its impulse is irresistible.
    There was my enemy, and here were my pistols, was all I had time to
    think about the matter. But I will be on my guard in future, the
    more surety, as I cannot receive any provocation from him; on the
    contrary, if I must confess the truth, though I was willing to gloss
    it a little in my first account of the matter, (like the Gazette,
    when recording a defeat,) I am certain he would never voluntarily
    have fired at me, and that his pistol went off as he fell. You know
    me well enough to be assured, that I will never be again in the
    scrape of attacking an unresisting antagonist, were he ten times my
    brother.

    "Then, as to this long tirade about hating my brother--Harry, I do
    not hate him more than the first-born of Egypt are in general hated
    by those whom they exclude from entailed estates, and so forth--not
    one lauded man in twenty of us that is not hated by his younger
    brothers, to the extent of wishing him quiet in his grave, as an
    abominable stumbling-block in their path of life; and so far only do
    I hate Monsieur Martigny. But for the rest, I rather like him as
    otherwise; and would he but die, would give my frank consent to his
    being canonized: and while he lives, I am not desirous that he
    should be exposed to any temptation from rank and riches, those
    main obstacles to the self-denying course of life, by which the
    odour of sanctity is attained.

    "Here again you break in with your impertinent queries--If I have no
    purpose of quarrelling personally with Martigny, why do I come into
    collision with him at all?--why not abide by the treaty of
    Marchthorn, and remain in England, without again approaching Saint
    Ronan's, or claiming my maiden bride?

    "Have I not told you, I want him to cease all threatened attempts
    upon my fortune and dignity? Have I not told you, that I want to
    claim my wife, Clara Mowbray, and my estate of Nettlewood, fairly
    won by marrying her?--And, to let you into the whole secret, though
    Clara is a very pretty woman, yet she goes for so little in the
    transaction with me, her animpassioned bridegroom, that I hope to
    make some relaxation of my rights over her the means of obtaining
    the concessions which I think most important.

    "I will not deny, that an aversion to awakening bustle, and
    encountering reproach, has made me so slow in looking after my
    interest, that the period will shortly expire, within which I ought,
    by old Scrog Mowbray's will, to qualify myself for becoming his
    heir, by being the accepted husband of Miss Mowbray of St. Ronan's.
    Time was--time is--and, if I catch it not by the forelock as it
    passes, time will be no more--Nettlewood will be forfeited--and if I
    have in addition a lawsuit for my title, and for Oakendale, I run a
    risk of being altogether capotted. I must, therefore, act at all
    risks, and act with vigour--and this is the general plan of my
    campaign, subject always to be altered according to circumstances. I
    have obtained--I may say purchased--Mowbray's consent to address his
    sister. I have this advantage, that if she agrees to take me, she
    will for ever put a stop to all disagreeable reports and
    recollections, founded on her former conduct. In that case I secure
    the Nettlewood property, and am ready to wage war for my paternal
    estate. Indeed, I firmly believe, that should this happy
    consummation take place, Monsieur Martigny will be too much
    heart-broken to make further fight, but will e'en throw helve after
    hatchet, and run to hide himself, after the fashion of a true lover,
    in some desert beyond seas.

    "But supposing the lady has the bad taste to be obstinate, and will
    none of me, I still think that her happiness, or her peace of mind,
    will be as dear to Martigny, as Gibraltar is to the Spaniards, and
    that he will sacrifice a great deal to induce me to give up my
    pretensions. Now, I shall want some one to act as my agent in
    communicating with this fellow; for I will not deny that my old
    appetite for cutting his throat may awaken suddenly, were I to hold
    personal intercourse with him. Come thou, therefore, without delay,
    and hold my back-hand--Come, for you know me, and that I never left
    a kindness unrewarded. To be specific, you shall have means to pay
    off a certain inconvenient mortgage, without troubling the tribe of
    Issachar, if you will be but true to me in this matter--Come,
    therefore, without further apologies or further delay. There shall,
    I give you my word, neither be risk or offence in the part of the
    drama which I intend to commit to your charge.

    "Talking of the drama, we had a miserable attempt at a sort of
    bastard theatricals, at Mowbray's rat-gnawed mansion. There were two
    things worth noticing--One, that I lost all the courage on which I
    pique myself, and fairly fled from the pit, rather than present
    myself before Miss Clara Mowbray, when it came to the push. And upon
    this I pray you to remark, that I am a person of singular delicacy
    and modesty, instead of being the Drawcansir and Daredevil that you
    would make of me. The other memorabile is of a more delicate nature,
    respecting the conduct of a certain fair lady, who seemed determined
    to fling herself at my head. There is a wonderful degree of
    freemasonry among us folk of spirit; and it is astonishing how soon
    we can place ourselves on a footing with neglected wives and
    discontented daughters. If you come not soon, one of the rewards
    held out to you in my former letter, will certainly not be
    forthcoming. No schoolboy keeps gingerbread, for his comrade,
    without feeling a desire to nibble at it; so, if you appear not to
    look after your own interest, say you had fair warning. For my own
    part, I am rather embarrassed than gratified by the prospect of such
    an affair, when I have on the tapis another of a different nature.
    This enigma I will explain at meeting.

    "Thus finishes my long communication. If my motives of action do not
    appear explicit, think in what a maze fortune has involved me, and
    how much must necessarily depend on the chapter of accidents.

    "Yesterday I may be said to have opened my siege, for I presented
    myself before Clara. I had no very flattering reception--that was of
    little consequence, for I did not expect one. By alarming her fears,
    I made an impression thus far, that she acquiesces in my appearing
    before her as her brother's guest, and this is no small point
    gained. She will become accustomed to look on me, and will remember
    with less bitterness the trick which I played her formerly; while I,
    on the other hand, by a similar force of habit, will get over
    certain awkward feelings with which I have been compunctiously
    visited whenever I look upon her.--Adieu! Health and brotherhood.

    "Thine,
        "ETHERINGTON."

FOOTNOTE:

[II-5] See Editor's Notes at the end of the Volume. Wherever a similar
reference occurs, the reader will understand that the same direction
applies.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE REPLY.

    Thou bear'st a precious burden, gentle post,
    Nitre and sulphur--See that it explode not!

_Old Play._


    "I have received your two long letters, my dear Etherington, with
    equal surprise and interest; for what I knew of your Scottish
    adventures before, was by no means sufficient to prepare me for a
    statement so perversely complicated. The Ignis Fatuus which, you
    say, governed your father, seems to have ruled the fortunes of your
    whole house, there is so much eccentricity in all that you have told
    me. But _n'importe_, Etherington, you were my friend--you held me up
    when I was completely broken down; and, whatever you may think, my
    services are at your command much more from reflections on the past,
    than hopes for the future. I am no speechmaker, but this you may
    rely on while I continue to be Harry Jekyl. You have deserved some
    love at my hands, Etherington, and you have it.

    "Perhaps I love you the better since your perplexities have become
    known to me; for, my dear Etherington, you were before too much an
    object of envy to be entirely an object of affection. What a happy
    fellow! was the song of all who named you. Bank, and a fortune to
    maintain it--luck sufficient to repair all the waste that you could
    make in your income, and skill to back that luck, or supply it
    should it for a moment fail you.--The cards turning up as if to
    your wish--the dice rolling, it almost seemed, at your wink--it was
    rather your look than the touch of your cue that sent the ball into
    the pocket. You seemed to have fortune in chains, and a man of less
    honour would have been almost suspected of helping his luck by a
    little art.--You won every bet; and the instant that you were
    interested, one might have named the winning horse--it was always
    that which you were to gain most by.--You never held out your piece
    but the game went down--and then the women!--with face, manners,
    person, and, above all, your tongue--what wild work have you made
    among them!--Good heaven! and have you had the old sword hanging
    over your head by a horsehair all this while?--Has your rank been
    doubtful?--Your fortune unsettled?--And your luck, so constant in
    every thing else, has that, as well as your predominant influence
    with the women, failed you, when you wished to form a connexion for
    life, and when the care of your fortune required you to do
    so?--Etherington, I am astonished!--The Mowbray scrape I always
    thought an inconvenient one, as well as the quarrel with this same
    Tyrrel, or Martigny; but I was far from guessing the complicated
    nature of your perplexities.

    "But I must not run on in a manner which, though it relieves my own
    marvelling mind, cannot be very pleasant to you. Enough, I look on
    my obligations to you as more light to be borne, now I have some
    chance of repaying them to a certain extent; but, even were the full
    debt paid, I would remain as much attached to you as ever. It is
    your friend who speaks, Etherington; and, if he offers his advice in
    somewhat plain language, do not, I entreat you, suppose that your
    confidence has encouraged an offensive familiarity, but consider me
    as one who, in a weighty matter, writes plainly, to avoid the least
    chance of misconstruction.

    "Etherington, your conduct hitherto has resembled anything rather
    than the coolness and judgment which are so peculiarly your own
    when you choose to display them. I pass over the masquerade of your
    marriage--it was a boy's trick, which could hardly have availed you
    much, even if successful; for what sort of a wife would you have
    acquired, had this same Clara Mowbray proved willing to have
    accepted the change which you had put upon her, and transferred
    herself, without repugnance, from one bridegroom to another?--Poor
    as I am, I know that neither Nettlewood nor Oakendale should have
    bribed me to marry such a ---- I cannot decorously fill up the
    blank.

    "Neither, my dear Etherington, can I forgive you the trick you put
    on the clergyman, in whose eyes you destroyed the poor girl's
    character to induce him to consent to perform the ceremony, and have
    thereby perhaps fixed an indelible stain on her for life--this was
    not a fair _ruse de guerre_.--As it is, you have taken little by
    your stratagem--unless, indeed, it should be difficult for the young
    lady to prove the imposition put upon her--for that being admitted,
    the marriage certainly goes for nothing. At least, the only use you
    can make of it, would be to drive her into a more formal union, for
    fear of having this whole unpleasant discussion brought into a court
    of law; and in this, with all the advantages you possess, joined to
    your own arts of persuasion, and her brother's influence, I should
    think you very likely to succeed. All women are necessarily the
    slaves of their reputation. I have known some who have given up
    their virtue to preserve their character, which is, after all, only
    the shadow of it. I therefore would not conceive it difficult for
    Clara Mowbray to persuade herself to become a countess, rather than
    be the topic of conversation for all Britain, while a lawsuit
    betwixt you is in dependence; and that may be for the greater part
    of both your lives.

    "But, in Miss Mowbray's state of mind, it may require time to bring
    her to such a conclusion; and I fear you will be thwarted in your
    operations by your rival--I will not offend you by calling him your
    brother. Now, it is here that I think with pleasure I may be of some
    use to you,--under this special condition, that there shall be no
    thoughts of farther violence taking place between you. However you
    may have smoothed over your rencontre to yourself, there is no doubt
    that the public would have regarded any accident which might have
    befallen on that occasion, as a crime of the deepest dye, and that
    the law would have followed it with the most severe punishment. And
    for all that I have said of my serviceable disposition, I would fain
    stop short on this side of the gallows--my neck is too long already.
    Without a jest, Etherington, you must be ruled by counsel in this
    matter. I detect your hatred to this man in every line of your
    letter, even when you write with the greatest coolness; even where
    there is an affectation of gaiety, I read your sentiments on this
    subject; and they are such as--I will not preach to you--I will not
    say a good man--but such as every wise man--every man who wishes to
    live on fair terms with the world, and to escape general
    malediction, and perhaps a violent death, where all men will clap
    their hands and rejoice at the punishment of the fratricide,--would,
    with all possible speed, eradicate from his breast. My services
    therefore, if they are worth your acceptance, are offered on the
    condition that this unholy hatred be subdued with the utmost force
    of your powerful mind, and that you avoid every thing which can
    possibly lead to such a catastrophe as you have twice narrowly
    escaped. I do not ask you to like this man, for I know well the deep
    root which your prejudices hold in your mind; I merely ask you to
    avoid him, and to think of him as one, who, if you do meet him, can
    never be the object of personal resentment.

    "On these conditions, I will instantly join you at your Spa, and
    wait but your answer to throw myself into the post-chaise. I will
    seek out this Martigny for you, and I have the vanity to think I
    shall be able to persuade him to take the course which his own true
    interest, as well as yours, so plainly points out--and that is, to
    depart and make us free of him. You must not grudge a round sum of
    money, should that prove necessary--we must make wings for him to
    fly with, and I must be empowered by you to that purpose. I cannot
    think you have any thing serious to fear from a lawsuit. Your father
    threw out this sinister hint at a moment when he was enraged at his
    wife, and irritated by his son; and I have little doubt that his
    expressions were merely flashes of anger at the moment, though I see
    they have made a deep impression on you. At all events, he spoke of
    a preference to his illegitimate son, as something which it was in
    his own power to give or to withhold; and he has died without
    bestowing it. The family seem addicted to irregular matrimony, and
    some left-handed marriage there may have been used to propitiate the
    modesty, and save the conscience, of the French lady; but, that any
    thing of the nature of a serious and legal ceremony took place,
    nothing but the strongest proof can make me believe.

    "I repeat, then, that I have little doubt that the claims of
    Martigny, whatever they are, may be easily compounded, and England
    made clear of him. This will be more easily done, if he really
    entertains such a romantic passion, as you describe, for Miss Clara
    Mowbray. It would be easy to show him, that whether she is disposed
    to accept your lordship's hand or not, her quiet and peace of mind
    must depend on his leaving the country. Rely on it, I shall find out
    the way to smooth him down, and whether distance or the grave divide
    Martigny and you, is very little to the purpose; unless in so far as
    the one point can be attained with honour and safety, and the other,
    if attempted, would only make all concerned the subject of general
    execration and deserved punishment.--Speak the word, and I attend
    you, as your truly grateful and devoted

    "HENRY JEKYL."

To this admonitory epistle, the writer received, in the course of post,
the following answer:--

    "My truly grateful and devoted Henry Jekyl has adopted a tone, which
    seems to be exalted without any occasion. Why, thou suspicious
    monitor, have I not repeated a hundred times that I repent sincerely
    of the foolish rencontre, and am determined to curb my temper, and
    be on my guard in future--And what need you come upon me, with your
    long lesson about execration, and punishment, and fratricide, and so
    forth?--You deal with an argument as a boy does with the first hare
    he shoots, which he never thinks dead till he has fired the second
    barrel into her. What a fellow you would have been for a lawyer! how
    long you would have held forth upon the plainest cause, until the
    poor bothered judge was almost willing to decide against justice,
    that he might be revenged on you. If I must repeat what I have said
    twenty times, I tell you I have no thoughts of proceeding with this
    fellow as I would with another. If my father's blood be in his
    veins, it shall save the skin his mother gave him. And so come,
    without more parade, either of stipulation or argument. Thou art,
    indeed, a curious animal! One would think, to read your
    communication, that you had yourself discovered the propriety of
    acting as a negotiator, and the reasons which might, in the course
    of such a treaty, be urged with advantage to induce this fellow to
    leave the country--Why, this is the very course chalked out in my
    last letter! You are bolder than the boldest gipsy, for you not only
    steal my ideas, and disfigure them that they may pass for yours, but
    you have the assurance to come a-begging with them to the door of
    the original parent! No man like you for stealing other men's
    inventions, and cooking them up in your own way. However, Harry,
    bating a little self-conceit and assumption, thou art as honest a
    fellow as ever man put faith in--clever, too, in your own style,
    though not quite the genius you would fain pass for.--Come on thine
    own terms, and come as speedily as thou canst. I do not reckon the
    promise I made the less binding, that you very generously make no
    allusion to it.

    "Thine,
        "ETHERINGTON.

    "P.S. One single caution I must add--do not mention my name to any
    one at Harrowgate, or your prospect of meeting me, or the route
    which you are about to take. On the purpose of your journey, it is
    unnecessary to recommend silence. I know not whether such doubts are
    natural to all who have secret measures to pursue, or whether nature
    has given me an unusual share of anxious suspicion; but I cannot
    divest myself of the idea, that I am closely watched by some one
    whom I cannot discover. Although I concealed my purpose of coming
    hither from all mankind but you, whom I do not for an instant
    suspect of blabbing, yet it was known to this Martigny, and he is
    down here before me. Again, I said not a word--gave not a hint to
    any one of my views towards Clara, yet the tattling people here had
    spread a report of a marriage depending between us, even before I
    could make the motion to her brother. To be sure, in such society
    there is nothing talked of but marrying and giving in marriage; and
    this, which alarms me, as connected with my own private purposes,
    may be a bare rumour, arising out of the gossip of the place--Yet I
    feel like the poor woman in the old story, who felt herself watched
    by an eye that glared upon her from behind the tapestry.

    "I should have told you in my last, that I had been recognised at a
    public entertainment by the old clergyman, who pronounced the
    matrimonial blessing on Clara and me, nearly eight years ago. He
    insisted upon addressing me by the name of Valentine Bulmer, under
    which I was then best known. It did not suit me at present to put
    him into my confidence, so I cut him, Harry, as I would an old
    pencil. The task was the less difficult, that I had to do with one
    of the most absent men that ever dreamed with his eyes open. I
    verily believe he might be persuaded that the whole transaction was
    a vision, and that he had never in reality seen me before. Your
    pious rebuke, therefore, about what I told him formerly concerning
    the lovers, is quite thrown away. After all, if what I said was not
    accurately true, as I certainly believe it was an exaggeration, it
    was all Saint Francis of Martigny's fault, I suppose. I am sure he
    had love and opportunity on his side.

    "Here you have a postscript, Harry, longer than the letter, but it
    must conclude with the same burden--Come, and come quickly."



CHAPTER IX.

THE FRIGHT.

    As shakes the bough of trembling leaf,
      When sudden whirlwinds rise;
    As stands aghast the warrior chief,
      When his base army flies.
     . . . . . .


It had been settled by all who took the matter into consideration, that
the fidgety, fiery, old Nabob would soon quarrel with his landlady, Mrs.
Dods, and become impatient of his residence at St. Ronan's. A man so
kind to himself, and so inquisitive about the affairs of others, could
have, it was supposed, a limited sphere for gratification either of his
tastes or of his curiosity, in the Aultoun of St. Ronan's: and many a
time the precise day and hour of his departure were fixed by the idlers
at the Spa. But still old Touchwood appeared amongst them when the
weather permitted, with his nut-brown visage, his throat carefully
wrapped up in an immense Indian kerchief, and his gold-headed cane,
which he never failed to carry over his shoulder; his short, but stout
limbs, and his active step, showing plainly that he bore it rather as a
badge of dignity than a means of support. There he stood, answering
shortly and gruffly to all questions proposed to him, and making his
remarks aloud upon the company, with great indifference as to the
offence which plight be taken; and as soon as the ancient priestess had
handed him his glass of the salutiferous water, turned on his heel with
a brief good-morning, and either marched back to hide himself in the
Manse, with his crony Mr. Cargill, or to engage in some hobby-horsical
pursuit connected with his neighbours in the Aultoun.

The truth was, that the honest gentleman having, so far as Mrs. Dods
would permit, put matters to rights within her residence, wisely
abstained from pushing his innovations any farther, aware that it is not
every stone which is capable of receiving the last degree of polish. He
next set himself about putting Mr. Cargill's house into order; and
without leave asked or given by that reverend gentleman, he actually
accomplished as wonderful a reformation in the Manse, as could have been
effected by a benevolent Brownie. The floors were sometimes swept--the
carpets were sometimes shaken--the plates and dishes were cleaner--there
was tea and sugar in the tea-chest, and a joint of meat at proper times
was to be found in the larder. The elder maid-servant wore a good stuff
gown--the younger snooded up her hair, and now went about the house a
damsel so trig and neat, that some said she was too handsome for the
service of a bachelor divine; and others, that they saw no business so
old a fool as the Nabob had to be meddling with a lassie's busking. But
for such evil bruits Mr. Touchwood cared not, even if he happened to
hear of them, which was very doubtful. Add to all these changes, that
the garden was weeded, and the glebe was regularly laboured.

The talisman by which all this desirable alteration was wrought,
consisted partly in small presents, partly in constant attention. The
liberality of the singular old gentleman gave him a perfect right to
scold when he saw things wrong; the domestics, who had fallen into total
sloth and indifference, began to exert themselves under Mr. Touchwood's
new system of rewards and surveillance; and the minister, half
unconscious of the cause, reaped the advantage of the exertions of his
busy friend. Sometimes he lifted his head, when he heard workmen
thumping and bouncing in the neighbourhood of his study, and demanded
the meaning of the clatter which annoyed him; but on receiving for
answer that it was by order of Mr. Touchwood, he resumed his labours,
under the persuasion that all was well.

But even the Augean task of putting the Manse in order, did not satisfy
the gigantic activity of Mr. Touchwood. He aspired to universal dominion
in the Aultoun of St. Ronan's; and, like most men of an ardent temper,
he contrived, in a great measure, to possess himself of the authority
which he longed after. Then was there war waged by him with all the
petty, but perpetual nuisances, which infest a Scottish town of the old
stamp--then was the hereditary dunghill, which had reeked before the
window of the cottage for fourscore years, transported behind the
house--then was the broken wheelbarrow, or unserviceable cart, removed
out of the footpath--the old hat, or blue petticoat, taken from the
window into which it had been stuffed, to "expel the winter's flaw," was
consigned to the gutter, and its place supplied by good perspicuous
glass. The means by which such reformation was effected, were the same
as resorted to in the Manse--money and admonition. The latter given
alone would have met little attention--perhaps would have provoked
opposition--but, softened and sweetened by a little present to assist
the reform recommended, it sunk into the hearts of the hearers, and in
general overcame their objections. Besides, an opinion of the Nabob's
wealth was high among the villagers; and an idea prevailed amongst them,
that, notwithstanding his keeping no servants or equipage, he was able
to purchase, if he pleased, half the land in the country. It was not
grand carriages and fine liveries that made heavy purses, they rather
helped to lighten them; and they said, who pretended to know what they
were talking about, that old Turnpenny, and Mr. Bindloose to boot, would
tell down more money on Mr. Touchwood's mere word, than upon the joint
bond of half the fine folk at the Well. Such an opinion smoothed every
thing before the path of one, who showed himself neither averse to give
nor to lend; and it by no means diminished the reputation of his wealth,
that in transactions of business he was not carelessly negligent of his
interest, but plainly showed he understood the value of what he was
parting with. Few, therefore, cared to withstand the humours of a
whimsical old gentleman, who had both the will and the means of obliging
those disposed to comply with his fancies; and thus the singular
stranger contrived, in the course of a brief space of days or weeks, to
place the villagers more absolutely at his devotion, than they had been
to the pleasure of any individual since their ancient lords had left the
Aultoun. The power of the baron-bailie himself, though the office was
vested in the person of old Meiklewham, was a subordinate jurisdiction,
compared to the voluntary allegiance which the inhabitants paid to Mr.
Touchwood.

There were, however, recusants, who declined the authority thus set up
amongst them, and, with the characteristic obstinacy of their
countrymen, refused to hearken to the words of the stranger, whether
they were for good or for evil. These men's dunghills were not removed,
nor the stumbling-blocks taken from the footpath, where it passed the
front of their houses. And it befell, that while Mr. Touchwood was most
eager in abating the nuisances of the village, he had very nearly
experienced a frequent fate of great reformers--that of losing his life
by means of one of those enormities which as yet had subsisted in spite
of all his efforts.

The Nabob finding his time after dinner hang somewhat heavy on his hand,
and the moon being tolerably bright, had, one harvest evening, sought
his usual remedy for dispelling ennui by a walk to the Manse, where he
was sure, that, if he could not succeed in engaging the minister himself
in some disputation, he would at least find something in the
establishment to animadvert upon and to restore to order.

Accordingly, he had taken the opportunity to lecture the younger of the
minister's lasses upon the duty of wearing shoes and stockings; and, as
his advice came fortified by a present of six pair of white cotton hose,
and two pair of stout leathern shoes, it was received, not with respect
only, but with gratitude, and the chuck under the chin that rounded up
the oration, while she opened the outer door for his honour, was
acknowledged with a blush and a giggle. Nay, so far did Grizzy carry her
sense of Mr. Touchwood's kindness, that, observing the moon was behind a
cloud, she very carefully offered to escort him to the Cleikum Inn with
a lantern, in case he should come to some harm by the gate. This the
traveller's independent spirit scorned to listen to; and, having briefly
assured her that he had walked the streets of Paris and of Madrid whole
nights without such an accommodation, he stoutly strode off on his
return to his lodgings.

An accident, however, befell him, which, unless the police of Madrid and
Paris be belied, might have happened in either of those two splendid
capitals, as well as in the miserable Aultoun of St. Ronan's. Before the
door of Saunders Jaup, a feuar of some importance, "who held his land
free, and caredna a bodle for any one," yawned that odoriferous gulf,
ycleped, in Scottish phrase, the jawhole; in other words, an uncovered
common sewer. The local situation of this receptacle of filth was well
known to Mr. Touchwood; for Saunders Jaup was at the very head of those
who held out for the practices of their fathers, and still maintained
those ancient and unsavoury customs which our traveller had in so many
instances succeeded in abating. Guided, therefore, by his nose, the
Nabob made a considerable circuit to avoid the displeasure and danger of
passing this filthy puddle at the nearest, and by that means fell upon
Scylla as he sought to avoid Charybdis. In plain language, he approached
so near the bank of a little rivulet, which in that place passed betwixt
the footpath and the horse-road, that he lost his footing, and fell into
the channel of the streamlet from a height of three or four feet. It was
thought that the noise of his fall, or at least his call for assistance,
must have been heard in the house of Saunders Jaup; but that honest
person was, according to his own account, at that time engaged in the
exercise of the evening; an excuse which passed current, although
Saunders was privately heard to allege, that the town would have been
the quieter, "if the auld, meddling busybody had bidden still in the
burn for gude and a'."

But Fortune had provided better for poor Touchwood, whose foibles, as
they arose out of the most excellent motives, would have ill deserved so
severe a fate. A passenger, who heard him shout for help, ventured
cautiously to the side of the bank, down which he had fallen; and, after
ascertaining the nature of the ground as carefully as the darkness
permitted, was at length, and not without some effort, enabled to assist
him out of the channel of the rivulet.

"Are you hurt materially?" said this good Samaritan to the object of his
care.

"No--no--d--n it--no," said Touchwood, extremely angry at his disaster,
and the cause of it. "Do you think I, who have been at the summit of
Mount Athos, where the precipice sinks a thousand feet on the sea, care
a farthing about such a fall as this is?"

But, as he spoke, he reeled, and his kind assistant caught him by the
arm to prevent his falling.

"I fear you are more hurt than you suppose, sir," said the stranger:
"permit me to go home along with you."

"With all my heart," said Touchwood; "for though it is impossible I can
need help in such a foolish matter, yet I am equally obliged to you,
friend; and if the Cleikum Inn be not out of your road, I will take your
arm so far, and thank you to the boot."

"It is much at your service, sir," said the stranger; "indeed, I was
thinking to lodge there for the night."

"I am glad to hear it," resumed Touchwood; "you shall be my guest, and I
will make them look after you in proper fashion--You seem to be a very
civil sort of fellow, and I do not find your arm inconvenient--it is the
rheumatism makes me walk so ill--the pest of all that have been in hot
climates when they settle among these d--d fogs."

"Lean as hard and walk as slow as you will, sir," said the benevolent
assistant--"this is a rough street."

"Yes, sir--and why is it rough?" answered Touchwood. "Why, because the
old pig-headed fool, Saunders Jaup, will not allow it to be made smooth.
There he sits, sir, and obstructs all rational improvement; and, if a
man would not fall into his infernal putrid gutter, and so become an
abomination to himself and odious to others, for his whole life to come,
he runs the risk of breaking his neck, as I have done to-night."

"I am afraid, sir," said his companion, "you have fallen on the most
dangerous side.--You remember Swift's proverb, 'The more dirt, the less
hurt.'"

"But why should there be either dirt or hurt in a well-regulated place?"
answered Touchwood--"Why should not men be able to go about their
affairs at night, in such a hamlet as this, without either endangering
necks or noses?--Our Scottish magistrates are worth nothing, sir--nothing
at all. Oh for a Turkish Cadi, now, to trounce the scoundrel--or the
Mayor of Calcutta to bring him into his court--or were it but an English
Justice of the Peace that is newly included in the commission, they
would abate the villain's nuisance with a vengeance on him!--But here we
are--this is the Cleikum Inn.--Hallo--hilloa--house!--Eppie
Anderson!--Beenie Chambermaid!--boy Boots!--Mrs. Dods!--are you all of
you asleep and dead?--Here have I been half murdered, and you let me
stand bawling at the door!"

Eppie Anderson came with a light, and so did Beenie Chambermaid with
another; but no sooner did they look upon the pair who stood in the
porch under the huge sign that swung to and fro with heavy creaking,
than Beenie screamed, flung away her candle, although a four in the
pound, and in a newly japanned candlestick, and fled one way, while
Eppie Anderson, echoing the yell, brandished her light round her head
like a Bacchante flourishing her torch, and ran off in another
direction.

"Ay--I must be a bloody spectacle," said Mr. Touchwood, letting himself
fall heavily upon his assistant's shoulder, and wiping his face, which
trickled with wet--"I did not think I had been so seriously hurt; but I
find my weakness now--I must have lost much blood."

"I hope you are still mistaken," said the stranger; "but here lies the
way to the kitchen--we shall find light there, since no one chooses to
bring it to us."

[Illustration]

He assisted the old gentleman into the kitchen, where a lamp, as well as
a bright fire, was burning, by the light of which he could easily
discern that the supposed blood was only water of the rivulet, and,
indeed, none of the cleanest, although much more so than the sufferer
would have found it a little lower, where the stream is joined by the
superfluities of Saunders Jaup's palladium. Relieved by his new
friend's repeated assurances that such was the case, the Senior began to
bustle up a little, and his companion, desirous to render him every
assistance, went to the door of the kitchen to call for a basin and
water. Just as he was about to open the door, the voice of Mrs. Dods was
heard as she descended the stairs, in a tone of indignation by no means
unusual to her, yet mingled at the same time with a few notes that
sounded like unto the quaverings of consternation.

"Idle limmers--silly sluts--I'll warrant nane o' ye will ever see ony
thing waur than yoursell, ye silly tawpies--Ghaist, indeed!--I'll
warrant it's some idle dub-skelper frae the Waal, coming after some o'
yoursells on nae honest errand--Ghaist, indeed!--Haud up the candle,
John Ostler--I'se warrant it a twa-handed ghaist, and the door left on
the sneck. There's somebody in the kitchen--gang forward wi' the
lantern, John Ostler."

At this critical moment the stranger opened the door of the kitchen, and
beheld the Dame advancing at the head of her household troops. The
ostler and humpbacked postilion, one bearing a stable-lantern and a
hay-fork, the other a rushlight and a broom, constituted the advanced
guard; Mrs. Dods herself formed the centre, talking loud and brandishing
a pair of tongs; while the two maids, like troops not to be much trusted
after their recent defeat, followed, cowering in the rear. But
notwithstanding this admirable disposition, no sooner had the stranger
shown his face, and pronounced the words "Mrs. Dods!" than a panic
seized the whole array. The advanced guard recoiled in consternation,
the ostler upsetting Mrs. Dods in the confusion of his retreat; while
she, grappling with him in her terror, secured him by the ears and
hair, and they joined their cries together in hideous chorus. The two
maidens resumed their former flight, and took refuge in the darksome
den, entitled their bedroom, while the humpbacked postilion fled like
the wind into the stable, and, with professional instinct, began, in the
extremity of his terror, to saddle a horse.

Meanwhile, the guest whose appearance had caused this combustion,
plucked the roaring ostler from above Mrs. Dods, and pushing him away
with a hearty slap on the shoulder, proceeded to raise and encourage the
fallen landlady, enquiring, at the same time, "What, in the devil's
name, was the cause of all this senseless confusion?"

"And what is the reason, in Heaven's name," answered the matron, keeping
her eyes firmly shut, and still shrewish in her expostulation, though in
the very extremity of terror, "what is the reason that you should come
and frighten a decent house, where you met naething, when ye was in the
body, but the height of civility?"

"And why should I frighten you, Mrs. Dods? or, in one word, what is the
meaning of all this nonsensical terror?"

"Are not you," said Mrs. Dods, opening her eyes a little as she spoke,
"the ghaist of Francis Tirl?"

"I am Francis Tyrrel, unquestionably, my old friend."

"I kend it! I kend it!" answered the honest woman, relapsing into her
agony; "and I think ye might be ashamed of yourself, that are a ghaist,
and have nae better to do than to frighten a puir auld alewife."

"On my word, I am no ghost, but a living man," answered Tyrrel.

"Were ye no murdered than?" demanded Mrs. Dods, still in an uncertain
voice, and only partially opening her eyes--"Are ye very sure ye werena
murdered?"

"Why, not that ever I heard of, certainly, dame," replied Tyrrel.

"But _I_ shall be murdered presently," said old Touchwood from the
kitchen, where he had hitherto remained a mute auditor of this
extraordinary scene--"_I_ shall be murdered, unless you fetch me some
water without delay."

"Coming, sir, coming," answered Dame Dods, her professional reply being
as familiar to her as that of poor Francis's "Anon, anon, sir." "As I
live by honest reckonings," said she, fully collecting herself, and
giving a glance of more composed temper at Tyrrel, "I believe it _is_
yoursell, Maister Frank, in blood and body after a'--And see if I dinna
gie a proper sorting to yon twa silly jauds that gard me mak a bogle of
you, and a fule of mysell--Ghaists! my certie, I sall ghaist them--If
they had their heads as muckle on their wark as on their daffing, they
wad play nae sic pliskies--it's the wanton steed that scaurs at the
windle-strae--Ghaists! wha e'er heard of ghaists in an honest house?
Naebody need fear bogles that has a conscience void of offence.--But I
am blithe that MacTurk hasna murdered ye when a' is done, Maister
Francie."

"Come this way, Mother Dods, if you would not have me do a mischief!"
exclaimed Touchwood, grasping a plate which stood on the dresser, as if
he were about to heave it at the landlady, by way of recalling her
attention.

"For the love of Heaven, dinna break it!" exclaimed the alarmed
landlady, knowing that Touchwood's effervescence of impatience sometimes
expended itself at the expense of her crockery, though it was afterwards
liberally atoned for. "Lord, sir, are ye out of your wits!--it breaks a
set, ye ken--Godsake, put doun the cheeny plate, and try your hand on
the delf-ware!--it will just make as good a jingle--But, Lord haud a
grip o' us! now I look at ye, what can hae come ower ye, and what sort
of a plight are ye in!--Wait till I fetch water and a towel."

In fact, the miserable guise of her new lodger now overcame the dame's
curiosity to enquire after the fate of her earlier acquaintance, and she
gave her instant and exclusive attention to Mr. Touchwood, with many
exclamations, while aiding him to perform the task of ablution and
abstersion. Her two fugitive handmaidens had by this time returned to
the kitchen, and endeavoured to suppress a smuggled laugh at the
recollection of their mistress's panic, by acting very officiously in
Mr. Touchwood's service. By dint of washing and drying, the token of the
sable stains was at length removed, and the veteran became, with some
difficulty, satisfied that he had been more dirtied and frightened than
hurt.

Tyrrel, in the meantime, stood looking on with wonder, imagining that he
beheld in the features which emerged from a mask of mud, the countenance
of an old friend. After the operation was ended, he could not help
addressing himself to Mr. Touchwood, to demand whether he had not the
pleasure to see a friend, to whom he had been obliged when at Smyrna,
for some kindness respecting his money matters?

"Not worth speaking of--not worth speaking of," said Touchwood, hastily.
"Glad to see you, though--glad to see you.--Yes, here I am; you will
find me the same good-natured old fool that I was at Smyrna--never look
how I am to get in money again--always laying it out. Never mind--it was
written in my forehead, as the Turk says.--I will go up now and change
my dress--you will sup with me when I come back--Mrs. Dods will toss us
up something--a brandered fowl will be best, Mrs. Dods, with some
mushrooms, and get us a jug of mulled wine--plottie, as you call it--to
put the recollection of the old Presbyterian's common sewer out of my
head."

So saying, up stairs marched the traveller to his own apartment, while
Tyrrel, seizing upon a candle, was about to do the same.

"Mr. Touchwood is in the blue room, Mrs. Dods; I suppose I may take
possession of the yellow one?"

"Suppose naething about the matter, Maister Francis Tirl, till ye tell
me downright where ye have been a' this time, and whether ye hae been
murdered or no?"

"I think you may be pretty well satisfied of that, Mrs. Dods?"

"Trot! and so I am in a sense; and yet it gars me grue to look upon ye,
sae mony days and weeks it has been since I thought ye were rotten in
the moulds. And now to see ye standing before me hale and feir, and
crying for a bedroom like ither folk!"

"One would almost suppose, my good friend," said Tyrrel, "that you were
sorry at my having come alive again."

"It's no for that," replied Mrs. Dods, who was peculiarly ingenious in
the mode of framing and stating what she conceived to be her grievances;
"but is it no a queer thing for a decent man like yoursell, Maister
Tirl, to be leaving your lodgings without a word spoken, and me put to
a' these charges in seeking for your dead body, and very near taking my
business out of honest Maister Bindloose's hands, because he kend the
cantrips of the like of you better than I did?--And than they hae putten
up an advertisement down at the Waal yonder, wi' a' their names at it,
setting ye forth, Maister Francie, as are of the greatest blackguards
unhanged; and wha, div ye think, is to keep ye in a creditable house, if
that's the character ye get?"

"You may leave that to me, Mrs. Dods--I assure you that matter shall be
put to rights to your satisfaction; and I think, so long as we have
known each other, you may take my word that I am not undeserving the
shelter of your roof for a single night, (I shall ask it no longer,)
until my character is sufficiently cleared. It was for that purpose
chiefly I came back again."

"Came back again!" said Mrs. Dods.--"I profess ye made me start, Maister
Tirl, and you looking sae pale, too.--But I think," she added, straining
after a joke, "if ye were a ghaist, seeing we are such auld
acquaintance, ye wadna wish to spoil my custom, but would just walk
decently up and down the auld castle wa's, or maybe down at the kirk
yonder--there have been awfu' things done in that kirk and kirkyard--I
whiles dinna like to look that way, Maister Francie."

"I am much of your mind, mistress," said Tyrrel, with a sigh; "and,
indeed, I do in one resemble the apparitions you talk of; for, like
them, and to as little purpose, I stalk about scenes where my happiness
departed.--But I speak riddles to you, Mrs. Dods--the plain truth is,
that I met with an accident on the day I last left your house, the
effects of which detained me at some distance from St. Ronan's till this
very day."

"Hegh, sirs, and ye were sparing of your trouble, that wadna write a bit
line, or send a bit message!--Ye might hae thought folk wad hae been
vexed eneugh about ye, forby undertaking journeys, and hiring folk to
seek for your dead body."

"I shall willingly pay all reasonable charges which my disappearance may
have occasioned," answered her guest; "and I assure you, once for all,
that my remaining for some time quiet at Marchthorn, arose partly from
illness, and partly from business of a very pressing and particular
nature."

"At Marchthorn!" exclaimed Dame Dods, "heard ever man the like o'
that!--And where did ye put up in Marchthorn, an ane may mak' bauld to
speer?"

"At the Black Bull," replied Tyrrel.

"Ay, that's auld Tam Lowrie's--a very decent man, Thamas--and a douce
creditable house--nane of your flisk-ma-hoys--I am glad ye made choice
of sic gude quarters, neighbour; for I am beginning to think ye are but
a queer ane--ye look as if butter wadna melt in your mouth, but I sall
warrant cheese no choke ye.--But I'll thank ye to gang your ways into
the parlour, for I am no like to get muckle mair out o' ye, it's like;
and ye are standing here just in the gate, when we hae the supper to
dish."

Tyrrel, glad to be released from the examination to which his landlady's
curiosity had without ceremony subjected him, walked into the parlour,
where he was presently joined by Mr. Touchwood, newly attired, and in
high spirits.

"Here comes our supper!" he exclaimed.--"Sit ye down, and let us see
what Mrs. Dods has done for us.--I profess, mistress, your plottie is
excellent, ever since I taught you to mix the spices in the right
proportion."

"I am glad the plottie pleases ye, sir--but I think I kend gay weel how
to make it before I saw your honour--Maister Tirl can tell that, for
mony a browst of it I hae brewed lang syne for him and the callant
Valentine Bulmer."

This ill-timed observation extorted a groan from Tyrrel; but the
traveller, running on with his own recollections, did not appear to
notice his emotion.

"You are a conceited old woman," said Mr. Touchwood; "how the devil
should any one know how to mix spices so well as he who has been where
they grow?--I have seen the sun ripening nutmegs and cloves, and here,
it can hardly fill a peasecod, by Jupiter. Ah, Tyrrel, the merry nights
we have had at Smyrna!--Gad, I think the gammon and the good wine taste
all the better in a land where folks hold them to be sinful
indulgences--Gad, I believe many a good Moslem is of the same
opinion--that same prohibition of their prophet's gives a flavour to the
ham, and a relish to the Cyprus.--Do you remember old Cogia Hassein,
with his green turban?--I once played him a trick, and put a pint of
brandy into his sherbet. Egad, the old fellow took care never to
discover the cheat until he had got to the bottom of the flagon, and
then he strokes his long white beard, and says, 'Ullah Kerim,'--that
is, 'Heaven is merciful,' Mrs. Dods, Mr. Tyrrel knows the meaning of
it.--Ullah Kerim, says he, after he had drunk about a gallon of
brandy-punch!--Ullah Kerim, says the hypocritical old rogue, as if he
had done the finest thing in the world!"

"And what for no? What for shouldna the honest man say a blessing after
his drap punch?" demanded Mrs. Dods; "it was better, I ween, than
blasting, and blawing, and swearing, as if folks shouldna be thankful
for the creature comforts."

"Well said, old Dame Dods," replied the traveller; "that is a right
hostess's maxim, and worthy of Mrs. Quickly herself. Here is to thee,
and I pray ye to pledge me before ye leave the room."

"Troth, I'll pledge naebody the night, Maister Touchwood; for, what wi'
the upcast and terror that I got a wee while syne, and what wi' the bit
taste that I behoved to take of the plottie while I was making it, my
head is sair eneugh distressed the night already.--Maister Tirl, the
yellow room is ready for ye when ye like; and, gentlemen, as the morn is
the Sabbath, I canna be keeping the servant queans out of their beds to
wait on ye ony langer, for they will mak it an excuse for lying till
aught o'clock on the Lord's day. So, when your plottie is done, I'll be
muckle obliged to ye to light the bedroom candles, and put out the
double moulds, and e'en show yoursells to your beds; for douce folks,
sic as the like of you, should set an example by ordinary.--And so,
gude-night to ye baith."

"By my faith," said Touchwood, as she withdrew, "our dame turns as
obstinate as a Pacha with three tails!--We have her gracious permission
to finish our mug, however; so here is to your health once more, Mr.
Tyrrel, wishing you a hearty welcome to your own country."

"I thank you, Mr. Touchwood," answered Tyrrel; "and I return you the
same good wishes, with, as I sincerely hope, a much greater chance of
their being realized.--You relieved me, sir, at a time when the villainy
of an agent, prompted, as I have reason to think, by an active and
powerful enemy, occasioned my being, for a time, pressed for funds.--I
made remittances to the _Ragion_ you dealt with, to acquit myself at
least of the pecuniary part of my obligation; but the bills were
returned, because, it was stated, you had left Smyrna."

"Very true--very true--left Smyrna, and here I am in Scotland--as for
the bills, we will speak of them another time--something due for picking
me out of the gutter."

"I shall make no deduction on that account," said Tyrrel, smiling,
though in no jocose mood; "and I beg you not to mistake me. The
circumstances of embarrassment, under which you found me at Smyrna, were
merely temporary--I am most able and willing to pay my debt; and, let me
add, I am most desirous to do so."

"Another time--another time," said Mr. Touchwood--"time enough before
us, Mr. Tyrrel--besides, at Smyrna, you talked of a lawsuit--law is a
lick-penny, Mr. Tyrrel--no counsellor like the pound in purse."

"For my lawsuit," said Tyrrel, "I am fully provided."

"But have you good advice?--Have you good advice?" said Touchwood;
"answer me that."

"I have advised with my lawyers," answered Tyrrel, internally vexed to
find that his friend was much disposed to make his generosity upon the
former occasion a pretext for prying farther into his affairs now than
he thought polite or convenient.

"With your counsel learned in the law--eh, my dear boy? But the advice
you should take is of some travelled friend, well acquainted with
mankind and the world--some one that has lived double your years, and is
maybe looking out for some bare young fellow that he may do a little
good to--one that might be willing to help you farther than I can
pretend to guess--for, as to your lawyer, you get just your guinea's
worth from him--not even so much as the baker's bargain, thirteen to the
dozen."

"I think I should not trouble myself to go far in search of a friend
such as you describe," said Tyrrel, who could not affect to
misunderstand the senior's drift, "when I was near Mr. Peregrine
Touchwood; but the truth is, my affairs are at present so much
complicated with those of others, whose secrets I have no right to
communicate, that I cannot have the advantage of consulting you, or any
other friend. It is possible I may be soon obliged to lay aside this
reserve, and vindicate myself before the whole public. I will not fail,
when that time shall arrive, to take an early opportunity of
confidential communication with you."

"That is right--confidential is the word--No person ever made a
confidant of me who repented it--Think what the Pacha might have made of
it, had he taken my advice, and cut through the Isthmus of Suez.--Turk
and Christian, men of all tongues and countries, used to consult old
Touchwood, from the building of a mosque down to the settling of an
_agio_.--But come--Good-night--good-night."

So saying, he took up his bedroom light, and extinguished one of those
which stood on the table, nodded to Tyrrel to discharge his share of the
duty imposed by Mrs. Dods with the same punctuality, and they withdrew
to their several apartments, entertaining very different sentiments of
each other.

"A troublesome, inquisitive old gentleman," said Tyrrel to himself; "I
remember him narrowly escaping the bastinado at Smyrna, for thrusting
his advice on the Turkish cadi--and then I lie under a considerable
obligation to him, giving him a sort of right to annoy me--Well, I must
parry his impertinence as I can."

"A shy cock this Frank Tyrrel," thought the traveller; "a very complete
dodger!--But no matter--I shall wind him, were he to double like a
fox--I am resolved to make his matters my own, and if _I_ cannot carry
him through, I know not who can."

Having formed this philanthropic resolution, Mr. Touchwood threw himself
into bed, which luckily declined exactly at the right angle, and, full
of self-complacency, consigned himself to slumber.



CHAPTER X.

MEDIATION.

    --------So, begone!
    We will not now be troubled with reply;
    We offer fair, take it advisedly.

_King Henry IV. Part I._


It had been the purpose of Tyrrel, by rising and breakfasting early, to
avoid again meeting Mr. Touchwood, having upon his hands a matter in
which that officious gentleman's interference was likely to prove
troublesome. His character, he was aware, had been assailed at the Spa
in the most public manner, and in the most public manner he was resolved
to demand redress, conscious that whatever other important concerns had
brought him to Scotland, must necessarily be postponed to the
vindication of his honour. He was determined, for this purpose, to go
down to the rooms when the company was assembled at the breakfast hour,
and had just taken his hat to set out, when he was interrupted by Mrs.
Dods, who, announcing "a gentleman that was speering for him," ushered
into the chamber a very fashionable young man in a military surtout,
covered with silk lace and fur, and wearing a foraging-cap; a dress now
too familiar to be distinguished, but which at that time was used only
by geniuses of a superior order. The stranger was neither handsome nor
plain, but had in his appearance a good deal of pretension, and the cool
easy superiority which belongs to high breeding. On his part, he
surveyed Tyrrel; and, as his appearance differed, perhaps, from that for
which the exterior of the Cleikum Inn had prepared him, he abated
something of the air with which he had entered the room, and politely
announced himself as Captain Jekyl, of the ---- Guards, (presenting, at
the same time, his ticket.)

"He presumed he spoke to Mr. Martigny?"

"To Mr. Francis Tyrrel, sir," replied Tyrrel, drawing himself
up--"Martigny was my mother's name--I have never borne it."

"I am not here for the purpose of disputing that point, Mr. Tyrrel,
though I am not entitled to admit what my principal's information leads
him to doubt."

"Your principal, I presume, is Sir Bingo Binks?" said Tyrrel. "I have
not forgotten that there is an unfortunate affair between us."

"I have not the honour to know Sir Bingo Binks," said Captain Jekyl. "I
come on the part of the Earl of Etherington."

Tyrrel stood silent for a moment, and then said, "I am at a loss to know
what the gentleman who calls himself Earl of Etherington can have to say
to me, through the medium of such a messenger as yourself, Captain
Jekyl. I should have supposed that, considering our unhappy
relationship, and the terms on which we stand towards each other, the
lawyers were the fitter negotiators between us."

"Sir," said Captain Jekyl, "you are misunderstanding my errand. I am
come on no message of hostile import from Lord Etherington--I am aware
of the connexion betwixt you, which would render such an office
altogether contradictory to common sense and the laws of nature; and I
assure you, I would lay down my life rather than be concerned in an
affair so unnatural. I would act, if possible, as a mediator betwixt
you."

They had hitherto remained standing. Mr. Tyrrel now offered his guest a
seat; and, having assumed one himself, he broke the awkward pause which
ensued by observing, "I should be happy, after experiencing such a long
course of injustice and persecution from your friend, to learn, even at
this late period, Captain Jekyl, any thing which can make me think
better, either of him, or of his purpose towards me and towards others."

"Mr. Tyrrel," said Captain Jekyl, "you must allow me to speak with
candour. There is too great a stake betwixt your brother and you to
permit you to be friends; but I do not see it is necessary that you
should therefore be mortal enemies."

"I am not my brother's enemy, Captain Jekyl," said Tyrrel--"I have never
been so--His friend I cannot be, and he knows but too well the
insurmountable barrier which his own conduct has placed between us."

"I am aware," said Captain Jekyl, slowly and expressively, "generally,
at least, of the particulars of your unfortunate disagreement."

"If so," said Tyrrel, colouring, "you must be also aware with what
extreme pain I feel myself compelled to enter on such a subject with a
total stranger--a stranger, too, the friend and confidant of one
who----But I will not hurt your feelings, Captain Jekyl, but rather
endeavour to suppress my own. In one word, I beg to be favoured with the
import of your communication, as I am obliged to go down to the Spa this
morning, in order to put to rights some matters there which concern me
nearly."

"If you mean the cause of your absence from an appointment with Sir
Bingo Binks," said Captain Jekyl, "the matter has been already
completely explained. I pulled down the offensive placard with my own
hand, and rendered myself responsible for your honour to any one who
should presume to hold it in future doubt."

"Sir," said Tyrrel, very much surprised, "I am obliged to you for your
intention, the more so as I am ignorant how I have merited such
interference. It is not, however, quite satisfactory to me, because I am
accustomed to be the guardian of my own honour."

"An easy task, I presume, in all cases, Mr. Tyrrel," answered Jekyl,
"but peculiarly so in the present, when you will find no one so hardy as
to assail it.--My interference, indeed, would have been unjustifiably
officious, had I not been at the moment undertaking a commission
implying confidential intercourse with you. For the sake of my own
character, it became necessary to establish yours. I know the truth of
the whole affair from my friend, the Earl of Etherington, who ought to
thank Heaven so long as he lives, that saved him on that occasion from
the commission of a very great crime."

"Your friend, sir, has had, in the course of his life, much to thank
Heaven for, but more for which to ask God's forgiveness."

"I am no divine, sir," replied Captain Jekyl, with spirit; "but I have
been told that the same may be said of most men alive."

"I, at least, cannot dispute it," said Tyrrel; "but, to proceed.--Have
you found yourself at liberty, Captain Jekyl, to deliver to the public
the whole particulars of a rencontre so singular as that which took
place between your friend and me?"

"I have not, sir," said Jekyl--"I judged it a matter of great delicacy,
and which each of you had the like interest to preserve secret."

"May I beg to know, then," said Tyrrel, "how it was possible for you to
vindicate my absence from Sir Bingo's rendezvous otherwise?"

"It was only necessary, sir, to pledge my word as a gentleman and a man
of honour, characters in which I am pretty well known to the world,
that, to my certain personal knowledge, you were hurt in an affair with
a friend of mine, the further particulars of which prudence required
should be sunk into oblivion. I think no one will venture to dispute my
word, or to require more than my assurance.--If there should be any one
very hard of faith on the occasion, I shall find a way to satisfy him.
In the meanwhile, your outlawry has been rescinded in the most
honourable manner; and Sir Bingo, in consideration of his share in
giving rise to reports so injurious to you, is desirous to drop all
further proceedings in his original quarrel, and hopes the whole matter
will be forgot and forgiven on all sides."

"Upon my word, Captain Jekyl," answered Tyrrel, "you lay me under the
necessity of acknowledging obligation to you. You have cut a knot which
I should have found it very difficult to unloose; for I frankly confess,
that, while I was determined not to remain under the stigma put upon me,
I should have had great difficulty in clearing myself, without
mentioning circumstances, which, were it only for the sake of my
father's memory, should be buried in eternal oblivion. I hope your
friend feels no continued inconvenience from his hurt?"

"His lordship is nearly quite recovered," said Jekyl.

"And I trust he did me the justice to own, that, so far as my will was
concerned, I am totally guiltless of the purpose of hurting him?"

"He does you full justice in that and every thing else," replied Jekyl;
"regrets the impetuosity of his own temper, and is determined to be on
his guard against it in future."

"That," said Tyrrel, "is so far well; and now, may I ask once more, what
communication you have to make to me on the part of your friend?--Were
it from any one but him, whom I have found so uniformly false and
treacherous, your own fairness and candour would induce me to hope that
this unnatural quarrel might be in some sort ended by your mediation."

"I then proceed, sir, under more favourable auspices than I expected,"
said Captain Jekyl, "to enter on my commission.--You are about to
commence a lawsuit, Mr. Tyrrel, if fame does not wrong you, for the
purpose of depriving your brother of his estate and title."

"The case is not fairly stated, Captain Jekyl," replied Tyrrel; "I
commence a lawsuit, when I do commence it, for the sake of ascertaining
my own just rights."

"It comes to the same thing eventually," said the mediator; "I am not
called upon to decide upon the justice of your claims, but they are, you
will allow, newly started. The late Countess of Etherington died in
possession--open and undoubted possession--of her rank in society."

"If she had no real claim to it, sir," replied Tyrrel, "she had more
than justice who enjoyed it so long; and the injured lady whose claims
were postponed, had just so much less.--But this is no point for you and
me to discuss between us--it must be tried elsewhere."

"Proofs, sir, of the strongest kind, will be necessary to overthrow a
right so well established in public opinion as that of the present
possessor of the title of Etherington."

Tyrrel took a paper from his pocketbook, and, handing it to Captain
Jekyl, only answered, "I have no thoughts of asking you to give up the
cause of your friend; but methinks the documents of which I give you a
list, may shake your opinion of it."

Captain Jekyl read, muttering to himself, "'_Certificate of marriage, by
the Rev. Zadock Kemp, chaplain to the British Embassy at Paris, between
Marie de Bellroche, Comptesse de Martigny, and the Right Honourable John
Lord Oakendale--Letters between John Earl of Etherington and his lady,
under the title of Madame de Martigny--Certificate of baptism--Declaration
of the Earl of Etherington on his death-bed._'--All this is very
well--but may I ask you, Mr. Tyrrel, if it is really your purpose to go
to extremity with your brother?"

"He has forgot that he is one--he has lifted his hand against my life."

"You have shed his blood--twice shed it," said Jekyl; "the world will
not ask which brother gave the offence, but which received, which
inflicted, the severest wound."

"Your friend has inflicted one on me, sir," said Tyrrel, "that will
bleed while I have the power of memory."

"I understand you, sir," said Captain Jekyl; "you mean the affair of
Miss Mowbray?"

"Spare me on that subject, sir!" said Tyrrel. "Hitherto I have disputed
my most important rights--rights which involved my rank in society, my
fortune, the honour of my mother--with something like composure; but do
not say more on the topic you have touched upon, unless you would have
before you a madman!--Is it possible for you, sir, to have heard even
the outline of this story, and to imagine that I can ever reflect on the
cold-blooded and most inhuman stratagem, which this friend of yours
prepared for two unfortunates, without"--He started up, and walked
impetuously to and fro. "Since the Fiend himself interrupted the
happiness of perfect innocence, there was never such an act of
treachery--never such schemes of happiness destroyed--never such
inevitable misery prepared for two wretches who had the idiocy to repose
perfect confidence in him!--Had there been passion in his conduct, it
had been the act of a man--a wicked man, indeed, but still a human
creature, acting under the influence of human feelings--but his was the
deed of a calm, cold, calculating demon, actuated by the basest and most
sordid motives of self-interest, joined, as I firmly believe, to an
early and inveterate hatred of one whose claims he considered as at
variance with his own."

"I am sorry to see you in such a temper," said Captain Jekyl, calmly;
"Lord Etherington, I trust, acted on very different motives than those
you impute to him; and if you will but listen to me, perhaps something
may be struck out which may accommodate these unhappy disputes."

"Sir," said Tyrrel, sitting down again, "I will listen to you with
calmness, as I would remain calm under the probe of a surgeon tenting a
festered wound. But when you touch me to the quick, when you prick the
very nerve, you cannot expect me to endure without wincing."

"I will endeavour, then, to be as brief in the operation as I can,"
replied Captain Jekyl, who possessed the advantage of the most admirable
composure during the whole conference. "I conclude, Mr. Tyrrel, that the
peace, happiness, and honour of Miss Mowbray, are dear to you?"

"Who dare impeach her honour!" said Tyrrel, fiercely; then checking
himself, added, in a more moderate tone, but one of deep feeling, "they
are dear to me, sir, as my eyesight."

"My friend holds them in equal regard," said the Captain; "and has come
to the resolution of doing her the most ample justice."

"He can do her justice no otherwise, than by ceasing to haunt this
neighbourhood, to think, to speak, even to dream of her."

"Lord Etherington thinks otherwise," said Captain Jekyl; "he believes
that if Miss Mowbray has sustained any wrong at his hands, which, of
course, I am not called upon to admit, it will be best repaired by the
offer to share with her his title, his rank, and his fortune."

"His title, rank, and fortune, sir, are as much a falsehood as he is
himself," said Tyrrel, with violence--"Marry Clara Mowbray? never!"

"My friend's fortune, you will observe," replied Jekyl, "does not rest
entirely upon the event of the lawsuit with which you, Mr. Tyrrel, now
threaten him.--Deprive him, if you can, of the Oakendale estate, he has
still a large patrimony by his mother; and besides, as to his marriage
with Clara Mowbray, he conceives, that unless it should be the lady's
wish to have the ceremony repeated to which he is most desirous to defer
his own opinion, they have only to declare that it has already passed
between them."

"A trick, sir!" said Tyrrel, "a vile infamous trick! of which the lowest
wretch in Newgate would be ashamed--the imposition of one person for
another."

"Of that, Mr. Tyrrel, I have seen no evidence whatever. The clergyman's
certificate is clear--Francis Tyrrel is united to Clara Mowbray in the
holy bands of wedlock--such is the tenor--there is a copy--nay, stop one
instant, if you please, sir. You say there was an imposition in the
case--I have no doubt but you speak what you believe, and what Miss
Mowbray told you. She was surprised--forced in some measure from the
husband she had just married--ashamed to meet her former lover, to whom,
doubtless, she had made many a vow of love, and ne'er a true one--what
wonder that, unsupported by her bridegroom, she should have changed her
tone, and thrown all the blame of her own inconstancy on the absent
swain?--A woman, at a pinch so critical, will make the most improbable
excuse, rather than be found guilty on her own confession."

"There must be no jesting in this case," said Tyrrel, his cheek becoming
pale, and his voice altered with passion.

"I am quite serious, sir," replied Jekyl; "and there is no law court in
Britain that would take the lady's word--all she has to offer, and that
in her own cause--against a whole body of evidence direct and
circumstantial, showing that she was by her own free consent married to
the gentleman who now claims her hand.--Forgive me, sir--I see you are
much agitated--I do not mean to dispute your right of believing what you
think is most credible--I only use the freedom of pointing out to you
the impression which the evidence is likely to make on the minds of
indifferent persons."

"Your friend," answered Tyrrel, affecting a composure, which, however,
he was far from possessing, "may think by such arguments to screen his
villainy; but it cannot avail him--the truth is known to Heaven--it is
known to me--and there is, besides, one indifferent witness upon earth,
who can testify that the most abominable imposition was practised on
Miss Mowbray."

"You mean her cousin,--Hannah Irwin, I think, is her name," answered
Jekyl; "you see I am fully acquainted with all the circumstances of the
case. But where is Hannah Irwin to be found?"

"She will appear, doubtless, in Heaven's good time, and to the confusion
of him who now imagines the only witness of his treachery--the only one
who could tell the truth of this complicated mystery--either no longer
lives, or, at least, cannot be brought forward against him, to the ruin
of his schemes. Yes, sir, that slight observation of yours has more than
explained to me why your friend, or, to call him by his true name, Mr.
Valentine Bulmer, has not commenced his machinations sooner, and also
why he has commenced them now. He thinks himself certain that Hannah
Irwin is not now in Britain, or to be produced in a court of justice--he
may find himself mistaken."

"My friend seems perfectly confident of the issue of his cause,"
answered Jekyl; "but for the lady's sake, he is most unwilling to
prosecute a suit which must be attended with so many circumstances of
painful exposure."

"Exposure, indeed!" answered Tyrrel; "thanks to the traitor who laid a
mine so fearful, and who now affects to be reluctant to fire it.--Oh!
how I am bound to curse that affinity that restrains my hands! I would
be content to be the meanest and vilest of society, for one hour of
vengeance on this unexampled hypocrite!--One thing is certain, sir--your
friend will have no living victim. His persecution will kill Clara
Mowbray, and fill up the cup of his crimes, with the murder of one of
the sweetest----I shall grow a woman, if I say more on the subject!"

"My friend," said Jekyl, "since you like best to have him so defined, is
as desirous as you can be to spare the lady's feelings; and with that
view, not reverting to former passages, he has laid before her brother a
proposal of alliance, with which Mr. Mowbray is highly pleased."

"Ha!" said Tyrrel, starting--"And the lady?"--

"And the lady so far proved favourable, as to consent that Lord
Etherington shall visit Shaws-Castle."

"Her consent must have been extorted!" exclaimed Tyrrel.

"It was given voluntarily," said Jekyl, "as I am led to understand;
unless, perhaps, in so far as the desire to veil these very unpleasing
transactions may have operated, I think naturally enough, to induce her
to sink them in eternal secrecy, by accepting Lord Etherington's
hand.--I see, sir, I give you pain, and am sorry for it.--I have no
title to call upon you for any exertion of generosity; but, should such
be Miss Mowbray's sentiments, is it too much to expect of you, that you
will not compromise the lady's honour by insisting upon former claims,
and opening up disreputable transactions so long past?"

"Captain Jekyl," said Tyrrel, solemnly, "I have no claims. Whatever I
might have had, were cancelled by the act of treachery through which
your friend endeavoured too successfully to supplant me. Were Clara
Mowbray as free from her pretended marriage as law could pronounce her,
still with me--_me_, at least, of all men in the world--the obstacle
must ever remain, that the nuptial benediction has been pronounced over
her, and the man whom I must for once call _brother_."--He stopped at
that word, as if it had cost him agony to pronounce it, and then
resumed:--"No, sir, I have no views of personal advantage in this
matter--they have been long annihilated--But I will not permit Clara
Mowbray to become the wife of a villain--I will watch over her with
thoughts as spotless as those of her guardian angel. I first persuaded
her to quit the path of duty[II-B]--I, of all men who live, am bound to
protect her from the misery--from the guilt--which must attach to her as
this man's wife. I will never believe that she wishes it--I will never
believe, that in calm mind and sober reason, she can be brought to
listen to such a guilty proposal.--But her mind--alas!--is not of the
firm texture it once could boast; and your friend knows well how to
press on the spring of every passion that can agitate and alarm her.
Threats of exposure may extort her consent to this most unfitting
match, if they do not indeed drive her to suicide, which I think the
most likely termination. I will, therefore, be strong where she is
weak.--Your friend, sir, must at least strip his proposals of their fine
gilding. I will satisfy Mr. Mowbray of St. Ronan's of his false
pretences, both to rank and fortune; and I rather think he will protect
his sister against the claim of a needy profligate, though he might be
dazzled with the alliance of a wealthy peer."

"Your cause, sir, is not yet won," answered Jekyl; "and when it is, your
brother will retain property enough to entitle him to marry a greater
match than Miss Mowbray, besides the large estate of Nettlewood, to
which that alliance must give him right. But I would wish to make some
accommodation between you if it were possible. You profess, Mr. Tyrrel,
to lay aside all selfish wishes and views in this matter, and to look
entirely to Miss Mowbray's safety and happiness?"

"Such, upon my honour, is the exclusive purpose of my interference--I
would give all I am worth to procure her an hour of quiet--for happiness
she will never know again."

"Your anticipations of Miss Mowbray's distress," said Jekyl, "are, I
understand, founded upon the character of my friend. You think him a man
of light principle, and because he overreached you in a juvenile
intrigue, you conclude that now, in his more steady and advanced years,
the happiness of the lady in whom you are so much interested ought not
to be trusted to him?"

"There may be other grounds," said Tyrrel, hastily; "but you may argue
upon those you have named, as sufficient to warrant my interference."

"How, then, if I should propose some accommodation of this nature? Lord
Etherington does not pretend to the ardour of a passionate lover. He
lives much in the world, and has no desire to quit it. Miss Mowbray's
health is delicate--her spirits variable--and retirement would most
probably be her choice.--Suppose--I am barely putting a
supposition--suppose that a marriage between two persons so
circumstanced were rendered necessary or advantageous to both--suppose
that such a marriage were to secure to one party a large estate--were to
insure the other against all the consequences of an unpleasant
exposure--still, both ends might be obtained by the mere ceremony of
marriage passing between them. There might be a previous contract of
separation, with suitable provisions for the lady, and stipulations, by
which the husband should renounce all claim to her society. Such things
happen every season, if not on the very marriage day, yet before the
honeymoon is over.--Wealth and freedom would be the lady's, and as much
rank as you, sir, supposing your claims just, may think proper to leave
them."

There was a long pause, during which Tyrrel underwent many changes of
countenance, which Jekyl watched carefully, without pressing him for an
answer. At length he replied, "There is much in your proposal, Captain
Jekyl, which I might be tempted to accede to, as one manner of unloosing
this Gordian knot, and a compromise by which Miss Mowbray's future
tranquillity would be in some degree provided for. But I would rather
trust a fanged adder than your friend, unless I saw him fettered by the
strongest ties of interest. Besides, I am certain the unhappy lady could
never survive the being connected with him in this manner, though but
for the single moment when they should appear together at the altar.
There are other objections"----

He checked himself, paused, and then proceeded in a calm and
self-possessed tone. "You think, perhaps, even yet, that I have some
selfish and interested views in this business; and probably you may feel
yourself entitled to entertain the same suspicion towards me, which I
avowedly harbour respecting every proposition which originates with your
friend.--I cannot help it--I can but meet these disadvantageous
impressions with plain dealing and honesty; and it is in the spirit of
both that _I_ make a proposition to _you_.--Your friend is attached to
rank, fortune, and worldly advantages, in the usual proportion, at
least, in which they are pursued by men of the world--this you must
admit, and I will not offend you by supposing more."

"I know few people who do not desire such advantages," answered Captain
Jekyl; "and I frankly own, that he affects no particular degree of
philosophic indifference respecting them."

"Be it so," answered Tyrrel. "Indeed, the proposal you have just made
indicates that his pretended claim on this young lady's hand is
entirely, or almost entirely, dictated by motives of interest, since you
are of opinion that he would be contented to separate from her society
on the very marriage day, provided that, in doing so, he was assured of
the Nettlewood property."

"My proposition was unauthorized by my principal," answered Jekyl; "but
it is needless to deny, that its very tenor implies an idea, on my part,
that Lord Etherington is no passionate lover."

"Well then," answered Tyrrel. "Consider, sir, and let him consider well,
that the estate and rank he now assumes, depend upon my will and
pleasure--that, if I prosecute the claims of which that scroll makes you
aware, he must descend from the rank of an earl into that of a commoner,
stripped of by much the better half of his fortune--a diminution which
would be far from compensated by the estate of Nettlewood, even if he
could obtain it, which could only be by means of a lawsuit, precarious
in the issue, and most dishonourable in its very essence."

"Well, sir," replied Jekyl, "I perceive your argument--What is your
proposal?"

"That I will abstain from prosecuting my claim on those honours and that
property--that I will leave Valentine Bulmer in possession of his
usurped title and ill-deserved wealth--that I will bind myself under the
strongest penalties never to disturb his possession of the Earldom of
Etherington and estates belonging to it--on condition that he allows the
woman, whose peace of mind he has ruined for ever, to walk through the
world in her wretchedness, undisturbed either by his marriage-suit, or
by any claim founded upon his own most treacherous conduct--in short,
that he forbear to molest Clara Mowbray, either by his presence, word,
letter, or through the intervention of a third party, and be to her in
future as if he did not exist."

"This is a singular offer," said the Captain; "may I ask if you are
serious in making it?"

"I am neither surprised nor offended at the question," said Tyrrel. "I
am a man, sir, like others, and affect no superiority to that which all
men desire the possession of--a certain consideration and station in
society. I am no romantic fool to undervalue the sacrifice I am about to
make. I renounce a rank, which is and ought to be the more valuable to
me, because it involves (he blushed as he spoke) the fame of an honoured
mother--because, in failing to claim it, I disobey the commands of a
dying father, who wished that by doing so I should declare to the world
the penitence which hurried him perhaps to the grave, and the making
which public he considered might be some atonement for his errors. From
an honoured place in the land, I descend voluntarily to become a
nameless exile; for, once certain that Clara Mowbray's peace is assured,
Britain no longer holds me.--All this I do, sir, not in any idle strain
of overheated feeling, but seeing, and knowing, and dearly valuing,
every advantage which I renounce--yet I do it, and do it willingly,
rather than be the cause of farther evil to one, on whom I have already
brought too--too much."

His voice, in spite of his exertions, faltered as he concluded the
sentence, and a big drop which rose to his eye, required him for the
moment to turn towards the window.

"I am ashamed of this childishness," he said, turning again to Captain
Jekyl; "if it excites your ridicule, sir, let it be at least a proof of
my sincerity."

"I am far from entertaining such sentiments," said Jekyl,
respectfully--for, in a long train of fashionable follies, his heart had
not been utterly hardened--"very far, indeed. To a proposal so singular
as yours, I cannot be expected to answer--except thus far--the character
of the peerage is, I believe, indelible, and cannot be resigned or
assumed at pleasure. If you are really Earl of Etherington, I cannot see
how your resigning the right may avail my friend."

"You, sir, it might not avail," said Tyrrel, gravely, "because you,
perhaps, might scorn to exercise a right, or hold a title, that was not
legally yours. But your friend will have no such compunctious visitings.
If he can act the Earl to the eye of the world, he has already shown
that his honour and conscience will be easily satisfied."

"May I take a copy of the memorandum containing this list of documents,"
said Captain Jekyl, "for the information of my constituent?"

"The paper is at your pleasure, sir," replied Tyrrel; "it is itself but
a copy.--But Captain Jekyl," he added, with a sarcastic expression, "is,
it would seem, but imperfectly let into his friend's confidence--he may
be assured his principal is completely acquainted with the contents of
this paper, and has accurate copies of the deeds to which it refers."

"I think it scarce possible," said Jekyl, angrily.

"Possible and certain!" answered Tyrrel. "My father, shortly preceding
his death, sent me--with a most affecting confession of his errors--this
list of papers, and acquainted me that he had made a similar
communication to your friend. That he did so I have no doubt, however
Mr. Bulmer may have thought proper to disguise the circumstance in
communication with you. One circumstance, among others, stamps at once
his character, and confirms me of the danger he apprehended by my return
to Britain. He found means, through a scoundrelly agent, who had made me
the usual remittances from my father while alive, to withhold those
which were necessary for my return from the Levant, and I was obliged
to borrow from a friend."

"Indeed?" replied Jekyl. "It is the first time I have heard of these
papers--May I enquire where the originals are, and in whose custody?"

"I was in the East," answered Tyrrel, "during my father's last illness,
and these papers were by him deposited with a respectable commercial
house, with which he was connected. They were enclosed in a cover
directed to me, and that again in an envelope, addressed to the
principal person in their firm."

"You must be sensible," said Captain Jekyl, "that I can scarcely decide
on the extraordinary offer which you have been pleased to make, of
resigning the claim founded on these documents, unless I had a previous
opportunity of examining them."

"You shall have that opportunity--I will write to have them sent down by
the post--they lie but in small compass."

"This, then," said the Captain, "sums up all that can be said at
present.--Supposing these proofs to be of unexceptionable authenticity,
I certainly would advise my friend Etherington to put to sleep a claim
so important as yours, even at the expense of resigning his matrimonial
speculation--I presume you design to abide by your offer?"

"I am not in the habit of altering my mind--still less of retracting my
word," said Tyrrel, somewhat haughtily.

"We part friends, I hope?" said Jekyl, rising, and taking his leave.

"Not enemies certainly, Captain Jekyl. I will own to you I owe you my
thanks, for extricating me from that foolish affair at the Well--nothing
could have put me to more inconvenience than the necessity of following
to extremity a frivolous quarrel at the present moment."

"You will come down among us, then?" said Jekyl.

"I certainly shall not wish to appear to hide myself," answered Tyrrel;
"it is a circumstance might be turned against me--there is a party who
will avail himself of every advantage. I have but one path, Captain
Jekyl--that of truth and honour."

Captain Jekyl bowed, and took his leave. So soon as he was gone, Tyrrel
locked the door of the apartment, and drawing from his bosom a portrait,
gazed on it with a mixture of sorrow and tenderness, until the tears
dropped from his eye.

It was the picture of Clara Mowbray, such as he had known her in the
days of their youthful love, and taken by himself, whose early turn for
painting had already developed itself. The features of the blooming girl
might be yet traced in the fine countenance of the more matured
original. But what was now become of the glow which had shaded her
cheek?--what of the arch, yet subdued pleasantry, which lurked in the
eye?--what of the joyous content, which composed every feature to the
expression of an Euphrosyne?--Alas! these were long fled!--Sorrow had
laid his hand upon her--the purple light of youth was quenched--the
glance of innocent gaiety was exchanged for looks now moody with
ill-concealed care, now animated by a spirit of reckless and satirical
observation.

"What a wreck! what a wreck!" exclaimed Tyrrel; "and all of one wretch's
making.--Can I put the last hand to the work, and be her murderer
outright? I cannot--I cannot!--I will be strong in the resolve I have
formed--I will sacrifice all--rank--station--fortune--and fame.
Revenge!--Revenge itself, the last good left me--revenge itself I will
sacrifice, to obtain for her such tranquillity as she may be yet capable
to enjoy."

In this resolution he sat down, and wrote a letter to the commercial
house with whom the documents of his birth, and other relative papers,
were deposited, requesting that the packet containing them should be
forwarded to him through the post-office.

Tyrrel was neither unambitious, nor without those sentiments respecting
personal consideration, which are usually united with deep feeling and
an ardent mind. It was with a trembling hand, and a watery eye, but with
a heart firmly resolved, that he sealed and dispatched the letter; a
step towards the resignation, in favour of his mortal enemy, of that
rank and condition in life, which was his own by right of inheritance,
but had so long hung in doubt betwixt them.



CHAPTER XI.

INTRUSION.

     By my troth, I will go with thee to the lane's-end!--I am a kind of
     burr--I shall stick.

_Measure for Measure._


It was now far advanced in autumn. The dew lay thick on the long grass,
where it was touched by the sun; but where the sward lay in shadow, it
was covered with hoar frost, and crisped under Jekyl's foot, as he
returned through the woods of St. Ronan's. The leaves of the ash-trees
detached themselves from the branches, and, without an air of wind, fell
spontaneously on the path. The mists still lay lazily upon the heights,
and the huge old tower of St. Ronan's was entirely shrouded with vapour,
except where a sunbeam, struggling with the mist, penetrated into its
wreath so far as to show a projecting turret upon one of the angles of
the old fortress, which, long a favourite haunt of the raven, was
popularly called the Corbie's Tower. Beneath, the scene was open and
lightsome, and the robin redbreast was chirping his best, to atone for
the absence of all other choristers. The fine foliage of autumn was seen
in many a glade, running up the sides of each little ravine, russet-hued
and golden-specked, and tinged frequently with the red hues of the
mountain-ash; while here and there a huge old fir, the native growth of
the soil, flung his broad shadow over the rest of the trees, and seemed
to exult in the permanence of his dusky livery over the more showy, but
transitory brilliance by which he was surrounded.

Such is the scene, which, so often described in prose and in poetry, yet
seldom loses its effect upon the ear or upon the eye, and through which
we wander with a strain of mind congenial to the decline of the year.
There are few who do not feel the impression; and even Jekyl, though
bred to far different pursuits than those most favourable to such
contemplation, relaxed his pace to admire the uncommon beauty of the
landscape.

Perhaps, also, he was in no hurry to rejoin the Earl of Etherington,
towards whose service he felt himself more disinclined since his
interview with Tyrrel. It was clear that that nobleman had not fully
reposed in his friend the confidence promised; he had not made him aware
of the existence of those important documents of proof, on which the
whole fate of his negotiation appeared now to hinge, and in so far had
deceived him. Yet, when he pulled from his pocket, and re-read Lord
Etherington's explanatory letter, Jekyl could not help being more
sensible than he had been on the first perusal, how much the present
possessor of that title felt alarmed at his brother's claims; and he had
some compassion for the natural feeling that must have rendered him shy
of communicating at once the very worst view of his case, even to his
most confidential friend. Upon the whole, he remembered that Lord
Etherington had been his benefactor to an unusual extent; that, in
return, he had promised the young nobleman his active and devoted
assistance, in extricating him from the difficulties with which he
seemed at present surrounded; that, in quality of his confidant, he had
become acquainted with the most secret transactions of his life; and
that it could only be some very strong cause indeed which could justify
breaking off from him at this moment. Yet he could not help wishing
either that his own obligations had been less, his friend's cause
better, or, at least, the friend himself more worthy of assistance.

"A beautiful morning, sir, for such a foggy, d----d climate as this,"
said a voice close by Jekyl's ear, which made him at once start out of
his contemplation. He turned half round, and beside him stood our honest
friend Touchwood, his throat muffled in his large Indian handkerchief,
huge gouty shoes thrust upon his feet, his bobwig well powdered, and the
gold-headed cane in his hand, carried upright as a sergeant's halberd.
One glance of contemptuous survey entitled Jekyl, according to his
modish ideas, to rank the old gentleman as a regular-built quiz, and to
treat him as the young gentlemen of his Majesty's Guards think
themselves entitled to use every unfashionable variety of the human
species. A slight inclination of a bow, and a very cold "You have the
advantage of me, sir," dropped as it were unconsciously from his tongue,
were meant to repress the old gentleman's advances, and moderate his
ambition to be hail fellow well met with his betters. But Mr. Touchwood
was callous to the intended rebuke; he had lived too much at large upon
the world, and was far too confident of his own merits, to take a
repulse easily, or to permit his modesty to interfere with any purpose
which he had formed.

"Advantage of you, sir?" he replied; "I have lived too long in the world
not to keep all the advantages I have, and get all I can--and I reckon
it one that I have overtaken you, and shall have the pleasure of your
company to the Well."

"I should but interrupt your worthier meditations, sir," said the other;
"besides, I am a modest young man, and think myself fit for no better
company than my own--moreover, I walk slow--very slow.--Good morning to
you, Mr. A--A--I believe my treacherous memory has let slip your name,
sir."

"My name!--Why your memory must have been like Pat Murtough's greyhound,
that let the hare go before he caught it. You never heard my name in
your life. Touchwood is my name. What d'ye think of it, now you know
it?"

"I am really no connoisseur in surnames," answered Jekyl: "and it is
quite the same to me whether you call yourself Touchwood or Touchstone.
Don't let me keep you from walking on, sir. You will find breakfast far
advanced at the Well, sir, and your walk has probably given you an
appetite."

"Which will serve me to luncheon-time, I promise you," said Touchwood;
"I always drink my coffee as soon as my feet are in my pabouches--it's
the way all over the East. Never trust my breakfast to their scalding
milk-and-water at the Well, I assure you; and for walking slow, I have
had a touch of the gout."

"Have you," said Jekyl; "I am sorry for that; because, if you have no
mind to breakfast, I have--and so, Mr. Touchstone, good-morrow to you."

But, although the young soldier went off at double quick time, his
pertinacious attendant kept close by his side, displaying an activity
which seemed inconsistent with his make and his years, and talking away
the whole time, so as to show that his lungs were not in the least
degree incommoded by the unusual rapidity of motion.

"Nay, young gentleman, if you are for a good smart walk, I am for you,
and the gout may be d--d. You are a lucky fellow to have youth on your
side; but yet, so far as between the Aultoun and the Well, I think I
could walk you for your sum, barring running--all heel and toe--equal
weight, and I would match Barclay himself for a mile."

"Upon my word, you are a gay old gentleman!" said Jekyl, relaxing his
pace; "and if we must be fellow-travellers, though I can see no great
occasion for it, I must even shorten sail for you."

So saying, and as if another means of deliverance had occurred to him,
he slackened his pace, took out a morocco case of cigars, and, lighting
one with his _briquet_, said, while he walked on, and bestowed as much
of its fragrance as he could upon the face of his intrusive companion,
"Vergeben sie, mein herr--ich bin erzogen in kaiserlicher dienst--muss
rauchen ein kleine wenig."[II-6]

"Rauchen sie immer fort," said Touchwood, producing a huge meerschaum,
which, suspended by a chain from his neck, lurked in the bosom of his
coat, "habe auch mein pfeichen--Sehen sie den lieben topf!"[II-7] and he
began to return the smoke, if not the fire, of his companion, in full
volumes, and with interest.

"The devil take the twaddle," said Jekyl to himself, "he is too old and
too fat to be treated after the manner of Professor Jackson; and, on my
life, I cannot tell what to make of him.--He is a residenter too--I must
tip him the cold shoulder, or he will be pestering me eternally."

Accordingly, he walked on, sucking his cigar, and apparently in as
abstracted a mood as Mr. Cargill himself, without paying the least
attention to Touchwood, who, nevertheless, continued talking, as if he
had been addressing the most attentive listener in Scotland, whether it
were the favourite nephew of a cross, old, rich bachelor, or the
aid-de-camp of some old rusty firelock of a general, who tells stories
of the American war.

"And so, sir, I can put up with any companion at a pinch, for I have
travelled in all sorts of ways, from a caravan down to a carrier's cart;
but the best society is the best every where; and I am happy I have
fallen in with a gentleman who suits me so well as you.--That grave,
steady attention of yours reminds me of Elfi Bey--you might talk to him
in English, or any thing he understood least of--you might have read
Aristotle to Elfi, and not a muscle would he stir--give him his pipe,
and he would sit on his cushion with a listening air as if he took in
every word of what you said."

Captain Jekyl threw away the remnant of his cigar, with a little
movement of pettishness, and began to whistle an opera air.

"There again, now!--That is just so like the Marquis of Roccombole,
another dear friend of mine, that whistles all the time you talk to
him--He says he learned it in the Reign of Terror, when a man was glad
to whistle to show his throat was whole. And, talking of great folk,
what do you think of this affair between Lord Etherington and his
brother, or cousin, as some folk call him?"

Jekyl absolutely started at the question; a degree of emotion, which,
had it been witnessed by any of his fashionable friends, would for ever
have ruined his pretensions to rank in the first order.

"What affair?" he asked, so soon as he could command a certain degree of
composure.

"Why, you know the news surely? Francis Tyrrel, whom all the company
voted a coward the other day, turns out as brave a fellow as any of us;
for, instead of having run away to avoid having his own throat cut by
Sir Bingo Binks, he was at the very moment engaged in a gallant attempt
to murder his elder brother, or his more lawful brother, or his cousin,
or some such near relation."

"I believe you are misinformed, sir," said Jekyl dryly, and then
resumed, as deftly as he could, his proper character of a pococurante.

"I am told," continued Touchwood, "one Jekyl acted as a second to them
both on the occasion--a proper fellow, sir--one of those fine gentlemen
whom we pay for polishing the pavement in Bond Street, and looking at a
thick shoe and a pair of worsted stockings, as if the wearer were none
of their paymasters. However, I believe the Commander-in-Chief is like
to discard him when he hears what has happened."

"Sir!" said Jekyl, fiercely--then, recollecting the folly of being angry
with an original of his companion's description, he proceeded more
coolly, "You are misinformed--Captain Jekyl knew nothing of any such
matter as you refer to--you talk of a person you know nothing
of--Captain Jekyl is----(Here he stopped a little, scandalized, perhaps,
at the very idea of vindicating himself to such a personage from such a
charge.)

"Ay, ay," said the traveller, filling up the chasm in his own way, "he
is not worth our talking of, certainly--but I believe he knew as much of
the matter as either you or I do, for all that."

"Sir, this is either a very great mistake, or wilful impertinence,"
answered the officer. "However absurd or intrusive you may be, I cannot
allow you, either in ignorance or incivility, to use the name of Captain
Jekyl with disrespect.--I am Captain Jekyl, sir."

"Very like, very like," said Touchwood, with the most provoking
indifference; "I guessed as much before."

"Then, sir, you may guess what is likely to follow, when a gentleman
hears himself unwarrantably and unjustly slandered," replied Captain
Jekyl, surprised and provoked that his annunciation of name and rank
seemed to be treated so lightly. "I advise you, sir, not to proceed too
far upon the immunities of your age and insignificance."

"I never presume farther than I have good reason to think necessary,
Captain Jekyl," answered Touchwood, with great composure. "I am too old,
as you say, for any such idiotical business as a duel, which no nation I
know of practises but our silly fools of Europe--and then, as for your
switch, which you are grasping with so much dignity, that is totally out
of the question. Look you, young gentleman; four-fifths of my life have
been spent among men who do not set a man's life at the value of a
button on his collar--every person learns, in such cases, to protect
himself as he can; and whoever strikes me must stand to the
consequences. I have always a brace of bull-dogs about me, which put age
and youth on a level. So suppose me horsewhipped, and pray, at the same
time, suppose yourself shot through the body. The same exertion of
imagination will serve for both purposes."

So saying, he exhibited a very handsome, highly finished, and
richly-mounted pair of pistols.

"Catch me without my tools," said he, significantly buttoning his coat
over the arms, which were concealed in a side-pocket, ingeniously
contrived for that purpose. "I see you do not know what to make of me,"
he continued, in a familiar and confidential tone; "but, to tell you the
truth, everybody that has meddled in this St. Ronan's business is a
little off the hooks--something of a _tête exaltée_, in plain words, a
little crazy, or so; and I do not affect to be much wiser than other
people."

"Sir," said Jekyl, "your manners and discourse are so unprecedented,
that I must ask your meaning plainly and decidedly--Do you mean to
insult me or no?"

"No insult at all, young gentleman--all fair meaning, and above board--I
only wished to let you know what the world may say, that is all."

"Sir," said Jekyl, hastily, "the world may tell what lies it pleases;
but I was not present at the rencontre between Etherington and Mr.
Tyrrel--I was some hundred miles off."

"There now," said Touchwood, "there _was_ a rencontre between them--the
very thing I wanted to know."

"Sir," said Jekyl, aware too late that, in his haste to vindicate
himself, he had committed his friend, "I desire you will found nothing
on an expression hastily used to vindicate myself from a false
aspersion--I only meant to say, if there was an affair such as you talk
of, I knew nothing of it."

"Never mind--never mind--I shall make no bad use of what I have
learned," said Touchwood. "Were you to eat your words with the best
fish-sauce, (and that is Burgess's,) I have got all the information from
them I wanted."

"You are strangely pertinacious, sir," replied Jekyl.

"O, a rock, a piece of flint for that--What I have learned, I have
learned, but I will make no bad use of it.--Hark ye, Captain, I have no
malice against your friend--perhaps the contrary--but he is in a bad
course, sir--has kept a false reckoning, for as deep as he thinks
himself; and I tell you so, because I hold you (your finery out of the
question) to be, as Hamlet says, indifferent honest; but, if you were
not, why necessity is necessity; and a man will take a Bedouin for his
guide in the desert, whom he would not trust with an aspar in the
cultivated field; so I think of reposing some confidence in you--have
not made up my mind yet, though."

"On my word, sir, I am greatly flattered both by your intentions and
your hesitation," said Captain Jekyl. "You were pleased to say just now,
that every one concerned with these matters was something particular."

"Ay, ay--something crazy--a little mad, or so. That was what I said, and
I can prove it."

"I should be glad to hear the proof," said Jekyl--"I hope you do not
except yourself?"

"Oh! by no means," answered Touchwood; "I am one of the maddest old boys
ever slept out of straw, or went loose. But you can put fishing
questions in your turn, Captain, I see that--you would fain know how
much, or how little, I am in all these secrets. Well, that is as
hereafter may be. In the meantime, here are my proofs.--Old Scrogie
Mowbray was mad, to like the sound of Mowbray better than that of
Scrogie; young Scrogie was mad, not to like it as well. The old Earl of
Etherington was not sane when he married a French wife in secret, and
devilish mad indeed when he married an English one in public. Then for
the good folk here, Mowbray of St. Ronan's is cracked, when he wishes to
give his sister to he knows not precisely whom: She is a fool not to
take him, because she _does_ know who he is, and what has been between
them; and your friend is maddest of all, who seeks her under so heavy a
penalty:--and you and I, Captain, go mad gratis, for company's sake,
when we mix ourselves with such a mess of folly and frenzy."

"Really, sir, all that you have said is an absolute riddle to me,"
replied the embarrassed Jekyl.

"Riddles may be read," said Touchwood, nodding; "if you have any desire
to read mine, pray, take notice, that this being our first interview, I
have exerted myself _faire les frais du conversation_, as Jack Frenchman
says; if you want another, you may come to Mrs. Dods's at the Cleikum
Inn, any day before Saturday, at four precisely, when you will find none
of your half-starved, long-limbed bundles of bones, which you call
poultry at the table-d'hôte, but a right Chitty-gong fowl!--I got Mrs.
Dods the breed from old Ben Vandewash, the Dutch broker--stewed to a
minute, with rice and mushrooms.--If you can eat without a silver fork,
and your appetite serves you, you shall be welcome--that's all.--So,
good morning to you, good master lieutenant, for a captain of the Guards
is but a lieutenant after all."

So saying, and ere Jekyl could make any answer, the old gentleman turned
short off into a path which led to the healing fountain, branching away
from that which conducted to the Hotel.

Uncertain with whom he had been holding a conversation so strange, Jekyl
remained looking after him, until his attention was roused by a little
boy, who crept out from an adjoining thicket, with a switch in his hand,
which he had been just cutting,--probably against regulations to the
contrary effect made and provided, for he held himself ready to take
cover in the copse again, in case any one were in sight who might be
interested in chastising his delinquency. Captain Jekyl easily
recognised in him one of that hopeful class of imps, who pick up a
precarious livelihood about places of public resort, by going errands,
brushing shoes, doing the groom's and coachman's work in the stables,
driving donkeys, opening gates, and so forth, for about one-tenth part
of their time, spending the rest in gambling, sleeping in the sun, and
otherwise qualifying themselves to exercise the profession of thieves
and pickpockets, either separately, or in conjunction with those of
waiters, grooms, and postilions. The little outcast had an indifferent
pair of pantaloons, and about half a jacket, for, like Pentapolin with
the naked arm, he went on action with his right shoulder bare; a third
part of what had once been a hat covered his hair, bleached white with
the sun, and his face, as brown as a berry, was illuminated by a pair of
eyes, which, for spying out either peril or profit, might have rivalled
those of the hawk.--In a word, it was the original Puck of the Shaws
dramaticals.

"Come hither, ye unhanged whelp," said Jekyl, "and tell me if you know
the old gentleman that passed down the walk just now--yonder he is,
still in sight."

"It is the Naboab," said the boy; "I could swear to his back among all
the backs at the Waal, your honour."

"What do you call a Nabob, you varlet?"

"A Naboab--a Naboab?" answered the scout; "odd, I believe it is ane
comes frae foreign parts, with mair siller than his pouches can haud,
and spills it a' through the country--they are as yellow as orangers,
and maun hae a' thing their ain gate."

"And what is this Naboab's name, as you call him?" demanded Jekyl.

"His name is Touchwood," said his informer; "ye may see him at the Waal
every morning."

"I have not seen him at the ordinary."

"Na, na," answered the boy; "he is a queer auld cull, he disna frequent
wi' other folk, but lives upby at the Cleikum.--He gave me half-a-crown
yince, and forbade me to play it awa' at pitch and toss."

"And you disobeyed him, of course?"

"Na, I didna dis-obeyed him--I played it awa' at
neevie-neevie-nick-nack."

"Well, there is sixpence for thee; lose it to the devil in any way thou
think'st proper."

So saying he gave the little galopin his donative, and a slight rap on
the pate at the same time, which sent him scouring from his presence. He
himself hastened to Lord Etherington's apartments, and, as luck would
have it, found the Earl alone.

FOOTNOTES:

[II-6] Forgive me, sir, I was bred in the Imperial service, and must smoke
a little.

[II-7] Smoke as much as you please; I have got my pipe, too.--See what a
beautiful head!



CHAPTER XII.

DISCUSSION.

    I will converse with iron-witted fools
    And unrespective boys--none are for me
    That look into me with suspicious eyes.

_Richard III._


"How now, Jekyl!" said Lord Etherington, eagerly; "what news from the
enemy?--Have you seen him?"

"I have," replied Jekyl.

"And in what humour did you find him?--in none that was very favourable,
I dare say, for you have a baffled and perplexed look, that confesses a
losing game--I have often warned you how your hang-dog look betrays you
at brag--And then, when you would fain brush up your courage, and put a
good face on a bad game, your bold looks always remind me of a standard
hoisted only half-mast high, and betraying melancholy and dejection,
instead of triumph and defiance."

"I am only holding the cards for your lordship at present," answered
Jekyl; "and I wish to Heaven there may be no one looking over the hand."

"How do you mean by that?"

"Why, I was beset, on returning through the wood, by an old bore, a
Nabob, as they call him, and Touchwood by name."

"I have seen such a quiz about," said Lord Etherington--"What of him?"

"Nothing," answered Jekyl, "except that he seemed to know much more of
your affairs than you would wish or are aware of. He smoked the truth of
the rencontre betwixt Tyrrel and you, and what is worse--I must needs
confess the truth--he contrived to wring out of me a sort of
confirmation of his suspicions."

"'Slife! wert thou mad?" said Lord Etherington, turning pale; "His is
the very tongue to send the story through the whole country--Hal, you
have undone me."

"I hope not," said Jekyl; "I trust in Heaven I have not!--His knowledge
is quite general--only that there was some scuffle between you--Do not
look so dismayed about it, or I will e'en go back and cut his throat, to
secure his secrecy."

"Cursed indiscretion!" answered the Earl--"how could you let him fix on
you at all?"

"I cannot tell," said Jekyl--"he has powers of boring beyond ten of the
dullest of all possible doctors--stuck like a limpet to a rock--a
perfect double of the Old Man of the Sea, who I take to have been the
greatest bore on record."

"Could you not have turned him on his back like a turtle, and left him
there?" said Lord Etherington.

"And had an ounce of lead in my body for my pains? No--no--we have
already had footpad work enough--I promise you the old buck was armed,
as if he meant to bing folks on the low toby."[II-8]

"Well--well--But Martigny, or Tyrrel, as you call him--what says he?"

"Why, Tyrrel, or Martigny, as your lordship calls him," answered Jekyl,
"will by no means listen to your lordship's proposition. He will not
consent that Miss Mowbray's happiness shall be placed in your lordship's
keeping; nay, it did not meet his approbation a bit the more, when I
hinted at the acknowledgment of the marriage, or the repetition of the
ceremony, attended by an immediate separation, which I thought I might
venture to propose."

"And on what grounds does he refuse so reasonable an accommodation?"
said Lord Etherington--"Does he still seek to marry the girl himself?"

"I believe he thinks the circumstances of the case render that
impossible," replied his confidant.

"What? then he would play the dog in the manger--neither eat nor let
eat?--He shall find himself mistaken. She has used me like a dog, Jekyl,
since I saw you; and, by Jove! I will have her, that I may break her
pride, and cut him to the liver with the agony of seeing it."

"Nay, but hold--hold!" said Jekyl; "perhaps I have something to say on
his part, that may be a better compromise than all you could have by
teasing him. He is willing to purchase what he calls Miss Mowbray's
tranquillity, at the expense of his resignation of his claims to your
father's honours and estate; and he surprised me very much, my lord, by
showing me this list of documents, which, I am afraid, makes his success
more than probable, if there really are such proofs in existence." Lord
Etherington took the paper, and seemed to read with much attention,
while Jekyl proceeded,--"He has written to procure these evidences from
the person with whom they are deposited."

"We shall see what like they are when they arrive," said Lord
Etherington.--"They come by post, I suppose?"

"Yes; and may be immediately expected," answered Jekyl.

"Well--he is my brother on one side of the house, at least," said Lord
Etherington; "and I should not much like to have him lagged for forgery,
which I suppose will be the end of his bolstering up an unsubstantial
plea by fabricated documents--I should like to see these same papers he
talks of."

"But, my lord," replied Jekyl, "Tyrrel's allegation is, that you _have_
seen them; and that copies, at least, were made out for you, and are in
your possession--such is his averment."

"He lies," answered Lord Etherington, "so far as he pretends I know of
such papers. I consider the whole story as froth--foam--fudge, or
whatever is most unsubstantial. It will prove such when the papers
appear, if indeed they ever will appear. The whole is a bully from
beginning to end; and I wonder at thee, Jekyl, for being so thirsty
after syllabub, that you can swallow such whipt cream as that stuff
amounts to. No, no--I know my advantage, and shall use it so as to make
all their hearts bleed. As for these papers, I recollect now that my
agent talked of copies of some manuscripts having been sent him, but the
originals were not then forthcoming; and I'll bet the long odds that
they never are--mere fabrications--if I thought otherwise, would I not
tell you?"

"Certainly, I hope you would, my lord," said Jekyl; "for I see no chance
of my being useful to you, unless I have the honour to enjoy your
confidence."

"You do--you do, my friend," said Etherington, shaking him by the hand;
"and since I must consider your present negotiation as failed, I must
devise some other mode of settling with this mad and troublesome
fellow."

"No violence, my lord," said Jekyl, once more, and with much emphasis.

"None--none--none, by Heaven!--Why, thou suspicious wretch, must I
swear, to quell your scruples?--On the contrary, it shall not be my
fault, if we are not on decent terms."

"It would be infinitely to the advantage of both your characters if you
could bring that to pass," answered Jekyl; "and if you are serious in
wishing it, I will endeavour to prepare Tyrrel. He comes to the Well or
to the ordinary to-day, and it would be highly ridiculous to make a
scene."

"True, true; find him out, my dear Jekyl, and persuade him how foolish
it will be to bring our family quarrels out before strangers, and for
their amusement. They shall see the two bears can meet without
biting.--Go--go--I will follow you instantly--go, and remember you have
my full and exclusive confidence.--Go, half-bred, startling fool!" he
continued, the instant Jekyl had left the room, "with just spirits
enough to ensure your own ruin, by hurrying you into what you are not up
to.--But he has character in the world--is brave--and one of those whose
countenance gives a fair face to a doubtful business. He is my creature,
too--I have bought and paid for him, and it would be idle extravagance
not to make use of him--But as to confidence--no confidence, honest Hal,
beyond that which cannot be avoided. If I wanted a confidant, here comes
a better than thou by half--Solmes has no scruples--he will always give
me money's worth of zeal and secrecy _for_ money."

His lordship's valet at this moment entered the apartment, a grave,
civil-looking man, past the middle age, with a sallow complexion, a dark
thoughtful eye, slow, and sparing of speech, and sedulously attentive to
all the duties of his situation.

"Solmes,"--said Lord Etherington, and then stopped short.

"My lord"--There was a pause; and when Lord Etherington had again said,
"Solmes!" and his valet had answered, "Your lordship," there was a
second pause; until the Earl, as if recollecting himself, "Oh! I
remember what I wished to say--it was about the course of post here. It
is not very regular, I believe?"

"Regular enough, my lord, so far as concerns this place--the people in
the Aultoun do not get their letters in course."

"And why not, Solmes?" said his lordship.

"The old woman who keeps the little inn there, my lord, is on bad terms
with the post-mistress--the one will not send for the letters, and the
other will not dispatch them to the village; so, betwixt them, they are
sometimes lost or mislaid, or returned to the General Post-office."

"I wish that may not be the case of a packet which I expect in a few
days--it should have been here already, or, perhaps, it may arrive in
the beginning of the week--it is from that formal ass, Trueman the
Quaker, who addresses me by my Christian and family name, Francis
Tyrrel. He is like enough to mistake the inn, too, and I should be sorry
it fell into Monsieur Martigny's hands--I suppose you know he is in that
neighbourhood?--Look after its safety, Solmes--quietly, you understand;
because people might put odd constructions, as if I were wanting a
letter which was not my own."

"I understand perfectly, my lord," said Solmes, without exhibiting the
slightest change in his sallow countenance, though entirely
comprehending the nature of the service required.

"And here is a note will pay for postage," said the Earl, putting into
his valet's hand a bank-bill of considerable value; "and you may keep
the balance for occasional expenses."

This was also fully understood; and Solmes, too politic and cautious
even to look intelligence, or acknowledge gratitude, made only a bow of
acquiescence, put the note into his pocketbook, and assured his lordship
that his commands should be punctually attended to.

"There goes the agent for my money, and for my purpose," said Lord
Etherington, exultingly; "no extorting of confidence, no demanding of
explanations, no tearing off the veil with which a delicate manoeuvre is
_gazé_--all excuses are received as _argent comptant_, provided only,
that the best excuse of all, the _argent comptant_ itself, come to
recommend them.--Yet I will trust no one--I will out, like a skilful
general, and reconnoitre in person."

With this resolution, Lord Etherington put on his surtout and cap, and
sallying from his apartments, took the way to the bookseller's shop,
which also served as post-office and circulating library; and being in
the very centre of the parade, (for so is termed the broad terrace walk
which leads from the inn to the Well,) it formed a convenient
lounging-place for newsmongers and idlers of every description.

The Earl's appearance created, as usual, a sensation upon the public
promenade; but whether it was the suggestion of his own alarmed
conscience, or that there was some real cause for the remark, he could
not help thinking his reception was of a more doubtful character than
usual. His fine figure and easy manners produced their usual effect, and
all whom he spoke to received his attention as an honour; but none
offered, as usual, to unite themselves to him, or to induce him to join
their party. He seemed to be looked on rather as an object of
observation and attention, than as making one of the company; and to
escape from a distant gaze, which became rather embarrassing, he turned
into the little emporium of news and literature.

He entered unobserved, just as Lady Penelope had finished reading some
verses, and was commenting upon them with all the alacrity of a _femme
savante_, in possession of something which no one is to hear repeated
oftener than once.

"Copy--no indeed!" these were the snatches which reached Lord
Etherington's ear, from the group of which her ladyship formed the
centre--"honour bright--I must not betray poor Chatterly--besides, his
lordship is my friend, and a person of rank, you know--so one would
not--You have not got the book, Mr. Pott?--you have not got
Statius?--you never have any thing one longs to see."

"Very sorry, my lady--quite out of copies at present--I expect some in
my next monthly parcel."

"Good lack, Mr. Pott, that is your never-failing answer," said Lady
Penelope; "I believe if I were to ask you for the last new edition of
the Alkoran, you would tell me it was coming down in your next monthly
parcel."

"Can't say, my lady, really," answered Mr. Pott; "have not seen the work
advertised yet; but I have no doubt, if it is likely to take, there will
be copies in my next monthly parcel."

"Mr. Pott's supplies are always in the _paullo post futurum_ tense,"
said Mr. Chatterly, who was just entering the shop.

"Ah! Mr. Chatterly, are you there?" said Lady Penelope; "I lay my death
at your door--I cannot find this Thebaid, where Polynices and his
brother"----

"Hush, my lady!--hush, for Heaven's sake!" said the poetical divine, and
looked towards Lord Etherington. Lady Penelope took the hint, and was
silent; but she had said enough to call up the traveller Touchwood, who
raised his head from the newspaper which he was studying, and, without
addressing his discourse to any one in particular, ejaculated, as if in
scorn of Lady Penelope's geography--

"Polynices?--Polly Peachum.--There is no such place in the Thebais--the
Thebais is in Egypt--the mummies come from the Thebais--I have been in
the catacombs--caves very curious indeed--we were lapidated by the
natives--pebbled to some purpose, I give you my word. My janizary
thrashed a whole village by way of retaliation."

While he was thus proceeding, Lord Etherington, as if in a listless
mood, was looking at the letters which stood ranged on the
chimney-piece, and carrying on a languid dialogue with Mrs. Pott, whose
person and manners were not ill adapted to her situation, for she was
good-looking, and vastly fine and affected.

"Number of letters here which don't seem to find owners, Mrs. Pott?"

"Great number, indeed, my lord--it is a great vexation, for we are
obliged to return them to the post-office, and the postage is charged
against us if they are lost; and how can one keep sight of them all?"

"Any love-letters among them, Mrs. Pott?" said his lordship, lowering
his tone.

"Oh, fie! my lord, how should I know?" answered Mrs. Pott, dropping her
voice to the same cadence.

"Oh! every one can tell a love-letter--that has ever received one, that
is--one knows them without opening--they are always folded hurriedly and
sealed carefully--and the direction manifests a kind of tremulous
agitation, that marks the state of the writer's nerves--that
now,"--pointing with his switch to a letter upon the chimney-piece,
"that _must_ be a love-letter."

"He, he, he!" giggled Mrs. Pott, "I beg pardon for laughing, my
lord--but--he, he, he!--that is a letter from one Bindloose, the banker
body, to the old woman Luckie Dods, as they call her, at the
change-house in the Aultoun."

"Depend upon it then, Mrs. Pott, that your neighbour, Mrs. Dods, has got
a lover in Mr. Bindloose--unless the banker has been shaking hands with
the palsy. Why do you not forward her letter?--you are very cruel to
keep it in durance here."

"Me forward!" answered Mrs. Pott; "the cappernoity, old, girning
alewife, may wait long enough or I forward it--She'll not loose the
letters that come to her by the King's post, and she must go on troking
wi' the old carrier, as if there was no post-house in the neighbourhood.
But the solicitor will be about wi' her one of these days."

"Oh! you are too cruel--you really should send the love-letter;
consider, the older she is, the poor soul has the less time to lose."

But this was a topic on which Mrs. Pott understood no jesting. She was
well aware of our matron's inveteracy against her and her establishment,
and she resented it as a placeman resents the efforts of a radical. She
answered something sulkily, "That they that loosed letters should have
letters; and neither Luckie Dods, nor any of her lodgers, should ever
see the scrape of a pen from the St. Ronan's office, that they did not
call for and pay for."

It is probable that this declaration contained the essence of the
information which Lord Etherington had designed to extract by his
momentary flirtation with Mrs. Pott; for when, retreating as it were
from this sore subject, she asked him, in a pretty mincing tone, to try
his skill in pointing out another love-letter, he only answered
carelessly, "that in order to do that he must write her one;" and
leaving his confidential station by her little throne, he lounged
through the narrow shop, bowed slightly to Lady Penelope as he passed,
and issued forth upon the parade, where he saw a spectacle which might
well have appalled a man of less self-possession than himself.

Just as he left the shop, little Miss Digges entered almost breathless,
with the emotion of impatience and of curiosity. "Oh la! my lady, what
do you stay here for?--Mr. Tyrrel has just entered the other end of the
parade this moment, and Lord Etherington is walking that way--they must
meet each other.--O lord! come, come away, and see them meet!--I wonder
if they'll speak--I hope they won't fight--Oh la! do come, my lady!"

"I must go with you, I find," said Lady Penelope; "it is the strangest
thing, my love, that curiosity of yours about other folk's matters--I
wonder what your mamma will say to it."

"Oh! never mind mamma--nobody minds her--papa, nor nobody--Do come,
dearest Lady Pen, or I will run away by myself.--Mr. Chatterly, do make
her come!"

"I must come, it seems," said Lady Penelope, "or I shall have a pretty
account of you."

But, notwithstanding this rebuke, and forgetting, at the same time, that
people of quality ought never to seem in a hurry, Lady Penelope, with
such of her satellites as she could hastily collect around her, tripped
along the parade with unusual haste, in sympathy, doubtless, with Miss
Digges's curiosity, as her ladyship declared she had none of her own.

Our friend, the traveller, had also caught up Miss Digges's information;
and, breaking off abruptly an account of the Great Pyramid, which had
been naturally introduced by the mention of the Thebais, and echoing the
fair alarmist's words, "hope they won't fight," he rushed upon the
parade, and bustled along as hard as his sturdy supporters could carry
him. If the gravity of the traveller, and the delicacy of Lady Penelope,
were surprised into unwonted haste from their eagerness to witness the
meeting of Tyrrel and Lord Etherington, it may be well supposed that
the decorum of the rest of the company was a slender restraint on their
curiosity, and that they hurried to be present at the expected scene,
with the alacrity of gentlemen of the fancy hastening to a set-to.

In truth, though the meeting afforded little sport to those who expected
dire conclusions, it was, nevertheless, sufficiently interesting to
those spectators who are accustomed to read the language of suppressed
passion betraying itself at the moment when the parties are most
desirous to conceal it.

Tyrrel had been followed by several loiterers so soon as he entered the
public walk; and their number was now so much reinforced, that he saw
himself with pain and displeasure the centre of a sort of crowd who
watched his motions. Sir Bingo and Captain MacTurk were the first to
bustle through it, and to address him with as much politeness as they
could command.

"Servant, sir," mumbled Sir Bingo, extending the right hand of
fellowship and reconciliation, ungloved. "Servant--sorry that anything
should have happened between us--very sorry, on my word."

"No more need be said, sir," replied Tyrrel; "the whole is forgotten."

"Very handsome, indeed--quite the civil thing--hope to meet you often,
sir."--And here the knight was silent.

Meanwhile, the more verbose Captain proceeded, "Och, py Cot, and it was
an awfu' mistake, and I could draw the penknife across my finger for
having written the word.--By my sowl, and I scratched it till I
scratched a hole in the paper.--Och! that I should live to do an uncivil
thing by a gentleman that had got himself hit in an honourable affair!
But you should have written, my dear; for how the devil could we guess
that you were so well provided in quarrels, that you had to settle two
in one day!"

"I was hurt in an unexpected--an accidental manner, Captain MacTurk. I
did not write, because there was something, in my circumstances at the
moment which required secrecy; but I was resolved, the instant I
recovered, to put myself to rights in your good opinion."

"Och! and you have done that," said the Captain, nodding sagaciously;
"for Captain Jekyl, who is a fine child, has put us all up to your
honourable conduct. They are pretty boys, these guardsmen, though they
may play a little fine sometimes, and think more of themselves than
peradventure they need for to do, in comparison with us of the
line.--But he let us know all about it--and, though he said not a word
of a certain fine lord, with his footpad, and his hurt, and what not,
yet we all knew how to lay that and that together.--And if the law would
not right you, and there were bad words between you, why should not two
gentlemen right themselves? And as to your being kinsmen, why should not
kinsmen behave to each other like men of honour? Only, some say you are
father's sons, and that _is_ something too near.--I had once thoughts of
calling out my uncle Dougal myself, for there is no saying where the
line should be drawn; but I thought, on the whole, there should be no
fighting, as there is no marriage, within the forbidden degrees. As for
first cousins--Wheugh!--that's all fair--fire away, Flanigan!--But here
is my lord, just upon us, like a stag of the first head, and the whole
herd behind him."

Tyrrel stepped forward a little before his officious companions, his
complexion rapidly changing into various shades, like that of one who
forces himself to approach and touch some animal or reptile for which he
entertains that deep disgust and abhorrence which was anciently ascribed
to constitutional antipathy. This appearance of constraint put upon
himself, with the changes which it produced on his face, was calculated
to prejudice him somewhat in the opinion of the spectators, when
compared with the steady, stately, yet, at the same time, easy demeanour
of the Earl of Etherington, who was equal to any man in England in the
difficult art of putting a good countenance on a bad cause. He met
Tyrrel with an air as unembarrassed, as it was cold; and, while he paid
the courtesy of a formal and distant salutation, he said aloud, "I
presume, Mr. Tyrrel de Martigny, that, since you have not thought fit to
avoid this awkward meeting, you are disposed to remember our family
connexion so far as to avoid making sport for the good company?"

"You have nothing to apprehend from my passion, Mr. Bulmer," replied
Tyrrel, "if you can assure yourself against the consequences of your
own."

"I am glad of that," said the Earl, with the same composure, but sinking
his voice so as only to be heard by Tyrrel; "and as we may not again in
a hurry hold any communication together, I take the freedom to remind
you, that I sent you a proposal of accommodation by my friend, Mr.
Jekyl."

"It was inadmissible," said Tyrrel--"altogether inadmissible--both from
reasons which you may guess, and others which it is needless to
detail.--I sent you a proposition, think of it well."

"I will," replied Lord Etherington, "when I shall see it supported by
those alleged proofs, which I do not believe ever had existence."

"Your conscience holds another language from your tongue," said Tyrrel;
"but I disclaim reproaches, and decline altercation. I will let Captain
Jekyl know when I have received the papers, which, you say, are
essential to your forming an opinion on my proposal.--In the meanwhile,
do not think to deceive me. I am here for the very purpose of watching
and defeating your machinations; and, while I live, be assured they
shall never succeed.--And now, sir--or my lord--for the titles are in
your choice--fare you well."

"Hold a little," said Lord Etherington. "Since we are condemned to shock
each other's eyes, it is fit the good company should know what they are
to think of us. You are a philosopher, and do not value the opinion of
the public--a poor worldling like me is desirous to stand fair with
it.--Gentlemen," he continued, raising his voice, "Mr. Winterblossom,
Captain MacTurk, Mr.--what is his name, Jekyl?--Ay, Micklehen--You have,
I believe, all some notion, that this gentleman, my near relation, and
I, have some undecided claims on each other, which prevent our living
upon good terms. We do not mean, however, to disturb you with our family
quarrels; and, for my own part, while this gentleman, Mr. Tyrrel, or
whatever he may please to call himself, remains a member of this
company, my behaviour to him will be the same as to any stranger who may
have that advantage.--Good morrow to you, sir--Good morning,
gentlemen--we all meet at dinner, as usual.--Come, Jekyl."

So saying, he took Jekyl by the arm, and, gently extricating himself
from the sort of crowd, walked off, leaving most of the company
prepossessed in his favour, by the ease and apparent reasonableness of
his demeanour. Sounds of depreciation, forming themselves indistinctly
into something like the words, "my eye, and Betty Martin," did issue
from the neckcloth of Sir Bingo, but they were not much attended to; for
it had not escaped the observation of the quicksighted gentry at the
Well, that the Baronet's feelings towards the noble Earl were in the
inverse ratio of those displayed by Lady Binks, and that, though ashamed
to testify, or perhaps incapable of feeling, any anxious degree of
jealousy, his temper had been for some time considerably upon the fret;
a circumstance concerning which his fair moiety did not think it
necessary to give herself any concern.

Meanwhile, the Earl of Etherington walked onward with his confidant, in
the full triumph of successful genius.

"You see," he said, "Jekyl, that I can turn a corner with any man in
England. It was a proper blunder of yours, that you must extricate the
fellow from the mist which accident had flung around him--you might as
well have published the story of our rencontre at once, for every one
can guess it, by laying time, place, and circumstance together; but
never trouble your brains for a justification. You marked how I assumed
my natural superiority over him--towered up in the full pride of
legitimacy--silenced him even where the good company most do congregate.
This will go to Mowbray through his agent, and will put him still madder
on my alliance. I know he looks jealously on my flirtation with a
certain lady--the dasher yonder--nothing makes a man sensible of the
value of an opportunity, but the chance of losing it."

"I wish to Heaven you would give up thoughts of Miss Mowbray!" said
Jekyl; "and take Tyrrel's offer, if he has the means of making it good."

"Ay, if--if. But I am quite sure he has no such rights as he pretends
to, and that his papers are all a deception.--Why do you put your eye
upon me as fixed as if you were searching out some wonderful secret?"

"I wish I knew what to think of your real _bona fide_ belief respecting
these documents," said Jekyl, not a little puzzled by the steady and
unembarrassed air of his friend.

"Why, thou most suspicious of coxcombs," said Etherington, "what the
devil would you have me say to you?--Can I, as the lawyers say, prove a
negative? or, is it not very possible, that such things may exist,
though I have never seen or heard of them? All I can say is, that of all
men I am the most interested to deny the existence of such documents;
and, therefore, certainly will not admit of it, unless I am compelled to
do so by their being produced; nor then either, unless I am at the same
time well assured of their authenticity."

"I cannot blame you for your being hard of faith, my lord," said Jekyl;
"but still I think if you can cut out with your earldom, and your noble
hereditary estate, I would, in your case, pitch Nettlewood to the
devil."

"Yes, as you pitched your own patrimony, Jekyl; but you took care to
have the spending of it first.--What would _you_ give for such an
opportunity of piecing your fortunes by marriage?--Confess the truth."

"I might be tempted, perhaps," said Jekyl, "in my present circumstances;
but if they were what they have been, I should despise an estate that
was to be held by petticoat tenure, especially when the lady of the
manor was a sickly fantastic girl, that hated me, as this Miss Mowbray
has the bad taste to hate you."

"Umph--sickly?--no, no, she is not sickly--she is as healthy as any one
in constitution--and, on my word, I think her paleness only renders her
more interesting. The last time I saw her, I thought she might have
rivalled one of Canova's finest statues."

"Yes; but she is indifferent to you--you do not love her," said Jekyl.

"She is any thing but indifferent to me," said the Earl; "she becomes
daily more interesting--for her dislike piques me; and besides, she has
the insolence openly to defy and contemn me before her brother, and in
the eyes of all the world. I have a kind of loving hatred--a sort of
hating love for her; in short, thinking upon her is like trying to read
a riddle, and makes one make quite as many blunders, and talk just as
much nonsense. If ever I have the opportunity, I will make her pay for
all her airs."

"What airs?" said Jekyl.

"Nay, the devil may describe them, for I cannot; but, for example--Since
her brother has insisted on her receiving me, or I should rather say on
her appearing when I visit Shaws-Castle, one would think her invention
has toiled in discovering different ways of showing want of respect to
me, and dislike to my presence. Instead of dressing herself as a lady
should, especially on such occasions, she chooses some fantastic, or
old-fashioned, or negligent bedizening, which makes her at least look
odd, if it cannot make her ridiculous--such triple tiaras of
various-coloured gauze on her head--such pieces of old tapestry, I
think, instead of shawls and pelisses--such thick-soled shoes--such
tan-leather gloves--mercy upon us, Hal, the very sight of her equipment
would drive mad a whole conclave of milliners! Then her postures are so
strange--she does so stoop and lollop, as the women call it, so cross
her legs and square her arms--were the goddess of grace to look down on
her, it would put her to flight for ever!"

"And you are willing to make this awkward, ill-dressed, unmannered
dowdy, your Countess, Etherington; you, for whose critical eye half the
town dress themselves?" said Jekyl.

"It is all a trick, Hal--all an assumed character to get rid of me, to
disgust me, to baffle me; but I am not to be had so easily. The brother
is driven to despair--he bites his nails, winks, coughs, makes signs,
which she always takes up at cross-purpose.--I hope he beats her after I
go away; there would be a touch of consolation, were one but certain of
that."

"A very charitable hope, truly, and your present feelings might lead the
lady to judge what she may expect after wedlock. But," added Jekyl,
"cannot you, so skilful in fathoming every mood of the female mind,
divine some mode of engaging her in conversation?"

"Conversation!" replied the Earl; "why, ever since the shock of my first
appearance was surmounted, she has contrived to vote me a nonentity; and
that she may annihilate me completely, she has chosen, of all
occupations, that of working a stocking! From what cursed old
antediluvian, who lived before the invention of spinning-jennies, she
learned this craft, Heaven only knows; but there she sits, with her work
pinned to her knee--not the pretty taper silken fabric, with which
Jeannette of Amiens coquetted, while Tristram Shandy was observing her
progress; but a huge worsted bag, designed for some flat-footed old
pauper, with heels like an elephant--And there she squats, counting all
the stitches as she works, and refusing to speak, or listen, or look up,
under pretence that it disturbs her calculation!"

"An elegant occupation, truly, and I wonder it does not work a cure upon
her noble admirer," said Jekyl.

"Confound her--no--she shall not trick me. And then amid this
affectation of vulgar stolidity, there break out such sparkles of
exultation, when she thinks she has succeeded in baffling her brother,
and in plaguing me, that, by my faith, Hal, I could not tell, were it at
my option, whether to kiss or to cuff her."

"You are determined to go on with this strange affair, then?" said
Jekyl.

"On--on--on, my boy!--Clara and Nettlewood for ever!" answered the Earl.
"Besides this brother of hers provokes me too--he does not do for me
half what he might--what he ought to do. He stands on points of honour,
forsooth, this broken-down horse-jockey, who swallowed my two thousand
pounds as a pointer would a pat of butter.--I can see he wishes to play
fast and loose--has some suspicions, like you, Hal, upon the strength of
my right to my father's titles and estate; as if, with the tithe of the
Nettlewood property alone, I would not be too good a match for one of
his beggarly family. He must scheme, forsooth, this half-baked Scotch
cake!--He must hold off and on, and be cautious, and wait the result,
and try conclusions with me, this lump of oatmeal dough!--I am much
tempted to make an example of him in the course of my proceedings."

"Why, this is vengeance horrible and dire," said Jekyl; "yet I give up
the brother to you; he is a conceited coxcomb, and deserves a lesson.
But I would fain intercede for the sister."

"We shall see"--replied the Earl; and then suddenly, "I tell you what it
is, Hal; her caprices are so diverting, that I sometimes think out of
mere contradiction, I almost love her; at least, if she would but clear
old scores, and forget one unlucky prank of mine, it should be her own
fault if I did not make her a happy woman."

FOOTNOTE:

[II-8] "Rob as a footpad."



CHAPTER XIII.

A DEATH-BED.

    It comes--it wrings me in my parting hour,
    The long-hid crime--the well-disguised guilt.
    Bring me some holy priest to lay the spectre!

_Old Play._


The general expectation of the company had been disappointed by the
pacific termination of the meeting betwixt the Earl of Etherington and
Tyrrel, the anticipation of which had created so deep a sensation. It
had been expected that some appalling scene would have taken place;
instead of which, each party seemed to acquiesce in a sullen neutrality,
and leave the war to be carried on by their lawyers. It was generally
understood that the cause was removed out of the courts of Bellona into
that of Themis; and although the litigants continued to inhabit the same
neighbourhood, and once or twice met at the public walks or public
table, they took no notice of each other, farther than by exchanging on
such occasions, a grave and distant bow.

In the course of two or three days, people ceased to take interest in a
feud so coldly conducted; and if they thought of it at all, it was but
to wonder that both the parties should persevere in residing near the
Spa, and in chilling, with their unsocial behaviour, a party met
together for the purposes of health and amusement.

But the brothers, as the reader is aware, however painful their
occasional meetings might be, had the strongest reasons to remain in
each other's neighbourhood--Lord Etherington to conduct his design upon
Miss Mowbray, Tyrrel to disconcert his plan, if possible, and both to
await the answer which should be returned by the house in London, who
were depositaries of the papers left by the late Earl.

Jekyl, anxious to assist his friend as much as possible, made in the
meantime a visit to old Touchwood at the Aultoun, expecting to find him
as communicative as he had formerly been on the subject of the quarrel
betwixt the brothers, and trusting to discover, by dint of address,
whence he had derived his information concerning the affairs of the
noble house of Etherington. But the confidence which he had been induced
to expect on the part of the old traveller was not reposed. Ferdinand
Mendez Pinto, as the Earl called him, had changed his mind, or was not
in the vein of communication. The only proof of his confidence worth
mentioning, was his imparting to the young officer a valuable receipt
for concocting curry-powder.

Jekyl was therefore reduced to believe that Touchwood, who appeared all
his life to have been a great intermeddler in other people's matters,
had puzzled out the information which he appeared to possess of Lord
Etherington's affairs, through some of those obscure sources whence very
important secrets do frequently, to the astonishment and confusion of
those whom they concern, escape to the public. He thought this the more
likely, as Touchwood was by no means critically nice in his society, but
was observed to converse as readily with a gentleman's gentleman, as
with the gentleman to whom he belonged, and with a lady's attendant, as
with the lady herself. He that will stoop to this sort of society, who
is fond of tattle, being at the same time disposed to pay some
consideration for gratification of his curiosity, and not over
scrupulous respecting its accuracy, may always command a great quantity
of private anecdote. Captain Jekyl naturally enough concluded, that this
busy old man became in some degree master of other people's affairs by
such correspondences as these; and he could himself bear witness to his
success in cross-examination, as he had been surprised into an avowal of
the rencontre between the brothers, by an insidious observation of the
said Touchwood. He reported, therefore, to the Earl, after this
interview, that, on the whole, he thought he had no reason to fear much
on the subject of the traveller, who, though he had become acquainted,
by some means or other, with some leading facts of his remarkable
history; only possessed them in a broken, confused, and desultory
manner, insomuch that he seemed to doubt whether the parties in the
expected lawsuit were brothers or cousins, and appeared totally ignorant
of the facts on which it was to be founded.

It was the next day after this _éclaircissement_ on the subject of
Touchwood, that Lord Etherington dropped as usual into the bookseller's
shop, got his papers, and skimming his eye over the shelf on which lay,
till called for, the postponed letters destined for the Aultoun, saw
with a beating heart the smart post-mistress toss amongst them, with an
air of sovereign contempt, a pretty large packet, addressed to Francis
Tyrrel, Esq. &c. He withdrew his eyes, as if conscious that even to have
looked on this important parcel might engender some suspicion of his
purpose, or intimate the deep interest which he took in the contents of
the missive which was so slightly treated by his friend Mrs. Pott. At
this moment the door of the shop opened, and Lady Penelope Penfeather
entered, with her eternal _pendante_, the little Miss Digges.

"Have you seen Mr. Mowbray?--Has Mr. Mowbray of St. Ronan's been down
this morning?--Do you know any thing of Mr. Mowbray, Mrs. Pott?" were
questions which the lettered lady eagerly huddled on the back of each
other, scarcely giving time to the lady of letters to return a decided
negative to all and each of them.

"Mr. Mowbray was not about--was not coming there this morning--his
servant had just called for letters and papers, and announced as much."

"Good Heaven! how unfortunate!" said Lady Penelope, with a deep sigh,
and sinking down on one of the little sofas in an attitude of shocking
desolation, which called the instant attention of Mr. Pott and his good
woman, the first uncorking a small phial of salts, for he was a
pharmacopolist as well as vender of literature and transmitter of
letters, and the other hastening for a glass of water. A strong
temptation thrilled from Lord Etherington's eyes to his finger-ends. Two
steps might have brought him within arm's-length of the unwatched
packet, on the contents of which, in all probability, rested the hope
and claims of his rival in honour and fortune; and, in the general
confusion, was it impossible to possess himself of it unobserved? But
no--no--no--the attempt was too dreadfully dangerous to be risked; and,
passing from one extreme to another, he felt as if he was incurring
suspicion by suffering Lady Penelope to play off her airs of affected
distress and anxiety, without seeming to take that interest in them
which her rank at least might be supposed to demand. Stung with this
apprehension, he hastened to express himself so anxiously on the
subject, and to demonstrate so busily his wish to assist her ladyship,
that he presently stood committed a great deal farther than he had
intended. Lady Penelope was infinitely obliged to his lordship--indeed,
it was her character in general not to permit herself to be overcome by
circumstances; but something had happened, so strange, so embarrassing,
so melancholy, that she owned it had quite overcome her--notwithstanding,
she had at all times piqued herself on supporting her own distresses,
better than she was able to suppress her emotions in viewing those of
others.

"Could he be of any use?" Lord Etherington asked. "She had enquired
after Mr. Mowbray of St. Ronan's--his servant was at her ladyship's
service, if she chose to send to command his attendance."

"Oh! no, no!" said Lady Penelope; "I dare say, my dear lord, you will
answer the purpose a great deal better than Mr. Mowbray--that is,
provided you are a Justice of Peace."

"A Justice of Peace!" said Lord Etherington, much surprised; "I am in
the commission unquestionably, but not for any Scotch county."

"O, that does not signify," said Lady Penelope; "and if you will trust
yourself with me a little way, I will explain to you how you can do one
of the most charitable, and kind, and generous things in the world."

Lord Etherington's delight in the exercise of charity, kindness, and
generosity, was not so exuberant as to prevent his devising some means
for evading Lady Penelope's request, when, looking through the
sash-door, he had a distant glance of his servant Solmes approaching the
Post-office.

I have heard of a sheep-stealer who had rendered his dog so skilful an
accomplice in his nefarious traffic, that he used to send him out to
commit acts of felony by himself, and had even contrived to impress on
the poor cur the caution that he should not, on such occasions, seem
even to recognise his master, if they met accidentally.[II-9] Apparently,
Lord Etherington conducted himself upon a similar principle; for he had
no sooner a glimpse of his agent, than he seemed to feel the necessity
of leaving the stage free for his machinations.

"My servant," he said, with as much indifference as he could assume,
"will call for my letters--I must attend Lady Penelope;" and, instantly
proffering his services as Justice of the Peace, or in whatever other
quality she chose to employ them, he hastily presented his arm, and
scarce gave her ladyship time to recover from her state of languor to
the necessary degree of activity, ere he hurried her from the shop; and,
with her thin hatchet-face chattering close to his ear, her yellow and
scarlet feathers crossing his nose, her lean right honourable arm
hooking his elbow, he braved the suppressed titters and sneers of all
the younger women whom he met as they traversed the parade. One glance
of intelligence, though shot at a distance, passed betwixt his lordship
and Solmes, as the former left the public walk under the guidance of
Lady Penelope, his limbs indeed obeying her pleasure, and his ears
dinned with her attempts to explain the business in question, but his
mind totally indifferent where he was going, or ignorant on what
purpose, and exclusively occupied with the packet in Mrs. Pott's heap of
postponed letters, and its probable fate.

At length an effort of recollection made Lord Etherington sensible that
his abstraction must seem strange, and, as his conscience told him, even
suspicious in the eyes of his companion; putting therefore the necessary
degree of constraint upon himself, he expressed, for the first time,
curiosity to know where their walk was to terminate. It chanced, that
this was precisely the question which he needed not to have asked, if he
had paid but the slightest attention to the very voluble communications
of her ladyship, which had all turned upon this subject.

"Now, my dear lord," she said, "I must believe you lords of the creation
think us poor simple women the vainest fools alive. I have told you how
much pain it costs me to speak about my little charities, and yet you
come to make me tell you the whole story over again. But I hope, after
all, your lordship is not surprised at what I have thought it my duty to
do in this sad affair--perhaps I have listened too much to the dictates
of my own heart, which are apt to be so deceitful."

On the watch to get at something explanatory, yet afraid, by demanding
it directly, to show that the previous tide of narrative and pathos had
been lost on an inattentive ear, Lord Etherington could only say, that
Lady Penelope could not err in acting according to the dictates of her
own judgment.

Still the compliment had not sauce enough for the lady's sated palate;
so, like a true glutton of praise, she began to help herself with the
soup-ladle.

"Ah! judgment?--how is it you men know us so little, that you think we
can pause to weigh sentiment in the balance of judgment?--that is
expecting rather too much from us poor victims of our feelings. So that
you must really hold me excused if I forgot the errors of this guilty
and unhappy creature, when I looked upon her wretchedness--Not that I
would have my little friend, Miss Digges, or your lordship, suppose that
I am capable of palliating the fault, while I pity the poor, miserable
sinner. Oh, no--Walpole's verses express beautifully what one ought to
feel on such occasions--

    'For never was the gentle breast
      Insensible to human woes;
    Feeling, though firm, it melts distress'd
      For weaknesses it never knows.'"

"Most accursed of all _précieuses_," thought his lordship, "when wilt
thou, amidst all thy chatter, utter one word sounding like sense or
information!"

But, Lady Penelope went on--"If you knew, my lord, how I lament my
limited means on those occasions! but I have gathered something among
the good people at the Well. I asked that selfish wretch, Winterblossom,
to walk down with me to view her distress, and the heartless beast told
me he was afraid of infection!--infection from a puer--puerperal fever!
I should not perhaps pronounce the word, but science is of no
sex--however, I have always used thieves' vinegar essence, and never
have gone farther than the threshold."

Whatever were Etherington's faults, he did not want charity, so far as
it consists in giving alms.

"I am sorry," he said, taking out his purse, "your ladyship should not
have applied to me."

"Pardon me, my lord, we only beg from our friends; and your lordship is
so constantly engaged with Lady Binks, that we have rarely the pleasure
of seeing you in what I call _my_ little circle."

Lord Etherington, without further answer, tendered a couple of guineas,
and observed, that the poor woman should have medical attendance.

"Why, so I say," answered Lady Penelope; "and I asked the brute
Quackleben, who, I am sure, owes me some gratitude, to go and see her;
but the sordid monster answered, 'Who was to pay him?'--He grows every
day more intolerable, now that he seems sure of marrying that fat blowzy
widow. He could not, I am sure, expect that I--out of my pittance--And
besides, my lord, is there not a law that the parish, or the county, or
the something or other, shall pay for physicking the poor?"

"We will find means to secure the Doctor's attendance," said Lord
Etherington; "and I believe my best way will be to walk back to the
Well, and send him to wait on the patient. I am afraid I can be of
little use to a poor woman in a childbed fever."

"Puerperal, my lord, puerperal," said Lady Penelope, in a tone of
correction.

"In a puerperal fever, then," said Lord Etherington; "why, what can I do
to help her?"

"Oh! my lord, you have forgotten that this Anne Heggie, that I told you
of, came here with one child in her arms--and another--in short, about
to become a mother again--and settled herself in this miserable hut I
told you of--and some people think the minister should have sent her to
her own parish; but he is a strange, soft-headed, sleepy sort of man,
not over active in his parochial duties. However, there she settled, and
there was something about her quite beyond the style of a common pauper,
my lord--not at all the disgusting sort of person that you give a
sixpence to while you look another way--but some one that seemed to have
seen better days--one that, as Shakspeare says, could a tale
unfold--though, indeed, I have never thoroughly learned her
history--only, that to-day, as I called to know how she was, and sent my
maid into her hut with some trifle, not worth mentioning, I find there
is something hangs about her mind concerning the Mowbray family here of
St. Ronan's--and my woman says the poor creature is dying, and is raving
either for Mr. Mowbray or for some magistrate to receive a declaration;
and so I have given you the trouble to come with me, that we may get out
of the poor creature, if possible, whatever she has got to say.--I hope
it is not murder--I hope not--though young St. Ronan's has been a
strange, wild, daring, thoughtless creature--_sgherro insigne_, as the
Italian says.--But here is the hut, my lord--pray, walk in."

The mention of the St. Ronan's family, and of a secret relating to them,
banished the thoughts which Lord Etherington began to entertain of
leaving Lady Penelope to execute her works of devoted charity without
his assistance. It was now with an interest equal to her own, that he
stood before a most miserable hut, where the unfortunate female, her
distresses not greatly relieved by Lady Penelope's ostentatious bounty,
had resided both previous to her confinement, and since that event had
taken place, with an old woman, one of the parish poor, whose miserable
dole the minister had augmented, that she might have some means of
assisting the stranger.

Lady Penelope lifted the latch and entered, after a momentary
hesitation, which proceeded from a struggle betwixt her fear of
infection, and her eager curiosity to know something, she could not
guess what, that might affect the Mowbrays in their honour or fortunes.
The latter soon prevailed, and she entered, followed by Lord
Etherington. The lady, like other comforters of the cabins of the poor,
proceeded to rebuke the grumbling old woman for want of order and
cleanliness--censured the food which was provided for the patient, and
enquired particularly after the wine which she had left to make caudle
with. The crone was not so dazzled with Lady Penelope's dignity or
bounty as to endure her reprimand with patience. "They that had their
bread to won wi' ae arm," she said, for the other hung powerless by her
side, "had mair to do than to soop hooses; if her leddyship wad let her
ain idle quean of a lass take the besom, she might make the house as
clean as she liked; and madam wad be a' the better of the exercise, and
wad hae done, at least, ae turn of wark at the week's end."

"Do you hear the old hag, my lord?" said Lady Penelope. "Well, the poor
are horrid ungrateful wretches--And the wine, dame--the wine?"

"The wine!--there was hardly half a mutchkin, and puir, thin, fusionless
skink it was--the wine was drank out, ye may swear--we didna fling it
ower our shouther--if ever we were to get good o't, it was by taking it
naked, and no wi' your sugar and your slaisters--I wish, for ane, I had
ne'er kend the sour smack o't. If the bedral hadna gien me a drap of
usquebaugh, I might e'en hae died of your leddyship's liquor, for"----

Lord Etherington here interrupted the grumbling crone, thrusting some
silver into her grasp, and at the same time begging her to be silent.
The hag weighed the crown-piece in her hand, and crawled to her
chimney-corner, muttering as she went,--"This is something like--this is
something like--no like rinning into the house and out of the house, and
geeing orders, like mistress and mair, and than a puir shilling again
Saturday at e'en."

So saying, she sat down to her wheel, and seized, while she spun, her
jet-black cutty pipe, from which she soon sent such clouds of vile
mundungus vapour as must have cleared the premises of Lady Penelope, had
she not been strong in purpose to share the expected confession of the
invalid. As for Miss Digges, she coughed, sneezed, retched, and finally
ran out of the cottage, declaring she could not live in such a smoke, if
it were to hear twenty sick women's last speeches; and that, besides,
she was sure to know all about it from Lady Penelope, if it was ever so
little worth telling over again.

Lord Etherington was now standing beside the miserable flock-bed, in
which lay the poor patient, distracted, in what seemed to be her dying
moments, with the peevish clamour of the elder infant, to which she
could only reply by low moans, turning her looks as well as she could
from its ceaseless whine to the other side of her wretched couch, where
lay the unlucky creature to which she had last given birth; its
shivering limbs imperfectly covered with a blanket, its little features
already swollen and bloated, and its eyes scarce open, apparently
insensible to the evils of a state from which it seemed about to be
speedily released.

"You are very ill, poor woman," said Lord Etherington; "I am told you
desire a magistrate."

"It was Mr. Mowbray of St. Ronan's, whom I desired to see--John Mowbray
of St. Ronan's--the lady promised to bring him here."

"I am not Mowbray of St. Ronan's," said Lord Etherington; "but I am a
justice of peace, and a member of the legislature--I am, moreover, Mr.
Mowbray's particular friend, if I can be of use to you in any of these
capacities."

The poor woman remained long silent, and when she spoke it was
doubtfully.

"Is my Lady Penelope Penfeather there?" she said, straining her darkened
eyes.

"Her ladyship is present, and within hearing," said Lord Etherington.

"My case is the worse," answered the dying woman, for so she seemed, "if
I must communicate such a secret as mine to a man of whom I know
nothing, and a woman of whom I only know that she wants discretion."

"I--I want discretion!" said Lady Penelope; but at a signal from Lord
Etherington she seemed to restrain herself; nor did the sick woman,
whose powers of observation were greatly impaired, seem to be aware of
the interruption. She spoke, notwithstanding her situation, with an
intelligible and even emphatic voice; her manner in a great measure
betraying the influence of the fever, and her tone and language seeming
much superior to her most miserable condition.

"I am not the abject creature which I seem," she said; "at least, I was
not born to be so. I wish I _were_ that utter abject! I wish I were a
wretched pauper of the lowest class--a starving vagabond--a wifeless
mother--ignorance and insensibility would make me bear my lot like the
outcast animal that dies patiently on the side of the common, where it
has been half-starved during its life. But I--but I--born and bred to
better things, have not lost the memory of them, and they make my
present condition--my shame--my poverty--my infamy--the sight of my
dying babes--the sense that my own death is coming fast on--they make
these things a foretaste of hell!"

Lady Penelope's self-conceit and affectation were broken down by this
fearful exordium. She sobbed, shuddered, and, for once perhaps in her
life, felt the real, not the assumed necessity, of putting her
handkerchief to her eyes. Lord Etherington also was moved.

"Good woman," he said, "as far as relieving your personal wants can
mitigate your distress, I will see that that is fully performed, and
that your poor children are attended to."

"May God bless you!" said the poor woman, with a glance at the wretched
forms beside her; "and may you," she added, after a momentary pause,
"deserve the blessing of God, for it is bestowed in vain on those who
are unworthy of it!"

Lord Etherington felt, perhaps, a twinge of conscience; for he said,
something hastily, "Pray go on, good woman, if you really have any thing
to communicate to me as a magistrate--it is time your condition was
somewhat mended, and I will cause you to be cared for directly."

"Stop yet a moment," she said; "let me unload my conscience before I go
hence, for no earthly relief will long avail to prolong my time here.--I
was well born, the more my present shame! well educated, the greater my
present guilt!--I was always, indeed, poor, but I felt not of the ills
of poverty. I only thought of it when my vanity demanded idle and
expensive gratifications, for real wants I knew none. I was companion of
a young lady of higher rank than my own, my relative however, and one of
such exquisite kindness of disposition, that she treated me as a sister,
and would have shared with me all that she had on earth----I scarce
think I can go farther with my story!--something rises to my throat when
I recollect how I rewarded her sisterly love!--I was elder than Clara--I
should have directed her reading, and confirmed her understanding; but
my own bent led me to peruse only works, which, though they burlesque
nature, are seductive to the imagination. We read these follies
together, until we had fashioned out for ourselves a little world of
romance, and prepared ourselves for a maze of adventures. Clara's
imaginations were as pure as those of angels; mine were--but it is
unnecessary to tell them. The fiend, always watchful, presented a
tempter at the moment when it was most dangerous."

She paused here, as if she found difficulty in expressing herself; and
Lord Etherington, turning, with great appearance of interest, to Lady
Penelope, began to enquire, "Whether it were quite agreeable to her
ladyship to remain any longer an ear-witness of this unfortunate's
confession?--it seems to be verging on some things--things that it might
be unpleasant for your ladyship to hear."

"I was just forming the same opinion, my lord; and, to say truth, was
about to propose to your lordship to withdraw, and leave me alone with
the poor woman. My sex will make her necessary communications more frank
in your lordship's absence."

"True, madam; but then I am called here in my capacity of a magistrate."

"Hush!" said Lady Penelope; "she speaks."

"They say every woman that yields, makes herself a slave to her seducer;
but I sold my liberty not to a man, but a demon! He made me serve him in
his vile schemes against my friend and patroness--and oh! he found in me
an agent too willing, from mere envy, to destroy the virtue which I had
lost myself. Do not listen to me any more--Go, and leave me to my fate!
I am the most detestable wretch that ever lived--detestable to myself
worst of all, because even in my penitence there is a secret whisper
that tells me, that were I as I have been, I would again act over all
the wickedness I have done, and much worse. Oh! for Heaven's assistance,
to crush the wicked thought!"

She closed her eyes, folded her emaciated hands, and held them upwards
in the attitude of one who prays internally; presently the hands
separated, and fell gently down on the miserable couch; but her eyes did
not open, nor was there the slightest sign of motion in the features.
Lady Penelope shrieked faintly, hid her eyes, and hurried back from the
bed, while Lord Etherington, his looks darkening with a complication of
feelings, remained gazing on the poor woman, as if eager to discern
whether the spark of life was totally extinct. Her grim old assistant
hurried to the bedside, with some spirits in a broken glass.

"Have ye no had pennyworths for your charity?" she said, in spiteful
scorn. "Ye buy the very life o' us wi' your shillings and sixpences,
your groats and your boddles--ye hae garr'd the puir wretch speak till
she swarfs, and now ye stand as if ye never saw a woman in a dwam
before? Let me till her wi' the dram--mony words mickle drought, ye
ken--Stand out o' my gate, my leddy, if sae be that ye are a leddy;
there is little use of the like of you when there is death in the pot."

Lady Penelope, half affronted, but still more frightened by the manners
of the old hag, now gladly embraced Lord Etherington's renewed offer to
escort her from the hut. He left it not, however, without bestowing an
additional gratuity on the old woman, who received it with a whining
benediction.

"The Almighty guide your course through the troubles of this wicked
warld--and the muckle deevil blaw wind in your sails," she added, in her
natural tone, as the guests vanished from her miserable threshold. "A
wheen cork-headed, barmy-brained gowks! that wunna let puir folk sae
muckle as die in quiet, wi' their sossings and their soopings."[II-10]

"This poor creature's declaration," said Lord Etherington to Lady
Penelope, "seems to refer to matters which the law has nothing to do
with, and which, perhaps, as they seem to implicate the peace of a
family of respectability, and the character of a young lady, we ought to
enquire no farther after."

"I differ from your lordship," said Lady Penelope; "I differ
extremely--I suppose you guess whom her discourse touched upon?"

"Indeed, your ladyship does my acuteness too much honour."

"Did she not mention a Christian name?" said Lady Penelope; "your
lordship is strangely dull this morning!"

"A Christian name?--No, none that I heard--yes, she said something
about--a Catherine, I think it was."

"Catherine!" answered the lady; "No, my lord, it was Clara--rather a
rare name in this country, and belonging, I think, to a young lady of
whom your lordship should know something, unless your evening
flirtations with Lady Binks have blotted entirely out of your memory
your morning visits to Shaws-Castle. You are a bold man, my lord. I
would advise you to include Mrs. Blower among the objects of your
attention, and then you will have maid, wife, and widow upon your list."

"Upon my honour, your ladyship is too severe," said Lord Etherington;
"you surround yourself every evening with all that is clever and
accomplished among the people here, and then you ridicule a poor
secluded monster, who dare not approach your charmed circle, because he
seeks for some amusement elsewhere. This is to tyrannize and not to
reign--it is Turkish despotism!"

"Ah! my lord, I know you well, my lord," said Lady Penelope--"Sorry
would your lordship be, had you not power to render yourself welcome to
any circle which you may please to approach."

"That is to say," answered the lord, "you will pardon me if I intrude on
your ladyship's coterie this evening?"

"There is no society which Lord Etherington can think of frequenting,
where he will not be a welcome guest."

"I will plead then at once my pardon and privilege this evening--And
now," (speaking as if he had succeeded in establishing some confidence
with her ladyship,) "what do you really think of this blind story?"

"O, I must believe it concerns Miss Mowbray. She was always an odd
girl--something about her I could never endure--a sort of
effrontery--that is, perhaps, a harsh word, but a kind of assurance--an
air of confidence--so that though I kept on a footing with her, because
she was an orphan girl of good family, and because I really knew nothing
positively bad of her, yet she sometimes absolutely shocked me."

"Your ladyship, perhaps, would not think it right to give publicity to
the story? at least, till you know exactly what it is," said the Earl,
in a tone of suggestion.

"Depend upon it, that it is quite the worst, the very worst--You heard
the woman say that she had exposed Clara to ruin--and you know she must
have meant Clara Mowbray, because she was so anxious to tell the story
to her brother, St. Ronan's."

"Very true--I did not think of that," answered Lord Etherington; "still
it would be hard on the poor girl if it should get abroad."

"O, it will never get abroad for me," said Lady Penelope; "I would not
tell the very wind of it. But then I cannot meet Miss Mowbray as
formerly--I have a station in life to maintain, my lord--and I am under
the necessity of being select in my society--it is a duty I owe the
public, if it were even not my own inclination."

"Certainly, my Lady Penelope," said Lord Etherington; "but then
consider, that, in a place where all eyes are necessarily observant of
your ladyship's behaviour, the least coldness on your part to Miss
Mowbray--and, after all, we have nothing like assurance of any thing
being wrong there--would ruin her with the company here, and with the
world at large."

"Oh! my lord," answered Lady Penelope, "as for the truth of the story, I
have some private reasons of my own for 'holding the strange tale
devoutly true;' for I had a mysterious hint from a very worthy, but a
very singular man, (your lordship knows how I adore originality,) the
clergyman of the parish, who made me aware there was something wrong
about Miss Clara--something that--your lordship will excuse my speaking
more plainly,--Oh, no!--I fear--I fear it is all too true--You know Mr.
Cargill, I suppose, my lord?"

"Yes--no--I--I think I have seen him," said Lord Etherington. "But how
came the lady to make the parson her father-confessor?--they have no
auricular confession in the Kirk--it must have been with the purpose of
marriage, I presume--let us hope that it took place--perhaps it really
was so--did he, Cargill--the minister, I mean--say any thing of such a
matter?"

"Not a word--not a word--I see where you are, my lord; you would put a
good face on't.--

    'They call'd it marriage, by that specious name
    To veil the crime, and sanctify the shame.'

Queen Dido for that. How the clergyman came into the secret I cannot
tell--he is a very close man. But I know he will not hear of Miss
Mowbray being married to any one, unquestionably because he knows that,
in doing so, she would introduce disgrace into some honest family--and,
truly, I am much of his mind, my lord."

"Perhaps Mr. Cargill may know the lady is privately married already,"
said the Earl; "I think that is the more natural inference, begging your
ladyship's pardon for presuming to differ in opinion."

Lady Penelope seemed determined not to take this view of the case.

"No, no--no, I tell you," she replied; "she cannot be married, for if
she were married, how could the poor wretch say that she was
ruined?--You know there is a difference betwixt ruin and marriage."

"Some people are said to have found them synonymous, Lady Penelope,"
answered the Earl.

"You are smart on me, my lord; but still, in common parlance, when we
say a woman is ruined, we mean quite the contrary of her being
married--it is impossible for me to be more explicit upon such a topic,
my lord."

"I defer to your ladyship's better judgment," said Lord Etherington. "I
only entreat you to observe a little caution in this business--I will
make the strictest enquiries of this woman, and acquaint you with the
result; and I hope, out of regard to the respectable family of St.
Ronan's, your ladyship will be in no hurry to intimate any thing to Miss
Mowbray's prejudice."

"I certainly am no person to spread scandal, my lord," answered the
lady, drawing herself up; "at the same time, I must say, the Mowbrays
have little claim on me for forbearance. I am sure I was the first
person to bring this Spa into fashion, which has been a matter of such
consequence to their estate; and yet Mr. Mowbray set himself against me,
my lord, in every possible sort of way, and encouraged the under-bred
people about him to behave very strangely.--There was the business of
building the Belvidere, which he would not permit to be done out of the
stock-purse of the company, because I had given the workmen the plan and
the orders--and then, about the tea-room--and the hour for beginning
dancing--and about the subscription for Mr. Rymour's new Tale of
Chivalry--in short, I owe no consideration to Mr. Mowbray of St.
Ronan's."

"But the poor young lady?" said Lord Etherington.

"Oh! the poor young lady?--the poor young lady can be as saucy as a rich
young lady, I promise you.--There was a business in which she used me
scandalously, Lord Etherington--it was about a very trifling matter--a
shawl. Nobody minds dress less than I do, my lord; I thank Heaven my
thoughts turn upon very different topics--but it is in trifles that
disrespect and unkindness are shown; and I have had a full share of both
from Miss Clara, besides a good deal of impertinence from her brother
upon the same subject."

"There is but one way remains," thought the Earl, as they approached the
Spa, "and that is to work on the fears of this d--d vindictive
blue-stocking'd wild-cat.--Your ladyship," he said aloud, "is aware what
severe damages have been awarded in late cases where something
approaching to scandal has been traced to ladies of consideration--the
privileges of the tea-table have been found insufficient to protect some
fair critics against the consequences of too frank and liberal
animadversion upon the characters of their friends. So pray, remember,
that as yet we know very little on this subject."

Lady Penelope loved money, and feared the law; and this hint, fortified
by her acquaintance with Mowbray's love of his sister, and his irritable
and revengeful disposition, brought her in a moment much nearer the
temper in which Lord Etherington wished to leave her. She protested,
that no one could be more tender than she of the fame of the
unfortunate, even supposing their guilt was fully proved--promised
caution on the subject of the pauper's declaration, and hoped Lord
Etherington would join her tea-party early in the evening, as she wished
to make him acquainted with one or two of her _protegés_, whom, she was
sure, his lordship would find deserving of his advice and countenance.
Being by this time at the door of her own apartment, her ladyship took
leave of the Earl with a most gracious smile.

FOOTNOTES:

[II-9] Note I.

[II-10] Note II.



CHAPTER XIV.

DISAPPOINTMENT.

    On the lee-beam lies the land, boys,
      See all clear to reef each course;
    Let the fore-sheet go, don't mind, boys,
      Though the weather should be worse.

_The Storm._


"It darkens round me like a tempest," thought Lord Etherington, as, with
slow step, folded arms, and his white hat slouched over his brows, he
traversed the short interval of space betwixt his own apartments and
those of the Lady Penelope. In a buck of the old school, one of
Congreve's men of wit and pleasure about town, this would have been a
departure from character; but the present fine man does not derogate
from his quality, even by exhibiting all the moody and gentlemanlike
solemnity of Master Stephen.[II-C] So, Lord Etherington was at liberty to
carry on his reflections, without attracting observation.--"I have put a
stopper into the mouth of that old vinegar-cruet of quality, but the
acidity of her temper will soon dissolve the charm--And what to do?"

As he looked round him, he saw his trusty valet Solmes, who, touching
his hat with due respect, said, as he passed him, "Your lordship's
letters are in your private dispatch-box."

Simple as these words were, and indifferent the tone in which they were
spoken, their import made Lord Etherington's heart bound as if his fate
had depended on the accents. He intimated no farther interest in the
communication, however, than to desire Solmes to be below, in case he
should ring; and with these words entered his apartment, and barred and
bolted the door, even before he looked on the table where his
dispatch-box was placed.

Lord Etherington had, as is usual, one key to the box which held his
letters, his confidential servant being intrusted with the other; so
that, under the protection of a patent lock, his dispatches escaped all
risk of being tampered with,--a precaution not altogether unnecessary on
the part of those who frequent hotels and lodging-houses.

"By your leave, Mr. Bramah," said the Earl, as he applied the key,
jesting, as it were, with his own agitation, as he would have done with
that of a third party. The lid was raised, and displayed the packet, the
appearance and superscription of which had attracted his observation but
a short while before in the post-office. _Then_ he would have given much
to be possessed of the opportunity which was now in his power; but many
pause on the brink of a crime, who have contemplated it at a distance
without scruple. Lord Etherington's first impulse had led him to poke
the fire; and he held in his hand the letter which he was more than half
tempted to commit, without even breaking the seal, to the fiery element.
But, though sufficiently familiarized with guilt, he was not as yet
acquainted with it in its basest shapes--he had not yet acted with
meanness, or at least with what the world terms such. He had been a
duellist, the manners of the age authorized it--a libertine, the world
excused it to his youth and condition--a bold and successful gambler,
for that quality he was admired and envied; and a thousand other
inaccuracies, to which these practices and habits lead, were easily
slurred over in a man of quality, with fortune and spirit to support his
rank. But his present meditated act was of a different kind. Tell it not
in Bond Street, whisper it not on St. James's pavement!--it amounted to
an act of petty larceny, for which the code of honour would admit of no
composition.

Lord Etherington, under the influence of these recollections, stood for
a few minutes suspended--But the devil always finds logic to convince
his followers. He recollected the wrong done to his mother, and to
himself, her offspring, to whom his father had, in the face of the whole
world, imparted the hereditary rights, of which he was now, by a
posthumous deed, endeavouring to deprive the memory of the one and the
expectations of the other. Surely, the right being his own, he had a
full title, by the most effectual means, whatever such means might be,
to repel all attacks on that right, and even destroy, if necessary, the
documents by which his enemies were prosecuting their unjust plans
against his honour and interest.

This reasoning prevailed, and Lord Etherington again held the devoted
packet above the flames; when it occurred to him, that, his resolution
being taken, he ought to carry it into execution as effectually as
possible; and to do so, it was necessary to know, that the packet
actually contained the papers which he was desirous to destroy.

Never did a doubt arise in juster time; for no sooner had the seal
burst, and the envelope rustled under his fingers, than he perceived, to
his utter consternation, that he held in his hand only the copies of
the deeds for which Francis Tyrrel had written, the originals of which
he had too sanguinely concluded would be forwarded according to his
requisition. A letter from a partner of the house with which they were
deposited, stated, that they had not felt themselves at liberty, in the
absence of the head of their firm, to whom these papers had been
committed, to part with them even to Mr. Tyrrel, though they had
proceeded so far as to open the parcel, and now transmitted to him
formal copies of the papers contained in it, which, they presumed, would
serve Mr. Tyrrel's purpose for consulting counsel, or the like. They
themselves, in a case of so much delicacy, and in the absence of their
principal partner, were determined to retain the originals, unless
called to produce them in a court of justice.

With a solemn imprecation on the formality and absurdity of the writer,
Lord Etherington let the letter of advice drop from his hand into the
fire, and throwing himself into a chair, passed his hand across his
eyes, as if their very power of sight had been blighted by what he had
read. His title, and his paternal fortune, which he thought but an
instant before might be rendered unchallengeable by a single movement of
his hand, seemed now on the verge of being lost for ever. His rapid
recollection failed not to remind him of what was less known to the
world, that his early and profuse expenditure had greatly dilapidated
his maternal fortune; and that the estate of Nettlewood, which five
minutes ago he only coveted as a wealthy man desires increase of his
store, must now be acquired, if he would avoid being a poor and
embarrassed spendthrift. To impede his possessing himself of this
property, fate had restored to the scene the penitent of the morning,
who, as he had too much reason to believe, was returned to this
neighbourhood, to do justice to Clara Mowbray, and who was not unlikely
to put the whole story of the marriage on its right footing. She,
however, might be got rid of; and it might still be possible to hurry
Miss Mowbray, by working on her fears, or through the agency of her
brother, into a union with him while he still preserved the title of
Lord Etherington. This, therefore, he resolved to secure, if effort or
if intrigue could carry the point; nor was it the least consideration,
that, should he succeed, he would obtain over Tyrrel, his successful
rival, such a triumph, as would be sufficient to embitter the
tranquillity of his whole life.

In a few minutes, his rapid and contriving invention had formed a plan
for securing the sole advantage which seemed to remain open for him; and
conscious that he had no time to lose, he entered immediately upon the
execution.

The bell summoned Solmes to his lordship's apartment, when the Earl, as
coolly as if he had hoped to dupe his experienced valet by such an
assertion, said, "You have brought me a packet designed for some man at
the Aultoun--let it be sent to him--Stay,--I will re-seal it first."

He accordingly re-sealed the packet, containing all the writings,
excepting the letter of advice, (which he had burnt,) and gave it to the
valet, with the caution, "I wish you would not make such blunders in
future."

"I beg your lordship's pardon--I will take better care again--thought it
was addressed to your lordship."

So answered Solmes, too knowing to give the least look of intelligence,
far less to remind the Earl that his own directions had occasioned the
mistake of which he complained.

"Solmes," continued the Earl, "you need not mention your blunder at the
post-office; it would only occasion tattle in this idle place--but be
sure that the gentleman has his letter.--And, Solmes, I see Mr. Mowbray
walk across--ask him to dine with me to-day at five. I have a headache,
and cannot face the clamour of the savages who feed at the public
table.--And let me see--make my compliments to Lady Penelope
Penfeather--I will certainly have the honour of waiting on her ladyship
this evening to tea, agreeably to her very boring invitation
received--write her a proper card, and word it your own way. Bespeak
dinner for two, and see you have some of that batch of Burgundy." The
servant was retiring, when his master added, "Stay a moment--I have a
more important business than I have yet mentioned.--Solmes, you have
managed devilish ill about the woman Irwin!"

"I, my lord?" answered Solmes.

"Yes, you, sir--did you not tell me she had gone to the West Indies with
a friend of yours, and did not I give them a couple of hundred pounds
for passage-money?"

"Yes, my lord," replied the valet.

"Ay, but now it proves _no_, my lord," said Lord Etherington; "for she
has found her way back to this country in miserable plight--half-starved,
and, no doubt, willing to do or say any thing for a livelihood--How has
this happened?"

"Biddulph must have taken her cash, and turned her loose, my lord,"
answered Solmes, as if he had been speaking of the most commonplace
transaction in the world; "but I know the woman's nature so well, and am
so much master of her history, that I can carry her off the country in
twenty-four hours, and place her where she will never think of
returning, provided your lordship can spare me so long."

"About it directly--but I can tell you, that you will find the woman in
a very penitential humour, and very ill in health to boot."

"I am sure of my game," answered Solmes; "with submission to your
lordship, I think if death and her good angel had hold of one of that
woman's arms, the devil and I could make a shift to lead her away by the
other."

"Away and about it, then," said Etherington. "But, hark ye, Solmes, be
kind to her, and see all her wants relieved. I have done her mischief
enough--though nature and the devil had done half the work to my hand."

Solmes at length was permitted to withdraw to execute his various
commissions, with an assurance that his services would not be wanted for
the next twenty-four hours.

"Soh!" said the Earl, as his agent withdrew, "there is a spring put in
motion, which, well oiled, will move the whole machine--And here, in
lucky time, comes Harry Jekyl--I hear his whistle on the stairs.--There
is a silly lightness of heart about that fellow, which I envy, while I
despise it; but he is welcome now, for I want him."

Jekyl entered accordingly, and broke out with "I am glad to see one of
your fellows laying a cloth for two in your parlour, Etherington--I was
afraid you were going down among these confounded bores again to-day."

"_You_ are not to be one of the two, Hal," answered Lord Etherington.

"No?--then I may be a third, I hope, if not second?"

"Neither first, second, nor third, Captain.--The truth is, I want a
tête-à-tête with Mr. Mowbray of St. Ronan's," replied the Earl; "and,
besides, I have to beg the very particular favour of you to go again to
that fellow Martigny. It is time that he should produce his papers, if
he has any--of which, for one, I do not believe a word. He has had ample
time to hear from London; and I think I have delayed long enough in an
important matter upon his bare assertion."

"I cannot blame your impatience," said Jekyl, "and I will go on your
errand instantly. As you waited on my advice, I am bound to find an end
to your suspense.--At the same time, if the man is not possessed of such
papers as he spoke of, I must own he is happy in a command of consummate
assurance, which might set up the whole roll of attorneys."

"You will be soon able to judge of that," said Lord Etherington; "and
now, off with you--Why do you look at me so anxiously?"

"I cannot tell--I have strange forebodings about this tête-à-tête with
Mowbray. You should spare him, Etherington--he is not your match--wants
both judgment and temper."

"Tell him so, Jekyl," answered the Earl, "and his proud Scotch stomach
will be up in an instant, and he will pay you with a shot for your
pains.--Why, he thinks himself cock of the walk, this strutting bantam,
notwithstanding the lesson I gave him before--And what do you think?--He
has the impudence to talk about my attentions to Lady Binks as
inconsistent with the prosecution of my suit to his sister! Yes,
Hal--this awkward Scotch laird, that has scarce tact enough to make love
to a ewe-milker, or, at best, to some daggletailed soubrette, has the
assurance to start himself as my rival!"

"Then, good-night to St. Ronan's!--this will be a fatal dinner to
him.--Etherington, I know by that laugh you are bent on mischief--I have
a great mind to give him a hint."

"I wish you would," answered the Earl; "it would all turn to my
account."

"Do you defy me?--Well, if I meet him, I will put him on his guard."

The friends parted; and it was not long ere Jekyl encountered Mowbray on
one of the public walks.

"You dine with Etherington to-day?" said the Captain--"Forgive me, Mr.
Mowbray, if I say one single word--Beware."

"Of what should I beware, Captain Jekyl," answered Mowbray, "when I dine
with a friend of your own, and a man of honour?"

"Certainly Lord Etherington is both, Mr. Mowbray; but he loves play, and
is too hard for most people."

"I thank you for your hint, Captain Jekyl--I am a raw Scotchman, it is
true; but yet I know a thing or two. Fair play is always presumed
amongst gentlemen; and that taken for granted, I have the vanity to
think I need no one's caution on the subject, not even Captain Jekyl's,
though his experience must needs be so much superior to mine."

"In that case, sir," said Jekyl, bowing coldly, "I have no more to say,
and I hope there is no harm done.--Conceited coxcomb!" he added,
mentally, as they parted, "how truly did Etherington judge of him, and
what an ass was I to intermeddle!--I hope Etherington will strip him of
every feather!"

He pursued his walk in quest of Tyrrel, and Mowbray proceeded to the
apartments of the Earl, in a temper of mind well suited to the purposes
of the latter, who judged of his disposition accurately when he
permitted Jekyl to give his well-meant warning. To be supposed, by a man
of acknowledged fashion, so decidedly inferior to his antagonist--to be
considered as an object of compassion, and made the subject of a
good-boy warning, was gall and bitterness to his proud spirit, which,
the more that he felt a conscious inferiority in the arts which they all
cultivated, struggled the more to preserve the footing of at least
apparent equality.

Since the first memorable party at piquet, Mowbray had never hazarded
his luck with Lord Etherington, except for trifling stakes; but his
conceit led him to suppose that he now fully understood his play, and,
agreeably to the practice of those who have habituated themselves to
gambling, he had every now and then felt a yearning to try for his
revenge. He wished also to be out of Lord Etherington's debt, feeling
galled under a sense of pecuniary obligation, which hindered his
speaking his mind to him fully upon the subject of his flirtation with
Lady Binks, which he justly considered as an insult to his family,
considering the footing on which the Earl seemed desirous to stand with
Clara Mowbray. From these obligations a favourable evening might free
him, and Mowbray was, in fact, indulging in a waking dream to this
purpose, when Jekyl interrupted him. His untimely warning only excited a
spirit of contradiction, and a determination to show the adviser how
little he was qualified to judge of his talents; and in this humour,
his ruin, which was the consequence of that afternoon, was far from
seeming to be the premeditated, or even the voluntary work of the Earl
of Etherington.

On the contrary, the victim himself was the first to propose play--deep
play--double stakes; while Lord Etherington, on the other hand, often
proposed to diminish their game, or to break off entirely; but it was
always with an affectation of superiority which only stimulated Mowbray
to farther and more desperate risks; and, at last, when Mowbray became
his debtor to an overwhelming amount, (his circumstances considered,)
the Earl threw down the cards, and declared he should be too late for
Lady Penelope's tea-party, to which he was positively engaged.

"Will you not give me my revenge?" said Mowbray, taking up the cards,
and shuffling them with fierce anxiety.

"Not now, Mowbray; we have played too long already--you have lost too
much--more than perhaps is convenient for you to pay."

Mowbray gnashed his teeth, in spite of his resolution to maintain an
exterior, at least, of firmness.

"You can take your time, you know," said the Earl; "a note of hand will
suit me as well as the money."

"No, by G--!" answered Mowbray, "I will not be so taken in a second
time--I had better have sold myself to the devil than to your
lordship--I have never been my own man since."

"These are not very kind expressions, Mowbray," said the Earl; "you
_would_ play, and they that will play must expect sometimes to lose"----

"And they who win will expect to be paid," said Mowbray, breaking in. "I
know that as well as you, my lord, and you shall be paid--I will pay
you--I will pay you, by G--! Do you make any doubt that I will pay you,
my lord?"

"You look as if you thought of paying me in sharp coin," said Lord
Etherington; "and I think that would scarce be consistent with the terms
we stand upon towards each other."

"By my soul, my lord," said Mowbray, "I cannot tell what these terms
are; and to be at my wit's end at once, I should be glad to know. You
set out upon paying addresses to my sister, and with your visits and
opportunities at Shaws-Castle, I cannot find the matter makes the least
progress--it keeps moving without advancing, like a child's
rocking-horse. Perhaps you think that you have curbed me up so tightly,
that I dare not stir in the matter; but you will find it
otherwise.--Your lordship may keep a haram if you will, but my sister
shall not enter it."

"You are angry, and therefore you are unjust," said Etherington; "you
know well enough it is your sister's fault that there is any delay. I am
most willing--most desirous--to call her Lady Etherington--nothing but
her unlucky prejudices against me have retarded a union which I have so
many reasons for desiring."

"Well," replied Mowbray, "that shall be my business. I know no reason
she can pretend to decline a marriage so honourable to her house, and
which is approved of by me, that house's head. That matter shall be
arranged in twenty-four hours."

"It will do me the most sensible pleasure," said Lord Etherington; "you
shall soon see how sincerely I desire your alliance; and as for the
trifle you have lost"----

"It is no trifle to me, my lord--it is my ruin--but it shall be
paid--and let me tell your lordship, you may thank your good luck for it
more than your good play."

"We will say no more of it at present, if you please," said Lord
Etherington, "to-morrow is a new day; and if you will take my advice,
you will not be too harsh with your sister. A little firmness is seldom
amiss with young women, but severity"----

"I will pray your lordship to spare me your advice on this subject.
However valuable it may be in other respects, I can, I take it, speak to
my own sister in my own way."

"Since you are so caustically-disposed, Mowbray," answered the Earl, "I
presume you will not honour her ladyship's tea-table to-night, though I
believe it will be the last of the season?"

"And why should you think so, my lord?" answered Mowbray, whose losses
had rendered him testy and contradictory upon every subject that was
started. "Why should not I pay my respects to Lady Penelope, or any
other tabby of quality? I have no title, indeed; but I suppose that my
family"----

"Entitles you to become a canon of Strasburgh[II-D] doubtless--But you do
not seem in a very Christian mood for taking orders. All I meant to say
was, that you and Lady Pen were not used to be on such a good footing."

"Well, she sent me a card for her blow-out," said Mowbray; "and so I am
resolved to go. When I have been there half an hour, I will ride up to
Shaws-Castle, and you shall hear of my speed in wooing for you to-morrow
morning."



CHAPTER XV.

A TEA-PARTY.

    Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round;
    And while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
    Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
    That cheer, but not inebriate, wait on each,
    Thus let us welcome peaceful evening in.

Cowper's _Task_.


The approach of the cold and rainy season had now so far thinned the
company at the Well, that, in order to secure the necessary degree of
crowd upon her tea-nights, Lady Penelope was obliged to employ some
coaxing towards those whom she had considered as much under par in
society. Even the Doctor and Mrs. Blower were graciously smiled
upon--for their marriage was now an arranged affair; and the event was
of a nature likely to spread the reputation of the Spa among wealthy
widows, and medical gentlemen of more skill than practice. So in they
came, the Doctor smirking, gallanting, and performing all the bustling
parade of settled and arranged courtship, with much of that grace
wherewith a turkey-cock goes through the same ceremony. Old Touchwood
had also attended her ladyship's summons, chiefly, it may be supposed,
from his restless fidgety disposition, which seldom suffered him to
remain absent even from those places of resort of which he usually
professed his detestation. There was, besides, Mr. Winterblossom, who,
in his usual spirit of quiet epicurism and self-indulgence, was, under
the fire of a volley of compliments to Lady Penelope, scheming to secure
for himself an early cup of tea. There was Lady Binks also, with the
wonted degree of sullenness in her beautiful face, angry at her husband
as usual, and not disposed to be pleased with Lord Etherington for being
absent, when she desired to excite Sir Bingo's jealousy. This she had
discovered to be the most effectual way of tormenting the Baronet, and
she rejoiced in it with the savage glee of a hackney coachman, who has
found a _raw_, where he can make his poor jade feel the whip. The rest
of the company were also in attendance as usual. MacTurk himself was
present, notwithstanding that he thought it an egregious waste of hot
water, to bestow it upon compounding any mixture saving punch. He had of
late associated himself a good deal with the traveller; not that they by
any means resembled each other in temper or opinions, but rather because
there was that degree of difference betwixt them which furnished
perpetual subject for dispute and discussion. They were not long, on the
present occasion, ere they lighted on a fertile source of controversy.

"Never tell me of your points of honour," said Touchwood, raising his
voice altogether above the general tone of polite conversation--"all
humbug, Captain MacTurk--mere hair-traps to springe woodcocks--men of
sense break through them."

"Upon my word, sir," said the Captain, "and myself is surprised to hear
you--for, look you, sir, every man's honour is the breath of his
nostrils--Cot tamn!"

"Then, let men breathe through their mouths, and be d--d," returned the
controversialist. "I tell you, sir, that, besides its being forbidden,
both by law and gospel, it's an idiotical and totally absurd practice,
that of duelling. An honest savage has more sense than to practise
it--he takes his bow or his gun, as the thing may be, and shoots his
enemy from behind a bush. And a very good way; for you see there can, in
that case, be only one man's death between them."

"Saul of my body, sir," said the Captain, "gin ye promulgate sic
doctrines amang the good company, it's my belief you will bring somebody
to the gallows."

"Thank ye, Captain, with all my heart; but I stir up no quarrels--I
leave war to them that live by it. I only say, that, except our old,
stupid ancestors in the north-west here, I know no country so silly as
to harbour this custom of duelling. It is unknown in Africa, among the
negroes--in America."

"Don't tell me that," said the Captain; "a Yankee will fight with
muskets and buck-shot, rather than sit still with an affront. I should
know Jonathan, I think."

"Altogether unknown among the thousand tribes of India."

"I'll be tamned, then!" said Captain MacTurk. "Was I not in Tippoo's
prison at Bangalore? and, when the joyful day of our liberation came,
did we not solemnize it with fourteen little affairs, whereof we had
been laying the foundation in our house of captivity, as holy writ has
it, and never went farther to settle them than the glacis of the fort?
By my soul, you would have thought there was a smart skirmish, the
firing was so close; and did not I, Captain MacTurk, fight three of them
myself, without moving my foot from the place I set it on?"

"And pray, sir, what might be the result of this Christian mode of
giving thanks for your deliverance?" demanded Mr. Touchwood.

"A small list of casualties, after all," said the Captain; "one killed
on the spot, one died of his wounds--two wounded severely--three ditto
slightly, and little Duncan Macphail reported missing. We were out of
practice, after such long confinement. So you see how we manage matters
in India, my dear friend."

"You are to understand," replied Touchwood, "that I spoke only of the
heathen natives, who, heathen as they are, live in the light of their
own moral reason, and among whom ye shall therefore see better examples
of practical morality than among such as yourselves; who, though calling
yourselves Christians, have no more knowledge of the true acceptation
and meaning of your religion, than if you had left your Christianity at
the Cape of Good Hope, as they say of you, and forgot to take it up when
you come back again."

"Py Cot! and I can tell you, sir," said the Captain, elevating at once
his voice and his nostrils, and snuffing the air with a truculent and
indignant visage, "that I will not permit you or any man to throw any
such scandal on my character.--I thank Cot, I can bring good witness
that I am as good a Christian as another, for a poor sinner, as the best
of us are; and I am ready to justify my religion with my sword--Cot
tamn!--Compare my own self with a parcel of black heathen bodies and
natives, that were never in the inner side of a kirk whilst they lived,
but go about worshipping stocks and stones, and swinging themselves upon
bamboos, like peasts, as they are!"

An indignant growling in his throat, which sounded like the
acquiescence of his inward man in the indignant proposition which his
external organs thus expressed, concluded this haughty speech, which,
however, made not the least impression on Touchwood, who cared as little
for angry tones and looks as he did for fine speeches. So that it is
likely a quarrel between the Christian preceptor and the peacemaker
might have occurred for the amusement of the company, had not the
attention of both, but particularly that of Touchwood, been diverted
from the topic of debate by the entrance of Lord Etherington and
Mowbray.

The former was, as usual, all grace, smiles, and gentleness. Yet,
contrary to his wonted custom, which usually was, after a few general
compliments, to attach himself particularly to Lady Binks, the Earl, on
the present occasion, avoided the side of the room on which that
beautiful but sullen idol held her station, and attached himself
exclusively to Lady Penelope Penfeather, enduring, without flinching,
the strange variety of conceited _bavardage_, which that lady's natural
parts and acquired information enabled her to pour forth with
unparalleled profusion.

An honest heathen, one of Plutarch's heroes, if I mistake not,[II-E]
dreamed once upon a night, that the figure of Proserpina, whom he had
long worshipped, visited his slumbers with an angry and vindictive
countenance, and menaced him with vengeance, in resentment of his having
neglected her altars, with the usual fickleness of a polytheist, for
those of some more fashionable divinity. Not that goddess of the
infernal regions herself could assume a more haughty or more displeased
countenance than that with which Lady Binks looked from time to time
upon Lord Etherington, as if to warn him of the consequence of this
departure from the allegiance which the young Earl had hitherto
manifested towards her, and which seemed now, she knew not why, unless
it were for the purpose of public insult, to be transferred to her
rival. Perilous as her eye-glances were, and much as they menaced, Lord
Etherington felt at this moment the importance of soothing Lady Penelope
to silence on the subject of the invalid's confession of that morning,
to be more pressing than that of appeasing the indignation of Lady
Binks. The former was a case of the most urgent necessity--the latter,
if he was at all anxious on the subject, might, he perhaps thought, be
trusted to time. Had the ladies continued on a tolerable footing
together, he might have endeavoured to conciliate both. But the
bitterness of their long-suppressed feud had greatly increased, now that
it was probable the end of the season was to separate them, in all
likelihood for ever; so that Lady Penelope had no longer any motive for
countenancing Lady Binks, or the lady of Sir Bingo for desiring Lady
Penelope's countenance. The wealth and lavish expense of the one was no
longer to render more illustrious the suit of her right honourable
friend, nor was the society of Lady Penelope likely to be soon again
useful or necessary to Lady Binks. So that neither were any longer
desirous to suppress symptoms of the mutual contempt and dislike which
they had long nourished for each other; and whoever should, in this
decisive hour, take part with one, had little henceforward to expect
from her rival. What farther and more private reasons Lady Binks might
have to resent the defection of Lord Etherington, have never come with
certainty to our knowledge; but it was said there had been high words
between them on the floating report that his lordship's visits to
Shaws-Castle were dictated by the wish to find a bride there.

Women's wits are said to be quick in spying the surest means of avenging
a real or supposed slight. After biting her pretty lips, and revolving
in her mind the readiest means of vengeance, fate threw in her way young
Mowbray of St. Ronan's. She looked at him, and endeavoured to fix his
attention with a nod and gracious smile, such as in an ordinary mood
would have instantly drawn him to her side. On receiving in answer only
a vacant glance and a bow, she was led to observe him more attentively,
and was induced to believe, from his wavering look, varying complexion,
and unsteady step, that he had been drinking unusually deep. Still his
eye was less that of an intoxicated than of a disturbed and desperate
man, one whose faculties were engrossed by deep and turbid reflection,
which withdrew him from the passing scene.

"Do you observe how ill Mr. Mowbray looks?" said she, in a loud
whisper; "I hope he has not heard what Lady Penelope was just now saying
of his family?"

"Unless he hears it from you, my lady," answered Mr. Touchwood, who,
upon Mowbray's entrance, had broken off his discourse with MacTurk, "I
think there is little chance of his learning it from any other person."

"What is the matter?" said Mowbray, sharply, addressing Chatterly and
Winterblossom; but the one shrunk nervously from the question,
protesting, he indeed had not been precisely attending to what had been
passing among the ladies, and Winterblossom bowed out of the scrape with
quiet and cautious politeness--"he really had not given particular
attention to what was passing--I was negotiating with Mrs. Jones for an
additional lump of sugar to my coffee.--Egad, it was so difficult a
piece of diplomacy," he added, sinking his voice, "that I have an idea
her ladyship calculates the West India produce by grains and
pennyweights."

The innuendo, if designed to make Mowbray smile, was far from
succeeding. He stepped forward, with more than usual stiffness in his
air, which was never entirely free from self-consequence, and said to
Lady Binks, "May I request to know of your ladyship what particular
respecting my family had the honour to engage the attention of the
company?"

"I was only a listener, Mr. Mowbray," returned Lady Binks, with evident
enjoyment of the rising indignation which she read in his countenance;
"not being queen of the night, I am not at all disposed to be answerable
for the turn of the conversation."

Mowbray, in no humour to bear jesting, yet afraid to expose himself by
farther enquiry in a company so public, darted a fierce look at Lady
Penelope, then in close conversation with Lord Etherington,--advanced a
step or two towards them,--then, as if checking himself, turned on his
heel, and left the room. A few minutes afterwards, and when certain
satirical nods and winks were circulating among the assembly, a waiter
slid a piece of paper into Mrs. Jones's hand, who, on looking at the
contents, seemed about to leave the room.

"Jones--Jones!" exclaimed Lady Penelope, in surprise and displeasure.

"Only the key of the tea-caddie, your ladyship," answered Jones; "I will
be back in an instant."

"Jones--Jones!" again exclaimed her mistress, "here is enough"--of tea,
she would have said; but Lord Etherington was so near her, that she was
ashamed to complete the sentence, and had only hope in Jones's quickness
of apprehension, and the prospect that she would be unable to find the
key which she went in search of.

Jones, meanwhile, tripped off to a sort of housekeeper's apartment, of
which she was _locum tenens_ for the evening, for the more ready supply
of whatever might be wanted on Lady Penelope's night, as it was called.
Here she found Mr. Mowbray of St. Ronan's, whom she instantly began to
assail with, "La! now, Mr. Mowbray, you are such another gentleman!--I
am sure you will make me lose my place--I'll swear you will--what can
you have to say, that you could not as well put off for an hour?"

"I want to know, Jones," answered Mowbray, in a different tone, perhaps,
from what the damsel expected, "what your lady was just now saying about
my family."

"Pshaw!--was that all?" answered Mrs. Jones. "What should she be
saying?--nonsense--Who minds what she says?--I am sure I never do, for
one."

"Nay, but, my dear Jones," said Mowbray, "I insist upon knowing--I must
know, and I _will_ know."

"La! Mr. Mowbray, why should I make mischief?--As I live, I hear some
one coming! and if you were found speaking with me here--indeed, indeed,
some one is coming!"

"The devil may come, if he will!" said Mowbray, "but we do not part,
pretty mistress, till you tell me what I wish to know."

"Lord, sir, you frighten me!" answered Jones; "but all the room heard it
as well as I--it was about Miss Mowbray--and that my lady would be shy
of her company hereafter--for that she was--she was"----

"For that my sister was _what_?" said Mowbray, fiercely, seizing her
arm.

"Lord, sir, you terrify me!" said Jones, beginning to cry; "at any rate,
it was not I that said it--it was Lady Penelope."

"And what was it the old, adder-tongued madwoman dared to say of Clara
Mowbray?--Speak out plainly, and directly, or, by Heaven, I'll make
you!"

"Hold, sir--hold, for God's sake!--you will break my arm," answered the
terrified handmaiden. "I am sure I know no harm of Miss Mowbray; only,
my lady spoke as if she was no better than she ought to be.--Lord, sir,
there is some one listening at the door!"--and making a spring out of
his grasp, she hastened back to the room in which the company were
assembled.

Mowbray stood petrified at the news he had heard, ignorant alike what
could be the motive for a calumny so atrocious, and uncertain what he
were best do to put a stop to the scandal. To his farther confusion, he
was presently convinced of the truth of Mrs. Jones's belief that they
had been watched, for, as he went to the door of the apartment, he was
met by Mr. Touchwood.

"What has brought you here, sir?" said Mowbray, sternly.

"Hoitie toitie," answered the traveller, "why, how came _you_ here, if
you go to that, squire?--Egad, Lady Penelope is trembling for her
souchong, so I just took a step here to save her ladyship the trouble of
looking after Mrs. Jones in person, which, I think, might have been a
worse interruption than mine, Mr. Mowbray."

"Pshaw, sir, you talk nonsense," said Mowbray; "the tea-room is so
infernally hot, that I had sat down here a moment to draw breath, when
the young woman came in."

"And you are going to run away, now the old gentleman is come in?" said
Touchwood--"Come, sir, I am more your friend than you may think."

"Sir, you are intrusive--I want nothing that you can give me," said
Mowbray.

"That is a mistake," answered the senior; "for I can supply you with
what most young men want--money and wisdom."

"You will do well to keep both till they are wanted," said Mowbray.

"Why, so I would, squire, only that I have taken something of a fancy
for your family; and they are supposed to have wanted cash and good
counsel for two generations, if not for three."

"Sir," said Mowbray, angrily, "you are too old either to play the
buffoon, or to get buffoon's payment."

"Which is like monkey's allowance, I suppose," said the traveller, "more
kicks than halfpence.--Well--at least I am not young enough to quarrel
with boys for bullying. I'll convince you, however, Mr. Mowbray, that I
know some more of your affairs than what you give me credit for."

"It may be," answered Mowbray, "but you will oblige me more by minding
your own."

"Very like; meantime, your losses to-night to my Lord Etherington are no
trifle, and no secret neither."

"Mr. Touchwood, I desire to know where you had your information?" said
Mowbray.

"A matter of very little consequence compared to its truth or falsehood,
Mr. Mowbray," answered the old gentleman.

"But of the last importance to me, sir," said Mowbray. "In a word, had
you such information by or through means of Lord Etherington?--Answer me
this single question, and then I shall know better what to think on the
subject."

"Upon my honour," said Touchwood, "I neither had my information from
Lord Etherington directly nor indirectly. I say thus much to give you
satisfaction, and I now expect you will hear me with patience."

"Forgive me, sir," interrupted Mowbray, "one farther question. I
understand something was said in disparagement of my sister just as I
entered the tea-room?"

"Hem--hem--hem!" said Touchwood, hesitating. "I am sorry your ears have
served you so well--something there _was_ said lightly, something that
can be easily explained, I dare say;--And now, Mr. Mowbray, let me speak
a few serious words with you."

"And now, Mr. Touchwood, we have no more to say to each other--good
evening to you."

He brushed past the old man, who in vain endeavoured to stop him, and,
hurrying to the stable, demanded his horse. It was ready saddled, and
waited his orders; but even the short time that was necessary to bring
it to the door of the stable was exasperating to Mowbray's impatience.
Not less exasperating was the constant interceding voice of Touchwood,
who, in tones alternately plaintive and snappish, kept on a string of
expostulations.

"Mr. Mowbray, only five words with you--Mr. Mowbray, you will repent
this--Is this a night to ride in, Mr. Mowbray?--My stars, sir, if you
would but have five minutes' patience!"

Curses, not loud but deep, muttered in the throat of the impatient
laird, were the only reply, until his horse was brought out, when,
staying no farther question, he sprung into the saddle. The poor horse
paid for the delay, which could not be laid to his charge. Mowbray
struck him hard with his spurs so soon as he was in his seat--the noble
animal reared, bolted, and sprung forward like a deer, over stock and
stone, the nearest road--and we are aware it was a rough one--to
Shaws-Castle. There is a sort of instinct by which horses perceive the
humour of their riders, and are furious and impetuous, or dull and
sluggish, as if to correspond with it; and Mowbray's gallant steed
seemed on this occasion to feel all the stings of his master's internal
ferment, although not again urged with the spur. The ostler stood
listening to the clash of the hoofs, succeeding each other in thick and
close gallop, until they died away in the distant woodland.

"If St. Ronan's reach home this night, with his neck unbroken," muttered
the fellow, "the devil must have it in keeping."

"Mercy on us!" said the traveller, "he rides like a Bedouin Arab! but in
the desert there are neither trees to cross the road, nor cleughs, nor
linns, nor floods, nor fords. Well, I must set to work myself, or this
gear will get worse than even I can mend.--Here you, ostler, let me have
your best pair of horses instantly to Shaws-Castle."

"To Shaws-Castle, sir?" said the man, with some surprise.

"Yes--do you not know such a place?"

"In troth, sir, sae few company go there, except on the great ball day,
that we have had time to forget the road to it--but St. Ronan's was
here even now, sir."

"Ay, what of that?--he has ridden on to get supper ready--so, turn out
without loss of time."

"At your pleasure, sir," said the fellow, and called to the postilion
accordingly.



CHAPTER XVI.

DEBATE.

    _Sedet post equitem atra cura_----

    Still though the headlong cavalier,
    O'er rough and smooth, in wild career,
      Seems racing with the wind;
    His sad companion,--ghastly pale,
    And darksome as a widow's veil,
      CARE--keeps her seat behind.

HORACE.


Well was it that night for Mowbray, that he had always piqued himself on
his horses, and that the animal on which he was then mounted was as
sure-footed and sagacious as he was mettled and fiery. For those who
observed next day the print of the hoofs on the broken and rugged track
through which the creature had been driven at full speed by his furious
master, might easily see, that in more than a dozen of places the horse
and rider had been within a few inches of destruction. One bough of a
gnarled and stunted oak-tree, which stretched across the road, seemed in
particular to have opposed an almost fatal barrier to the horseman's
career. In striking his head against this impediment, the force of the
blow had been broken in some measure by a high-crowned hat, yet the
violence of the shock was sufficient to shiver the branch to pieces.
Fortunately, it was already decayed; but, even in that state, it was
subject of astonishment to every one that no fatal damage had been
sustained in so formidable an encounter. Mowbray himself was unconscious
of the accident.

Scarcely aware that he had been riding at an unusual rate, scarce
sensible that he had ridden faster perhaps than ever he followed the
hounds, Mowbray alighted at his stable door, and flung the bridle to his
groom, who held up his hands in astonishment when he beheld the
condition of the favourite horse; but, concluding that his master must
be intoxicated, he prudently forbore to make any observations.

No sooner did the unfortunate traveller suspend that rapid motion by
which he seemed to wish to annihilate, as far as possible, time and
space, in order to reach the place he had now attained, than it seemed
to him as if he would have given the world that seas and deserts had
lain between him and the house of his fathers, as well as that only
sister with whom he was now about to have a decisive interview.

"But the place and the hour are arrived," he said, biting his lip with
anguish; "this explanation must be decisive; and whatever evils may
attend it, suspense must be ended now, at once and for ever."

He entered the Castle, and took the light from the old domestic, who,
hearing the clatter of his horse's feet, had opened the door to receive
him.

"Is my sister in her parlour?" he asked, but in so hollow a voice, that
the old man only answered the question by another, "Was his honour
well?"

"Quite well, Patrick--never better in my life," said Mowbray; and
turning his back on the old man, as if to prevent his observing whether
his countenance and his words corresponded, he pursued his way to his
sister's apartment. The sound of his step upon the passage roused Clara
from a reverie, perhaps a sad one; and she had trimmed her lamp, and
stirred her fire, so slow did he walk, before he at length entered her
apartment.

"You are a good boy, brother," she said, "to come thus early home; and I
have some good news for your reward. The groom has fetched back
Trimmer--He was lying by the dead hare, and he had chased him as far as
Drumlyford--the shepherd had carried him to the shieling, till some one
should claim him."

"I would he had hanged him, with all my heart!" said Mowbray.

"How!--hang Trimmer?--your favourite Trimmer, that has beat the whole
country?--and it was only this morning you were half-crying because he
was amissing, and like to murder man and mother's son?"

"The better I like any living thing," answered Mowbray, "the more reason
I have for wishing it dead and at rest; for neither I, nor any thing
that I love, will ever be happy more."

"You cannot frighten me, John, with these flights," answered Clara,
trembling, although she endeavoured to look unconcerned--"You have used
me to them too often."

"It is well for you then; you will be ruined without the shock of
surprise."

"So much the better--We have been," said Clara,

    "'So constantly in poortith's sight,
    The thoughts on't gie us little fright.'

So say I with honest Robert Burns."

"D--n Barns and his trash!" said Mowbray, with the impatience of a man
determined to be angry with every thing but himself, who was the real
source of the evil.

"And why damn poor Burns?" said Clara, composedly; "it is not his fault
if you have not risen a winner, for that, I suppose, is the cause of all
this uproar."

"Would it not make any one lose patience," said Mowbray, "to hear her
quoting the rhapsodies of a hobnail'd peasant, when a man is speaking of
the downfall of an ancient house! Your ploughman, I suppose, becoming
one degree poorer than he was born to be, would only go without his
dinner, or without his usual potation of ale. His comrades would cry
'poor fellow!' and let him eat out of their kit, and drink out of their
bicker without scruple, till his own was full again. But the poor
gentleman--the downfallen man of rank--the degraded man of birth--the
disabled and disarmed man of power!--it is he that is to be pitied, who
loses not merely drink and dinner, but honour, situation, credit,
character, and name itself!"

"You are declaiming in this manner in order to terrify me," said Clara:
"but, friend John, I know you and your ways, and I have made up my mind
upon all contingencies that can take place. I will tell you more--I have
stood on this tottering pinnacle of rank and fashion, if our situation
can be termed such, till my head is dizzy with the instability of my
eminence; and I feel that strange desire of tossing myself down, which
the devil is said to put into folk's heads when they stand on the top of
steeples--at least, I had rather the plunge were over."

"Be satisfied, then; if that will satisfy you--the plunge _is_ over, and
we are--what they used to call it in Scotland--gentle beggars--creatures
to whom our second, and third, and fourth, and fifth cousins may, if
they please, give a place at the side-table, and a seat in the carriage
with the lady's maid, if driving backwards will not make us sick."

"They may give it to those who will take it," said Clara; "but I am
determined to eat bread of my own buying--I can do twenty things, and I
am sure some one or other of them will bring me all the little money I
will need. I have been trying, John, for several months, how little I
can live upon, and you would laugh if you heard how low I have brought
the account."

"There is a difference, Clara, between fanciful experiments and real
poverty--the one is a masquerade, which we can end when we please, the
other is wretchedness for life."

"Methinks, brother," replied Miss Mowbray, "it would be better for you
to set me an example how to carry my good resolutions into effect, than
to ridicule them."

"Why, what would you have me do?" said he, fiercely--"turn postilion, or
rough-rider, or whipper-in?--I don't know any thing else that my
education, as I have used it, has fitted me for--and then some of my old
acquaintances would, I dare say, give me a crown to drink now and then
for old acquaintance' sake."

"This is not the way, John, that men of sense think or speak of serious
misfortunes," answered his sister; "and I do not believe that this is so
serious as it is your pleasure to make it."

"Believe the very worst you can think," replied he, "and you will not
believe bad enough!--You have neither a guinea, nor a house, nor a
friend;--pass but a day, and it is a chance that you will not have a
brother."

"My dear John, you have drunk hard--rode hard."

"Yes--such tidings deserved to be carried express, especially to a young
lady who receives them so well," answered Mowbray, bitterly. "I suppose,
now, it will make no impression, if I were to tell you that you have it
in your power to stop all this ruin?"

"By consummating my own, I suppose?--Brother, I said you could not make
me tremble, but you have found a way to do it."

"What, you expect I am again to urge you with Lord Etherington's
courtship?--That _might_ have saved all, indeed--But that day of grace
is over."

"I am glad of it, with all my spirit," said Clara; "may it take with it
all that we can quarrel about!--But till this instant I thought it was
for this very point that this long voyage was bound, and that you were
endeavouring to persuade me of the reality of the danger of the storm,
in order to reconcile me to the harbour."

"You are mad, I think, in earnest," said Mowbray; "can you really be so
absurd as to rejoice that you have no way left to relieve yourself and
me from ruin, want, and shame?"

"From shame, brother?" said Clara. "No shame in honest poverty, I hope."

"That is according as folks have used their prosperity, Clara.--I must
speak to the point.--There are strange reports going below--By Heaven!
they are enough to disturb the ashes of the dead! Were I to mention
them, I should expect our poor mother to enter the room--Clara Mowbray,
can you guess what I mean?"

It was with the utmost exertion, yet in a faltering voice, that she was
able, after an ineffectual effort, to utter the monosyllable, "_No!_"

"By Heaven! I am ashamed--I am even _afraid_ to express my own
meaning!--Clara, what is there which makes you so obstinately reject
every proposal of marriage?--Is it that you feel yourself unworthy to be
the wife of an honest man?--Speak out!--Evil Fame has been busy with
your reputation--speak out!--Give me the right to cram their lies down
the throats of the inventors, and when I go among them to-morrow, I
shall know how to treat those who cast reflections on you! The fortunes
of our house are ruined, but no tongue shall slander its
honour.--Speak--speak, wretched girl! why are you silent?"

"Stay at home, brother!" said Clara; "stay at home, if you regard our
house's honour--murder cannot mend misery--Stay at home, and let them
talk of me as they will,--they can scarcely say worse of me than I
deserve!"[II-F]

The passions of Mowbray, at all times ungovernably strong, were at
present inflamed by wine, by his rapid journey, and the previously
disturbed state of his mind. He set his teeth, clenched his hands,
looked on the ground, as one that forms some horrid resolution, and
muttered almost unintelligibly, "It were charity to kill her!"

"Oh! no--no--no!" exclaimed the terrified girl, throwing herself at his
feet; "Do not kill me, brother! I have wished for death--thought of
death--prayed for death--but, oh! it is frightful to think that he is
near--Oh! not a bloody death, brother, nor by your hand!"

She held him close by the knees as she spoke, and expressed, in her
looks and accents, the utmost terror. It was not, indeed, without
reason; for the extreme solitude of the place, the violent and inflamed
passions of her brother, and the desperate circumstances to which he had
reduced himself, seemed all to concur to render some horrid act of
violence not an improbable termination of this strange interview.

Mowbray folded his arms, without unclenching his hands, or raising his
head, while his sister continued on the floor, clasping him round the
knees with all her strength, and begging piteously for her life and for
mercy.

"Fool!" he said, at last, "let me go!--Who cares for thy worthless
life?--who cares if thou live or die? Live, if thou canst--and be the
hate and scorn of every one else, as much as thou art mine!"

He grasped her by the shoulder, with one hand pushed her from him, and,
as she arose from the floor, and again pressed to throw her arms around
his neck, he repulsed her with his arm and hand, with a push--or
blow--it might be termed either one or the other,--violent enough, in
her weak state, to have again extended her on the ground, had not a
chair received her as she fell. He looked at her with ferocity, grappled
a moment in his pocket; then ran to the window, and throwing the sash
violently up, thrust himself as far as he could without falling, into
the open air. Terrified, and yet her feelings of his unkindness
predominating even above her fears, Clara continued to exclaim.

"Oh, brother, say you did not mean this!--Oh, say you did not mean to
strike me!--Oh, whatever I have deserved, be not you the
executioner!--It is not manly--it is not natural--there are but two of
us in the world!"

He returned no answer; and, observing that he continued to stretch
himself from the window, which was in the second story of the building,
and overlooked the court, a new cause of apprehension mingled, in some
measure, with her personal fears. Timidly, and with streaming eyes and
uplifted hands, she approached her angry brother, and, fearfully, yet
firmly, seized the skirt of his coat, as if anxious to preserve him from
the effects of that despair, which so lately seemed turned against her,
and now against himself.

He felt the pressure of her hold, and drawing himself angrily back,
asked her sternly what she wanted.

"Nothing," she said, quitting her hold of his coat; "but what--what did
he look after so anxiously?"

"After the devil!" he answered, fiercely; then drawing in his head, and
taking her hand, "By my soul, Clara--it is true, if ever there was truth
in such a tale!--He stood by me just now, and urged me to murder
thee!--What else could have put my hunting-knife into my thought?--Ay,
by God, and into my very hand--at such a moment?--Yonder I could almost
fancy I see him fly, the wood, and the rock, and the water, gleaming
back the dark-red furnace-light, that is shed on them by his dragon
wings! By my soul, I can hardly suppose it fancy--I can hardly think but
that I was under the influence of an evil spirit--under an act of
fiendish possession! But gone as he is, gone let him be--and thou, too
ready implement of evil, be thou gone after him!" He drew from his
pocket his right hand, which had all this time held his hunting-knife,
and threw the implement into the court-yard as he spoke, then, with a
sad quietness, and solemnity of manner, shut the window, and led his
sister by the hand to her usual seat, which her tottering steps scarce
enabled her to reach. "Clara," he said, after a pause of mournful
silence, "we must think what is to be done, without passion or
violence--there may be something for us in the dice yet, if we do not
throw away our game. A blot is never a blot till it is hit--dishonour
concealed, is not dishonour in some respects.--Dost thou attend to me,
wretched girl?" he said, suddenly and sternly raising his voice.

"Yes, brother--yes, indeed, brother!" she hastily replied, terrified
even by delay again to awaken his ferocious and ungovernable temper.

"Thus it must be, then," he said. "You must marry this
Etherington--there is no help for it, Clara--You cannot complain of what
your own vice and folly have rendered inevitable."

"But, brother!"--said the trembling girl.

"Be silent. I know all that you would say. You love him not, you would
say. I love him not, no more than you. Nay, what is more, he loves you
not; if he did, I might scruple to give you to him, you being such as
you have owned yourself. But you shall wed him out of hate, Clara--or
for the interest of your family--or for what reason you will--But wed
him you shall and must."

"Brother--dearest brother--one single word!"

"Not of refusal or expostulation--that time is gone by," said her stern
censurer. "When I believed thee what I thought thee this morning, I
might advise you, but I could not compel. But, since the honour of our
family has been disgraced by your means, it is but just, that, if
possible, its disgrace should be hidden; and it shall,--ay, if selling
you for a slave would tend to conceal it!"

"You do worse--you do worse by me! A slave in an open market may be
bought by a kind master--you do not give me that chance--you wed me to
one who"----

"Fear him not, nor the worst that he can do, Clara," said her brother.
"I know on what terms he marries; and being once more your brother, as
your obedience in this matter will make me, he had better tear his flesh
from his bones with his own teeth, than do thee any displeasure! By
Heaven, I hate him so much--for he has outreached me every way--that
methinks it is some consolation that he will not receive in thee the
excellent creature I thought thee!--Fallen as thou art, thou art still
too good for him."

Encouraged by the more gentle and almost affectionate tone in which her
brother spoke, Clara could not help saying, although almost in a
whisper, "I trust it will not be so--I trust he will consider his own
condition, honour, and happiness, better than to share it with me."

"Let him utter such a scruple if he dares," said Mowbray--"But he dares
not hesitate--he knows that the instant he recedes from addressing you,
he signs his own death-warrant or mine, or perhaps that of both; and his
views, too, are of a kind that will not be relinquished on a point of
scrupulous delicacy merely. Therefore, Clara, nourish no such thought
in your heart as that there is the least possibility of your escaping
this marriage! The match is booked--Swear you will not hesitate."

"I will not," she said, almost breathlessly, terrified lest he was about
to start once more into the fit of unbridled fury which had before
seized on him.

"Do not even whisper or hint an objection, but submit to your fate, for
it is inevitable."

"I will--submit"--answered Clara, in the same trembling accent.

"And I," he said, "will spare you--at least at present--and it may be
for ever--all enquiry into the guilt which you have confessed. Rumours
there were of misconduct, which reached my ears even in England; but who
could have believed them that looked on you daily, and witnessed your
late course of life?--On this subject I will be at present
silent--perhaps may not again touch on it--that is, if you do nothing to
thwart my pleasure, or to avoid the fate which circumstances render
unavoidable.--And now it is late--retire, Clara, to your bed--think on
what I have said as what necessity has determined, and not my selfish
pleasure."

He held out his hand, and she placed, but not without reluctant terror,
her trembling palm in his. In this manner, and with a sort of mournful
solemnity, as if they had been in attendance upon a funeral, he handed
his sister through a gallery hung with old family pictures, at the end
of which was Clara's bedchamber. The moon, which at this moment looked
out through a huge volume of mustering clouds that had long been boding
storm, fell on the two last descendants of that ancient family, as they
glided hand in hand, more like the ghosts of the deceased than like
living persons, through the hall and amongst the portraits of their
forefathers. The same thoughts were in the breast of both, but neither
attempted to say, while they cast a flitting glance on the pallid and
decayed representations, "How little did these anticipate this
catastrophe of their house!" At the door of the bedroom Mowbray quitted
his sister's hand, and said, "Clara, you should to-night thank God, that
saved you from a great danger, and me from a deadly sin."

"I will," she answered--"I will." And, as if her terror had been anew
excited by this allusion to what had passed, she bid her brother hastily
good-night, and was no sooner within her apartment, than he heard her
turn the key in the lock, and draw two bolts besides.

"I understand you, Clara," muttered Mowbray between his teeth, as he
heard one bar drawn after another. "But if you could earth yourself
under Ben Nevis, you could not escape what fate has destined for
you.--Yes!" he said to himself, as he walked with slow and moody pace
through the moonlight gallery, uncertain whether to return to the
parlour, or to retire to his solitary chamber, when his attention was
roused by a noise in the court-yard.

The night was not indeed very far advanced, but it had been so long
since Shaws-Castle received a guest, that had Mowbray not heard the
rolling of wheels in the court-yard, he might have thought rather of
housebreakers than of visitors. But, as the sound of a carriage and
horses was distinctly heard, it instantly occurred to him, that the
guest must be Lord Etherington, come, even at this late hour, to speak
with him on the reports which were current to his sister's prejudice,
and perhaps to declare his addresses to her were at an end. Eager to
know the worst, and to bring matters to a decision, he re-entered the
apartment he had just left, where the lights were still burning, and,
calling loudly to Patrick, whom he heard in communing with the
postilion, commanded him to show the visitor to Miss Mowbray's parlour.
It was not the light step of the young nobleman which came tramping, or
rather stamping, through the long passage, and up the two or three steps
at the end of it. Neither was it Lord Etherington's graceful figure
which was seen when the door opened, but the stout square substance of
Mr. Peregrine Touchwood.



CHAPTER XVII.

A RELATIVE.

    Claim'd kindred there, and had his claims allow'd.

_Deserted Village._


Starting at the unexpected and undesired apparition which presented
itself, in the manner described at the end of the last chapter, Mowbray
yet felt, at the same time, a kind of relief, that his meeting with Lord
Etherington, painfully decisive as that meeting must be, was for a time
suspended. So it was with a mixture of peevishness and internal
satisfaction, that he demanded what had procured him the honour of a
visit from Mr. Touchwood at this late hour.

"Necessity, that makes the old wife trot," replied Touchwood; "no choice
of mine, I assure you--Gad, Mr. Mowbray, I would rather have crossed
Saint Gothard, than run the risk I have done to-night, rumbling through
your breakneck roads in that d----d old wheelbarrow.--On my word, I
believe I must be troublesome to your butler for a draught of
something--I am as thirsty as a coal-heaver that is working by the
piece. You have porter, I suppose, or good old Scotch two-penny?"

With a secret execration on his visitor's effrontery, Mr. Mowbray
ordered the servant to put down wine and water, of which Touchwood
mixed a gobletful, and drank it off.

"We are a small family," said his entertainer; "and I am seldom at
home--still more seldom receive guests, when I chance to be here--I am
sorry I have no malt liquor, if you prefer it."

"Prefer it?" said Touchwood, compounding, however, another glass of
sherry and water, and adding a large piece of sugar, to correct the
hoarseness which, he observed, his night journey might bring on,--"to be
sure I prefer it, and so does every body, except Frenchmen and
dandies.--No offence, Mr. Mowbray, but you should order a hogshead from
Meux--the brown-stout, wired down for exportation to the colonies, keeps
for any length of time, and in every climate--I have drank it where it
must have cost a guinea a quart, if interest had been counted."

"When I _expect_ the honour of a visit from you, Mr. Touchwood, I will
endeavour to be better provided," answered Mowbray; "at present your
arrival has been without notice, and I would be glad to know if it has
any particular object."

"This is what I call coming to the point," said Mr. Touchwood, thrusting
out his stout legs, accoutred as they were with the ancient defences,
called boot-hose, so as to rest his heels upon the fender. "Upon my
life, the fire turns the best flower in the garden at this season of the
year--I'll take the freedom to throw on a log.--Is it not a strange
thing, by the by, that one never sees a fagot in Scotland? You have much
small wood, Mr. Mowbray, I wonder you do not get some fellow from the
midland counties, to teach your people how to make a fagot."

"Did you come all the way to Shaws-Castle," asked Mowbray, rather
testily, "to instruct me in the mystery of fagot-making?"

"Not exactly--not exactly," answered the undaunted Touchwood; "but there
is a right and a wrong way in every thing--a word by the way, on any
useful subject, can never fall amiss.--As for my immediate and more
pressing business, I can assure you, that it is of a nature sufficiently
urgent, since it brings me to a house in which I am much surprised to
find myself."

"The surprise is mutual, sir," said Mowbray, gravely, observing that his
guest made a pause; "it is full time you should explain it."

"Well, then," replied Touchwood; "I must first ask you whether you have
never heard of a certain old gentleman, called Scrogie, who took it into
what he called his head, poor man, to be ashamed of the name he bore,
though owned by many honest and respectable men, and chose to join it to
your surname of Mowbray, as having a more chivalrous Norman sounding,
and, in a word, a gentlemanlike twang with it?"

"I have heard of such a person, though only lately," said Mowbray.
"Reginald Scrogie Mowbray was his name. I have reason to consider his
alliance with my family as undoubted, though you seem to mention it with
a sneer, sir. I believe Mr. S. Mowbray regulated his family settlements
very much upon the idea that his heir was to intermarry with our house."

"True, true, Mr. Mowbray," answered Touchwood; "and certainly it is not
your business to lay the axe to the root of the genealogical tree, that
is like to bear golden apples for you--Ha!"

"Well, well, sir--proceed--proceed," answered Mowbray.

"You may also have heard that this old gentleman had a son, who would
willingly have cut up the said family-tree into fagots; who thought
Scrogie sounded as well as Mowbray, and had no fancy for an imaginary
gentility, which was to be attained by the change of one's natural name,
and the disowning, as it were, of one's actual relations."

"I think I have heard from Lord Etherington," answered Mowbray, "to
whose communications I owe most of my knowledge about these Scrogie
people, that old Mr. Scrogie Mowbray was unfortunate in a son, who
thwarted his father on every occasion,--would embrace no opportunity
which fortunate chances held out, of raising and distinguishing the
family,--had imbibed low tastes, wandering habits, and singular objects
of pursuit,--on account of which his father disinherited him."

"It is very true, Mr. Mowbray," proceeded Touchwood, "that this person
did happen to fall under his father's displeasure, because he scorned
forms and flummery,--loved better to make money as an honest merchant,
than to throw it away as an idle gentleman,--never called a coach when
walking on foot would serve the turn,--and liked the Royal Exchange
better than St. James's Park. In short, his father disinherited him,
because he had the qualities for doubling the estate, rather than those
for squandering it."

"All this may be quite correct, Mr. Touchwood," replied Mowbray; "but
pray, what has this Mr. Scrogie, junior, to do with you or me?"

"Do with you or me!" said Touchwood, as if surprised at the question;
"he has a great deal to do with me at least, since I am the very man
myself."

"The devil you are!" said Mowbray, opening wide his eyes in turn; "Why,
Mr. A--a--your name is Touchwood--P. Touchwood--Paul, I suppose, or
Peter--I read it so in the subscription book at the Well."

"Peregrine, sir, Peregrine--my mother would have me so christened,
because Peregrine Pickle came out during her confinement; and my poor
foolish father acquiesced, because he thought it genteel, and derived
from the Willoughbies. I don't like it, and I always write P. short, and
you might have remarked an S. also before the surname--I use at present
P. S. Touchwood. I had an old acquaintance in the city, who loved his
jest--He always called me Postscript Touchwood."

"Then, sir," said Mowbray, "if you are really Mr. Scrogie, _tout court_,
I must suppose the name of Touchwood is assumed?"

"What the devil!" replied Mr. P. S. Touchwood, "do you suppose there is
no name in the English nation will couple up legitimately with my
paternal name of Scrogie, except your own, Mr. Mowbray?--I assure you I
got the name of Touchwood, and a pretty spell of money along with it,
from an old godfather, who admired my spirit in sticking by commerce."

"Well, sir, every one has his taste--Many would have thought it better
to enjoy a hereditary estate, by keeping your father's name of Mowbray,
than to have gained another by assuming a stranger's name of Touchwood."

"Who told you Mr. Touchwood was a stranger to me?" said the traveller;
"for aught I know, he had a better title to the duties of a son from
me, than the poor old man who made such a fool of himself, by trying to
turn gentleman in his old age. He was my grandfather's partner in the
great firm of Touchwood, Scrogie, and Co.--Let me tell you, there is as
good inheritance in house as in field--a man's partners are his fathers
and brothers, and a head clerk may be likened to a kind of first
cousin."

"I meant no offence whatever, Mr. Touchwood Scrogie."

"Scrogie Touchwood, if you please," said the senior; "the scrog branch
first, for it must become rotten ere it become touchwood--ha, ha,
ha!--you take me."

"A singular old fellow this," said Mowbray to himself, "and speaks in
all the dignity of dollars; but I will be civil to him, till I can see
what he is driving at.--You are facetious, Mr. Touchwood," he proceeded
aloud. "I was only going to say, that although you set no value upon
your connexion with my family, yet I cannot forget that such a
circumstance exists; and therefore I bid you heartily welcome to
Shaws-Castle."

"Thank ye, thank ye, Mr. Mowbray--I knew you would see the thing right.
To tell you the truth, I should not have cared much to come a-begging
for your acquaintance and cousinship, and so forth; but that I thought
you would be more tractable in your adversity, than was your father in
his prosperity."

"Did you know my father, sir?" said Mowbray.

"Ay, ay--I came once down here, and was introduced to him--saw your
sister and you when you were children--had thoughts of making my will
then, and should have clapped you both in before I set out to double
Cape Horn. But, gad, I wish my poor father had seen the reception I got!
I did not let the old gentleman, Mr. Mowbray of St. Ronan's that was
then, smoke my money-bags--that might have made him more tractable--not
but that we went on indifferent well for a day or two, till I got a hint
that my room was wanted, for that the Duke of Devil-knows-what was
expected, and my bed was to serve his valet-de-chambre.--'Oh, damn all
gentle cousins!' said I, and off I set on the pad round the world again,
and thought no more of the Mowbrays till a year or so ago."

"And, pray, what recalled us to your recollection?"

"Why," said Touchwood, "I was settled for some time at Smyrna, (for I
turn the penny go where I will--I have done a little business even since
I came here;)--but being at Smyrna as I said, I became acquainted with
Francis Tyrrel."

"The natural brother of Lord Etherington," said Mowbray.

"Ay, so called," answered Touchwood; "but by and by he is more likely to
prove the Earl of Etherington himself, and t'other fine fellow the
bastard."

"The devil he is!--You surprise me, Mr. Touchwood."

"I thought I should--I thought I should--Faith, I am sometimes surprised
myself at the turn things take in this world. But the thing is not the
less certain--the proofs are lying in the strong chest of our house at
London, deposited there by the old Earl, who repented of his roguery to
Miss Martigny long before he died, but had not courage enough to do his
legitimate son justice till the sexton had housed him."

"Good Heaven, sir!" said Mowbray; "and did you know all this while, that
I was about to bestow the only sister of my house upon an impostor?"

"What was my business with that, Mr. Mowbray?" replied Touchwood; "you
would have been very angry had any one suspected you of not being sharp
enough to look out for yourself and your sister both. Besides, Lord
Etherington, bad enough as he may be in other respects, was, till very
lately, no impostor, or an innocent one, for he only occupied the
situation in which his father had placed him. And, indeed, when I
understood, upon coming to England, that he was gone down here, and, as
I conjectured, to pay his addresses to your sister, to say truth, I did
not see he could do better. Here was a poor fellow that was about to
cease to be a lord and a wealthy man; was it not very reasonable that he
should make the most of his dignity while he had it? and if, by marrying
a pretty girl while in possession of his title, he could get possession
of the good estate of Nettlewood, why, I could see nothing in it but a
very pretty way of breaking his fall."

"Very pretty for him, indeed, and very convenient too," said Mowbray;
"but pray, sir, what was to become of the honour of my family?"

"Why, what was the honour of your family to me?" said Touchwood; "unless
it was to recommend your family to my care, that I was disinherited on
account of it. And if this Etherington, or Bulmer, had been a good
fellow, I would have seen all the Mowbrays that ever wore broad cloth at
Jericho, before I had interfered."

"I am really much indebted to your kindness," said Mowbray angrily.

"More than you are aware of," answered Touchwood; "for, though I thought
this Bulmer, even when declared illegitimate, might be a reasonable good
match for your sister, considering the estate which was to accompany the
union of their hands; yet, now I have discovered him to be a
scoundrel--every way a scoundrel--I would not wish any decent girl to
marry him, were they to get all Yorkshire, instead of Nettlewood. So I
have come to put you right."

The strangeness of the news which Touchwood so bluntly communicated,
made Mowbray's head turn round like that of a man who grows dizzy at
finding himself on the verge of a precipice. Touchwood observed his
consternation, which he willingly construed into an acknowledgment of
his own brilliant genius.

"Take a glass of wine, Mr. Mowbray," he said, complacently; "take a
glass of old sherry--nothing like it for clearing the ideas--and do not
be afraid of me, though I come thus suddenly upon you with such
surprising tidings--you will find me a plain, simple, ordinary man, that
have my faults and my blunders like other people. I acknowledge that
much travel and experience have made me sometimes play the busybody,
because I find I can do things better than other people, and I love to
see folk stare--it's a way I have got. But, after all, I am _un bon
diable_, as the Frenchman says; and here I have come four or five
hundred miles to lie quiet among you all, and put all your little
matters to rights, just when you think they are most desperate."

"I thank you for your good intentions," said Mowbray; "but I must needs
say, that they would have been more effectual had you been less cunning
in my behalf, and frankly told me what you knew of Lord Etherington; as
it is, the matter has gone fearfully far. I have promised him my
sister--I have laid myself under personal obligations to him--and there
are other reasons why I fear I must keep my word to this man, earl or no
earl."

"What!" exclaimed Touchwood, "would you give up your sister to a
worthless rascal, who is capable of robbing the post-office, and of
murdering his brother, because you have lost a trifle of money to him?
Are you to let him go off triumphantly, because he is a gamester as well
as a cheat?--You are a pretty fellow, Mr. Mowbray of St. Ronan's--you
are one of the happy sheep that go out for wool, and come home shorn.
Egad, you think yourself a millstone, and turn out a sack of grain--You
flew abroad a hawk, and have come home a pigeon--You snarled at the
Philistines, and they have drawn your eye-teeth with a vengeance!"

"This is all very witty, Mr. Touchwood," replied Mowbray; "but wit will
not pay this man Etherington, or whatever he is, so many hundreds as I
have lost to him."

"Why, then, wealth must do what wit cannot," said old Touchwood; "I must
advance for you, that is all. Look ye, sir, I do not go afoot for
nothing--if I have laboured, I have reaped--and, like the fellow in the
old play, 'I have enough, and can maintain my humour'--it is not a few
hundreds, or thousands either, can stand betwixt old P. S. Touchwood and
his purpose; and my present purpose is to make you, Mr. Mowbray of St.
Ronan's, a free man of the forest.--You still look grave on it, young
man?--Why, I trust you are not such an ass as to think your dignity
offended, because the plebeian Scrogie comes to the assistance of the
terribly great and old house of Mowbray?"

"I am indeed not such a fool," answered Mowbray, with his eyes still
bent on the ground, "to reject assistance that comes to me like a rope
to a drowning man--but there is a circumstance"----he stopped short and
drank a glass of wine--"a circumstance to which it is most painful to me
to allude--but you seem my friend--and I cannot intimate to you more
strongly my belief in your professions of regard than by saying, that
the language held by Lady Penelope Penfeather on my sister's account,
renders it highly proper that she were settled in life; and I cannot but
fear, that the breaking off the affair with this man might be of great
prejudice to her at this moment. They will have Nettlewood, and they may
live separate--he has offered to make settlements to that effect, even
on the very day of marriage. Her condition as a married woman will put
her above scandal, and above necessity, from which, I am sorry to say, I
cannot hope long to preserve her."

"For shame!--for shame!--for shame!" said Touchwood, accumulating his
words thicker than usual on each other; "would you sell your own flesh
and blood to a man like this Bulmer, whose character is now laid before
you, merely because a disappointed old maid speaks scandal of her? A
fine veneration you pay to the honoured name of Mowbray! If my poor,
old, simple father had known what the owners of these two grand
syllables could have stooped to do for merely ensuring subsistence, he
would have thought as little of the noble Mowbrays as of the humble
Scrogies. And, I dare say, the young lady is just such another--eager
to get married--no matter to whom."

"Excuse me, Mr. Touchwood," answered Mowbray; "my sister entertains
sentiments so very different from what you ascribe to her, that she and
I parted on the most unpleasant terms, in consequence of my pressing
this man's suit upon her. God knows, that I only did so, because I saw
no other outlet from this most unpleasant dilemma. But, since you are
willing to interfere, sir, and aid me to disentangle these complicated
matters, which have, I own, been made worse by my own rashness, I am
ready to throw the matter completely into your hands, just as if you
were my father arisen from the dead. Nevertheless, I must needs express
my surprise at the extent of your intelligence in these affairs."

"You speak very sensibly, young man," said the traveller; "and as for my
intelligence, I have for some time known the finesses of this Master
Bulmer as perfectly as if I had been at his elbow when he was playing
all his dog's tricks with this family. You would hardly suspect now," he
continued, in a confidential tone, "that what you were so desirous a
while ago should take place, has in some sense actually happened, and
that the marriage ceremony has really passed betwixt your sister and
this pretended Lord Etherington?"

"Have a care, sir!" said Mowbray, fiercely; "do not abuse my
candour--this is no place, time, or subject, for impertinent jesting."

"As I live by bread, I am serious," said Touchwood; "Mr. Cargill
performed the ceremony; and there are two living witnesses who heard
them say the words, 'I, Clara, take you, Francis,' or whatever the
Scottish church puts in place of that mystical formula."

"It is impossible," said Mowbray; "Cargill dared not have done such a
thing--a clandestine proceeding, such as you speak of, would have cost
him his living. I'll bet my soul against a horse-shoe, it is all an
imposition; and you come to disturb me, sir, amid my family distress,
with legends that have no more truth in them than the Alkoran."

"There are some true things in the Alkoran, (or rather, the Koran, for
the Al is merely the article prefixed,) but let that pass--I will raise
your wonder higher before I am done. It is very true, that your sister
was indeed joined in marriage with this same Bulmer, that calls himself
by the title of Etherington; but it is just as true, that the marriage
is not worth a maravedi, for she believed him at the time to be another
person--to be, in a word, Francis Tyrrel, who is actually what the other
pretends to be, a nobleman of fortune."

"I cannot understand one word of all this," said Mowbray. "I must to my
sister instantly, and demand of her if there be any real foundation for
these wonderful averments."

"Do not go," said Touchwood, detaining him, "you shall have a full
explanation from me; and to comfort you under your perplexity, I can
assure you that Cargill's consent to celebrate the nuptials, was only
obtained by an aspersion thrown on your sister's character, which
induced him to believe that speedy marriage would be the sole means of
saving her reputation; and I am convinced in my own mind it is only the
revival of this report which has furnished the foundation of Lady
Penelope's chattering."

"If I could think so"--said Mowbray, "if I could but think this is
truth--and it seems to explain, in some degree, my sister's mysterious
conduct--if I could but think it true, I should fall down and worship
you as an angel from heaven!"

"A proper sort of angel," said Touchwood, looking modestly down on his
short, sturdy supporters--"Did you ever hear of an angel in boot-hose?
Or, do you suppose angels are sent to wait on broken-down
horse-jockeys?"

"Call me what you will, Mr. Touchwood," said the young man, "only make
out your story true, and my sister innocent!"

"Very well spoken, sir," answered the senior, "very well spoken! But
then I understand, you are to be guided by my prudence and experience?
None of your G-- damme doings, sir--your duels or your drubbings. Let
_me_ manage the affair for you, and I will bring you through with a
flowing sail."

"Sir, I must feel as a gentleman,"--said Mowbray.

"Feel as a fool," said Touchwood, "for that is the true case. Nothing
would please this Bulmer better than to fight through his rogueries--he
knows very well, that he who can slit a pistol-ball on the edge of a
penknife, will always preserve some sort of reputation amidst his
scoundrelism--but I shall take care to stop that hole. Sit down--be a
man of sense, and listen to the whole of this strange story."

Mowbray sat down accordingly; and Touchwood, in his own way, and with
many characteristic interjectional remarks, gave him an account of the
early loves of Clara and Tyrrel--of the reasons which induced Bulmer at
first to encourage their correspondence, in hopes that his brother
would, by a clandestine marriage, altogether ruin himself with his
father--of the change which took place in his views when he perceived
the importance annexed by the old Earl to the union of Miss Mowbray with
his apparent heir--of the desperate stratagem which he endeavoured to
play off, by substituting himself in the room of his brother--and all
the consequences, which it is unnecessary to resume here, as they are
detailed at length by the perpetrator himself, in his correspondence
with Captain Jekyl.

When the whole communication was ended, Mowbray, almost stupified by the
wonders he had heard, remained for some time in a sort of reverie, from
which he only started to ask what evidence could be produced of a story
so strange.

"The evidence," answered Touchwood, "of one who was a deep agent in all
these matters, from first to last--as complete a rogue, I believe, as
the devil himself, with this difference, that our mortal fiend does not,
I believe, do evil for the sake of evil, but for the sake of the profit
which attends it. How far this plea will avail him in a court of
conscience, I cannot tell; but his disposition was so far akin to
humanity, that I have always found my old acquaintance as ready to do
good as harm, providing he had the same _agio_ upon the transaction."

"On my soul," said Mowbray, "you must mean Solmes! whom I have long
suspected to be a deep villain--and now he proves traitor to boot. How
the devil could you get into his intimacy, Mr. Touchwood?"

"The case was particular," said Touchwood. "Mr. Solmes, too active a
member of the community to be satisfied with managing the affairs which
his master intrusted to him, adventured in a little business on his own
account; and thinking, I suppose, that the late Earl of Etherington had
forgotten fully to acknowledge his services, as valet to his son, he
supplied that defect by a small check on our house for L.100, in name,
and bearing the apparent signature, of the deceased. This small mistake
being detected, Mr. Solmes, _porteur_ of the little billet, would have
been consigned to the custody of a Bow-street officer, but that I found
means to relieve him, on condition of his making known to me the points
of private history which I have just been communicating to you. What I
had known of Tyrrel at Smyrna, had given me much interest in him, and
you may guess it was not lessened by the distresses which he had
sustained through his brother's treachery. By this fellow's means, I
have counterplotted all his master's fine schemes. For example, as soon
as I learned Bulmer was coming down here, I contrived to give Tyrrel an
anonymous hint, well knowing he would set off like the devil to thwart
him, and so I should have the whole dramatis personæ together, and play
them all off against each other, after my own pleasure."

"In that case," said Mr. Mowbray, "your expedient brought about the
rencontre between the two brothers, when both might have fallen."

"Can't deny it--can't deny it," answered Scrogie, a little
discountenanced--"a mere accident--no one can guard every point.--Egad,
but I had like to have been baffled again, for Bulmer sent the lad
Jekyl, who is not such a black sheep neither but what there are some
white hairs about him, upon a treaty with Tyrrel, that my secret agent
was not admitted to. Gad, but I discovered the whole--you will scarce
guess how."

"Probably not easily, indeed, sir," answered Mowbray; "for your sources
of intelligence are not the most obvious, any more than your mode of
acting the most simple or most comprehensible."

"I would not have it so," said Touchwood; "simple men perish in their
simplicity--I carry my eye-teeth about me.--And for my source of
information--why, I played the eavesdropper, sir--listened--knew my
landlady's cupboard with the double door--got into it as she has done
many a time.--Such a fine gentleman as you would rather cut a man's
throat, I suppose, than listen at a cupboard door, though the object
were to prevent murder?"

"I cannot say I should have thought of the expedient, certainly, sir,"
said Mowbray.

"I did, though," said Scrogie, "and learned enough of what was going on,
to give Jekyl a hint that sickened him of his commission, I believe--so
the game is all in my own hands. Bulmer has no one to trust to but
Solmes, and Solmes tells me every thing."

Here Mowbray could not suppress a movement of impatience.

"I wish to God, sir, that since you were so kind as to interest yourself
in affairs so intimately concerning my family, you had been pleased to
act with a little more openness towards me. Here have I been for weeks
the intimate of a damned scoundrel, whose throat I ought to have cut for
his scandalous conduct to my sister. Here have I been rendering her and
myself miserable, and getting myself cheated every night by a swindler,
whom you, if it had been your pleasure, could have unmasked by a single
word. I do all justice to your intentions, sir; but, upon my soul, I
cannot help wishing you had conducted yourself with more frankness and
less mystery; and I am truly afraid your love of dexterity has been too
much for your ingenuity, and that you have suffered matters to run into
such a skein of confusion, as you yourself will find difficulty in
unravelling."

Touchwood smiled, and shook his head in all the conscious pride of
superior understanding. "Young man," he said, "when you have seen a
little of the world, and especially beyond the bounds of this narrow
island, you will find much more art and dexterity necessary in
conducting these businesses to an issue, than occurs to a blind John
Bull, or a raw Scotchman. You will be then no stranger to the policy of
life, which deals in mining and countermining,--now in making feints,
now in thrusting with forthright passes. I look upon you, Mr. Mowbray,
as a young man spoiled by staying at home, and keeping bad company; and
will make it my business, if you submit yourself to my guidance, to
inform your understanding, so as to retrieve your estate.--Don't--Don't
answer me, sir! because I know too well, by experience, how young men
answer on these subjects--they are conceited, sir, as conceited as if
they had been in all the four quarters of the world. I hate to be
answered, sir, I hate it. And, to tell you the truth, it is because
Tyrrel has a fancy of answering me, that I rather make you my confidant
on this occasion, than him. I would have had him throw himself into my
arms, and under my directions; but he hesitated--he hesitated, Mr.
Mowbray--and I despise hesitation. If he thinks he has wit enough to
manage his own matters, let him try it--let him try it. Not but I will
do all I can for him, in fitting time and place; but I will let him
dwell in his perplexities and uncertainties for a little while longer.
And so, Mr. Mowbray, you see what sort of an odd fellow I am, and you
can satisfy me at once whether you mean to come into my measures--only
speak out at once, sir, for I abhor hesitation."

While Touchwood thus spoke, Mowbray was forming his resolution
internally. He was not so inexperienced as the senior supposed; at
least, he could plainly see that he had to do with an obstinate,
capricious old man, who, with the best intentions in the world, chose
to have every thing in his own way; and, like most petty politicians,
was disposed to throw intrigue and mystery over matters which had much
better be prosecuted boldly and openly. But he perceived at the same
time, that Touchwood, as a sort of relation, wealthy, childless, and
disposed to become his friend, was a person to be conciliated, the
rather that the traveller himself had frankly owned that it was Francis
Tyrrel's want of deference towards him, which had forfeited, or at least
abated, his favour. Mowbray recollected, also, that the circumstances
under which he himself stood, did not permit him to trifle with
returning gleams of good fortune. Subduing, therefore, the haughtiness
of temper proper to him as an only son and heir, he answered
respectfully, that, in his condition, the advice and assistance of Mr.
Scrogie Touchwood were too important, not to be purchased at the price
of submitting his own judgment to that of an experienced and sagacious
friend.

"Well said, Mr. Mowbray," replied the senior, "well said. Let me once
have the management of your affairs, and we will brush them up for you
without loss of time.--I must be obliged to you for a bed for the night,
however--it is as dark as a wolf's mouth; and if you will give orders to
keep the poor devil of a postilion, and his horses too, why, I will be
the more obliged to you."

Mowbray applied himself to the bell. Patrick answered the call, and was
much surprised, when the old gentleman, taking the word out of his
entertainer's mouth, desired a bed to be got ready, with a little fire
in the grate; "for I take it, friend," he went on, "you have not guests
here very often.--And see that my sheets be not damp, and bid the
housemaid take care not to make the bed upon an exact level, but let it
slope from the pillow to the footposts, at a declivity of about eighteen
inches.--And hark ye--get me a jug of barley-water, to place by my
bedside, with the squeeze of a lemon--or stay, you will make it as sour
as Beelzebub--bring the lemon on a saucer, and I will mix it myself."

Patrick listened like one of sense forlorn, his head turning like a
mandarin, alternately from the speaker to his master, as if to ask the
latter whether this was all reality. The instant that Touchwood stopped,
Mowbray added his fiat.

"Let every thing be done to make Mr. Touchwood comfortable, in the way
he wishes."

"Aweel, sir," said Patrick, "I shall tell Mally, to be sure, and we maun
do our best, and--but it's unco late"----

"And, therefore," said Touchwood, "the sooner we get to bed the better,
my old friend. I, for one, must be stirring early--I have business of
life and death--it concerns you too, Mr. Mowbray--but no more of that
till to-morrow.--And let the lad put up his horses, and get him a bed
somewhere."

Patrick here thought he had gotten upon firm ground for resistance, for
which, displeased with the dictatorial manner of the stranger, he felt
considerably inclined.

"Ye may catch us at that, if ye can," said Patrick; "there's nae post
cattle come into our stables--What do we ken, but that they may be
glandered, as the groom says?"

"We must take the risk to-night, Patrick," said Mowbray, reluctantly
enough--"unless Mr. Touchwood will permit the horses to come back early
next morning?"

"Not I, indeed," said Touchwood; "safe bind safe find--it may be once
away and aye away, and we shall have enough to do to-morrow morning.
Moreover, the poor carrion are tired, and the merciful man is merciful
to his beast--and, in a word, if the horses go back to St. Ronan's Well
to-night, I go there for company."

It often happens, owing, I suppose, to the perversity of human nature,
that subserviency in trifles is more difficult to a proud mind, than
compliance in matters of more importance. Mowbray, like other young
gentlemen of his class, was finically rigid in his stable discipline,
and even Lord Etherington's horses had not been admitted into that
_sanctum sanctorum_, into which he now saw himself obliged to induct two
wretched post-hacks. But he submitted with the best grace he could; and
Patrick, while he left their presence, with lifted-up hands and eyes to
execute the orders he had received, could scarcely help thinking that
the old man must be the devil in disguise, since he could thus suddenly
control his fiery master, even in the points which he had hitherto
seemed to consider as of most vital importance.

"The Lord in his mercy haud a grip of this puir family! for I, that was
born in it, am like to see the end of it." Thus ejaculated Patrick.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE WANDERER.

    'Tis a naughty night to swim in.

_King Lear._


There was a wild uncertainty about Mowbray's ideas, after he started
from a feverish sleep on the morning succeeding this memorable
interview, that his sister, whom he really loved as much as he was
capable of loving any thing, had dishonoured him and her name; and the
horrid recollection of their last interview was the first idea which his
waking imagination was thrilled with. Then came Touchwood's tale of
exculpation--and he persuaded himself, or strove to do so, that Clara
must have understood the charge he had brought against her as referring
to her attachment to Tyrrel, and its fatal consequences. Again, still he
doubted how that could be--still feared that there must be more behind
than her reluctance to confess the fraud which had been practised on her
by Bulmer; and then, again, he strengthened himself in the first and
more pleasing opinion, by recollecting that, averse as she was to
espouse the person he proposed to her, it must have appeared to her the
completion of ruin, if he, Mowbray, should obtain knowledge of the
clandestine marriage.

"Yes--O yes," he said to himself, "she would think that this story would
render me more eager in the rascal's interest, as the best way of
hushing up such a discreditable affair--faith, and she would have judged
right too; for, had he actually been Lord Etherington, I do not see what
else she could have done. But, not being Lord Etherington, and an
anointed scoundrel into the bargain, I will content myself with
cudgelling him to death so soon as I can get out of the guardianship of
this old, meddling, obstinate, self-willed, busybody.--Then, what is to
be done for Clara?--This mock marriage was a mere bubble, and both
parties must draw stakes. She likes this grave Don, who proves to be the
stick of the right tree, after all--so do not I, though there be
something lordlike about him. I was sure a strolling painter could not
have carried it off so. She may marry him, I suppose, if the law is not
against it--then she has the earldom, and the Oaklands, and Nettlewood,
all at once.--Gad, we should come in winners, after all--and, I dare
say, this old boy Touchwood is as rich as a Jew--worth a hundred
thousand at least--He is too peremptory to be cut up for sixpence under
a hundred thousand.--And he talks of putting me to rights--I must not
wince--must stand still to be curried a little--Only, I wish the law may
permit Clara's being married to this other earl.--A woman cannot marry
two brothers, that is certain:--but then, if she is not married to the
one of them in good and lawful form, there can be no bar to her marrying
the other, I should think--I hope the lawyers will talk no nonsense
about it--I hope Clara will have no foolish scruples.--But, by my word,
the first thing I have to hope is, that the thing is true, for it comes
through but a suspicious channel. I'll away to Clara instantly--get the
truth out of her--and consider what is to be done."

Thus partly thought and partly spoke the young Laird of St. Ronan's,
hastily dressing himself, in order to enquire into the strange chaos of
events which perplexed his imagination.

When he came down to the parlour where they had supped last night, and
where breakfast was prepared this morning, he sent for a girl who acted
as his sister's immediate attendant, and asked, "if Miss Mowbray was yet
stirring?"

The girl answered, "she had not rung her bell."

"It is past her usual hour," said Mowbray, "but she was disturbed last
night. Go, Martha, tell her to get up instantly--say I have excellent
good news for her--or, if her head aches, I will come and tell them to
her before she rises--go like lightning."

Martha went, and returned in a minute or two. "I cannot make my mistress
hear, sir, knock as loud as I will. I wish," she added, with that love
of evil presage which is common in the lower ranks, "that Miss Clara may
be well, for I never knew her sleep so sound."

Mowbray jumped from the chair into which he had thrown himself, ran
through the gallery, and knocked smartly at his sister's door; there was
no answer. "Clara, dear Clara!--Answer me but one word--say but you are
well. I frightened you last night--I had been drinking wine--I was
violent--forgive me!--Come, do not be sulky--speak but a single
word--say but you are well."

He made the pauses longer betwixt every branch of his address, knocked
sharper and louder, listened more anxiously for an answer; at length he
attempted to open the door, but found it locked, or otherwise secured.
"Does Miss Mowbray always lock her door?" he asked the girl.

"Never knew her to do it before, sir; she leaves it open that I may call
her, and open the window-shutters."

She had too good reason for precaution last night, thought her brother,
and then remembered having heard her bar the door.

"Come, Clara," he continued, greatly agitated, "do not be silly; if you
will not open the door, I must force it, that's all; for how can I tell
but that you are sick, and unable to answer?--if you are only sullen,
say so.--She returns no answer," he said, turning to the domestic, who
was now joined by Touchwood.

Mowbray's anxiety was so great, that it prevented his taking any notice
of his guest, and he proceeded to say, without regarding his presence,
"What is to be done?--she may be sick--she may be asleep--she may have
swooned; if I force the door, it may terrify her to death in the present
weak state of her nerves.--Clara, dear Clara! do but speak a single
word, and you shall remain in your own room as long as you please."

There was no answer. Miss Mowbray's maid, hitherto too much fluttered
and alarmed to have much presence of mind, now recollected a back-stair
which communicated with her mistress's room from the garden, and
suggested she might have gone out that way.

"Gone out," said Mowbray, in great anxiety, and looking at the heavy
fog, or rather small rain, which blotted the November morning,--"Gone
out, and in weather like this!--But we may get into her room from the
back-stair."

So saying, and leaving his guest to follow or remain as he thought
proper, he flew rather than walked to the garden, and found the private
door which led into it, from the bottom of the back-stair above
mentioned, was wide open. Full of vague, but fearful apprehensions, he
rushed up to the door of his sister's apartment, which opened from her
dressing-room to the landing-place of the stair; it was ajar, and that
which communicated betwixt the bedroom and dressing-room was half open.
"Clara, Clara!" exclaimed Mowbray, invoking her name rather in an agony
of apprehension, than as any longer hoping for a reply. And his
apprehension was but too prophetic.

Miss Mowbray was not in that apartment; and, from the order in which it
was found, it was plain she had neither undressed on the preceding
night, nor occupied the bed. Mowbray struck his forehead in an agony of
remorse and fear. "I have terrified her to death," he said; "she has
fled into the woods, and perished there!"

Under the influence of this apprehension, Mowbray, after another hasty
glance around the apartment, as if to assure himself that Clara was not
there, rushed again into the dressing-room, almost overturning the
traveller, who, in civility, had not ventured to enter the inner
apartment. "You are as mad as a _Hamako_,"[II-11] said the traveller; "let
us consult together, and I am sure I can contrive"----

"Oh, d--n your contrivance!" said Mowbray, forgetting all proposed
respect in his natural impatience, aggravated by his alarm; "if you had
behaved straight-forward, and like a man of common sense, this would not
have happened!"

"God forgive you, young man, if your reflections are unjust," said the
traveller, quitting the hold he had laid upon Mowbray's coat; "and God
forgive me too, if I have done wrong while endeavouring to do for the
best!--But may not Miss Mowbray have gone down to the Well? I will order
my horses, and set off instantly."

"Do, do," said Mowbray, recklessly; "I thank you, I thank you;" and
hastily traversing the garden, as if desirous to get rid at once of his
visitor and his own thoughts, he took the shortest road to a little
postern-gate, which led into the extensive copsewood, through some part
of which Clara had caused a walk to be cut to a little summer-house
built of rough shingles, covered with creeping shrubs.

As Mowbray hastened through the garden, he met the old man by whom it
was kept, a native of the south country, and an old dependent on the
family. "Have you seen my sister?" said Mowbray, hurrying his words on
each other with the eagerness of terror.

"What's your wull, St. Ronan's?" answered the old man, at once dull of
hearing, and slow of apprehension.

"Have you seen Miss Clara?" shouted Mowbray, and muttered an oath or two
at the gardener's stupidity.

"In troth have I," replied the gardener, deliberately; "what suld ail
me to see Miss Clara, St. Ronan's?"

"When, and where?" eagerly demanded the querist.

"Ou, just yestreen, after tey-time--afore ye cam hame yoursell galloping
sae fast," said old Joseph.

"I am as stupid as he, to put off my time in speaking to such an old
cabbage-stock!" said Mowbray, and hastened on to the postern-gate
already mentioned, leading from the garden into what was usually called
Miss Clara's walk. Two or three domestics, whispering to each other, and
with countenances that showed grief, fear, and suspicion, followed their
master, desirous to be employed, yet afraid to force their services on
the fiery young man.

At the little postern he found some trace of her he sought. The pass-key
of Clara was left in the lock. It was then plain that she must have
passed that way; but at what hour, or for what purpose, Mowbray dared
not conjecture. The path, after running a quarter of a mile or more
through an open grove of oaks and sycamores, attained the verge of the
large brook, and became there steep and rocky, difficult to the infirm,
and alarming to the nervous; often approaching the brink of a
precipitous ledge of rock, which in this place overhung the stream, in
some places brawling and foaming in hasty current, and in others seeming
to slumber in deep and circular eddies. The temptations which this
dangerous scene must have offered an excited and desperate spirit, came
on Mowbray like the blight of the Simoom, and he stood a moment to
gather breath and overcome these horrible anticipations, ere he was able
to proceed. His attendants felt the same apprehension. "Puir thing--puir
thing!--O, God send she may not have been left to hersell!--God send she
may have been upholden!" were whispered by Patrick to the maidens, and
by them to each other.

At this moment the old gardener was heard behind them, shouting,
"Master--St. Ronan's--Master--I have fund--I have fund"----

"Have you found my sister?" exclaimed the brother, with breathless
anxiety.

The old man did not answer till he came up, and then, with his usual
slowness of delivery, he replied to his master's repeated enquiries,
"Na, I haena fund Miss Clara, but I hae fund something ye wad be wae to
lose--your braw hunting-knife."

He put the implement into the hand of its owner, who, recollecting the
circumstances under which he had flung it from him last night, and the
now too probable consequences of that interview, bestowed on it a deep
imprecation, and again hurled it from him into the brook. The domestics
looked at each other, and recollecting each at the same time that the
knife was a favourite tool of their master, who was rather curious in
such articles, had little doubt that his mind was affected, in a
temporary way at least, by his anxiety on his sister's account. He saw
their confused and inquisitive looks, and assuming as much composure and
presence of mind as he could command, directed Martha, and her female
companions, to return and search the walks on the other side of
Shaws-Castle; and, finally, ordered Patrick back to ring the bell,
"which," he said, assuming a confidence that he was far from
entertaining, "might call Miss Mowbray home from some of her long
walks." He farther desired his groom and horses might meet him at the
Clattering Brig, so called from a noisy cascade which was formed by the
brook, above which was stretched a small foot-bridge of planks. Having
thus shaken off his attendants, he proceeded himself, with all the speed
he was capable of exerting, to follow out the path in which he was at
present engaged, which, being a favourite walk with his sister, she
might perhaps have adopted from mere habit, when in a state of mind,
which, he had too much reason to fear, must have put choice out of the
question.

He soon reached the summer-house, which was merely a seat covered
overhead and on the sides, open in front, and neatly paved with pebbles.
This little bower was perched, like a hawk's nest, almost upon the edge
of a projecting crag, the highest point of the line of rock which we
have noticed; and had been selected by poor Clara, on account of the
prospect which it commanded down the valley. One of her gloves lay on
the small rustic table in the summer-house. Mowbray caught it eagerly
up. It was drenched with wet--the preceding day had been dry; so that,
had she forgot it there in the morning, or in the course of the day, it
could not have been in that state. She had certainly been there during
the night, when it rained heavily.

Mowbray, thus assured that Clara had been in this place, while her
passions and fears were so much afloat as they must have been at her
flight from her father's house, cast a hurried and terrified glance from
the brow of the precipice into the deep stream that eddied below. It
seemed to him that, in the sullen roar of the water, he heard the last
groans of his sister--the foam-flakes caught his eye, as if they were a
part of her garments. But a closer examination showed that there was no
appearance of such a catastrophe. Descending the path on the other side
of the bower, he observed a foot-print in a place where the clay was
moist and tenacious, which, from the small size, and the shape of the
shoe, it appeared to him must be a trace of her whom he sought. He
hurried forward, therefore, with as much speed, as yet permitted him to
look out keenly for similar impressions, of which it seemed to him he
remarked several, although less perfect than the former, being much
obliterated by the quantity of rain that had since fallen,--a
circumstance seeming to prove that several hours had elapsed since the
person had passed.

At length, through the various turnings and windings of a long and
romantic path, Mowbray found himself, without having received any
satisfactory intelligence, by the side of the brook, called St. Ronan's
Burn, at the place where it was crossed by foot-passengers, by the
Clattering Brig, and by horsemen through a ford a little lower. At this
point the fugitive might have either continued her wanderings through
her paternal woods, by a path which, after winding about a mile,
returned to Shaws-Castle, or she might have crossed the bridge, and
entered a broken horse-way, common to the public, leading to the Aultoun
of St. Ronan's.

Mowbray, after a moment's consideration, concluded that the last was her
most probable option.--He mounted his horse, which the groom had brought
down according to order, and commanding the man to return by the
footpath, which he himself could not examine, he proceeded to ride
towards the ford. The brook was swollen during the night, and the groom
could not forbear intimating to his master, that there was considerable
danger in attempting to cross it. But Mowbray's mind and feelings were
too high-strung to permit him to listen to cautious counsel. He spurred
the snorting and reluctant horse into the torrent, though the water,
rising high on the upper side, broke both over the pommel and the croupe
of his saddle. It was by exertion of great strength and sagacity, that
the good horse kept the ford-way. Had the stream forced him down among
the rocks, which lie below the crossing-place, the consequences must
have been fatal. Mowbray, however, reached the opposite side in safety,
to the joy and admiration of the servant, who stood staring at him
during the adventure. He then rode hastily towards the Aultoun,
determined, if he could not hear tidings of his sister in that village,
that he would spread the alarm, and institute a general search after
her, since her elopement from Shaws-Castle could, in that case, no
longer be concealed. We must leave him, however, in his present state of
uncertainty, in order to acquaint our readers with the reality of those
evils, which his foreboding mind and disturbed conscience could only
anticipate.

FOOTNOTE:

[II-11] A fool is so termed in Turkey.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE CATASTROPHE.

    What sheeted ghost is wandering through the storm?
    For never did a maid of middle earth
    Choose such a time or spot to vent her sorrows.

_Old Play._


Grief, shame, confusion, and terror, had contributed to overwhelm the
unfortunate Clara Mowbray at the moment when she parted with her
brother, after the stormy and dangerous interview which it was our task
to record in a former chapter. For years, her life, her whole tenor of
thought, had been haunted by the terrible apprehension of a discovery,
and now the thing which she feared had come upon her. The extreme
violence of her brother, which went so far as to menace her personal
safety, had united with the previous conflict of passions, to produce a
rapture of fear, which probably left her no other free agency, than that
which she derived from the blind instinct which urges flight, as the
readiest resource in danger.

We have no means of exactly tracing the course of this unhappy young
woman. It is probable she fled from Shaws-Castle, on hearing the arrival
of Mr. Touchwood's carriage, which she might mistake for that of Lord
Etherington; and thus, while Mowbray was looking forward to the happier
prospects which the traveller's narrative seemed to open, his sister
was contending with rain and darkness, amidst the difficulties and
dangers of the mountain path which we have described. These were so
great, that a young woman more delicately brought up, must either have
lain down exhausted, or have been compelled to turn her steps back to
the residence she had abandoned. But the solitary wanderings of Clara
had inured her to fatigue and to night-walks; and the deeper causes of
terror which urged her to flight, rendered her insensible to the perils
of her way. She had passed the bower, as was evident from her glove
remaining there, and had crossed the foot-bridge; although it was almost
wonderful, that, in so dark a night, she should have followed with such
accuracy a track, where the missing a single turn by a cubit's length,
might have precipitated her into eternity.

It is probable, that Clara's spirits and strength began in some degree
to fail her, after she had proceeded a little way on the road to the
Aultoun; for she had stopped at the solitary cottage inhabited by the
old female pauper, who had been for a time the hostess of the penitent
and dying Hannah Irwin. Here, as the inmate of the cottage acknowledged,
she had made some knocking, and she owned she had heard her moan
bitterly, as she entreated for admission. The old hag was one of those
whose hearts adversity turns to very stone, and obstinately kept her
door shut, impelled more probably by general hatred to the human race,
than by the superstitious fears which seized her; although she
perversely argued that she was startled at the supernatural melody and
sweetness of tone, with which the benighted wanderer made her
supplication. She admitted, that when she heard the poor petitioner
turn from the door, her heart was softened, and she did intend to open
with the purpose of offering her at least a shelter; but that before she
could "hirple to the door, and get the bar taken down," the unfortunate
supplicant was not to be seen; which strengthened the old woman's
opinion, that the whole was a delusion of Satan.

It is conjectured that the repulsed wanderer made no other attempt to
awaken pity or obtain shelter, until she came to Mr. Cargill's Manse, in
the upper room of which a light was still burning, owing to a cause
which requires some explanation.

The reader is aware of the reasons which induced Bulmer, or the titular
Lord Etherington, to withdraw from the country the sole witness, as he
conceived, who could, or at least who might choose to bear witness to
the fraud which he had practised on the unfortunate Clara Mowbray. Of
three persons present at the marriage, besides the parties, the
clergyman was completely deceived. Solmes he conceived to be at his own
exclusive devotion; and therefore, if by his means this Hannah Irwin
could be removed from the scene, he argued plausibly, that all evidence
to the treachery which he had practised would be effectually stifled.
Hence his agent, Solmes, had received a commission, as the reader may
remember, to effect her removal without loss of time, and had reported
to his master that his efforts had been effectual.

But Solmes, since he had fallen under the influence of Touchwood, was
constantly employed in counteracting the schemes which he seemed most
active in forwarding, while the traveller enjoyed (to him an exquisite
gratification) the amusement of countermining as fast as Bulmer could
mine, and had in prospect the pleasing anticipation of blowing up the
pioneer with his own petard. For this purpose, as soon as Touchwood
learned that his house was to be applied to for the original deeds left
in charge by the deceased Earl of Etherington, he expedited a letter,
directing that only the copies should be sent, and thus rendered
nugatory Bulmer's desperate design of possessing himself of that
evidence. For the same reason, when Solmes announced to him his master's
anxious wish to have Hannah Irwin conveyed out of the country, he
appointed him to cause the sick woman to be carefully transported to the
Manse, where Mr. Cargill was easily induced to give her temporary
refuge.

To this good man, who might be termed an Israelite without guile, the
distress of the unhappy woman would have proved a sufficient
recommendation; nor was he likely to have enquired whether her malady
might not be infectious, or to have made any of those other previous
investigations which are sometimes clogs upon the bounty or hospitality
of more prudent philanthropists. But to interest him yet farther, Mr.
Touchwood informed him by letter that the patient (not otherwise unknown
to him) was possessed of certain most material information affecting a
family of honour and consequence, and that he himself, with Mr. Mowbray
of St. Ronan's in the quality of a magistrate, intended to be at the
Manse that evening, to take her declaration upon this important
subject. Such indeed was the traveller's purpose, which might have been
carried into effect, but for his own self-important love of manoeuvring
on the one part, and the fiery impatience of Mowbray on the other,
which, as the reader knows, sent the one at full gallop to Shaws-Castle,
and obliged the other to follow him post haste. This necessity he
intimated to the clergyman by a note, which he dispatched express as he
himself was in the act of stepping into the chaise.

He requested that the most particular attention should be paid to the
invalid--promised to be at the Manse with Mr. Mowbray early on the
morrow--and, with the lingering and inveterate self-conceit which always
induced him to conduct every thing with his own hand, directed his
friend, Mr. Cargill, not to proceed to take the sick woman's declaration
or confession until he arrived, unless in case of extremity.

It had been an easy matter for Solmes to transfer the invalid from the
wretched cottage to the clergyman's Manse. The first appearance of the
associate of much of her guilt had indeed terrified her; but he scrupled
not to assure her, that his penitence was equal to her own, and that he
was conveying her where their joint deposition would be formally
received, in order that they might, so far as possible, atone for the
evil of which they had been jointly guilty. He also promised her kind
usage for herself, and support for her children; and she willingly
accompanied him to the clergyman's residence, he himself resolving to
abide in concealment the issue of the mystery, without again facing his
master, whose star, as he well discerned, was about to shoot speedily
from its exalted sphere.

The clergyman visited the unfortunate patient, as he had done frequently
during her residence in his vicinity, and desired that she might be
carefully attended. During the whole day, she seemed better; but,
whether the means of supporting her exhausted frame had been too
liberally administered, or whether the thoughts which gnawed her
conscience had returned with double severity when she was released from
the pressure of immediate want, it is certain that, about midnight, the
fever began to gain ground, and the person placed in attendance on her
came to inform the clergyman, then deeply engaged with the siege of
Ptolemais, that she doubted if the woman would live till morning, and
that she had something lay heavy at her heart, which she wished, as the
emissary expressed it, "to make, a clean breast of" before she died, or
lost possession of her senses.

Awakened by such a crisis, Mr. Cargill at once became a man of this
world, clear in his apprehension, and cool in his resolution, as he
always was when the path of duty lay before him. Comprehending, from the
various hints of his friend Touchwood, that the matter was of the last
consequence, his own humanity, as well as inexperience, dictated his
sending for skilful assistance. His man-servant was accordingly
dispatched on horseback to the Well for Dr. Quackleben; while, upon the
suggestion of one of his maids, "that Mrs. Dods was an uncommon skeely
body about a sick-bed," the wench was dismissed to supplicate the
assistance of the gudewife of the Cleikum, which she was not, indeed,
wont to refuse whenever it could be useful. The male emissary proved, in
Scottish phrase, a "corbie messenger;"[II-G] for either he did not find the
doctor, or he found him better engaged than to attend the sick-bed of a
pauper, at a request which promised such slight remuneration as that of
a parish minister. But the female ambassador was more successful; for,
though she found our friend Luckie Dods preparing for bed at an hour
unusually late, in consequence of some anxiety on account of Mr.
Touchwood's unexpected absence, the good old dame only growled a little
about the minister's fancies in taking puir bodies into his own house;
and then, instantly donning cloak, hood, and pattens, marched down the
gate with all the speed of the good Samaritan, one maid bearing the
lantern before her, while the other remained to keep the house, and to
attend to the wants of Mr. Tyrrel, who engaged willingly to sit up to
receive Mr. Touchwood.

But, ere Dame Dods had arrived at the Manse, the patient had summoned
Mr. Cargill to her presence, and required him to write her confession
while she had life and breath to make it.

"For I believe," she added, raising herself in the bed, and rolling her
eyes wildly around, "that, were I to confess my guilt to one of a less
sacred character, the Evil Spirit, whose servant I have been, would
carry away his prey, both body and soul, before they had severed from
each other, however short the space that they must remain in
partnership!"

Mr. Cargill would have spoken some ghostly consolation, but she answered
with pettish impatience, "Waste not words--waste not words!--Let me
speak that which I must tell, and sign it with my hand; and do you, as
the more immediate servant of God, and therefore bound to bear witness
to the truth, take heed you write that which I tell you, and nothing
else. I desired to have told this to St. Ronan's--I have even made some
progress in telling it to others--but I am glad I broke short off--for I
know you, Josiah Cargill, though you have long forgotten me."

"It may be so," said Cargill. "I have indeed no recollection of you."

"You once knew Hannah Irwin, though," said the sick woman, "who was
companion and relation to Miss Clara Mowbray, and who was present with
her on that sinful night, when she was wedded in the kirk of St.
Ronan's."

"Do you mean to say that you are that person?" said Cargill, holding the
candle so as to throw some light on the face of the sick woman. "I
cannot believe it."

"No?" replied the penitent; "there is indeed a difference between
wickedness in the act of carrying through its successful machinations,
and wickedness surrounded by all the horrors of a death-bed!"

"Do not yet despair," said Cargill. "Grace is omnipotent--to doubt this
is in itself a great crime."

"Be it so!--I cannot help it--my heart is hardened, Mr. Cargill; and
there is something here," she pressed her bosom, "which tells me, that,
with prolonged life and renewed health, even my present agonies would be
forgotten, and I should become the same I have been before. I have
rejected the offer of grace, Mr. Cargill, and not through ignorance, for
I have sinned with my eyes open. Care not for me, then, who am a mere
outcast." He again endeavoured to interrupt her, but she continued, "Or
if you really wish my welfare, let me relieve my bosom of that which
presses it, and it may be that I shall then be better able to listen to
you. You say you remember me not--but if I tell you how often you
refused to perform in secret the office which was required of you--how
much you urged that it was against your canonical rules--if I name the
argument to which you yielded--and remind you of your purpose, to
acknowledge your transgression to your brethren in the church courts, to
plead your excuse, and submit to their censure, which you said could not
be a light one--you will be then aware, that, in the voice of the
miserable pauper, you hear the words of the once artful, gay, and
specious Hannah Irwin."

"I allow it--I allow it!" said Mr. Cargill; "I admit the tokens, and
believe you to be indeed her whose name you assume."

"Then one painful step is over," said she; "for I would ere now have
lightened my conscience by confession, saving for the cursed pride of
spirit, which was ashamed of poverty, though it had not shrunk from
guilt.--Well--In these arguments, which were urged to you by a youth
best known to you by the name of Francis Tyrrel, though more properly
entitled to that of Valentine Bulmer, we practised on you a base and
gross deception.--Did you not hear some one sigh?--I hope there is no
one in the room--I trust I shall die when my confession is signed and
sealed, without my name being dragged through the public--I hope ye
bring not in your menials to gaze on my abject misery--I cannot brook
that."

She paused and listened; for the ear, usually deafened by pain, is
sometimes, on the contrary, rendered morbidly acute. Mr. Cargill assured
her, there was no one present but himself. "But, O, most unhappy woman!"
he said, "what does your introduction prepare me to expect!"

"Your expectation, be it ever so ominous, shall be fully satisfied.--I
was the guilty confidant of the false Francis Tyrrel.--Clara loved the
true one.--When the fatal ceremony passed, the bride and the clergyman
were deceived alike--and I was the wretch--the fiend--who, aiding
another yet blacker, if blacker could be--mainly helped to accomplish
this cureless misery!"

"Wretch!" exclaimed the clergyman, "and had you not then done
enough?--Why did you expose the betrothed of one brother to become the
wife of another?"

"I acted," said the sick woman, "only as Bulmer instructed me; but I had
to do with a master of the game. He contrived, by his agent Solmes, to
match me with a husband imposed on me by his devices as a man of
fortune!--a wretch, who maltreated me--plundered me--sold me.--Oh! if
fiends laugh, as I have heard they can, what a jubilee of scorn will
there be, when Bulmer and I enter their place of torture!--Hark!--I am
sure of it--some one draws breath, as if shuddering!"

"You will distract yourself if you give way to these fancies. Be
calm--speak on--but, oh! at last, and for once, speak the truth!"

"I will, for it will best gratify my hatred against him, who, having
first robbed me of my virtue, made me a sport and a plunder to the
basest of the species. For that I wandered here to unmask him. I had
heard he again stirred his suit to Clara, and I came here to tell young
Mowbray the whole.--But do you wonder that I shrunk from doing so till
this last decisive moment?--I thought of my conduct to Clara, and how
could I face her brother?--And yet I hated her not after I learned her
utter wretchedness--her deep misery, verging even upon madness--I hated
her not then. I was sorry that she was not to fall to the lot of a
better man than Bulmer;--and I pitied her after she was rescued by
Tyrrel, and you may remember it was I who prevailed on you to conceal
her marriage."

"I remember it," answered Cargill, "and that you alleged, as a reason
for secrecy, danger from her family. I did conceal it, until reports
that she was again to be married reached my ears."

"Well, then," said the sick woman, "Clara Mowbray ought to forgive
me--since what ill I have done her was inevitable, while the good I did
was voluntary.--I must see her, Josiah Cargill--I must see her before I
die--I shall never pray till I see her--I shall never profit by word of
godliness till I see her! If I cannot obtain the pardon of a worm like
myself, how can I hope for that of"----

She started at these words with a faint scream; for slowly, and with a
feeble hand, the curtains of the bed opposite to the side at which
Cargill sat, were opened, and the figure of Clara Mowbray, her clothes
and long hair drenched and dripping with rain, stood in the opening by
the bedside. The dying woman sat upright, her eyes starting from their
sockets, her lips quivering, her face pale, her emaciated hands grasping
the bed-clothes, as if to support herself, and looking as much aghast as
if her confession had called up the apparition of her betrayed friend.

"Hannah Irwin," said Clara, with her usual sweetness of tone, "my early
friend--my unprovoked enemy!--Betake thee to Him who hath pardon for us
all, and betake thee with confidence--for I pardon you as freely as if
you had never wronged me--as freely as I desire my own
pardon.--Farewell--Farewell!"

She retired from the room, ere the clergyman could convince himself
that it was more than a phantom which he beheld. He ran down stairs--he
summoned assistants, but no one could attend his call; for the deep
ruckling groans of the patient satisfied every one that she was
breathing her last; and Mrs. Dods, with the maid-servant, ran into the
bedroom, to witness the death of Hannah Irwin, which shortly after took
place.

That event had scarcely occurred, when the maid-servant who had been
left in the inn, came down in great terror to acquaint her mistress,
that a lady had entered the house like a ghost, and was dying in Mr.
Tyrrel's room. The truth of the story we must tell our own way.

In the irregular state of Miss Mowbray's mind, a less violent impulse
than that which she had received from her brother's arbitrary violence,
added to the fatigues, dangers, and terrors of her night-walk, might
have exhausted the powers of her body, and alienated those of her mind.
We have before said, that the lights in the clergyman's house had
probably attracted her attention, and in the temporary confusion of a
family, never remarkable for its regularity, she easily mounted the
stairs, and entered the sick chamber undiscovered, and thus overheard
Hannah Irwin's confession, a tale sufficient to have greatly aggravated
her mental malady.

[Illustration]

We have no means of knowing whether she actually sought Tyrrel, or
whether it was, as in the former case, the circumstance of a light still
burning where all around was dark, that attracted her; but her next
apparition was close by the side of her unfortunate lover, then deeply
engaged in writing, when something suddenly gleamed on a large,
old-fashioned mirror, which hung on the wall opposite. He looked up, and
saw the figure of Clara, holding a light (which she had taken from the
passage) in her extended hand. He stood for an instant with his eyes
fixed on this fearful shadow, ere he dared turn round on the substance
which was thus reflected. When he did so, the fixed and pallid
countenance almost impressed him with the belief that he saw a vision,
and he shuddered when, stooping beside him, she took his hand. "Come
away!" she said, in a hurried voice--"Come away, my brother follows to
kill us both. Come, Tyrrel, let us fly--we shall easily escape
him.--Hannah Irwin is on before--but, if we are overtaken, I will have
no more fighting--you must promise me that we shall not--we have had
but too much of that--but you will be wise in future."

"Clara Mowbray!" exclaimed Tyrrel. "Alas! is it thus?--Stay--do not go,"
for she turned to make her escape--"stay--stay--sit down."

"I must go," she replied, "I must go--I am called--Hannah Irwin is gone
before to tell all, and I must follow. Will you not let me go?--Nay, if
you will hold me by force, I know I must sit down--but you will not be
able to keep me for all that."

A convulsion fit followed, and seemed, by its violence, to explain that
she was indeed bound for the last and darksome journey. The maid, who at
length answered Tyrrel's earnest and repeated summons, fled terrified at
the scene she witnessed, and carried to the Manse the alarm which we
before mentioned.

The old landlady was compelled to exchange one scene of sorrow for
another, wondering within herself what fatality could have marked this
single night with so much misery. When she arrived at home, what was her
astonishment to find there the daughter of the house, which, even in
their alienation, she had never ceased to love, in a state little short
of distraction, and tended by Tyrrel, whose state of mind seemed scarce
more composed than that of the unhappy patient. The oddities of Mrs.
Dods were merely the rust which had accumulated upon her character, but
without impairing its native strength and energy; and her sympathies
were not of a kind acute enough to disable her from thinking and acting
as decisively as circumstances required.

"Mr. Tyrrel," she said, "this is nae sight for men folk--ye maun rise
and gang to another room."

"I will not stir from her," said Tyrrel--"I will not remove from her
either now, or as long as she or I may live."

"That will be nae lang space, Maister Tyrrel, if ye winna be ruled by
common sense."

Tyrrel started up, as if half comprehending what she said, but remained
motionless.

"Come, come," said the compassionate landlady; "do not stand looking on
a sight sair enough to break a harder heart than yours, hinny--your ain
sense tells ye, ye canna stay here--Miss Clara shall be weel cared for,
and I'll bring word to your room-door frae half-hour to half-hour how
she is."

The necessity of the case was undeniable, and Tyrrel suffered himself to
be led to another apartment, leaving Miss Mowbray to the care of the
hostess and her female assistants. He counted the hours in an agony,
less by the watch than by the visits which Mrs. Dods, faithful to her
promise, made from interval to interval, to tell him that Clara was not
better--that she was worse--and, at last, that she did not think she
could live over morning. It required all the deprecatory influence of
the good landlady to restrain Tyrrel, who, calm and cold on common
occasions, was proportionally fierce and impetuous when his passions
were afloat, from bursting into the room, and ascertaining, with his own
eyes, the state of the beloved patient. At length there was a long
interval--an interval of hours--so long, indeed, that Tyrrel caught from
it the flattering hope that Clara slept, and that sleep might bring
refreshment both to mind and body. Mrs. Dods, he concluded, was
prevented from moving, for fear of disturbing her patient's slumber;
and, as if actuated by the same feeling which he imputed to her, he
ceased to traverse his apartment, as his agitation had hitherto
dictated, and throwing himself into a chair, forbore to move even a
finger, and withheld his respiration as much as possible, just as if he
had been seated by the pillow of the patient. Morning was far advanced,
when his landlady appeared in his room with a grave and anxious
countenance.

"Mr. Tyrrel," she said, "ye are a Christian man."

"Hush, hush, for Heaven's sake!" he replied; "you will disturb Miss
Mowbray."

"Naething will disturb her, puir thing," answered Mrs. Dods; "they have
muckle to answer for that brought her to this!"

"They have--they have indeed," said Tyrrel, striking his forehead; "and
I will see her avenged on every one of them!--Can I see her?"

"Better not--better not," said the good woman; but he burst from her,
and rushed into the apartment.

"Is life gone?--Is every spark extinct?" he exclaimed eagerly to a
country surgeon, a sensible man, who had been summoned from Marchthorn
in the course of the night. The medical man shook his head--Tyrrel
rushed to the bedside, and was convinced by his own eyes that the being
whose sorrows he had both caused and shared, was now insensible to all
earthly calamity. He raised almost a shriek of despair, as he threw
himself on the pale hand of the corpse, wet it with tears, devoured it
with kisses, and played for a short time the part of a distracted
person. At length, on the repeated expostulation of all present, he
suffered himself to be again conducted to another apartment, the surgeon
following, anxious to give such sad consolation as the case admitted of.

"As you are so deeply concerned for the untimely fate of this young
lady," he said, "it may be some satisfaction to you, though a melancholy
one, to know, that it has been occasioned by a pressure on the brain,
probably accompanied by a suffusion; and I feel authorized in stating,
from the symptoms, that if life had been spared, reason would, in all
probability, never have returned. In such a case, sir, the most
affectionate relation must own, that death, in comparison to life, is a
mercy."

"Mercy?" answered Tyrrel; "but why, then, is it denied to me?--I know--I
know!--My life is spared till I revenge her."

He started from his seat, and hurried eagerly down stairs. But, as he
was about to rush from the door of the inn, he was stopped by Touchwood,
who had just alighted from a carriage, with an air of stern anxiety
imprinted on his features, very different from their usual expression.
"Whither would ye? Whither would ye?" he said, laying hold of Tyrrel,
and stopping him by force.

"For revenge--for revenge!" said Tyrrel. "Give way, I charge you, on
your peril!"

"Vengeance belongs to God," replied the old man, "and his bolt has
fallen.--This way--this way," he continued, dragging Tyrrel into the
house. "Know," he said, so soon as he had led or forced him into a
chamber, "that Mowbray of St. Ronan's has met Bulmer within this half
hour, and has killed him on the spot."

"Killed?--whom?" answered the bewildered Tyrrel.

"Valentine Bulmer, the titular Earl of Etherington."

"You bring tidings of death to the house of death," answered Tyrrel;
"and there is nothing in this world left that I should live for!"



CHAPTER XX.

CONCLUSION.

    Here come we to our close--for that which follows
    Is but the tale of dull, unvaried misery.
    Steep crags and headlong linns may court the pencil,
    Like sudden haps, dark plots, and strange adventures;
    But who would paint the dull and fog-wrapt moor,
    In its long track of sterile desolation?

_Old Play._


When Mowbray crossed the brook, as we have already detailed, his mind
was in that wayward and uncertain state, which seeks something whereon
to vent the self-engendered rage with which it labours, like a volcano
before eruption. On a sudden, a shot or two, followed by loud voices and
laughter reminded him he had promised, at that hour, and in that
sequestered place, to decide a bet respecting pistol-shooting, to which
the titular Lord Etherington, Jekyl, and Captain MacTurk, to whom such a
pastime was peculiarly congenial, were parties as well as himself. The
prospect this recollection afforded him, of vengeance on the man whom he
regarded as the author of his sister's wrongs, was, in the present state
of his mind, too tempting to be relinquished; and, setting spurs to his
horse, he rushed through the copse to the little glade, where he found
the other parties, who, despairing of his arrival, had already begun
their amusement. A jubilee shout was set up as he approached.

"Here comes Mowbray, dripping, by Cot, like a watering-pan," said
Captain MacTurk.

"I fear him not," said Etherington, (we may as well still call him so,)
"he has ridden too fast to have steady nerves."

"We shall soon see that, my Lord Etherington, or rather Mr. Valentine
Bulmer," said Mowbray, springing from his horse, and throwing the bridle
over the bough of a tree.

"What does this mean, Mr. Mowbray?" said Etherington, drawing himself
up, while Jekyl and Captain MacTurk looked at each other in surprise.

"It means, sir, that you are a rascal and impostor," replied Mowbray,
"who have assumed a name to which you have no right."

"That, Mr. Mowbray, is an insult I cannot carry farther than this
spot," said Etherington.

"If you had been willing to do so, you should have carried with it
something still harder to be borne," answered Mowbray.

"Enough, enough, my good sir; no use in spurring a willing
horse.--Jekyl, you will have the kindness to stand by me in this
matter?"

"Certainly, my lord," said Jekyl.

"And, as there seems to be no chance of taking up the matter amicably,"
said the pacific Captain MacTurk, "I will be most happy, so help me, to
assist my worthy friend, Mr. Mowbray of St. Ronan's, with my countenance
and advice.--Very goot chance that we were here with the necessary
weapons, since it would have been an unpleasant thing to have such an
affair long upon the stomach, any more than to settle it without
witnesses."

"I would fain know first," said Jekyl, "what all this sudden heat has
arisen about."

"About nothing," said Etherington, "except a mare's nest of Mr.
Mowbray's discovering. He always knew his sister played the madwoman,
and he has now heard a report, I suppose, that she has likewise in her
time played the ---- fool."

"O, crimini!" cried Captain MacTurk, "my good Captain, let us pe loading
and measuring out--for, by my soul, if these sweetmeats be passing
between them, it is only the twa ends of a hankercher than can serve the
turn--Cot tamn!"

With such friendly intentions, the ground was hastily meted out. Each
was well known as an excellent shot; and the Captain offered a bet to
Jekyl of a mutchkin of Glenlivat, that both would fall by the first
fire. The event showed that he was nearly right; for the ball of Lord
Etherington grazed Mowbray's temple, at the very second of time when
Mowbray's pierced his heart. He sprung a yard from the ground, and fell
down a dead man. Mowbray stood fixed like a pillar of stone, his arm
dropped to his side, his hand still clenched on the weapon of death,
reeking at the touch-hole and muzzle. Jekyl ran to raise and support his
friend, and Captain MacTurk, having adjusted his spectacles, stooped on
one knee to look him in the face. "We should have had Dr. Quackleben
here," he said, wiping his glasses, and returning them to the shagreen
case, "though it would have been only for form's sake--for he is as dead
as a toor-nail, poor boy.--But come, Mowbray, my bairn," he said, taking
him by the arm, "we must be ganging our ain gait, you and me, before
waur comes of it.--I have a bit powney here, and you have your horse
till we get to Marchthorn.--Captain Jekyl, I wish you a good morning.
Will you have my umbrella back to the inn, for I surmeese it is going
to rain?"

Mowbray had not ridden a hundred yards with his guide and companion,
when he drew his bridle, and refused to proceed a step farther, till he
had learned what was become of Clara. The Captain began to find he had a
very untractable pupil to manage, when, while they were arguing
together, Touchwood drove past in his hack chaise. As soon as he
recognised Mowbray, he stopped the carriage to inform him that his
sister was at the Aultoun, which he had learned from finding there had
been a messenger sent from thence to t