The Antiquary, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 19

Here has been such a stormy encounter

Betwixt my cousin Captain, and this soldier,

About I know not what! — nothing, indeed;

Competitions, degrees, and comparatives

Of soldiership! ——

A Faire Qurrell.

The attentive audience gave the fair transcriber of the foregoing legend the thanks which politeness required. Oldbuck alone curled up his nose, and observed, that Miss Wardour’s skill was something like that of the alchemists, for she had contrived to extract a sound and valuable moral out of a very trumpery and ridiculous legend. “It is the fashion, as I am given to understand, to admire those extravagant fictions — for me,

— I bear an English heart,

Unused at ghosts and rattling bones to start.”

“Under your favour, my goot Mr. Oldenbuck,” said the German, “Miss Wardour has turned de story, as she does every thing as she touches, very pretty indeed; but all the history of de Harz goblin, and how he walks among de desolate mountains wid a great fir-tree for his walking cane, and wid de great green bush around his head and his waist — that is as true as I am an honest man.”

“There is no disputing any proposition so well guaranteed,” answered the Antiquary, drily. But at this moment the approach of a stranger cut short the conversation.

The new comer was a handsome young man, about five-and-twenty, in a military undress, and bearing, in his look and manner, a good deal of the, martial profession — nay, perhaps a little more than is quite consistent with the ease of a man of perfect good-breeding, in whom no professional habit ought to predominate. He was at once greeted by the greater part of the company. “My dear Hector!” said Miss M’Intyre, as she rose to take his hand —

“Hector, son of Priam, whence comest thou?” said the Antiquary.

“From Fife, my liege,” answered the young soldier, and continued, when he had politely saluted the rest of the company, and particularly Sir Arthur and his daughter —“I learned from one of the servants, as I rode towards Monkbarns to pay my respects to you, that I should find the present company in this place, and I willingly embrace the opportunity to pay my respects to so many of my friends at once.”

“And to a new one also, my trusty Trojan,” said Oldbuck. “Mr. Lovel, this is my nephew, Captain M’Intyre — Hector, I recommend Mr. Lovel to your acquaintance.”

The young soldier fixed his keen eye upon Lovel, and paid his compliment with more reserve than cordiality and as our acquaintance thought his coldness almost supercilious, he was equally frigid and haughty in making the necessary return to it; and thus a prejudice seemed to arise between them at the very commencement of their acquaintance.

The observations which Lovel made during the remainder of this pleasure party did not tend to reconcile him with this addition to their society. Captain M’Intyre, with the gallantry to be expected from his age and profession, attached himself to the service of Miss Wardour, and offered her, on every possible opportunity, those marks of attention which Lovel would have given the world to have rendered, and was only deterred from offering by the fear of her displeasure. With forlorn dejection at one moment, and with irritated susceptibility at another, he saw this handsome young soldier assume and exercise all the privileges of a cavaliere servente. He handed Miss Wardour’s gloves, he assisted her in putting on her shawl, he attached himself to her in the walks, had a hand ready to remove every impediment in her path, and an arm to support her where it was rugged or difficult; his conversation was addressed chiefly to her, and, where circumstances permitted, it was exclusively so. All this, Lovel well knew, might be only that sort of egotistical gallantry which induces some young men of the present day to give themselves the air of engrossing the attention of the prettiest women in company, as if the others were unworthy of their notice. But he thought he observed in the conduct of Captain M’Intyre something of marked and peculiar tenderness, which was calculated to alarm the jealousy of a lover. Miss Wardour also received his attentions; and although his candour allowed they were of a kind which could not be repelled without some strain of affectation, yet it galled him to the heart to witness that she did so.

The heart-burning which these reflections occasioned proved very indifferent seasoning to the dry antiquarian discussions with which Oldbuck, who continued to demand his particular attention, was unremittingly persecuting him; and he underwent, with fits of impatience that amounted almost to loathing, a course of lectures upon monastic architecture, in all its styles, from the massive Saxon to the florid Gothic, and from that to the mixed and composite architecture of James the First’s time, when, according to Oldbuck, all orders were confounded, and columns of various descriptions arose side by side, or were piled above each other, as if symmetry had been forgotten, and the elemental principles of art resolved into their primitive confusion. “What can be more cutting to the heart than the sight of evils,” said Oldbuck, in rapturous enthusiasm, “which we are compelled to behold, while we do not possess the power of remedying them?” Lovel answered by an involulatary groan. “I see, my dear young friend, and most congenial spirit, that you feel these enormities almost as much as I do. Have you ever approached them, or met them, without longing to tear, to deface, what is so dishonourable?”

“Dishonourable!” echoed Lovel —“in what respect dishonourable?”

“I mean, disgraceful to the arts.”

“Where? how?”

“Upon the portico, for example, of the schools of Oxford, where, at immense expense, the barbarous, fantastic, and ignorant architect has chosen to represent the whole five orders of architecture on the front of one building.”

By such attacks as these, Oldbuck, unconscious of the torture he was giving, compelled Lovel to give him a share of his attention — as a skilful angler, by means of his line, maintains an influence over the most frantic movements of his agonized prey.

They were now on their return to the spot where they had left the carriages; and it is inconceivable how often, in the course of that short walk, Lovel, exhausted by the unceasing prosing of his worthy companion, mentally bestowed on the devil, or any one else that would have rid him of hearing more of them, all the orders and disorders of architecture which had been invented or combined from the building of Solomon’s temple downwards. A slight incident occurred, however, which sprinkled a little patience on the heat of his distemperature.

Miss Wardour, and her self-elected knight companion, rather preceded the others in the narrow path, when the young lady apparently became desirous to unite herself with the rest of the party, and, to break off her tete-a-tete with the young officer, fairly made a pause until Mr. Oldbuck came up. “I wished to ask you a question, Mr. Oldbuck, concerning the date of these interesting ruins.”

It would be doing injustice to Miss Wardour’s savoir faire, to suppose she was not aware that such a question would lead to an answer of no limited length. The Antiquary, starting like a war-horse at the trumpet sound, plunged at once into the various arguments for and against the date of 1273, which had been assigned to the priory of St. Ruth by a late publication on Scottish architectural antiquities. He raked up the names of all the priors who had ruled the institution, of the nobles who had bestowed lands upon it, and of the monarchs who had slept their last sleep among its roofless courts. As a train which takes fire is sure to light another, if there be such in the vicinity, the Baronet, catching at the name of one of his ancestors which occurred in Oldbuck’s disquisition, entered upon an account of his wars, his conquests, and his trophies; and worthy Dr. Blattergowl was induced, from the mention of a grant of lands, cum decimis inclusis tam vicariis quam garbalibus, et nunquan antea separatis, to enter into a long explanation concerning the interpretation given by the Teind Court in the consideration of such a clause, which had occurred in a process for localling his last augmentation of stipend. The orators, like three racers, each pressed forward to the goal, without much regarding how each crossed and jostled his competitors. Mr. Oldbuck harangued, the Baronet declaimed, Mr. Blattergowl prosed and laid down the law, while the Latin forms of feudal grants were mingled with the jargon of blazonry, and the yet more barbarous phraseology of the Teind Court of Scotland. “He was,” exclaimed Oldbuck, speaking of the Prior Adhemar, “indeed an exemplary prelate; and, from his strictness of morals, rigid execution of penance, joined to the charitable disposition of his mind, and the infirmities endured by his great age and ascetic habits”—

Here he chanced to cough, and Sir Arthur burst in, or rather continued — “was called popularly Hell-in-Harness; he carried a shield, gules with a sable fess, which we have since disused, and was slain at the battle of Vernoil, in France, after killing six of the English with his own”—

“Decreet of certification,” proceeded the clergyman, in that prolonged, steady, prosing tone, which, however overpowered at first by the vehemence of competition, promised, in the long run, to obtain the ascendancy in this strife of narrators; —“Decreet of certification having gone out, and parties being held as confessed, the proof seemed to be held as concluded, when their lawyer moved to have it opened up, on the allegation that they had witnesses to bring forward, that they had been in the habit of carrying the ewes to lamb on the teind-free land; which was a mere evasion, for”—

But here the, Baronet and Mr. Oldbuck having recovered their wind, and continued their respective harangues, the three strands of the conversation, to speak the language of a rope-work, were again twined together into one undistinguishable string of confusion.

Yet, howsoever uninteresting this piebald jargon might seem, it was obviously Miss Wardour’s purpose to give it her attention, in preference to yielding Captain M’Intyre an opportunity of renewing their private conversation. So that, after waiting for a little time with displeasure, ill concealed by his haughty features, he left her to enjoy her bad taste, and taking his sister by the arm, detained her a little behind the rest of the party.

“So I find, Mary, that your neighbour has neither become more lively nor less learned during my absence.”

“We lacked your patience and wisdom to instruct us, Hector.”

“Thank you, my dear sister. But you have got a wiser, if not so lively an addition to your society, than your unworthy brother — Pray, who is this Mr. Lovel, whom our old uncle has at once placed so high in his good graces? — he does not use to be so accessible to strangers.”

“Mr. Lovel, Hector, is a very gentleman-like young man.”

“Ay — that is to say, he bows when he comes into a room, and wears a coat that is whole at the elbows.”

“No, brother; it says a great deal more. It says that his manners and discourse express the feelings and education of the higher class.”

“But I desire to know what is his birth and his rank in society, and what is his title to be in the circle in which I find him domesticated?”

“If you mean, how he comes to visit at Monkbarns, you must ask my uncle, who will probably reply, that he invites to his own house such company as he pleases; and if you mean to ask Sir Arthur, you must know that Mr. Lovel rendered Miss Wardour and him a service of the most important kind.”

“What! that romantic story is true, then? — And pray, does the valorous knight aspire, as is befitting on such occasions, to the hand of the young lady whom he redeemed from peril? It is quite in the rule of romance, I am aware; and I did think that she was uncommonly dry to me as we walked together, and seemed from time to time as if she watched whether she was not giving offence to her gallant cavalier.”

“Dear Hector,” said his sister, “if you really continue to nourish any affection for Miss Wardour”—

“If, Mary? — what an if was there!”

“— I own I consider your perseverance as hopeless.”

“And why hopeless, my sage sister?” asked Captain M’Intyre: “Miss Wardour, in the state of her father’s affairs, cannot pretend to much fortune; — and, as to family, I trust that of Mlntyre is not inferior.”

“But, Hector,” continued his sister, “Sir Arthur always considers us as members of the Monkbarns family.”

“Sir Arthur may consider what he pleases,” answered the Highlander scornfully; “but any one with common sense will consider that the wife takes rank from the husband, and that my father’s pedigree of fifteen unblemished descents must have ennobled my mother, if her veins had been filled with printer’s ink.”

“For God’s sake, Hector,” replied his anxious sister, “take care of yourself! a single expression of that kind, repeated to my uncle by an indiscreet or interested eavesdropper, would lose you his favour for ever, and destroy all chance of your succeeding to his estate.”

“Be it so,” answered the heedless young man; “I am one of a profession which the world has never been able to do without, and will far less endure to want for half a century to come; and my good old uncle may tack his good estate and his plebeian name to your apron-string if he pleases, Mary, and you may wed this new favourite of his if you please, and you may both of you live quiet, peaceable, well-regulated lives, if it pleases Heaven. My part is taken — I’ll fawn on no man for an inheritance which should be mine by birth.”

Miss M’Intyre laid her hand on her brother’s arm, and entreated him to suppress his vehemence. “Who,” she said, “injures or seeks to injure you, but your own hasty temper? — what dangers are you defying, but those you have yourself conjured up? — Our uncle has hitherto been all that is kind and paternal in his conduct to us, and why should you suppose he will in future be otherwise than what he has ever been, since we were left as orphans to his care?”

“He is an excellent old gentleman, I must own,” replied M’Intyre, “and I am enraged at myself when I chance to offend him; but then his eternal harangues upon topics not worth the spark of a flint — his investigations about invalided pots and pans and tobacco-stoppers past service — all these things put me out of patience. I have something of Hotspur in me, sister, I must confess.”

“Too much, too much, my dear brother! Into how many risks, and, forgive me for saying, some of them little creditable, has this absolute and violent temper led you! Do not let such clouds darken the time you are now to pass in our neighbourhood, but let our old benefactor see his kinsman as he is — generous, kind, and lively, without being rude, headstrong, and impetuous.”

“Well,” answered Captain M’Intyre, “I am schooled — good-manners be my speed! I’ll do the civil thing by your new friend — I’ll have some talk with this Mr. Lovel.”

With this determination, in which he was for the time perfectly sincere, he joined the party who were walking before them. The treble disquisition was by this time ended; and Sir Arthur was speaking on the subject of foreign news, and the political and military situation of the country, themes upon which every man thinks himself qualified to give an opinion. An action of the preceding year having come upon the tapis, Lovel, accidentally mingling in the conversation, made some assertion concerning it, of the accuracy of which Captain M’Intyre seemed not to be convinced, although his doubts were politely expressed.

“You must confess yourself in the wrong here, Hector,” said his uncle, “although I know no man less willing to give up an argument; but you were in England at the time, and Mr. Lovel was probably concerned in the affair.”

“I am speaking to a military man, then?” said M’Intyre; “may I inquire to what regiment Mr. Lovel belongs?”— Mr. Lovel gave him the number of the regiment. “It happens strangely that we should never have met before, Mr. Lovel. I know your regiment very well, and have served along with them at different times.”

A blush crossed Lovel’s countenance. “I have not lately been with my regiment,” he replied; “I served the last campaign upon the staff of General Sir ——.”

“Indeed! that is more wonderful than the other circumstance! — for although I did not serve with General Sir — — yet I had an opportunity of knowing the names of the officers who held situations in his family, and I cannot recollect that of Lovel.”

At this observation Lovel again blushed so deeply as to attract the attention of the whole company, while, a scornful laugh seemed to indicate Captain M’Intyre’s triumph. “There is something strange in this,” said Oldbuck to himself; “but I will not readily give up my phoenix of post-chaise companions — all his actions, language, and bearing, are those of a gentleman.”

Lovel in the meanwhile had taken out his pocket-book, and selecting a letter, from which he took off the envelope, he handed it to Mlntyre. “You know the General’s hand, in all probability — I own I ought not to show these exaggerated expressions of his regard and esteem for me.” The letter contained a very handsome compliment from the officer in question for some military service lately performed. Captain M’Intyre, as be glanced his eye over it, could not deny that it was written in the General’s hand, but drily observed, as be returned it, that the address was wanting. “The address, Captain M’Intyre,” answered Lovel, in the same tone, “shall be at your service whenever you choose to inquire after it!”

“I certainly shall not fail to do so,” rejoined the soldier.

“Come, come,” exclaimed Oldbuck, “what is the meaning of all this? Have we got Hiren here? — We’ll have no swaggering youngsters. Are you come from the wars abroad, to stir up domestic strife in our peaceful land? Are you like bull-dog puppies, forsooth, that when the bull, poor fellow, is removed from the ring, fall to brawl among themselves, worry each other, and bite honest folk’s shins that are standing by?”

Sir Arthur trusted, he said, the young gentlemen would not so far forget themselves as to grow warm upon such a trifling subject as the back of a letter.

Both the disputants disclaimed any such intention, and, with high colour and flashing eyes, protested they were never so cool in their lives. But an obvious damp was cast over the party; — they talked in future too much by the rule to be sociable, and Lovel, conceiving himself the object of cold and suspicious looks from the rest of the company, and sensible that his indirect replies had given them permission to entertain strange opinions respecting him, made a gallant determination to sacrifice the pleasure he had proposed in spending the day at Knockwinnock.

He affected, therefore, to complain of a violent headache, occasioned by the heat of the day, to which he had not been exposed since his illness, and made a formal apology to Sir Arthur, who, listening more to recent suspicion than to the gratitude due for former services, did not press him to keep his engagement more than good-breeding exactly demanded.

When Lovel took leave of the ladies, Miss Wardour’s manner seemed more anxious than he had hitherto remarked it. She indicated by a glance of her eye towards Captain M’Intyre, perceptible only by Lovel, the subject of her alarm, and hoped, in a voice greatly under her usual tone, it was not a less pleasant engagement which deprived them of the pleasure of Mr. Lovel’s company. “No engagement had intervened,” he assured her; “it was only the return of a complaint by which he had been for some time occasionally attacked.”

“The best remedy in such a case is prudence, and I— every friend of Mr. Lovel’s will expect him to employ it.”

Lovel bowed low and coloured deeply, and Miss Wardour, as if she felt that she had said too much, turned and got into the carriage. Lovel had next to part with Oldbuck, who, during this interval, had, with Caxon’s assistance, been arranging his disordered periwig, and brushing his coat, which exhibited some marks of the rude path they had traversed. “What, man!” said Oldbuck, “you are not going to leave us on account of that foolish Hector’s indiscreet curiosity and vehemence? Why, he is a thoughtless boy — a spoiled child from the time he was in the nurse’s arms — he threw his coral and bells at my head for refusing him a bit of sugar; and you have too much sense to mind such a shrewish boy: aequam servare mentem is the motto of our friend Horace. I’ll school Hector by and by, and put it all to rights.” But Lovel persisted in his design of returning to Fairport.

The Antiquary then assumed a graver tone. —“Take heed, young man, to your present feelings. Your life has been given yon for useful and valuable purposes, and should be reserved to illustrate the literature of your country, when you are not called upon to expose it in her defence, or in the rescue of the innocent. Private war, a practice unknown to the civilised ancients, is, of all the absurdities introduced by the Gothic tribes, the most gross, impious, and cruel. Let me hear no more of these absurd quarrels, and I will show you the treatise upon the duello, which I composed when the town-clerk and provost Mucklewhame chose to assume the privileges of gentlemen, and challenged each other. I thought of printing my Essay, which is signed Pacificator; but there was no need, as the matter was taken up by the town-council of the borough.”

“But I assure you, my dear sir, there is nothing between Captain M’Intyre and me that can render such respectable interference necessary.”

“See it be so; for otherwise, I will stand second to both parties.”

So saying, the old gentleman got into the chaise, close to which Miss M’Intyre had detained her brother, upon the same principle that the owner of a quarrelsome dog keeps him by his side to prevent his fastening upon another. But Hector contrived to give her precaution the slip, for, as he was on horseback, he lingered behind the carriages until they had fairly turned the corner in the road to Knockwinnock, and then, wheeling his horse’s head round, gave him the spur in the opposite direction.

A very few minutes brought him up with Lovel, who, perhaps anticipating his intention, had not put his horse beyond a slow walk, when the clatter of hoofs behind him announced Captain Mlntyre. The young soldier, his natural heat of temper exasperated by the rapidity of motion, reined his horse up suddenly and violently by Lovel’s side, and touching his hat slightly, inquired, in a very haughty tone of voice, “What am I to understand, sir, by your telling me that your address was at my service?”

“Simply, sir,” replied Lovel, “that my name is Lovel, and that my residence is, for the present, Fairport, as you will see by this card.”

“And is this all the information you are disposed to give me?”

“I see no right you have to require more.”

“I find you, sir, in company with my sister,” said the young soldier, “and I have a right to know who is admitted into Miss M’Intyre’s society.”

“I shall take the liberty of disputing that right,” replied Lovel, with a manner as haughty as that of the young soldier; —“you find me in society who are satisfied with the degree of information on my affairs which I have thought proper to communicate, and you, a mere stranger, have no right to inquire further.”

“Mr. Lovel, if you served as you say you have”—

“If!” interrupted Lovel — ”if I have served as I say I have?”

“Yes, sir, such is my expression — if you have so served, you must know that you owe me satisfaction either in one way or other.”

“If that be your opinion, I shall be proud to give it to you, Captain M’Intyre, in the way in which the word is generally used among gentlemen.”

“Very well, sir,” rejoined Hector, and, turning his horse round, galloped off to overtake his party.

His absence had already alarmed them, and his sister, having stopped the carriage, had her neck stretched out of the window to see where he was.

“What is the matter with you now?” said the Antiquary, “riding to and fro as your neck were upon the wager — why do you not keep up with the carriage?”

“I forgot my glove, sir,” said Hector.

“Forgot your glove! — I presume you meant to say you went to throw it down — But I will take order with you, my young gentleman — you shall return with me this night to Monkbarns.” So saying, he bid the postilion go on.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29