The Antiquary, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 24

Clause. — You now shall know the king o’ the beggars’ treasure:—

Yes — ere tomorrow you shall find your harbour

Here — fail me not, for if I live I’ll fit you.

The Beggar’s Bush.

The German, determined, it would seem, to assert the vantage-ground on which the discovery had placed him, replied with great pomp and stateliness to the attack of the Antiquary.

“Maister Oldenbuck, all dis may be very witty and comedy, but I have nothing to say — nothing at all — to people dat will not believe deir own eye-sights. It is vary true dat I ave not any of de things of de art, and it makes de more wonder what I has done dis day. But I would ask of you, mine honoured and goot and generous patron, to put your hand into your right-hand waistcoat pocket, and show me what you shall find dere.”

Sir Arthur obeyed his direction, and pulled out the small plate of silver which he had used under the adept’s auspices upon the former occasion. “It is very true,” said Sir Arthur, looking gravely at the Antiquary; “this is the graduated and calculated sigil by which Mr. Dousterswivel and I regulated our first discovery.”

“Pshaw! pshaw! my dear friend,” said Oldbuck, “you are too wise to believe in the influence of a trumpery crown-piece, beat out thin, and a parcel of scratches upon it. I tell thee, Sir Arthur, that if Dousterswivel had known where to get this treasure himself, you would not have been lord of the least share of it.”

“In troth, please your honour,” said Edie, who put in his word on all occasions, “I think, since Mr. Dunkerswivel has had sae muckle merit in discovering a’ the gear, the least ye can do is to gie him that o’t that’s left behind for his labour; for doubtless he that kend where to find sae muckle will hae nae difficulty to find mair.”

Dousterswivel’s brow grew very dark at this proposal of leaving him to his “ain purchase,” as Ochiltree expressed it; but the beggar, drawing him aside, whispered a word or two in his ear, to which he seemed to give serious attention,

Meanwhile Sir Arthur, his heart warm with his good fortune, said aloud, “Never mind our friend Monkbarns, Mr. Dousterswivel, but come to the Castle tomorrow, and I’ll convince you that I am not ungrateful for the hints you have given me about this matter — and the fifty Fairport dirty notes, as you call them, are heartily at your service. Come, my lads, get the cover of this precious chest fastened up again.”

But the cover had in the confusion fallen aside among the rubbish, or the loose earth which had been removed from the grave — in short, it was not to be seen.

“Never mind, my good lads, tie the tarpaulin over it, and get it away to the carriage. — Monkbarns, will you walk? I must go back your way to take up Miss Wardour.”

“And, I hope, to take up your dinner also, Sir Arthur, and drink a glass of wine for joy of our happy adventure. Besides, you should write about the business to the Exchequer, in case of any interference on the part of the Crown. As you are lord of the manor, it will be easy to get a deed of gift, should they make any claim. We must talk about it, though.”

“And I particularly recommend silence to all who are present,” said Sir Arthur, looking round. All bowed and professed themselves dumb.

“Why, as to that,” said Monkbarns, “recommending secrecy where a dozen of people are acquainted with the circumstance to be concealed, is only putting the truth in masquerade, for the story will be circulated under twenty different shapes. But never mind — we will state the true one to the Barons, and that is all that is necessary.”

“I incline to send off an express to-night,” said the Baronet.

“I can recommend your honour to a sure hand,” said Ochiltree; “little Davie Mailsetter, and the butcher’s reisting powny.”

“We will talk over the matter as we go to Monkbarns,” said Sir Arthur. “My lads” (to the work-people), “come with me to the Four Horse-shoes, that I may take down all your names. — Dousterswivel, I won’t ask you to go down to Monkbarns, as the laird and you differ so widely in opinion; but do not fail to come to see me tomorrow.”

Dousterswivel growled out an answer, in which the words, “duty,”—“mine honoured patron,”— and “wait upon Sir Arthurs,”— were alone distinguishable; and after the Baronet and his friend had left the ruins, followed by the servants and workmen, who, in hope of reward and whisky, joyfully attended their leader, the adept remained in a brown study by the side of the open grave.

“Who was it as could have thought this?” he ejaculated unconsciously. “Mine heiligkeit! I have heard of such things, and often spoken of such things — but, sapperment! I never, thought to see them! And if I had gone but two or dree feet deeper down in the earth — mein himmel! it had been all mine own — so much more as I have been muddling about to get from this fool’s man.”

Here the German ceased his soliloquy, for, raising his eyes, he encountered those of Edie Ochiltree, who had not followed the rest of the company, but, resting as usual on his pike-staff, had planted himself on the other side of the grave. The features of the old man, naturally shrewd and expressive almost to an appearance of knavery, seemed in this instance so keenly knowing, that even the assurance of Dousterswivel, though a professed adventurer, sunk beneath their glances. But he saw the necessity of an e’claircissement, and, rallying his spirits, instantly began to sound the mendicant on the occurrences of the day. “Goot Maister Edies Ochiltrees”—

“Edie Ochiltree, nae maister — your puir bedesman and the king’s,” answered the Blue-Gown.

“Awell den, goot Edie, what do you think of all dis?”

“I was just thinking it was very kind (for I darena say very simple) o’ your honour to gie thae twa rich gentles, wha hae lands and lairdships, and siller without end, this grand pose o’ silver and treasure (three times tried in the fire, as the Scripture expresses it), that might hae made yoursell and ony twa or three honest bodies beside, as happy and content as the day was lang.”

“Indeed, Edie, mine honest friends, dat is very true; only I did not know, dat is, I was not sure, where to find the gelt myself.”

“What! was it not by your honours advice and counsel that Monkbarns and the Knight of Knockwinnock came here then?”

“Aha — yes; but it was by another circumstance. I did not know dat dey would have found de treasure, mine friend; though I did guess, by such a tintamarre, and cough, and sneeze, and groan, among de spirit one other night here, dat there might be treasure and bullion hereabout. Ach, mein himmel! the spirit will hone and groan over his gelt, as if he were a Dutch Burgomaster counting his dollars after a great dinner at the Stadthaus.”

“And do you really believe the like o’ that, Mr. Dusterdeevil! — a skeelfu’ man like you — hout fie!”

“Mein friend,” answered the adept, foreed by circumstances to speak something nearer the truth than he generally used to do, “I believed it no more than you and no man at all, till I did hear them hone and moan and groan myself on de oder night, and till I did this day see de cause, which was an great chest all full of de pure silver from Mexico — and what would you ave nae think den?”

“And what wad ye gie to ony ane,” said Edie, “that wad help ye to sic another kistfu’ o’ silver!”

“Give? — mein himmel! — one great big quarter of it.”

“Now if the secret were mine,” said the mendicant, “I wad stand out for a half; for you see, though I am but a puir ragged body, and couldna carry silver or gowd to sell for fear o’ being taen up, yet I could find mony folk would pass it awa for me at unco muckle easier profit than ye’re thinking on.”

“Ach, himmel! — Mein goot friend, what was it I said? — I did mean to say you should have de tree quarter for your half, and de one quarter to be my fair half.”

“No, no, Mr. Dusterdeevil, we will divide equally what we find, like brother and brother. Now, look at this board that I just flung into the dark aisle out o’ the way, while Monkbarns was glowering ower a’ the silver yonder. He’s a sharp chiel Monkbarns — I was glad to keep the like o’ this out o’ his sight. Ye’ll maybe can read the character better than me — I am nae that book learned, at least I’m no that muckle in practice.”

With this modest declaration of ignorance, Ochiltree brought forth from behind a pillar the cover of the box or chest of treasure, which, when forced from its hinges, had been carelessly flung aside during the ardour of curiosity to ascertain the contents which it concealed, and had been afterwards, as it seems, secreted by the mendicant. There was a word and a number upon the plank, and the beggar made them more distinct by spitting upon his ragged blue handkerchief, and rubbing off the clay by which the inscription was obscured. It was in the ordinary black letter.

“Can ye mak ought o’t?” said Edie to the adept.

“S,” said the philosopher, like a child getting his lesson in the primer —“S, T, A, R, C, H — Starch! — dat is what de woman-washers put into de neckerchers, and de shirt collar.”

“Search!” echoed Ochiltree; “na, na, Mr. Dusterdeevil, ye are mair of a conjuror than a clerk — it’s search, man, search — See, there’s the Ye clear and distinct.”

“Aha! I see it now — it is search — number one. Mein himmel! then there must be a number two, mein goot friend: for search is what you call to seek and dig, and this is but number one! Mine wort, there is one great big prize in de wheel for us, goot Maister Ochiltree.”

“Aweel, it may be sae; but we canna howk fort enow — we hae nae shules, for they hae taen them a’ awa — and it’s like some o’ them will be sent back to fling the earth into the hole, and mak a’ things trig again. But an ye’ll sit down wi’ me a while in the wood, I’se satisfy your honour that ye hae just lighted on the only man in the country that could hae tauld about Malcolm Misticot and his hidden treasure — But first we’ll rub out the letters on this board, for fear it tell tales.”

And, by the assistance of his knife, the beggar erased and defaced the characters so as to make them quite unintelligible, and then daubed the board with clay so as to obliterate all traces of the erasure.

Dousterswivel stared at him in ambiguous silence. There was an intelligence and alacrity about all the old man’s movements, which indicated a person that could not be easily overreached, and yet (for even rogues acknowledge in some degree the spirit of precedence) our adept felt the disgrace of playing a secondary part, and dividing winnings with so mean an associate. His appetite for gain, however, was sufficiently sharp to overpower his offended pride, and though far more an impostor than a dupe, he was not without a certain degree of personal faith even in the gross superstitions by means of which he imposed upon others. Still, being accustomed to act as a leader on such occasions, he felt humiliated at feeling himself in the situation of a vulture marshalled to his prey by a carrion-crow. —“Let me, however, hear this story to an end,” thought Dousterswivel, “and it will be hard if I do not make mine account in it better as Maister Edie Ochiltrees makes proposes.”

The adept, thus transformed into a pupil from a teacher of the mystic art, followed Ochiltree in passive acquiescence to the Prior’s Oak — a spot, as the reader may remember, at a short distance from the ruins, where the German sat down, and silence waited the old man’s communication.

“Maister Dustandsnivel,” said the narrator, “it’s an unco while since I heard this business treated anent; — for the lairds of Knockwinnock, neither Sir Arthur, nor his father, nor his grandfather — and I mind a wee bit about them a’— liked to hear it spoken about; nor they dinna like it yet — But nae matter; ye may be sure it was clattered about in the kitchen, like onything else in a great house, though it were forbidden in the ha’— and sae I hae heard the circumstance rehearsed by auld servants in the family; and in thir present days, when things o’ that auld-warld sort arena keepit in mind round winter fire-sides as they used to be, I question if there’s onybody in the country can tell the tale but mysell — aye out-taken the laird though, for there’s a parchment book about it, as I have heard, in the charter-room at Knockwinnock Castle.”

“Well, all dat is vary well — but get you on with your stories, mine goot friend,” said Dousterswivel.

“Aweel, ye see,” continued the mendicant, “this was a job in the auld times o’ rugging and riving through the hale country, when it was ilka ane for himsell, and God for us a’— when nae man wanted property if he had strength to take it, or had it langer than he had power to keep it. It was just he ower her, and she ower him, whichever could win upmost, a’ through the east country here, and nae doubt through the rest o’ Scotland in the self and same manner.

“Sae in these days Sir Richard Wardour came into the land, and that was the first o’ the name ever was in this country. There’s been mony o’ them sin’ syne; and the maist, like him they ca’d Hell-in-Harness, and the rest o’ them, are sleeping down in yon ruins. They were a proud dour set o’ men, but unco brave, and aye stood up for the weel o’ the country, God sain them a’— there’s no muckle popery in that wish. They ca’d them the Norman Wardours, though they cam frae the south to this country. So this Sir Richard, that they ca’d Red-hand, drew up wi’ the auld Knockwinnock o’ that day — for then they were Knockwinnocks of that Ilk — and wad fain marry his only daughter, that was to have the castle and the land. Laith, laith was the lass —(Sybil Knockwinnock they ca’d her that tauld me the tale)— laith, laith was she to gie into the match, for she had fa’en a wee ower thick wi’ a cousin o’ her ain that her father had some ill-will to; and sae it was, that after she had been married to Sir Richard jimp four months — for marry him she maun, it’s like — ye’ll no hinder her gieing them a present o’ a bonny knave bairn. Then there was siccan a ca’-thro’, as the like was never seen; and she’s be burnt, and he’s be slain, was the best words o’ their mouths. But it was a’ sowdered up again some gait, and the bairn was sent awa, and bred up near the Highlands, and grew up to be a fine wanle fallow, like mony ane that comes o’ the wrang side o’ the blanket; and Sir Richard wi’ the Red-hand, he had a fair offspring o’his ain, and a was lound and quiet till his head was laid in the ground. But then down came Malcolm Misticot —(Sir Arthur says it should be Misbegot, but they aye ca’d him Misticot that spoke o’t lang syne)— down cam this Malcolm, the love-begot, frae Glen-isla, wi’ a string o’ lang-legged Highlanders at his heels, that’s aye ready for onybody’s mischief, and he threeps the castle and lands are his ain as his mother’s eldest son, and turns a’ the Wardours out to the hill. There was a sort of fighting and blude-spilling about it, for the gentles took different sides; but Malcolm had the uppermost for a lang time, and keepit the Castle of Knockwinnock, and strengthened it, and built that muckle tower that they ca’ Misticot’s tower to this day.”

“Mine goot friend, old Mr. Edie Ochiltree.” interrupted the German, “this is all as one like de long histories of a baron of sixteen quarters in mine countries; but I would as rather hear of de silver and gold.”

“Why, ye see,” continued the mendicant, “this Malcolm was weel helped by an uncle, a brother o’ his father’s, that was Prior o’ St. Ruth here; and muckle treasure they gathered between them, to secure the succession of their house in the lands of Knockwinnock. Folk said that the monks in thae days had the art of multiplying metals — at ony rate, they were very rich. At last it came to this, that the young Wardour, that was Red-hand’s son, challenged Misticot to fight with him in the lists as they ca’d them — that’s no lists or tailor’s runds and selvedges o’ claith, but a palin’-thing they set up for them to fight in like game-cocks. Aweel, Misticot was beaten, and at his brother’s mercy — but he wadna touch his life, for the blood of Knockwinnock that was in baith their veins: so Malcolm was compelled to turn a monk, and he died soon after in the priory, of pure despite and vexation. Naebody ever kenn’d whare his uncle the prior earded him, or what he did wi’ his gowd and silver, for he stood on the right o’ halie kirk, and wad gie nae account to onybody. But the prophecy gat abroad in the country, that whenever Misticot’s grave was fund out, the estate of Knockwinnock should be lost and won.”

“Ach! mine goot old friend, Maister Edie, and dat is not so very unlikely, if Sir Arthurs will quarrel wit his goot friends to please Mr. Oldenbuck. — And so you do tink dat dis golds and silvers belonged to goot Mr. Malcolm Mishdigoat?”

“Troth do I, Mr. Dousterdeevil.”

“And you do believe dat dere is more of dat sorts behind?”

“By my certie do I— How can it be otherwise? — Search — No. I — that is as muckle as to say, search and ye’ll find number twa. Besides, yon kist is only silver, and I aye heard that’ Misticot’s pose had muckle yellow gowd in’t.”

“Den, mine goot friends,” said the adept, jumping up hastily, “why do we not set about our little job directly?”

“For twa gude reasons,” answered the beggar, who quietly kept his sitting posture; —“first, because, as I said before, we have naething to dig wi’, for they hae taen awa the picks and shules; and, secondly, because there will be a wheen idle gowks coming to glower at the hole as lang as it is daylight, and maybe the laird may send somebody to fill it up — and ony way we wad be catched. But if you will meet me on this place at twal o’clock wi’ a dark lantern, I’ll hae tools ready, and we’ll gang quietly about our job our twa sells, and naebody the wiser for’t.”

“Be — be — but, mine goot friend,” said Dousterswivel, from whose recollection his former nocturnal adventure was not to be altogether erased, even by the splendid hopes which Edie’s narrative held forth, “it is not so goot or so safe, to be about goot Maister Mishdigoat’s grabe at dat time of night — you have forgot how I told you de spirits did hone and mone dere. I do assure you, dere is disturbance dere.”

“If ye’re afraid of ghaists,” answered the mendicant, coolly, “I’ll do the job mysell, and bring your share o’ the siller to ony place you like to appoint.”

“No — no — mine excellent old Mr. Edie — too much trouble for you — I will not have dat — I will come myself — and it will be bettermost; for, mine old friend, it was I, Herman Dousterswivel, discovered Maister Mishdigoat’s grave when I was looking for a place as to put away some little trumpery coins, just to play one little trick on my dear friend Sir Arthur, for a little sport and pleasures. Yes, I did take some what you call rubbish, and did discover Maister Mishdigoat’s own monumentsh — It’s like dat he meant I should be his heirs — so it would not be civility in me not to come mineself for mine inheritance.”

“At twal o’clock, then,” said the mendicant, “we meet under this tree. I’ll watch for a while, and see that naebody meddles wi’ the grave — it’s only saying the laird’s forbade it — then get my bit supper frae Ringan the poinder up by, and leave to sleep in his barn; and I’ll slip out at night, and neer be mist.”

“Do so, mine goot Maister Edie, and I will meet you here on this very place, though all de spirits should moan and sneeze deir very brains out.”

So saying he shook hands with the old man, and with this mutual pledge of fidelity to their appointment, they separated for the present.

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